Murchison Falls National Park

This year I took two trips to Uganda's most popular national park - Murchison Falls National Park. We took a group of 30, who came for The Unity Initiative, on safari and I had to take an earlier trip to the park to hash out logistics for the group, so we made it into a family weekend.

This park remains one of the most popular game parks because the delta attracts animals, so you don't have to drive long to find good game sightings. We also managed to snag the best park ranger, who spotted a leopard hanging in a tree from an unimaginable distance.

I've been on safari more times than I can count now, but it never gets old and has become a favorite way for our family to get out of the city. There is always something about the wild that will beckon us. Here is a collection of some of my favorite photos of those two trips.

Talk to me about:

A couple of weeks ago, I led a soul/self-care workshop at an organization's annual staff retreat and upon arrival, I was handed a name tag with two categories I had to fill in:
Name:
Talk to me about:

Clearly, the first category was not a problem, but I took a long pause at the second one. I was in a group of mostly strangers and they wanted to know what they could talk to me about. What made me interesting or unique? What could I offer a conversation?  I found myself intimidated by the question and thought of the only two things my life is currently consumed by: my son, Leo, and the spiritual life I've been diving into with The Living School and my work in soul care.  I didn't know what else to talk about, so I wrote down those two things.

I don't think I'm a bad conversationalist, but after filling out the name tag, I felt embarrassed. I realized I'm better at tailoring the conversation to the other person's interests than I am at offering my own funny stories or quirks. The topics I enjoy talking about aren't usually light cocktail conversations; they are more suited to a cozy cafe, longer chunks of time, and knowing someone intimately. I'd love to get better at the fun and light conversations about myself, but until then, I've thought of a few of my favorite topics of conversation. Here are some things you can talk to me about, maybe over coffee sometime.

- Community and individuality: How to remain part of a community while maintaining your unique individuality, especially when you feel different from everyone else. What is the value of staying in a community of people who make you feel uncomfortable? What does staying look like and when should you leave?

- Motherhood as a spiritual path: Is it possible to maintain a contemplative practice while being a mother? What does this look like? What unique contributions can mothers make to the way of wisdom?

- Feminism, women in leadership, and women as peacemakers: Why it's so important and what prevents women from reaching our potential.

- Rituals, and why they matter: Making personal and communal rituals with meaning to acknowledge the passing of time, to mark an important transition, or to remember a deep truth.

- Simplicity: Why lightening the load in life is a key to happiness and a better world. What makes it so hard? Why "no" is a beautiful word and "enough" is a lovely concept.

-Wonder and mystery: Why allowing ourselves to be amazed and remain in not-knowing is so important to our spiritual lives. How wonder weaves itself into the smallest moments and yet manifests as all of Reality.

- Photography and bird watching: How they both keep me present, make me notice What Is, and keep me amazed.

-My son: The joy of my life and the one who pushes me to the limits the most often; my greatest teacher and bringer of laughter

- How little peace makes big peace: Why peace in the world can't happen until we find peace in ourselves. How the problems in ourselves manifest in the larger world and how it's easier to see the problem "over there" rather than "in here."

- My journey with the Christian faith: A wandering and continuing journey within, out of, around, and at the fringes of this religion. My scoffing at it, questions with it, trouble with the label of it, and finding beauty in its essence. How it has helped me find truth elsewhere and how other traditions have played a part in bringing me back to my own.

Spacecraft

Empty space can be an invitation. Whether space in time or a physical place, emptiness invites creation - a making of something where there was nothing.  There is a creative act in the filling of emptiness; I like to call it Spacecraft.

The past year of my life has been one of fluidity. There is less predictability, schedule, and set expectations, than in other seasons, so that leaves a lot of empty space to be filled and it's up to me to decide how to fill it. Who to be, what to do?  These are big questions.

I keep finding myself saying I want to, "create spaces for people to access their own wisdom."  I just keep saying that and so there must be something Real in it. Surely, I must listen to myself and surely there must be wisdom in something that seems to keep bubbling up from a place deep inside.

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Here are a few of the spaces I've filled or I'm working to fill, all exciting and touching on a purpose I can't quite pinpoint and say, "This right here is who I am and what I do."  All I can really say is, "I'm starting to specialize in Spacecraft."

