Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Time and Place

It’s amazing how two countries can seem so much like worlds apart. I can’t figure out how they exist in the same place. When I remember my home, it seems like it was a different lifetime. Working in the hospital, driving down the road in my car to wherever I wanted, or even if it was just to drive.

Our trip here has been so beautiful and so hard. It is nothing and everything that we expected all wrapped up into one. It is hard to be in a different culture, a different place and time. But the things that make it hard are the things that make it perfect.

When we packed up our home and all of our belongings we were setting out for new adventures and new experiences. We got all of that! We have seen some beautiful parts of the country, we have also seen some hard things. The way that poverty, hunger, and disparity can rule. It is not fair, and at times I feel helpless in it.

We have met so many wonderful people and heard such beautiful stories. Stories of hope, creativity, struggle, and breakthrough! We have many more stories yet to hear and to share.

This has been so good and so hard. I think when we step out of our comfort zones and have time to think and reflect we can see ourselves so clearly. Some things I have found I have liked, other things within me need a little work. Stretching has a way of bringing out our true selves. We have had much time to think, reflect, and to pray. I have loved those moments of quiet without the craziness of our life back home. In the quiet morning as the rooster crows, the children sing, and the sun peaks over the horizon I have done much soul searching and question asking. I have found many answers, as well.

Even in tough moments, I have tried to remind myself to be present. Waiting at the border for someone to pick us up, I reminded myself to take in the sights and sounds of the culture I love. Car broken down along the side of the road- a moment in time to create friendships with those around me. Sometimes it just takes perspective, and your life can change.

We are now staying in Nairobi following up on a few connections and meeting some new people. Though the challenges of cold showers, and limited internet are behind us, new ones arise, but I am asking for grace in the moment. Some how, it always shows up.

I cannot write about this trip without acknowledging the faithfulness of Savior God. He has been with us every step of the way, guiding, directing, and giving us grace. He has also put many things on our heart that we will continue to pursue throughout the coming years. If anything this trip has given us the time to sit and think and discover who we are and where we are going. Something that the busy world kept us from.

Here in the land of warm sun, and ripe mangoes I am free. I feel more free now that I have felt in years. Though life is not nearly as easy or convenient, it is slow and beautiful. Friends sit down to tea, have conversations along the road, and give one another time just to be. That is such a beautiful thing- just being. It is something I have enjoyed the most. Friendships here are deep and lasting, not based on catching up on Facebook, but based on living life together.

This trip has been beautiful, hard, and everything in between. I would not trade the lessons I have learned, though, for anything in the world. These stories and memories have become a part of us. That shape who we are today, and will impact who we will be tomorrow. Here’s to more memories, more adventures, and many more lessons to learn.

“I've started to look at life differently. When you're thanking God for every little you - every meal, every time you wake up, every time you take a sip of water - you can't help but be more thankful for life itself, for the unlikely and miraculous fact that you exist at all.”
― A.J. Jacobs

Sunday, October 5, 2014

These I Will Never Forget

Looking back over the past year I am amazed at the diversity of life. For the past several years I have worked as an oncology nurse. Working with those patients was one of the most difficult and rewarding things I have ever done. Daily I was confronted with death and dying. It was both heart-wrenching and beautiful. I have learned so much from working with the dying and from sharing very intimate moments with them and their families.

I have learned the importance of family and surrounding yourself with those whom you love and that love you. I have learned that you can never tell anyone how much you love and appreciate them too much. And I have learned what true love looks like, and it was not always what I expected it to be.

One patient, sitting in her bed looking at pictures of her life, told me to be myself, no matter what. She said it is something I would never regret. She also told me to eat lots of chocolate :)

I have learned to dance, laugh, love, and enjoy life for we never know how many days are left. I have also learned that simple acts of kindness go a long way. Just sitting with someone in a quiet moment, saying a prayer with them, or offering them a warm blanket or a cup of coffee can speak so much louder than words

I have learned the power of faith and of prayer. I have been in many a room where a prayer for healing was not answered, but one for peace was tangibly felt. Though there was sadness and broken hearts, the peace was overwhelming. God had them all in His hands.

I have said goodbye to too many patients far too soon, and watched their families pick up the pieces of their lives when they were gone. I will never forget those lessons I have learned and will never forget the patients that taught them to me.

Life has brought me a huge change in this season. Now I spend my days filming children. It is the opposite spectrum of life. The children, however, are not a stranger to death, for they have lost their parents, grandparents, aunts, and uncles. They know far too well that it is a part of life. They, however, are not defined by it.

The children and strong, healthy, and full of life and daily they teach me that life is fragile, but it is worth living to the fullest. They teach me to not let your circumstances define you and to enjoy the zest of life. Every morning I wake up to singing and am later greeted by hundreds of smiling faces. They work hard and play even harder and laughter is always on their lips.

