Alyssa Stephens
Alyssa Stephens
Uganda, 2022-2023
Grace and peace to you! My name is Alyssa, and I am spending a year in Jinja, Uganda working with HEAL Ministries. HEAL is an organization that offers wrap-around services to champion sustainability and family preservation. I graduated from Belmont in May 2022 and feel abundantly blessed to embark on this new journey. Read More About Alyssa →

spontaneity + sparkles


Hi hi!

Greetings to you! I hope you’re doing pretty good today.

As I look back on the last two weeks, there are three small but beautiful memories that stand out. Hehe here, I’d like to share:

One of the highlights of my week is going to Bible study on Sunday afternoons! The ladies who join for the Bible study are from quite a spectrum of churches, workplaces, and other communities in Jinja, making it a fun and eclectic group. We are studying the book of John together, and discussing with them is continually a rich, thought-provoking experience.

Pretty unexpectedly this past Sunday, many of the ladies messaged in our group chat saying that they would be unable to attend the study for various reasons. Dana, the lady who hosts the study, invited me (and anyone else who was free) to come over to her house anyways to spend some time just hanging out. When I arrived, I was excited to see that two other gals were there, and they were in the midst of some serious work involving a Little Debbie snacks puzzle. To my delight, I got to join in on the puzzle making, and we spent the next couple of hours puzzling together. Eventuaaally, we solved the puzzle (perhaps due, in part, to the silent encouragement of Nutty Buddys, Moon Pies, and Zebra Cakes)! Hehe I’m not sure what was better—enjoying the satisfaction of the puzzle solved or sharing memories related to Little Debbie snacks and Ugandan snack foods.

The second highlight also took place on a Sunday, though the week before. Two weeks ago, there was a thunderstorm that started at some point in the night and continued well into Sunday morning. Though I was able to make it to church, a large portion of people were not able to leave their homes due to the amount of rainfall and the road conditions. One of these people that wasn’t able to venture out was my friend C. As I was leaving the church service, I had an idea—to stop by her house and check in on her! Given the spontaneity of the visit and the opportunity for uncomfortability that it might bring, it is something I would’ve thought of but been too insecure to follow through on several months ago. Even on Sunday, as I was walking to her house, I felt a strange sense of fear. “What if she feels intruded upon?” “What if I am overstepping?” Having been the recipient of precious Ugandan hospitality and care over and over again over the past months, I resolved that many of my friends would act in the same way if in a similar position. More personally, I have come to realize that a) regret runs deep in spaces where fear led to inaction and b) fear of conflict can actually hinder the connections I am trying to form in the name of conflict avoidance. With all of this in mind, I plodded one foot in front of the other all the way to C’s house.

I knocked on C’s door, and lo and behold, she was surprised but happy for the visit! We enjoyed some nice chats, sat outside and soaked in the sunshine that eventually peeped out, and I even got to hold the neighbor’s baby towards the end of the visit! I am thankful for this memory—and hope to vulnerability reach out and risk conflict as other opportunities arise in the coming days.

This past Thursday, I walked upstairs to where some of the preschool students were gathered and noticed that there was a bit of a buzz amongst them. One of the boys had several small pieces of silver glitter (what we called “sparkles”) scattered all over his face. After oohing and ahhing over the sparkles, a couple of the kids had a brilliant idea: “let’s start looking for more sparkles on the ground!” What transpired over the next 15 minutes was a sweet, humorous time of about five kids hunting all over the tiled floors for sparkles, yelping with joy when one was found, and placing the sparkle either on their own face or on the face of a friend. I felt like such a kid in the best way possible, as sparkles were placed on my cheeks and forehead. These minutes together were filled with fun, brightening all of our spirits for the day ahead.

Though you may be thinking that this little memory is over—hehe it is not! Later Thursday afternoon, two preschool girls, their caretakers, and I were walking into town. My oh my, what a marvelous sight caught our eyes as we spotted none other than the broken container for glitter in which the sparkles once lived! Along with the broken container we’re many, many sparkles all over the grass. The girls and I immediately bent over and grabbed some sparkles. The two of them had a little extra pep in their steps as they proudly wore sparkles on their faces as we continued to make the journey into town. There is some thing precious about the child-like wonder of moments like these. That I got to experience two of these moments, connected and so sweet, on the same day was a delight!

Haha of course, the past two weeks held all sorts of moments, and these are just the few I’m sharing today. May they bring a bit of lightness to your heart.

With love,


High: On Wednesday, I FaceTimed my dad, Mawmaw (his mom), and Mawmaw’s long-time friend Barb. My goodness, I felt a more Southern drawl coming out as we chatted! We talked about Rocky’s grooming earlier in the day—haha he is a bit of a dog-turned-child,—our favorite bedtimes, and how bananas bought in America just cannot compare to those found in Uganda. It was sweet, authentic, and simple time with people I love so.

Low: Last week, I was alone in the classroom with the children for a brief period, and we were passing out porridge for breakfast. One of the girls came up to the porridge tray and tried to pick the special orange cup for herself, instead of sitting in her seat and waiting for a porridge cup to be handed to her. I found myself trying to get her to return the porridge, feeling a bit helpless in my own ability to get her to listen and also frustrated that she would not forsake her own will in the name of mine by obeying. Both in the moment and after, this interaction felt like a strange sort of power struggle. A struggle I did not want to be in and also, quite frankly, did not know how to manage.

Buffalo: While at the market with a few friends on Saturday, Anna randomly spotted these fried balls of some sort that a lady was selling. Being the cool, adventurous gal she is, she encouraged all of us to try them with her. Inside the seemingly breaded outer layer was a ball of white rice, which had nice flavor! When I got to the James Place on Monday and told my fellow teachers about it, they were like, “Ah! Alyssa, you ate godi (short for namungodi)!” Haha they were both amused by the novelty of this food item for me and my friends and excited that we tried a new Ugandan food. How fun it is to be immersed in a new culture, where opportunities to learn and experience new things continually arise!

Words of Wisdom: This week, I am not sure I have a particular quote as much as I would encourage you to read “What We Wish Were True” by Tallu Schuyler Quinn if you get the opportunity. It is a series of short essays full of wisdom related to life, social service, faith, and especially Quinn’s journey through terminal brain cancer. A lot of the book is filled with rich imagery and seemingly small stories with profound reflections on death, meaning, and community.

a photo with small friends during a late workday for their pottery-making mommas

N happily posing by her artwork

the delicious treat everyone enjoyed to celebrate letter Ii—locally-made ice cream!

hehe the kiddos cheesin’ with their ice cream craft

all smiles to spend time playing together last weekend

women’s day festivities (woot!) and a market lesson

Hey there!

You will never believe what happened this week—I started and finished this blog post early! Hehe I can’t help but feel a bit proud…and am glad to be here chatting with you once more.

As I look back on these past two weeks, the highlight that comes to mind first is the time I spent with my friend C on Women’s Day. Here in Uganda, International Women’s Day on March 8th is a public holiday, making it a special time to step away from work, be reminded of the history of marginalization women have faced, and to be encouraged by the strength and resilience of women among us and across the world.

