When we started selling everything to move overseas, I was OK. I only had one emotional breakdown as I watched our belongings disappear one by one. But it was a moment Gabriel was able to quickly diffuse. 

There is only one thing — only one material possession — that I’m truly struggling to leave behind.

[Note: It would have been two things, had my french press not managed to become a stowaway on a shipping container carrying supplies to The Amazima School. But the little guy successfully pulled it off.] 

But this other thing… I felt as though the wind was knocked out of me when I heard the recommendation to not bring it to Uganda. For days I pushed it from my mind, refusing to think (or make a decision) about it. There was risk involved, and while I like taking risks, in the end I decided the possible consequences I might face were not worth it.  

I thought that once the decision to leave it behind was made, it would be easier to do so. The decision has now been made and accepted — yet I still feel this pang of sadness every time I think about it, despite knowing it was the right decision to make. 

So here it is: I have decided to leave behind my engagement ring and wedding band. 

Photography courtesy PattyLynn Photography, LLC

Photography courtesy PattyLynn Photography, LLC

I love our story. I love it that Gabriel proposed to me on top of Mt. Kilimanjaro. But what I love most about it is not the grandeur of the elaborate 6+ day proposal that took months to plan — it’s the moments that led up to the proposal, and the moments that followed. 

Gabriel knew (if I was given the choice), that I would rather be covered in dirt and fighting through challenges together in the wilderness — which we did, as we faced hail, lightning, downpours and blizzards to make it to the top of a continent’s tallest mountain — than to be sitting clean and pretty when he asked me to spend the rest of my life with him. That’s just me, and that’s just us. 

When we tell the story of Mt. Kili, most people focus on the actual bending-down-on-one-knee-at-Gilman’s-Peak chapter of the story. But there was a second part of the proposal…

After returning to an altitude at which we could breath and think clearly once more, Gabriel retrieved a wrapped gift from his pack. I opened it to find a photo book filled with memories from every date we went on together. 

And because he proposed with a “stand-in” ring — as it was recommended he not travel through Kenya and Tanzania with a diamond — at the very back of the book he included pictures of the engagement ring that awaited me in North Carolina.  

When we returned and I received the real ring, I was blown away by how perfect it was. Gabriel asked if I wanted to look at other rings, in case there was another design I liked better? I said no, but (stubborn to the core) he took me to four stores anyway. 

Nothing came close to the cathedral setting solitaire he picked out for me. 

Photography courtesy PattyLynn Photography, LLC

Photography courtesy PattyLynn Photography, LLC

The last time we were in East Africa together, we were getting engaged. Who knew that four years later we’d return to that same part of the world to live?

Our climbing crew on Mt. Kilimanjaro, December 30, 2012 – January 4, 2013. 

Our climbing crew on Mt. Kilimanjaro, December 30, 2012 – January 4, 2013. 

When I look down at my left hand and see my wedding ring, I still think about Kilimanjaro — Every. Single. Time. I think about Gabriel. I think about the dreams we set out to accomplish together. I think about God's dreams for us and our future.

I wish I could say I’ve had some revelation about how my rings are just material possessions and I’m an amazing person and God has changed my heart and I am now OK to leave them behind. They are just things. And God does change hearts. But I am still no where closer to being OK with leaving them behind than I was when the decision was made. 

After looking at it from all angles, I figured there was only one thing to do next: retail therapy. 

I don’t know why I thought retail therapy was the solution (since I hate shopping), but I went for it. A local jewelry store was going out of business, and I figured they might have a simple, no-fuss band for the right price. But nothing in their glass cases screamed discreet or durable — something I could wear safely to the market but also get my hands dirty with in Uganda.

So I continued the search online, but abandoned the cause after a 30 minute search (during which, I remembered my shopping aversion). It didn’t help that I didn’t want to be shopping for a new ring to begin with.

Then, while I was discussing an upcoming fundraiser at My Friend Kate — a local boutique in Greensboro, North Carolina who is partnering with us — I saw it. Simple, thin, durable, size 5… 


Kate retrieved the tungsten ring from its case. It slid perfectly onto my finger, an agreeable fit. It didn’t feel awkward, or as though I was cheating on my other rings. I tried to picture it, covered in the red dirt of Uganda. But I wasn’t quite sure… 

“Take it home with you.” 
“Take the ring with you. Try it out for the next few weeks. Then, if you’re ready, buy it at the fundraiser so the purchase will go towards Uganda.” 

I was speechless at Kate’s generosity. But oh, how I am so grateful. She could see it was a difficult decision for me to leave my wedding rings stateside. And she helped in a way no one else could. 

Over the last few weeks, I’ve worn the new ring on my right hand. I can’t quite bring myself to permanently move it over to the left — I want to wear my “real” rings as long as possible. But from time to time I’ll switch it over. Looking down and seeing it there has been… comforting. 


It’s not trying to replace my wedding rings. And it most certainly can never erase the story of Gabriel’s proposal, or my affinity for my engagement ring. This ring will have it’s own chapter in our story.  

My Friend Kate Fundraiser


Join us from 1 - 4 pm on Sunday, September 25, 2016 for a fundraiser at My Friend Kate — a local jewelry and gift boutique in Greensboro, NC. Kate has generously pledged to donate up to 30% of purchases to our work in Uganda. We’ll be on site and sharing more about our work at The Amazima School and answering any questions you have. For more information, visit our events page on Facebook.