The {African} Elephant in the Room


Now that I’ve come and gone I know what you all want to know. You want to know the exact same thing that I want to know.  You want to know what one brave lady dared to put into words:



I love that it’s from Cindy, a fellow home blogger.  She gets that there could be a disconnect.  And I did respond to her in the comments but my first reaction in my head was::

I KNOW!  Why in the world do you think I didn’t want to go?  Because before I went all I could think of was “this is totally gonna ruin my blog and then I will have no business whatsoever”.  Thanks a lot Shaun Groves.

and then I also thought…

If it wasn’t for Nesting Place I wouldn’t be able to sponsor 3 boys, I probably wouldn’ t even know much about Compassion, I certainly wouldn’t have gotten to meet Topiwo.  Maybe Nesting Place isn’t such a bad gig?

and then I also thought…

How can ANY OF US continue to do what we do and go about our normal business?  We all saw those children in need, not just me–hey, don’t put this all on me, we are in this boat together!

and I also thought,

maybe change isn’t a bad thing, maybe one can be changed without changing every single thing, maybe it just changes things about those things for the better–are you following my thinking?


And then I got back to the US on Sunday and GUESS WHAT?!

Everyone here still has the audacity to have houses!  And they have the nerve to still live in them! They still procrastinate and don’t enjoy them and use them to their fullest potential because of fear. And I still feel called to be a voice that speaks into those fears and after learning from Topiwo I feel even more equipped.

And I think about what they would do.  Because I know if our roles were switched these maternal ladies would sponsor my child in a heartbeat and they would do whatever it was that God gifted them to do in whatever crazy field that was in order to make that happen and make no apologies.  And I think they would tell me to do the same.

And I remember she told me it took her two weeks to hand bead her necklace.  Just that one small one–she’s wearing two in this photo the bigger one seems twice as big.   We all seek beauty, don’t we?  It’s a universal trait we inherited from our Creator.  And most of us, even if we live in a mud hut, will make the time to create beauty.  Meaningful beauty with purpose and balance.

And I think about that book I started writing in January.  And how I’ve struggled with it and not even told you about it and wondered what it’s purpose was and suddenly after walking into a mud hut and seeing a declaration of faith I feel like I’m ready to tackle those words again with a fresh perspective.

And I think about how I am blessed and how they are blessed too and how we are different and the same.

And I think about this conversation between two women of great faith that I love and consider mentors, Darlene and Angela as they talk about creating beauty in the image of God.

So yesterday I went to super Target and I did not cry.  I even *gasp* bought a Starbucks coffee and didn’t have guilt (ok maybe a little but not much).  I wrote sponsor letter and gave a family gift to the three boys we sponsor and was thrilled I could.  I cried in the car on the way to carpool.  And today I’m getting ready for the magazine people to come to my home next week and I even bought some pillows for our bed (even though I self righteously told Shuan Groves I would not under any circumstances be buying anything for my house because of this shoot).

And I have a new passion to continue to think about my home and share it with you for as long as you will listen.  Changed, but not changing everything.  Although still, EVERYTHING HAS CHANGED.

Are we clear?



  1. I had never heard of Compassion until you began blogging about them and the opportunities to sponsor a child. Because of your faith and courage to share, my husband and I are now sponsoring a little boy from Ghana. Thank you for sharing your pictures and encouraging us!

  2. As we’re going through our NINTH move, I’ve become even more aware than ever of the ridiculous superfluity of schtuff in our lives. Really . . . I’ve not pushed back hard enough against the convenience marketing and disposable nature of so much around me. (Even my $$$$ washer was made to be disposable! GAH. If I didn’t have so many kids, I would seriously wash by hand.)

    Thank you for the reminder . . . thank you for hitting me over the head (again!) with the fact that I can do without this doohickey or that tchotchke so I can help someone far, far away. Education is the wealth that we really need to spread . . . and that needs some $$ to grease the wheels.

  3. …and all God’s children said…amen…never ever feel guilty about where God placed you…just make sure that place is made better by your having been there in His name…

    • Wise words … thank you Laney! I know that I can feel very guilty when I think of these things but know that God has placed me where I am at this exact time for His purposes. As His creation, may I be used as He intended!!