They do not cease to amaze me. I am astounded by their kindness, their wisdom, and their joy.

I have seen the whole spectrum of life this year, and I am still amazed by the people I have met and the lessons I have learned. Their lessons will stay with me forever and their faces will always be in my heart. I am forever grateful for those I have laughed with, prayed for, and cried over. The patients they have gone before me and the children that will go behind me. These I will never forget.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Hello 25!

It has been another wonderful year, a year of growing, loving, and living. Another year of being married, of being a nurse, and in learning to be fully content in who God has made me to be.

I am coming up on my 25th birthday in November. 25. Wow! Time flies! I am amazed by thing things I have seen and experienced in the last 5 years! I have truly grown up. The first 5 years of my twenties have brought me stretching and more joy than I ever could have imagined! I was truly a time of soul searching, and a time of discovering who I really am. I started out my twenties living at home working at Starbucks and wondering what on earth I was doing. I had just come back from YWAM, living the dream and now wondered what was next. That was when a wonderful woman put the bug in my ear for Tanzania. I dreamed of adventure, of elephants, far reaching horizons, and the beautiful faces of children. My dreams were grand, but I had not idea it would defy all expectations. I arrived on that beautiful continent excited for adventure, but what I found was so much more than that. I felt a deep connection with the Kuria people and met the man to whom I would give my heart. I found love. Those six months were some of the most enchanting, difficult, soul wrenching days of my life. But I felt more love and gave more of myself that I probably ever had before.

After those extraordinary days in Africa, I came home and began to follow my dream of becoming a nurse. An apartment in Lancaster, my head in my books, and coffee fulling my passion to learn. There I met my true soul sisters, Elya and Camille. They listened to my dreams of Africa, my heart for Mwita, and my struggles with the hardships of nursing school. I shared my heart with them and they shared theirs with me, and we were the best of friends. I owe much of my sanity during that time to them. Two passionate women with a desire to help those that are hurting and a longing to serve the Lord.

During this time I learned about perseverance and joy from my parents. Though their plans changed and they had to adjust, the did not give in or give up. They put a smile on their faces and a song on their heart. I have never met stronger people or people I admired more. Strong and determined they carried on, and I sat back in awe of them all along the way. I also applaud them for allowing me to follow my dreams. Though at times my plans seemed impossible, they never told me that. They encouraged me and helped me to make those dreams a reality! The best parents in the world!

During the last five years, I also became an aunt, one of the greatest joys of my life! Natalie, Amirah, Brielle, Xander, and new baby Ryder! They are my pride and joy! Their parents aren’t too bad themselves :)

The most beautiful thing that has happened in the last five years has been embarking on the greatest voyage of all, marriage! We have learned, grown, laughed, endured hardship, and loved one another all along the path of these last two years. This July we celebrated two years in lovely Williamsburg! Two years of love. Two years of joy. I am convinced that marriage is the best thing there is!

These past five years have also brought me some of the most stretching and at times, sad days of my life as I learned what it meant to be an oncology nurse. I have laughed with some patients, cried with others, and have held some people’s hand as they said goodbye to this earth. I have had to deal with my emotions up close and personal and have had to work through some very serious things on a daily basis. I am proud to be an oncology nurse and love everything about it, especially watching how my patients refuse to let cancer steal their joy. I hate cancer, but they are my heroes and I am privileged to fight alongside of them. This August I was so proud to take my test and become an Oncology Certified Nurse. I am proud to wear that title, because I am proud to fight for oncology patients. I have absolutely found my calling.

These are just some of the highlights of these past few years. The joys and triumphs of life. I look forward to saying hello to 25. I cannot wait to see what the next five years have in store. Stay tuned, there will be many more adventures to come!

Monday, March 18, 2013

The Here and Now

Ever ask God over and over to show you His plan, His purpose for you, the next step in your great adventure when you were where you needed to be all along? I am futuristic by nature. Strength Finder calls it a gift, I often refer to it as impatience...but that is me through and through. I am always looking for what’s next! What is my next step in my career, what degree should I pursue now, what is my five year plan, where do I want to be in ten years, what will happen when I am forty years old. I can’t get it out of my head! Though it is great because it means I relish change, look forward to new beginnings and thrive on challenges, it also means I find it hard to present, to be now.

When we got married it was a whirlwind! Graduate from nursing school, move back to Chambersburg, take NCLEX, plan a wedding, get married, go on a honeymoon, move straight from the honeymoon to Lynchburg, learn how to be married, oh and start your first nursing job all in the course of a summer! Futuristic? Yea I was thriving. And then it slowed down, I got into the groove of things, it became familiar, and then...mundane. (Except for the marriage part, nothing mundane about that!!!)