For C and I, Women’s Day looked like a healthy balance of hanging out and celebrating! To start the day off, I went over to C’s house for breakfast, and then we got dressed up in cute dresses. We then went to the church we both attend, where a Women’s Day celebration was planned. Wow, were we surprised when we walked onto the property to see women sitting in chairs in the shade of a tree while a handful of men served everyone chapati, sambusas, and soda! It was such a sweet time of being grateful time to relax together and for the provision of tasty foods for all.

After eating, C and I took some photos together before heading inside for a program. Once everyone was gathered together, we sang song after song, praising God and dancing. One of my favorite moments from the day was when some of the ladies started dancing in the aisles. They were so full of joy and gratitude that they couldn’t help but show it! After worship, the group listened to some words of encouragement from a few ladies before stepping back outside for a special surprise—cake! Oh how we enjoyed!

As it was getting late in the afternoon, C and I headed back to her house, where we visited with the neighbors, sorted and prepared rice, and watched her children play a pretty spicy game of futbol (soccer). Eventually, her and her son walked me back to where I stay, and it was with a happy heart and hesitation for the time together to end that I said goodnight.

Just to dote on C a bit—she is caring and responsible, wise, and has a knack for silly teasings, picking great music, and making others feel at ease. Overall, Women’s Day was a special day indeed, and I feel like a lucky gal to have spent the day with C.

Something else I’d like to share that…we are on the cusp of rainy season! After several months of lots of sunshine and small amounts of rain, the community is looking forward to a time of cooler weather and growing crops. As a little introduction into the new season, last Friday morning was filled with rain! I am pretty sure that the rain started at around 1:00am and did not let up until around 8:00am. There was plenty of thunder, and when lightening struck throughout the night, our room lit up as if it was the middle of the day.

Because all the rain made road conditions bad and made traveling on bodas (motorcycles) very challenging, many of the ladies on staff and children who attend preschool at HEAL did not make it to the property. With only about 60% of the kids in the class I help in present, we combined classes with another teacher. Hehe things were a bit wobbly—we started large group activities late so that we ate breakfast and then mid-morning snack about 5 minutes apart, set aside the planned curriculum to review, and had a spontaneous afternoon dance party. While none of the teachers and students could’ve guessed that the day would end up looking this way, the change in routine keep things interesting!

On another note, I had an experience at the market the other day that ended up being a neat life lesson..

About two weeks ago, a friend introduced me to the deliciousness of adding grated fresh ginger to black tea. It gives the tea a wonderful spicy touch! After realizing just how much this little addition elevates a cup of tea, I set out for the market in order to buy some ginger.

At the market, I asked a pair of ladies if they knew where I could find “ginger,” and they gave me perplexed looks. Having heard a few people call it “jinja,” I tried using that pronunciation…but was once again met with confused looks. Hehe then, I told the ladies I was looking for “jinja for chai” and acted out sipping a cup of tea. They laughed and said, “Ohhhh, ginga (geeng-uh)” and immediately directed me to some wonderful pieces of the spice! I bought them excitedly, smiled and laughed with the women at the confusion, and then walked with a pep in my step home to make tea!

Hehe this moment was sweet—and a good analogy for what sometimes happens in conflict. How often is it that we get in little squabbles over nothing much, a little bit of one person’s expectations and desires rubbing against another’s. There may be a touch of sarcasm here or passive-aggressiveness there.

I am convinced that often, two parties in conflict have similar foundational desires—to accomplish a goal, to be part of community, to be seen and heard, to give and receive love, etc. Like the ladies at the market and I, sometimes we are saying the same thing but use different words to say it. We have the same hopes and desires but different ways of trying to bring them to fruition in everyday moments. When one calls it “ginger” while the other says “ginga,” things can get gloopy as confusion and tension builds.

By no means do I think this notion applies in all situations. It is a good reminder though that, especially in the context of conflict, it is helpful to seek to hear what another person is saying—by their words at face value, through their facial expressions and body language, and in a deeper way based on what we know about their heart. Annd to believe the best about them.

If you have any thoughts related to this—examples, experiences, and words of wisdom to add or pushback and even reasons why my line of thinking is balogna—please don’t hesitate to share.

Hehe thanks again for following along on this week’s intertwinings of highlights and reflection!

With love,


High: A couple HEAL staff members and I have developed a lunchtime routine of sitting together while we eat! We usually sit on a bright orange tarpaulin under the shade of a tree and enjoy chatting. Recently, a running joke has become that the tarpaulin is our lovely orange table and that it has been set for our time together. It has become a daily highlight to get lunch food from the kitchen and then make my way to my “seat” at the “fancy table” to eat with friends. Hehe this past week, we have even been blessed with table manner lessons from one of the ladies! How silly but fun this is!

Low: Something that I deeply enjoy about Ugandan culture is the emphasis placed on moving at a slower pace and making time for community. For me, letting this sink in has looked like checking my phone for the time less often and trying to be available for conversations regardless of where I’m going or what I’m doing. While there is much goodness in this, the combination of moving more slowly and chatting with different people mixed with being off on Wednesday meant that I had some trouble getting my work completed in a thorough, timely manner towards the end of the week. Though my assigned tasks for the preschool did get completed, it was with a bit more stress and rushing at the last minute than might have been ideal.

Buffalo: Now don’t quote me on this as the end-all, be-all, but something I learned recently is that drinking a hot beverage on a hot day can help cool us down! It sounds a bit counter-intuitive, but apparently the warmth of the drink can help us sweat. This makes us feel cooler! Haha it still seems a bit odd to heat up some water or grab a cup of warm tea on a warm, sunny day, but perhaps we should try it.

Words of Wisdom: I ran across this quote by Elisabeth Elliot and have been thinking about it ever since.

“If our yearnings went away, what would we have to offer up to the Lord? Aren’t they given to us to offer?”

Maybe faith looks like sitting with our unmet but still hoped for desires and trusting that regardless of whether they come to pass or not, God is good.

cheesin’ with A while standing amidst the banana trees and greens she planted

S posing with her wonderfully-colored triangle…she is an artist in the making!


hehe a happy photo with M sitting inside + enjoying a rainy day lunch

the ladies i teach with!! they are MARVELOUS! we are on a letter T field trip to the train station

C + i at the Women’s Day celebration

hehe I using his binoculars to look for the tickle monster

celebrating small moments + church worship



Thanks for tuning into another blog post!

As I reflect on these past two weeks, I can’t help but notice that there is a fairly steady rhythm to my weeks nowadays. Because I am working in HEAL’s preschool department every day from 8:30 until 1:00, my mornings have a usual flow to them. In the afternoons, I either help out with social work, leather and pottery, or prep preschool crafts for later in the week. This is continually fun and feels fresh because I switch around. While my evenings and weekends may be filled with spontaneity, attending church and Bible study are other staples in each week that give even these times some form.

Something that I find special about having these rhythms to each week is that smaller moments and interactions really stand out. Nuances—for better or for worse—are noticed and felt because they give depth and particularity to days that otherwise feel routine. With this in mind, here are a few small moments from the past two weeks:

—In class, we learned about letter S last week! As special touches for the week, we made paper plate sunshine crafts on Thursday and drank soda together on Friday. Oh what fun the kids had celebrating letter S with these special activities!

—At the church movie night I went to on Friday, they had a special treat for everyone to enjoy while watching the movie—sweeties (lollipops)! Hehe the staff kept giving sweeties out throughout the film so that by the time it was over, my friend P and I realized that together, we had eaten 10!

