“Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot,
Nothing is going to get better. It's not.”
-Dr. Suess, The Lorax

Sunday, November 18, 2012

I’m Missing Thanksgiving at Home, and I’m Okay With That

It’s the week of Thanksgiving.  And it doesn’t feel any different than last week.  Or the week before.  It’s mid-November and I’m still sweating every day as if it was summertime.  Because we live on a tropical Caribbean island.  In my neighborhood, there has been no mention of turkey or cranberry sauce.  Well, there are a few turkeys at the house down the road, but no one has mentioned them in conversations that I’ve been involved with.  No one is decorating their front door with fall foliage, because everything is still green.  I haven’t seen any caricatures of Indians and pilgrims.  Probably because the settlement of Haiti involved the genocide of the indigenous people and there wasn’t a big happy celebratory meal that would make a love mural to reenact by children in costume.  Then the slaves were shipped in.  Oppression is a real downer.
So, um, it just doesn’t quite feel like Thanksgiving to us.  But that’s okay. 
I have spent some time reflecting this weekend, trying to sort out how I feel about this Thanksgiving thing while living here in Haiti.  Last week I was having some mixed feelings, but I’m pleased to report that I’ve gotten a grip on it.
On my food shelf is a little stash of Thanksgiving-ish food that I have been saving for this upcoming Thursday.  A box of Stovetop stuffing (because I do not have the time or energy to make stuffing from scratch), a can of sweet potatoes (the fresh sweet potatoes here don’t taste like American sweet potatoes), and two cans of cranberry sauce (found a buy-one-get-one-free sale at the store last month).  No turkey, though we do have some canned turkey meat that is pretty good. 
I thought it was important.  Now, I realize, it’s just food.  Let me explain.
Thanksgiving – what is its purpose?  To take time to be thankful.  To recognize how we’ve been blessed and to appreciate those blessings.  To spend time with family.  To cook lots of really yummy food and eat until we might just pop.
Wait.  What?  The thankful part – yes.  The family part – yes.  The eating part – well…. That’s just what it ends up being.  The heritage part of the holiday is basically just for nostalgia and a theme for d├ęcor, or so it seems.  When it comes right down to it, our focus is just on the food.  The menu planning.  The days beforehand of cooking.  The table setting.  The cleanup. 
What about the thankfulness part?  Well, that’s covered in the prayer we have before we devour the food.  It is a lot of fun to catch up with all those cousins while we eat, though!  And there are always opportunities to chat while waiting in line at the desert table.  So, that covers it, right?  As pathetic as it sounds, that’s what Thanksgiving usually ends up being for me, no matter how much I aspire to make it something special and pure. 
So this week I will spend Thanksgiving in Haiti.  No one will be celebrating Thanksgiving here.  Thursday is Clinic day.  There will be work to do.  Tasks to complete.  Life as usual. 
But wait!  We ought to take time to be thankful.  Prepare a traditional holiday meal.  Gather around the table and make it something special.   
Here’s the kicker – every single day living here in Haiti I AM thankful.  I can’t help but to be.  We have food, more than we need.  We have shelter, and it’s spacious and comfortable.  We have good health, and medicine when we are sick.  We have clean drinking water, and indoor plumbing (thank you, Jesus!).  We have electricity.  Electricity!  That enables us to have a refrigerator and fans, unlike the majority of our neighbors.  We have everything we need and more.  LOTS more. 
Living here, EVERY SINGLE DAY is filled with thankfulness.  If you open your eyes and see, really see the people around you, it is absolutely impossible to not be thankful for all the blessings in your life.  The depravity and suffering is abundant.  People here are just surviving.  Surviving.  Some families don’t have as many disadvantages as others, but life here is hard.  Gritty, simple, and hard. 
So I don’t really need a special day set aside to be thankful this year.  I’ve been relentlessly hit in the gut with realization of my blessings for five straight months.
I am thankful.       
Family – now that’s a kicker.  We are here, they are not.  It sucks.  But I’m not bummed too much because I am soooo excited to be home in just three weeks.  Just three weeks!  Holy cannoli!  That’s nothing! 
Food – yes, I’ll fix the food.  We have to eat a meal anyway Thursday evening, so why not fix dressing with turkey, some sweet potatoes and cranberry sauce?  It will be tasty and make us feel like we are somewhat connected to the holiday.  But food here, well, it’s a sensitive subject for me.  I spend time with kids every day that are recovering from starvation.  Not, “Mom, I’m starving,” but real, hardcore, heartbreaking STARVATION. 
I don’t know that right now I could even look at a Thanksgiving meal spread without crying.  The abundance.  The excess.  The memory of the babies I have held that are now dead, simply because of lack of food. 
Wow, I just went there.  Sorry about that.  It just spilled out.  Now I’ll lighten the mood a bit.            
When I miss something from home, or really wish I had a ______ , God has given me a fantastic coping mechanism.  He urged me to savor all the stuff I really love before we left home.  He showed me the scenery, the feel of the air, the smell of the grass, the sound of the laughter of people I love. 
He gave me so many details and knit them in my heart and mind. 
The coldness of my favorite milkshake.  The fizz of Dr. Pepper.  The serenity of my favorite coffee shop.  The comfort of the seat in my Honda Pilot, driving down smooth roads so familiar that I could navigate them with my eyes closed.  My niece’s voice saying, “I love you, Allison!”  My Mom’s warm hug that still makes me feel safe and loved.
So missing out on a fantastic Thanksgiving meal isn’t going to be too hard.  I can close my eyes and remember the taste of my mother-in-laws incredible coconut cake, the heavenly smell of my mom’s green bean casserole.  I can imagine the smiles and many hugs that would take place on this upcoming Thursday. 
Just three weeks.  I don’t care about the cake or the casserole, just save me some hugs.    
For that I am very, VERY thankful. 

