Saturday, September 5, 2015


Our lives are full of rhythm. Whether it’s our routine, or the constant noise that floats past our ears, rhythms are all around us. Right now, I’m listening to the rhythm of the rain. It’s pitter-patter on the tin roof. The dripping onto the chipped cement below. And how the sea breeze blows the steady falling rain in different directions. There is rhythm in the rain. Music is made. The drops tap out a beat and I follow along. 

My life-rhythm has been a little off-beat lately. Days haven’t gone according to plan. To-do lists stay full, with nothing getting checked off, while more things are added. I’m doing the delicate, yet often times tough, dance of trying to tie up loose ends and get everything done before I leave Liberia in just a few days. I have to make priorities, and choose to totally disregard things that just aren’t as important.

The last few weeks have been hard. Liberia-hard, yes. But hard in a different way, too. Hard because of unexpected, uninvited roughness. Hard because it’s not easy living life with people—it’s messy. And hard because I’m trying to help, but all that I feel in return is entitlement and ungratefulness. And I have to ask for more grace and patience. And trust that my actions and words will rise above the crud and be remembered. And if not, then I have to accept that too.

Some days, I long for holy rhythm. It’s hard to explain, but if you’ve experienced it, then you know what I’m talking about. That constant communion and fellowship with the Father. You feel Him and hear Him. He is present and tangible. I know that He is always present, but when the rhythm is interrupted, He can be hard to find. I crave that assurance that only comes from Him—when you know that you’re exactly where you’re supposed to be and you’re doing exactly what He’s called you to do. And because of that assurance, you cling tightly to His promises and press on. Holy rhythm is a spiritual thing—your words and actions and reactions and thoughts are the extension of the Holy Spirit. Like sweet smelling incense gently rolling away from your hands, feet and mouth. Your eyes are full of light and your words are like fire—there is power in your belly, if you choose to use it.

I’m laying under my fleece blanket inside my mosquito net box. The rain is starting to lull, and I welcome the dark, quiet morning. I think about my rhythms. My rhythm of sliding my feet into flip-flops, rolling up my mosquito net, folding my blanket and drawing the curtain back to welcome the day. The rhythm of opening my top drawer to pull out my Bible, prayer journal, gratitude journal and pens. The rhythm of a day that seems to be full of rain, darkness and cold breezes. The dreaded rhythm of making note of things I’m leaving behind, pulling out the suitcases and dusting the rainy season mold off of things and starting to throw things inside. 

And then there will be the frenzy of leaving. Friends stopping by, last minute errands, people wanting you to carry things for them, passing things off to someone else and making sure everything is taken care of before I go. Then there is the long, cold rhythm of flying nearly 8,000 miles. And the tiredness that goes along with that. And then I wake up in a strange land, much different than the world I left behind just a few hours ago. With this rhythm I know exactly how it all goes, and I anticipate the people and things that will greet me on the other side. But there will be a period of adjustment, a stage of culture shock and lots of needed sleep.

Do you ever sometimes think that a known, chaotic rhythm is better than the rhythm that is to come? Maybe because it’s comfortable or predictable or familiar or convenient? I will say that I am looking forward to the rhythm that is to come, but I also know that there will be highs and lows, peaks and valleys. But there is also the unknown. After my period of adjustment, I’m not really sure what sort of rhythm I will have. But I want it to be a good, healthy, enjoyable and fruitful rhythm. I know there are things that I want to be a a part of my new rhythm—family, healthy food, creativity, quiet time, dreaming, fellowship. And I also want to be sensitive to the Spirit’s rhythm. When I think about it too much, it feels like a tall order, or maybe like there are not enough hours in the day to live full and well. But then I’m reminded that I just need to show up and be present. And enjoy and savor. And extend grace and show love. And stay grounded in the Word and anchored in prayer

And to trust. No matter what

Trust in the beautiful, chaotic rhythm of the Creator. His rhythm is where Life is found, where wounds are healed and where joy is never-ending.

I am choosing to rest in this mysterious rhythm today, and I hope you will too.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

First Day at The Green House!

