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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

Signs of Life: Even in death.

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There are moments in my life that I can’t even bring myself to write about. Some are too complex, some people cannot handle to hear, and some hold memories that I don’t care to ever relive. The past few weeks have been a mix of all three, but somewhere in the mix my heart sees God in the details, and in this season of loss I am choosing to identify the subtle signs of life within each God filled moment. 

There have been moments of anger, of grief, of fear, and of sorrow. Loss is never easy and watching suffering is sickening. Literally.

This weekend Christla became an orphan. Between thinking of the intense pressure and pain that Elydia experienced in only 26 years, to the amazing God moments we walked through, and of how much incredible relief that she left this earth with as a daughter of Christ, my heart continually finds itself in moments of overwhelming emotion. I am grateful to Danita for taking baby Christla in and committing to her life and future, and I am even more grateful that I was able to reassure her mom, in letting go, that her baby girl would be taken care of.

Today, I am not mourning the loss of my friend Elydia but choosing to celebrate her life, the many months spent with her and her children each week, and especially the last few weeks we had with her before she let go of her fight. AIDs is a slow and painful death and it was hard to be a part of those last days without praying for God to take her pain away. However, it was one of the most moving and compelling moments I’ve ever been honored to be a part of just a couple weeks earlier– watching her pray a prayer of salvation and release all past worry, shame, heaviness, and guilt from her heart.

My words could never serve justice to Elydia’s life or death, but I can say how beyond grateful I am to have been a part of it. That God would honor me with the opportunity of serving her in life and loss, through the passing of a child and the birth of another, through sacrifice and salvation, and of watching her exit this world with a heart full of peace and Jesus. My heart is overwhelmingly humbled.

And even a little bit jealous – she is upstairs holding her baby boy again. 

God is love. And He’s in the details. 

Signs of Life: Welcome, Baby Christla!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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.

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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.

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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.

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 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!

A Constant Yom Kippur

Israel, 2008.

During this season of observance – today (9/25-26) in particular, on Yom Kippur – my Jewish friends are fasting and placing themselves in reverence before G-d to seek atonement for their personal sins, and to seek forgiveness as a whole for sins toward each other. A day of repentance.

Yom Kippur – The Day of Atonement.

 One day to corporately make it right.

For thousands of years it has been this way. Jews around the world coming together, corporately, to present themselves to G-d through the High Priest in hopes of their personal sins and sins toward one another during the past year being atoned for. Covered.

They shouldn’t be doing so alone, as Christians are forgiven by the same G-d.

Because there was this one day, in the middle of all those thousands of years ago, in the garden of Gathsemene, where a pressure that I could never know mounted on His heart, Jesus prayed a prayer that I have prayed in my own ignorance: “Lord, let this cup pass from me.” Not knowing that this cup is exactly what He planned for me to carry… knowing what I could handle. Thankfully, He continued, “Nevertheless…” (Matthew 26:39) and He gave himself over to atone for every one of my short comings, and every sin that he knows I will fall short of in the future.

And it was finished. No more covering. Washed away. Redeemed.

We (Christians) should be reverent to the fact that we are in a constant state of Yom Kippur, coming before our Holy G-d, and continually seeking atonement. Forgiveness.

The point is reverence. Taking time to dwell.

So today, and always, we should join with our Jewish friends – united by our love for G-d and His word – and put away frivolous things in order to seek repentance between our brothers, turn our eyes toward our G-d in gratitude, thanking Him for washing it all away, and atoning for our mistakes.

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

Hello, Progress! Nice To See You!

It cannot be denied that our property at Danita’s Children is beautiful.

It radiates with hope, but, even more so, it is built with an excellence that Danita carries throughout her ministry. So much has progressed since I went to the states and, from the mists of piles of construction and dust and ladders made out of sticks, these beautiful structures are erecting and change is in the air. I walked through and am absolutely amazed at how great it all looks.

