Our Current Trip (from which we just returned)

We have no illusions that we can change the world, or even one small corner of it, in six weeks, so we won’t pretend that’s what we did on this trip. This journey was more subtle and more realistic than that. It’s primary purpose was two of the most important things that we know of:  (1) connection, & (2) learning.

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For six weeks we traveled across East Africa, visiting three countries: Kenya, Uganda, and Rwanda, with a primary goal of (in addition to visiting Travis’s parents) connecting with as many people, communities, businesses, and organizations as possible along the way. We hoped that we could provide listening ears and a bit of encouragement. We also wanted to learn as much as possible along the way about the people we meet, about the countries, regions, and towns through which we passed, and about the needs and opportunities that exist locally.

We hope that we can now share with others what we have learned in order to facilitate greater connection and collaboration across this global body of fellow humans who are on a great and complicated journey together. Perhaps by sharing what we have learned and by connecting more people, communities, and resources, some small but valuable positive impact may be made. We also learned and connected with our own futures in mind: what does our own future involvement in East Africa look like? Would we ever move back? If so, to do what? If not, how can we remain connected and continue to collaborate from afar?

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Our trip consisted of 17,056 miles (or so) of flying and over 2,200 miles of land travel (plus a few ferry rides). The scope of resources being used here was and is not lost upon us, and we took this trip very seriously and humbly, aiming for tangible, practical good to grow out of the connections and learnings that were cultivated along the journey.

Over our next few posts we hope to introduce you to a few of the remarkable people, places, and organizations we have met along the way.

In the meantime, here is a photo of some camels. #trafficprobs

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A Daily Journey

Every day is a journey. The sun is rising, we open our eyes, and we are embarking. Bravely, we face the world. We meet other characters along the way, many of them recurring, some new and surprising. Even the recurring characters often surprise us. We meet challenges, face obstacles, and sometimes we descend into darkness. Not every day or every journey has a clear resolution or a happy ending, but at the end of the day’s journey the sun flashes like fire, red and orange, as it sets in climactic glory. We sleep, awaiting another day, another mysterious journey into the unknown future, another chapter in the larger journey of our life.

Once upon a time, Lauren and I were on a journey. A grand adventure. Then it ended. Suddenly it was over, and everything was ordinary. Mundane. That was how I saw it, but for only a moment. Then I learned to see the extraordinary in the ordinary. I met the single, solitary day. I introduced myself. “Hello, today,” I said. “Who are you? What can I do with you? How can I get to know you better?” Be. Here. Now. …this is what I learned to start saying to myself. And it has made all the difference.

Not in the future. Not in the past. Nor elsewhere geographically. Just BE. HERE. NOW.

Geographic travel is empty if you do not know and love the present moment. You must be thankful for today: where you are, what you have, the air that you breathe. When you can do this in your own back yard, then you are prepared for new geography.

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“Be content with what you have; rejoice in the way things are. When you realize there is nothing lacking, the whole world belongs to you.” – Lao Tzu

Today, I write from new geography, but that is only a side-note. This place is as ordinary as my own back yard, and my own back yard is as extraordinary as this place. I am incredibly grateful for the opportunity to travel, to see new places and to meet new people. I do not take it for granted. But if the focus is on travel, travel only breeds discontent. My first focus is to be thankful for the very air I breathe and the land beneath my feet regardless of where I am. To appreciate and honor the simplest of things. If I can’t do this, then the trips I make become only a gateway to later discontent.

So when I wake in the morning, no matter where I am, I greet the day and the new journey that comes with it. I am thankful for that journey. And I set forth on the voyage of today.

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Memories of Tanzania (2016 Calendar)

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One year ago, on Christmas Eve, we were suddenly informed that we had to leave the country. We had seven days to grab a few possessions, say some quick goodbyes, and leave. This holiday season, exactly one year later, we can’t help but look back in confused, swirling emotion. We are grateful to be so close to family this year: to celebrate with them in cold weather and cozy homes. But we also dearly miss something about those hot, coastal Christmases, when we tried to distract ourselves from the pains of homesickness by taking frequent swims in the warm ocean. It wasn’t perfect — it was often very difficult; but we loved so much about it, and there is so much to miss: our warm friends with their kind smiles, the evening breeze off the sea, the rainy sound of palm trees in the wind, the tropical plants and birds, our dog, Lincoln. There is so much more. There are moments I could attempt to describe. Beautiful, unbelievable moments.

One year later, here we are: far from there, not knowing whether we will ever see that place or stand before the smiling faces of those friends again.

As I have tried to process and reflect on our years in Tanzania, words always fail. But clear, simple memories can be kind and healing. So, as a way to process over the past year, I (Lauren), with blank paper and watercolors in hand, have reflected on some moments—images frozen in time—that represent the frequent beauty of the world in which I lived. These are memories of Tanzania—beautiful, wonderful memories that I am grateful to carry with me.

