Encouragement for this "run" we call life, because as C. S. Lewis said, "If one could run without getting tired, I don't think one would often want to do anything else".


We Are the World, Petri Dishes and Guatemalan “Treasures”: My life as told through “The Life You Can Save” by Peter Singer

Last fall while on a long drive, P and I started playing our usual game of “Name the Tune/Musician.”   I pulled up “Hits of the 80s” and we were cruising through Bryan Adams, Michael Jackson and Bon Jovi when suddenly I felt I had jumped in Marty McFly’s time machine back into my 11-year-old body.

I was sitting by the radio in MS with my dad listening to Casey Kasem’s New Year’s Eve Top 100 countdown of 1985, ready to celebrate!  I had spent the entire year 100% OBSESSED with the song “We Are the World” by USA for Africa and I was convinced the countdown was just a formality.  As P and I drove toward home, my eyes filled with tears and my heart filled with emotion as I remembered the passion I had felt around that song and its message.  The idea of so many people uniting and donating their talents and money to help those struggling struck something deep inside.  The idea of people in the world starving to death that I could help was something I had never considered.  It’s possible this is where my “bleeding heart” originated, but I suspect it was planted inside me right from the beginning.  As I sat thinking about these things I realized the last months of my life and the latest places I’m spending my time and energy are not so far off from where my heart has ALWAYS been drawn.

We Are the World! (and check out the sweet hair!)

We Are the World! (and check out the sweet hair!)

I started thinking back over my life starting with my love of words that speak to my heart whether in person, books or song lyrics.  I thought of the way I have always loved to learn, of being absolutely transfixed by petri dishes and bacterial experiments memorizing bacterial names like they were NOTHING when I couldn’t figure out basic physics to save my life.  I recalled my college advisor asking if I’d ever considered medical school (NO!), and the excitement of seeing those words “We are pleased to welcome you to the class…”  I recalled SSGT Green helping me fill out the paperwork to join the Army (how did THAT happen?) and amazing times in HI and DC where compassion for patients and a love for educating and encouraging were instilled deeply by outstanding staff and colleagues.  I remembered difficult times in Iraq and with military medicine in general as I grew more and more frustrated with administrative roadblocks, monetary and politically motivated missions and the ever-increasing feeling that I was not able to really make a difference in the way I longed to.  I thought of making the decision to separate from the Army (not easy but the right one for our family of 2) and how that opened up doors for me to travel to Guatemala, Bali, Bainbridge, Thailand and Burma among others.  I began to believe more fully that it really is true.   When you follow your heart (and for me that means God’s voice in my life), you begin to see the patterns woven in right from the beginning to bring you to the place where you are most alive, doing what you were truly created to do.  All of those pieces of my life, when looked at in review make sense for the days of my life now.

Enter “The Life You Can Save” by Peter Singer.  Introduced to this book in 2011 after hearing a speaker challenge us to read it and pass it along, I connected with the message and started reading but never finished.  This January while focusing on my month of “finances and budgeting” I picked it up again at just the right time.

My review: I do not recommend most people read this book, to include those who:
– don’t want to read hard facts about money, wealth, poverty and inequality
– don’t want to feel bad/confused/conflicted/frustrated/guilty/mixed-up about the complicated issue of poverty
– don’t want to think about the fact that our current response to world poverty is “not only insufficient but morally indefensible”
– feel like you are doing all you can and reading this might make you mad
– are not interested in changing your life in ways that might require you to question things about the way you live

At some point during my reading, I felt each of these things and more but I knew that the simple clear words were true and that ignoring them didn’t make them any less so.  I realized my lack of knowledge, compassion and action when it comes to world poverty was really not acceptable to me anymore and so if you feel that way too, you might want to check out this book.  In it, you’ll see many facts that are hard to read and believe.  Things like:
– although the average American believes our country spends 15-20 percent on foreign aid, we actually spend less than one percent
– a modest contribution from everyone who has enough to live comfortably (defined as eating out occasionally, buying bottled water, etc) would suffice to achieve the goal of lifting most of the world’s extremely poor people above the poverty line of $1.25/day

What I so appreciated about this book is the difficult suggestions Singer makes about what the majority of us who live comfortably could (and he says should) do to make a real difference.  I have read many books, articles and thoughts on these subjects and find these some of the most challenging but difficult to argue with.  At the same time, he addresses the common and uncommon arguments, thought processes and questions of those who don’t agree with his words and proposals and lays out the reasons we have such a hard time knowing what and how to DO anything.  I particularly loved the way he brought in sociological and historical reasons for the state of poverty and inequality of wealth in our world.  He spends some time going over the pros and cons of different types of aid organizations and ways we can be wise about where our money goes.  He also discusses the actual physiological and physical results of giving and generosity that are hard to argue with but also hard to translate to practical starting points for some.

Mr. Singer is a well-educated and respected ethicist and having a personal interest in medical and humanitarian ethics I particularly appreciated the arguments and unique ideas he brought to the subject in this area.  (I would love to discuss these with anyone who might decide to read this book!)

I think this book resonated with me for several reasons; It made me uncomfortable, defensive, sad, guilty, confused, encouraged and excited.  When I am feeling that mix of emotions it usually means something good is going on, something that means change is coming.  In this case, the change had already started and this book helped put more words, facts and motivation behind some of those changes and I closed the book inspired and grateful for people who share their gifts of knowledge through writing.

On finishing this book I recalled the way that my heart, interest and energy has always been drawn to issues of poverty and oppression (seriously SOMEONE reading this feels me on the We Are The World thing, right?), be it in my backyard or across the world.  I was reminded again that when our lives (money, time, energy and attention) are spent on the things that come from the deepest parts of us, we are usually happier, healthier, more productive people.

I reviewed the places I already give, examined the places I spend money regularly as well as the ways I make money, and made some adjustments in all those areas, including some new commitments.  While people tell me often that they “love” my life (and I’ve written about my feelings on this previously) the truth is I love my life too.  I have been given the gift of medical and military training, an understanding husband and flexibility of schedule that allows me to go places and do things that others sometimes can’t for a whole myriad of reasons.  These advantages have connected me with people doing amazing things and serving selflessly in areas all across the globe.  I have the opportunity for ongoing relationships with many of them, letting me advocate for the work they are doing and people they are serving from a place of face-to-face knowledge.

