Rhythm | Haiti, Part 1

Giant green hills cascading above humid, misty lowlands. The sounds of high-strung guitar music and the smoke of distant fires. Concrete buildings adorned with brightly-colored paint and laundry on the line. Goats and chickens, curbside.  Midday markets packed with corn, rice, bananas, jewelry, outdated cell phone cases and piles of plastic shoes. Gentle eyes peering out of dusty doorways.

Haiti. It has it’s own rhythm.

IMG_0108 IMG_0137IMG_0160IMG_0163 IMG_0138Our team of 21 Americans, who quickly transitioned from strangers to friends, navigated this vivid landscape for only a week. But the trip felt so full, so bursting with life and color and new discoveries, that I felt on our last day as if a month had gone by.

Life to the full. That, among many things, is what I experienced in Haiti.

We landed in Port-au-Prince on Wednesday, June 3 and were immediately greeted by a band playing Carribean-flavored music that bounced off the tin airport walls and drifted out into the humid heat. After piling into five rented trucks, we drove into the mountains to a community called Feja, home of GVCM church and orphanage – our home base for the week.

Our days were packed, but in a way that was so different from the “packed” schedule I keep at home. It was richer, fuller. Time actually passed slowly.

We packed more granola bars, bug spray, medicines and rolled-up t-shirts into carry-on-sized suitcases than I ever thought possible.

When we pulled up to the orphanage on our first day, precious kids packed the courtyard, packing our vision and our spirits with the sweetness of new friendships.

We packed gallons of rice and beans into family-size plastic bags to pass out to moms living along the bumpy roads in the hills.

It was a new kind of packed.

For a bit of context, Haiti is a pretty chaotic place. Infrastructure is not great, so speed is not a strong suit. Getting electricity and clean water to drink is a challenge for many people, and it was often a challenge for us. Add in the traffic chaos you encounter on the roads, and you’ll find that tasks like meal prep, laundry, shopping and traveling can turn into day-long ventures. Cars break down. Roads flood or get blocked by giant semi-trucks for hours at a time. Parades interrupt marketplace business. Price-haggling turns a trip to the store into a study of economics.

Two years ago, when I was on a college trip to the Dominican Republic – just on the other side of the island – I heard a metaphor for this chaotic culture that has always stuck with me. After the bus we were riding in nearly crashed into dozens of passing motor bikes, and several people expressed their shock, the leader of our trip said: “It’s like a dance. For the people who don’t know the rhythm, it feels chaotic, uncontrollable, and dangerous. But for those who know the rhythm? It’s easy.”

That was me alright. In the middle of the chaotic dance, fumbling my steps. Waiting. Trying to learn the rhythm.

Our team did a lot of waiting throughout the trip. Waiting for cars to start. Roads to clear. Rain to pass. Prices to be negotiated.

One afternoon, Tori said, “you know that song ‘Automatic‘ by Miranda Lambert? That’s what I think of when I think of life at home.”

In our culture, we demand things quickly and thrive on efficiency. Immediacy is our beat.

In Haiti, people are content to go slow. Or maybe, they have simply learned the rhythm of patience.

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So, we waited. We set out to learn the rhythm with them.

While waiting for cars to start, I talked to my team members. I asked them questions about their homes and faith and why they chose to come to Haiti.

While waiting for roads to clear, I saw more. The greenest palm trees next to red flowers in bloom. Colorful advertisements peeling back from rebar-lined shops. A stone wall being built along the highway – all by hand – by a group of local guys. Kids cooling off in the river next to mamas doing their laundry in the murky water. The vivid contrast of brightly-colored clothes against dark ebony skin.

While waiting for rain to pass, I encountered more new friends. The kids we met were eager to play, to learn, to stare at our pale faces and to see if we held any snacks. I got to look into their eyes, and even get to know some of them. Thanks to the waiting.

While waiting to buy rice in the market, we got to witness a giant Catholic parade one afternoon, white-robed kids leading a priest through town to a beautifully-decorated church.