Monday, October 22, 2012

Therapy: In Poem and Photos



Please allow me this opportunity to work through some emotions. 
To process some sorrow.
To remember a few of the children that have died since we arrived.
To share with you some sweet babies that touched my heart.
To prepare myself for the deaths the are to come.
And come, they will.
Until the day Jesus returns.
Come, Lord Jesus.

The Christian's "Good-Night"  ("Sleep on, beloved")
By Sarah Doudney (1841-1926)

SLEEP on, beloved, sleep on and take thy rest,
Lay down thy head upon thy Saviour’s breast;
We love thee well, but Jesus loves thee best;—
                        Good-night!

Marie Denise
 
Calm is thy slumber as an infant’s sleep;        5
But thou shalt wake no more to toil and weep;
Thine is a perfect rest, secure and deep;—
                        Good-night!

Phara
 
Until the shadow from this earth is cast,
Until He gathers in His sheaves at last,        10
Until the Lenten gloom is overpast;—
                        Good-night!

Darlens

Until the Easter glory lights the skies,
Until the dead in Jesus shall arise,
And He shall come—but not in lowly guise;—        15
                        Good-night!

Lucianne

Until, made beautiful by love divine,
Thou, in the likeness of Thy Lord, shalt shine,
And He shall bring that golden crown of thine;—
                        Good-night!        20

Rojidner

Only “Good-night,” beloved, not “Farewell”!
A little while, and all His saints shall dwell
In hallowed union, indivisible;—
                        Good-night!


Chimene
Until we meet again before His throne,        25
Clothed in the spotless robe He gives His own;
Until we know, even as we are known;—
                        Good-night!












Malange

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Love & Joy Are Always Here

God is love.
God is joy.
God is here, so also is love and joy.
Every day.  Even on hard days.
In the midst of sadness and suffering, I can always see love and joy.
What a gift.  What a blessing.

They are nannies.  Caregivers.  Friends.  Prayer warriors.  My sisters in Christ.






Lunchtime at the Rescue Center. 
No bellies continually aching with hunger.
They will be fed, they know.  They trust as they wait. 




 
Food for their bellies.
Love for their hearts.
Both are essential to fill a child.




Thank you, Lord, for all the good you give. 
In all the trials we find ourselves in, we know You are right here with us.   


"And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose."  Romans 8:28

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Focus

Sometimes the smell of a dead rat from downstairs in the garbage room fills my nostrils.  So thick is the smell that it seems I can almost taste it.  Makes me almost wish the rodent hadn't died. But then that rat would be scurrying all over the house, eating the loosely-covered leftover cake we left on the table after dinner.  

Diarrhea, out of nowhere (well, metaphorically speaking).  No warning, just BAM and it's here.

Beans and rice again.  Again.  And again.  And again.

Itching for no particular reason except that it's hot and my body is sick of sweating.  Itching so much that I wish I could just unzip my skin and take it off like a mechanic's jumpsuit.  Itching in places that are totally unladylike to scratch....in public, at least.

Cockroaches the size of a Chihuahua.  And some of them fly, which is always an added bonus when you happen upon one during a middle-of-the-night jaunt to the bathroom. 