—Lauren and I went on a two-hour walk yesterday after work! We started walking and talking at about 4:40, and before we knew it, the sun was starting to go down. It was fun to chat with her, and the cool weather throughout the walk was an added bonus!

—While playing Candy Crush and Balloon Pop on C’s phone with her and her two sons, someone started teasing that “whoever loses the level is a failure.” The song of the afternoon became “I’m a failure, you’re a failure” as we all lost level after level. Though even in this lighthearted moment it felt a bit vulnerable to acknowledge my failure, it was a good reminder of the acceptance and grace others can extended as we share our shortcomings.

—Without going into too much detail, I did something careless to one of the gals I consider a friend at HEAL. Later in the week, I had to apologize.

One bigger moment that I want to share is the time I spent in Danida (a nearby town) with J and his family. J work for HEAL throughout weekdays and serves at a church on evenings and weekends. He invited me to come on Sunday to listen to him preach and experience the community he cares so deeply about. It was a privilege and treat to attend! After the service, I met his wife and went back to his home to share a yummy meal with his family. One of my favorite moments from the day was listening to J, his wife, and fellow church members talk about engagement and marriage customs in their tribes in Northern Uganda as we ate together. A second sweet moment was dancing and singing alongside the church body during the church service. The church members sang and danced with abandon, grooving to the music and singing with boldness. It was as if the Spirit of God was palpably moving in and through the people in the room. I was touched by the way they were so present and open and was delighted to participate with them!

I suppose that if you asked me: yes, the past two weeks have been normal with not a whole lot going on. AND yes, the past two weeks have sparkled with precious moments of wonder.

What have the past two weeks been like for you? What is one smaller moment that you’re thankful for as you walk into these next two weeks?

With love,


High: A few days ago, Anna, Lauren, and I came home to the power out. Lauren suggested playing a game, and Anna asked if we could sit outside on a picnic blanket while we did it. We ended up turning on some music and playing Bananagrams together and had SUCH a fun time! We kept playing until it got too dark outside for us to see the game pieces.  What a sweet time it was!

Low: For better or for worse, I have begun thinking about the end of my internship at HEAL and what the months following may have in store. I want to be present in the place that I’m at and also feel peace that whatever comes next will be good. Nonetheless, the low moments of the past two weeks have been when I let my mind wander and start anxiously ruminating.

Buffalo: Have you ever stood outside at night and looked for planets? It is a pretty neat thing to do! If you are able and interested, there’s a cool phone app called Night Sky that helps with stargazing. The other night, we used it and saw Jupiter and Saturn in the sky. Haha it was pretty out of this world, if I do say so myself!

Words of Wisdom: These are the bridge and chorus of Slow Me Down by the Porter’s Gate, a wonderful song

“On the busy streets trying to make myself a name
If the work is Yours, there is nothing I can claim
Will you lead home to the pastures of Your peace
The house is Yours, I’m sitting at Your feet

O Good Shepherd, O Good Friend, slow me down.”

a photo with J’s daughter after church and our meal together

cheesin’ with G and her daughter P during an afternoon visit to their house!

hehe what is brighter—their sunshine crafts or their smiles? they radiate!!

a mug the perfect size for a mouse! we were teasing one afternoon in pottery + made this!

I found himself a hat while we were on the hunt for traditional African dresses

learning, lacrosse, and how loved you are

Hello again!

Thanks for following along with this new blog post! Just as a little cheesiness to perhaps bring a glimmer to your eye, here are a couple of Valentine’s Day jokes:

What do you call a very small Valentine? A ValenTINY!

Do you think skunks celebrate Valentine’s Day? Sure, they are very SCENT-imental.

Hehe sorry folks, those are all the jokes for today.. As far as updates from Jinja go—these past two weeks have been a bit of a whirlwind! Here in Uganda, schools follow a year-round calendar with the start of the new academic year taking place in February. This meant that last Monday, the kids that attend preschool at the James Place came for the start of the new term. What an absolute joy it was to walk into the James Place gates on Monday morning to dozens of children in matching blue-and-white checkered shirts, blue shorts, and tall socks talking, laughing, and playing! While the older ones (4-6 years old) were largely excited to see their friends and settled back into the routine at preschool fairly easily, the preschoolers in the youngest age group (3 years old) had a bit more trouble. Some missed their moms, and others felt slightly disenchanted with the idea of sitting in their seats. Hehe they are only kids—and little ones at that—so all of this was expected and even welcomed. We are thankful for each of them, want them to express their feelings, and know that school takes adjusting to! Even still, a week of continual care and attention given made for a bit of a tiresome week, and I think it’s safe to say that every adult at the James Place slept very well Friday night.

Since coming back to Uganda last month, my schedule has looked a little bit different, and I am spending more time with the preschoolers. I work in the preschool department from 8:30 until 1:00 and then spend the afternoons in the other departments—childcare, social work, or leather and pottery. One of my favorite parts of working with the preschoolers is the number of songs used to teach! There are songs to welcome everyone to class, for days of the week/months of the year, to teach kids how to get ready for the day, for numbers, letters, and sounds, and there is even a prayer song we sing before we eat breakfast, snacks, and lunch together. It is fun to join our voices together in song and to even dance along! I really enjoy seeing how engaged and excited the students are as they sing. Regardless of what each student and teacher is carrying when they come into the classroom, the peacefulness and cheerfulness of the melodies sung together bring a lightness, a sense that we are all together and will all be okay.

Last weekend, I did something out of my comfort zone—I joined Anna for an all-day lacrosse clinic in a nearby village! Hehe falling a bit more on the unathletic side, I was a bit apprehensive about what I’d gotten myself into when, as soon as the clinic began, everyone was asked to start running around the field. From there, we began doing lunges, hopping down the field, and working out our legs with deep squats. The day ended up being a blast as we transitioned from workout reps to learning and practicing lacrosse. There were about 110 kids that joined for the clinic, and several were very talented at lacrosse. Their skills were remarkable, and their passion for the sport was undeniable! About 10 of the kids came with Anna and I from Jinja town. As none of us had played lacrosse before, we spent time with a very kind-hearted, patient coach as he taught us how to throw and receive balls using the lacrosse sticks. When we got tired, we took breaks, playing cards and chatting about all sorts of things. After about 5 hours of playing, everyone left the field and headed to a nearby shady spot with tables and benches for lunch. The kids and coaches alike enjoyed plates heaping with rice and a special treat—chicken! After eating, the kids who were well-versed in lacrosse played an actual lacrosse game, with the rest of us chatting and cheering from the sidelines. After a group photo and some words of encouragement from the coaches, we finally ended the day at around sunset. What a special day this was!

One other thing I wanted to mention is an experience I had on Thursday. At the beginning of the month, I began having a runny nose, indicative of a fairly harmless cold. Besides keeping a stash of tissues with me, I didn’t think too much of it. Then, on Thursday, my stomach began aching, and I had a bout of chills. I came home that evening, bundled up in cozy clothes and blankets, and laid on the sofa in a little cocoon. As it was only 7:00pm and all I wanted to do was stare into space and feel better, I felt a bit helpless. While praying during this time, I sensed God saying, “I love you exactly as you are right now.”

