being an exploration of what shouldn't be microwaved and how I found out.

White congealed muck had exploded everywhere. Egg, sage, pepper, salt, and water. All over my microwave. Coating the bottom, foamily sliding down my cup, chilling in little globules on the inside of the door.

I stood there, and the eloquent thoughts that went through my mind were something like this:

"Haha. Hahahahahahaaa....whoa."

It was probably a bad idea, trying to poach an egg in a cup in the microwave, but I didn't know that beforehand. I suspected it, thought about googling it, but decided that some experiences just have to be had.

So I salvaged what could be salvaged, and it tasted very good.


Sabbath Poem VII, by Wendell Berry

The clearing rests in song and shade
It is a creature made
By old light held in soil and leaf
By human joy and grief
By human work
Fidelity of sight and stroke
By rain, by water on
The parent stone.

We join our work to Heaven's gift
Our hope to what is left
That fields and woods at last agree
In an economy
Of widest worth
High Heaven's Kingdom come on earth
Imagine Paradise.
O Dust, arise!

Wendell Berry has so beautifully expressed the sentiments that are close to my heart; I have nothing to add. This is part of his Sabbath Poem collection, published in 1982.



It's nearly 7am. Mist blankets the hills near Entebbe, fading softly into the lush green of the trees. A deep red dirt road--one of the few traces of Western civilization evident from 15000 feet up in the air--cuts through the land. The snowflake frost on the outside of my airplane window melts fast as we drop down into the warm humidity of a southern Ugandan morning. I promise myself I'll never forget this moment, this feeling, this landscape. The plane is dropping fast now, speeding over schools, houses, unfinished buildings--so many unfinished buildings. Suddenly, we're on top of Lake Victoria's cool, greenish expanse, and then we're right over the runway. I wonder briefly if it's gotten any bumpier, but before I can brace myself we're down. The engine roars as we slow and taxi to a stop. Sleepy-eyed people stand, stretch, pull out luggage, speak in Luganda to their neighbors. The loud Ohio State fan sitting next to me complains that he still has a four hour trip to Mogadishu. I shrug and say it's about the same to Mbale, and we start down the narrow strip of carpet between seats. A minute later, I'm walking through a yellow tunnel with a stairway leading to the ground. The scent of cook-fires and morning freshness greets me. Birds whose songs I haven't heard in a year are chattering all around. A cicada screams brashly in the distance. As I go down the steps, important-looking Ugandans with name badges mill around, not visibly accomplishing anything. I take a deep breath and step out onto the tarmac.

I'm home.


packing didactically

Lessons learned while packing:

-Sewing boxes shut with twine is perhaps not as effective as using tape.

-If you're going to try sewing your boxes shut, make sure you have a good thimble. Pushing a needle through cardboard without one is painful.

-The best thing about packing the last bits of miscellaneous stuff is the opportunity to use the word "miscellany."

-Shoving your hand into a trash can which contains a broken glass french press jar is a bad idea.

If you're like me, remember these things. If you aren't like me, then continue to exercise the common sense that sets you apart from me.



I've been on one continent for a year--far too long--and I can feel the restlessness rising. I can't wait for the bustle of the airport, the sinking feeling of the plane taking off, the insane heart-in-my-throat anticipation of landing with the knowledge that a joyful reunion is only a stroll through customs away. I'm impatient with mundanity, ready for an adventure, trying to avoid packing and somehow hoping that everything will jump into boxes of its own accord. I'm tired of saying goodbyes, ready to just move on, get started with something new.

I'm going home. Uganda-home. It won't be the same. I'm scared. I can't wait. Have I changed? Has it? Have they? Are the roads better? Worse? Does Daawat still have the best naan? Does it still get palak paneer and malai kafta mixed up half the time? Is MTN still the Missing Telephone Network? Will the water taste funny? Are fresh chapatis on the side of the road at 6pm as good as I remember? Will I remember to say trousers instead of pants?

And my real questions: Am I going home? Or will I find myself just as surely an mgeni among wananchi in Uganda as I am state-side?


on running barefoot

The bottoms of my feet look like the surface of the moon. They are covered in calluses, blisters, bruises, and dirt stains that don't come off, no matter how hard I scrub.

