Unpacking and Settling In

Yep. I live in America again.

I’m not gonna lie, it’s so strange. And hard to explain. Most people could never understand all that takes place in two years in Haiti, and probably, honestly, don’t actually care to. It’s cool, I get it.

IMG_5197

It’s kind of like going through stages of grief since I’ve arrived.  I’m pretty sure I am over the whole “get mad at American luxuries” stage, however, it does come back in sporatic waves. Clean water. It just gets me every time. I actually hope that never goes away. I love how my little Haitian babies are always on my heart and I love the foundation of gratitude that I will carry with me always.

I don’t walk along dusty streets everyday, ducking and dodging wheel barrows and women carrying bags stacked five high on their head. Starving babies aren’t slobbering on me all the time, I have access to any kind of food I want, and little kids aren’t mobbing me all the time.

IMG_2029

You may see those things as Haiti complaints, but you see, I loved those long walks on market day and the chaotic adventures to and from the border. I love holding sick and vulnerable babies, slobber and all other fluids, knowing and believing that God was about to changetheir lives; and although it could be frustrating, having limited access to any kind of food I wanted (although didn’t result in extreme weight loss) made for some pretty hysterical moments of fun with people who have grown to be my family in moments of hunger desperation. And, more than anything else, I absolutely love being mobbed by a gang of mini Haitian ninjas, kidnapping me along for the adventure.

IMG_5168On my mind recently (other than mini Haitian ninjas): Ikea furniture and settling in. First of all – I just want to put it out there – Holy cow, putting that mess together is not fun. Seriously. Those little L shaped things you use to master the 5-drawer shelf is ridiculous and warps in an instant. However, I did feel pretty hardcore when I finished my new contraption. Second of all, settling in has been interesting. I am excited because I know God’s seasons are shifting and He does not disappoint. And because I can see God at work in so many ways through my being here. And no matter what, that makes it worth it. All in all, I’m grateful.

For whatever it looks like, I’m grateful.

Here’s to a new 2014, new seasons, and settling in!

IMG_5240

Oh ya, and I bought a fish. Yes, that’s right, a Betta. In the pet store I was calling him “Beatty” because he had no name and that semi-stuck, so I went with Warren.Warren Beatty. Resemblence? I also got the statue because it looked like the one off of Finding Nemo and, well, I love that movie. And Warren loves him too. We call him “WhooHaHa” and he swims inside of the mouth all the time. Okay, I’ll stop.

Going Away: They seriously love me!

Image
Is it strange that I think we had more fun at our dance party than our children?

I love this family. I hate goodbye but I love this family. I love how they completely knew what I would love. Acts of Service – it’s so my love language. Dance Party, it is. We danced all night and had a photo booth to capture wonderful/hilarious memories (thank you, Steven!) Imageand ate delicious cake (shout out to my girl and long time roomie, Kelly!) and laughed and cried and partied gangsta-style all night long (just ask the ultimate OG – Karris Hudson! I seriously couldn’t have desired any cooler way to say “see you later!”

Image

I love y’all more than you know and am more grateful to do life with you supa up-close” and now a tad bit further away. We will always share an understanding of each other that is only discovered within incredible nights of no generators, no water, no fans; the film of dusty sweat that marks a productive days work, the border crossings, hilarious language barrier experiences, and never to be left out – the incredible sandal tan line that is more a trademark or right of passage than anything.

Image  Image 

Thank you for an incredible send off!

Never Goodbye…

New Seasons, Gratitude, and Preparing My Heart

Oh, seasons of transition. So much to be said of them.

       ImageImage

And again, two years later, here I am. At a fork. A transition. A new season. Well, not exactly even in a new season, but more like that awkward in between place of nothingness, you know, where the grace is lifting in what was, but the excitement hasn’t yet arrived as to what is to come. The position of complete faith where I am brought to tears over matters of little importance. Mostly because every task is a reminder to me that it is all going to be over soon.