How wild it is—that God would love me when I am not doing anything helpful, productive, or meaningful, look and feel sickly, and have little to no control over whether my body gets better or descends into illness all the more. Why would God love me in that moment? I am not completely sure. All I know is that God’s grace is unimaginably expansive and that God’s compassion towards me is a small picture of this grace flowing down. I hope you know that God love you too, so fiercely and wildly its uncontainable. God’s love is so big that there is nothing you can do to add to it and nothing you can do to take away from it. It just is—and it is for you.

Thanks again for sharing in these moments with me. Take care until next time! And between now and then, may God give you a small glimpse of His love. 

With love,


High: Oh goodness, if only I could’ve captured this moment in a little tiny box and could send little sprinkles of it to you instead of writing to you about it.. On Tuesday, some of the preschoolers and I were letting our imaginations soar together! We found what first appeared to be a small yellow pipe cleaner…but it actually was our new friend Sunny the Worm! The three boys and I took Sunny to the market and fed him apples. We then drove him around on our supercars before baking him a delicious cake. Unfortunately, Sunny got a bit dirty playing on the ground, so we then had to give him a bath. We ended the recess period taking turns holding him and trying to get him all dressed and ready for the day! It was sweet to witness the gentleness and carefulness of three boys who are usually a bit more energetic and to so thoroughly enjoy being creative. In this moment, time stood still, and I became 5-years-old once again!

Low: With so many kids heading back to school, the number of children who aren’t going to school is more noticeable. School fees are a burden many parents can’t bear the weight of, making school more of a dream than a reality for many. Seeing friends struggle to make ends meet so that their kids can go to school…and seeing and hearing from so many other defeated parents and children that can’t go this term has been weighing heavily on me this week.

Buffalo: Yesterday, I visited a friend C and her two sons after church. We had a happy time eating rice and beans, trying to beat Level 144 of Candy Crush, and talking about her family and dreams. When I first walked in her home, I was taken aback by five absolutely precious kittens! Each kitten couldn’t have weighed more than 1 pound and had its own coloring and tiny meow. C’s boys and I spent lots time petting and playing with the kittens…and then petting them some more when they got tired and fell asleep. If you need a little pick-me-up and have access to one, PLEASE pet a kitten sometime soon. If not, that’s completely okay—perhaps seeing a photo of a kitten can bring a teensie dash of glee that will suffice 😉

Words of Wisdom: Haha this is a French proverb that was cited in War and Peace. It is cited and commented on in Manning’s Ruthless Trust as follows. I think it eloquently and succinctly get at the empathy that gives way to forgiveness.

“‘We should enter everyone’s situation. Tout comprendre, c’est tout pardonner.’—to understand all is to forgive all. In his sovereign wisdom, God alone understands the human heart.”

ruuuuunning around the field for fun at the end of the day of lacrosse!

hehe my friends M, I, B, F, + me decked out in fan gear while watching the afternoon lacrosse game!

Z hard at work making a delicious cake to go with the fruit he picked right before

sweet I posing with his sweet ice cream one afternoon last week

one of the adorable kittens at C’s house

memories dotting each day’s small work

Hey friend!

Here we are, with this new blog post marking the passage of another two weeks. How is it that time simultaneously flies and crawls by?

These past two weeks have been full of settling back in! It has been cool to see how I have largely picked up where I left off as far as Jinja rhythms and routines go. I remember my way around town fairly well and still have go-to street food stands. As much as some of the ladies and I had to catch up on initially, what we do from day-to-day has picked back up at a steady pace. Things like filling up the water jug, getting fresh produce at the market, and dancing during church worship feel second-nature. While I didn’t need necessarily realize it as it was happening, I created a life here in Jinja that I am glad to be back to!

There have been a few highlights so far that I want to share with you:

One of the most exciting new developments has been that I now have two roommates! Two girls from America are interning at HEAL for the spring semester, which means that we get to share life together for three months. Lauren is laid-back, kind-hearted, and sweet to have deep conversations with, while Anna is full of life, joy, and passion for community! I am blessed to call them roommates and friends and have already enjoyed making memories with them.

Last Saturday, Anna and I went to our friend J’s house for the day. We played Twister and hide-and-seek with J’s three boys and the neighbor’s kiddos and were pleasantly shocked to find the older boys hiding on rooftops and way up in the trees. Hehe Anna and my feet stayed firmly planted on the ground but maybe a good tree climb with the boys is in our future..? After playing, we helped with laundry before J taught us how to cook matoke (plantains) and cabbage! We were filled with gratitude when the neighbor surprised us with a lunch she made to go along with our food. Perhaps the best part of the day was afterwards, when we joined some of the kids for an afternoon at the pool. My oh my, did they have fun jumping in the pool, splashing one another, and diving deep below the water. We all slept soundly Saturday night, full of sweet memories.

Based on the year-round academic calendar Ugandan schools operate on, the preschool kids at the James Place are on holiday right now. This is providing a great opportunity for the teachers to prep for the upcoming term! One of the most important projects the ladies have been working on is creating vision boards of what they want their future classrooms to look like. HEAL recently bought property to build it’s own facilities, and the construction of preschool buildings is coming along smoothly. Inviting the preschool teachers to dream big as far as their classrooms go and witnessing their delight in picking out tables, shelving, posters, etc. for the rooms has been a joy! While it is the people rather than anything material that truly fills a space, it is exciting to see that the ladies will be well-equipped with a secure building and personalized materials to teach their students.

This is random, but one additional thing I wanted to mention is what I am learning about being present. As much as I enjoy being in Uganda, I find myself worrying at times, thinking “will things still be going well in 3, 4, 5 months?”, “how lonely will I feel living alone when Lauren and Anna leave?”, “what do I do in light of the physical separation from family and friends? what if missing them becomes too much?” While grounded in reality, these attempts to prepare for the future are quite speculative and don’t have determinable answers.

Recently, I stumbled upon a quote by Mother Theresa that I slightly modified and think is quite fitting. Her quote is, “Not all of us can do great things, but we can do small things with great love.” I have been leaning into that last part, and a motto of the past week has been “doing today’s small work with great love.” Perhaps I can humbly worship God and honor those around me well by being present to the very moment I am in, taking things day by day. And perhaps my work really is small, not nearly as important as I might like to think. Hehe I am finding that each day brings enough in and of itself that being present to it is more than enough.

As I wrap up this post, I encourage you to think of a highlight or two from the week...and maybe a lowlight or two as well. What emotions did those moments stir up in you, and what are you taking away from them?

Also, perhaps we both, in the coming days, can focus on showing up day by day. On doing our small works with deep love.

With love to you,


High: Bring on the tears!! Yesterday (Friday), HEAL hosted a graduation for the ladies in the sewing department who completed their year-long sewing program. What a testimony they are to living with perseverance and gratitude as they showed up to class day after day. At the graduation, their joy and pride was palpable as they each danced their way from their chairs to where the sewing director was handing out certificates. One of the women summed up the occasion well in saying, “For those of us who never graduated before, this moment means a lot.”

Low: As far as work goes, it has been tricky to keep in mind that productivity is not most important. I find myself continually wanting to be helpful, when sometimes what is most needed is just sitting and being present. Being content with whatever the day brings, regardless of how many to-do list items get checked off or how much assistance I offered someone, is something that I am relearning being back in Uganda.

