don't you ever get tired?

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I.

It bears repeating: I have a love/hate relationship with my #OneWord365. Hope—that four-letter word. Sometimes heart-lifting, like a bouquet of helium balloons big enough to sweep me off the ground; other times, a heavy weight that renders me immobile…and exhausted.

And then I see it—hope—very much alive and well and forward-pushing in the hearts of those who have every reason to have given up on it. And it wrecks me. Because I can’t help but hear it whispering also to me… 

My breath catches in my throat, and my eyes fill with tears, and I shake my head—not so much in disbelief, but in an attempt to dislodge the roots I can feel sinking deeper. Laying hold. Gripping securely.

Even when I try to shake it free—even when I let go—hope holds tightly to me.


II. 

“Don’t you ever get tired?”

She asked this question of The Exodus Road’s India Director after hearing about the uphill, overwhelming battles his team faces daily: the 24 hours of travel by train or bus to get to cases, the tip-offs by corrupt police, the sheer numbers of victims, the horrific abuse they witness. His answer was quick and emphatic.

“Tired? Yes, yes, I get tired. I get tired of traveling and taking care of everything and missing my family. I do get tired of all that. But I never, never get tired of rescuing these girls. I will never get tired of that.”

There are few people I respect and admire as much as this man and the other men and women on The Exodus Road’s team, actively pushing freedom forward in some of the darkest corners of the earth. Their resiliency and determination and passion—their unwavering hope amidst unspeakable circumstances—inspire me beyond measure. They disturb me in good and hard ways. They challenge me deeply. And, even when I’m not even sure I want it, they stir hope in my heart.

I’m fairly certain they will do the same for you.

III.

Join me in leaning into relentless hope, even especially if hope at times feels elusive (or downright antagonistic). Follow The Exodus Road wherever you hang out online: Instagram, Facebook, your inbox

Dig in. Learn more. Be inspired. Let yourself be challenged.

And allow hope to disturb you.

Photo Credit: The Exodus Road

hope blooms

Hope. That (damn) thing with feathers. I see it in the trees coming back to life after a long winter. I see it in the clear blue sky after unending days of grey. I see it in springtime more than anytime. Hope.

The man wasn’t even speaking directly to me, but the words I heard him say bounced around the walls of my heart as though they were meant for me alone. “May your dreams be greater than your memories.” Even now, I can feel my chest constricting and my breath shallowing all over again. Because I’ve lived the last decade of my life with the very real sense that my greatest days are behind me.

I had dreams in my former life. All kinds of them. And when I lost everything, I lost not just my dreams but also, seemingly, my ability to have them. Even while I’ve embraced this new life of mine back on American soil, dreaming—hoping—remains elusive.

My realism and pragmatism seem to war against the notion of hope. I *want* dreams that outweigh my memories. I’m just not sure how to get there...

So I look and I listen and I feel. I pay more attention to the flowers at my feet, the budding trees above my head, the whimsical chatter of the birds, the blue skies and popcorn clouds, the wind rustling through my hair...

I watch springtime as it blooms hope all around me, and maybe—just maybe—also in my heart.

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twenty years

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Twenty years ago today, I moved to South Africa with a couple of overweight suitcases, $200 in my pocket, and a heart-cocktail of naïvety, faith, passion, and foolishness. I was only 19.

Thirteen years later, I moved back Stateside with even heavier baggage (both literal and proverbial), more debt than cash, and a heart-cocktail that had been diluted by life and loss and longing.

Even with all the complicated layers and conflicting emotions, Africa will always be my first love. I met her when I was just 15, and, in that way that only she can do, she swept me off my feet and stole my heart. She was my high school sweetheart, and she holds both the bests and the worsts of my life in the years we spent together.

Twenty years. How is that even possible? Two decades seem to have slipped through my fingers like the Kalahari sand...

My present life looks so different than the one I lived on African soil. It confounds me, really. Many who know me now didn’t know me then, which only widens the chasm I often feel exists between my former and current lives. And yet, I know, it’s all one. One life. One incongruently interconnected and magnificent life. It confounds me, really.

No matter how long I’ve lived Stateside, this day still feels beautifully and painfully significant to me. And so I stop to honor it. To embrace it. To celebrate and grieve it.

Happy Africaversary, love. Twenty years is worth dancing and crying over. So let’s do a little of both, shall we?

winter solstice

It’s December 21st. The winter solstice. The longest night of the year. You know what that means? Come tomorrow, the darkest days are behind us.

The darkest days are behind us.... for now. See, the realist in me is compelled to qualify that statement. For now. Because, as we all know, eventually the darkest days are ahead of us again.

Even still... This day, this night, this winter solstice — it echoes my word for 2018... It’s a word I have fought hard against for years. It’s a dangerous word — one I’d prefer to hide from than chase after. A word that stands in defiant opposition to my realism. A word I have long hated...

Hope.

Just thinking about it makes me cringe and scrunch up my face and feel sick to my stomach. Hope chooses to embrace the “darkest days are behind us” moment even while knowing it won’t last forever. Hope raises its glass on the longest night of the year and smiles for the longer days on the horizon. Hope sees my “for now” and raises it with a “and that’s enough”.

And so, with tears in my eyes, a lump in my throat, and butterflies in my chest, I raise my glass. To brighter days, to shorter shadows, to present-moment joys, and to frighteningly beautiful hope... Salute!

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on being

“It’s really hard to just BE.” As I said those words, I knew full well what a sad state of affairs they represented. But they’re true nonetheless. Before today, I have never spent a full hour doing absolutely nothing. And it felt unbelievably challenging. Just BEING is really hard.

I tried sensory deprivation float therapy today, and — I’m not gonna lie — it was a little trippy. No light. No sound. No gravity. (Well, the sensation of no gravity...) It was surreal.

Black as a starless sky, hearing nothing but my own breathing, for 60 whole minutes... As a chronic pain endurer, the weightlessness was magical. There are no words for how incredible my body felt, suspended effortlessly, on a high pain day like today.

 
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But while my muscles and bones relaxed deeper into the water, my mind’s hamster wheel spun faster and louder. Left alone with my thoughts — literally JUST my thoughts — they raced all over the place. Quieting my mind to just BE for an hour was an impossible challenge for me. I hear that part gets easier with practice, but man oh man, it was tough.

I’m reminded how much of my life and even my identity is wrapped up in doing rather than being. I think back on some of my #OneWord365 words and see the threaded emphasis on learning to BE: Look... Enough... Wholehearted... Unapologetic.

THIS is my journey of being...