What Love Is This

I never knew that my heart was capable of this kind of love.

It’s not like how I loved my pets when I was a kid. Or even how I love my family. Shoot, it’s not even the kind of love like when I come across a beautiful pair of shoes that are marked down off an already reduced price.  It is this deep in the stomach, overwhelming, never goes away and never runs out, ultra selfless, do anything to see them smile, burdened by what makes their hearts hurt kind of love.

I’ve never felt anything like it. And once again, shout out to all the parents out there – man, y’all go through it for your children. So worth it.

When I moved to Haiti I was the ultimate Auntie. As a 12-timer, I’m good at the Auntie role. It’s pretty basic really – chocolate after 10pm, toys that make loud noises, stay up past curfew, always go to their school for lunch when in town.

So when I got to Haiti and had to take on a parenting role – implementing rules, changing wet sheets in the middle of the night, disciplining (the worst, but more necessary part – kids definitely crave structure!)  – I was less than prepared, and even less prepared for the overwhelming love that has grown in my heart for 115 of Haiti’s finest.

Literally. Like when I pray for them, my heart is deeply burdened for what plagues their dreams and the insecurities that manifest themselves through their actions (which is the nice way of saying when they’re acting a fool, but I can’t be mad at them because I know it comes from their intense past that I could never imagine). I wonder what they saw before they came to live at Danita’s Children and I desire, more than anything, for them to catch a slight glimpse of who God has planned for them to be.

I am in America this month  and I can’t stop thinking of them, how their doing, what I’m missing out on and wondering if they miss me.

It’s crazy how God has given me this love that makes us all family in Haiti. Not like a group of people who live together so are inevitably close – we are family.

I am so grateful to be at my home church for a few weeks (my word, God had to have known that I was insanely home sick for it) and working in our US offices, in the land of abundance and overwhelming choices. However, no matter where life takes me, my heart will always wonder toward the kids who God is using to change my life. Their insane courage and determination to rise above the statistics that surround them continues to humble me and encourage me to always push for more and to continuously count the blessings around me.

You should do the same – you’ll be surprised at how beautiful your life really is.

Dwelling On The Beatitudes

MOUNT OF BEATITUDES

Capernaum, Israel

Matthe 5:3, “Blessed are the poor in spirit,  for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”

 One of my favorite places in the whole world.

Whenever my heart is conflicted or I’m feeling overwhelmed with this life, it is this place that I think of.

This place, where it is believed that Jesus taught to many, saying things, such as, “… blessed are those who hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be filled.” Where He called me blessed and said that I would inherit the kingdom of heaven.

So grateful for these words in Matthew 5 and love remembering back to the moments when I sat on this mountain, in front of this gate, dwelling on these words and imagining what that moment must have been like, reassuring myself that it’s all gonna be okay.

And to all who are overwhelmed in this life (and to myself in particular), take a deep breath, and remember… you are blessed. Seek His kingdom first, and EVERYTHING else will be added unto you. [Matthew 6:33]

Side note: Which means, if you are seeking His kingdom first, and you don’t have what you think you need, then it’s not for you yet – because when it is – he will add it unto you. He promised.

Many days my actions (or just plain human stupidity) may not always reflect it, but I am so grateful that God sees my heart and that I truly desire after Him. Sometimes – and when I say sometimes I mean like every, single day – I make a total mess out of myself. It amazes me that God carries this abundance of grace that is renewed each morning, and that He can see the promise in me, even when I can’t see it in myself.

An Honored & Slightly Exhausted Perspective

So, talk about blogging much… or the lack there of!

Sorry, folks.

There are so many moments that need to be shared, it’s sometimes hard to decide which to dwell on or even if I have it in me to process through it instead of accepting that it happened and continuing on. Lately, I haven’t found time to gather a simple sentence in my brain, much less put down those amazing, extreme, never-the-same-day-twice, life altering moments onto digital paper.

The past few weeks I’ve been running the girl’s house at Danita’s Children. A never ending mix of girls and teenagers and a whole heck of a lot of  hormones – my own included.

And, lucky for me, our girls are amazing.

They’re conscious of God and of others.