Buffalo: Earlier this week, a few friends and I went to a movie night at church after work. Hehe the movie started at 5:00, so I was surprised when we arrived at 5:03 and were some of the very first people there. One of my friends, C, said, “Just give it a bit and watch how the room will become full.” Sure enough, over the next 30 minutes, the number of people in the room grew and grew! We greatly enjoyed watching the movie “War Room”...and were glad that others showed up to join in and watch too!

Words of Wisdom: A quote by Elie Wiesel posted by Jemar Tisby: “I swore to never be silent whenever and wherever human beings endure suffering and humiliation. We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.”

Striking words in light of the recent death of Tyre Nichols and the continual fight for racial  justice.

cheesin’ with my friend B + a pillow pet, the same one my brother Logan used to adore as a child

SO much cabbage!! J, a patient teacher and yummy cook, taught me how to make it the Ugandan way

full bellies and happy smiles

a group photo with J, her kids, and the neighbors—such sweet people to spend the day with!

SPOONS! a universal game that is fun fun fun!

a special first visit to the new HEAL Ministries property with the ladies

bittersweet goodbyes + joyful reunions


It is a bit surreal to be saying this, but I am writing to you from the front porch of the place I stay at in Jinja! What a special place this is and a sweet thing it is to be back!

As I look back on the past three months spent in Memphis, a major theme of the time was family! Throughout the months, I worked as an assistant for my Aunt Carol and took my Mimi and Papa on errands and to doctor’s appointments. I spent many evenings eating dinner with Mom, Dad, and Logan before Mom and I watched t.v. shows together—except for on Fridays when we went out to dinner with my Mawmaw. The family celebrated Thanksgiving and Christmas together, and Aunt Carol and I even rang in the New Year together by dancing our hearts out at a tango party! After being away at college and then in Uganda, I was touched by the way the family welcomed me with open arms, enfolding into their everyday activities, and by how we picked up right where we last left off. As unexpected as being back at home was, it was a precious reminder of how indelible our family bond is—and of all the unique qualities that make each family member a joy to know and love.

Spending such quality time with loved ones made it difficult to prepare to return to Uganda, as being away from them felt hard to even fathom. Nonetheless, before I knew it, the day of my flight to Uganda arrived, and I was saying goodbye to Mom and Dad at the airport. Even amidst a flight delay, I made my flight connections and even shared some quality chats with sweet folks along the way. Hehe I learned, amongst other things, about life in a village outside of Gulu, Uganda and about best practices when bargaining in Ugandan and Congolese markets. Over the course of 8- and 10.5-hour flights, I got a couple of winks of sleep and read All is Grace by Brennan Manning. Overall, it was a pretty good expedition!

Once the plane landed in Entebbe, Uganda, I met up with two friends in the airport, and we traveled to a local guesthouse for the night. The next morning, two additional friends arrived, and we shared warm hugs, updates, and teasings over a delicious breakfast. The five of us set off for Jinja, making a few stops along the way. What a joy it was when Jinja town finally came into view! It is a stunning place and was such a treat to be back!

Perhaps even more stunning than the place are the people! When I got back to the place I stay at in Jinja, three of the ladies from HEAL ran up to me, and we exchanged hugs and greetings. Hehe as much as I tried to be composed, I couldn’t help but get weepy—something that was a theme of Monday as I saw all of the HEAL staff again. With a full warm-hug-o-meter and a happy, reunited heart, I look towards the next several months with hope.

Overall, this past week’s big transition has held a mixture of bittersweet goodbyes and joyful reunions. Somehow, the harder moments hurt and the happier moments bring a lightness all at the same time. It is such an interesting swirl of a mixture. At the end of the day, when I reflect on this, I am reminded that life is a flurry of highs and lows. And that above all else, relationships are what matter.

Take care until next time!

With love,



High: Two precious ladies, C and S, invited the two new interns and I to eat lunch at their house after church yesterday. Boy oh boy, did they prepare an absolute feast! We enjoyed eating and catching up before heading outside to read books and play games with the kids who live around their house. I am not sure what was more abundant—the laughter or the number of photos taken. When I got home after the occasion, I could not help but balk at all that the ladies prepared for us. Their hearts are gracious and generous, a reminder of how God doesn’t spare anything for His people. Eating lunch with C and S was an experience I will never forget!

Low: Something that wasn’t as challenging for me the first time I travelled to Uganda but has been difficult this time around is jet lag. Since arriving here on Thursday evening, my eating and sleeping schedules have been wonky as my body adjusts to the 9-hour time difference. Hehe while jet lag has given me some time to process my thoughts and feelings at random hours of the night, the lack of quality sleep has made me a bit more lethargic and grumpier than usual. I look forward to when the jet lag symptoms end!

Buffalo: If you want to be tickled by adorable birds, PLEASE look up pictures of Malachite, Woodland, and Pied Kingfishers! They are beautiful birds found across Africa. I got to see them fluttering and chirping on the trees along the Nile River on Saturday!

Words of Wisdom: A quote from author Brennan Manning in All is Grace. If you get a chance and have some time, All is Grace and his book entitled Ragamuffin Gospel are both touching reads!

“My message, unchanged for more than fifty years, is this: God loves you unconditionally, as you are and not as you should be, because nobody is as they should be. It is the message of grace…A grace that pays the eager beaver who works all day long the same wages as the grinning drunk who shows up at ten till five…A grace that hikes up the robe and runs breakneck toward the prodigal reeking of sin and wraps him up and decides to throw a party no ifs, ands, or buts…This grace is indiscriminate compassion. It works without asking anything of us…Grace is sufficient even though we huff and puff with all our might to try to find something or someone it cannot cover. Grace is enough”

Mom posing with the gooey cookies we made for New Years!

hehe after like 5 hours, L, E, and i just had to snap a pic of the labor of our love–cinnamon rolls!


the delicious Ethiopian meal my friend D + i shared one afternoon in Memphis

precious people–Mimi, Papa, and Mawmaw

hehe do i look a bit like a dino? a girl has to entertain herself in the airport somehow!

a solid cup of coffee–the key to staying awake when 2:00 CST is also 11:00 GMT

C and S, sweet ladies with big hearts + kind souls

C and S posing with the wonderful palette of food they made

LOTS of kiddos right before we ran + ran + ran playing hide-and-seek

water: to be boiled and traveled across


Hi again!

Wishing you tidings of joy and peace this holiday season!

The past few days have been interesting here in Memphis! Last Thursday, the temperature started out fairly warm—in the mid-40s I think—before steadily dropping throughout the day. By the evening, the temperature was below freezing, and wonderful flurries of snow were falling! Throughout Friday, the weather was rather chilly, with the temperature only reaching a mere 14 degrees. Hehe though folks in the North may think this is nothing, the weather was quite unusual for a city that normally gets a max of about 1-2 inches of snow once or twice per year.

Because of the freezing temperatures, there were rolling power outages throughout the city on Friday and Saturday. Even further, starting on Saturday night, a boil advisory went into effect—meaning that we have been using boiled or bottled water for all drinking and food preparation purposes since then. In our house, two large metal pots have been getting more sunshine than they have in the past decade as they sit on the stove with boiling water bubbling away inside.