Yesterday was an incredibly exciting day here in Liberia! After years of praying, dreaming, planning and waiting, the gate was rolled open for children in the community to come inside for drop-in activities! I had no idea what to expect, as it was only advertised by word-of-mouth. And really, there were only two mouths advertising to not very many people. I didn’t really have any expectations—I thought it five kids came then it would be good. I rolled the gate open just after 1pm and sat in the palava hut and waited. After about ten minutes, I made a comment about how it might be a slow afternoon. Just about that time, a group of children holding hands came around the corner. And after another minute or two, another group of children were coming inside. Groups of children just kept coming!
After about 15 minutes, the palava hut was full of children anxiously awaiting the afternoon’s activities. I did a quick headcount and there were 43 children. I welcomed everyone inside and explained to them that we were going to do different activities and have fun. We began by passing out coloring book pages. After coloring, Beneetta read the creation story from The Beginner’s Bible. Beneetta was fantastic and the kids paid careful attention to her every word. She turned a two paragraph Bible story into 30 minutes of fun! After that, we took a vote—dancing or playing games. Dancing won, but once the music started the kids weren’t dancing very much. And then the speaker battery died. So, we moved on to playing parachute games and playing football (soccer). In all, we spent over three hours having fun, and I told the kids that they could come back again on Friday afternoon for other activities.
On our evening walk to the beach, me and my young adult team of Liberians debriefed on the afternoon and brainstormed for how we could improve. We all decided that right now, it’s ok to do fun activities while we are getting to know the children. However, once we have a better idea of the needs and abilities, we will probably have groups that break off for tutoring, reading help and other learning experiences. 
I was exhausted last night—I laid in front of the fan and ate cookies slathered in peanut butter and chocolate spread—but I couldn’t help but reflect. Yesterday really was a dream coming true! It was the first of many fun afternoons. Yesterday was a milestone; an accomplishment, an answer to so many prayers and a testimony to our faithful God! Just thinking about the future gets me excited! I can see the yard full of children—laughing and learning. I can see women sharing their hearts with each other around a table in the palava hut. I can see teenagers finding a comfy spot and getting lost in a book. I can see families gathering for a movie night or football tournament. I can see hearts and lives, and in turn, a community, being changed. I can see God moving and working, forgiving and healing. 
Thank you from the bottom of my heart for all of your love, support and prayers! You are a part of this story, the dream and answered prayers. You each hold a piece of The Green House. More importantly, because of you, the people of Cooper Beach will experience and know the love of Christ. My continued prayer is that this house will be a light shining in the darkness. The the four walls of the fence would be filled with protection, but also with grace overflowing. I cannot wait to share more with you over the coming weeks, and I hope and pray that you will continue on this journey with me and the people of Cooper Beach!

Sunday, July 19, 2015

My Sunday Morning Margin

It’s Sunday morning. I stayed in my bed until nearly 10:00! I could hear the bustle on the road of people trying to make their way to church. There’s also the constant buzz of the cricket that’s been hiding out in my closet for the last few days…and I cannot for the life of me find him! The church next door starts, and it’s actually not as annoying as I feared it would be. I finally emerged from my mosquito net box. The breeze has been fairly constant. I wake up almost every night cold. My curtain is blown nearly up to the ceiling by the wind. The sun is shining and I have found my pause.

Typical sounds of Sunday continue. The church just down the road begins. They’re louder than the church just on the other side of my wall. I pull eggs out of the freezer so they can thaw. I want to bake something this morning—a box of Jiffy blueberry mix, or perhaps banana bread. I crawl back into bed and start to read Hebrews 12. I turn on some music, open up my prayer journal and settle in. After adding to my gratitude journal, I look for a banana bread recipe on Pinterest, because it seems as if I’ve left my go-to recipe at home. I have the entire place to myself—a first in over a week! The sky turns gray and a slow rain begins to fall. The cricket hasn’t let up, and the music continues. The ping of the rain hits the zinc roof. 

I cherish this time of being alone and finding the pause because it is very rare. I’m also storing up energy and sanity, as I’m set to be the guest speaker at a school’s closing ceremony this afternoon. I’m supposed to speak on “the important of elementary education as a foundation for every child”—or at least that was what the handwritten note that was delivered to me said. 