I don’t tell you all of this because there is anything great about me, but to encourage you to do what you can do where you are with what you have.  If you are already supporting organizations that work with underserved, marginalized or suffering groups of people- WAY TO GO!  I would LOVE to hear who you support and why; what is it that captures your heart?

If you don’t know where to start, are looking for new places to get involved or are looking for a personal connection to an organization, I’d love to help!  There are so many great organizations out there from HUGE non-profits to small groups doing unseen work that makes a difference in individual lives.  Start your research with groups that work with populations you care about or are already involved in!  If you are drawn to medical work, education, empowerment, after-school programs, food/nutrition/poverty, at risk-youth or family focused organizations among others, here are a few I have researched and supported and have ongoing relationships with (many of them through child or family sponsorships).  For many, I will be visiting the organizations regularly (some within the next year) and could help make personal connections with sponsored children or local workers with gifts, pictures, words or other information (or you could come with me on a trip!)

Bali Children’s Project: dedicated to education as a means of improving the lives of disadvantaged young people in Bali; BCP is founded on the belief that children, empowered to realize their potential, will enrich their own lives and their villages and contribute to the world we all share. (Your child sponsorship provides school fees, clothes and supplies as well as after-school programs and dance lessons!)

Our sponsor children in Bali!

Our sponsor children in Bali!

Soddo Christian Hospital- The vision of Soddo Christian Hospital is to provide excellent medical services, to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and to make disciples.  (You can sponsor families/medical personnel, donate toward medical supplies or education among other options)

The Mocha Club:  a community of people giving up the cost of a few mochas a month to fund development projects in Africa; Five main project areas: Clean Water, Education, Economic Freedom, Orphan Care, and Healthcare; Our vision is to provide a way for people who don’t have hundreds or thousands of dollars to make a difference in Africa. Our community-based website allows members to start a team and invite friends to join them in giving up the cost of a few mochas a month to support their chosen project.  (Join my team or make one of your own, this one is simple, inexpensive and fun!)

World Vision-  Christian humanitarian organization dedicated to working with children, families, and their communities worldwide to reach their full potential by tackling the root causes of poverty and injustice; in nearly 100 countries around the world, serving all people, regardless of religion, race, ethnicity, or gender.

Compassion International- Christian child advocacy ministry that releases children from spiritual, economic, social and physical poverty and enables them to become responsible, fulfilled Christian adults. (Let me know if you are planning to sponsor a new child through Compassion for some cool possibilities!)

The Potter’s House (Guatemala): Located in the heart of Guatemala City is the largest dump in Latin America. More than 11,000 people live and work in and near the dump, and nearly 6,500 of them are children.  Potter’s house is a Christ-centered organization that fights poverty in Guatemala by promoting a personal relationship with God through Jesus Christ while deploying holistic development programs that focus on at-risk children and youth.

Lay Tong Ku Medical Clinic (Thailand/Burma): It’s hard to find Lay Tong Ku on a map much less a workable website for the newly dedicated clinic!  If you are interested in sponsoring a medic’s salary in this clinic providing care to severely underserved and oppressed people, there is great need and you have the opportunity for ongoing relationship here if that sounds fun to you!


some of the dedicated medical staff at the Lay Tong Ku medical clinic dedication

Girls on the Run (West Sound chapter): We inspire girls to be joyful, healthy and confident using a fun, experience-based curriculum which creatively integrates running.  You may not be aware that right here in the Kitsap peninsula we have many children living at and below the poverty level.  Many girls who would most benefit from this amazing program are not able to participate because they can’t pay the program fee.

Home of Hope Lebanon: Focus on creating a nurturing, encouraging, and helpful environment, which shall: first of all, help the children to recover from the traumatic events which they have passed through; and second, to educate and raise the children to be intellectually, emotionally, and spiritually prepared to face an increasingly biased future.  (This is one of my favorite “connection” stories.  The need is so great here, from money to workers/volunteers to encouragement!)

Hope House (Hattiesburg, MS): Hope House Ministries seeks to serve Christ by providing emotional, physical, and spiritual support to the homeless following the example of Mother Teresa of Calcutta as we attempt to respond to the call of Matthew 25:31-46.  (My dad and step-mom are highly invested in this awesome ministry and helped many of you provide warm sleeping bags and other needed gifts this Christmas.)

If you are interested in hearing more information about any of these I’d love to hear from you.
If you are interested in reading this book, let me know in the comments and I’ll pass it along, it’s one of the requirements of reading it.
Also, if you know what the number one song of 1985’s Top 100 Countdown was, I’ll send you another fun prize! (no cheating!)


Judy Garland, Leprosy and Choose Your Own Adventure: My life as told through “Where God Leads…..” by Alan Eubank

I would blame it on the jetlag (42 hours of travel after all) but the truth is I’m a bit of a crybaby.

But let me start from the beginning- anyone who has been at my church for more than a week has heard about the Eubanks and the Dawsons. They are incredible people who have spent their lives selflessly advocating for the poor, marginalized and victims of injustice and they are incredibly loved by all who know them. I have already been exposed to so many new opportunities and experiences from spending time with Laurie, so while this trip to Thailand was NOT on my radar, I jumped at the chance to go and partner with the work going on there and to have the opportunity to spend in depth time with people I would love to learn from (hence the reason I was reading the above book for background!)

After our LONG flight, we arrived at Joan and Alan’s house and as we sat down to a traditional Thai meal, I couldn’t tear my eyes away from Joan’s face- she literally glowed with health, happiness, peace and love and I kept telling myself it might be a little strange to have a breakdown at this early, but the obvious joy was almost more than my tired mind could take. We began to eat as Joan began to sweetly and humbly share with us some of the events that led her to this lovingly arranged house in Thailand, where she has lived for over 50 years, raising four children and partnering with her husband and so many others in working with the underserved Thai and Burmese.