Since I ditched the running shoes, road running is silent. Grass running is liberating. Track running turns my feet rather orange. Running in the rain is incredibly satisfying.

Overall, it's been great. Stepping on sharp rocks is a bit painful. I've gotten blisters, but they never go deep. I've walked barefoot most of the time since February to help my feet harden. I imagine that kind of preparation is probably necessary.

So I highly recommend being barefoot. :)



I create blogs at the times in my life when I feel like I have something worth saying. At those times, I'm well acquainted with profundity. I walk along and words come to me unsolicited. Even when I'm not physically writing anything, sentences and paragraphs float into my mind fully formed and contextualized. I feel like I'm really making progress in understanding the universe.

This is not one of those times. My mind is full of questions to which I don't have an answer. The only words that come easily are words like why, how, and I don't know.

I am seeking God. I desire to know his nature. I want so badly to understand, but I'm coming to the realization that I never will. I want to know how to live a life in which my love and service glorify God completely, but God's message is one that is necessarily full of contradictions and paradoxes. I'm trying to reconcile the essential nature of both doubt and faith. My constant refrain is "Lord, I believe. Help my unbelief."

So I haven't been blogging much.


laugh with me

5 minutes ago, I'd poured myself a fresh cup of coffee, and I was about to stick it in the microwave to reheat it. I opened the microwave door and discovered my first cup of coffee, the one I made for myself half an hour ago. I don't think I can tease my parents about senility and forgetfulness anymore.

This is only the latest in a lifelong series of truly special moments in my life, moments that have given hours of laughter to my closest friends. Let me share a few with you to alleviate the seriousness of my last few posts.

When I was 15, my friend Lydia and I were walking to a singing rehearsal when a truck came along doing 80kph and sprayed up head to foot in wet cow poop.

Last year, I went up to Karamoja for a weekend and came down with malaria. Since it was a rare opportunity to hang out with Zach and the Wrights, I didn't slow down very much at all. One afternoon, I hadn't been keeping up with my fever medicine, and I started playing volleyball with a 104 temp. I tried to demonstrate a jump serve and ended up flat on my back in the dust.

Speaking of volleyball, one time I was playing a pretty serious game with people I mostly didn't know very well. I stepped forward to serve...and fell on my face. My foot had been stuck in a soccer goal net behind the serve line.

I'm not even going to venture far into my tripping stories. I've tripped over flat surfaces many a time. I once tripped down my stairs so violently that I skinned my elbow on the opposite wall. If I start telling tripping stories, I'll be typing all night.

One time, I was talking to my mom, and I accidentally referred to a cosmologist as a cosmetologist.

When I was little, I used to pronounce "telepathy" kind of like "tilapia."

It's funny, I've spent quite a bit of time in various groups that started talking about most embarrassing moment stories. My life has been such that I can identify with almost all of them. I forget all the stupid things I've done until someone else starts to tell their most embarrassing moment, and I realize, "Oh hey, I've done that too..."

I don't think having an abundance of embarrassing moments is inherently something of which to be proud, but I've learned a lot through them. I now know that playing volleyball with malaria and a high fever is stupid. If a car is coming fast and there's cow poop on the road, I jump for the bushes.

The most important thing I've learned, though, is that no one can laugh at me if I'm laughing too. The most they can do is laugh with me, and I'm pretty okay with that. So embarrassing moments, come on. Do your worst. I'll just laugh.


hidden immigrant

Hi, I'm Leila, and I'm a recovering third culture kid. As I try to navigate options and American customs, I become more and more aware that I have no idea what I'm doing.

I always stuck out in Uganda; being a mzungu will do that for you. Still, I was comfortable. I could navigate potholes and talk my way out of paying bribes. Now, I'm in America, and I think I blend in rather nicely when I'm wearing shoes and going along with everything, but I feel clueless so much of the time. I think the official term is "hidden immigrant"--I look and sound like I fit, but I'm not really from here.

It's the little things that get me. It feels so rude to me to shake hands with only one hand and without bending forward in respect. I still have a strangely hard time maintaining eye contact with men. It's an everyday conscious effort. I say things like "sorry please" without even thinking about how weird they sound. I thought that after nine months this would all be much easier; the truth is, it isn't. I can usually go through all the right motions now, but none of them feel real.

Sijui. Si rahisi. Bwana asifiwe.