While the Boil Advisory is a unique circumstance in Memphis, having to purify water before drinking is not uncommon in Uganda. In my experience in Jinja, before using water for consumption purposes, it must be boiled, filtered, or purified via tablet in order to reduce the risk of water-borne illness. After learning the process of filling up our water jug, dropping in a tablet, and then waiting 30 minutes before using the water, the practice of purifying water became  second-nature. In reflection, it strikes me as a bit fascinating how something that is so unusual in one context can be routine in another.

It makes me wonder (a few questions that I leave with you):

  • What are some practices (cultural, socioeconomic, religious, etc.) that, though they seem standard, are actually highly variable among different people?
  • How do commonplace practices create community and tradition? How can they be used to diminish these things?
  • As we head into the new year, what is something that currently is unusual that you or I could make a habit of this year?
  • Are there any practices that have become routine but could be changed?

Haha after inviting you on that sort of metaphysical journey, I will lighten the mood with a happy update—I received news that I can return to Uganda in just about two weeks! WAHOO!!

In recent weeks, the last individual in an Ebola treatment facility was released, and 30 days have passed since the last confirmed case! Even further, there are no contacts being followed-up with. These are wonderful updates that make my return to Uganda something to look forward to in the coming days! I can’t wait to see what the next months in Jinja have in store—and to continue sharing updates with you throughout the journey!

To close out this post, I would like to invite you to pray for the families and loved ones of those who passed away from Ebola. According to a recent WHO report, there were 55 deaths due to the illness. While it may be natural to say “it could have been worse” and “just think about how many people died from COVID” amongst other things (I find myself thinking along these lines), it is true that the 55 were precious, unique people with stories. Loss is hard, and grief can be overwhelming. Could you pray for peace and rest for those grieving from the impact of Ebola?

I hope you know that as I pray for those still feeling the impact of Ebola, I will also be praying for you—for any loss and grief you too are walking through right now.

Thanks again for following along with these posts!

With love,



High: About three weeks ago, I helped with set-up and then attended HEAL’s annual benefit dinner and silent auction. What an absolute joy it was to see some of the gals I worked with in Jinja at the event and to honor the stories and lives of the women and children who work at HEAL! Being a part of this event was a reminder of how delightful the HEAL community is—and made me all the more excited to return to Uganda soon!

Another high has been enjoying seasonal treats, watching holiday movies, looking at Christmas lights, and getting together with extended family and friends throughout the month of December! I am thankful for annual Christmas traditions and for sweet community to share them with!

Low: Over the past few weeks, the house has been full as everyone takes a holiday break from high school, college, and work. Even with all of us living under the same roof, it has been tricky to spend intentional time together as an entire family. While thankful for the moments we do have together, I find myself continually longing for all five of us to be present with one another more often.

Buffalo: While helping my Aunt Carol out at her office this week, she suggested that we take a bunch of boxes out of her office, pile them into the nearby conference room, and sort the files inside the boxes in ABC order. Boy were we glad that we had cups of coffee and lively conversation to keep things interesting! After a full morning of sorting and organizing, we had a 17-box snake zigzagging across the room to show! We weren’t sure the file box snake was a great fit as an office pet, soo we returned the boxes to her office at the end of the project!

Words of Wisdom: Striking words about the hoped for and the everyday. This quote is found in Liturgy of the Ordinary by Tish Harrison Warren.

“A sign hangs on the wall in a New Monastic Christian community house: “Everyone wants a revolution. No one wants to do the dishes.” I was, and remain, a Christian who longs for revolution, for things to be made new and whole in beautiful and big ways. But what I am slowly seeing is that you can’t get to the revolution without learning to do the dishes. The kind of spiritual life and disciplines needed to sustain the Christian life are quiet, repetitive, and ordinary. I often want to skip the boring, daily stuff to get to the thrill of an edgy faith. But it’s in the dailiness of the Christian faith—the making the bed, the doing the dishes, the praying for our enemies, the reading the Bible, the quiet, the small—that God’s transformation takes root and grows.”

the wonderful pots that have been keep us hydrated over the past few days

setting up the event space for HEAL’s dinner and auction

cheesing for a picture after, in a moment of bravery, i got my nose pierced!

a sweet family Christmas photo (though we are missing Andrea, the photographer)

hehe Logan and i had a fun time putting a festive spin on cinnamon rolls on Christmas morning

a photo from a happy outing to see Christmas lights together

rain rain, go away…wait actually, do stay


Today, I decided to do something risky—I went on a walk outside right before a rainstorm. In my defense, I did check the weather station, which said that Arlington, my hometown, wasn’t supposed to get rain until later in the afternoon. Nonetheless, I made it about 0.7 miles to a nearby park before it started downpouring. After an hour and a half of sitting under a gazebo at the park, with the beautiful trees, pattering of rain, and chipper birds to keep me company, I decided to go ahead and make the trek back home. To say the least, it was moist. My hair, face, clothes, and shoes definitely got a nice rinse. Yet, the birds were chirping along the whole way.

As I was walking back home, my mind was flooded with memories of walking in the rain with the ladies at HEAL in Uganda. With umbrellas and even ponchos hard to come by, most of the people there I know face the rain by bundling up in whatever clothing they have, ducking their head down, and walking with a purpose. While perhaps inopportune, this provides a wonderful opportunity to soak in the rain for what it is—a part of nature’s rhythm, a gift to the earth, a blessing to all of the animals (people included) that need it, and a reminder of what we can take in but not control.

On today’s walk, I remembered the time that several friends and I played volleyball in the rain, running to and fro after the muddy ball as the wind guided it in whatever direction it pleased. I reminisced about the afternoon spent sitting in the women’s locker room and napping with several ladies because we couldn’t complete our outdoor work in the rain. I remembered the day when Mr. P, Mr. W, and I sat in the leather shed, trying to talk to one another but unable to hear over the rhythmic thrum of raindrops beating down on the tin roof. A little over 8,000 miles away from those I shared these moments with, yet my heart is still tied to theirs. I am thankful for the reminder of this place and these people that walking home in the rain brings.

Hehe if the above story doesn’t spill the beans—yes, I am still in America. Hopeful of returning to Uganda in mid-November, the date of my departure for the country got pushed back again after an Ebola case was detected in Jinja. Though I am no medical expert, and what I have to share has been found on the WHO’s website and/or heard from friends, let me tell you a little bit about Ebola:

In late September, an Ebola outbreak was declared in Uganda after a case was detected in the centrally located Mubende district. This was especially alarming because Ebola is a severe illness with a high fatality rate, and the present outbreak’s strain—Sudan ebolavirus (SUV)—had not been detected in Uganda since 2012. The virus spreads through human-to-human contact via contact with the blood or body fluids of someone with SUV or who died from SUV. Currently, there is no known treatment for it or vaccination against it. Additionally, the incubation period of the virus in the body is between 2 and 21 days, meaning that up to 3 weeks can pass before someone carrying SUV starts showing symptoms. As of earlier this week, there have been 141 confirmed cases across 9 districts, one of which is Jinja.

Using their best judgement, the HEAL executive leadership team has taken preventative and responsive measures to curb the Ebola’s spread amongst those in the organization. At the beginning of October, they asked me to return to the United States, and those who remained at the James Place took health and safety precautions. Last week, the James Place closed for an early winter holiday. I am thankful that the organization’s leadership is committed to the well-being and safety of all they lead. After talking with a few of the ladies from HEAL, it seems as though they are doing well and looking forward to the extra time off, though worried what Ebola’s spread to Jinja may mean for their family’s health, safety, and economic stability. If you can, please keep them—and the precious people across all of Uganda—in your hearts, thoughts, and prayers.