It’s an honor to hold the pressure of who these girls are becoming.

I can’t even get into their backgrounds and what they have overcome and how they still smile and press on.

It’s hard sometimes because I do what I can on such a lack of sleep, but wow. Life is very different in the disciplinarian’s shoes. I am good at being the “cool Aunt”. The “responsible, safety conscious, look out for their own future good” one… wow.

Ahh, Girls.

God knew what he was doing.

The worst part is, I see myself – my 12 year-old self, my 16 year-old self, my current self – in all of them.

Which makes the words “just trust me” weigh so much more.

Sigh.

The things that college doesn’t prepare you for…

That being said, and in light of the past few weeks of my life, I would like to state the following:

I get it now. I have had the epiphany of a parent’s perspective.

To every person who has ever has or is parented/ing: Props to you. Major, massive, props to you.

To My Mom: I’m sorry for calling your name or knocking on your door or looking through the crack to see if you were paying attention (or all at the same time) 18,000 times a day, everyday for the better part of about 14 years. I’m sorry for not doing it the first time you asked and for not realizing the extreme amount of strategic effort that it takes to just make a day with children happen from rolling out off the mattress at the sound of an alarm clock to falling back onto it at the bedtime that never seems to come.

To My Middle School Friends: I would like to acknowledge each and every very intense moment of our dramatic 12 year-old lives that we encountered together – boys, cheerleading, the works. Big shocker to us now – it all turned out all right. And when I say alright, of course I mean transitioned from 12 year-old intense moments to 20-something year-old intense moments. Such is life – surely in 20 more years I’ll be writing this same thing about today.

So… it is safe to say that I am now re-living those moments from a different perspective, being re-paid for the ones I thought I got away with and feeling like my mother on so many different occasions that it is scary!

All those parent-isms aren’t just for something to say after all.

From disciplining for things that are hilarious just to prove the principle while trying to keep a straight face, to buying an abundance of chocolate and Oreos when there is rumor of a potential heartbreak, to using the sandwich method at all times (something soft and sweet, then the harsh middle, then something positive again) to dodge any major potential meltdowns. With ages ranging from four to 20, you could get any thing at any time.

As you can imagine, I have found a whole new level of respect (if that is possible) for Brenda, our house mother, and her never ending amount of grace and patience, and a whole new appreciation for moments of silence.

I got to Santiago yesterday to pick up some visitors and the room they put me in is on the inside of a hallway so there are no windows. I’ve never loved a three hour taxi ride more. I literally – literally – walked into the room, put my bag on the foot of the bed, turned off the light and fell fast asleep for the next two hours, in a wonderfully freezing, dark, cave, where you never know exactly what time it is because there are no windows.

Bliss. Pure bliss.

… and if I haven’t said it lately: Thank you to all of you who make this life possible. I may be exhausted, but couldn’t be more content and honored to be living this life.

Feeling Pretty Bold Tonight

I must be feeling something because I took on the bold and questionable adventure of a sleepover with six boys all under the age of four! Pray for me people. Their bedtime is at 6pm… it is now 11pm! Fasting may even be in order… this is our current state:

… and can I just say – So glad I changed my major from Elementary Education… whoever told me I should have been a Kindergarten teacher was highly mistaken!

Goodnight – ANIMAL COOKIES AND GATORADE FOR EVERYONE! I’m already preparing myself for what tomorrow morning is going to look like!

Never a dull moment,
Hope

P.S. I love this life!

Quiet Time #ThoughtsOfDad

There are so many memories that live in my soul, and my most cherished are the times with my family before this world expected anything of me.  When I was just a clumsy little hooligan. Most of them take place on our sailboat, a campground, the woods somewhere or a beach house. The one constant in all of my past times is the infamous words from my Dad, claiming that it was, “quiet time”. The sun on it’s way to bed, crazy hair (I’m sure) from whatever the day held, feet hanging off the edge of our O’day, around a camp fire, in the sand, in our back field (or somewhere of this sort) and attempting the impossible task of not speaking while looking up into the black night sky as the stars simultaneously begin to appear – the big/little dipper, O’riens belt, beetle juice (totally not how you spell it, but I thought that’s what it was called when I was little). Quiet time: a moment that I find myself longing for more and more these days, and has left me with a deep love for astronomy.