Uplifting, huh?  
No, not at all.  
But I know where it's coming from.

The enemy.

These are some of the things that the enemy uses to chip away my joy,
to distract me from my work,
to fluster me,
to flare my self-pity,
to so easily get me to focus on myself.

Let me tell you how God reminded me today of what matters most.
How He got my attention.
How He flooded my heart so full of His Spirit that I almost couldn’t breathe.

Mid-morning today I went to the Rescue Center to do some paperwork.  I had just finished up and was spending a few minutes visiting with the kids.  I can go days without going to the RC, but I am so glad I was there….at that exact time.

After a knock at the gate and a brief conversation, in walked a group of a dozen or more men and women, along with one preteen boy.  They were dressed in their best Sunday attire.  Men in crisply pressed white shirts.  Women with flowing, pretty skirts.  One lady had on a big, floppy straw hat.  The boy was wearing his nice jeans with his shirttail tucked in.  Most of them were carrying a Bible.  And in just a couple of seconds, this group of Jesus followers filed into the main room where I, a few nannies, and lots of kids were at. 

And then they began to sing.

The room that was just seconds before filled with so many kids’ voices and a few unhappy toddlers’ cries was now silent.  The only sound was that of the group of Christians singing praise to the Lord.
Every single child stopped and watched in awe, listening intently, eyes wide with wonder.

Such beautiful singing.  Real.  From the heart.

As the song concluded, the leader of the group began to pray.  It was a passionate prayer.  As he prayed, the other group members disbursed around the room.  Every little cluster of children had someone standing near them. 
Arms outstretched to the heavens.
And then they all began to pray.
Loud.  Unashamed.  Bold.

Such beautiful prayers.  Real.  From the heart.

The room was full of prayers.  The room was full of the Spirit.

Everyone in the room prayed over these children.  The nannies were praying.  Me, with tears streaming down my cheeks, I was praying. 

The children just sat and watched.  And listened.
Quiet.
Content. 
Like the arms of Jesus were wrapped around every child in that room.     
Because they were.

The group wrapped it up with a closing prayer by one of the men.  Then every group member went around and shook the hands of each adult in the room, including myself. 

I thanked each one as they shook my hand.
They have no idea how God used them to minister to my heart in that moment.

Then they made their way out the door, and the day returned to normal. 

But my heart will never be normal, at least I hope not.

Because when I take my focus off my Lord, He has beautiful ways of reminding me
who I am
and Whose I am
and the work He has invited me to do.

Mesi, Jezi. 

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Monday, August 27, 2012

So much, yet so little to say

I really thought I'd blog more than I have.  It's been a month since my last post, and it's not like I don't have plenty of experiences and thoughts to share.  In fact, there is so much stuff rumbling around inside of me (and I'm not referencing to my intestines) that I just simply don't have much to say.  Does that make any sense?

I sit quietly with my thoughts regularly here.  Processing.  Stretching.  Searching for wisdom and understanding.  I spend time just soaking in my feelings.  It's not a new concept for me; I'm one who likes to take quiet walks or sit on the porch swing and just think about stuff.  But this is different.

Here, everything is so raw.  So in your face.  So hard.  So simple.  So complicated.  So ugly.  So absolutely beautiful.

I will admit this, even though most people that read it probably won't understand the depths of it:

I love feeling alive.
Eyes opened.  Heart aching.  Body challenged.  Selfish wants restricted.
Living for others first, actually putting myself at less of a priority.
Struggling with the internal battle of self vs. living for my Lord.
Peeling away layer after layer of pride and self-righteousness.
Appreciating things that I've always taken for granted.
Learning not to judge.
Loving justice, and knowing Who the Judge is.
Mourning with those who mourn, rejoicing with those who rejoice.
Engaging with those around me.
Loving.   Actively loving.  Putting 100% of myself into loving others.
Being loved.  Actually allowing others to love me.  And savoring it when they do.
Watching this crazy world around me, wondering where God is in all of it, and then finding Him.
Doing what I can, and being satisfied when there's nothing else I can do.  Just trusting.
Recognizing beauty in imperfections, even in defects.
Discovering some amazing everyday works of the Lord, and realizing I am only seeing a drop in the bucket compared to how amazing His works truly are.
Begging for mercy on behalf of those who can't.
Laughing deeply.  Smiling often, even when I really don't want to.
Getting over myself.
Getting over myself.
Getting over myself.

I am alive.  I knew it was possible.  I knew it would be good.          
But this is beyond great.