And I found myself asking why, how? How did we end up here in Lynchburg, no deep connections, no roots. How did I get here and why did I do it? Is this really part of the great plan. I kept asking these questions, to myself, to Mwita, and to God.I got antsy, I got restless, and then I got plain annoyed. I began begging for the next stop. God answer me and show me why! And God reveled it all to me in that loving but knowing way He does. He made it clear that I had missed it all along. I am here for lessons that I have learned from having only my husband to rely on. For months we knew hardly a soul and there was nobody to rely on next door. I learned deep trust in my husband, deep faith in his abilities, and deep love for his heart. And then God reveled to me that I am here for the job that I love so dearly and for the opportunity to work with what I truly believe is the best group of nurses in the world. I am here to learn about cancer, to learn to hate it, and fight it, and give my patients all I’ve got. I am here to cultivate my life’s dream for wholeness and restoration in those that are hurting, or sick or alone. I am here for the opportunity to finish my education and thanks to my job having to pay only a fraction of the cost, I am here to chase the vision of my pastors and to let their words and their prayers penetrate my heart. To allow them to impart the things of God into my life. I am here because of the fourteen people that sat in our tiny living room last night sharing their dreams and visions and promising to walk alongside of us in marriage and in life. These dear people with such wisdom and passion inside. I am here to learn, here to grow, and here to cultivate patience. I am here to dream about my future, but to live in my now. I am here because God has placed me here. And today I am content knowing just that.

Hold on to Hope

After the hustle and bustle of Christmas, there is something about the new year that is so new, fresh and clean! I love January! My house is back to its clean, simple lines, my kitchen is purged of sugar and butter and fresh fruit and vegetables fill my fridge. The cool, crisp air brushes across my face and I feel new and free. A time to reflect back on the year behind with all its joys, triumphs and trials! A trip to Tanzania, weddings upon weddings of our friends, celebrating our first year of marriage, becoming chemo certified and fighting my way through this past semester as my first time being a full time nurse and student. Though it had its struggles, what a great year!

Two thousand thirteen seems so far in the future. What happened to the 90s…weren’t they just the other year? Though we don’t have any grand cross-continent trips planned for this year, we are so excited about what it holds! This year’s theme is to “set the foundation.” The past year and half we have been in newlywed phase, starting our careers and just getting to know each other and figuring out how being a married couple works. It has been one of the greatest learning adventures of my life, and I wouldn’t have it any other way! This year, though, we are ready to prepare for our next leap of faith! We are setting the foundation in all areas of our life, so when this season is over, we are prepared for what the next one has in store. Financially, spiritually, relationally, professionally….we are laying down the building blocks…setting ourselves up for what is next! Though we are not exactly sure on the details, we have been dreaming, talking and praying and seems like some great adventures are ahead…stay tuned to find out more.

Hold onto hope…this phrase has been ringing in my ears these past few days. With all of the sad global events and negativity in the world around us, my soul has been resounding with the need to hold onto hope. Hope for me is seeing a picture of my aunt, smile spreading across her cheeks as she finished her last chemo treatment, hope has been watching my Grandma sit back and relax at Christmas watching with pride how her family has grown, hope has been watching a patient in the hospital for weeks walk out the door just before the holidays, hope has been seeing my husband follow his dreams and watching God open up amazing doors of opportunity for him. Hope has been hearing my pastor, passionate about the new year and what God has called our church to do. Hope has been buying books for my next semester, knowing I have the ability to finish up my degree, hope has been watching my father being strong and courageous; setting out on a new path while my mom supported him and cheered him along the way! Hope has been watching my sisters, the great women I grew up with, being mothers – raising beautiful kids. Hope has been reading “Half the Sky” watching women overcome great adversity to change their circumstances and the circumstances of women around them. Hope is in the promise of spring, knowing that in a few short months the cold will blow away leaving room for warm breezes and daffodils. There is hope in the everyday if we choose to look for it. Hope in dreams, ideas, stories and plans. Hope in friendships, sharing laughs and talking about what the future has in store. Hope is there if we look for it, it’s begging us to seek it out. Hope for tomorrow for the sun to rise again, hope for a better, brighter, and more beautiful day!

Psalm 71:14
But as for me, I will always have hope;
I will praise you more and more.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012


I’ve been home for several days now and have been trying to get my words together, but they elude me. I’ve been asked multiple times… “how was your trip.” “Great,” is my typical answer….how can I encompass in a few words what it was like to be back in the land I love and fell in love. Enchanting, mesmerizing, enthralling…they would all describe it better. I’ve been trying to get my words together…so here we go.

