Thursday, December 18, 2014

three years

three years ago we met a tiny little girl in xi'an china.

it was probably one of the hardest days of my life. it was also one of the best.

we went up to the sixth floor of a dimly lit building and walked into a shoe box sized room that was already filled to the rim with other families. all there for the same reason, to meet their babies.

when we said "YES" to Ainsley, we knew she came with many needs, and that was ok. 
we were prepared and thankful that God would choose us to be her family. but nothing, and i mean nothing, could have prepared us for the day we met this little one face to face. no book, no blog post, no amount of prepping could have gotten us ready for that day. 

she was scared. she was tiny. and she broke our hearts.

we spent about thirty minutes studying and watching this little one. she held on to the nannies shirt for all it was worth. she shook and cried and was absolutely terrified. when she was finally placed in my mom's arms, it didn't get any better. she cried. my mom cried. dad cried. i cried.  it was just a big hot mess of two hours.

we got back to the hotel and discovered we had been given a very tiny baby girl. she weighed about 12lbs at 30 months old and struggled to even hold her head up. we cried. prayed. and literally begged God to direct our path. 
we decided that we were going to love this little one to pieces + with everything in us. 

we spent three weeks in china loving + getting to know this tiny girl. and before our eyes miracles started happening. it started with a smile, a laugh, eye contact, and noises. then to eating real food and getting too chubby for her 9-12 month sleepers. and this was just in china. it was beautiful to watch.

once home from china it got really good. before our eyes she transformed. she formed a personality. conquered the "impossible" and amazed everyone she met. 
we were told ainsley was "hopeless". We were told to never expect her to do anything. she would most likely be wheel-chair bound and would never be a "normal" child. oh, how wrong they were. how very wrong. 
the little girl that was never supposed to walk or talk was running after being home only three months. 

God was so gracious to us.

Adoption is a beautiful picture of redemption. it's the gospel in our living room and Ainsley's little is the most perfect example of that. God truly loves the orphan and He fights for them. He fought for her. for this one. 

Today, Ainsley weighs 38lbs, is solid + is the same size as her big sister. she is the sassiest thing you will ever meet and truly loves life. 
she is sweet and loving. 
she is fierce and a fighter. 
she loves to cause trouble and she will almost certainly call you a peacock. 
she is my heart and my little best friend and she reminds me daily of God's faithfulness.

today we celebrate the miracle of you, Ainsley. 

you are the most beautiful fighter i've ever known and i thank Jesus daily that he allowed me to be your Big Sister. you rock my world and you are my hero. thank you for teaching me what life's really about and for teaching me what love really means. thank you for the passion you've brought to my life. thank you for showing me that faith moves mountains + that miracles do exist. if i ever forget, all i need to do is look at you running around the house or reading a book. you are my miracle. 

 i'm in love with your spirit and your sassy stubborness that refuses to be defeated. i truly believe that fighter/little lion spirit is the reason you are here today. i'm in love with everything about you, babycakes.

you're gonna conquer the world, darling. and i'm going to be your biggest cheerleader every step of the way.

i love you to the moon and back peacock. happy, happy gotcha day.

Now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His perfect power that is at work within us.
-Ephesians 3:20

Saturday, July 26, 2014

why i'm leaving uganda...

well, this is a post i never, ever ever planned to write. like ever, but i'm pretty sure that's kind of how God works.

i can sing and state "His will, not my own" but when it all shakes out i still honestly hold out hope that "my" will and His will match up. sometimes, they do. but sometimes, they don't.

when i announced my "move" to Uganda, i planned to move. my plan was to stay until November, go home for Christmas, and move back indefinitely in January of 2015. it seemed like a perfect plan, i felt [at the time] that this was God's will for me and that it was what would happen.

i came thinking i would be making this my home. my indefinite, forever and ever home.

but, sometimes God's plans aren't always our own. sometimes, His plans are mind blowing and make you want to, with everything in you, resist. because sometimes what God sees fit is not at all what you saw fit for your life.

the two weeks leading up to my move to Uganda were stressful beyond belief. it was spent finding plans had fallen through, finding broken situations, and realizing how incapable i am. i was shaken and knew that God had something else in the works. i thought that maybe this wasn't His final plan after all. but i still packed everything and headed to uganda according to plan.

once in uganda, God continued to work on my heart. He continued to reveal needs to me that I had no idea about before. He broke my heart for what broke His and brought me to a new understanding. God transformed how I saw the world within a few days of being in this land.

