{t-minus twelve days}

20140720-112820.jpgleave it to a traveling blogger to start a blog series then spend the following eight weeks in absolutely beautiful countries without wifi…

for all of your love and support and prayers in the final weeks of the race I give thanks. and I promise to fill you in on the final seven “it takes a village”ers come august.

until then, keep finding adventures wherever you may be!

-steph

 

{what I know by heart}

Anything I know about the hear I’ve learned from Grey’s Anatomy, the television series, and it can be summed up in about a sentence.
It is capable of so incredibly much.
This month I am experiencing the pain of heart strings being pulled in two sometimes three directions.

The fact of my heart breaking for Ntsiki-
But longing for home.

The very real pain I feel for Swaziland-
Coinciding with the skipping of a beat when I think of Aldersgate.

Already missing the pieces I’ll be leaving in Southern Africa-
And awaiting the reunion of seven pieces I’ve been missing for eleven months.

O’m grateful today for Psalm 139 and the promises of a God who knows my hear’s deepest desires and longings and pains and questions and anxious thought, yet leads me in the way of the everlasting.

{it takes a village- my little sister}

Eleven Months.

It seems like an eternity before it begins.  And then, three weeks in, on the way to your second country- your realize… I no longer have eleven months left.  It never slows down.

Then it happens, between the teaching English, the washing babies, the all night worship… Somehow you end up here.  With only eleven weeks left.

This journey is not my own.  The story I’ve lived for the past fifteen months has been very much shared with a special community.

Over the next eleven weeks, I will attempt to express my gratitude.  But will undoubtedly fall short.  To those who have journeyed with me, you have stars in your crown in Heaven for this.  The list of those who impacted my race is, of course, longer than eleven- it has taken a village.  Each one of you reading has touched my race and my heart in some way, your prayers, your blog comments (Susie and Terri), and your support made my race what it is.  I have been able to love those around me because of the love shown to me by every one of you.

From the bottom of my heart-
Thank you.

read my letter to my dad here
or last week’s letter to my mom here
or what i wrote to my older sister here

•••

2ao1uAOkSqxfkauKgriJlggo-ygbFuBS8IRxJZW5yVkVal,

You are a woman of beauty, and strength, and the best humor of any one I know.  One of my favorite titles of this lifetime is Valerie Cashin’s Older Sister.
Watching you grow more and more into a woman of God has been one of the greatest joys of my life.
The wisdom and depth you have when speaking is Christ in you, I see that every time we talk.  You are one of the greatest truths to the statement, “the world race doesn’t just change racers, it changes families.”  Your support and perspective over the last ten months have helped sustain me through the hard days- thank you.
War Eagle and I Love You Forever!
-steph

{swaziland first thoughts}

Storytelling is art.
It is beautiful and a gift.
It is messy and it is unkind.

At it’s most beautiful it brings life and hope-
It champions the unsung and whispers glimpses of glory.

And at it’s messiest it prompts and urges it’s teller-
ruthlessly, keeping her awake into the night with the ache of a glory to be told…without the clarity of how or when or any other permissions.

I find myself in a staring contest with a most messy and beautiful story to be shared and lived well.

I can’t distinguish where my Swaziland story began.
The night when I realized I’ll be here for more than just one month?
The moment I signed up for the race?
The meeting when the decision to reroute us here was made?

But on this day, I am very much in the middle of it with no ending in sight.
In the middle of the moments and the waiting.
In the thick of prayer and dreams.
Invested in the plot and promises.

To tell my story of Swaziland is to share with you a tale of heartache and hollowed ground.  It is to confess that I’ve never heard the audible voice of God, but I believe He gave me a dream and promise of returning one day.

To share my experience on that mountain is to say, I’ve seen where AYSO jerseys spend their after-soccer season- lives.  I experienced the unexpected and unmatchable joy of tying shoes before preschool- and the heartache of tying delicately so the shoes didn’t fall apart in my hands.