Image

This little place of nothingness can really make or break a transition, you know. It’s the tiny opportunity to tie up the blessings of the present and prepare the blessings of the future – all at once.

A few months ago I sensed God beginning to prepare my heart for transition. He was reminding me of the season that I was in. The season He called me to. The assignment He gave me. And it completely – completely! – shattered my heart. There is something to be said of knowing the voice of our Shepard. It’s undeniable, to say the least, and impossible to argue.

With that, I am heading home.

I could never say enough about my life in Haiti. What has taken place. Heat, sweat, dust and all. ImageThe overwhelming amount of life that I have experienced and been a part of. The most ridiculous dance parties to date. The border crossings. The language learning. The moments of total fearful courage. And the unexplainable moments of faith and Jesus that I have shared and identified in the most interesting of places.

In sum: I am grateful.

Beyond words, humbled, and just all around at a loss for words.

              Image

Not sure what else could describe my heart right now. In Haiti I have found peace, purpose, contentment, and home. I could never express my gratitude enough to Danita for allowing me to help raise her children and so much more. To the other missionaries for being family with me. To the mothers of all my babies in the Baby Rescue Program – they have each taught me incredible lessons of sacrifice and strength. For each one who we have lost. For each incredible miracle. For all of our children who have helped me identify a deeper love within myself than I knew existed.

And, for now, I am here. Ending the first half of my twenties in that awkward place of nothingness. Tying the bow on my present. Suspended in the balance of transition.

Signs of Life: Welcome, Baby Christla!

IMG_4192

Her eyes lock in when I hold her. Her little hands are so tight they are grey when she is hungry. She sucks on her first two fingers to fall asleep. She began her little life growing inside of her mom who was homeless and forgotten. IMG_0834 Elydia would arrive with her malnourished son – Bergly –  for Baby Rescue, always with her oldest (when I say oldest I mean 7) son carrying their possessions – a red water jug and a tiny black tote for Medika Mamba. When her son Bergly passed away she stress delivered her baby girl, Christla.

IMG_2241  IMG_2397

I’ve always loved the redemption she held in her mother’s grieving, and I love how sweet Christla would, against all opinions, fight for signs of life in those first weeks. It’s been 5 months since Christla stole my heart and I continued to care for her, her mom, and the boys.

Today, Elydia is saying her goodbyes to this world and joining Jesus and her baby boy in the next. When I look at Christla sucking her two little fingers all I can think about is God’s incredible destiny for her: 5 months ago she was struggling for life and God’s perfect plan has strategically placed her in the arms of grace – anchored to hope and a future. She will never know the life of an orphan, she will never know the pain of rejection, she will never wonder who her mother was or if she loved her.

My heart cannot even comprehend. More on this on the other side of processing.

  Photo on 11-4-13 at 11.53 AM #2

I would like to take this moment to officially introduce the newest member of the Danita’s Children family – Christla Francois!!

Easy to say (and I won’t deny it) I’m obsessed. God has heard one of my deepest prayers.

Plenty of amazing pictures to come. Trust. Plenty.

The Face of a Statistic

October 11

IMG_0861

Tonight my heart is broken. Another loss. Loss at the end of incredible suffering, and another mother in Haiti who is feeling the intense pain of burying her son far too early, due to a simple and treatable sickness.

On Thursday I was holding him.

I prayed over him and treated him for parasites. Again. I claimed his little destiny for Christ and I discussed the importance of clean water with his mom.  I gave her diapers and made a note that it was about time to buy more rice and beans and oil for her family.

On Friday he was gone.

Just like that… into peace and joy sometime around 2AM.

IMG_2221

When I see the huge statistic numbers of children who are vulnerable and dying around this world my heart is overwhelmingly burdened for the suffering that plagues just Haiti even. How many sleep on dirt, have never known security, and how many will not see their fifth birthday due to things like dirty drinking water.