Among quiet time lives so many moments of waiting for my Dad to get home from work so he could lift me up to touch the ceiling. One time he took me on a date to the circus. I don’t remember the whole day, but remember that I loved it. I also have this vivid memory of getting to ride a pony outside the tent and getting a coloring book.

His presence has always been consistent – whether there was a funny noise under the hood of my first car (or second… or third), learning to change a tire (cus what if no one is around!!), shooting my first gun (I’m a Texan people, don’t hate) in our field, being taught just about everything, or calling my Dad in his office at work to talk me through putting water in a radiator while I’m crying on the side of the road in a different state. Being lost, and a phone conversation that always sounded like some variety of the following – Me: “Dad, I’m lost.” Dad: “Where is the North star?” Me: “Dad! What the heck? I’m driving down the highway and I don’t even know what that looks like. They all look the same.” Dad: “You can always find home from the North star… home is East.” My best friend, Ashli, after I hang up: “Did your Dad try to explain our way with the stars again? “

And when the day came that I decided to move away from home and forge through on my own, and everything in my life was a question – he told me to head out, live the dream, take the road less traveled, make mistakes… and if it all crumbles – call him and come back home.  It is safe to say that because of this man I have never been afraid to conquer my hearts desires, knowing that I could always call my Dad at any random, petty, but “important in the moment” moment that I would certainly encounter along the way… and it would all be okay.

However, no matter how crazy life gets or how far out I venture, I am always taken home when I look at the stars. It has a way of calming the anxiousness of a busy day and always makes me smile… When I gaze into the sky, and all at once feel overwhelmed by the vast amazement of God’s artwork, feel seven years old again, look for Orion’s belt and find “quiet time”.

And to my Dad: In the mists of a crazy life, I am forever grateful that 23 years ago you chose to make me your daughter – a decision that showed me what love really looks like,  how special that I am, the worth that no man can match and that continues to reap fruit as I navigate these years “out and about” on the path less traveled.

Thanks, Dad. Happy Father’s Day!

 

God Opportunities…

So when I’m running the boys house it’s quite easy to be totally and completely exhausted and totally and completely content and totally and completely going crazy. At the end of the day I’m just praying and hoping and wishing that no one else needs my assistance… which really means that I’m thinking “if one more person says my name”. Karris Hudson lives there and she is basically my hero. It’s a fury of dirty shoe, dirty shirt, dirty face madness as soon as those cuties come plowing up the stairs and through the doors. From there it’s lines of bathing, pjs, devotions like you’ve never experienced, homework, hilarious story times and any excuse not to have to go to sleep. There is usually at least one who is sick, crying or peeing the bed; and the list of things to do after they’re all fast asleep never seems to end – security supplies and locking down the property and ensuring that the older boys in our church aren’t like playing volleyball across the bunk beds and getting everything in earthquake position (because you never know what could happen) and a gazillion other things that I don’t even have energy to discuss.

Although most see these as complaints – or a crazy description that they would never volunteer for – I never end one of these crazy nights feeling anything less than totally grateful and honored to be called “Mami”. And for a side note… I mean, ya know, just for what it’s worth…I will say that I was doing a rather stand up job until Mami Karrisssssss came home with an abundance of snacks and treats and stole my thunder. I mean, it’s cool… It’s okay, I’m not bitter.

So I totally just went on a rabbit trail that isn’t even the point of this story but it is the reason that this story will become two parts. The point, is the moment that caught my heart, and reminded me of the sweet moments of opportunity that I miss when I get so caught up in long list of crazy madness that never stops.

Each night I pray for moments of opportunity. For my time here to be more than just work. To see people as people, with stories and children and histories of suffering that I can barely comprehend. To not become consumed with frustration at the humanity of this culture. For God to be continually uplifted and for our children especially to have an open line of communication about Christ. Shame on me for praying these prayers and seeing these needs and then becoming so consumed with the humdrum of crazy life in Haiti and forgetting to be aware when these opportunities that I continually pray for present themselves.