Alive......... not just existing.
Actively living.

The more I give, the more I receive.  The more I give OF MYSELF, the more I grow INSIDE.
Watching God work.  Being still and knowing that it is Him.

Living.  This is living.  It's not for everyone.  It's actually not for most.  But that's okay.
It's for me.  And I feel alive like never before.

Undeservedly blessed.  Extravagantly blessed.
Learning what being thankful really feels like.
 
No, I'm not just feeling alive....I am alive.  Actively living.  And it is good.  So good.

Less of me, more of Thee.  I am learning that is the only way to truly living.
I feel alive, because finally, genuinely, I am.

To God be all the glory.

Friday, July 27, 2012

What a Tuesday....

Tuesday morning started out with my cellphone ringing.  It’s unusual, since I don’t chat on the phone with many folks here in Haiti.  I was in a deep sleep, even though the world outside was already awake and in full swing.  That is not unusual, though, as I am unfortunately not a morning person.  So like a bear coming out of hibernation, I grabbed my phone to see what craziness must be going on.  Was I ever in for a wake-up call.
Brennon was on the other end of that call, and he was speaking to me in his “I’m being calm, so you need to be, too” voice.  I was wide awake in less than a second of hearing that voice.  It’s never good.  He called to let me know that he was on the scene of a terrible accident that had occurred a mile down the road from RHFH, just minutes earlier, involving a tap-tap.  A tap-tap is a Haitian taxi, and in this case, it was a pickup truck with built-up sides around the bed in order to hold a ridiculous amount of people.  One common factor about tap-taps: they are horribly crowded and nearly always over-capacity.  This tap-tap’s brakes had failed – yet another common trait – and in the driver’s best effort to crash gently, it overturned.  Over thirty people were riding on this pickup truck, on their way to market in Cazale.  Many of the passengers were vendors, hauling bags of rice and other goods to sell. 
Brennon’s call was to tell me to get ready, it was bad.  Dead bodies.  People trapped underneath the truck.  The injured would be heading our way to the clinic soon.  Get ready!  As my adrenaline began to kick in, and hearing the hopelessness in my husband’s voice, I told him I loved him.  I always do.  No matter what the context of the conversation, it’s important to me for him to know I love him.  But especially in those dark, hard times, I want him to feel me with him.  Because I am. 
Everyone was scurrying around the yard, preparing as best we could for the unknown.  I couldn’t even count the times I said to myself, “What should I do?”  Knowing a tidal wave was about to hit, the likes of which I have never seen, was very surreal.  It was intimidating.  As we could hear the motos (motorcycle taxis) pulling up with the first injured to be treated, I grabbed my 17 year old daughter, hugged her tight, and we prayed.  The two of us felt so underequipped and useless, but we prayed to just let Jesus be seen through us and RHFH this day.  If nothing else, let these people see You, Lord.
Twenty-seven injured people came to RHFH.  A few had only minor injuries, many had non-life threatening injuries that were substantial, and some were fighting to stay alive. 
Blood.  Contorted limbs.  Moaning. 
The quietness of the unconscious. 
A couple of really horrific injuries….the kind that the sight of them will forever be engrained into my memory.  “Graphic” doesn’t even begin to describe it. 
Two traumatized children, banged up and hurting, who feared their grandmother was dying. 
Tears. 
Strength unlike any I’ve ever seen.  An elderly woman who chose to walk to the ambulance rather than be carried, despite her substantial loss of blood.  A man that silently grimaced in pain, lying on the concrete with broken bones, without complaint or demanding help, patiently waiting, grateful for a drink of water. 

The crowd gathering outside the gate, filled with anxiety and emotion.  Some just wanting to get a peek.
The ambulances, what a miracle!  We hoped for two, but five showed up in an incredible response time of just an hour and a half (remember, we are deep in the mountains).
Despite the odds, every injured person that entered the yard at RHFH left here alive.  Incredible.
Like a hurricane, the casualties came in.  And in a blur, we looked up and it was over. 
I managed to find my place to lend a hand throughout that crazy morning.  Handing out ice packs, distributing water to patients and staff, wiping up blood and disinfecting, keeping communication rolling, and lots of comforting.  Lesley photographed patients, documenting injuries and ambulance loadings, cleaned up used supplies lying in the yard, and assisted staff putting i.v.’s in patients. 
The noon hour rolled in.  The regular Tuesday Clinic, with 216 scheduled appointments, resumed….like nothing extraordinary ever happened.     
Dejage.
The Lord was with us in this yard Tuesday.  No doubt.  He's always here.... but I tell ya, He was HERE that morning. 

