My friends over at The Archibald Project, Whitney and Nick, recently contacted me with the idea of hosting a media mission in Jinja, Uganda where creatives give back and tell stories through their art form. I was beyond ecstatic about this idea and then they asked if they could team up with We Spread the Love, and I just got even more excited! As some of you may know, We Spread the Love is a community of people with big hearts wanting to give back with their God given talents. We are opening that up with a volunteer program next year, providing opportunities for people to come and dive into the culture and communities with projects that give back. So this was absolutely the best way to start off that mission!
The Archibald Project is one that truly was created out of a selfless and giving place in The Runyons hearts. As a non-profit, they provide the service of traveling with families during their adoption process and telling the story of the orphan. I had the opportunity to meet them in Jinja last year when they were there documenting The Via family who moved to Jinja, Uganda to be with their daughter Chloe who they were having difficulty retaining a visa to bring her back to the states…so they brought home to Chloe. Whitney and Nick documented this story in such a beautiful way…truly sharing all the emotions this family experienced upon leaving the states and moving to Uganda, Africa for the next 3 years. They tell BIG, BEAUTIFUL and BOLD stories….the stories of Gods love.
As we team together, we now want you to come and join us on a media mission for a week next March. It will consist of loving on lots of children in a local babies in Jinja home called Arise and Shine. Mid week we will take a trip to the Kibuye that the organization Arise and Shine works with and sustains where we will document stories of local villagers like Faith whose lives have radically changed through organization programs like the orphanage, sewing projects, english lessons, malnutrition programs, etc. We will end the week relaxing on an island along The Nile River to invest in one another and just come together and support each other in community.
This team will be small and in the future we will bring more people and provide more opportunities like this. There is an application process that will be reviewed and prayed over as Whitney and Nick select the group for this first trip. Your life will be changed and through the work you are doing, you will ultimately change lives as well.
” Some stories are beautiful, some powerful, and some heart breaking, but all of these stories need to be told. We tell these stories. We use our cameras to advocate for orphans. We capture precious moments that stir the heart and inspire others to adopt. We show the world little faces still waiting for a family. We let the orphan know that their life and their story matter. We give a face to the faceless and a voice to the voiceless. We want the world to know that they exist and we will travel anywhere we are called in order see this purpose accomplished.”- The Archibald Project
Arise and Shine Babies Home
Faith and Family // Kibuye Village
Delivering images to Faith before I left Uganda
I told myself I would never wear red lipstick. I don’t know where this phobia of colored lips came to play in my life but as far back as I can remember…it was something that I hated. I grew up with this beautiful woman as my neighbor that I knew as Grandma Rose. Her hair stood firm with half a can of Aquanet daily and her lips always adorned with a shade of pink or red. As much as I loved Grandma Rose…I hated her kisses. They left stains on all of her straws and cups and especially on my olive skin. She respected my phobia and would give me the biggest hugs or would wait to apply lipstick until after she spoiled me with kisses. Her kisses literally made impressions, were everlasting and full of confidence.
Fast forward 20 years and I recently purchased my very own red lipstick because of my own desire. To be honest, I haven’t kept it on very long. I think it’s going to be something of an acquired taste and I am definitely going to have to get used to seeing it stain everything my mouth touches, but it’s a start. Now that I think of it, I have slowly ventured into womanhood. I didn’t grow up doing lots of girly things like painting nails, curling hair or wearing different kinds of makeup. I have never dyed my hair and it wasn’t until a few years ago I purchased my first pair of high heels. Maybe I wanted to live this young girl, carefree life as long as I could or maybe I just never thought I would be very good at being a woman and I felt like I had to constantly search on what that looked like.
The fact of the matter is and if I can be corny for a second and quote Britney Spears…I’m not a girl, I am a woman. I have experienced the in between of “not yet a woman”. I feel like this year especially has been the biggest journey of that. The last few years I have been searching for what I wanted life to look like and who I wanted to be and I am finally understanding what God is asking from me.
He is asking me to put on red lipstick, leave an impression of love and be confident in who He has designed me to be.
I married young, at 21 years of age, and really planned what I wanted the rest of my life to look like. In “my dream plan” I wanted to be starting a family at 26, I wanted to have just moved into our home with the white picket fence across from the community park and I wanted a business that I shared just with my husband. The reality of it all is that I held on so tightly to my own dream that I didn’t allow or welcome in growth for myself, my partner or for us. I was forcing my phobias on life, like that red lipstick stain, and making my own rules for everyone to abide by. If it didn’t fit into “the plan”…it wasn’t even worth discussing. I didn’t know how to be confident, courageous or welcoming to Gods plan.
Present day? My ex and I divorced shy of two years of marriage, he actually just started his own family at age 26 as I have found my life partner and best friend, and the business I began is growing and so many people are involved in it. And all of these things, through lots of healing and forgiveness, are so amazing!! Once my own plans got knocked out and I learned to trust in God and what He has in store for me, living became this thriving activity full of so much adventure and freedom!
