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.

goodbye someday

I get it. I do.

I understand why lifelong, loyal fans would be irritated by the droves of us who suddenly donned hats and joined in on the "Go Cubs Go" chants. "Bandwagon fans," they say with a frustrated sigh. And I get it.

But I also understand something else: that the Cubs' story is *our* story. It's the visual, tangible reminder to hold on, to never give up, to believe in something against all odds no matter how long it takes.

When 108 years of drought finally end, for a split second moment we all believe that our own seemingly-century-long struggles will eventually end as well. So we join in this moment to celebrate a victory hard-earned and to remind our hearts to hope, even when it feels like nothing more than a four-letter word.

Call me a bandwagon fan if you want, I won't mind. Because I know that right now... the Cubs are all of us.


I still need to unpack from my Thailand trip.

Physically and metaphorically.

The unzipped, still-half-full suitcase on my closet floor reminds me that I still need to at least attempt to make sense of all that I saw and heard and learned and experienced. Though "make sense" isn't even accurate—not really. Because some things just cannot be made sense of.

But I need to try to take these thoughts, feelings, memories, questions... and clothe them in syllables—dress these intangibles with threads of letters so that I can hold them in my hands and trace them with my fingers in the way a blind woman perceives what she cannot see through the darkness.

I need to let myself fully feel.

To sit in the dark.

To grapple toward the light.

Until the words come...

africa herself

I'm ridiculously sentimental.

More than I wish I were, at times.

Places, songs, dates, smells, sounds... they all can instantly transport me back in time. Memories and meaning are attached to everything. Everywhere.

Which means I'm forever celebrating -iversaries. Friendiversary. Nashiversary. Monthiversary. Homeiversary. And yesterday? Yesterday was my Africaversary.

April 14, 1998 was the day I moved to South Africa.

A lifetime ago I lived there for 13 years.

I get that it's no longer really an -iversary since I don't live there anymore. But my heart hasn't gotten the memo. April 14th will always equal Africa. 18 years later (damn, I'm getting old), the sheer date on the calendar still escorts me right back...

I was 19 years old.

I landed in Johannesburg with two very-full suitcases, $200 in my pocket, and a heart drunk on a cocktail of faith, naïveté, foolishness, and passion. And what followed was a lifetime's worth of loving and laughing and leading on rich African soil that took root in my heart as deeply as I dug my roots into hers.

And somehow, in some strange, undeniably orchestrated way, Africa led me to Nashville.


And so yesterday I celebrated my 18-year Africaversary, right here in Tennessee, with a bottle of 13-year old South African wine... which seemed so oddly fitting and perfect and surreal and peculiar, all at the same time.

With the very real understanding that everything sweet is bitter and everything bitter is sweet, I raised my glass.  

Because this wine?

This wine is bold and strong.

It's complicated and complex and multi-layered. It tells entire stories with its bountiful color and aroma and taste. It's both intoxicating and sobering... and completely other worldly.

Each sip is Africa herself.

Each sip is me.

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.