I prayed and sought His will for my life and He showed me so clearly time and time again the answer. when the answer came, i came out kicking and screaming. this was not my plan. not my want. and certainly not the lifestyle i pictured. yet, at the end of the day my loyalties lie at the feet of Jesus and trusting that His plan for my life is so much better than my own.

His plan you ask?


in this country, education is the key to everything. it is a door opener and it is a world changer. it is the key to everything i would like to do. if i want to make a difference in uganda or anywhere else in the world, an education is crucial.

i never want my only qualification to be "professional baby holder" because to be honest, a Ugandan can hold a baby and therefore i'd be completely useless.

i want God to use me in every way and in all of my talents.

if i come to this land with no prior education or anything to help educate and empower these people, i'm doing no good.

i've had quite a few people confused.
"why do you need an education there?" they ask
and this is the only way i know how to answer,

the people of uganda deserve the best. they deserve better than an 18 year old girl with nothing but high school and google to help empower them. they deserve someone that can teach and train them. they deserve the best. not "good enough" or simply ok. i would be crazy to think i could teach a class, preach a sermon, or train others in therapy for children in the states if i didn't have recommendations, a college degree, volunteer hours, and previous experience. so why should uganda be any different?

coming to terms that i have to leave where my soul loves for this new season is hard. so hard. but this time in uganda has been a season, too. the season ahead is one that i feel God has called me to and is absolutely necessary for my future and my future in uganda or wherever He may call me. it may not be the season i planned, but i am slowly learning that God's plans aren't really affected by my own. and i find myself more thankful everyday for what the future holds and for this land that i have been able to call home for a short time.

this is by no means the end to my ministry or to missions. this is simply a step in the process. it just means it will take a few more years and a lot of summer trips in between. it is just a stepping stone + i've come to realize through all this that i still have so much ahead. and i'm anxious to see where God leads me on this journey.

so here begins my most unexpected adventure yet…


Tuesday, July 22, 2014

in Uganda

while i've only called Uganda "home" for eight short weeks, the honeymoon phase ended about two days after my dad left + reality sank in rather quickly. life here has become quite sweet, but please don't think it goes without road bumps. life is much more than an instagram post, + hopefully this post gives you a little insight. 

In Uganda...
if you wanna get anywhere, you better get real comfortable with a boda [aka motorcycle]
roads are made with potholes in them and they are as fun as they sound on a makeshift motorcycle.
where cheese is non-existent 
people use the phrase "it is okay" or "it is not okay" instead of a simple "yes" or "no" 
where your night guard is your closest friend + a compound is the norm. 
joy is abounding, but so is grief and poverty.
where not having power for 5 hours in one day is totally normal + if the power doesn't go out for an entire week..wait that doesn't happen. 
where the color of my skin makes people daily ask me for money + make me pay more for everything from a boda ride to a necklace.
the thought of rain is exciting + miserable all at the same time. 
where you realize not having A/C isn't so bad after all + also realize that 65 degrees outside IS cold enough for a jacket.

where you experience the most heartbreaking things + also the most joyful and sometimes it happens all in one day.
the color of my skin also means i'm a modern day celebrity anytime i enter a village, my dirt road [that i walk down 4+ times a day] and anywhere else for that matter.
where i am no longer a name, but simply a "mzungu"
where chaos surrounds me and days are never, ever easy.
where death is a way of life.
where the need is sometimes so overwhelming that you almost lose hope…. almost.
but then you realize you were made for a time such as this and that in Uganda isn't so bad after all, it's actually the greatest blessing/experience of your life. 

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

walking home

every day during my lunch break and after work is over, i walk back to my house. it's not a long walk and usually takes no more than 10 minutes (and we don't walk fast)

most days we are greeted by kids in our village yelling "muzungu! muzungubai!" and hugging us. it's usually one of my very favorite parts of my day. the kids always hug me, hold my hand and i get to talk to them about their day. slowly, but surely i am learning their names + their stories. it's the best thing to watch it unfold.

today was a rainy day. which is not really normal saying it's "dry season". we also did not have power for a good portion of today and it was cold. like i had to put on a jacket in the middle of uganda cold. yeah, not the happiest feeling for a day. anyways, on our walk home from work today we met a new group of kids. mostly boys and mostly older (think 6-12 years)

it didn't seem too out of the ordinary to have kids running up to us, but today was different indeed. today, these kids were pretending to be us (aka muzungus) and how did they greet us? with toy and pretend cameras in our face. they were talking to us saying "smile" and "muzungu look!" they were "taking photos", "videoing" us, and asking us to pose and dance for them.

