After These Things

I’ve spent a lot of time staring at the stars.

It started years ago, when I was given a small, plastic telescope that I would drag out across our backyard late into the night. I convinced friends to sleep outside without a tent so we could stare at the stars. I was heartbroken when, after doing renovations to our house, I lost my beloved skylight that enabled me to see the glistening lights of the country sky.

We’ve always had a love affair, the sky and I. But I fell in love with him on the other side of the ocean, where I would climb onto the roof and spend my evenings under the African sky. I fell deeper in love with the stars the night I went back to Senegal, showering under a full moon in a tin shanty with a bucket full of rain water.

But I fell truly, madly in love with the full moon and stars when I realized that they were a symbol, a love letter, between the God that I love and the God who loves me. 

The thing is – I forget. I forget, over and over again, of His faithfulness. I push it aside in the dark times, and I am quick to respond in fear when I long to respond with trust.

But the full moon and the stars keep appearing. They are the thin place, the sacred ground, where He and I meet, and I whisper to Him heart cries and He whispers to me faithfulness.


The very first words in the story of Abraham and Isaac are three words. After these things. Up until these past few months I had skipped over them, barely noticing their place in the story. Abraham and I, though, we keep meeting. We meet in conversations. We meet in words. We meet in names. And I have spent these past months sitting with those nineteen verses, and they have come alive to me. Some day, maybe, I’ll write the story, but for now, this is what needs to be said:

those three words –

after these things

are so important

They aren’t meant to be stepped over – prodded over – pushed aside.

They tell you what has happened and what is to come.

We can’t fully understand the story of Abraham and Isaac until we know the story that was before. And those words – that idea – is as important to us as readers of Scripture as it is for us as doers of Scripture.

Don’t disdain your story. 

Do not disregard the journey it has been to get you to the place you are. The broken pieces, the heartbreak, the loneliest and darkest of nights. All of those things, summed up in three words – after these things.



and after –

He is there. It’s the only way we can understand who we are:

when we understand who we have been.

And so I keep going back to the stars, and the full moon, to remind me of His faithfulness. The tears I have let fall before Him. The whispers of faithfulness in return.

And I am ever thankful –

that after these things – 

the moon still rises, the stars still glisten,

and He is in the midst of it all.




Half Moons

I’m outside, a half moon before me, wrapped in a fleece blanket. This is my happy place.

I found this place a few dozen moons ago, on a rooftop overlooking Asamankese. Those were a hard few months. I was stretched and sucker punched in ways I don’t know if I’ve even grasped, yet. I talk about those days. Some days I regret leaving. Other days I breathe a prayer of thanks. But mostly, I remember the moon.


Almost every night, after we’d eaten and the night had dropped quickly, we’d climb up onto the roof with our Bibles and an iPod and maybe a blanket. We’d sit on the scratchy cement roof, the scuffling of lizards making their way away from our spot, and we’d talk. We’d pray. Sometimes we’d sit in silence. Sometimes I would be alone, and other times the three of us would gather together. But consistently, always, there was the night sky, and there was God.

In that place on that roof, with the smell of smoke thick in the air and the sounds of dishes being washed in tin basins around us, I learned a simple lesson: when life seems like it’s the hardest thing to do, my eyes need to turn back to the One who put me here in the first place. When my eyes are on Him – not on what’s around me – it’s then I can finally breathe.

And so when I’m in that place again, when things are falling around me and I’m drowning, I go back to the place I know He’ll be. I sit at His feet and I stare at the moon and I am reminded.

It’s been a sign of His faithfulness in some of the hardest and best of seasons. It was a full moon the night she walked down the aisle and a chapter of our childhood was closed. It was a full moon when I showered in the dark of a Senegalese night on a trip I thought I’d never take. I could whisper to you every night that when I needed the reminder, and looked outside, the reminder was there.

And so tonight, it’s a half moon as I wrap myself in a fleece blanket and ask God why I am still here and she is not.

And He reminds me to breathe.

And He reminds me that I need Him more than I need answers.

That I need presence more than I need words.

And so I thank Him for the adventure, the life ahead of me, the days stretched long and the peace that surrounds me. He is good and He is faithful,

just as He is faithful to let night fall and a small ray of moonlight dance across my face.