She talked about her days (before marriage and the move to Thailand) of dancing and singing with “Rogers” (of Rogers and Hammerstein) and with “Julie” (yes, the Mary Poppins one) with the same joy, pride and fulfillment as she did her time of leading the choir in a hospital in Chiang Mai where she lives. She spoke of her friends and neighbors, her family and her huge extended “family” with love and pride and support and gratefulness in a way that was truly unique.

It took only minimal prompting to get her to share the details leading to her marriage and we were all captured by her storytelling. “So you were “swept off your feet” by him?” Charlotte asked, to which she replied with quiet surety, “Not swept away as much as attracted like a magnet.”  She told us of how their paths crossed first when he was an Army engineer assigned to escort her performing group when they visited in Korea. Although they stayed in touch over the following years, it would take almost a decade before they were in the same time and place (literally and figuratively) and were married. This moment she lovingly described as “like a ship bouncing out in the sea that finds its way into the harbor.” They were married and moved to Thailand where they have remained since.

I realized with absolute clarity as she was talking that I want to have stories to tell in THIS light when I’m her age- I want to be the kind of person who tells these KIND of stories, about my life and my marriage and my friends and my family and my work.  I want to choose words of encouragement and peace and gratefulness when I share my memories with others.

We left there with much to think about. After a few hours of deep sleep, we headed out for our first day in Chiang Mai, Laurie driving and Joan leading as well from the front seat. Our day was scheduled to be a full one, as we visited many of the offices and businesses that have been supported, developed and led by this family over the years.

Our first stop was at the McKean Hospital where we met Heather (“auntie Heather” to Laurie), an Australian who had been working there for over 50 years. My infectious disease-oriented mind was captivated by her telling of the history of leprosy in Thailand and how she and her husband Trevor were central to the care, research and development of treatment plans for this devastating and difficult to understand disease in its early days. My heart has always been moved by the horrible stigmatization and prejudice these people have faced across time, and I count as one of my most hauntingly beautiful memories, standing on the shores of beautiful Molokai on a former leper colony. There was much confusion about the cause and transfer of leprosy in the early part of the last century and the typical patient was torn from his family and taken to communities where they were forced to live with others like them, away from “normal” society. The creation of community, dignity and ease of suffering through simple treatments and adaptive equipment gave opportunity for meaningful life to those that society had given up on and forgotten about. Heather described with quiet grace, tearing up several times, the meaning that this work had given her life. Leprosy is now more quickly recognized and treated and the hospital’s mission has shifted to caring for the neglected aging population in Thailand, but the heart of the mission is still the same- giving dignity and meaning, while easing suffering as they are able, to the marginalized people of society.

As we spent the rest of the day going from office to office, we interacted again and again with this same person. He or she looked different outwardly- from the 28 year olds who were peaceful and passionate about their work with these same types of people, to the middle-aged Caucasians and local Thai people to the aged and wise ones who had moved to Thailand at young ages and now truly call it home. Each of these people had made choices to live in ways and give up things that we might find incredible, awe-inspiring even, and yet that was not the general feeling I came away with.

Instead, as I interacted with each of these, who had dedicated their lives to bringing hope and meaning to the people of Thailand and Burma I was struck by their humility.  I realized they had each just made one choice after another across the courses of their lives, no matter how many years that had yet been. They didn’t see themselves as heroes or worthy of special recognition, but rather as normal people who were doing what they felt called to do- people who made choices that lined up with what they knew was their role to fill on this planet. There were moments in each of their stories- many moments, as many moments as WE have- when they could have made different choices. Different choices that would have been entirely acceptable and understandable, but not true to who they were. The common thread between them all was the humble way in which they shared their stories, woven together by the choices they had made that led them where they were.

I’ve always said there are two kinds of old people- those who grow bitter and unhappy with age, and those who grow better and joyful with age. You know, the “sweet grandma” and the “angry grandma”. I have wondered regularly over the last 20 years what I’m doing to be the latter, because I’m convinced it’s the choices and attitudes we choose today that make the difference 20, 30, 40 years from now. I want to be the kind of person who makes good choices, defining good by measures and parameters that don’t always line up with what the outside world might tell us is the next or normal step. For me, those choices consist of things like choosing love and quietness, when the default is to choose anger and arguments. I want to choose generosity and kindness, when it’s sometimes easier to choose self-protection and judgment. Instead of staying so busy building for a future I’m not even sure of yet, I want to choose people and relationships and moments that become memories.

That’s what I’m taking away from the first half of this book (next half to follow after our trip into the jungle!). What about you? Do you think about these things? If so, what does that look like in your life? I would truly LOVE to learn from you!


A Year in My Life- as told through books: The Happiness Project

Happy 2015!

Happy New Year from Kauai!

Happy New Year from Kauai!

A new month, a new year, a new season. As I think back over 2014- my year of experimenting with living life outside of the Army- I realize I assumed in 2015 I would return to “normal” life, picking back up with typical rhythms and days. It turns out I learned a lot last year, not the least of which is not everyone has typical “rhythms” and there are a lot of different ways to live life fully. I have found this really exciting especially as I’m thinking about future goals and plans.

Thinking about this in December, I knew I wanted to do something a little different this year. Instead of one or two big goals and in the spirit of continuing to explore all the different ways life CAN look, I kept coming back to the idea of smaller goals and more all-encompassing changes. Things that could be slowly explored and incorporated or discarded, much like Gretchen Rubin’s “The Happiness Project.”

This book has been on my (long) list of books I’d “like to read sometime” and although brought up several times in book club, it never fully made the cut. In December, Brandi mentioned she was going to read this one in addition to the group pick, so I grabbed it from deep in the pile and started reading.