Swaziland was taking Ntsiki down the mountain into town for her first time ever.  She’s nine.  It was hours of multiplication practice and prideful smiles when we got factors right.  And I could have looked at her for all the hours and it still not have been long enough…

And while these things, these moments, make up so much of the story-  they also leave so much out.  My words fail to capture the heart of the matter.

The imperfect art of storytelling allows for this.
It allows for mystery and silence in between moments.
It encourages pauses.

So this is the part of my Swaziland story-
For waiting and remembering.
For reflecting and treasuring.
For big prayers to be prayed around that mountain and sweet nine year old girl.

I will tell and live this Swaziland story as best I can.
I invite you to ask and dream and pray with me through the messy and the beautiful and the waiting and the greater glory. will you join me?

 

 

sala kahle…for a bit

I have been so blessed to have this space and almost reliable wifi all race. Blessed to have wonderful support, encouragement, and contact with each of you here.  And oh my goodness tomorrow begins month ten!

Month ten. A new country, a new continent.  Africa.  Swaziland and South Africa.
And then home.

In the mean time and in between time there is still very much a huge impulse to write–
but if what I hear is true, Swazi will provide less resources for the sharing of the writing.

So I’m going to step away, but just for a bit.
A little break.
To write and regroup and experience life at El Shaddai with my squad– without sharing so much and so often.

So let’s meet back here beginning of July.
Until then, I leave you with 20 posts from days gone by (in no particular order)… just to tickle your fancy.

world race acceptance disclaimer 
a non-post
wake up and smell the coffee
week seventeen moments
thin moments
50 ways to become the answer to a world racer’s prayers
14 october 2013
my world race wish- granted
for boston, baghdad, and bad guys
22 october 2013
secret china
6 january 2014
22 november 2014
from the corner of college and magnolia
28 january 2014
there. it. more:: things that don’t exist
7 april 2014
training camp with a side of forgiveness
truth for the trekking
week thirty five moments

until july
-steph

{for the dead and the living, we must bear witness}

yesterday, my team and I went to auchwitz.
and I wanted it to rain.  because if it had rained, maybe it would have made more sense- that is maybe the horror that happened here would have been reflected in the gloom of weather.  but instead i spent the day wrapping my mind around this fact Auchwitz didn’t happen in black and white.  some days the absolute hell that happened on these grounds happened on days where the sun hung high in the sky and the weather and the world kept on turning.

auchwitz 2014

arbeit macht frei- work will set you free

luggage collected from jews who were told they were being relocated

when the Soviet Union liberated Auschwitz-Birkenau in 1945, there were 43,000 pairs of shoes found in the camp

a nun on our tour mourning those executed from one of the false trails held at Auchwitz

when the ss soldiers abandoned Auchwitz-Birkenau the prisoners tore down and used the barracks for firewood.  it was decided by survivors and government officials to never rebuild the barracks only preserve the remains

guardhouse and main gate of Auchwitz- Birkenau

a train boxcar once used to transport prisoners to Auchwitz- Birkenau.  up to 150 prisoners would be loaded into a boxcar this size.

remaining preserved barracks at Auchwitz-Birkenau

the hardest exhibit for me was TRACES OF LIFE.  the artwork is based on children’s drawings found on the walls of the camp.  artists assembled fragments of the drawings and drew them on the walls of the exhibits in their original sizes.

 

i am still grieving the reality of what i saw.
but i urge you, if the opportunity ever comes for you to walk the grounds of the camp- take it.

“I swore never to be silent whenever and wherever human beings endure suffering and humiliation. We must take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.” – Elie Wiesel, Night 

{it takes a village- my older sister}

Eleven Months.

It seems like an eternity before it begins.  And then, three weeks in, on the way to your second country- your realize… I no longer have eleven months left.  It never slows down.

Then it happens, between the teaching English, the washing babies, the all night worship… Somehow you end up here.  With only eleven weeks left.

This journey is not my own.  The story I’ve lived for the past fifteen months has been very much shared with a special community.