  4. Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I have been blessed to travel to Zambia three times and soon to be four. Once we stayed eight days in the bush. I have always brought back so much more than I feel I give. Only God knows what we give.
    It has made me a better steward of what God has given me.
    I never expected to have reverse culture shock but I do every time. The first time I came back, I felt like I was in a foreign country. Nothing seemed right to me for a long time. I could not even run a tub full of water for two years. I never take a bath without thanking God for clean, hot water.
    Thanks for what you do and Blessings,

  5. I love this post :) i struggled so much returning to my world after spending 3weeks in Ecuador when i was 12… it took me much longer to realize truth about guilt and when i should and shouldn’t feel it. You are so healthy, and so right, and i love the change, but also the non-change :)

  6. Victoria says

    I so enjoyed all of your posts from Tanzania. They touched my heart and reminded me of my first mission trip. And I can so relate to your experience and feelings upon coming home. I have experienced those feelings with every mission trip. You wonder if you should feel guilty about our having the freedom to go to Super Target and get a Starbucks. But how can we feel guilty if we are where God put us in this world? We are blessed to be a blessing. We should only feel guilty if we return totally unchanged inside and without compassion and wanting to help with whatever resources we have available to help others, even if it is to extend our love and encouragement in small ways through giving of our time and talents. He came to give us life more abundantly and to share that life more abundantly. And I believe that when our spirits are overflowing it touches every other area of our lives. So be blessed and enjoy those new pillows where you will experience an overflow of newly inspired dreams and encouraging words to write. I am reminded of this scripture regarding your Nesting Place…”Through skillful and godly wisdom is a house, a home, a family, built, and by understanding it is established on a sound and good foundation. And by knowledge shall the chambers of its every area be filled with all precious and pleasant riches” (Proverbs 24 vv. 3-4 AMP).

  7. Beautiful. I also wonder how people are going to change after an eye opening experience like this. The guilt comes naturally. It took me so long to get over the guilt after returning from Nicaragua 3 years ago. I saw so much and my heart was changed. I’m glad you enjoyed a Starbucks and that you bought the pillows. :-) I’m also thankful that you went and you saw what you did. You will be forever changed and your fresh new perspective will be a blessing to many!

  8. I wanted to give you the link to a shout out I gave you today after seeing some of your work on Pinterest! I’m also your newest follower here and on Pinterest. Blessings ~

  9. All I can say is: Bless you, my dear!
    I thank God for you! <3

  10. You said that so well! I love it. Keep on doing what God has called you to do in the place he has placed you and follow His calling on your life. Thank you so much for sharing – right on! :)

  11. I’ve been to Africa once. It is hard to know how to deal with our prosperity when we return. Your thoughts on it are perfect. God planted us here in this prosperous country and to not enjoy it is to turn our back on the blessing he has provided. Thanks for always sharing from your heart.

  12. When I think about your return and this very topic I can’t help but remember a devotional I read one time. And I don’t even know who to give credit to because I can’t remember where I read it. Either way I’ll never forget what it taught me…

    I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. Phil 4:12

    The writer pointed out that often times we only focus on the IN NEED part of this verse. We feel guilty for what we HAVE when there are others IN NEED. That then leads you to miss the message in this verse – the secret to contentment… Jesus.

    I should be just as full of joy today with my plenty if tomorrow it were all stripped away. If I lost it all would Jesus be enough.

    So that’s one thing I was reminded of when following your journey. Maybe they unknowingly taught us about contentment. Whether in a home in America or a mud hut in Africa.

    Thanks for sharing so much about your trip!! :)

  13. A friend and I were just talking about this subject.
    Right now, in the Christian Community, it seems that what is being projected and taught is that we should be ashamed and guilty for what we have, what we have worked very hard for, what we have been blessed with.
    We are commanded to help the widows and the orphans. I can’t do that without a job to ear money to help them. I can’t move there. Why? Because the Lord hasn’t told me to. But he HAS told me to help them. And I can do that by sending $$$, by going there, by telling others, by supporting others.
    And, I can still have a Starbucks, buy a pretty dress and eat dinner with my family in my house the Lord has provided.
    Thank you for your perspective and for sharing your experience!

  14. So Nester, I have to share with you my “God story”. My 11 year old daughter and I followed your Tanzania blog and as a result I started thinking about sponsoring a 2nd child. I hadn’t mentioned it to my hubs yet, but my soul was a-stir. Then a few days ago I woke up with a voice mail message from Compassion letting us know that our former sponsor child, Eric, who we sponsored for 5 years and who left the Compassion program without any word to them (or me, sniff sniff) was BACK IN THE PROGRAM AND WE HAVE FIRST CRACK AT SPONSORING HIM AGAIN!!! So I shared w/ my hubs about your blog and desiring to sponsor a 2nd child and the phone call from Compassion, and guess what? He didn’t bat an eye. So we’re now so blessed and honored to sponsor both boys and this week I am sitting down to write my first letter to Eric since he’s been back and I can’t wait to tell him, “I missed you! I cried when you left! I’m so glad that you’re back! How are you? How is your family? How can we pray for you? And while you were gone I became a grandma and here’s his picture!” Aaaahhh so fun!!! Thanks, Nester, for going and for sharing, and for growing and changing but still being your wonderful self. Hugs to you!