I waited. I learned. And I’ll say simply this: There is a richness, a beauty that emerges in waiting. In packing in not more stuff, but more of the good stuff.

I’m telling you – waiting isn’t just the middle space. There are things to be found there. It’s a beautiful rhythm.

On our very last day in Haiti, while driving back up the mountain with two dozen teenagers from the orphanage in tow, we pulled over just outside Port-au-Prince to get some bananas.

As you can probably guess, it wasn’t just a stop for bananas. The rhythm kicked in. What could have taken 20 minutes took almost four hours, thanks to the breaking down of not one but two of our team trucks.

But. What a full four hours that was! There, by the side of the chaotic and dusty road, surrounded by curious onlookers and stray goats, helpless to the mysteries of rental cars, I think we finally got the rhythm.

We waited. We learned a bunch of new words in creole from the girls. We danced to Justin Beiber and Michael Jackson songs that blared through our tiny truck stereos. The boys were content to sit in the flatbeds of the trucks and pass bread and peanut butter around for lunch. We sat with new people and told stories and laughed and tried not to get our hopes up each time we were told “20 more minutes!”

In the practice of patience. In the forced-fullness of the in-between. In the middle space between the to-dos of a packed day.

We got the beat.

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More stories and pictures from Haiti to come!

Run Your Race


I think the world of sports is one giant metaphor for life’s journey.

Running, especially so.

I ran my first half marathon this past weekend, and I was struck by lots of metaphors throughout the race. It was a journey, it was a battle, and it was a party – all in one.

Sunday was a beautiful day for a race – sunny and mild – and the Colfax Marathon series in Denver has the coolest atmosphere. Almost 18,000 (yes 18-thousand!) runners, hundreds of thousands of spectators, and a big festival at the end. Plus, half marathoners got to run through the Denver Zoo! I literally looked up at one point and saw a cheetah watching me run. INCREDIBLE. Also symbolic, don’t you think? 🙂

It was a great experience. I met my pace goal, I had some wonderful people to share my accomplishment with, and, most importantly, I learned a lot about myself during my training and on race day.

Here’s a few things that running and racing are teaching me about life:

No one can do it but you. Your legs, your hammering heart, your mind, and your muscles have to get you across that finish line. No one can do it for you. In this life, the race is yours alone. I can’t borrow anyone else’s talent or muscles, however hard I might try. The truth is that I have been designed with all the equipment I need to finish – and finish well. So have you.

Sometimes, you run alone. And that’s okay. I signed up for my race totally independently, and I spent much of the race running by myself. But that made the end goal that much sweeter! I have a whole new confidence that stems from pushing myself. If I can endure that, I know can endure many challenges to come. And if I think about it, I was never truly alone. I had a big community of runners and spectators around me the whole way.

Sometimes, you need other people. And that’s okay too. Toward the end of the race, I was really starting to ache. My stomach was upset and my muscles were whining. To keep myself going, I kept an eye on this girl in a pink shirt who was running near me. “Just keep up with her,” I thought to myself, to hold myself accountable for my pace. So she and I ran in tandem for a while. And then, around mile 10, she suddenly tapped me on the shoulder and said, “Hey, we should finish together. We’ve been pacing together for a while now. Let’s keep each other going to the end.” I grinned at this complete stranger. “Yes! Let’s!” I said. And gosh, you guys – I totally needed her at the end. I totally would have slacked off if I hadn’t felt compelled to stay with her. We plunged across the finish line at the same time and gave each other adrenaline-filled high-fives and congratulations.

In this life, we are also designed to need each other – to help each other through. And man, I am glad for that.

It helps to have fun along the way. Like I mentioned before, the Colfax Marathon series had a ton of fun perks that made the race enjoyable. We ran through the zoo, and pointed giddily to the elephants and the flamingos and the monkeys as we passed. Everyone around me was grinning through that part of the course – and many people tried to take cell phone pictures, which was hilarious to watch. At mile 8, we got to run through a fire station, where several hunky firefighters were there to give us high-fives. That also got us grinning! Plus, throughout the course, there were bands playing, families holding signs, volunteers cheering and local residents sitting on their front lawns giving us kudos. Several gospel choirs were stationed out in front of their churches on Montview Boulevard and sang us hymns as we passed. It was awesome! That encouragement really reminded me to enjoy the experience. Laughter and celebration are necessary, I think.