Reflections on Senegal

This morning, just like every morning before work, I pulled out my bag of coffee beans and ground a few fresh tablespoons. I’m a coffee snob, I fully admit. And I love my fresh pressed coffee. But today, I’m missing Nescafe. And sweet tea.

It’s a forty minute commute to work, and normally I’m thankful for the silence of the drive. I listen to sermons and music and as usual, my mind doesn’t rest. But today I’m missing sun drenched paths and shouts of “Kasu-may!”

I’m back to my North American food, with lasagna for lunch and salad for dinner. But really, all I’m craving is yassa. I want that fresh fish and vegetables and rice with a group of people surrounding the dish.

I’m thankful for my hot bath. Yet I’m yearning for that bucket shower underneath the African starry sky.
I wish I could sit with everyone of you over a cup of coffee and share my heart and share my stories. 
Every day while in the village we had the opportunity to share Christ in conversations and actions and showing the Jesus film. I felt the love of Christ overflowing in my heart for these people; the moment I met them I wished I could in some way convey to them how loved they were. In so many ways they reminded me how loved I was: I was amazed at how God’s character shone through their simple acknowledgement of every person who passes. They shake hands, greet with their greeting, and continue on. I wondered at what our lives would be like if we had that simple acknowledgement of those we pass that we matter. That we aren’t just someone walking by. And I love that God thinks of us like that; He always stops. Always. 
We had the opportunity to lead unbelievers to Christ. And it was amazing to see the Lord bring healing to one of them, to hear that she was able to walk by herself after being unable to even leave the house without assistance. God is good, and faithful.
Every meal we ate there was shared. Fish and vegetables and rice were placed in a large dish, and five or six gathered around. (Except for that one time that we must’ve fed 100 children after one of the screenings of the Jesus film. There was that. I’ll have to tell you about that one day, about seeing so many children crowded around multiple dishes and how in some way, it stirred our hearts in a way words can’t describe). There was something simply profound about eating together. We’ve missed that in our culture, you know. We eat alone and we eat quickly and we forget how life wasn’t meant to be done alone, but to be done together. We really should stop more, and just simply share a meal. I wonder how lives and families would be changed if we simply stopped.
I realized while there that there is a boldness in knowing you are there to serve and share with a purpose; I am wrestling with how to take that boldness home. How do I live my life as a witness to Christ not only in actions, but in words here, too? As we sat on one of our last days with the Believers in the village, we talked about how these Believers would be challenged in their walk. It wouldn’t be easy, one of our team members sadly warned. And it wouldn’t. When these Believers chose to change their lives, and follow the Lord and abandon all other fetishes and idols, their physical and societal lives were put on the line. It’s not a battle of flesh and blood; it’s a spiritual battle. They were wrestling with what it means to abandon all else and follow Christ, to truly live their lives according to the Word. It was a sombering reminder to me. It’s too easy here, in our western world, to live lukewarm. Our lives may not be truly threatened. But how important it is that we too, live lives worthy of the calling placed on them. That we live our lives worthy of the One who died in our place.
As I am reflecting, and hopefully coming out of my jet-lagged state, I am prayerfully committing every precious moment to memory. You might know that I love talking about things that make my heart dance. Throughout this trip, so many things made my heart jump for joy. Conversations about love and faith and God’s call for women. The full moon and stars. Reminders from strangers and new friends that God wants you to dream big and take those leaps of faith, that He creates your heart and hopes and dreams for a purpose far grander than you can imagine. 
I prayed to be a blessing to those I met, but I never imagined how much they would be a blessing to me too. I left a piece of my heart with those people, and I simply can’t wait to go back.

When Water Washes Away Your Words

When we had the flood in the basement, it washed away not only books, drywall, shoes and clothes, but it washed away something very precious. It washed away my words.

It was a blue journal, with purple binding along the side. On the front was a tree, raised leaves that I can still feel on my fingertips. I remember the moment in the bookstore, slipping it out of the bookshelf from among the myriad of others calling out for my attention.

In that journal were my words. It held words from the ending of my time at university, and the beginning of my trip to Africa. It held tears. It contained joy and triumph. Across its pages were the paintings I had created with my words, bits of my soul slipped in between the strokes and lines.

I long to live a life not only in the present, but a life that looks back, too. My journals let me do that. They let me see where I’ve come from, because as I see where I’m coming from I see where I’m going, too. I want to look back and see how life, how God, how people have shaped me. I want to remember who I was then so I can know more deeply who I am now.

