This post by David Kuo is absolutely beautiful.

And p.s. – Unrelated to Africa, but this post of Carlos’ made me cry.

What Shannon Said


To every single bit of it.

And you can read it right here.

What Makes Compassion Different?

Several of you have emailed me to ask what, if anything, makes Compassion International different from World Vision.

My friend Shaw-awn has a most informative, eloquent answer.

And you can read it right here.

We Are Considering Sideline Careers As Nature Guides

It has been well-established that I am not an outdoorsy girl.

Oh, I can dress the part, what with my fleece pullovers and functional-yet-appropriately-sassy khaki pants. Not to mention my Fundanas.TM

But even if I have on the right clothes, odds are that once I get in the actual outdoors, something will go horribly awry.

Like that time in 11th grade when my youth group went on a hayride and everyone was swinging out over a pond on a rope, and I wanted to be a good sport so I swung out over the pond, too, only my hands slipped and I fell into said pond and jammed all the fingers on my right hand.



Over the years I’ve learned to accept that I’m just more of an indoorsy girl. My idea of going on a nature hike is to look at pictures of a nature hike on my computer while I sit in an air conditioned Panera with a big mug of coffee (two Equals, heavy on the half & half) and a large piece of plate glass separating me from all the nature. Just as the Good Lord intended.


I mentioned last week that we spent the last couple of days of our Uganda trip at a lodge near Murchison Falls. The lodge was straight out of a Hemingway novel – perfectly lovely in every way – but I would be lying to you if I told you that I didn’t panic just a smidge when Shannon and I walked in our room and saw that it was “open air.”

Now here’s a lesson you can take with you for the rest of your earthly days, and you don’t even have to pay me for it: “open air” is some fancy travel agent talk for WE AIN’T GOT NO AIR CONDITIONERS, Y’ALL.

However, given what we’d recently seen in Kampala, I was able to quickly put the no air conditioner thing in perspective. Not to mention that I was on a once-in-a-lifetime trip with some of the best people I’ve ever met in my whole life. And so if the Lord wanted to use my time in Africa to rid me of any freon-related strongholds, then I was not going to get in His way.

As it turned out, the lodge’s electricity came from a generator, and they turned off the generator three times a day. For those of you who are keeping score at home, that means there were three times a day when the ceiling fans didn’t work because, funny thing, CEILING FANS REQUIRE POWER.

Honestly, I didn’t even notice the power outages during the daytime. We weren’t in our rooms a lot, and between the hiking and the ferry riding and the river exploring and the animal watching, there just wasn’t a lot of time to sit in the room and think about how you couldn’t turn on the TV if you wanted to, only OH WAIT, THERE WERE NO TV’S THERE, CLEARLY I WAS TRICKED INTO CAMPING.

The first night at the lodge we had an absolutely delightful dinner, and once Shannon and I got back to our room it dawned on us that the generator was going to turn off around 1 in the morning. Which meant that the ceiling fan would not be operating. Which meant that between the mosquito nets surrounding our beds and the lack of air circulation, there was no way we could possibly continue to breathe normally after 1AM.

After a considerable amount of deliberation, we decided to sleep with the sliding glass door open. In retrospect this was probably AN INCREDIBLY FOOLISH DECISION, but at the time we believed that leaving the door open was a stroke of brilliance because fresh air trumps no air at all. Every single time.

About fifteen minutes after we opened the door, Shannon sat up on her bed and said, “WHAT ABOUT THE MONKEYS?”

And I was all, “HUH?”


She made an excellent point.

Now in our defense, Shannon and I were both English majors at our respective colleges. And while I recall taking courses in transformational English grammar and Shakespearean poetry and whathaveyou, I was never required to take a course in How To Stop A Monkey Attack. I doubt that Shannon was, either. So we were both dealing with a pretty limited skill set in terms of How To Combat The Nature.

So we talked about some different solutions, and as we discussed those solutions – none of which, interestingly enough, involved sleeping with the door closed – I wandered into the bathroom so I could wash my face and brush my teeth. I kept thinking about what it would be like to wake up and see a real-live monkey on the other side of my mosquito net, and I decided that it would probably be a little alarming.

And I decided it would probably make me scream.


Now I can’t speak for Shannon, and I don’t know this for sure, but I’m fairly certain that she was having the same thoughts. Because when I walked out of the bathroom and looked at our open doorway, this is what I saw.


Internets, I give you Shannon’s Monkey Alarm (patent pending).

