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

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Smiles and Kisses

I can’t imagine anything more fulfilling to me than sharing smiles and kisses with kids.  Seriously. 

Smiles and kisses don’t care what language you speak, your age, gender or skin color.  They don’t require a degree or specialized training.  Previous experience isn’t even necessary.    
The coolest thing about smiles and kisses are how simple, yet wonderfully powerful they are.
They are free.  They never run out.  And they bring joy to the giver and the recipient. 
I adore making little kids smile, especially if it’s a challenge.  I will go to great lengths to accomplish a shared smile.  No shame or loss of dignity will stop me, as I make ridiculous faces and play endless matches of peek-a-boo.  Though no words may be spoken, a smile speaks volumes.  It’s the outward expression from the depths of one’s soul.  I’m not referring to a cordial smile, but a real smile.  The difference is felt as a heart-connection is made during a real shared smile.
Giving kisses, for me, is a magical transference of love and affection from my being to the child’s.  That may sound overly dramatic, but I believe it.  I have experienced it time and time again.  A high-five is nice, and a hug is quite personal, but a kiss is something special.  It says that I find great value in you, and I willingly give up all my personal space to show you that I mean it.    
When I’ve gone to Haiti, I bet you can guess what I’ve spent a lot of time doing.  This is what I’ve witnessed there that has stirred my heart to share smiles and kisses:
Beautiful brown babies.  Every. Single. One.  (Note: I consider my 17 year old my “baby,” so I use the word “babies” in a very broad sense.) 
Loneliness.  Homesick.  Missing momma or papa.    
Hearts scarred from abandonment or neglect.
Souls aching from being hungry for love and affection, which is even more painful than the torture of malnutrition to their bodies.   
Confusion.  Just too little to understand.  Reality that is too hard to comprehend, regardless of age.
Need for assurance and encouragement.
A willingness to forget about a dismal current circumstance in order to embrace a moment of happiness.

As His child, Jesus has filled my heart with love.  In turn, I have been able to pour that same love into these children I’ve been blessed to spend time with……namely through smiles and kisses.  Abundant and true.  Just like my Lord’s love – abundant and true – because it IS my Lord’s love I’m sharing.  Real love comes from Him, and only Him.  I am just a clay pot that He has created, shaped, and poured His love in to.  What a waste it would be to hoard that love.  The real joy comes from pouring out that love into others. 

1 John 4:16-21 has taught me this:
God is love.  Love is the proof that God is in you. 
Perfect love drives out fear. 
We can only love because He first loved us. 
You can’t hate other people if you truly love God. 
God commands that anyone who loves Him must love others. 

LOVE.  It’s a heavenly thing. 
For me, smiles and kisses are my love language.  In sharing them, I have fullness of joy.  Seriously.      