I’m not sure exactly why it took me so long to read it; perhaps a combination of “all the hype” sometimes turns me off and wondering if such a thing as a happiness “project” is really a “sensical“ thing? The truth is- I LOVED IT!!! and I read it at EXACTLY the right time that I needed to (isn’t it just CRAZY how that happens? You book lovers know what I mean!) For a person who LIVES for lists and challenges, quests and outlines, “rules to live by” and mantras, goals and planning (picking my new organizer each year is an EVENT!), this book was like feeding an addiction. (At the same time, I can see why people who do NOT like these things (so sad) would lose interest in this book very quickly and might find it quite annoying. For instance the other person who lives in my house would find this book excruciating I think!)

As I was considering my own version of the “Happiness Project” it made perfect sense to work it into my New Year planning. One of the things I want to continue to improve on (in quality and quantity) is my writing, so as I was thinking about all of those things together, I had a (brilliant? crazy? interesting?) idea. What if I gave a “theme” to my writing this year, which might help with a more regular schedule and give constant input for posts? Since book club was one of my favorite parts of last year, and the Happiness Project is what started this whole line of thinking, what if the posts I write this year are tied in to the books I read? Not book reports at all but more ideas and connections I make with my own personal life while reading. A sort of “year in the life” of a reader? The idea kept sticking around and so I’m going to go with it- starting with this post!

My life as seen through:The Happiness Project. As a very short summary of this relatively short book, Gretchen Rubin (a lawyer who left that work to pursue writing) decided to approach 12 areas of her life in a very planned way, in order to see if she could purposefully increase her happiness. She selected areas like “health” and “parenting “and “marriage” and “organization” and assigned them each a month of the year. She then developed 3-5 goals/rules for that area that she stuck to for that month. Using a chart she could visually document how well she was doing as she processed the experience through writing. I really like the way she logically addressed and explained how the process went- discussing many rules/goals that she abandoned because they just didn’t work for her (like keeping a physical gratitude journal) as well as some that she worked into her life as the new norm (like a particular gym/work-out plan) and others that she relaxed on but still tries to incorporate as she sees the benefit (like getting 7 or more hours of sleep a night).

Another part of her process she shared was a set of “Rules to Live By” she developed- things like “Be Gretchen (no one else)” and “Cut people slack”. These were more reminders that apply across categories and could be recalled easily in different situations. I loved how she kept referencing them within the areas she was working on in a particular month and how they became sort of second-nature to recall in a particular situation.

For my “project” I’m not thinking of it as a way to bring more happiness, but instead to provide intentional boundaries, goals and areas of growth for the year as I continue to explore what it means to live a healthy and centered life. I think there is great value in reviewing the past year and looking ahead to the next year to acknowledge lessons, make changes and set goals small and large (regardless of success percentage!).

Modeled after the Happiness Project, I picked an area to focus on each month, as well as one “rule” or “resolution” for each month’s topic/focus that I am going to try to stick to for the whole year. Each month, I’ll pick 3-4 other goals (in addition to the one I’m incorporating for the whole year) to really focus on. In addition I made my own set of “reminders” (aka Rules to Live By) that I am already finding INCREDIBLY life changing (numbers 5 and 7 below are in the lead!) So, if you are interested here’s what my “Centered” Project year looks like (I’ll just give you the one yearly goal for each category vs all for each):

Jan: Finances- 90% of the time, nothing new (goal to not buy things, buy/use recycled/reused/borrowed when able and to try my best to buy 90% of new things from local/small businesses)

Feb: Marriage- “Be” Love- (the 1 Corinthians 13 kind- patient, kind, humble, not boastful, unselfish, not irritable, rejoicing in truth not injustice, hoping/enduring/believing)

Mar: Minimalism- Always choose the “lighter” option (as pertains to the earth, food, waste etc.)

Apr: Play/Fun- Preserve margin in my life

May: Food - No second helpings

June: Health (holistic standpoint) – Do something active every day

July: Work and Writing- Refuse to give any attention to dread- turn dread into anticipation

Aug: Relationships (family/friends)- Pay attention (listen well, phone down, be present)

Sept: Spiritual- Be Dawn (the person I was created to be, no one else)

Oct: Declutter- Regularly give things away

Nov: Contentment- Hold everything lightly (plans, material things etc.)

Dec: Centered life- Live from the “core” (spiritually, core exercises, know what’s important to me etc.)

Reminders to Live by:
1. Live “lightly”- weight/nutrition/exercise, minimalist, decrease possessions, be an encouragement/light to others, laugh more
2. Be “present”- present over perfect (stolen from Shauna Niequist!), no multitasking, listen well, decrease cell phone dependency, look in people’s eyes, don’t overextend emotionally/relationally
3. Make good choices (inspired by Viktor Frankl and Michael Hyatt)
4. Relationships always trump. Relationship trumps all.
5. Act the way I want to feel- the outer shapes the inner (A.J. Jacobs, Gretchen Rubin), trust truth, God, facts not feelings in the moment
6. Be “Dawn”- a light (dawn), run my own race, no comparisons, show up where I can bring needed knowledge/strengths/gifts/help, embrace my uniqueness instead of focusing on differences
7. Assume the best- (of others) – assume positive intent, cut people slack, remember not everyone is like me and that’s ok!
8. Create margin- know my limits, take care of myself
9. Encounter every lesson in life on purpose (Jadah Sellner)
10. Refuse to give attention to dread- turn dread into anticipation, offensively attack dread with gratitude
11. Cultivate patience- learn to wait well, look for places to be patient
12. Remember the “BE”s- Be kind, be quiet, be gracious, be honest, be active, be content, believe, be “love”, be grateful, be positive

(You can see a couple of these are also focuses for a particular month, because they need extra attention!)

So there you have it- some of my goals, hopes and intentional thoughts for 2015. Feel free to call me out on any you see me “not remembering” (but do it kindly?J).

I’ll be back in a few days if you want to keep “reading” along with me (I’ve already got three others to tell you about!) and I’d LOVE to hear your thoughts on The Happiness Project if you’ve read it, any goals or resolutions you made or any other thoughts you may have!


Merry Christmas Eve- Peace, Love and Gratitude to you!

It’s time, it’s time!!