Last night was the first chance I’ve had to walk around the neighborhood. First of all, I was looking forward to getting some alone time, but Momo wasn't having it. He told Abraham to go with me since it was getting late. I asked why I used to be able to walk to the beach every evening by myself, and Momo said “it’s different now.” I think he’s taking his vow to my mom very seriously! There goes a favorite “alone” activity!

My walk was actually strange. My usual route to the beach has been blocked off by a new cement wall and steel gate, so I take a less familiar path. None of the usual children were around. Liberians kept their distance, and mostly just starred. That’s one the weirdest things about being back post-Ebola—people keep their distance. Even more weird is that the Liberian handshake has become extinct.  An old acquaintance did find me as I was walking along the beach, and after an awkward moment, we did a half handshake.

When we headed back to the house, we passed an older man walking through the weeds in a red choir robe. I said the usual greeting, “y’ello” and as he passed by, he said, “we thank God for life.” To which I replied, “tha’ true-o.” As soon as we passed on the dirt path, Abraham told me that the man was a pastor. He then began to explain that people go to him for healing, prayer, etc. and he makes them spend money of things—special water, animal sacrifices, or to hear from the Holy Spirit. Abraham told me that he remembers going with his mom to that man’s church (his house). I started to tell Abraham about how that wasn’t a pastor, and that the Holy Spirit is free! I fumbled over my words and tried to explain darkness and true evil. Prayers filled my spirit.

This is the darkness that Liberia holds. Twisted, false, cunning, impostors. It’s the battle. The battle against the unseen. The battle against darkness that is deeply entrenched into an entire culture. It is part of the fabric of this country. 

The Good news is that Light overcomes darkness. The Good news is that this isn’t a battle that I’m left to fight alone or in my own strength. But the reality is that when you know the Truth, you are a potential weapon. And the darkness hates to be attacked. 

I’ve been thinking about how I’ve settled in well to my new home. It’s mostly comfortable. There are still headaches (like the plumber fixing my kitchen sink yesterday, only to wash my hands this morning and now it leaks more than it did before!). I have had good health thus far. I could use a little more rest—a full night’s sleep would be awesome! But I’ve also been thinking about how the enemy is lying in wait. He’s waiting for the real stuff  to begin, and that’s when he will make himself known. Instinctually, I want to hunker down. I’m waiting for the first blow to my gut—the one that knocks the wind out of you. But I also find myself gearing up, whispering little prayers throughout the day and writing words of power in my prayer journal in the mornings. I’m clinging to promises and truths. I’m counting mosquito bites and praying against malaria. I’m trying to learn the balance of give and take; creating boundaries and doing things that I know that I need for my own health.

So much of these last three weeks has been different. There is a lot of new, but there is also a lot of familiar. I’m looking forward to this next week—I will be attending trauma counseling training hosted by SIM, and it is specifically geared towards training Liberians to work with people affected by Ebola. It’s based off of the curriculum that I have from the American Bible Society, and the training will also include how to train others.

I most excited about how God continues to connect the dots when it comes to my counseling ministry here in Liberia. I’m praying for divine appointments and connections at the training—with SIM staff, but also with Liberians at the training. He continues to put people in my path with the same passion and vision for spiritual and emotional health in Liberia, and I cannot wait to see what He has in store! I already feel like I will be holding another training workshop for other Western friends who have shown interest in wanting to go through the training. I guess we will just have to wait and see what happens!

I have managed to keep my bubble of peace and rest until after 1pm! The rain is still slowing trickling off the roof, but the cricket has stopped! Cool breezes blow through my window and I hear chickens and horns honking. It’s time to eat some cucumber salad, throw on a fancy skirt and hop on a motorbike to go deliver my speech that I’ve thought about for approximately two minutes. It’s the Liberian way!

Thank you all for your prayers! Your prayers have seen me through these first few weeks. It’s been a relatively easy adjustment. I miss my family and the ease and comforts of home. I want the biggest salad ever, and I don’t want anymore bread or noodles. But thankfully I’m not homesick. And God has surrounded me with so many old and new friends! I have Liberian friends showing up at my gate every day asking if there’s anything that they can help me do, and not one has asked for anything in return. It’s really made me feel at home and I offer a bowl of rice or a dollar or two for being down on their hands and knees scrubbing my floor. They decline the money, but will take the rice offer. 

