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The Worst First Day

This was first posted on Students@LSE Blog and can be found here. 

I envisioned I would arrive in London on a rare, gloriously sunny morning – whose brightness was only surpassed by my sunny disposition. My fellow riders on the tube would smile and nod at my luggage – joyously approving of my choice to nest within their city. My husband and I would find the most adorable flat, complete with bookshelves to cradle my most prized possessions, and I would take a selfie to Instagram on my first day of graduate school.

Yet, on the first day I should have been in London, I found myself sitting beside my parent’s old dog on the phone with the US postal service because my passport was either being held hostage by the British Consulate (unlikely) or the postal service  had “misplaced” it.

As I sat in my parent’s home, on the phone with LSE’s Immigration Services, I felt rocks piling up in my stomach. I realized instead of getting to London a week early and easing into my Master’s degree, I would be classified as a “late arrival,” that is if I ever arrived at all.

With less than 3 weeks until registration at LSE closed, I had neither a passport nor visa.

While I have known for two years that I wanted to attend LSE, I wasn’t aware how badly I wanted it.

I didn’t know how much I wanted to read copious amounts of my Complex Emergency textbook and write essays on capabilities as a means to measure poverty. How ready I was to stay up late studying in the library again. How hungry I was to ask questions about girls’ education, imagine strategies to ensure access to basic resources for rural villages, and discuss how to measure the effectiveness of our good intentions.

This is not to over romanticize the (likely) grueling experience of graduate school, but rather to stake claim to my desire. The desire to challenge my perceived notions, to be confronted with truths that contrast my own, and to expand the boundaries of my way of understanding.

Due to this desire and my tenacious spirit (and a new passport, new letter from LSE, new visa, and new flight reservations), I’m excited to say I touched down in London Oct. 8th. I attended my first class in graduate school jet-lagged and ate airline peanuts for lunch. It didn’t even rain.


Some days Mikey is a doctor. Some days, a playwright. And though Mikey lives with a developmental disability, other times he is a yoga instructor, an actor, a pastor, or lead singer in a band that has kindly volunteered to play at my wedding.

This past March, Mikey was an activist when the state of Georgia was scheduled to put to death Kelly Gissendaner. Several of my friends and partners were trying their hardest to stop it. I walked up to the Capitol with Mikey and some other Frazer Center participants that dreary Monday morning. Mikey went around telling everyone we met that we were going to the Governor’s office to tell him to stop killing Kelly. That Kelly is a mother and we need to stop killing her.


Mikey stood in front of cameras and TV crews. He delivered boxes upon boxes of petitions to the Governor’s Office. Alongside ministers, students, and fellow protesters, Mikey used his voice in our political system much more than the average citizen ever does so. I turned around at one point to find him even preaching to the Georgia State Park Mascot, which is a gopher, about why he was at the Capitol that day. He said next time he went he would wear a suit to show folks he meant business.

We returned later that morning to Frazer and Mikey wrote his petition again and again on pieces of blank paper. Mikey believed simply and profoundly that life, any life, all life, is beautiful and that we have a responsibility to each other to honor that beauty.

Mikey asks me every day if I will do yoga with him, with no socks on, and with my eyes closed. He tells me that we can welcome the morning sun and warm up our hands. I hope we can all come together and welcome the morning sun. We can do that by choosing to offer spaces, in our organizations, in our churches, and in our hearts that welcome others and the gifts they bring.

We are given the chance to see each moment shared as a moment so holy it begs us to take off our socks. We can choose to warm up our hands and join together to make this world a place of meaning where every individual has a voice and is greeted warmly. We can welcome the sun.

To hold, give birth to, create, dust off, and usher hope. This is perhaps my deepest calling. To hope that Mikey will live in a world that has great expectations from such a great man, to hope he feels heard and valuable, to hope that we act from generosity and kindness, to hope that the noise is loud when all voices shout for justice.

A certain trembling

They were attacked. Right here. Their blood stained this piece of earth.

I was walking when I heard the news. Walking on the hot crumbling asphalt of Alabama, near a town called Selma.

A pit bull had attacked several animals at the farm that my church nurtures, loves, and shares space with. A sheep who had given birth to twins only weeks earlier, a sheep pregnant with what would have been Easter twins, and our sweet emu were all killed in the slaughter.