Christmas is here and so this, (at least by intention) will be the shortest post of my blogging life!  This fun day started out with twinkling lights in the dark, seen while running across the Narrows Bridge with this crazy and fun running family I was welcomed into 5 years ago.    The (second) annual Christmas-Eve-run-across-the-Narrows is ALWAYS followed by coffee at Starbucks (because of course it is and yes, doing something twice makes it a tradition,) where we linger over coffee and laughter and reminisce over last year and plan for next year until one by one we head out to what our individual day holds for us.

This morning was made especially special because my new (running, Girls on the Run, music-adoring, crafty, generous, FUN) friend Ruthie joined us (which required her to get up MUCH earlier than the rest of us- Yeah Ruthie!)  The day continues with cooking and reading and phone calls and Christmas Eve service and dinner with friends and various other preparations and celebrations, but I couldn’t miss taking these few minutes to say Merry Christmas Eve to all of you, my friends!! Here are my (short and “sweet”) words to you this December 23rd afternoon (in WA at least!)

Awesome Ruthie and me!

Awesome Ruthie and me in the middle of the bridge!


Thank you!  Thank you for your friendships and for the way you have been so generous with your time and feedback and encouragement and support as I (intermittently) share my words with you here in this space.  Thank you for the way you make me feel less crazy when you say “me too”!  Thank you for the way you say “thanks” when something I say makes a difference in your life- that is the greatest gift you could ever give me, so with all sincerity, thanks.

More than any of that, THANK YOU for the way you supported, in words and thoughts and actions, the (snow) Angel project!  When I first posted about this I had no idea how it would turn out.  Then as I told you here, I was a little discouraged for a few days, until suddenly there were so many of you writing with people in your lives that could use some Christmas angels.  THEN, the way you guys responded just made me feel overwhelmed with gratitude most days.  You gave sleeping bags and lights and money to help those who don’t have beds or walls to sleep in feel warm this winter, which is a gift that is just too hard to explain the meaning of.  I’m not sure those of us who’ve never had to worry about that COULD ever really understand.  You gave enough money to help a grade-school child (in an immigrant community with great need) to be able to attend school using public transportation for almost an entire year, (with enough money to hopefully help his community a little in other ways this season).  You made Christmas happen for two families who are hurting and holding on for better days and I’m not sure we’ll ever really know all the ramifications of that kind of gift.  You gave 8 new beds to a hospital in Ethiopia where this is truly a gift of health and life!  You gave diapers and clothes and shoes and toys and other things I don’t even know about and for that I am so truly grateful to call you friends.  I would like to note also that so many of you already give to your own friends and family and community and neighbors and that makes me just as happy as connecting you to people here.  Basically, thank you for your generosity and for reminding me that it’s ALWAYS in giving (in tangible and intangible ways) that we “get” the most.  Or as one of my (eloquently worded) friends put it:

“I can’t tell you how much my heart and soul needed to do this. They should be getting lots and lots of Amazon packages (plus a gift card for groceries) in the next week or so. I really hope it helps. Goodness knows it has already helped me more than anything else this season. Tis better to give…”

So, again, thank you for being the awesome community that you are!

I’d love to sign off for the year by sharing an article that I’ve really been thinking about these last two weeks (written by Joshua Becker, a “minimalist” blogger whose approach really resonates with me).  It’s written from the standpoint of setting expectations for children for Christmas, but I think it’s pretty applicable to all of us who live in this first-world nation of plenty.

I read this right around the time of our last book club (yeah for the first year of book club which turned out to be one of the highlights of my year!!).  We went around and shared our favorite memories (as we were sharing tasty treats!) of Christmases past.  You know what?  EVERY SINGLE ONE of us shared a memory of a moment- with parents, siblings, children, friends, spouses, community- memories of time and experiences with others that shaped our lives long after the moment had passed.  We reflected that in light of realizing the importance of the memories of Christmas (over any gifts we did or didn’t get that we didn’t remember all these years later), maybe we should focus on creating those with our families and trusting that those moments will be the things that last through the years.

It is with a very full and grateful heart that I say Merry Merry Christmas Eve to all of you. 

I hope that the past month and the next few days are filled with good food and laughter and good drink and good runs and beautiful sights and a few fun things you might have been hoping for.  More than any of that however,  I wish that each of you has moments with your people whoever they may be, that you are recalling at a book club or cookie exchange years from now as you think back on your favorite Christmas memories.  Moments like these:

me and Crumzy Clare at the Girls on the Run 5k!

me and Crumzy Clare at the Girls on the Run 5k!

Theo, Anna and me at the  Celtic Solstice before the Army/Navy game!

Theo, Anna and me at the Celtic Solstice before the Army/Navy game!

5th Annual Holiday dinner with friends!

5th Annual Holiday dinner with friends!

Much love and peace to you all!

Peaceful Sam

Peaceful Sam





Calling all (snow) “Angels” : Let’s do this!!

Happy December friends!!

I am so excited to be writing you again so soon because I need your help!  Remember that time I said I was going to “hit send and go for a run?”  Well, I did.  Then I waited.  I waited some more.  Then, all at once 4 big needs came across along with a couple of smaller ones and IT’S HAPPENING!

You guys looked around your lives, saw some needs and took the time to stop and write and let us know about them.  (I don’t think it was a coincidence that all 4 of them came in right after Thanksgiving.  Gratitude does that). 

Want to be a Christmas "angel"?

Want to be a Christmas “angel”?

So here we go!!  Just like before, I have no idea how many of you are going to respond or want to help and so I have no idea where this is going to go but we are just going to “go” with it! J  Here’s the plan: I’m going to list the 4 main giving options below with a little info about each as well as suggested ways to help.  In each situation I have a local contact “on the ground” whose honesty, reliability and heart for giving I can 100% vouch for as I know each of them personally.  If there is a particular opportunity that really speaks to you, what I’d love for you to do is either reply on the blog here, send me an email or a Facebook message and let me know that you are “in”, which opportunity you’d love to help with, and an email for communication.  I’ll get back to you ASAP with further instructions for getting things where they need to go and we’ll get these needs taken care of!