Over the next eleven weeks, I will attempt to express my gratitude.  But will undoubtedly fall short.  To those who have journeyed with me, you have stars in your crown in Heaven for this.  The list of those who impacted my race is, of course, longer than eleven- it has taken a village.  Each one of you reading has touched my race and my heart in some way, your prayers, your blog comments (Susie and Terri), and your support made my race what it is.  I have been able to love those around me because of the love shown to me by every one of you.

From the bottom of my heart-
Thank you.

read my letter to my dad here
or last week’s letter to my mom here

•••

with jes

Jes,

When I said yes to the race I knew it would change things between us.  There was fear of what that change would be, you were no longer just a call or drive across the state away.
And, it hasn’t been the same- instant coffee shared over facetime is no match for french press on the farm’s front porch…but the past thirty-seven weeks have proved, miles and time differences are no match for Cashin sisters who need to talk.  
I love you so much, you are the bravest big sister I have!
I can’t wait to interrupt you and quote every line from whatever movie Val tells us is funny in sixty-four days!
-steph

 

{it takes a village- my mom}

Eleven Months.

It seems like an eternity before it begins.  And then, three weeks in, on the way to your second country- your realize… I no longer have eleven months left.  It never slows down.

Then it happens, between the teaching English, the washing babies, the all night worship… Somehow you end up here.  With only eleven weeks left.

This journey is not my own.  The story I’ve lived for the past fifteen months has been very much shared with a special community.

Over the next eleven weeks, I will attempt to express my gratitude.  But will undoubtedly fall short.  To those who have journeyed with me, you have stars in your crown in Heaven for this.  The list of those who impacted my race is, of course, longer than eleven- it has taken a village.  Each one of you reading has touched my race and my heart in some way, your prayers, your blog comments (Susie and Terri), and your support made my race what it is.  I have been able to love those around me because of the love shown to me by every one of you.

From the bottom of my heart-
Thank you.

read last week’s letter to my dad here

•••

Mom,

I desperately want to make you proud.  Dad too of course, but you in a different sort of steph and momway.  You’re the woman I want to become.  But, my way of getting there and becoming doesn’t look the same as your journey did.  Thank you for letting me take my own trail, climb new mountains, and look under different rocks along the way.  Thank you for demonstrating the graceful courage of saying, “go, see, do, become, and tell me all about it along the way.”

I carry your heart with me…
-steph

{hashtag what comes next}

There once was a girl who loved adventure, and coffee and singing really silly songs with kids. She left beloved Nashville with 42L of a life and headed west- South East Asia, then Europe and South Africa.

Eleven months, eleven countries.

She learned an incredible lot.
There’s still more she still hasn’t really figured out yet.
And that’s okay.

It’s more than okay- it means there is still adventure to be had.
The adventure will continue in Huntsville, Alabama. And she is thrilled! She was offered a wonderful job where she will continue to be mentored and sing silly songs (maybe not at the same time… but you never know!).

Nashville was so good to her. She will miss calling it home. So much life happened there, so much growth, so much community, so many tears and lattes and climbing- all the important things in life.

And yet, there is more to be ventured.  More community, more tears, more lattes, more Jesus, more love, more running, more being in Church every Sunday, more planting roots, more learning and teaching and playing with glitter.  More stretching and resting and obedience and joy.

hey huntsville, see you soon!

I’ve accepted a position in Children’s Ministry
at Aldersgate United Methodist Church
Join them (soon to be us) for services at 8:30am and 10:30am every Sunday.

 

{week thirty-six moments}

This week’s moments are stuck in my throat.
Balanced on the insides of my eyes-
holding on only by surface tension.

The eight year old walked to gymnastics
on her own, for the first time.

The thirteen year old went to Kiev
on his own, for something he loves.

The eight year old came home
sat on my lap, and practiced her English.

The thirteen year old called home
with a broken shoulder, or collarbone,
or something in that general region.

I held the eight year old tight-
and asked Him to hold the thirteen year old.