So for now – here’s to being aware of God opportunities! And the story continues…

Life, Sleepovers and The Plague

My goodness, life has gotten the best of me and I have not touched writing. However, for those who keep up – I am doing well. Life is good – and summer has arrived early this year! My goodness, the sweating never ends. No reason to even try and appear decent – all efforts are an epic fail. I wrote a post last year around this time about how I never knew that I could sweat this much. Well, truly nothing is new under the sun and it’s just daily life now-a-days.

We have had a massive virus free flowing through our camp – I call it the plague – and I believe we are finally on the up climb from it. Weeks of multiple kids with 104 fevers, vomiting, coughing and just looking so sad and pathetic is never fun. It is in those moments that I am always wishing that their little mischievous personalities would return because I hate seeing them so tired and listless. I got caught up in the madness for about a week of feeling like I got hit by a truck – which made me feel even worse for our little guys because I knew they were feeling just as bad. However, I am recovered and vaccinated – no typhoid or malaria for me, folks!

All in all, life is wonderful. I am so grateful to be spending my time here and committing these young years to service of God’s children. It is a true testament to having a plan, but God writing the story of my life.  I have a semi-freak-out-wanna be-meltdown in my head every now and then because I have no plan, but I read an article recently (you can read it here) about the staff and what it represents (the power and faithfulness of God) and it reminded me that my God is bigger than my plan, how He is always true to His promises and how He doesn’t change – not when times were worse and not ever in the future – and how my plan ultimately doesn’t matter anyway if I’ve given away my whole heart to Him and am walking in His ways.

In the mean time, life is full of hard work, long nights, birthdays, sleepovers and dance parties – always a staple at Hope For Haiti!

  

Thank you to my few sponsors who make my time here possible. Every time I buy groceries I am thinking of you and thanking God for the ability to be able to do so. These are definitely years of sacrificing and growing and learning and continuing a foundation that will sustain anything that the future holds.

…and the adventures continue – I’m gonna go sweat some more and maybe eat a mango or something!

P.S. I have some special some ones coming in just about a week that I am so beyond excited to see! I am like a kid at Christmas. They say some mumbo jumbo about coming to see the kids or something, but we all know it’s solely for yours truly! It has made this heat and sickness so much more bearable knowing that a part of my family is making the trip to bare it with me – I’m not sure that they are prepared for all of this, but I’m trying to down play it until they get here – muahahahahaha!!! < evil laugh

XOXO,

Hope

Let’s Just Say… Whoa.

So when I woke up this morning I had no idea what the day would hold. Work in the office, play with some kids, possibly deal with something crazy and never heard of in the United States. What I didn’t expect was to spend six hours at a Haitian woman’s bedside, fanning her with a piece of cardboard and praying her through contractions. All while another woman across the room screamed through delivery, a teenager came in with a prematurely broken water and two orphaned young girls hung out on a bed with an IV in the arm of one who was pregnant. No separation curtain things. No screens. No medication. Just some beds and some Dominican nurses with attitude and some screaming women. And me and my friend, Brittany.

I was praying this morning while getting ready, and may have asked God to give me opportunities to specifically show the love of Jesus. Little did I know – knowing what this day would hold before I was ever born – Jesus was replying, “ha… you have no idea.”

I knew I needed to make a trip to Dajabon at some point, so when I saw our errand staff on his way there I jumped in the cart to catch a ride. Ironically, I couldn’t do what I needed to do, but in true daily fashion, this lead to that, and I ended up at the hospital. One of our teachers was in labor, and whoa.

Usually Haitians birth their own babies, in their own homes, with whatever they can find and a razor blade. No, seriously they do. But she, Lovelie, had the luxury of birthing in a hospital… and whoa. I just couldn’t believe the “luxury” that she was granted. Ceiling tiles falling out, rust and water stains all over the walls, painting and construction in the room next door (just what every mother wants for their new born baby – paint fumes and construction dust) and no privacy what-so-ever. There were eight beds in the room, each labeled with a piece of tape on the wall. All supplies needed for labor/delivery have to be brought in – sheets, towels, nightgown, receiving blankets, newborn outfit, socks, that little sucker thing that moms use to suck boogies out of their kid’s noses. Talk about planning ahead. If you don’t remember, you don’t have it. Don’t even think about being catered to or pampered in the worst pain any human can go through without dying.