People I sing hymns alongside on Sundays held the heads of bleeding creatures while they passed, tried to rescue their little ones, and sobbed when these efforts failed.

When I heard, I was walking on crumbling asphalt where 50 years ago another mother was slaughtered. Viola Liuzzo was driving a man back to Selma after having marched 54 miles from that town to Montgomery demanding voting rights for all, no matter their race. She was white and her passenger was black. When she rode past the KKK, they shot at the car and killed her. Her passenger dipped his fingers in her warm body and used her blood to fake his death. She saved him on the road that day. Her five children and husband would later learn this news in their Detroit home.

When the blood of another, be it animal or human, touches us- when we touch it- there is a certain trembling. Our own death feels that much nearer. Our inevitable mortality is smeared across our palms, covers our fingerprints. As I marched with 300 others those same 54 miles from Selma to Montgomery, I thought of the lives of those no longer with us. The lives of all the civil rights activists, whose blood had been spilled and whose lives were stolen. I thought of how shallowly I love and treat others. How I fail to recognize that the blood beating throughout their being makes them holy.

When I returned to the farm and saw the orphan lambs and heard the stories of my friends, was reminded that my own life is also holy- but also short. May each of our hearts beat fearlessly until the day it beats no more. May we see it our duty to delight in each other. May we see our mortality as a propeller towards meaningful living.


This blog was originally published here. 

I judge you.

This blog was originally written for a Lenten series on the Episcopal Service Corps Blog. The Episcopal Service Corps strives to serve others in solidarity, promoting justice in community, deepen spiritual awareness and vocational discernment, and live simply in intentional Christian community with young adults. This year I am a member of their program in Atlanta, GA.

I judge you. I judge you for the money you spend on that new bracelet. I judge you for the way you over-spiritualize your morning coffee. I judge you because you never use public transportation. I judge you by your lack of awareness for anything outside your own neighborhood.

And I pass this judgment like one passes salt and pepper at the dinner table- casually, almost unconsciously, and regularly. It bellows up within me some days. It blocks any goodness in you like a cumulonimbus cloud.

Yet I’ve come to know what I judge most of all, is my own soul.

I see all the minutes I have in a day, how I fail to use each one productively and I find this detestable. I retroactively watch my words falling out of my mouth, spurting with bitterness and I recoil at my behavior. I notice all the ways you encourage and I perseverate on my selfishness. I judge you because I judge myself. This exchange of hypocrisy and raising of eyebrows and shaming, though, murders any hint of grace.

Because each moment I fail to offer you or myself forgiveness, an extra try, a piece of understanding, or an assumption of good-will, I put my weight up against the door of grace that aches to open up within me. I push back on the door and limit myself from going anywhere. I keep myself locked in the room with judgment’s putrid presence.

I am the one who chooses to keep my back against the door. I can also be the one to feel the cool doorknob turn over in my palm and escape this judgment room.

Extending grace to myself might be that doorknob which allows me to extend grace to you. So in these forty days of reflection, I’ll reflect upon the grace I give to you and to myself. This Lent I’m choosing grace over judgment.

The Day Kelly [Almost] Died

I stood there among friends and strangers. Among those who yelled about death machines and those who wept deep tears. I stood on the steps of the Georgia State Capitol and instead of feeling a moment of solidarity, instead of feeling peace or comfort, instead of feeling like holding a vigil was a good and appropriate response- I felt a wave overcome me that what I was doing was very, very wrong.

Earlier yesterday I went with two people, Michael and Shelly, from the Frazer Center, a center for adults with developmental disabilities, to drop off (at that time) around 45,000 petitions to stay Kelly Gissendaner’s execution. This morning the same petition is up to 77,000. As we left the Frazer Center, I told Michael we were going to the Governor’s Office because the State of Georgia wanted to kill a woman.

“What?! They can’t do that!”  “But they are.”

I told Michael why the State wanted to kill Kelly. I told him that Kelly studied the Bible. I told him Kelly was a mother of three.

“We need to go to the Governor and tell him to stop killing that woman. Kelly is a mother,” he responded. Michael was able to understand in seconds that the State murdering another human being was monstrous.

Michael exclaimed that statement to all those would listen. “We need to go to the Governor and tell him to stop killing that woman. Kelly is a mother.” “Tell him to stop that.” “Kelly has children.” “We’re here for Kelly.”  We held a press conference in the rotunda; we delivered the petitions; we sang; we left. These are the words Michael wrote describing his day.