The water stole my journal, blurring the words and marring the book with destructive mould. The book was slipped into a garbage bag with junk, the meaning and worth known only by me.  It shouldn’t bother me as much as it does. I’m struggling to remind myself that the process of holding my pen to paper was just as important as the end result of the filled journal. I’m trying to remember, and be thankful for the fact that although water stole my words, it can never steal my voice.

{But still my heart is hurting a little bit to know those precious words have slipped away forever.}

Dear Beautiful Boy’s Mom

Dear Beautiful Boy’s Mom,

Today I walked into the classroom and I saw your boy on the floor. He was weeping – I could hear him from my office – and with barely a glance in your direction, I wandered over to your son on the ground. He was sprawled across the floor, his hands nestled in the crooks of his arms, and his body was shaking with every cry. My hand rubbed his back, and I quietly asked him what was wrong. He didn’t answer me; he just cried harder, and I insisted he tell me what had happened. But he was too focussed on his cries to respond.
I learned from the other students that you had beaten him. I don’t know what he did wrong, and I don’t know if he was rude to you or he hurt another student or if he interrupted you as you were speaking. All I know is that you had deemed his actions worthy of physical pain. And as I watched his tears, and his body shake, all I wanted to do was gather him in my arms so that as my heart broke I could hold his shaking body close. But instead I walked away, as my heart beat desperately in my chest and as I felt your eyes follow me across the room.
I wish I could feel what you feel when you take your hand and you force it across his body. (But then again, maybe I don’t). I guess what I mean is I just really wish I could understand. 
Because I see this boy, this son of yours, as beautiful. Every part of him as valuable, even his tears. And I just really find it hard to see how, even in the name of discipline, this beating of him teaches him value. How it teaches him that you love him. How it teaches him an understanding of why his behaviour was wrong.
Because doesn’t it just teach him to fear your hand?
I don’t claim to know much, and I don’t claim to know what it’s like to be a mom. You have faced more than your fair share of challenges in your life and I admire the way you still carry a smile on your face and your head held high. I don’t want to quote you all the textbooks and research and papers I’ve read on the topic, because in the end none of that really matters if I’m not willing to share my heart.
But can I just ask you one question? That’s all, and I’ll end the letter there. Can you look into his eyes? For a moment just look into his eyes, and see him as the Child of God that he is. Can you see him as he was knit together, the Creator’s fingers taking careful measures to instil that he was perfectly created? And then in those moments, the moments where he makes you so angry you raise your hand or your fist or a cane – can you just remember that image? 
Because my heart’s just breaking here, tonight, for him, for you, for me. Because I walked away and felt so helpless, yet there was something inside of me that was insistent I do something, anything. Even just penning this letter.
So with love and a breaking heart,
Your Son’s Teacher

Entering the Homestretch

Four days. That’s all I have left here in Asamankese.

From last Wednesday to Sunday were spent in bed, and time seemed to stretch on endlessly. I watched movies, I read, I listened to sermons but I could do little else besides lay in bed. Finally my backpain started to lift and today I am feeling almost back to 100%, praise the Lord! But now that I’m up and at ’em again, the next few days already seem like a blur.

This is what they cook on outside.

I came home from school today, and sat with Auntie Jo and the boys outside while they made dinner, and then wandered around the compound taking pictures and taking in sights and sounds. I’m trying to hold every moment as precious, from the feeling of the breeze just before it rains to the sound of Auntie Jo chattering to the boys. I’m lingering a little longer to on the roof or the courtyard, committing every hill and building and tree to memory. I’m holding each laugh and conversation close to my heart, because I know in a short time they will be settled in my soul, a distant memory.

Seth: “Get a picture of my Asamankese dimple!”

I’m grateful for this place. For what I’ve learned and all I’ve seen. I’m grateful for the conversations that have challenged who I am and how I see others. I’m grateful for the feeling of hands cupping a student’s face, for the sound of a giggle erupting in a quiet classroom (but don’t tell my students’ that!).

Beautiful Belinda!

This place, this time here, has shaped my heart and soul in more ways than I’ll ever count. No matter how hard it has been at times, I am going to hold onto that. I know for sure, as I board the plane and arrive in a snowy country, I am not the same person that left, and my heart is full of gratitude for that tonight.

Left our mark on the roof.

See you all very soon … on the other side of the ocean!