   

Tile is going up on the ground level – which we are anxiously awaiting to open while the other floors are being finished – and stones are covering the outside of the buidling.

The first of our new orphan care homes should be finished within the next couple of months, which will house all of our little boys, and babies, who have been sleeping in our church since 2010.

I couldn’t be more excited for the laughs and late nights of homework and games and good memories that our children will share within these family units. When God said that he would not leave children orphaned, that He would come to them (John 14:18), that He would set the lonely in families (Ps. 68) He wasn’t lying – and those verses have truly been fulfilled here in abundance!

I am so grateful to be a part of their story, and to watch God’s hand at work through generous, hardworking, faithful people who are being used to fulfill God’s promises to His children. Merci Jezi aka Thank You, Jesus!!

Not My Will…

“The pain of sacrifice is far less than the pain of regret.” – Christine Caine

The desire of my heart is to spend my twenties serving, sacrificing and learning the big lessons in life, no matter how hard or what the cost. To connect with people, hear their hearts, see the world for what it truly is and realize that we’re all the same, in our nature, even if not in our lifestyles.

However, I never saw myself in ministry. I never wanted to work at a church. I have always been burdened by church and culture in America. It’s a mission field just as much, if not more, than many other places in the world. We (Americans) miss the point so much. We are so easily distracted. So easily tempted. We are so easily personally defeated. Young girls so often view themselves with such low regard. These are

problems that burden my heart.

My plan was to be the cute girl. Work a job in corporate America – kickin’ butt and takin’ names – and use it as a platform for people to watch a balanced and consistent lifestyle and say, “Wow! And she’s aChristian? I want that, too. And omg, her shoes are so cute.” In the mean time I would be helping make my church go round, and I would be doing super cool stuff all at once. I would fit that lifestyle well, enjoying all of God’s abundance. And the cute shoes wouldjust be a bonus, cus you know, God cares about the little things…

Side note: more Christians in America would do themselves a service by strategically attracting secular society before delivering a life changing message, rather than just spewing views and opinions and hoping that someone is in their line of fire. Job well done, Tim Tebow.

But then there is this heart in me that yearns for those who are forgotten. That sees adventure in going to places less desired. That is fulfilled with compassion. That is bored with convention. That is restless in tradition. That is in no way impressed with keeping up with the Jones’. This heart beats for the love of Jesus to overtake my surroundings the same way that He has overtaken myself. And that is something that won’t let go of me.

At this moment, the serendipity that I share with these alternate universes is one that I will never understand. As if I am standing in the middle of the Great Divide. Torn between two separate worlds. One full of expectations and deadlines, and the other dusty feet and border crossings.

In all of my desires there comes a tiny window of opportunity where I have to take that plan that I had, as confused and blurry as it is, and lay it down. Go all in. Not knowing what the future holds, not knowing what is next, not knowing how it will all play out. But knowing that I trust Him, knowing that He will lift my head and steady my heart – I had to lay down my plan, along with every ounce of who I am, at the feet of Christ, and declare, “Nevertheless, not my will but Yours be done.”

Even when it’s hard. Even when it hurts. Even when I say it kicking and screaming.

I know that in time life will come. Money will come as I need it to fulfill God’s plan for His people. Success will come (whatever that looks like) from being obedient in the little things. A wedding and forever best friend will happen when/if He feels like I need a partner. Whether it’s in a foreign country forever or not, those things will come, but those aren’t the things my heart craves.

My heart longs to be more giving like the children I see sharing their only meal. To be stronger like the women I watch work 20 hour days to send their child to school.

To remain grounded in the spotlight and overlook jealous criticism- and not only to overlook it, but to truly love those who are spiteful – like my pastors who pour so much into me. To be more patient and compassionate like the friends who I work along side of in Haiti. Because once my heart learns these things, all the others things will be added unto me – both worlds, in abundance. Which is definitely only something God can accomplish!

Nevertheless, not my will….