IMG_0591

However, today, my heart is so incredibly broken for the single life that made up a piece of those statistics. Loss looks totally different when it has a name and a face and a life. When a destiny is cut short… by something so preventable.

DC Medical Center

In these moments my words hold no justice as to how grateful I am for all that Danita’s Children is doing to ensure that less and less mothers are made to fight a seemingly hopeless battle with malnutrition – and so many other basic sicknesses that plague Haiti… for Danita for saying ‘yes’ and for taking on so much pressure and sacrifice to bring Christ, medical care, and dignity to the sick and broken.

A lighthouse is an understatement to all that the DC Medical Center is in Haiti.

DSC01816

… & To my sweet boy, Daubins:

If I had known that this day would have been our last together I would have held you so much longer. I would have hugged you so much tighter. I would have laughed more and taken 172,000 pictures (even if they all looked just like this one). These last weeks were a tough fight but I would have absolutely exhausted every avenue at my disposal to attempt and change this outcome. I am confident that God knows the number of our days, and I am grateful for those that I had with you.

Your smile brought me so much joy and I am so sorry and so angry that your life ended due to malnutrition. Your life was not in vain, sweet boy, and I will keep you in my heart always.

Learn more about the DC Medical Center & help alleviate suffering in Haiti!

Baby Bergly: Choosing To Fight Anyway

Image

No matter how many miracles (on every scale) that we witness on a daily basis – whenever a rescue doesn’t end in success it is painful. It is painful because in choosing to fight for a child’s life we are choosing to be attached. To love. To go all in. Even when it doesn’t look promising. Even when it doesn’t even look hopeful. Aware of the potential pain in hopes of the potential success. And choosing to fight anyway.

Tonight my heart isn’t hurting for Bergly.

It actually makes me smile a little knowing that he has no more exhausted cries that sound like light little hums or emotional meltdowns (on his behalf) to get any kind of food into his belly. At two years old Bergly weighed only 11 lbs. (ya that’s right, what you probably weighed at birth) and any sense of exerted energy was just about too much for his little body to handle without a nap. And when I say exerted energy I mean swatting my hands away for too long and/or thinking of strategic ways to get the food out of his mouth before I got it back in. It really took it out of the little fella.

Tonight my heart is not hurting for him, but for his young mother who is about to receive news that her baby died. That she won’t even able to be there, to say goodbye, or to grieve at a burial. Just continue on with life as usual, as if he never was. My heart is hurting because I can not even imagine how her heart will be hurting.

ImageImage

I am grateful, however, that along with the news of baby Bergly’s passing we are able to sincerely say that he didn’t go down without a fight. That there were many people working on his behalf… staying up nights and monitoring him each day. Interceding on his behalf to the God who created him and numbered his days. There were people caring for him and loving him and taking care of his mother and brother. I am grateful for The Real Hope for Haiti and how they were willing to take him on, knowing his severity, and fight for him until the very last moment.

Bergly is only one of many stories of complications within malnutrition. The inevitable effects of a food crisis, a country in crisis, and a family in crisis. Stories like his are taking place many times every minute. Unknown names. Unknown faces. So often fading from this earth only known and loved by Jesus. One more reason I am so grateful to all who are making it possible for Danita to make our Medical Center a reality. So Mom’s like Bergly’s don’t have to spend the rest of her life wondering what her baby boy would have grown up to be like.

Psalm 34:18 “Our Lord is near to the brokenhearted, and he saves those who are crushed in their spirits.

Our Lord is always with us, but especially close in the moments that break our hearts. And tonight my broken hearted prayer is for Bergly’s mom. That she would find peace within the tragic reality and pain of losing a child after two years of a desperate struggle, and that she would know that God hears her hurt and He is present… even when she can’t identify Him.

… and that her sweet baby boy is safe, happy, and whole.

Image

Messy Love.

Sometimes love doesn’t look as expected.

Sometimes it’s takes your breath away.

Sometimes love is playful.