Although it seems a bit irrelevant in light of the aforementioned information, I would like to share a little bit about what I’ve been up to lately. I must dote on my family for a bit because it has been sweet to have their support throughout the transition and to spend quality time together. My aunt asked me to work as her legal assistant, something I never imagined myself doing but am enjoying learning the ins and outs of. My grandparents and I have gotten to spend ample time with one another, as I help them with housework and travel with them to doctors’ appointments. Over the past couple of weeks, my grandpa and I have shared many cups of coffee together over countless stories of the “good ole days.” Mom and Dad have been gracious in inviting me to join in on the plans they’ve made, and Mom and I have deeply enjoyed watching the new season of The Crown and getting in the Christmas spirit with the Christmas Cookie Challenge. And I’ve gotten to spend intentional moments with precious people through Room in the Inn at a local church.

To be honest, I am a bit more of a cozy sloth than a social butterfly these days, as finding a work-life balance and connecting with other young adults is challenging. I miss college life and Uganda and find myself moving through waves of reverse culture shock. I’m also grappling with this new stage of life—no longer primarily a student and child but also not having full-time employment nor a family of my own. Nonetheless, I am safe. I am healthy. I have what I need and so much more than I could ask for. I am doing okay and, as my sweet cousin-in-law has encouraged, am finding ways “to say yes to this too.”

Thank you for tuning into this latest post, with its modge podge of storytelling, information, and updates! Wishing you peace, hope, and joy as you head into all that December has in store. And hehe if you get the chance, maybe consider walking in the rain sometime soon.

With Love,



High: What a joy it was to spend Thanksgiving at home! Talking and eating, eating and talking were the themes of the day as my immediate and extended family members celebrated the holiday together at our house. How nice it was to spend to share an array of wonderful dishes as a family and to let the conversation wander and turn as it pleased!

Low: What a surprise it was to spend Thanksgiving at home. I felt a lot of different emotions arise around the holiday as I thought about where I am and where I thought I would be this time of year. This Thanksgiving, I felt a deeper appreciation for family get-togethers, small chats and check-ins, and access to a warm meal in a home. I also lamented that the sweet potatoes eaten weren’t grown from a garden in Jinja and that I wasn’t able to bake an apple or pecan pie for my Ugandan friends to try.

Buffalo: Earlier this week, one of my friends from Uganda sent a photo of her children to me. They are such cuties! I couldn’t help but smile at the fact that one of the children in particular looks like a mini version of my friend, while the other two kiddos look a bit different. Isn’t it funny how that happens—how siblings can look like one particular parent, the other, or both? How they can look almost identical from one another or be so different?

Words of Wisdom: These words were shared by a lady at Bible study this past Sunday, and they have been sitting in me ever since: “Sometimes people don’t love you the way you want to be loved. That doesn’t mean they aren’t doing their best to love you.” Goodness, how different things might be if we—if I—continually remembered this.

soaking in the rain and memories of Ugandan days as i walked home from the park

hehe it’s the small things–like maximizing on some ambient lighting as i worked at Aunt Carol’s office earlier this month

a sweet MEOW-ment captured of our two family cats one afternoon! they were FELINE comfy + cozy during their nap

one of the sleeping spaces looking ready to go during Room in the Inn last week!

haha i had to commemorate the first evening of Room in the Inn with this church bathroom selfie. how joyful it was to wear a Christmas sweater for the first time this season!

making sure to spend some time with those i love–kids!


where i find myself


Hi again!

As strange as it feels to be writing this post about my journey in Jinja from the family kitchen table in Arlington, TN, the way that life is filled with so many unexpected twists and turns means that I can’t really feel too astonished. It has been about three weeks since I returned to America from Uganda due to the Ebola outbreak in the country. At least from the angle I see it at right now, things really are okay. Perhaps I can say that because the outbreak, while still very tragic, hasn’t been quite as pervasive as many anticipated and no one I know in Jinja has been affected. Or maybe because my parents have been so generous in welcoming me back into their home for the time being. Or maybe because I’m on the other side of having many big feelings and wrestling with God, struggling to surrender my expectations and desires yet finding peace when I do. Regardless of the exact reason, here I am back in America, and that is okay.

For this post, I wanted to share a few of things that I hold close to my heart and am bringing back from Uganda:

  • The hospitality and generosity of the women at HEAL. The women are just extraordinary, and I am humbled and undeserving yet grateful for the days of living alongside them. They give, invite, and welcome regardless of how they are feeling and whether it makes sense. They help me understand the heart of the father in the Parable of the Prodigal Son and point me towards Jesus’ servanthood.
  • An appreciation for living at a slower pace. Coming from college, where it was normal to have academic or social engagements at any and all hours of the day and night, it was quite a change to rise with the sun, leave unfinished work behind for the next day, and get 8-9 hours of sleep each night. Because we often walk places and activities like washing clothes and cooking meals take longer, moving slower isn’t an option–it is just how things are. For me, living at this speed has allowed my soul to settle.
  • A dependence on God. Being away from the familiar has taught me a lot about finding joy in God alone.
  • An honoring of children. At HEAL, the phrase “it takes a village to raise a child” is lived out to the fullest. The women care for every child at the James Place as if each one is their own. There is so much we can learn from children and by caretaking for them.
  • A deep love for the beautiful differentness of diverse cultures. Things are quite different in Uganda than in America. Different, not bad. Different, not wrong. Different and not in need of changing. Different and good and precious and a gift to experience. What a joy it was to be immersed in fresh ways of going about life.

I also wanted to share a few of the reasons why I am grateful to be back in the United States:

  • I have been present for the everyday moments that Mom, Dad, and my brother Logan experience. For moments like running to the grocery store to pick up a forgotten dinner ingredient, checking the mail…and then checking it again 45 minutes later because it wasn’t there the first time, and putting up the dishwasher dishes. These moments are real, good, and honest, perhaps the ones that take up most of our time yet aren’t talked about because they are commonplace. I am thankful to see these moments through with my family these days.
  • I get to wear my sweaters and fuzzy socks, zip up my coat (yes, I know it’s only gotten to the 50s but this girl still gets cold!), and walk outside to see the vibrantly-colored leaves on the trees. I get to see pumpkins in people’s driveways, pick pecans from the backyard, and breathe in the crisp fall air. What a gift the seasons are! I am glad to be here to experience autumn.
  • I get to spend time with extended family. Oh, how time marches on, and how difficult the journey of aging can be. I am glad to savor meals, conversations, and hugs with my grandparents, aunts and uncles, and cousins while I am at home.
  • I can walk to the library and check out physical books to read. While I have been reading E-books in Uganda and those have satisfied my bookwormish inclinations, there is something sweet about the smell and feel of a physical book. So far, I’ve read Brave New World by Huxley, Gather Together in My Name by Angelou, and Kite Runner by Hosseini—all three were thought-provoking and powerfully written. Hehe and all three were physical copies checked out from the library! I can’t wait to walk down to the library a few more times in the coming weeks–and already have quite the list of books on hold to prove so.

With much that I’ve brought back in my heart from Uganda and several reasons to be grateful for my time here in Arlington, I can say that where I find myself at present is good. Hehe while I am still hopeful of what the future holds on this jolly Jinja journey, I feel a sense of rest and assurance about being here in America right now.