Inserted below are a few photos of the resulting watercolors. I hope they reflect some of the Tanzanian beauty which we are thankful to have known. I did one watercolor for each month of the year, so I will also be selling a calendar that resulted from this work, if anyone is interested. (See photos and paragraph below.)

Thanks for listening and looking. May your New Year be bright.

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2016 Calendar: Memories of Tanzania

In hopes that others might find joy in these images, as I have in my memories, I decided to sell my watercolor prints in the form of a 2016 calendar. The calendars come on a 9×6 clipboard, as shown in the pictures. They are $30 each, plus shipping.

I will be taking orders until midnight on Sunday night, January 11th. Calendars will be printed and completed over the next few days and shipped between January 15-17th.

To place an order please click on the “Contact” tab above and use the form to send me a message with your shipping address. I will then email you an invoice with your total cost (including estimated shipping). You will then be able follow a link to pay easily and securely online. (Or, if you would prefer to pay by check let me know.)

Happy New Year!

—Lauren

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Thoughts on a Saturday Morning

It is a beautiful, quiet morning in Searcy, Arkansas. I am curled up in a comfy old chair listening to the sounds around me. I can hear the soft click of the keyboard as Travis works on the computer in the other room. The snow and ice of the week turned to rain this morning, and it is lightly pattering on the windows. I hear the soft whir of the heater as it clicks on, working hard to keep us warm.

Oliver is snuggled in bed for an early nap, and I can feel myself slowly settling into the quiet.

What a crazy few months. It is hard to believe that we are in the US right now. In a way it feels like we are in a dream: like I will wake up and be back in my Tanzanian home. Or was Tanzania the dream?

The rain has slowed, and a bird chirps into the break of rain drops. His chirping transports my mind to Tanzania as if he was answering my question. No, this is not a dream. And neither was Tanzania. How many times have the birds in Tanzania sung notes of comfort to my soul? How many times have they reminded me of beauty and grace, and called me to cast down my anxiety?

Deep breath. I sink deeper into my chair.

Tanzania. A world we know so well and are so far from. I know life is continuing on without us. When we’ve talked to our friends on the phone they tell us of the rains. I can picture the flooding. The puddles and mud that make walking on roads tricky. I remember the few leaks in our roof that we have tried to repair numerous times. Did I move everything away from that leak? I think so.

I can see the ocean. Reflecting the green of the stormy sky.

I can see the green grass and foliage that is now alive and thriving — having replaced the dry brush and dusty ground only a few months ago.

I can feel the hot breeze blowing through my ever-open kitchen window. And smell the salt of the ocean in the wind.

Oh, no, Tanzania is not a dream. It is a place that holds us captive. Our hearts will forever be intertwined with our many friends there. It is a place that holds so many of our memories: good and bad, laughter and tears. It is a place we hope to return to: to see our friends, to sit on our front steps, to swim in that salty sea.

Deep breath. I hear Oliver stirring, bringing my attention back to my current surroundings.

I glance out the window. The rain has stopped, and the tree outside is now full of chirping birds. Again reminding me not to worry.

As I stand from my cozy spot on the chair to go get my sleepy boy, one final thought:

May I always be present where I am, but may I never forget where I have been, and may I always be grateful for both.

The last few months…

Well, folks, it has been almost three months since we last posted a blog. Three months!! And, let me tell you, those three months flew by in a flash!

Whenever that much time elapses between blog posts (this, unfortunately, happens more frequently that not), I have a debilitating urge to fill you in on everything that has happened–which, of course, is impossible.

So, in the words of Inigo Montoya from The Princess Bride:

“Let me explain… no, there is too much. Let me sum up.”

On March 20 we welcomed a charming little man into our family: Oliver Easton. We have enjoyed getting to know him over the past few months. He has already brought so much joy and laughter to our little family.

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Because much of our furlough-time was spent waiting for our baby–and then recovering from an unplanned C-section–we did not get to see everyone we would have liked! If you are one of our many friends who we did not get to visit this time, just know we missed seeing you and look forward to the next time our paths cross.

Though we would have loved to spend more time with our friends and loved ones across the US, the fact that we didn’t have much choice but to stay put for a while actually allowed us some time to rest and rejuvenate–something that we really needed. So, though we may have been a little sleep deprived from the nights with a new baby, by the end of our time in the States we felt rested and ready to get back to Tanzania.

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My two boys.

Which brings us up-to-date. We are back in Mtwara! We were warmly welcomed by team-mates and friends. It has been so fun to introduce Oliver to our many friends here!

And since “summing up” is much harder to do in words, I turn to my ever faithful pictures to do the work for me.

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Bekari meeting baby Oliver (pronounced: Oh-li-va)

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Fatima meeting Oliver

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Aletheia and Oliver

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Jeda and Oliver (the two little boys on the team)

 

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Swimming with Sarah and Reed

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Oliver’s first swim in the Indian ocean!!