In so many cases love isn’t fair and doesn’t make sense at all.

For children, love is out of their control, and their lives will be shaped and formed by what they perceive to be love.

Sometimes love means cleaning up the selfish mistakes of others.

And sometimes, such as today, love is just plain messy.

Image

Speaking of the latter, as I was thinking today of how unpredictable love is, I got a new Rescue baby this morning into our Baby Rescue Program at Danita’s Children. He came with his homeless mother – a kilo lighter than when I saw him last week (not to mention every rib in his cage showing) which puts him below a severely malnourished category – so it’s an understatement to say that I was excited to start the process.

Image

It was as I was force feeding him Medika Mamba (it takes a day or two to be considered enjoyable… you would think starving children wouldn’t be so picky), covering his dry, blistered, and bleeding lips with vasoline, talking with his homeless mother about the importance of clean water (and filling her only source – an orange water jug), and praying over his tiny malnourished body as he hit my hands away and bit me a lot, that my frustrated self came to realize: this is love.

As much as this tiny baby hates me in this moment, this is love. It may not be as tender and sweet as many would describe, but this is as real as it gets. Literal messy love.

And, call it ironic, but my heart is honored to love this way. To have the angry little screams and frowny eyebrows as I forced medicine and Medika Mamba into his mouth and to get the glove on my hand bitten by tiny little teeth with all the tiny little strength his 12 lbs. can muster. Truth be told, it makes me smile to see him fighting back – because it it those tenacious and tiny little fighters who survive.

Love doesn’t always appear with hearts and butterflies, and sometimes it isn’t even love at all – only the imitation – but today, love came in the form of force feeding, loads of prayers, and hopes for the promises of the future.

Please continue to prayer for baby Bergly in his recovery, all of our children, and everyone at Danita’s Children. I know I do not only speak for myself when I say that we are so grateful for this life.

Simply Presented With Hope: 13 Boys Update

It was in this month, one year ago, that 13 little boys walked into our lives at Danita’s Children, and changed the atmosphere as we knew it.

IMG_0069

I remember that day like it was yesterday [read about it here]: the overwhelming feeling of sympathy, the literal sickness in their eyes, and the even worse sickness that was apparent in their broken little souls. That first night was one that I will never forget, and the weeks that followed were spent learning a lot of “firsts”. First time in using a toilet, first time doing nightly devotions, first time eating THREE times in one day, first time getting new clothes/shoes, and many other first that I will pull out as embarrassing memories when their 14.

IMG_2923 IMG_2920 IMG_3222

That group instantly attached themselves in our hearts and the atmosphere was filled with the presence of little ones again. I can’t imagine my life in Haiti without this precious group of boys, even more so, it overwhelms me to think about what their lives would be like if they would have never been driven onto our property in shocking surprise that day. They keep me laughing, that’s for sure!

        IMG_3217 IMG_3234

Today, they are all enrolled in school, learning to ride bikes and love going to church and singing worship songs. Some will still find their way to me during the day just to say “thank you” for something they received long ago – even just a meal or a small treat. Yesterday, Wes came up and stated in clear English: “Are you going out today?” I naturally replied back, “no, I’m staying here…” until I realized what was happening. He was full of pride with himself that he is learning English now.

IMG_1896

They truly are a testament to how quickly a life in changed when it is simply presented with hope. Their future is bright and they are all blazing ahead. I have spend so many moments this month thinking of these boys, and what that day was like when they plopped themselves right into the center of my heart.

 IMG_3592 IMG_1445 IMG_3621

His eye is on the sparrow: Baby Rescue Program

A.K.A. one of the best parts of my week!

Okay, maybe a slight exaggeration because I truly love my life here… bbbuuttt, there aren’t many things better than squeezing the cheeks of some cute little babies while praying that they gained weight!