Giving Options:
1. Hope House:
Hope House is a non-profit that meets the needs of the homeless in Hattiesburg, MS.  The most updated info can be found on their Facebook page below.  My dad and step-mom are very involved with Hope House and are there at least twice weekly providing food, clothes, needed items, words of encouragement and hope to those who come each week or are just passing through.  I have spent time there myself and I can tell you that they are providing wonderful services but the need is so great.  Tragically, last week, the house resident manager who was a kind and devoted man was murdered on the grounds of Hope House.  As you can imagine, the layers of sadness around this are especially hard during the holidays/winter when there is such great need for both practical items and kind hearts.  The greatest needs at Hope House are warm sleeping bags, tents and backpacks.  Lights, flashlights and watches are also in great need and while not “basic necessities” they provide necessary functions in many ways.  If you are drawn to help meet these needs, let me know and I’ll give you more options/details/info!

2. Mom supporting family of 5:
I haven’t seen my friend Penny since high school but she has a beautiful heart and noticed a need of a family in her local community. The family tragically lost their son/husband/father unexpectedly just months ago and they are struggling to meet even the bare necessities of life for the 5 of them (mom, daughter-in-law and three young children including the 4 month old baby that was born after the father’s death).  They are living in a space smaller than most of us could imagine and this Christmas will bring much sadness and stress as they have great needs and very little money.  There is a need for diapers, for warm clothes and shoes, for Christmas gifts for the children.  Grocery cards, gas cards, and other necessities would also likely be most welcome.  If this need touches your heart, let me know and I’ll send you more info/details/options.

3. African Refugees:
The next need comes from my dear sister-friend Ashley in Kansas. I’ll let you hear from her own words: 

“It’s recently come to my attention that there is a community of African refugees living close to us. Their need is so great.  One family I met consists of a widowed mother with 7 kids.  They live in a tiny house in downtown Dayton and have close to nothing.  The mother speaks very little English, the kids are behind in school (because of the language barrier), and social services is helping, but not enough.  The mom is terrified to leave her children with anyone because of the things they’ve been through, and this is just one story of several.  There is a sweet lady in my church who is investing herself in their lives, but she is becoming exhausted.  I asked if Kroger gift cards would be good, but they don’t have a way to the store.  So on top of grocery gift cards, they need money for public transportation.  (The oldest son has to pay $37/month to ride the city bus to school)  They also need training in English so mom can get a job.  We can provide the friendship and community she needs to learn to trust others, but we can’t provide for all of their material needs.  And like I said, this is just one family of several.”

You guys?!  Food, transportation cards, clothes, money to take English classes, babysitters, utility bills?  Could we provide a Christmas feast for the whole community?  Could we bring gifts to all the children?  I think we are only limited here by our imaginations!  If this story speaks to you, email me and let’s talk about options/details/ways to help meet at least some of these very basic needs we all take for granted!

4. Hospital beds for Ethiopian hospital:
This next request for a basic and desperate need comes from my dear friend Julie who currently lives with her family in Soddo Ethiopia where her husband Dave is the Pediatrician in the hospital there. What Dave (and his family) face and do on a daily basis in the medical sense is completely humbling and overwhelming to me at times and I have been so grateful to be a part of supporting the work they do there. Julie wrote just this morning with a specific and life-giving need for clean/sanitary hospital beds.  Can you imagine going into the hospital for surgery, illness or the birth of your baby and seeing that your bed has a torn and filthy mattress, with a plastic covering that is no better?  There is no way to clean or cover the stains, dirt or ripped materials and there are no other options.  This is not even within the realm of imagination for most of us and yet this is the “normal” for patients in Ethiopia.  The risk of infection and further illness is exponential and in a place where things are already stacked against health and recovery from illness at baseline.  This is a 120-bed hospital and for $75 the beds can be completely replaced with clean and sanitary ones.  What about it?  Could we provide 10% of these?  A quarter?  HALF of them???  If this is a need that speaks to you, send me an email saying you’re “in” to help and I’ll send you more details!

5. Miscellaneous:
There are a few other single needs that have come in including:
-replacing a tire for a single mom of one and baby-on-the-way who is driving on a spare tire in Wisconsin winter weather
- a pair of running shoes for someone who would love to be able to exercise for mental and physical health

If these speak to you, let me know and I’ll give you details on how to help! Also, if your time and schedule work better with easy options, Target/Wal-Mart or amazon gift certificates can be used to purchase much of what each of these groups needs.  You can drop those off to me (or I can pick them up) and I will make sure they get to the place they can be best used!

Ok- you guys, let’s do it!!

Let’s celebrate Christmas and all we have by reaching out from our abundance to help others who need some helping hands this holiday season.  I can’t wait to see what we can do together!! 

(Remember: send me an email, Facebook message or reply to the blog with which opportunity you’d like to help with and an email to contact you with!)

with much holiday love and excitement!


On Being Displaced, Walking the Line and Copying Momastery- Are you in?

“You don’t have to be a perfect person to do something great for somebody else,” she says. “The imperfections in your life might be helped by the process of meeting and helping and creating community for people who are displaced. It’s not just for the saints of the world. We can all do something.”

(Want to take a guess at who made this profoundly honest and true statement?  I left the gender hint for you, but for now I’m not going to reveal the identity of the wise southern voice.  Maybe I’ll give you more clues, like that one I just gave you, or the first one I gave you- did you see it?)

I read this just after finishing our wildly successful first Girls on the Run Run-A-Thon (a place where many people did “something” as we logged a LOT of treadmill miles and raised a LOT of money for a LOT of young girls who will benefit!) I was taking a nice warm bath with a nice warm cup of tea and these words just made me feel nice and warm as well.  Not because they are nice words, but because they are TRUE words.  I have seen the truth of them myself in the last decade and every week this year if I’m honest.

Girls on the Run Runathon!

Girls on the Run Runathon!

The truth is “displaced” people can wear a lot of different clothes.

There are the displaced people we are quick to think of, like those fleeing areas of war, violence, disease and civil unrest who are literally displaced geographically.  My sweet brother-in-law Diego is working with people like these and I am so inspired by the work he does.