I am pro-life. I am pro-every-life. I think that society could get along just fine without the death penalty. Tales of genocide and starvation, past and present, break my heart. I think that the potential for life within a fetus is enough reason to let grow, develop, and be born.

I am also pro-good-life. I think that every person should have experiences of love, community, joy, and beauty. I don't think that people should have to live in fear of crime, corruption, disease, or death. I think that every person should have access to clean drinking water, education, and medical facilities that will not drive them into debt.

I do not understand why these two beliefs, which are inextricably intertwined in my heart and my theology, represent two opposite ends of the American political spectrum. I do not understand how anyone can believe that it is enough to just allow a fetus to be born. If a baby has a right to life, shouldn't he also have the right to a good life?

What benefit does a child gain by being given the right to life if he never has the chance to truly live? If he never has access to basic necessities? If he's never given the chance to thrive?

If you don't want that teenage mom to abort her child, love her and support her as she becomes a mother. Adopt kids who have no other chance at having a real home. Be proactive in loving people rather than reactive to controversy.

If you're going to be pro-life, be pro-good-life too.



I think about home a lot.

I have a hard time defining, even to myself, what I mean by "home." Uganda is the place I associate with home, but Uganda is no longer the place I left and I am no longer the person who left it. My family lives in Abilene. I live in Searcy. They're both somehow homey now. I'm not homesick for those places, though.

I'm realizing now that I'm not homesick for a spot on the globe or even for an identity within a community. I'm homesick for the surprisingly beautiful glimpses of eternity in humanity.

I'm homesick for those moments when I open my eyes during team devo singing and see worship in the faces of people I love, for the times when I'm praying with a friend and masks are stripped away before God's holy presence. I'm homesick for the times when I want to be with God, living all out for him, so badly that the most eloquent words won't do justice to my desire for him. I'm homesick for the moments of complete clarity when I see the truth about the evil of my sin and then feel God's grace rush in to cover it.

Those are the kinds of things I want, and none of them are tied to this earth. They are pieces of eternity held by God's people, and they are the closest I've ever come to home. I don't know what heaven will be like, but it will be home. The most precious moments in my memory will be magnified and become an eternal reality.

I'm homesick, and it's a bittersweet feeling, but it's absolutely right. I don't want to stop feeling homesick until I'm really home.


The Valley of Vision

Lord, high and holy, meek and lowly,
Thou hast brought me to the valley of vision,
where I live in the depths but see Thee in the heights;
hemmed in by mountains of sin I behold Thy glory.
Let me learn by paradox that the way down is the way up,
that to be low is to be high,
that the broken heart is the healed heart,
that the contrite spirit is the rejoicing spirit,
that the repenting soul is the victorious soul,
that to have nothing is to possess all,
that to bear the cross is to wear the crown,
that to give is to receive,
that the valley is the place of vision.
Lord, in the daytime stars can be seen from deepest wells,
and the deeper the wells the brighter Thy stars shine;
let me find Thy light in my darkness,
Thy life in my death,
Thy joy in my sorrow,
Thy grace in my sin,
Thy riches in my poverty,
Thy glory in my valley.

-Puritan prayer


rooted in eternity.

I got curious about facebook's "religious views" section and its dropdown menu, so I started typing "Christian." When I was about at "Chr," I stopped.

There are more kinds of Christian listed on facebook than there are kinds of deoderant in Wal-Mart, and that's saying something.

How did we become so segregated and splintered? I know the history of it, but I feel like we've lost touch with the reality of what has happened. We are a body that has been torn apart into little pieces. Our condemnation of the sin in the outside world is surpassed only by our condemnation of each other. We want to be right, not because we want to remove all barriers to God using us, but because it satisfies our egos to have the perfect theology.

In The Screwtape Letters, C.S. Lewis steps into the character of a shrewd older demon who is writing a younger demon with advice on how to effectively tempt humans. At one point, the older demon says, "One of our great allies at present is the Church itself. Do not misunderstand me. I do not mean the Church as we see her spread out through all time and space and rooted in eternity, terrible as an army with banners. That, I confess, is a spectacle which makes our boldest tempters uneasy. But fortunately it is quite invisible to these humans."