Thursday, July 19, 2012

The Most Beautiful Woman

Today I met the most beautiful woman. 
She has deep wrinkles from many years of living a hard life deep in the mountains of Haiti.
She is slender and muscular, because she doesn’t get to eat much food and has to work hard.
She is a great-great grandmother.  She is a widow.    
She isn’t sure of her age, because they just didn’t keep up with the years back when she was young.
She believes in Jesus.  She knows He takes care of her. 
She has faith in her loving, always-present Father.  She sings His praises.  She shares her stories of how the Lord is always watching over and blessing her.
Her only support comes from her church, a little meeting place up in the mountains.  The poorest of the poor, following the Word, they sacrifice and share so that this widow is taken care of.  The purest example of the Church.  True worship (James 1:27). 

Today she followed what Jesus told her to do.  She brought her granddaughter’s son, a little boy two years of age, to Real Hope for Haiti.  On her own, she has cared for this child, abandoned by his mother, for the past year.  It has been difficult, and she needs help. 
Her words:
Nourishment she cannot provide him.  That she needs help with.
Jesus, she has plenty of Jesus to share with him, though. 

This wise woman of many years is a wonderful example of what a beautiful woman of faith looks like. 
Strength.  Not of her own, but fully from Jesus.
Faith.  In all things, believing He is in control.
Worship.  In the moment He blesses, that is the time to sing His praises, proclaim His name, and dance with joy for the grace He provides. 
What an honor I had today to kiss the cheek of such a beautiful woman of God.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Settling In

It’s been almost three weeks since we hauled our ridiculous amount of luggage to the airport, in true Beverly Hillbillies style, and boarded our plane for Haiti.  The days tend to fly by here; it doesn’t seem possible that three weeks have already passed.  Yet, we have settled so comfortably into our new surroundings and feel very at home.  It is such a good feeling to not only be familiar with names and faces of the staff, but to realize that they are becoming familiar and comfortable around us.  A joyful “Bon jour!” in the morning, a shared laugh over our efforts of speaking Creole, and patient tolerance as we begin to learn from our new friends.  Our family not only feels welcomed here at Real Hope for Haiti, but loved as well.  What a blessing.

Our family is currently still living in the RHFH guest house as our home is being finished out.  It is almost ready, and we are eager to move in.  Living out of suitcases is not too enjoyable, but we’ve come to realize that this is the transition that we truly did needed.  We did not have to suddenly face all the responsibilities and challenges associated with living independently, such as meal preparation and having clean drinking water.  In other words, the culture shock of our new lifestyle has been at a minimum, for which we are very thankful.       
   
Brennon at the end of another long day on the mountain.

Brennon has been working long, hard, dusty hours up at the construction site.  Progress is steady, but everything here in Haiti is ten times (or more) difficult than back home in the States.  He recently said to me, as he was digging through his suitcase with all his tools in it, “Do you know how hard it is to just START a truck in Haiti?!”  Well, no, but I was sure I would soon hear all about it.  I’ve been so proud of Brennon’s patience since we’ve been here.  I know he’s been being prepared for many years for the bang-your-head-against-the-wall challenges he is dealing with on a daily basis.  Now, I can’t say that I’ve been quite as prepared to wash his work clothes….by hand.  Good grief!  I think he brings part of that mountain home with him every day in those Carhartts!  But once again, I realize that I have absolutely nothing to complain about – I have the luxury of washing our clothes here at the house, comfortably cool in front of a fan.  Many of our neighbors don’t have that luxury, and are down at the river to do their laundry, having walked a good distance down the mountain with their heavy load of clothes in a basin on top of their head.  I am fortunate indeed.

Wiped out after spending the evening playing in the rain.

It’s been fun to watch my 11 year old learn to be a kid since we’ve arrived here.  With no television or Playstation, she’s been forced to entertain herself by doing crazy things such as participate in an after-dark game of Hide & Seek, take turns swinging in a hammock, playing in the rain, and different activities requiring the use of this thing called imagination.  While she does get to have a little bit of digital time with her DS game, and she can watch a movie on our little DVD player, she has spent hours upon hours making crafts, coloring, reading (yes, reading!) and building a fort on the balcony.  I discovered that she snatched the sheet off my bed to construct one of the fort’s “walls,” but being so delighted by her ingenuity (and the fact that she was perfectly entertained by her construction project for an entire day), I made due with using a beach towel as my sheet (not that one needs to do much covering up while sleeping here).  Brianna is enjoying having friends to play and be silly with, and we are so thankful that the Betor boys have welcomed her in, making her feel right at home.  Probably the most important detail worth noting would be that she is more than ready for us to move into our house so that she can finally have a pet kitten.  I can’t even tell you how often she has asked, “When do we get to go home?”  I have to ask her every time, “Our new house, or the one in Kentucky?”  Most of the times, the answer is the new house.  Fuzzy, adorable kitties trump everything else.   