So as I have been searching the past few years… I have been taking many opportunities. I have been listening to my gut and allowing God to guide me through it all. I have met amazing people and seen amazing places. I have felt like “I had it all figured out” to only realize, that I never will. I have been learning to take it all one day at a time.
I am focusing on becoming the woman I want to be and that being a woman of God. I am trying so hard to focus less on me and more on others. I am keeping my heart open to taking risks and dreaming big but also coming first to the Lord and seeing what He wants for me. This year has been humbling. It’s been one that has stretched me, challenged me and allowed me to grow more into someone I could only have dreamt I would be.
Through my time in Uganda and giving up a lot to have that experience, I felt the strongest I have ever been. I remember leaving Africa feeling like I could do anything and I had all of the strength and motivation behind me to do so. When I stepped back on American soil, I felt the weakest I had been in such a long time…I felt so lost. My emotions have been on an absolute roller coaster ride the last 6 months. Falling in love and figuring out a future with your best friend will certainly do that to you as well as fitting “your own life” into that. I have felt the most loved ever by a human being and I have hated on myself the most from insecurities and fears creeping up on me from past experiences. I have learned time and time again to forgive and to love unconditionally…mainly for myself. Through every challenge, there is strength at the finish line. And that is exactly what I have learned this life is…a marathon of sorts.
So what kind of woman do I want to be and embrace for myself? I want to be the woman God has created me to be. I want to be strong, courageous and a whimsical dreamer. I want to live with a childlike soul so I can continue seeing His beauty from the eyes of a child but with the wisdom of an adult woman. I want to step up and take risks when He asks me to and I want to listen to His voice when He asks me to stay put and be present in my own community. I want to leave a courageous, confident impression of love…just like red lipstick kisses. I want to be available to others as I know over the past year, I have made myself the most unavailable.
That is where this post started from…being available. This year has been one where I have been continually reached out to. It is the biggest blessing and honor. It’s also been overwhelmingly beautiful. I find myself in tears every day reading e-mails from beautiful people around the world. I want so badly to sit down with each e-mail and devote an hour or so in reply, but then I see my list of editing and shoots that has to happen in between all of the travel going on in the midst of emotional lessons. I so badly am working on being as available as I can be to all of you. As the woman God has created me to be, I thrive off hearing stories and connecting to people. I believe we are all here to help one another and it’s my biggest honor that I could connect with some of you.
So as I move forward, I start small in dedicating time to you. If it is connecting for a coffee, skype session or simply replying back to one of the many e-mails one day at a time, I will be here for you. Forgive me as I learn to juggle it all but I feel the Lord asking me to find balance in making space for others. Whether that be a reply e-mail or simply being able to dedicate my time to building a volunteer program and community to offer unique giving opportunities…I am doing it for you.
Through all of my self discoveries, even the ones where I learn I really do love girly things, I am learning to grow and stretch to welcome the woman God wants me to be instead of constantly feeling I have to search for it. I will lay down my life to be available to others. I will take risks on people and opportunities. I will love myself and others as unconditionally as God does and I will always move forward hand in hand with my Father.
Once upon a time in late July, J.P. planned a surprise adventure for us…well the surprise was for me but it sure was an adventure for the both of us.
It all started in Long Beach where we boarded a boat to take us an hour away from the main coast to Catalina. I had never been to this island, but could always see it out there in the distance…well depending on the day and the fog factor in Los Angeles. I don’t really know what I expected but I was blown away. Approaching the island, it felt like we were pulling up to a coastline in Europe. Upon docking and unloading…of course that dream diminished but I was still in awe.
The plan was camping and to be honest, I had no idea what that entailed on an island. Usually when we camp we have the luxury of our car, we pull up to our campground and comfortably keep all of our goods safe and organized. For this camping trip we had to carry everything with us. I was excited for this challenge for carrying around 60lbs of gear up hill, in the heat and avoiding grazing buffalo because it was probably the closest we would ever get to stories our grandparents would share. You know the ones… ” I walked miles up hill in the snow to and from school ever day..”. We did well. There were some stops, stretching, switching off gear and looking back at our trail and wondering how the heck we had walked all of that with the load on our backs. At one point when we got closer to our camp ground, a beautiful group of buffalo came toward us. No one had warned us of what to do when you are presented in this situation so we assumed they weren’t all that dangerous. We just stood by as they grazed by, those big beautiful gentle creatures and felt so small in this big story of God.
We cooked amazing food, hiked for many miles, took naps on random picnic tables, explored the Catalina airport, took pictures in the sunset fog and finished our last day off in the town of Catalina with the rest of civilization. It was a trip I would have never dreamt up and that is what made it so special..it was one of a kind.
We chose the campground with the beautiful tree and tire swing of course.
Man. Make. Fire.
The day we hiked about 6 miles to the airport.
The simplicity of cooking next to a campfire is one I will never tire of.
Our evening walk after dinner turned into some of the most beautiful moments.
Back to town…