I see the future. Despite frustrations and leaky sinks, I can see how this home will be a place of laughter, joy and dreams coming true. I’ve found myself saying it more than once, “inside this fence is about dreams. dreams coming true. whether they’re God’s dreams, my dreams or your own dreams, dreams are going to come true here!” And I believe that!

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Praying for Freedom!

I've been reading a book called "The Color of Grace" by Bethany Haley Williams. I'm not very far into it, but I have throughly enjoyed it. I'm enjoying it enough that it's getting precious real estate in my carryon bag to Liberia on Monday! That's saying something!

When I read the quote above, I thought about myself. I thought about how I don't want to go limping or hobbling back to Liberia, but that I want to go back dancing!

I also immediately thought about the people of Liberia. They really are wounded warriors. They are some of the strongest, most resilient people that I have ever met. As a matter of fact, that's one of the things that draws me to the people of Liberia time and time again. I honestly think that if I had to go through what most Liberians have gone through, well....I would have given up a long time ago! I honestly don't think I would have survived the war, and if I did, I don't know how I would survive the aftermath. Top that with poverty, sickness, corruption and oppression. And then throw in Ebola. I don't think I could do it. I'm amazed at how my Liberian friends press on. And they press on with incredible faith and a hope for things yet to come. Liberians belong on the hero list.

Would you join me in praying for the people of Liberia? That they wouldn't walk around as wounded warriors, but that they would rise above their current circumstance and dance! Dancing and freedom is wonderful, but even more so, I want to see them dancing in the freedom that only comes from Christ! And I feel called to play a tiny role in helping people find that freedom through Biblical counseling. 

I will be using the Restoring Your Heart (RYH) curriculum to facilitate RYH groups. These groups will be powerful times to share life and talk about past hurt and trauma. Pray for healing and freedom for the women that will participate in the RYH groups. I will also be using some materials from The American Bible Society (ABS) called "Healing the Wounds of Trauma." This will be used with both adults and children. Would you also pray about what counseling will look like in Liberia? 

During these next 10 weeks, I will be 'testing' both curriculums. I have been translating the RYH curriculum into Liberian English, so I will be sitting down with Liberians to get their feedback on the current draft. This material is much more in-depth, so I will also be figuring out how much of the material Liberians grasp. I will use the ABS books to work with children, and will use the adult book as "lighter material" and then will direct people to RYH groups afterwards. Or at least this is all my initial plan.

So you can also be praying for God's wisdom, guidance and discernment for really planning and implementing the counseling aspect of The Green House. I truly believe in the healing power of both curriculums! RYH helped me in my own journey, and I have supported, watched and facilitated others through their own healing journeys. I believe that things like forgiveness and healing are desperately needed in Liberia, and that by walking others through the process of forgiveness, freedom and dancing will come!

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Liberia Update--Leaving June 29th!

It's been a very long time! And things are getting very exciting around here. So I'm breaking the silence. I'm leaving for Liberia one week from tomorrow!!!!! It's been a long time coming. There's so much to say and do and plan for and pray for. But I'll begin with a short update and some prayer requests. Thank you all for being a part of the journey! Greater things have yet to come!

A Long Overdue Update

Dear Friend,

It is with gratitude and great excitement that I write you today. After being in the States for 14 months because of the Ebola outbreak, I am finally returning to Liberia! I am leaving for Liberia on Monday, June 29th. I will be in Liberia for 10 weeks, and will return to the States on September 9th.

Thank you for your continued prayers and support during this difficult time of waiting. God has truly answered our prayers--Liberia is Ebola free!

I look forward to sharing the next chapter with you. The task feels overwhelming, but I am so excited to get back to Liberia among my neighbors and friends. And I truly believe that God has amazing things in store for the people of Cooper Beach!

Please connect on social media to stay the most up-to-date while I'm in Liberia. I will be posting photos, prayer requests and giving you glimpses of what life in Liberia is really like.

More than anything, I need your prayers! You will find specific prayer requests below. Thank you for your prayers, love, financial support and encouragement!