Lesley has only taken a few thousand photos since we arrived.

Lesley has been getting into the groove here.  She is like a kid in a candy store with the abundance of mangoes and quenep fruit available to us.  Her camera is getting quite a workout, as is her computer.  She’s discovered that she does well with working on big, tedious projects in the office.  It’s been fun to see her gleam over accomplishing a gnarly task and marking it off the to-do list.  I must give her an “A” for effort in trying to assist in the clinic, even though she can only hang in there for a few minutes at a time when someone is getting stitches or an i.v.  “I’ve tried to watch, Mom, I just ….couldn’t.”  Poor kid is truly her mother’s daughter.  She’s sticking to photography assignments and projects that don’t involve needles.  And that’s perfectly okay!  It is precious to watch her interact with the kids here, especially when she shares her love for music with Nerline.  She beams with pride when Nerline starts tapping her foot and moving to the beat as Lesley introduces her to her favorite bands, like Florence and the Machine.  Good music is fabulous therapy, for everyone.

Sunday afternoons are best spent lounging on the couch! 

Then there’s me.  God has stretched me and equipped me to do things that I would never have dreamed of doing, and I certainly would not have expected having a desire to do them!  I am amazed at myself when I assist with an i.v. and realize that I’m staring at a needle and not turning green.  That’s huge for me!  I hate needles, and actually, I’m really quite pathetic around anything medical.  That’s how I know that our God has a great sense of humor.  The setting that would be the last thing I’d ever choose, he has put me right in the middle of, equipped me to cope with it exceedingly well , and enjoy it!  Lesson learned:  never put boundaries on what you are willing to do for the Lord.  Just trust Him, and He’ll take care of all the details.

I have been busy with projects in the office, learning everything I can.  The best moments of my days are spent loving on the kids here.  I feel that it is a huge privilege to be able to hold a hurting child, providing comfort and a mommy’s touch.  One day last week was really a tough one for me, with crisis after crisis happening all around me.  I’m just not used to it yet, so it was very draining.  Late that afternoon, I took a few minutes just to go hang out with the kids in the ICU room.  One little girl in particular has tugged at my heart, completely rejecting any affection we try to give her.  Not only has her body been ravaged by malnutrition, but her heart is broken from neglect.  I see the emotional pain in her eyes, and it rattles me to my core.  On that particularly crazy, hectic day, I was given the opportunity to pause.  I sat with her.  I made silly faces.  I tickled her belly.  I kissed her forehead. 

And then, she smiled.   Even giggled a tiny, itty-bitty giggle.  She allowed me to pick her up, and we cuddled there on her cot for a little while.

That is what it’s all about.  Victory in Jesus.  Through that little girl, I saw my Father.  I pray that she saw Him through me.

******************************


"But if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord."  Joshua 24:15

Friday, June 22, 2012

Hope in Jesus

Hope is defined as "the feeling that what is wanted can be had or that events will turn out for the best."  Hope is a good thing. 
But my hope is in Jesus.  It's more than just a feeling; it's a solid assurance.  It's a promise that will not be broken.  Hope in Jesus is more than good, it's peace beyond all explanation. Even as I look into the eyes of a child as he takes his last breaths, I can confidently tell him that it will be okay.  I can tell him the truth that he is loved, will soon feel no more pain, and everything will be okay. 
That little boy now knows that hope is real.  As he is now sitting at the feet of our Father, he no longer feels pain.  He no longer suffers.  He is surrounded by love, beauty, mercy.  He is embraced by the presence of the Lord.  A better hope than that does not exist.
Romans 5:2-5 -
"...And we boast in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us."