And, as God is the faithful God that I have learned that He is, I am going to remain in the middle of the Great Divide, with a content heart, continually watching Him keep His promise, and make everything that I thought I wanted, more than I could ever dream of or imagine for His glory.

 

I say all of this, not to you, but to myself – somedays I get so consumed with life that I forget that I have barely even begun my twenties. I’m not even to the halfway mark yet. In those moments it’s good to have a reminder – to go back against everything and everyone who is uncertain and unsure and confusing, and read the things that I know to be true and unchanging – and declare them out loud.

Thanks For Reading.

 

The Love Of Christ Will Jack You Up.

I sat in on a Bible Study recently and what was reflected upon was a great reminder as to why I do what I do, why I am in Haiti right now and an explanation to all those moments that I just couldn’t quite explain why I was drawn to certain actions.

When the love of Christ begins to dwell inside of us, at some point it will overflow. It is in that overflow of relationship that people see what is pouring from you.The following are the results of the love of Christ acting in our lives.

The Love of Christ…

  1. …compels us. There are moments when were asked to do audacious things that don’t quite make sense. But it is because of the love of Christ that our hearts are compelled  to take particular actions.
  2. …give us power to change the world. The world being whatever that means to you. Each of us have our own “world” and circle of influence which we have the power to effect, good or bad.
  3. …gives us the ministry of reconciliation. Of being the bigger person. Of making things right because that’s the right way, not because you found justice.
  4. …gives us the power to lay our lives down. Against all the pleasures of this world. Not because the pleasures are bad or wrong, but because God compels us each in different ways. What is a pleasure/sacrifice to you may not be to the next person. But God’s compelling love causes us to push aside our own wants, literally and metaphorically, for the purpose of His plan and purpose.
  5. … cuases extra-ordinary obedience. Sometimes it seems crazy. Sometimes it’s a gamble. But the point is that on the other side of it is more than you could have ever wanted in the first place.
  6. …endures. When it’s lonely, when it’s hard, when you feel unappreciated.
  7. …cause you to remember to keep your promises.
  8. …waits. Psalms says that God’s promises are birthed through faith & patience. Wait on God and His plan is always better than our own anyways.
  9. …gives. In the abundance of God’s gifts, so rich and so fulfilling, things are just things.
  10. …forgive.
  11. …serve. Not because it’s a cool job or has great benefits. But because we are so undeserving of God’s grace and mercy, much less the things of this world that we are so consistently blessed with. It is the smallest sign of gratitude that we could possible attempt at paying such a debt.
  12. …covers. A multitude of sins. Who are we to expose another when we are saved by the grace of the same God.
  13. …defends. Defends the weak. The poor. The needy.
  14. …takes a risk. Even when some say it’s a crazy idea, It’s not “normal”, It’s a gamble, the results won’t be as good as the alternative, or it’s not the safe route. Most great decisions were made in a very risky setting.
  15. …is a decision. Anyone could love God and not follow through with these things. It is when the love of God overwhelms our hearts, when our relationship with Him is consistent, that as we are molded into His image as we were intended to be that these come to pass.

I feel humbled to reflect on these things, grateful to walked some of them out and very challenged to take on the rest.

When I say these things, it’s not as a “missionary’, it’s as a Christian. I don’t feel like my walking out a Christ lifestyle changed because I relocated to the mission field full-time. All of these things are still applicable and neccesary and relevant to our lives in the states. Each day we are taking risks and keeping promises and laying our lives down for the plan of God and being compelled to serve and endure challenges. This is the call of Christ.

It is that love of God that compels me to be here. Even with so much to lose and even when I’m tired and lonely and dirty, I am reminded of these things. Why I came in the first place. Because the love of God compelled my heart and through His plan I go to sleep at night excited to wake up early in the morning to spend my day with 500 kids who are hyper and typical and always humble toward their blessings, and a village of people who have no other option but to rely on God to meet every single one of their needs.

Only the love of God could compel that within me, because some moments I think I’m going crazy!