  15. I just wanted to let you know how much your posts about your trip have touched my heart. I started bawling as I was reading through them – so I signed up to sponsor a child! Thanks so much for sharing with us & reminding me of what’s important!

  16. you literally said it perfectly.
    “Changed, but not changing everything. Although still, EVERYTHING HAS CHANGED.”

  17. May we all have the courage to follow what God places before us each day, without guilt and worry about what everyone else thinks. As a wise friend once told me, and I need to remember, “Do what God has called you to, even it is without an audience. Don’t worry about what everyone else thinks…” Not easy, but a good reminder. So proud of you for taking this trip and being willing to process it here, out loud. Psalm 46:5

  18. Thank you for this post. I am considering a Compassion trip and am afraid of these feelings. Your post hit home. Thanks.

  19. So good. Thanks Nester.

  20. Love you, girl! I think there are many challenges we don’t necessarily see that are a result of living in such a wealthy culture. You hit so many of them on the head in this post. The struggle, the balance, the perspective of not being able to forget. But most of all, leaving it all in God’s hands to use for His glory as He sees fit. Beautiful post :-)

  21. Hi Nester, Remember me from Life Verse Design? We too sponsor a boy in Tanzania! So I have been living through your blog with dreams of meeting Peter someday. I wonder if Peter knows “your boys”? I am so glad you got to go. I know it has changed you & your family forever, to see more of God’s worldwide work. I also wanted to write because your one image of your books shows “Bringing Up Boys” which is a book I designed years ago! So fun! Another connection.

  22. So awesome, Nester. You go, girl!

  23. It’s so true–
    we all crave beauty.
    I think we all just plain crave, period.

    I love Sara Groves’ lyrics here:
    I believe in a fountain that will never dry
    Though I’ve thirsted and didn’t have enough
    Thirst is no measure of his faithfulness
    He withholds no good thing from us
    No good thing from us,
    no good thing from us

    I’m positive that my “didn’t have enough” looks drastically different from the “didn’t have enoughs” of these people you’ve visited. But how amazing to know that God fills every craving, no matter who we are.

  24. First of all, so happy that you made it home safely.

    Second, I don’t think there is anything else that I can add to what all your readers responded on this post. I’ve been touch and moved to think through your Compassion experience. Isn’t it funny how we sometimes have to go all the way to Africa to find the rest of our life? :)


  25. Thanks to you, we are now sponsoring Peter from Tanzania. Your words DO change the world. Never stop blogging.
    All my love and appreciation,

  26. We are in the process of adopting a child from Ethiopia. So I am pretty sure I get some of the same things you are feeling. For a long time I tended to think of everything in terms of adoption. “That car cost two adoptions. This vacation is 1/5 an adoption. Her stupid shoes cost half an adoption.” And I went through a period of guilt over all that we have. Imagine if you were fundraising too, like we were. Makes you re-think everything. We bought a new TV during the process and even though it was a great deal and we needed one yada yada, I still felt like I needed to justify it to people. “Well it was a floor model…”

    Here’s what I think. Guilt is a stupid emotion. I am prepared to give everything away if the Lord calls me to, and we have indeed made sacrifices for this one adoption. But we are very, very blessed. And to feel guilty about the time and place in history that I was born is to question God’s sovereignty. I believe that the Lord would love for everyone to be able to live in a house that is not only comfortable but lovely. As you pointed out, we all seek beauty. His will is for all of us to have clean sheets and full bellies. These are GOOD things. Blessings. And women who live in mud huts in Africa are blessed in some ways I may never experience.

    But I was not blessed to just sit around self-consumed. We are blessed to be a blessing. Luke 12 says “From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded.” That will mean something different for each of us, but the Lord WILL direct us in the way He is calling us, because we ‘are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.’

    Much better energy is spent praying and seeking after those good works, instead of feeling guilty over the blessings he has bestowed upon us.

  27. Nester, I just returned from a two-week mission trip in Kenya, and I have to say I have even begun processing it yet. The day we left the orphanage, I think my sensitivities went numb, and the rest of the trip seemed quite surreal. I have looked at my photos, and laughed at the conversations I have had about them with my team on Facebook. But I can’t blog about it. I have a lame, “It was intense!” or “It was an adventure!” answer when people ask how my trip was. I’m holding out.

    I can’t open my journal from the trip.

    I know I need to, because that’s when the enormity of all this will hit me. But I know it will make life difficult, this numbness wearing off. But it’s what has has to happen.

    I just wanted to share that I understand what it feels like to reenter our lives after getting a glimpse of someone else’s. I pray God uses you and your team for big things and His glory, and that when the time is right, the Lord can use me, too.

  28. Yes! Finally something about looks great.

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