Much love,


“An adventurous life does not necessarily mean climbing mountains, swimming with sharks or jumping off cliffs. It means risking yourself by leaving a little piece of you behind in all those you meet along the way.”

Thoughts from Bed

Today I found myself in bed all. day. long. With an aching back (and no reason why). I attempted to go to school, and that lasted about 45 minutes until the Rita graciously offered to cover classes for me. So I hailed a taxi and came home to a welcoming bed.

I’ve watched multiple episodes of Everwood.

I’ve sung out the window to myself.

I’ve played games on my iPhone.

I’ve read.

I might be going a little stir-crazy.

I don’t like being sick, and most of all, I don’t like being sick when I am here for only nine more days. I just want to be up, and I want to be able to walk without walking like I’m 90 years old. But.

In saying that, even being sick and bedridden I got to see some beauty come out of it, too.

Because today I was shown the kindness of the Ghanaian family I’ve found here. All of the people I work with at the school – Dora, Rita, Evans, Ebenezer, and Kujo – all showed up after school to check on me and see how I was doing. Smart called me and texted to make sure I was okay. Felicia, the other teacher, phoned me to see how I was doing. Belinda kept me company, helped me apply ointment, and generally reassured me that I wasn’t going crazy being cooped up in the house. Auntie Jo made sure to stop in and see how I was. I was just incredibly touched that all of these beautiful people wanted to make sure I was doing okay – and went as far as coming to visit me the very first day I’m home sick.

I think it just reminded me that on days like today to be thankful for the family we make wherever we go, even if they’re not blood related.

It reminded me how the kindness of others can go along way in making us feel a bit better.

And it encouraged me to do the same to everyone in my life.

{So thank you, my Ghanaian family!}

Much love,


P.S. Prayers are SO appreciated that this backpain will go far, far away from me!! 🙂

Thankful Lists

This past Saturday, Belinda and I left Kylie and Lauren at the front of the Kotoka Airport in Accra. A few tears were shed, many hugs were exchanged, and we headed home to an eerily quiet house. I spent the day reflecting yesterday; cleaning (as it seems I tend to do when I feel like I am mentally cluttered), and reading the Word and praying.

My beautiful African sisters.

It’s funny how we always begin something knowing that it will some day end, knowing that with every hello there will inevitably be a goodbye. I came here knowing someday I would leave, and the girls arrived and I knew that I would eventually be leaving them at the airport. Yet, even in the saying of goodbyes, the memories that led up to that point make every goodbye worth it. So even though I miss my lovely African sisters, I am choosing instead to be thankful, even in a quiet and empty house! So here are a few things I am thankful for today:

1) Christmas music. It makes writing report cards a little more bearable.

2) Cockroaches. At first glance, I know they are atrocious and disgusting, but Friday night we had the most hilarious half an hour trying to kill the monstrocity on my bedroom wall. It involved a shoe, a ‘back up’ book, and Celtic music … someday you’ll need to see the video. I will probably laugh for years to come at the memory!

3) Language barriers. Today, a few kids I met on a walk came by to hang out. We can’t speak to each other very well, and that’s really hard. But it makes you be creative … it makes you tickle them more. It makes you make funny faces some more. It makes you realize that even if you can’t speak, presence is so much more important.

4) Tears. Because you know what? They are precious to Him. He catches every one in a bottle. He is near to the brokenhearted. He calls those who mourn blessed for they will be comforted! And yet we push away tears, and we tell kids to stop crying when maybe we should be telling them to see those tears as precious.

5) Mangoes. Seriously, there’s no better fruit. Honestly. I will write about mangoes and my love for them until the day I die, probably.

6) Sore knees. I’m not good at being disciplined and working out, but Kylie and Lauren were the best encouragers and I worked out with them for the past few weeks. And then I hurt my knees doing one too many squats – but you know what? I’m proud of those sore knees. I’m proud that I was trying my hardest! And I will take my sore knees as a reminder to work hard, but know my limits, too.

7) Clingy students. Even though there have literally been moments when I’ve run away from kids who won’t let me go – I know that I will miss those moments. Clingy kids remind me to love just a little bit more, to hold onto them just a little bit longer, to kiss away their tears, because maybe there’s a reason they are clinging to you so tightly.