Valmyr
Valmyr

ISMYLOVE (get it... her name is Ismylove, as in... [she]ismylove. Clever, I know.
ISMYLOVE (get it… her name is Ismylove, as in… [she]ismylove. Clever, I know.
Truth: One of them hates me. His name is Vena and this is his second go around in this program. The first time he was with us he was the most finicky child I’ve ever seen. Only wanted to drink out of a red solo cup. After that was used for a bath one day, he would have nothing to do with is. For weeks he was so sweet and tender, laying in my lap all day while I worked… then he mustered up enough energy and this is what he looked like at most times:

IMG_0019     IMG_0020      IMG_0021

We just re-enrolled him into the program… and he still is pretty ticked off with life. He is three years old now and has regressed back into the extremely malnourished bracket. Who knew I could love someone so much who cries if I even look at him for too long.

Isabella - she fell off of a table as a newborn and has a skull fracture. Living miracle!
Isabella – she fell off of a table as a newborn and has a skull fracture. Living miracle!

I am grateful to walk this journey with these little guys and celebrate as they recover using the Medika Mamba, peanut butter based baby food. Pray with us for each of them (Vena, Valmyr, Ismylove, Junior, and Isabella) and I will keep you updated along the way.

God is love. Pass it on.

 

Day 1

My NYE dates: I've seen these girls just about everyday for the 365 days in 2012.
My NYE dates: I’ve seen these girls just about everyday for the 365 days in 2012.

New Year’s Eve.

No fireworks.(Heard them across the river – does that count?)

No sequins covered outfit.(pouting)

No kiss (unless kisses goodnight to the babies counts??!!).

However, another year down and another exciting one ahead – cheers to living the unknown! It’s hard for a type A person such as myself to even choke down a phrase like that – progress people… this is a picture of progress.

It’s just after 12 AM and my thoughts are so consumed with what has been and what is to be.

I started this year in Haiti, at Danita’s Children. 12:00AM – located on the couch of the girl’s orphanage to be exact. So tired from a full-on dance party that it was a feat to even stay up until midnight. When I finally got a moment to stop, a baby in my lap, we were both down for the count pretty quickly.

I remember waking up the next morning, January 1, 2012, feeling like this was a pretty cool place to begin a new year. And that I should cook some black eyed peas. Because you know you’re supposed to eat black eyed peas on the first day of a new year.

Doesn’t everyone do that? Or is that just MY Grandma?

2012 was so full of nothing that I thought, yet so full of everything that God knew that I needed.

 IMG_2343

This time last year I was adjusting to a new home. A new country. A new culture. A new lifestyle. I was far away from everything that is secure, and so excited for every day’s new adventure. I’m so grateful for the heartache, the hardships, and the headaches that came along with it.

On a long list of a full year, I can definitely say that this year:

I learned what the true meaning of value is.

The true picture of grace.

The true testament of faithfulness.

IMG_0253 IMG_0067 IMG_0019

As I look through 2012 photos of tragic stories and beautiful miracles, of lessons that I still don’t understand – that will travel a lifetime with me – and of heroic people who will never be known, I am honored that God trusted me enough to be a part of the story, and overwhelmed at what He has shown me about the character of my God, His faithfulness, and His never ending pursuit of me.

IMG_1628 IMG_1779

 Although continually watching suffering and injustice is never easy, seeing God’s beauty in it’s mists is something that I can still never fully describe.

Even in the moments, as right now, where I am just at a blank – on my life, my future, my next 5 minutes – I feel like I continue to remain in such an intense place of gratitude. Gratitude that I continue to walk in God’s presence and mercy every day. That for the past 365 days I have learned more about who God is and how, as much as I want to make my own plans for my life, it’s really not about me at all.

Thank you to those who helped me get here, help me continue here, and help me to remain sane in the middle of my momentary lapses in identity.

WORD to a FRESH 2013! Isaiah 54: I am preparing to stretch! My house… my heart… my spirit… because I want it all! It makes NO rational sense. But who asked for life to make sense?

Happy 2013!