With gratitude,

How You Can Pray

Join us in praying for BIG things!

  • Travel logistics: I'm flying standby to Brussels. My mom (coming with me for one week) is flying standby all the way to Monrovia. Pray for empty seats!- Easy adjustment to all things Liberia--jet lag, heat, rain, water, food, chaos, etc.
  •  Good health: Rainy season means malaria season...and I don't want to go there agin!
  • Transportation: I will be at the mercy of taxis, motorbikes, friends and the kindness of strangers. This is not ideal, especially during rainy season. Pray for provision for daily needs, but also provision for the long-term need of having my own vehicle.
  •  Leaving: I've been home for more than a year. I've been enjoying my family. I've been comfortable. Now I'm leaving 3 nephews behind. It's going to be harder than usual.
  • Loneliness: That's my biggest fear...being in Liberia by myself. Pray that God would provide community, friends and people to connect with. I have many Liberian friends, but most of my American friends are no longer in Liberia, or have left for rainy season. Sometimes you just want to speak English and talk about things you miss from home!
  • Safety and Protection: Physical safety. Protection against the enemy. 

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Heart in the Hot Zone

I haven’t seen this place in six months. A lot has happened during my silence. I have two new[ish] nephews! Red Meets Green is officially a 501(c)3 charity! And there’s an Ebola crisis in West Africa.

I have tried too many times to put things into words for you to read, but I have been unsuccessful. That is why I have been quiet. My head, heart and body have felt very heavy over the last few weeks. Don’t get me wrong, there has also been a lot of good mixed in. But lately I’ve found myself in a place where my brain will not turn off, and it is exhausting. Some nights I have just tossed and turned.

Last night I had a dream. In my dream, there was a woman wrapped in a dusty, maroon and beige lappa. Her lips were cracked and dry. Her eyes were empty. Her feet were caked in the red dirt of Mama Liberia. She was laying helpless in the middle of the road, just over the crest of a hill. Upon reaching her, I made note of the evidence of help strewn around her—wrappers of medical supplies, empty water satchels. I couldn’t help but question why so many people had tried to help her, but they tried without ever moving her from out of the middle of the road. Traffic was whizzing by and whoever it was that was with me was standing at the top of the hill trying to send cars around to the sides. I was kneeling down beside her, with little help to offer. I was crying and she was doing her best to let a whimper escape. I looked up at the cars passing by and then I continued my gaze upward to the big, beautiful blue sky. I asked God why. My eyes settled on a group of all-black chickens walking in the tall weeds along the side of the road. I had never seen such a thing—crow-like, evil-looking chickens. And all of a sudden the black chickens flew straight towards my face; turning white once airborne. I woke up from my dream with my body physically trying to dodge the white birds. I laid in bed, thinking and praying for Liberia, until sleep came. [i'm not sure what any of that means...but I can find some metaphors, for sure. maybe those are the kinds of dreams you have when you watch The Good Lie?]

I feel like my heart is in a tug-of-war. My heart has been divided between Atlanta and Monrovia for the last seven years. It’s nothing new for me. When Ebola really started to spiral out of control, my heart longed for Liberia. It took awhile, but I was finally able to reach a place where I am ok with being here. I know the best thing I can do is pray, and that’s something I can do from this side of the ocean. 

The problem is that half of my heart, my family and my other home are an ocean away. The problem is that I begin and end my day by looking at news articles, thinking about and praying for Liberia. The problem is that whenever I see pictures or watch news reels, I am constantly scanning faces and landscapes—looking for people I know and love, and praying that a familiar face won’t appear in a photo of a dead body laying in the street or waiting in agony outside of an ebola treatment center. The problem is that I think about how far Liberia has come since civil war, and how many steps back she’s taking every day. The problem is that many times I feel so helpless and I grieve for the people of Liberia. The problem is that Liberia has been called hell on earth.

I don’t know why Ebola is happening to Liberia. There are days when it seems overwhelming, and it’s more difficult for me to find hope. There is not an easy answer. Things are not in black and white. Economies and healthcare systems are breaking under the insurmountable weight. Mothers and fathers are dying and leaving children behind. Fear has gripped our own country and created ugly hearts. It has become an issue of black and white, wealthy and poor, privileged and not.