8) The ability to write. I don’t think I ever really thought about how blessed I am to be able to read and write. But being here in Africa has made me realize just how much I love writing, and I think the thing I love about writing is that it lets me see beauty in brokenness. It lets me work through things. It let’s me make the most ordinary, mundane experience become beautiful. And it lets me take my story and wrestle with it, and see that even in the broken cracks His redemptive fingerprints are still there.

Those are just a few of the things I am thankful for today. What are you thankful for?

Much love,


Sitting in the Graveyard

My heart is heavy tonight. It’s still beating …. but it’s bruised, and it’s a bit battered, but it still beats. And I am listening to that sound, as if it is a lifeline, uttering a prayer of thanks with every new sound.

Because sometimes life is so hard.
And it takes leaving your country, your home, your family, your friends to be in a space where you can finally feel that. It takes losing all of the things that hold you up … to be in a place where the only place you can land is in His arms.
It takes being in an unfamiliar place, I think, to finally venture into grief and let yourself feel. Because when you lose something, it’s easy to walk around the grief, to stare at it, to wish it away, to pray it away, to lose yourself in the familiar because grief is anything but. 
But you can’t bring building supplies to the graveyard. There’s a season of life, when dreams have been shattered, and you have lost what you never thought you would, that you need to sit in that grief and that heartache. 

And although it’s scary, and it hurts, I might have finally walked into that graveyard. For a long time I’ve sat and stared at it’s gates, and there have been moments when I’ve dared venture in, but the truth is, being sad and feeling my grief is the hardest thing to do.

But I think I might be ready to sit. I think I might be ready to leave my building supplies behind and just sit in the graveyard. However scary and painful that might be.
Because I am reminded that however scary it might be, however dark it might seem right now, the sun will rise and illuminate even the darkest and scariest graveyard. I know, for my hope rests in Him, that there will be a time when the sun, in its beauty and glory, will remind me that I too can rise. 

As Things Wind Down

We are winding down to our last days here in Ghana. In some ways, it feels like time has flown by and I can remember everything about the first day I arrived on African soil. Then there are other days, when I am anxious to be home, to see my family and friends, and feel the cool winter air. A friend wrote me an email a few days ago, and she encouraged me, “Take pictures of your room. Breathe in the African air. Bask in the colours. Enjoy every minute you have left.” And so even though I am excited to see my family and friends in just a couple of weeks, I am doing my best to keep my eyes here and now and to feel the blessing in every moment. Even today, as we are having a scheduled power outage for fourteen hours, I’m paying closer attention to the roosters crowing outside, the rain falling on the tin roof, and the quiet and silence that a dark night and no computer will bring.

As the girls prepare to leave this Saturday, we are cherishing every moment we have here, from our prayer times on the roof to ‘Parenthood’ marathons to our walks around town. Yesterday was the women’s literacy class’ graduation, and so all three of us dressed in our African cabahs and celebrated the accomplishment of the women in their classes. It was a long day for me, having had kindergarten all day, and then the graduation until 5:30 that evening, so we made a pot of soup and climbed onto the roof to enjoy our last African full moon. Tonight the Mormon missionaries we’ve become friends with are joining us for a last visit before we go home, and I can already smell the jelof rice that Belinda is preparing in the kitchen! I’m hoping to get a crash course in her cooking before I go home so I can attempt at recreating her amazing meals.

Things are winding down at school, and I’m trying to finish report cards and prepare for the intern who will take my place … I’m jotting down things we need, organizing files and students’ work, and trying to stay sane. Some days the kids are wilder than others, and yesterday we spent a good chunk of time learning what a detention was, but we do have a lot of fun and the kids are slowly stealing my heart. I will miss them when I am gone – not the crazy time-outs, detentions and suspensions – but those beautiful children’s faces and laughs!

Last weekend I had my first ever PTA meeting, in which I had to address and read my first principal’s report! Although I was nervous, I heard great feedback from the staff which was incredibly encouraging. It was a great moment for me to look back and see that even through our challenges, we’ve improved so much as a class.

As night falls and the rain continues, I should probably end for now. Your prayers are all coveted as I prepare to head home, and as I spend the last two weeks here without the girls. Please continue to pray for protection that we would all end strong, and that our hearts would be prepared as we come home at one of the most consumeristic times of the year.

I miss you all and am so looking forward to sharing my heart and my journey with you when I’m home. You are loved even from across the ocean.

At Smart’s 6 am soccer game.