 

Introducing…

Oliver Easton

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Thursday night — at 11:21pm, in Jellico, Tennessee, weighing in at 8 pounds and measuring 20 inches — we welcomed our son, Oliver Easton Trull, into the world.

The name Oliver is derived from the olive tree, which has grown for thousands of years across numerous cultures and religions as a symbol of peace.

The name Easton refers to the direction east, toward the sunrise, symbolizing the hope, possibility, and new life that come with each new day.

The meanings of these names mean a lot to us as we wish for our son a life resonating with peace and resounding with hope and possibility. But in the end the name doesn’t define the person, the person gives definition to the name, and we hope that Oliver Easton will fill his given names with greater virtue, definition, and meaning than could have ever been originally embedded within them.

Waiting for Lil’ Bit

“I held my breath as we do sometimes to stop time when something wonderful has touched us…”  –  Mary Oliver

Life seems a bit unreal these days. We are here in the States waiting to welcome our first child into the world. And, in the few short weeks we have been here, there have been many wonderful moments in which I have held my breath, trying to stop time.

Here are just a few of those moments:

– The day that we drove from Washington DC to Tennessee, surrounded by sunshine and snow.

– The few days my whole family was together in our little Tennessee valley, catching up with each other and eagerly anticipating two new family members — our little boy and my sister’s little girl (both due sometime in March.)

– The moment we met our new little nephew, Tyler Paxton Trull, for the first time. We soaked up many sweet snuggles with him over a few relaxing days at Travis’s brother and sister-in-law’s house.

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Our sweet nephew Tyler.

– Our first evening in Alabama where we sat with Travis’s parents, in their cozy living room, sharing stories and experiences since the last time we were together.

– The fun conversations with Travis’s extended family after church on Wednesday night.

– Sitting down to a true southern breakfast around Travis’s grandparents table one crisp Alabama morning.

– Feeling truly showered with gifts and blessings at three different baby showers in three of our homes: Tanzania, with our team-mates (before we left TZ); in Jellico, surrounded by the women who watched me and my sisters grow up; and in Alabama, surrounded by Travis’s community of family and friends. We felt truly blessed.

– Drinking chai and coffee around our wood-burning stove as winter hesitates to let go.

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Snowflakes in March

– And now, as we are back in Jellico waiting for our Lil’ Bit to arrive, we are soaking up the moments of pre-parenthood by wandering the woods and going to see movies as often as we can.

I want to remember all these moments — so, as each wonderful thing touches us, I hold my breath in an attempt to stop time.

And yet, even though there are many moments we wish we could pause, we are also eagerly anticipating our new baby’s arrival and look forward to introducing him to the world. Though we are not going to get to travel as much this time as we would like, we are planning a trip in April to Arkansas, where we are eager to see and visit with as many of our state-side friends as possible.

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Mitty-esque Moments

“To see the world, things dangerous to come to, to see behind walls, to draw closer, to find each other and to feel.” —  The Secret Life of Walter Mitty

We arrived in the States a few weeks ago, here to have our first baby. Life in Tanzania has had a certain intensity to it. It’s as if we’re rafting a river that is all rapid. Paddle left! paddle right! back-paddle! back-paddle! The river rarely slows to meander through a beautiful woodland or along a mighty escarpment. This pace of movement — this relentless intensity — doesn’t give much space to pause and appreciate the adventure.

So our time here in the States serves as a short, meandering moment in our long trip down life’s river. It is an opportunity to reflect, to consider what has happened and where we have come, and it is a rare opportunity to collect ourselves and gear up for the coming whitewater.

As we reflect we see that there is quiet to our chaos. We look back and even through the fog of chaos emerge moments of life’s pristine, humble glory.

“To see the world, things dangerous to come to, to see behind walls, to draw closer, to find each other and to feel…”

…that is the stuff of life, and these are a few of those moments.

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It has been a week of reflection. The kind of week where sad news pauses everything — making us stop and look heavenward for answers and comfort. The kind of week that makes us think about the important things — reminding us of how precious people are and how short life is. It has been the kind of week that reminds us of how each person’s fingerprints on the world are immeasurable.

Last week, one such person left her lovely fingerprints on this world as she left it. There are no words to express the sadness we feel that Lisa Carr, a woman I am honored to have known, is no longer present with us on this earth. And there are no words to express how thankful we all are for her life and for the example she shared of love, grace, faithfulness, prayerfulness, and beauty. To Lisa’s family, thank you for sharing her with all of us. We are thinking about and praying for you!

I don’t know if there are some weeks or months that just hold more sad news than others; but, if so, January was one of those. A number of my friends and aquaintances lost loved ones this past month. To those friends I just want to say that our hearts are breaking for you. And, the world is thankful for your loved ones’ fingerprints.

To the the families of Lisa Carr, Chris Dell, Steve Roberts, Kailey Massey, Polly Hilbert, and anyone else who may be hurting right now… May the God of comfort be with you!

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