Displaced people also might be standing right next to you.  Like the ones my friend Tara works with who might be displaced from life due to injury, illness, poverty, loss of job, home or family.  She’s amazing in her dedication to make a difference in a place that feels so hopeless to me sometimes.  My relatively new friend Laurie is truly an advocate for the displaced and my life has changed a bit since meeting her.  (Some of those changes I’ll be excited to share with you in coming days!)  I have so many friends who work in the medical community and in the military and the “displacement” of disease, illness, cancer, deployments and death are easy to see in the lives of the people they serve.  You might be standing next to a person displaced from a marriage, or displaced from family due to any number of reasons.  Maybe displacement in your world looks like getting up day after day to a life you don’t remember choosing but no longer even have the energy to be discontent with.  Maybe you are caring for someone who needs you right now, and other identities and roles have had to be displaced for a while.

Whatever “displaced” looks like in your life or those around you, I have to agree with this beautiful belle above that it is often in the process of seeking out those to help that our own imperfections, pain, mistakes, heartbreaks, tragedies and dashed desires get transformed little by little into something we can imagine one day seeing as good.

(If you are a Jesus-follower, you’ll recognize this thought from Romans-often quoted out of context with a distorted interpretation.  The truth is that not everything is good, and not everything bad was caused by God, but he can work everything, even the bad things INTO good.  It’s true, I’ve seen it.)

If you haven’t noticed, I’ve been living a sort of in-between life this year: in-between the first and second half of my life; in-between a traditional work week/vocation and a non-traditional year of trying things out; in-between a traditional “I can’t do that” and a non-traditional “why couldn’t I do that?” attitude.  That has involved coming across the path of displaced people in a million different ways.  It has given me the chance to smile and to cry; to be angry and to be activated, to be delighted and to be dumbfounded and most of all to be inspired to pay attention to the people and the lives around me.  I’ve met so many amazing people who have had HARD stuff and I’ve seen a few destroyed by it, but most often I’ve seen them transformed by it.  The prisoners (of crimes they did and did not commit) who are restored, and take up the cause of other “prisoners”, because who can better help them than those who have been in their “chains”?  The homeless who have been housed and then dedicated their lives to helping other homeless.  The sick and divorced and hopeless who have found health, love and hope and in turn made it their goal to reach out to those who are where they have been.


Anonymous helpers!

Anonymous helpers!

What I’ve realized in all of this, is that every single time, that change, that hope, that return to life and love has come BECAUSE of the help they received from those who made a choice to help.  I have met SO MANY kind, generous, grateful, strong people who are only that way because of the kindness of someone else in their life.  They may have scars but they are alive and they are grateful to those who helped them heal.  What a great gift that is for both people- the hope of “better days ahead” for the one and the knowledge that their own scars served to help someone else for the other.  I’ve been both-the wounded and the scarred- and the gratitude goes both ways.

One person who seems to have this whole concept down is my new favorite blogger- Glennon Melton, aka Momastery.  Part of my in-between year has involved a LOT of travel, including many conferences (I am a self-professed (confessed?) conference-lover) and I first heard Glennon at the Storyline conference in Chicago in October.  Despite being a wildly successful writer and highly-sought after speaker, somehow she maintains this intensely personal way of communicating that makes you just catch your breath.  She believes passionately in honestly sharing our lives, the good and the bad, and being authentic and transparent with ourselves and our people.  She believes in the power of having friends and family and a community that knows and love us, one that we trust and count on.  Therefore I have added Glennon to my “must read” Feedly category and to my “internet best friends” along with Jen Hatmaker and Shauna Niequist (who I also saw at Storyline!).

Glennon and Shauna!

Glennon and Shauna!

What do all the paragraphs of this post have to do with each other?  ( I know some of you are wondering.  I also know some of may be feeling slightly uncomfortable/un-entertained by my possibly overly touchy-feely thoughts today.  I recognize it and I can’t help it but I do hope you’ll keep reading.  The good part is coming up!)  What do a legally blonde actress, displaced people, my in-between year and Momastery have to do with each other?

I’m so glad you asked!  What they have to do with each other is that they together gave me the idea to do something that could be pretty amazing for some of those “displaced” people around us in the coming weeks.  If you check out Momastery’s blog you’ll see her recent posts about “Holiday Hands.”  In short, she matches up people who NEED things for Christmas and people who want to GIVE things to help those in need.  I didn’t see it in time to participate but the idea just made me want to jump up and down.  I love it.  In less than a day every single need was met and people who otherwise couldn’t buy food, gifts for their family or fees for kids recitals and performances were given those very gifts by others who reached out to help.

I loved it so much I couldn’t stop thinking about it; about all the people I know who NEED that help and ALL the people I know who would LOVE to give that help.  This time of year has been hard for me in the last several holiday seasons.  While I truly do not know how to explain how much I LOVE Nov 1 to Dec 31 I also am deeply aware of the pain around this time for so many. (Even AS I AM WRITING this post, I received a call that delayed me finishing it because the tears blurred my vision.  Tears for another senseless and painful event that will make these holidays and all those that follow so hard for a whole new set of people.)  I try so hard to temper my LOVE and excitement with the realities and respect that others need, but it is so hard.  So you can imagine how this little idea might just not leave me alone, until I woke up a few nights ago, and I just whispered “Why not?”

“Why can’t I copy Momastery?”  “Why can’t MY people- all my awesome amazing people- do for others what Glennon’s people did for their others?  There is so much NEED and so much GENEROSITY all around us and there is no reason that we can’t share it all across the (internet and “real”) world.  I certain do NOT think that Momastery will be upset by this idea that is totally stolen and copied from hers.

So here’s the “good stuff” and I’m going to keep it simple because I have no idea what is going to happen with it.

Phase One:
For this post and until Nov 30, I am taking requests for those who NEED.
  Holiday Hands has all kinds of instructions and guidelines for their requests because they are doing this on such a large scale, but because (see above) I have no idea how this is going to go over, I’m not going to put any guidelines on it.  If you personally or someone you know has a NEED this Christmas season, you have two options:

1. Send me an email with the request.
2. Send me a facebook message with the request.

I would ask that we not put the exact needs in the comments right now only because that may limit people asking for things and I would love to have that not be a factor.