Saturday, February 18, 2012

It's Not About Me

Before I go any further with sharing my stories and perspective through this blog, I feel I ought to make something very clear:
It’s not about me.
This life I’m living, these experiences I’ve been given, the stories I have to share, the blessings and the heartaches – Allison is not the focus.  Please, please understand this.  It’s not about me.
It’s all about Him.
My heart for the people of Haiti was created by God Himself.  I have done nothing on my own.  I’m not that brave, I’m not that tough, and I’m not that nice.  Without Jesus, I’m just a lazy, selfish lump of dirt.  The only thing I can take credit for is that God offered me the chance to walk with him, and through years of God softening my heart and preparing me for this journey, I said “Yes.”
I said yes to God.  That’s it.  I am worthy of no accolades or words of praise.  I said yes to the Creator of the universe to walk with Him.  I could have said no, which I have many times in the past, I’m ashamed to admit.  But this time, when God opened my eyes to Haiti, He gave me the strength to say yes.  He taught me through the Word that the only thing I had to do was say yes – and He would take care of the rest.  For goodness sake, God has even given me the Holy Spirit to live inside of me, never leaving me to do any of this alone!    
The Bible is full of promises.   If you trust that the Bible is God’s Word, and that God says only Truth, then you can embrace these promises with confidence.  It’s pretty simple (even though we all try to make it much more complicated than it is).  Trust Him, and He’ll take care of everything.
Love God.  Love people.  These two rules are the most important. – Matthew 22:34-40
The big guy in charge of heaven and earth commands all Christians to share His love and teach all people of the world about Him.  And He will be there with us every step of the way. – Matthew 28:18-20   
I could go on and on, citing verse after verse that shows us what we are supposed to do, why we are supposed to do it, and that we don’t have to be tough/smart/brave/etc. to step up to the plate and accept the job.  We just have to say yes.
I said yes.  I’d have been a fool not to.  You see, by just saying yes, I get to have a front row seat in the most fantastic ride…and God is at the wheel.  I don’t even have to drive.  I don’t even have to know where we’re going, or why we’re going there.  God is taking me on an amazing ride, though He doesn’t need any passengers.  He just genuinely enjoys the company.  He’s my Father, after all.  And I don’t have to worry about the details; I only have to trust Him.  God has the map, an endless tank of fuel, and though the ride can get really bumpy, it’s the sweetest ride there is. 
So please, I ask you to remember as I share these experiences with you, to hold tight to the understanding that this is not about me.  It’s all about our Lord and His glory.  All good things come from Him (James 1:17), and He is the One to be praised (Psalm 145:3).   

Friday, February 17, 2012

Embracing the Quiet

I’ve been home from my solo trip to Haiti for 2 ½ days. 
I’ve caught up on my sleep, thanks to not having an open-air market within earshot of my window, complete with a passionate Haitian preacher who likes to begin his daily sermons at 5:00 am from up in a banana tree with a megaphone.  Bless his heart, I wanted to punch him. 
I’m currently working on getting massive amounts of laundry done, and oh so thankful that I have a washing machine, which means I don’t have to do my laundry by hand.  If that were the case, I would most certainly grant my youngest child’s wish and allow her to wear the same outfit every day.   
Since arriving home, a good deal of time has been spent snuggling, sharing stories and photos, hugging, and taking hot showers.  I am particularly thankful to once again have smoothly shaven legs.  Never underestimate the value of hot water, especially when a razor is involved.
When my husband picked me up at the airport (I have never in my life been so excited to spot my vehicle in a parking lot, even compared to times I’ve lost it at Wal-Mart), we hugged and kissed like I had been gone for a week to a third-world country without him.  Our reunification surely made an adorable picture - me with my nappy hair, him on his crutches.  Ok, so it wasn’t a glamorous sight; but as soon as I was wrapped in his arms, I sighed from great relief, because there – in his arms – I am home.
As we hit the road for our two-hour drive back from the airport, my mind was awhirl with stories and information, images and emotions I’ll never forget.  I wanted to spew it all out for him to vicariously experience my week in Cazale, but I had no idea where to even begin.  “What do you want to know?” I asked him.  After apologizing for sounding like a traveling snob, I warned him that I would just start sharing as things came to mind, and that it would be quite random.  And it was.  I wasn’t quite ready to share the heart-wrenching stories yet, though.  I suppose that I just didn’t want to speak of them until I was ready to hear them myself.
Fast forward to the current, a quiet Friday afternoon.  Yes, I said “quiet.”  This morning it occurred to me that I should be able to get some thoughts recorded by now, while they are still fresh in my mind.  But my mind continues to feel jumbled, and a constant feeling of being distracted inhibits me from getting my thoughts in any kind of order.  That’s when it hit me.  I haven’t embraced the quiet.  I immediately fell back into the trap of constant noise here in my home.  So I turned off the television, stopped surfing the net, and walked away from my phone.  I picked up a devotional book and did a little reading.  A little praying.  A little meditating on the Word.  And then I took a nap.  (Ok, so maybe I’m not quite caught up on my sleep…but I’m getting there.)
With just the sounds of my precious washer and dryer doing their thing, I’m starting to get my thoughts together from my trip to that place that is so bittersweet called Cazale, Haiti.  Let the writing begin.