When you’re in pain, it’s harder to see the good stuff. In the final mile of the race, we made our way back to City Park where we had started. We ran right past the beautiful City Park fountain and the lake around it. This is one of the best views in Denver! The water, the historic boat house, and the downtown skyline in the background make for a perfect picture. But when I was running, I didn’t really see it because I was hurting. My heart rate was super high and my stomach wanted to get rid of the Gatorade I had slammed at mile 6 and mile 10. So, instead of soaking up the scenery, I powered through, as you sometimes do in hard seasons of life. When you’re hurting inwardly, it’s hard to see the beauty around you. That’s a challenge worth taking though. I want to be observant and joyful even in the tough moments.

When you get to the finish, there are certain people that you want to be with you. When I finished, I wanted nothing more than to see my mom, dad and sister. I also kinda wished that all my best friends – though they are scattered across the country – could have been there right in that moment to just do a little victory dance with me. When I get to the finish line of life, I’m gonna want these same exact people to be dancing with me then. You need core people in your life. The people that help you train, keep you motivated, and love you the best.

Recently, I heard a triathlete say that, in order to push herself through a difficult race, she chose to think about a different person for each mile of the course. She thought about her mom for one mile, her best friend for mile 2, her son for mile 8, and so on. I love that!

Finally, eat your veggies. I met up with some friends after the race, and they had just finished doing the marathon relay with a team of six. We were wandering around the post-race expo when we discovered that the race’s sponsor was handing out free fruits and vegetables for racers to take home. Honest to goodness – the line for produce was almost as long as the line for free beer! Haha! That’s Colorado for you. So we loaded up on corn and asparagus and apples and onions (see our enthusiastic photo below). I guess the overall takeaway is to enjoy the rewards that come with your accomplishments – and give kudos to your friends who are also accomplishing big things in their lives, too.


A big thank you to everyone who’s been a cheerleader for me in running and in this past year of my life in general. This weekend’s race represented the fulfillment of a longtime goal and it was a real boost of confidence and hope for me. You guys are the BEST.

Here’s to running well – on the race course, and in all of life.

“Let us lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith…so that we may not grow weary or fainthearted.” – Hebrews 12:1-3


Small, but Mighty.



I’ve found this word to be a theme in my life recently.

It’s easy to feel small when faced with a big, complicated and chaotic world. And when I’m lying in bed at night, tired and wondering what tomorrow will bring, this word seems to describe my days and pervade my thoughts.

I feel small at work. I feel like I mess up a lot and get things confused and I disappoint my boss more than I care to admit.

I feel small living in a big city. Walking around downtown, for me, is like walking through a sea of faces, each unique, each with their own story, each reminding me how absolutely huge and diverse this world is. It’s awe-inspiring. It’s beautiful. But it’s also easy to feel lost.

I feel small in my story sometimes. I see people accomplishing big things, dreaming big dreams and navigating their twenties with huge pay checks and huge hearts and I get a little down on myself for coming home to my Netflix every once in a while.

But what I’m learning is – small is mighty.

It’s the small moments that make up the big moments, the small steps that complete the whole journey. I believe that what feels small to us isn’t actually small at all.

Today, I was taught this lesson once again.

By a man named Roy.

I was feeling slightly weary and unawares in the nut aisle at the grocery store when we met. I was looking for some almonds when an elderly gentleman, white-haired and softly wrinkled around his eyes, caught my attention.


I walked over to where he was looking at some peanuts.

“Can you tell me the difference between these two bins?” he said as he motioned to two identical-looking peanut varieties.

“Hmmm…it looks like these are blanched, and these are salted,” I said. And I smiled up at him.

