you found me

"What's your favorite song of theirs?"

I'd been crushing on this older couple sitting in front of me at The Fray concert, hoping that I'm still going to shows at their age. So I love that the gentleman turned around and asked me that. I didn't even need to think about my answer.

"You Found Me."

The man glances over at his wife with a grin on his face. His eyes light up as he turns back to me. "Can I ask why?"

I give them the cliff notes version: I was a missionary in South Africa, married for ten years. My ex-husband had multiple affairs and ultimately left me for another woman. I tell him that this song came out right after I returned Stateside for counseling, broken and devastated.

"It was the only thing I could listen to, and I played it on repeat for weeks on end. It gave me permission to be honest and carried me through the most difficult season of my life. "

He squeezes my arm, lifts his face God-ward, and quotes some of the lyrics. "Where were you?!" I nod in agreement.

He shakes his head, squeezes my arm again, and says with a compassionate smile, "I understand that completely." And then, "Would it be okay for me to tell Isaac this?"

Wait. Isaac? As in the lead singer of The Fray? The gentleman sees my puzzled look and explains. "He's my son-in-law. And I know it would mean a lot to him to hear your story."

My eyes instantly fill with tears as I start nodding. "Of course. I would really appreciate you telling him the impact his song had on my life."

His wife speaks up, her face pure kindness. "Isaac has come a long way since he wrote that. He's a different person today; his faith is different. I can tell it's the same for you. You've come a long way."

I agree wholeheartedly. "And my faith is different."

Fast forward thirty minutes. As I hear the distinctive piano notes, tears start to fall...

Where were you
When everything was falling apart?
All my days
Were spent by the telephone
That never rang
And all I needed was a call
That never came ...

Lost and insecure
You found me, you found me
Lyin’ on the floor
Surrounded, surrounded
Why’d you have to wait?
Where were you? Where were you?
Just a little late
You found me, you found me
— You Found Me, by The Fray

I can't keep myself from weeping.

Snot-nose, running mascara, and all... I cannot keep it together. And I don't even care. 

Seeing The Fray, hearing that song, talking with Isaac's in-laws... This—THIS—is a picture of redemption my heart will hold forever.

chasing down community

Though this Long Island girl never imagined she'd live in the south, the decision to move to Nashville was a relatively easy one, all things considered. After all, I'd packed up my life and headed to southern Africa when I was only nineteen. Choosing a U.S. city to settle in on my return Stateside didn't seem quite so consequential. 

But that didn't make my transatlantic move any less heartwrenching.

The summer of 2011, I arrived in Nashville, broken in every way.

My decade-long marriage had ended, my ex running off with my (ex-)friend. As founders of a donor-driven nonprofit, when news of infidelity and then divorce was made public, financial support started to dry up. Eighteen months later I was forced to make the most devastating decision of my life: closing down our organization (and, in doing so, laying off over 60 staff members).

In one grand swoop (that seemed equally far too fast and painstakingly slow, all at the same time), I lost my marriage, career, home, friendships, future, and country. My entire adult life had been spent on African soil. And in a proverbial instant, it had all vanished... shattering into a million pieces. 

When I relocated back to the U.S. after 13 years abroad, I felt like an absolute and utter failure. 

Friends graciously welcomed me into their homes with open arms (and open hearts) in far-flung places around the country, like Ohio and Georgia and Oregon. Most days, getting out of bed was considered a win. The days I went to counseling, or engaged the "free therapy" of my own writing, or swallowed my Prozac (along with my pride), or allowed myself to laugh? Those were the days I knew I was taking healthy steps forward.

Don't ever let anyone fool you: Healing is hard work.

All the while, I had my sights set on Nashville. I'd visited a few times over the years, had some friends here, even completed the half-marathon just days before the fateful flood... After living in a rural agricultural region of South Africa for so long, I craved city life. But I'd also grown to love some aspects of small town living that I wasn't ready to give up just yet. Nashville seemed to be the best of both worlds, fitting the bill of the "manageable" city I was looking for. 

But the biggest reason I moved to Nashville was to chase down community. 


I knew I needed to be intentional about surrounding myself with quality people. If I'd learned anything in my 30+ years of life, it was that I can't do this thing on my own. I need a strong support system. We all do. We're wired for it, built to require it. And the handful of friends I had here (almost all of whom I'd met through social media in my early days of blogging from the mission field) were the primary reason why I knew this is where I should put down roots. 

Chase down community. It became my mantra. My touchstone. 

And it proved to be far more difficult than I ever thought possible.

In my first year here, almost all of my friends moved away, relocating for work or love or adventure. Others drifted in the way that friendships sometimes go when different life seasons take over. I struggled to build new relationships, having limited opportunities or contexts in which to meet people. I was left feeling incredibly unanchored. Disconnected. Unsettled.

Community isn't as easy to come by as I'd hoped. Maybe it's Nashville. Maybe it's my age. Or my stage of life. Or my personality. Or maybe it's a Rubik's Cube combination of all those things together. Who knows.

What I do know is this: Developing a life support system gets way harder the older I get.

And it will never just happen on its own.

It demands all kinds of time and effort and intentionality. It necessitates vulnerability and risk. It requires that I keep putting myself out there amid the (disappointingly) often hollow Southern platitudes about "getting together sometime". (It took this Yankee a long time to realize that phrase is more of a pleasantry than the start of a plan to really connect.) 

But eventually, slowly, I began to find those true heart connections again. One relationship at a time, I started to find and build community. I've found it in Instagram connections turned friends. And in wine-infused porch conversations that run late into the night. I've discovered it in the bartenders and staff at my local Cheers. And in laughter and heartache and shared bowls of pasta. 