With love,


High: Mom and Dad planned a trip to East TN and Asheville, NC for their fall break this past week and so graciously allowed me to join. What a special time it was to see extended family, spend long, intentional moments in nature, try local restaurants, and play games together in the evenings! My mom, usually pretty laid-back and kind-spirited, is quite the competitive cookie when it comes to Apples to Apples–it was fun to see her in her element for the game!

Low: It’s interesting that perhaps just when we think we’ve arrived at some sort of morally higher ground, something happens to remind us that we still have a long way to go in living gratefully and compassionately. As I’ve been processing the transition back home, I’ve noticed some yucky swirls of self-righteousness and cravings for control in myself. While not so glamorous, they are real. And praise be to God, there is grace.

Buffalo: Haha I have been perplexed and frightened by our two family cats several times since returning to Arlington. Sweet Ellie, the housecat in Uganda, is rather small and looks a bit foxy. She loves attention and spends most moments that I’m home right by my side. Jasmine and Snickers, our family cats, are probably double in size in comparison to Ellie and are much more independent. Oh, how I’ve been startled on multiple occasions by a large creature shifting in the shadows of my closet or emerging from under the sofa. A few moments after my heart rate has skyrocketed, I remember with a sigh that the shifting figure is just Jasmine or Snickers. Their presence has been such a random thing to slowly adjust back to!

Words of Wisdom: This quote is a bit heavy but has given me much to mull over as I consider the dynamics and interactions between myself, family members, and loved ones upon returning home. It’s from Huxley’s Brave New World. Is it true? What do you think?

 “One of the principal functions of a friend is to suffer (in a milder and symbolic form) the punishments that we should like, but are unable, to inflict upon our enemies.”

the chapati i bought at Lubas Market and brought home for Mom, Dad, and Logan to try–they can now say they’ve, at least to some capacity, had authentic Ugandan food

cheesin’ with freshly-brushed teeth and a small tube of toothpaste the airline so graciously gave us for the long flight

a family photo by High Falls just outside of Asheville 🙂

feeling quite merry to be surrounded by lovely scenery and happily chirping birds in Asheville

Aunt Carol giving a small speech at her judgeship event, something I was glad to be able to attend

accepting an invitation to initiate


Hello there!

Many blessings to you today!

In all honesty, I come to you in this post with a handful of sweet memories to share but also with overworked armpits because of all the sweating they’ve been doing lately...because I’ve been fretting time and time again about something I’m not the best at in relationships—initiating.

There is a vulnerability that comes with initiating. For one, you vulnerably invite another person to do something you like to do and, in turn, run the risk of them saying no because they don’t want to be a part of that activity. Even further, there is the vulnerability of putting your whole self out there, saying “I am a human being that needs attention and care, and you do too. Can we come together for a moment of connection, offering ourselves to one another as we do something together?” For an assortment of reasons—some we know and others that dwell below the surface, there is the chance that the other person will say no to our request. That hurts. The potential of feeling hurt is scary.

This being said, some of the most joyful moments and relationships are formed because of the ways in which we’ve put ourselves out there. Because of this, there is hope...that can inspire us to initiate. Even if it means we have especially sweaty armpits as we go about it.

God blessed me with timely encouragement about initiating last week, when we had a 4-day weekend and I had no plans. Two kind gals at HEAL said, “Hey remember that everyone wants to be wanted” as they challenged me to step out and ask someone on staff at HEAL to do something together. That very afternoon, opportunities arose for me to reach out, and my weekend was soon much fuller than it had been before.

One of the days over the weekend was spent with P and her son, I. We spent time chasing her three dogs around the yard and watching I splash around in the makeshift pool the rain gifted the property with. Soon enough, our grumbling bellies encouraged us to walk to the market, where we bought Irish potatoes, greens, and other veggies—hehe along with some soda for I. We had great conversation while cooking the meal together and, after eating, watched a fan favorite on DVD—Encanto. One of my favorite moments from the day was walking to the market, where P, a social butterfly and great connector of people, introduced me to a few of her friends as we past restaurants, food stands, and salons.

Another day was spent with H and her children. What a marvelous surprise it was when I arrived to her house to find that a couple of her other friends had asked H to come over too. Because there were so many people over, the occasion called for a big meal filled with rice, matoke, pasta, cabbage, groundnut sauce, and plantain chips for the kiddos later on. While H prepared the meal, a group of us went to a nearby field to play and talk. One of the girls who stays with H became my partner as we played a futbol (soccer) game against two of the boys. Though technically us girls ended up losing the game 9-10, there really was no loser because of the amount of fun we all had playing. We returned from the field to eat together before talking until the sun’s setting forced us to say our goodbyes.

Looking back, I am thankful for the happy moments the past two weeks brought and for the memories of these two days in particular. They filled the 4-day weekend with joy and reminded of the goodness of community that can come from reaching out.

At the end of this post, I want to remind you of something—God chooses you. Over and over and over again, God calls you beloved. As Ann Voskamp writes in her book Waymaker, “When you realize that you are fully known and still fully loved, nothing can scare you any longer.” May the knowledge of God’s care for you give you the security and confidence to step out, step back, or step into whatever it is that is weighing on your spirit.

With love,


High: On Friday, some of the preschool students, the preschool teachers, and I went to the Entebbe Zoo together. It was a BLAST! After leaving the James Place at 7:00 and making the 3-hour trip to Entebbe, Uganda, we spent the day oohing and ahhing at different animals, taking photos on the beach of Lake Victoria, and passing by the airport so that the kids could see airplanes close up. Seeing the delight in the kids’ eyes was priceless, making trip a special event to be a part of.

Low: As summer is turning into fall right now in Tennessee, I find that I am longing for yearly rhythms of the seasons. Here in Jinja, it is rainy season, so it rains most days in any given week. Even so, there are several hours of sunshine each day, and the weather is pretty consistently in the 80s. Breathing in the crisp, cool fall air, watching trees change colors, feeling the coziness of skin against sweater...these are things I look forward to with anticipation but realize I won’t experience while I’m here in a place on the Equator.

Buffalo: Did you know that putting items in direct sunlight helps de-odorize them? Unfortunately, Ellie the House Cat has found a new favorite restroom spot—my bed.. Thoroughly cleaning the sheets and mattress and then setting everything outside in the sun has been such a great help in getting the smell out. Fingers crossed Ellie will reconnect with her litter box, but in the meantime, I am very glad for the power of the sun’s cheerful rays.

Words of Wisdom: A line from the song Sweet Comfort by Sandra McCracken. I was introduced to this song at RUF (Reformed University Fellowship) in college, and for some reason, these words have been coursing through my mind over the past couple of weeks.

“Whatever my God ordains is right

His holy will abides

I will be still whatever He does

And follow where He guides”

one of the sweet preschool gals posing for a photo with a special ginormous friend

a happy photo by Lake Victoria after going to the zoo

cheesin’ with my bus ride mates at the lake

an American delicacy the kids and teachers had for lunch at the zoo 😉 seeing their reactions to the foreign food made me giggle

walking home with some of the women to see none other than some tasty greens in a field! hehe of course we had to pause + pick

letting the sun dry our clothes, leaving them warm and fresh☀️