And that is how I can look into a dying child’s eyes and tell him,
“It’s going to be okay.  You are NOT forgotten.  You are loved.”
How thankful I am to have this confidence within me.  It WILL be okay.  Praise be all to Jesus.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

The Final Countdown

I haven't posted in a while, so here's a little update.  We are just days away (9 to be exact) from departure.  In the wee hours of June 19th, my family and I will hit the road and head to the Nashville airport.  Our dear friends Jesse and Joelle will be hauling us and all our junk in their truck, bless their hearts!  We'll fly out of BNA, switch planes in Miami, and - all things running on schedule - we will be on the ground in Haiti by early afternoon.  Then we'll load our massive amount of luggage into the truck and drive the 90-minute bumpy, dusty ride to our new neighborhood in Cazale.  After the day of traveling, that ride will be pretty exhausting, especially since my girls and I will probably be sitting atop all those suitcases in the back of the caged-in pickup.  Brennon, riding up in the cab, and Papa Zach, our fearless leader, will no doubt have manly stuff to discuss right off the bat.  Have I mentioned that a great portion of the trip is on gravel roads?  Oh, we're going to have a BLAST that afternoon.  Dramamine will be my best friend.

From the updates we've heard, our house in the Caribbean (I really get a kick out of saying that) is nearly finished.  We'll have some details to work through during our first week or two month, like getting water and electricity operational.  We are just looking at it like a fantastic camping excursion until we get the kinks worked out.  However, in Haiti, you never run out of kinks.  I have done the best I can to pack little things to decorate our new home to make it feel more "homey."  Brianna will have Hello Kitty wall decals and glow-in-the-dark stickers for her ceiling.  And a new pet cat is promised.  We'll need some help fighting off the rats, I'm sure.  Our lightweight quilts are packed up, including Lesley’s really groovy lizard quilt that my sweet Aunt Kathy made for her just a few years before she lost her fight with cancer.  I think little treasures from home like that will make us not feel quite so lonesome in the months to come.  I’m hopeful, at least. 

I just packed our “Haitian microwave,” better known as the pressure cooker.  That’s what our new form of “convenience” is going to look like.  Our generator is on a shipping container somewhere between Miami and Haiti right now, as far as I know.  I hope that little jewel has a safe passage and gets through Customs easily, along with our couch and mattresses.  Isn’t it funny what really becomes important to you when you are looking at having to start from scratch..…in a third world country! 

Things are progressing smoothly so far.  Satan has been trying to beat us down and discourage us, but our God is bigger and has faithfully carried us through all the trials we have been faced with.  It makes the battle a whole lot easier to fight when we recognize who the enemy is.  But if our God is for us, who can be against us?  Our help comes from the Lord.   
                      
If you are a praying person and would like to know what to pray for, can I make a suggestion?  Could you be praying for our families and friends this upcoming couple of weeks?  We are in a place of great peace that we know is a heavenly gift.  I’ve wigged out about upcoming vacations far more than the anxiety I feel about this huge journey.  It’s pretty cool to be calm.  My to-do list is shrinking and isn’t haunting me at all.  This past week we learned we don’t have any cavities, the dog doesn’t have worms, and I even got my overdue book fee paid off at the library.  We’re on a roll, I tell ya!  Since we’ve been able to get most of those chores knocked out, this week will be focused on having some quiet time sipping a latte with my mom, splashing in the pool with Brianna, and saying our goodbyes.  Last night we gathered with Brennon's parents and siblings to devour steaks and cookie cake.  Quality time is very sacred to me, now more than ever.   

I’ve given up on wearing mascara.  There’s probably no point.  This week isn’t going to be easy for us or the ones we love.  Our family has never been away from our hometown for more than a two-week period.  Ever.  Born and raised here, we are fixtures here in our end of the commonwealth.  So, as you can imagine, our families are not too excited about the approaching of the 19th of June.  So please pray for them – and us – as we say goodbye  “See ya later!”    

             My Mom and Dad think my kid hung the moon.  :)

As soon as it is logistically possible, I'll be posting an update from once we get to Haiti.  But not until I hug some special kiddos.  First thing's first!