It was years in the making, but I realized its presence in a solitary instant one night last fall. As my autumn porch party was winding down, I looked around at friends old and new, spilling from the kitchen in the back of my house all the way through to the front yard, and it just hit me all of a sudden: I finally have that community I'd been chasing.

I noticed it in the same way you suddenly realize, as winter starts to fade, that it's no longer pitch black out by 5 PM. 

That seasonal transition never seems quite as gradual as it really is. It sneaks up on you. You just look around one evening and it takes you by surprise to discover that there's sunlight where previously there had been only darkness.

My circle of friends is small, but deep. And they strengthen and support me in countless ways (as I hope I also do for them). But I finally feel that sense of belonging. Of connection. Of settledness. I feel more anchored than I have in years, and as I approach my fifth Nashiversary, I do so with immense gratitude.

My heart discovered sunlight again in this little big town, with its creativity and innovation, its social mindedness and collaboration, its food scene and its musical pulse. And, most of all, its community.

I didn't find a home here.

But I'm building one.

just a girl

I'm just a girl.
Standing in front of a boy
Asking him to love her.

We were watching Notting Hill again, this time with our staff team on a getaway weekend. It was near the end—of both the movie and our marriage.

After over a year of him denying the relationship I knew existed, he'd grown brazen and shameless. All day, among our small group of friends, he'd been laughing, joking, whispering, and ostentatiously flirting with her. He couldn't walk by her without touching her arm, flipping her hair, making some flirty remark. I kept looking around, hoping to catch someone else's look of surprise, shock, or horror at what was going on, but he'd long since established that this was just their level of friendship. No one even questioned it or raised an eyebrow.

And then that night, we all sat there, crowded into the rented bungalow's living room, watching Notting Hill. And when it got to that scene at the end? I lost my stuff.  Tears came. And they just kept coming. I finally excused myself and left the room.


I'm just a girl.
Standing in front of a boy
Asking him to love her.

But he refused.

After a decade together, he'd chosen someone else to love instead. His "I do" became "I don't," and he cruelly went so far as to say "I never really did." He turned words into a weapon and declared that he'd never loved me at all, but I know that can't be true.

For all our challenges, and all the hard times, and all the disastrous ways things went wrong in the end, there was a hell of lot of love between us for a hell of a long time. The love had undeniably been in his eyes, in his laugh, in the way we held onto each other through frightening and heartbreaking times. There was love, this I know. So I refuse to believe the hurtful, hateful sentiment he threw at me on his way out of our marriage.

Try as he might, our history could not be rewritten, discarded, or ignored. Whether he likes it or not, he's taken it with him into his new-now and into his surrogate future, just like I have. And I know I am (mostly) better for it.

I'm just a girl.
Standing in front of a boy
Asking him to love her.

With a terrifying sense of deja vu, I find myself there again—looking a man-turned-boy in the eyes and pleading to be loved. What is it that makes me grovel for what should be freely given? I'm still working out that equation—and many more—but I'm not sure I'll ever find the answers despite my best efforts at long division.



I finally excuse myself and leave the room.

Originally published at A Deeper Story. 
Read the comments there >

caught off guard


I'm still caught off guard at times.

A memory will rise to the surface, seemingly out of nowhere, bringing with it fears and doubts and insecurities and tears. I question everything, wondering about hidden motives and looking for anything I missed the first the time around. There isn't anger—not really. There is distrust. There is hurt. There is grief. But no anger. At least not toward anyone other than myself. Feelings of foolishness spiral into "How could I be so stupid?"  Inevitably, as the emotional dust settles, I'm left with a deep missing of all the people who were once my whole life who are no longer even a part of it. I hunt for pictures, and sit mesmerized by how grown up my nephew is. By how tall my honorary nieces and nephews of old have become—tall not only with stature but with personality and vivaciousness. Smiles mix in with the sadness, and I take a deep breath...


house christmas

I'm still caught off guard at times.

I walk through the arched doorways of my home, past the wainscoting in the living room, and all I can do is shake my head. Moving about the beautiful kitchen, shuffling around the mess on my office desk, sitting on the front porch with a cup of coffee... over and over again, it hits me: This is my now-life. This is my new life. And I smile—the kind of smile that erupts from deep down inside, that sacred place for which there are no words. I can't believe I get to live here. That I once again have a place that looks like me and feels like me. That I once again have a home. Because as much as I know that home isn't about a house, I've discovered there's something uniquely incomparable about a four-wall refuge. It's anchoring, and rooting, and settling in all the best ways. And the past 6 months of living life unpacked have been better for my heart than I ever anticipated.


I'm still caught off guard at times.

And I'm learning to give thanks in it all...

Would you share some of your own highs and lows?  What are things that have caught you off guard lately—for better and for worse?

if i could

tree line

If I could find big enough words, I would tell you how grateful I am for the big-hearted, generous, and faithful loved ones who’ve walked with me, supported me, and strengthened me since I left African soil.

If I could find deep enough words, I would describe for you how unbelievably amazing it feels to be this settled after so many years of transitional limbo—and how good for my heart it has been.

If I could find strong enough words, I would explain my newfound understanding and awareness of grace.

If I could find clear enough words, I would recount for you my daily journey of learning to acknowledge and own that I am enough, and I have enough, because of the enoughness of Christ in me.

If I could find impactful enough words, I would articulate for you the ways I’m embracing a lack of plans, and my discovery that it really is okay.

If I could find weighty enough words, I would convey to you the matchless, anchoring, and freeing sense of home I’m discovering once again.

If I could... I would.

But I can’t...