Phase Two:
Starting on Dec 1st, I’ll start letting you know the needs we received and giving you an opportunity to fill those needs.  Stay tuned for another post here and for facebook posts if you are there.  Again there are many more guidelines I could put in, but for now, I think I’ll leave it at that.

So- are you in?  I have no idea how or if this is going to work (and I can’t even come up with a fancy name for it).  I can guarantee this is going to be another one of those posts where I hit “send” and then take off for a run in order to avert a panic attack for having hit said button.  I’m excited to see what happens, and frankly even if one need is met, I’m going to call it a huge success.  I think anyone who got married in Sweet Home Alabama would agree, don’t you?







September/October Words I Wish I Wrote that I Wrote Down (in my Journal)

It’s Fall Ya’ll!

While it seems to have taken an extra-long time to make it here wherever we may live (not that I’m complaining), I think we can all agree that Fall has arrived!  As I’m writing this, it’s dark already at a time when that still seems strange to me, even after five years in Washington now.  However, pumpkins, decorations and darkness (and rain!) it is, and I for one am extremely excited!  I’ve had an amazing two months of travel, adventure, challenges and fun; I’ve seen friends and family and spent time in hotels, homes and airplanes.  But the truth is, we are heading into my absolute favorite time of the year.  Wherever you are and whatever life looks for you right now, my hope is that you feel a little tiny glimmer (or a great big wave) of peace and gratitude and excitement about something that’s within or ahead.   For me, words like these below always help me find those feelings, so here’s to hoping some of these words make your heart a little happier!

Beautiful, peaceful fall

Beautiful, peaceful fall

Critical to the formation of children and young people is the affirmation of their capacity to think deeply and to engage truth.
Gordon T Smith

You are only one decision away from a totally different life.
Mark Batterson, Sole Fide

Believe you can and you’re halfway there.
Theodore Roosevelt

A hero is one who knows how to hang on one minute longer.

No matter how busy you are, you must take time to make the other person feel important.
Mary Kay Ash

Progress is impossible without change, and those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything.
George Bernard Shaw

It’s better to be at the bottom of the ladder you want to climb than at the top of one you don’t.
Stephen Kellogg

There is no greatness where there is not simplicity, goodness and truth.
Leo Tolstoy

I must govern the clock- not be governed by it.
Golda Meir

If you run, you are a runner.  It doesn’t matter how fast or how far.  It doesn’t matter if today is your first day or if you’ve been running for twenty years.  There is no test to pass, no license to earn, no membership card to get.  You just run.
John Bingham

Talent is God-given; be humble.
Fame is man-given; be thankful.
Conceit is self-given; be careful.
John Wooden

From what we get, we can make a living; what we give however, makes a life.
Arthur Ashe

Look for a way to lift someone up.  If that’s all you do, it’s enough.
Elizabeth Lesser

If you have never said “Excuse me” to a parking meter or bashed your shins on a fireplug, you are probably wasting too much valuable reading time.
Sherri Chasin Calvo

People are like stained-glass windows.  They sparkle and shine when the sun is out but when the darkness sets in, their true beauty is revealed only if there is a light from within.
Elisabeth Kubler-Ross

With the proper motivation, that is, a good reason for wanting to do it, your mind can overcome any sort of adversity.
Franz Stampfl

Like a cool drink of water when you’re worn out and weary is a letter from a long-lost friend.
Proverbs 25:25 The MSG

Don’t aim for success if you want it; just do what you love and believe in, and it will come naturally.
David Frost

Kindness is in our power, even when fondness is not.
Samuel Johnson

Everything changed the day that I understood that if I was to become a runner, I would have to run with the body I had.
John Bingham

It’s not what you look at that matters it’s what you see.
Henry David Thoreau

True happiness is to enjoy the present without anxious dependence upon the future.

Sometimes you have to step outside of the person you’ve been, and remember the person you were meant to be, the person you wanted to be, the person you are.
H.G. Wells

Every adversity, every failure, every heartache carries with it the seed of an equal or greater benefit.
Napoleon Hill

When you first get a hill in sight, look at the top of it only once.  Then imagine yourself at the bottom of the other side.
Florence Griffith Joyner

What is now proved was once only imagined.
William Blake

I have always imagined that paradise will be a kind of library.
Jorge Luis Borges

In a world full of fugitives, the person taking the opposite direction will appear to run away.
T.S. Elliot

Life can pull you down, but running always lifts you up.
Jenny Hadfield

One must never be either content with, or impatient with, oneself.
C.S. Lewis

Life appears to me too short to be spent in nursing animosity, or registering wrongs.
Charlotte Bronte

Failure after long perseverance is much grander than never to have a striving good enough to be called a failure.
George Eliot

Whatever attitude we bring (to a situation) will be multiplied.
Lysa Terkeurst

If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more, and become more, you are a leader.
John Quincy Adams

I am who I am today because of the choices I made yesterday.
Eleanor Roosevelt

May your choices reflect your hopes.  Not your fears.
Nelson Mandela

We have committed the Golden Rule to memory; let us now commit it to life.
Edwin Markham

Nobody can go back and start a new beginning, but anyone can start today and make a new ending.
Maria Robinson

For the past 33 years, I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself: “If today were the last day of my life would I want to do what I am about to do today?”  And whenever the answer has been “no” for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something.
Steve Jobs

Happiness is like a butterfly: the more you chase it, the more it will elude you, but if you turn your attention to other things, it will come and sit softly on your shoulder.
Henry David Thoreau

The real art of conversation is not only to say the right thing in the right place but to leave unsaid the wrong thing at the tempting moment.
Lady Dorothy Nevill

The measure of who we are is what we do with what we have.
Vince Lombardi

True life is lived when tiny changes occur.
Leo Tolstoy

Wherever there is a human being, there is an opportunity for a kindness.









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