SPACES IN TIME

  • There is a week in July that a friend and I decided to use to bring people together across continents and across religious divides to form lasting friendships. We meet each week to decide how to best fill this week and we're quite certain it's going to be a special time.  Find out more at The Unity Initiative website.
  • Nonprofit organizations in the region are giving me spaces in their annual staff retreats or within their work days to lead workshops on staff care and soul care. Emotional and spiritual burnout is a common issue for those working to improve the lives of others; we can't give what we do not have and we cannot help when we are cynical and stressed. This has become an issue I love working on and one that needs addressing. I'm also consulting individuals who are taking a personal retreat and need ideas on how to best fill their time to make it meaningful and leave them feeling full again. This is all a lot of fun for me.
  • Last year, I worked with a team to host 200 people from this region and around the world to come together and learn how the teachings of Jesus are not Christian, but radically relevant to us all and a point of unity across the divides in our world. My specialty was in organizing the small groups and craft how people from all different backgrounds would get to know one another deeply within a few days. It was my dream assignment.

PHYSICAL SPACES

  • Last year, we crafted a rooftop jungalow addition to our home. An empty rooftop is now a treasured Space for the Special.
  • There is a piece of land right on the Nile River, only a few kilometers from where this longest river in the world begins its journey. A vision is slowly forming around this family property and we've had the fun privilege to share in its creation.  A beautiful home is nearing completion and we hope to use this space to serve others well for rest, fun, and soul-searching.

DIGITAL SPACE

  • Last year I began The Living School and I'm working to be more consistent in my spiritual practice alongside motherhood.  It launched me into a journey of questioning whether it's possible to be both a mother and a contemplative. After all, there aren't many role models out there who bridge those two worlds. After thinking about this for over year and talking to several other women, I started on online space to expand this conversation.  Do let me know if you're interested in exploring the topic of "Motherhood as Spiritual Practice" with me.

DIY boat bookshelf

Last July, Eric and I drove out to Lake Victoria to pick out an old fishing canoe as our anniversary gift to one another.  We saw an old one with lots of holes, half-sunk and rotting away on the banks of the river, with several pieces of trash floating in its mucky water.  It was the one for us.

This sounds like a strange anniversary gift, I know.  But we had a project in mind, so we got the help of several locals to load the boat on top of the truck, unsure if we could make it home with the huge load.  We were told to have an "African heart" and that it would all work out.  Our carpenter friend rode along with us, calling out the window to everyone along the way who were giving us strange looks, "Da flood is coming! This is Noah!" Despite the excitement, we managed to avoid all traffic police and we took every bump and pothole along the way as slow as we could, and we made it home with our rickety boat in one piece.

It was not in one piece for long.  After unloading our rotting treasure, our carpenter cut the canoe in half and there we left it, sitting in our yard waiting for the wood to dry out.  Several weeks later, the carpenter came back and nailed a few planks into each side of the boat to make shelves.  And viola!  Our anniversary gift to each other - now a unique bookshelf with a story - adorns the corner our dining room and may just be our favorite piece of furniture.

Kreitzberg family photos

When we returned to Uganda with Leo as a fresh addition to our family, we took him to a farmers' market one weekend and there I met another mom with another baby boy, just a month older than Leo.  Danielle and I quickly became friends and so did our boys, Akai and Leo.  Her husband, Brock, and Eric also became friends and shared life together in a weekly guys' group while Danielle and I had regular play dates.  We cheered Brock on about a year later as he boarded an emergency flight to the US, trying to make it to Danielle in time for the birth of their second son, Ari, who decided to arrive a bit early.  Brock did make it in time, with an epic story to tell of a trans-Atlantic Skype session on the plane while his wife was in labor.  Thank God for in-flight Wifi!

The whole Kreitzberg family have become friends with our whole family and it was sad news to receive when we heard Brock would take a new job stateside and they would soon leave Uganda.  I was honored to capture their sweet family before they left us and capture their life here in Uganda, the only home their boys have known.  The Kreitzbergs will be missed by all of us, but we wish them well in this next chapter!