For the record, I nearly wet my pants when I saw it.

Because monkeys? They can jump. From one tree to another tree, even. And so the notion that our two foot tall chair WITH A BACKPACK AND WATER BOTTLE ON THE SEAT would serve as some sort of Monkey Deterrent made me laugh until I cried.

Shannon’s rationale was that if a monkey ran into the chair, the water bottle would fall and wake us up. And that made perfect sense to me because then we would have plenty of time to, I don’t know, SCREAM AT THE MONKEY?

Or to run and jump in the closet while we SCREAMED AT THE MONKEY?

Or – and this, I feel, is the most likely scenario – to try to hoist ourselves up to the ceiling using only our mosquito nets, all the while SCREAMING AT THE MONKEY?

But never let it be said that English majors don’t know how to improvise. Because I’ll have you know that before the night was over, Shannon had TOTALLY revised her original Monkey Alarm (patent pending) design.

She recognized that we needed something on top of the backpack that was a bit more hefty and stable than the bottle of water.

So she replaced the water with a bottle of sunscreen.

We found great comfort in that modification. And we slept the sleep of angels. Because NO WAY a monkey gets past a bottle of sunscreen, y’all.

I feel certain that any respectable English major would agree.

This Thing They Call Re-Entry

For the last couple of days of our trip to Uganda, we talked a lot about “re-entry” into our everyday lives – what that might look like and feel like once we got home to our families. We talked about jet lag and the best way to move through it. We talked about how it takes time to process everything we saw and heard and experienced. And we talked about how it’s completely normal to feel overwhelmed by it all.

And make no mistake: for the first week that I was back at home, I was Officially Overwhelmed.

It’s not that I felt guilty that we live smack-dab in the middle of suburbia. At least I don’t think that was it. And it’s not that I wanted to sell all of our earthly possessions and give all the money to the poor and go live in a slum in the middle of Kampala, Uganda. I still had the wherewithall to recognize that God has a specific calling on my family’s life right here where we are.

But the first morning after our return trip – after sleeping for about four hours and then tossing and turning for the next three – I finally got out of bed around 4:45 and decided I’d make a pot of coffee.

And do you know what happened? I turned on the kitchen faucet. And water – clean, drinkable water – poured out of it. I could’ve let that water run all day if I wanted to.

It made me cry.

In fact, it made me cry a lot. So much so that I have started to refer to that particular time as Tuesday: The Day Of All The Crying.

The simplest things – water from a faucet, aisles of food at the grocery store, heat blasting out of our floor vents – left me sort of dumbstruck by the sheer abundance of it all.

But slowly, gradually, I’ve started to work through the process of figuring out what our experiences in Uganda are going to mean in the context of my everyday life. I feel like I’ve started to find my way again. And even though it feels strange sometimes to see the world through the lens of a vastly changed perspective, I’m so grateful for this new vantage point. I feel like our Uganda trip made me take off my suburban blinders.

The temptation, of course, is to gradually put the blinders back on. Because truth be told, I have moments where I feel like I’ve just about worn myself out with the Deeply Reflective Analysis Of The Poverty, and I wonder sometimes if the next step isn’t just to Push Through This Thing and Move On.

But the kicker is that I can’t.

And on top of that? I don’t want to.

Because ultimately, the trip to Africa has given me a completely unexpected desire to DO SOMETHING, ALREADY. And the bottom line is that I don’t want for the extent of this trip’s aftermath to be that I have some really cool pictures in iPhoto now, and oh, by the way, let me show you my sassy Ugandan earrings.

It has to go deeper than that.

And so I pray that what I saw and felt and heard on our trip will continue to impact my life, my family’s life, in ways we can’t ignore. I pray that somehow those experiences will continue to impact the lives of the children around the world who so desperately need our help.

I pray that I’ll know what to do next.

Because sitting here and pretending that poverty doesn’t exist? It’s no longer an option in our house.

So re-entry? Yep. Done it. Check that off the list. I am once again a functioning, (fairly) well-rested member of American society. I can even turn on the water in my kitchen without crying.

But ultimately, is the trip to Uganda over?

Nope. No way.

Not even close.

And Lord willing, it never will be.

Because I Miss Them







You can see more sweet faces here.

And know this: if you decide to sponsor a child, then yes, you will help to change that child’s life.

But here’s the kicker, The Big Surprise: that child will change your life, too. In all sorts of wonderful ways.

Funny how that works.