Countless times a day, I wonder what in the heck I’m doing, and I try to better understand even a portion of God and His perfect timing. I cannot see His bigger picture, but I am trying my best to trust in the unknown masterpiece. I truly believe that God is in Liberia and that He is moving and working. I know that Ebola in Liberia is God’s story, and that His name will be known throughout the world because of a terribly ugly virus that divides countries, communities and families. 

Please, I’m asking you to pray for the people of West Africa. Pray that help would come swiftly and that supplies would be in abundance. Pray for miracles—in ebola treatment centers, in provision and in the lives of those who are living in fear. Pray for those who are grieving and are unable to find a glimmer of hope to cling to. Pray for me and for Red Meets Green and The Green House and the people of Cooper Beach. 

I really don’t know where to go from here, and I have no idea when I will be able to return to Liberia. But, I know that there’s a house in Liberia that’s waiting on me, or that could potentially be used by someone who is already on the ground. I know that there is an army of people who love Liberia, and who support the dreams that God has given me. I know that I am supposed to be here, now and for this. I truly believe that God already has, and will continue to, work Ebola for Liberia’s good.

The question is, will you join me? Although so many things seem like big question marks, the truth is that I also believe that when the time comes to safely return to Liberia, I have to be ready. Part of being ready is having enough finances to go back and get The Green House open! Things are going to look a little different than I had originally planned, but that is ok. I know that there will be different needs, and that the people of Cooper Beach are going to need things that God has been putting on my heart over the last few months. I am simply making myself available to return to Liberia with the hope of Christ on the tip of my tongue and an overflow from my heart and hands. I need all of you to join me on the journey!

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Birds, Barbed Wire & God

I woke up sometime before 6am this morning. It was still dark outside, and it was quiet. I pulled my blanket up over me and tried to go back to sleep. My mind started running away from me, and sleep wouldn’t come. I finally checked my clock at 5:58am. At some point I fell back asleep, and woke up around 7:30am when the fan went off and the singing outside my window began.

This morning, I filled a page of my gratitude journal. It’s easy to do that in Liberia—there is so much to be thankful for. I’ve jotted down hundreds of things in my journal over the past 17 days. I stopped writing this morning at #655.

#655: beauty in the pain, ugliness, poverty, hardships, darkness, hopelessness…He is here!

And that’s when it dawned on me.

That one statement is the essence of Liberia.

When you look around, if you’re blinded, all that you see is dirt, garbage, heat, poverty, disease, injustice and corruption. Darkness and oppression are heavy, evident and tangible. How can there be any hope in that?

Somehow, some way—if you’re able—when you can see past those things, God allows you glimpses of Him. 

As my feet walk over a garbage-littered, red dirt road, I am able to see beauty and life. As my eyes survey a tiny community of poor fishermen and their families living in utter poverty and filth, I see simplicity and unbreakable bonds. As I walk through the community, I sense an immense amount of pain, even though women are plaiting hair and laughing and children run up to say hello and shake my hand. As I sit in the yard at a friend’s house—a yard I haven’t stepped foot in since the night her baby died—I talk and laugh with her and her three young sons. Her oldest son Moses writes his name for me in the sand, and I wonder how often she thinks about her fourth son. There is a group of children in the yard next door—a “crazy man” with hundreds of pieces of rope and string draped over his head is interacting with them. He looks like a Raggedy-Anne doll, and he has them all laughing. The children lead him over to the white woman, and he asks what state I’m from. He lights up when I say Georgia, and immediately references Atlanta. He meekly smiles, puts his hands together and tells me that he’s from Maryland Georgia too. He tells me to have a nice day, and continues walking. I wish I had a photo of that man because he was beautiful. I saw Jesus right then and there.

And then I woke up this morning to birds singing loud and beautiful songs while sitting on the barbed wire outside of my window. The sun rises and the heat of the day begins. I breathe in deep when a cool breeze blows through the open window. I am a little sticky, but another cool breeze comes. 

That is Liberia. 

Singing amongst the barbed wire; sticky but a cool breeze will always come.

And through it all, God is here.