in this place

sometimes people ask me about when i first got “saved”, and i tell them the story of the old Pentecostal church and a preacher who spoke with a slow, Southern drawl. i was young, not yet 18 years old, and still finding sure footing in my new country, in my new family who had taken me in as their own. i sat in that church and listened to stories about Jesus, and then i … Read the rest

tiny paper hearts

fifteen months ago, i took pieces of construction paper, bright red, soft pink, and scattered them across a dining room table. pencil in hand, i traced little hearts and cut each one out, nearly fifty of them in all. and as i said my goodbyes during that last week in liberia, i’d slip a tiny paper heart into each girl’s hand. she would look at me with tears in her eyes, and i’d pull her … Read the rest

ode to the table

i’ve always known that i’m deeply relational. i crave connection, opening up our hearts and baring our souls, and typically, that happens for me around the table. there’s something about sharing a meal with others that binds you together. the table somehow becomes holy ground, and it’s all i can do to not gulp deep of that sacred air and take off my sandals and bend myself low. people talk at the table, not … Read the rest

a letter to my future self {or, the days in which i learned to shine}

there will come a day, dear elena, when you’re going to need to read this, to remind yourself that all of life is seasons, and the hard times eventually give way to something soft and quiet, like the air after a summer thunderstorm. you’ll want to remember these days, what it feels like to turn your face to the sunshine, and the stillness in your soul in the midst of the busyness and chaos … Read the rest

in which my heart knows to make space

i’m usually one who has no problem wearing her heart on her sleeve.

i feel things deeply, always have and probably always will. things of substance and soul tend to captivate me, and if there’s one thing i’ve learned over the years, it’s that these hearts of ours are fickle little creatures, messy and beautiful and glorious and wild.

i can remember a prayer that i prayed once, on a sunny afternoon on my porch … Read the rest

count the cost

it seems no matter where i turn these days, i can’t get away from three little words:: “count the cost.”

it all started a couple weeks ago, after i read through the gospel of luke. in 14.25-33. Jesus speaks of building a tower and a king going to war, of carrying one’s cross and the act of sacrifice to follow after him. count the cost. 

since then, i’ve been wrestling with this passage, these hard Read the rest

thrive

i was sitting on a blue couch in my counselor’s office when Truth walked into the room.

i’d just spent the last forty-five minutes pouring out my frustration, my sadness, my fear; how sometimes most of the time it feels like i have no idea what i’m doing with my life; and why does it seem like bad things always happen to good people?

i ended my teary rant with a question, though certainly not … Read the rest

life among the middle parts

it was a two-minute conversation with an innocent five-year old that got me thinking.
“miss elena, are you a mom?”
“nope; i’m just your teacher.”
“but you don’t have kids? are you even married?
“no, i’m not married either.”
(long pause; i could see the wheels turning as this little one tried to process what i’d just said.)
“well, i think you should just get married. and then you can be a … Read the rest

your words mean more to me when i get to see you speak them

attention, people of the internet; let’s do REALTALK for a moment or two here, okay? pour yourself a drink, settle in for a little bit, and stay with me here. i may not know much about some things, but i’ve learned a lot about knowing people, and something tells me i’m not the only one who’s been feeling this way lately.
i’m weary, y’all. weary of these false connections forged over computers, of … Read the rest

because every year is just another chapter in a far greater story that’s still being told

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another year–gone. another year of memories and feelings, experiences, lessons learned. another year full of ups + downs, highs + lows, and i look back and i remember and i breathe thanks for each + every moment of it.

twenty-thirteen was one hell of a ride. five days into the new year, i returned to liberia, to life lived in hard places and this messy-beautiful thing called ‘missions’ and ‘ministry’. i taught and i preached … Read the rest