while the kids thought it was incredibly funny and i found the kids to be really sweet, i also found this situation rather sad.

i don't want the people of uganda or the children to ever look at me and just see a photo-taking-muzungu. that is not my goal. it deeply bothered me that when these kids see us "muzungus" all they see is a camera. or at least, that's how it was for these kids.

that's just not ok.

when these kids see me, i want them to see jesus. i don't ever want a child to wake up thinking about a white girl that only takes their photos and invades their privacy. i don't ever want this ministry or the work in uganda to be about me or muzungus in general. because that's not the point.

i never want to be get so caught up trying to capture a moment that i miss the moment. 

and i am the absolute worst. i love photos. i take too many pictures and love capturing little moments and posing with cute kids in cute moments, but i'm going to take a step back. i plan to reevaluate and not focus so much on capturing photos but instead on relationships.

it has become so common to make our goals "the perfect photo" or to "make sure i look good" instead of not caring what photo you get, but instead what life you change or what friendship you make. i've seen it happen so often in the time i've been here and even in the states. it's heartbreaking to watch and it's even more heartbreaking to know you've participated in it before.

i think it is desperately needed in this day and age of social media, selfies, and everything else. i don't want these kids to remember me by my camera. i never want to get to the point where i only focus on getting "the perfect shot" because that defeats the purpose. i want kids to remember me by my actions and by my love and better yet His love.

Thursday, June 12, 2014


hello from uganda!

what a crazy almost week it has been. i have finally arrived in jinja and i'm in love with the people, culture, town, and boda bodas!

i spent my first few days in kampala visiting some sweet and very dear friends. such a fun reunion it was!

emma, macey and sharon were the best "guides" ever and took me from church to shopping to all around kampala and then dropped me off in jinja. it was truly the best ever.

we traveled to jinja and were able to meet up with our friend joanna. i was so pumped to finally meet her after so many years of loving the same land!

my dad is with me and leaves on saturday. i'm going to miss him fiercely but am so thankful for the time together in the land i love and that he has learned to love and embrace the culture, too!

ekisa is beyond anything i could have dreamed. i've fallen in love with the kids, mamas, and everyone else. i'm absolutely in love with jinja in general and love getting on a boda boda (motorcycle of sorts) and being able to go anywhere.

we spent today riding horses down the nile river and it was absolutely amazing. i highly recommend it and plan to go again before i leave uganda.

i'm so thankful for god's provision in this journey. i feel at peace and like i'm right where i'm supposed to be. there is nothing like the center of god's will. it is such a sweet place to be. while i'm still unsure of how long i will be in uganda and where God will lead me i am incredibly thankful for each day He gives me and know that this trip is not the end of my journey here.

thank you all so much for the prayers, love, and support as i begin this journey. it's been so good + i can't wait to see what he does in the coming days and months ahead.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

graduation party

so, i had the most magical graduation party ever. 

it was everything i could have ever wanted + i was surrounded by all of my favorite people. 

the theme was "oh, the places you'll go!" and it was just that. 

it was so perfect that i felt i had to share some of it on my little space of web. i leave for uganda in just 12 days so my party was also a little "send off" too! 

the cards table was also a pillowcase that we asked people to sign with "sweet dreams" or well wishes for me while i'm in africa. it was one of my favorite things. the palate was also awesome. we just nailed string and used it to clip photos from birth-now on. 

 my precious daddy + i. so thankful that he will be visiting me in Uganda and seeing the land i love! 

the photo booth was a huge hit + one of my "take away" gifts was a chinese takeout box (monogrammed, of course) with a little fortune cookie in it.  

 my guest book was themed with the party. one page had a senior photo the other had a map with a b/w baby photo of me where the guests could sign. i made it and am quite obsessed with it. 

 small cups of kettle corn, chocolate dipped pretzels, + amazing cupcakes (thanks erica!) made up the best parts of the dessert table. 

 the smores bar ended up being quite the hit with our smaller guests who loved making them right there.

 fun fact; the ashton on the A is actually my signature. i'm quite in love with my monogram and signature, so we hid it everywhere in the party. 
and no party is complete without Ashton Water, right? 

my precious and amazing friend, jennifer. 
jen-ta-fa, thank you so for creating the party of my dreams + for going above and beyond anything i could have imagined. i owe you big time + will be forever thankful for you + your sweet self. you're crazy talented and pulled off the party of the year. this constitutes you being late for the rest of forever in my book :) 

thank you to those who helped make it possible + to those who joined in on the fun. so thankful for all of you who love me so well + celebrate me even more.