Monday, April 23, 2012

Eight More Weeks

In just eight weeks, my family and I will depart for our long-term stay in Haiti.  To clarify what “long-term” means to us – we don’t really know; it’s just going to be more than a couple of months.  We plan on staying as long as the Lord asks us to, so it’s pretty open-ended.   I truly have no idea how long we’ll be there.  I can’t even try to figure it out. 
As the weeks are flying by, our departure date quickly approaches.  I am thinking more and more about upcoming good-byes.  It fills me with sadness and dread.
My husband and I have never lived farther than ten miles or so from where we grew up.  In fact, the farthest we’ve ever strayed from our current zip code is when we were newlyweds and moved just past the county line.  My mom thought we were ridiculously out in the boondocks then.
And now, we’re about to leave the country, moving to an impoverished island in the Caribbean.  Good grief, so much for taking baby steps.
I have been thinking about those last few days we’ll be here in Kentucky, saying good-bye to those precious friends and family members we love.  To be honest, I dread it.  I will go ahead and pack away my mascara, because I’ll have hideous raccoon eyes if I try to wear any.  Perhaps I will surprise myself and handle it all with dignified poise, but I fully expect to have several bouts of the ugly crying spells.  Most likely I will be a snotty, red-nosed, puffy-eyed, pathetic lump of emotional wreckage.  Oh, and I’ll need to be strong for my husband and kids, so those horrid melt-downs will probably happen in the bathroom or in my car.  (If you spot me driving down the road, just give me plenty of swerving room – I’ll be steering with my knee while I blow my nose once again.)   I will emerge from the bathroom looking like some monster from a poorly funded horror film.  If you ask me if I’m ok, I’ll put on a fake smile and say, “Sure!”  Don’t question me beyond that, unless you are prepared for a snotfest.
The thing that gets to me the most right now is watching the young kids in our family, both mine and Brennon’s.  My nieces are so tiny and sweet.  Kaylee has me wrapped around her little finger.  I adore the age she’s at; being three is such a fun mixture of toddler and big-girlness.  I love to listen to her talk as she plays and lets her imagination go wild.  I just melt.  And Aubrey is just an infant.  With each week she changes so much.  I can’t imagine how much she’ll grow and change while I’m gone.  On Brennon’s side of the family, little man Stephen immediately comes to mind.  Why, in just a few months’ time, he’s liable to be driving a four-wheeler or climbing trees without any help.  When we come home, I hope he remembers that I’m his dinosaur-growling buddy.  I sure don’t want to just be some weirdo lady that shows up one day making strange growling sounds in an effort to be funny. 
Kaylee giving her approval on the new sister.

Me and Aubrey


Stephen is halfway grown and he's not even 2 years old yet!

I think about the bigger kids, too.  MaKayla will be a senior in the fall.  She’ll soon be an adult and off into the world herself.  Bailey is barely a kid anymore; he’s already proving to be a young man with his mannerisms and thoughtfulness.  I even got a hug out of that cool kid yesterday!  And then I think about that baby in Sara’s womb.  That little peanut of a baby girl will arrive while we’re gone, and that’s going to be an event I won’t want to miss….but I will.  I’m sure the doctor and nurses can handle it without me, but a birth is such an incredible celebration to be a part of.
My mom is going to have a really tough time letting me go.  My dad will too, but being a man who tends to keep his thoughts to himself, he won’t tell me how hard the goodbye hurts him.   But I’ll know.  And that’s the thing that brings tears to my eyes quickest right now – realizing that this sacrifice is not just ours, but it’s a sacrifice that our family is having to make as well, and they have no say so in the issue.   They have to trust us when we tell them that God has asked us to make this journey.  They have to accept that our faith is in Jesus; He is our Lord and we willingly go and do whatever we believe He is asking of us.  I’m sure that’s a tough thing for them to swallow at times.
My most dear friend has decided not to say goodbye.  She is determined to come to visit us in Haiti a few weeks after we arrive and will help me get our house all homey.  Her assignment will be to bring important stuff with her that we forgot to pack.  (Priceless!)  This is the only way Jill will be able to say goodbye and stay sane.  As long as she knows where I live, she can relax and be assured that anytime she wants to drop by for coffee, she can find me.  We’ll likely continue to text funny updates and pretend that we are only five minutes apart from each other.   
So, yeah….those are some of the things running through my head that get my emotions all tuned up.  And it’s still eight weeks away.  Oh goodness, I’m liable to be an absolute wreck by the time June rolls around!        Parents, brothers & sister (this is going to be so hard for Stacy to let her big brother go!), sister-in-laws & brother-in-law, aunts, uncles, tons of cousins, friends (we have such dear friends – can we just bottle up our shared laughter and take it with us?), and long-time neighbors.   I want them all to know that it hurts our hearts to know we will be absent from them, and we also know that we are causing their hearts to ache as well.  We pray for our Father to give their hearts comfort and assurance as we leave. 
But let there be no misunderstanding:  I am ready to go.  The anticipation inside me is indescribable.  In eight weeks, I will be right where I’m supposed to be…..Lord willing. 
I am ready to go.  The leaving will just be the really hard part.