Well of Healing, Weapon of War

It was early in the morning, still dark out. The light from my screen cast its blue hue as I scrolled through recent posts of dear friends and total strangers. Updates on an adoption… questions about plumbers… links to dessert recipes… And then a post caught my eye. It was a quote. I recognized those words.

I said those words. I wrote them in a journal, some time back when my boys were babies and my sleep was scarce. I shared them with a group of mothers and then went about my business for the next six years or so. And then half a globe away from home, I opened Facebook one morning and read back to myself what ‘Sarah Tenney Stehlik’ said one time.



4 Reasons Why I Will Show Respect to President Obama

This is for me, perhaps, the most unusual piece I have written about anything. Ever. I don’t particularly care to engage in politics any more than necessary. I’ve never had much support or passion or interest invested in any particular president. Nor have I ever been particularly hopeful for “great things” from any of our political leaders in my (relatively) short adult life. I suppose I’ve leaned heavily on the reality that we live in a fallen world, in a country governed by fallen men and women who represent fallen men and women. Perhaps I have been too pessimistic at times, or perhaps I am simply a realist. I don’t know.

But I am not arguing that we should take a fatalistic view and blindly accept whatever comes our way because who cares. I think the church should always be the church, whatever the circumstances; and there are a thousand good things we should be doing to love our neighbors and shine the light of Christ. I believe the world will be the better for it and that it is not for nothing. Which brings me back to why I respect President Obama- or at least why I believe I should respect him and why I am striving to respect him.


What About the Kids?

When we told people we were moving to Rwanda, the number one concern we heard was, “How safe is that?” It’s not an altogether unreasonable question. Now, the western obsession with safety would lead any casual observer to think that safety belonged somewhere in the Ten Commandments… Above all else thou shalt be SAFE whither thou comest and goest. But excessive worry over safety aside, there is legitimately a place for wisely evaluating risk, and we understood that not everyone viewed our decision through the same lens we did.


(taking in the falls on the Nile River)


A Different Four-Letter Word

The wide world is all about you: you can fence yourselves in, but you cannot for ever fence it out.*

A letter to my boys (and to myself)

Some will tell you these are scary times… moral anarchy. Economic instability. Political corruption. Unexpected violence in unexpected places. Terrorists. Ebola.

The looming what ifs may bark and hiss with terrible force: what if terrorists attack within our borders? What if freedom as we know it is in its last generation? What if it’s a gunman at our school? What if ebola makes it to our city next?  

But hear this: these are not scary times. Troubled times, yes. Dark days, yes… as have long been on this earth. But not scary. Not scary because of the not ifs… not if God is a sovereign Ruler, not if God is a faithful Deliverer, not if God is a loving Father, not if God is a merciful Redeemer. If those things are true, then these days bring not one thing that should cast fear into your souls.


I Was the One in the Road

It was his feet. That’s how I knew it was a body lying in the road. I told myself that it’d looked more like a blanket I’d caught out of the corner of my eye as I drove by. But no. There were feet. I kept driving- so slowly- while my thoughts raced wild:

Why was there a person lying in the road? Was he hit by a car? Drunk and passed out? Should I go back? There were other cars on the road, people walking past- why was no one stopping? It’s probably not as bad as it seems then. What would I do if I went back anyway? Was he dead? Alive? Injured? If I went back would I even be able to communicate? I’m not the person to stop. I’ll be late to church, and I’m playing tonight. How will they start with drums and a bass and no piano? Rwandans know much more than me how to handle the situation. But if someone doesn’t get him out of the road, he’ll be hit by a car for sure. What if he was already hit by car? What if he’s dying? And then this that brought clarity:

How do I pass by a person lying in the road (on my way to church, no less) and not be the “priest who happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side”? (Lk 10:31)




Profiles of ALARM: Laying Down a Gun, Laying Down a Life

He tells us how he became a soldier… back in the days when the war came to northern Uganda. How he and his friends feared for their lives and left the army to join the rebels in the bush when power changed sides. How years later he left his gun and left the bush but couldn’t quite leave his anger. “That one took a long time,” he tells me. I nod like I have a clue.

Geoffrey 1


Cultural Issues, Scaring the Cows & Belonging Lessons

I pulled our chain link gate closed behind me and faced the red dirt roads of our neighborhood with my running shoes and mp3 player. It was an unusually clear day for so late in the dry season, thanks to a few unexpected rains. Normally the dust hangs thick in the air with a pale earthy hue bathing everything on the horizon. But this day the sky was unmistakably blue, and a fresh breeze skipped across the hills. Maybe that’s what wooed me out of the house and onto the roads for a run by myself.

Usually I go with Paul, but that wasn’t an option this time on account of he had gone head to head with a bacterial infection that had put him in a clinic bed for a few days- and our bed for most of a few more. I don’t prefer to go by myself, and perhaps it was only the earbuds pumping happy melodies into my ears that gave me the reinforcements to go this day. The thing is, it’s not just a physical exercise; it’s a cultural undertaking, which is sometimes truly fascinating and other times draining and often something of both.


Seeing What Is Not Seen

Sometimes I forget.

Day after day I wake up in a land just shy of the equator, a mile or more above sea level where each day looks remarkably like the one before. It will probably be coolish in the morning, likely warmish as the day goes on. The great game changer in the weather would be the rains, which come and go with fair predictability and leave the landscape mostly as they found it- perhaps effecting a bit more green and a bit less haze.

Spring 550

It stops me in my tracks sometimes, to read emails or facebook posts from friends in the states, say, lamenting the blistering late summer heat. It’s summer??? And then before I know it people are posting about apocalyptic winter temperatures and here I am on day 455 of sameness, thinking: What?! They have winter??