Simply put, these past two weeks have been pure bliss…I never quite knew what it was like to be in love with a place until I went there. But now I understand completely. Every breeze rustling the leaves, every rain drop, ever flower, smiling face and dirt path is captivating. I just truly love it there.

The night we arrived at the City of Hope followed a nine hour bus ride from the heart of Nairobi past the Great Rift Valley, through the tea fields of Kericho to the border town of Sirari. There our friend Zephaniah picked us up and we headed down the bumpy dirt road to Ntagacha…home. When we arrived it was dark, but I could see a huge mass bobbing and twisting…it was the children awaiting our arrival. No more did we step out of the truck, we were mobbed. In the glare of the headlights I couldn’t see a thing, but I knew they were my kids! We had both been waiting for that moment for the last two years.

The next ten days were really a whirlwind! Mwita spent the entire time from morning until night taking photos and video footage for the upcoming projects he is working on. I spent my time renewing friendships and realizing my dream of working in the Tumaini Medical Center.

I remember so clearly walking up to the medical center the first day and was elated to see patients waiting to be seen. That building had stood empty for years, but now it was being put to use. My hours spent praying there had paid off. The best part of all to me is that the very room I prayed in over three years ago is now the room that the doctors are using to consult their patients…that very room out of all the ones to choose from is the functioning part of the hospital!

There are three medical staff working there right now, and to me they are the best in the world! Ben is the residing doctor, Joseph is a nurse midwife and Dennis, a nurse. They are my heroes. They start early in the morning as patients come before heading to the fields, they work into the evening and jump out of bed at the faintest knock on their door. Delivering babies in the dark of the night, saving patients with deep cuts from bleeding out, giving epinephrine just in time to a young boy in anaphylactic shock and providing medicine to countless persons suffering from malaria. Morning to night they do it all! I am so impressed with their dedication to the people of Ntagacha.

When I first arrived and walked down the longest corridor of the hospital the watchman turned and looked at me and said, “look, here is your hospital.” I smiled because he was repeating what I had said countless times in the past. Mine. But something stirred inside of me because it was not that at all. This place had nothing to do with me, and that was ok. Not mine, but theirs.

The most exciting part of my trip was to see how the Tanzanian people had taken over the City of Hope! They were the doctors, managers, administrators, builders, teachers, mechanics and tractor drivers! It was all them! They were happy to see us and more than excited to have us work alongside them, but they did not need us. They had taken the initiative. It had become their City. The children were thrilled to see me, but they did not need me. There were enough things in place! I was not needed, but I was wanted and that was perfect to me!!!

Pioneering is never easy, and Mwita and I were there in the pioneering stage. We were there when we needed to be the jacks of all trades. Here and there we went. Sometimes I had more responsibility than I thought I knew how to handle. I think there could have been nothing more rewarding that seeing what I saw on this trip. That, to me, was the greatest gift I could have received. The City is running like a well-oiled machine.

After spending that first day in the medical center I went home and found myself sitting on the porch later that evening. I sat there watching the rain fall until it splashed and soaked into the red earth. I breathed deep that clean, fresh air and smiled from ear to ear. I was greatly wanted, but not needed. Oh just perfect to me!

Monday, June 4, 2012

Our Trip in Numbers...

(photo taken by my amazing husband, Mwita...check out mwendollc.com)

-400+ smiling students
-4 ornery goats received as gifts
-10 mosquito bites…none resulting in malaria!
-5 airplane rides (including a very tiny 4 seater plane)
-9 hours in a bus from Nairobi to Sirari
-10 baths from a bucket
-2 new stamps on my passport…Kenya & Tanzania
-10 new kangas…though my collection already fills a duffel bag
-6 days working in the medical center
-1 African style wedding celebration
-5 letters received from tiny hands
-100+ kids living at the City of Hope
-2 languages I tried to master…Swahili & Kuria (the tribal tongue)
-3 meals made perfect with chapatti… quite possibly my favorite food
-2 bars of soap received as wedding gifts
-1 child in anaphylactic shock saved
-12 cups of chai…tastes best in Africa
-1 wedding dress stuffed in a suitcase from VA to TZ
-3 walks to the mountain were we got engaged
-1 deafening hail storm atop a tin roof
-350+ gigs of footage taken by Mwita
-15 teachers changing the world
-7688+ miles traveled
-3 amazing doctors to partner with
-400th patient seen in the medical center since opening
-2 Passion Fantas…the best soda in the world!!!
-1 village that stole my heart
-1 “City” bringing hope to a nation
-14 days of pure bliss…

It was a whirlwind trip back to the land we love...and fell in love. Stay tuned...more to come!