Along with being in such luxury, Brittany and I were trying to fully understand the Haitian process of giving birth. Cultural differences at their finest. Lovelie’s sisters were there, just kind of watching and “allowing the process to happen”. They kind of smirked together as they explained these ways to us. That she couldn’t have pain medication because, well, you can’t have birth without pain. They’ll just know it’s time when her pain is a certain way (aka she’s about to die) and she pushes and a head shows. And she couldn’t drink water because if she needs a c-section it may come out. Duh… why didn’t I think of that?

Long story short, there are a lot of things about labor and delivery that are only known by people who have had babies. It must be like a secret society or something, because whoa. Prolly because they know if they shared with those who hadn’t been initiated yet then our population would slowly dwindle. I had no idea. And I must say, I’m a little traumatized. And will explain no further – for the sake of mixed company and others who are not yet in the society – I’ll just say… whoa, whoa, whoa. I just stuck to my job of fanning with the cardboard and praying when she looked like she might pass out and saying things that roughly translate to: “Jesus is here with you” and “push a lot down there” and “breathe like this”. What I didn’t do was let my eyes wander. Lesson quickly learned – as little eye wandering as possible. A couple of times things happened and Brittany and I just got big eyes and look around to see if anyone else was freaking out and tried to play it cool, calm and collected… clearly newbies into this society of pain also known of childbirth.

After one nurse kept screaming at her to not whine and to push like a man, popping her stomach a lot in this weird way (cultural?) and slapping her in the face when her pain was so heavy that she wasn’t focusing enough, she claimed it as “time to deliver”. The doctor continuously pushed on her stomach with the stethoscope and promptly rushed her out of the ugly room with all the beds while saying something in spanish about it being fatal.

 [WHAT?!] Exactly! I know, that’s what I said, too. 

Enter longest silent moment of my life…. scary, scary praying…. Brittany and I watching the scary delivery in the emergency room, because, well, what is protocol, anyways… the nurses, literally, pushing on her stomach while they jump up and down because the baby was too high to come through the canal, lots of other gross stuff, and then – big sigh of relief – the cries of a little baby girl!

They asked us to name her, to hold her before anyone else, and, after much deliberation and discussion during the earlier fanning process, we presented her to her mother… as Esther – a courageous girl who God gave a big voice to speak on behalf of her people in their suffering. The family was SO extremely happy because 1. It was a good, strong, Biblical name and 2. We made a little presentation of their baby to them, which they took very seriously, and stood with them for six hours and got them lunch and took care of their sister when it was time to eat. It really is the small things, folks.

After the Lion King-ish ceremony was concluded, Brittany and I exited down the hallway in an end of a movie type, full-circle, compellingly cool moment, tired and sticky with sweat, feeling pretty mid-wife-ish (it is hard work watching someone that stressed out), but ultimately content, and excited to return with goodies. We looked at each other and high fived. It’s been a good day.

Once again, I’m ending my day exhausted and grateful and honored for the amazing and beautiful and fully traumatizing moments that God allows me to be a part of in this crazy place and in this crazy life. I would want to be spending these days nowhere else.

Welcome to the world, little Esther Jean-Baptiste – you’ve been claimed and destined for great things!

Things That Make You Go “Hmmm”: God’s Plan

“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.”

God’s word said he knew me before I was born. He had a plan for me.

Which just makes me wonder what that looked like. Was I a sketch in his heart? Did he think, “I need her to be this way, act this way, look this way, be kind of stubborn, but ultimately really awesome – and she will be called Hope – and the plan that I have for her is going to be great!” Then sometime between Noah and March of 1988, He saw a need that only I could fulfill and released me into my mothers womb, a certain combination of two distinctly different people, to get the result of – me.

Or was my spirit active in heaven and God knew that it was me and I knew Him. And we like talked and joked around and stuff. And then He looking into a certain place within time and decided that is where I would go, for such a time as this?

Just one of those things, ya know?

These are things that keep me up at night people. It’s a scary place in my head.