I think this quote captures the essence of the disease that is infecting the community of Christ in the world today. We are so broken up and consumed with internal problems that we inadvertently serve Satan's purposes. We spend more time arguing with fellow Christians than we spend fighting against true evil.

It breaks my heart. What will it take for us to see the church as a body that is "spread out through all time and space and rooted in eternity?"


time flies.

The semester is two weeks old, and I'm still not quite sure what to make of it.

It's going to be a busy one. I'm taking 17 hours, including a French class for which I didn't have the prerequisites. It'll be okay. There's an excellent chance that I'll come out alive and much more knowledgeable.

That's what I'm planning, anyway. I suppose it would be pretty pessimistic to plan on anything different at this point.

I used to be a pessimist who claimed to be a realist. Now, I'm pretty sure I'm a realist who sometimes pretends to be an optimist. It's sort of funny to act blindly optimistic around pessimists.

On a side note, I've become increasingly aware of the misuse of prepositions in the past few weeks. We too often use them to finish sentences. I try to avoid ending sentences with prepositions, but sometimes the sentences sound unwieldy and awkward when restructured. I should probably start thinking before I speak. That could help. Alternatively, I just could stop caring about prepositions.

Also, I've also developed a new appreciation for orange juice.

This blog has no purpose or direction. You've probably figured that out by now, since it's obviously not cohesive and just barely coherent. Sorry please. I set out to write an update, but I'm quite tired. My brain is just sort of wandering.

I'll suppose I'll just close by saying that I'm doing well. I have good coffee, thought provoking classes, and slightly warmer weather. I officially know my way around Searcy better than I do around any other city in the United States, which sort of makes it feel like home. I can say some cool stuff in French and I got to eat Guatemalan food today.

Life's good. God's great. That's about it.


the things I'd change about America if I were God

-The weather. It's so cold.
-Sound-proof houses. I miss the sound of rain on mabati.
-Busy time-orientedness
-Bad coffee
-Lack of an easily available kitchen
-People who complain that Wal-Mart doesn't have enough variety
-Not being able to walk places easily
-Overcooked vegetables in the cafeteria
-Weeks with tests in every class
-Did I mention the coldness?
-No geckos on my ceiling
-Cold toilet seats

I'm adjusting fine. I can handle everything on that list whether or not it changes. I'm told that the weather usually gets warmer at some point.

To be honest, the thing I miss most about Uganda is the people. I miss team devos, pancake nights, volleyball games, church services, and cookouts. I really miss the singing, the fellowship, the love and accountability and closeness. Everything else I can do without. It's tough going without power outages, but I can handle it. It's the camaraderie – the “high spirited fellowship” – that I miss more than anything.


I was thinking about sacrifice a couple of months ago. I wrote the word on a post-it note to think about when I had a bit more time, meaning to get back to it within the week. Well...I just found the post-it, stuffed in a crevice of my wallet along with a couple of business cards and an old bus ticket. Oh, procrastination.

On to the future, though: it's 2010! And I'm thinking about sacrifice now. In 2 Samuel 24:24, David is trying to save his people from the deadly plague that God sent on the Israelites after David sinned. The prophet Gad tells him to build an altar on the threshing floor of a man named Araunah. David goes to the man and offers to buy his threshing floor. Araunah resists, telling the king that he can take whatever he wants without paying. At this point, David says something incredible. He says, “No, I insist on paying you for it. I will not sacrifice to the Lord my God burnt offerings that cost me nothing.”

These words often echo in my head. I've lived in America for almost 8 months now, and the rhetoric of shallow sacrifice is everywhere. Want the soda without the sugar and calories? Buy diet! Want the new TV right now? Buy it on credit! Want a perfect country with a good economy? Elect the right politician! We don't want to eat less, spend less, or make wiser – and more sacrificial – decisions.

It's not just the world, though. I see it in the church, too, and that hurts. I see it in myself, and that's even worse. I want closeness with God without investing much time in his Word. I want the church to reach out and touch the community, but I'm too often not willing to give my own time and money.

Like David, I want God to work through me to cleanse a plague – the plague of sin. Unlike David, however, I leap at the chance to build the altar on cheap ground. My sacrifices too often cost me nothing when they should cost everything.

God, help me give sacrificially, the way you bought my salvation. Teach me to delight in serving you and others. Make me a living sacrifice.