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And then, we came back to hold vigil for a woman the State was scheduled to execute on our behalf. As I stood there on the steps of the golden dome for the second time yesterday, I wept for our inaction. I regretted the weeks where I heard about Kelly and her date but failed to do something as small as google her. I was remorseful about the times I had forgotten that the government representing me was planning to kill someone in my name. I shed tears for failing to love Kelly faster and for the time we lost by not acting.

I grieved Kelly’s death and my hand in it.

Friends, Strangers- this must stop. Three hours after Kelly’s scheduled execution time, officials decided the drugs they planned to use might be unsafe. The psychological trauma of this is cruel and unimaginable. It will likely be a few days wait, not taking the final SCOTUS appeal into account.

And a week from today we will do this all over again, folks. Georgia will execute Brian Terrell on March the 10th unless we finally get fed up with state endorsed murder. Unless we finally say- Not in Our Name. Unless we take our tears and turn them into a communal response against violence.

Welcome Them In

You feel frustrated and want him to stop. To discontinue. To only be moderately excited. And you realize it is probably because you’re a little jealous of him. You’re jealous of his joy.

Larry is a greeter at Home Depot and is in love with his job. He sits in his wheelchair for four hours at a time by the door with the cold wind blowing in. He is often ignored as he tells folks walking in, “Welcome to Home Depot!” Despite being looked over by customers, despite the blustering wind, despite the repetition, he couldn’t be happier.

His legs bounce with anticipation and he blushes with enthusiasm. He feels and knows his work is valuable and important. He feels great about himself and is overwhelmingly proud of his position. His work is like play for him. He is able to not only find, but continually find the deep joy in the things he does each day.

Some days I want to tell him to take it more seriously. To ocus a bit more and calm down. And some days he might need to take the energy down or giggle a little less or not tell every customer just  how “cute” they are. But perhaps mostly, the joy and life in him is so rare that I ‘m not sure what to do with it except be in awe.

Finding meaning in your work has very little to do with the things you produce or the meetings you hold or even your effectiveness at welcoming folks in a hurry. Finding meaning in a job is not restricted to only those jobs whose descriptions sound like heroic feats. Larry reminds me that finding meaning and subsequently discovering joy spurs from an inward knowledge of one’s belovedness and the simple desire to welcome in those around us. Welcome them in.


This blog was first posted here. 

Find out more about the Frazer Center, a center for those living with developmental disabilities, here. 


Red light means stop. Green light means go. Orange light means walk now. Yellow light means slow down.

He repeats these phrases throughout the day. Perseverating, it’s called. To continuously repeat something long after the time for the action or phrase has passed. It is a common thread in folks living with autism and one I see often in my work each day.

Sometimes he says a color and couples it with an incorrect meaning. He slips the misaligned pairs in between slurs of childhood memorizations- Green light means go. Red light means go. Yellow light means slow down. It’s not that he has forgotten or had a momentary lapse. For although he tries to hide it, his white toothed grin sneaks out with the incongruent words. He is playing with you. He wants you to catch the mistakes; he wants your attention.

This game of his is one requiring quick reaction times and focused listening. Of concentration and discipline. It only takes a few minutes of playing before you begin to forget the colors and their corresponding meaning yourself. I played with him as we went on a hike through a nearby forrest. As the leaves crunched beneath us, I thought it might be nice to use the foliage around our feet to play his color game. I stooped to lift up a bright ruby leaf singing out, Red light means stop! when I realized the game was all about the leaves.

The green coniferous pines signal us as people to keep moving. Unless they are garmented in silver bows and Santa ornaments we too often fail to pause before their majesty. The first orange leaves peaking out from gnarled branches, amuse us as we go. The signal of the beginning of fall, the orange leaves tell us to walk unhurried now and look both ways. The yellow bursts of the tress right around your corner and mine practically scream at us to slow down, as their golden shadows fall on car dashboards and kitchen tables. And finally the red maple leaves cause us to stop. To abandon rushing around and do the hard work of concentrating. The red leaves discipline us to listen more fully, as the squirrels rustle and toss acorns at those of us below. The game of leaves requires us to react quickly to the things that amaze us before they pass by and to yield our attention to the beauty that pervades our surroundings.

To perseverate finding that amazement and joy in creation and in each other is perhaps one of the best games I know. 



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