“Oh, thank you. I can’t have sugar, but I can have these,” he said, scooping up the salty ones.

“No problem,” I returned.

He saw me meander back to the almonds and, after a few moments, he approached me again. He told me that he likes making his pancakes with almond flour. How the almond meal adds a nice crunch, a nice flavor. He spoke with the combined confidence and humility of a well-seasoned chef, even though his uniform was a sweater and loafers.

“Oh yeah, that’s delicious! I’ve tried almond meal pancakes,” I replied.

“You share my view, then,” he said.

He grinned at me. And then he paused.

This stranger that I had met only moments ago over a few peanuts looked at me and he turned what could have been a small moment into a big moment for me.

“You,” he said. He touched my shoulder with a gentleness like family.

“You have a beautiful personality.”

No joke you guys – I started tearing up in the grocery store.

“Thank you,” I said, a little shakily, visibly moved. “It’s not everyday that someone says that.”

“Well, in all the year’s I’ve lived, I can tell when someone has a beauty that comes from the inside.”

“It is so encouraging to hear that from another person,” I stammered as he looked at me with deep, knowing eyes.

“And I know Jesus. And I think you do too,” he said to me.

“I do!” I said, never so happy or so unhindered in uttering that claim.

“We can tell, can’t we?” he said. “We are the ones looking up, when everyone else is looking down. I can see it in you. Your stature, your openness.”

And my heart swelled so much that I swear you’d have been able to see it if you were there. It went from feeling small to feeling BIG in a split second. Like I was truly being seen. Like I wasn’t lost in the crowd. It was like that moment in How The Grinch Stole Christmas when the Grinch’s heart booms from its former shriveled self into a whole, new, beating heart.

Small, but mighty.

I looked up at the swirl of people in the store around us, choosing cereals and vitamins and produce. Children bouncing in carts and parents shushing and rocking, navigating those big awkward carts toward the checkout lines.

I felt in that small moment, as I have in many other small moments, that God was there.

It’s God that makes these very moments possible. He doesn’t give us breath and life and freedom so we can turn around and try to impress him. No, he gives us life so that we can live – and enjoy – the small moments. And give joy to others. The seemingly mundane moments take on meaning when you believe that you’re a part of a greater story, and when you want to share that story with those around you.

On days when I feel small in my work, in my abilities, in my choices and in my struggles, I remember that small is, in fact, the stuff of God’s grace. Especially when its shared.

It was God, I believe, that steered Roy’s cart towards mine.

“You know,” my new friend continued, “I have lived a long and deep life by the grace of our Lord. I have a daughter – like you – and three sons. And twenty-five grandchildren.”

“Twenty-five!” I grinned at him. I was still holding almonds in my hand.


“And we live every day looking up. Because it could be any day that we are no longer on this earth,” he said, and the corners of his eyes showed a hint of weariness. “But you and me. We’ll meet again someday,” he said, and his knowing smile returned.

“We will,” I said. “And I look forward to that.”

Looking forward. Looking up. It was all the qualification that we needed to know that we were two of the same mind.

“What is your name?” I made sure to ask him.

“My name is Roy,” he said. “It’s nice to meet you.”

“And you, Roy.”

Small, but mighty.

Roy taught me, or rather reinforced for me, my belief in the small. It’s the small stuff that matters most. What feels small to us isn’t actually small at all – especially when it comes to kindness.

So, friends. I wish you the small stuff in this life. I hope that something small happens to you soon and often.

I hope that a friendly stranger stops you in the grocery aisle and sees you for all your beautiful potential, rather than your mistakes.

I hope that, while you are cooking your macaroni for dinner, you catch a glimpse of the sunset, and it reminds you that you are part of something bigger.

I hope that you believe in the amazing ability you have to encourage others, to brighten a dark corner of this world, and to make a difference in your home or workplace.

There are no average, small moments and no average, small people.

These are God’s moments. God’s people. The stuff that our stories are made of.

Small, but mighty.