The wonder of His love.

My heart could never express enough gratitude.

Not so many years ago it was me who was so deeply broken and looking to identify anything of substance. Something deeper.

When I see the struggle of humanity it reminds me of myself – silently desperate for what I came to know as Jesus.

Today my prayer is that I would continually be overwhelmed at the reality of His mercy in my life. Of His grace for me. I screw up so much.

As I continue to grow in Him I am made more and more aware of the treasure that I have found in His arms. 

And more and more desperate to make it known to others.

God is love.

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.

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.

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…

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!!

My “One of Those Days” Pep-Talk

Matthew 6:23, “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all things will be given to you as well.” … SO STOP WHINING. (my translation)

I don’t know what it is. Maybe it’s packing and anxiety of traveling and passport checking and not wanting to get on that 3 hour bus ride. Maybe it’s because life is unpredictable and scary and following a path less traveled isn’t always glamorous and I don’t always feel like being courageous and making a deliberate decision to continue anyways. Life doesn’t just happen. It doesn’t just fall into place. It takes deciding to keep going every time that it would be easier to not.

I’m reminding myself today that God’s arm is not too short. He can reach me right where I am. And, for what it’s worth, the God who placed every star in the sky doesn’t need my help in coordinating the plans that He created before I was ever born. This is how He builds faith in us – testing and watching us follow through. Or not follow through. So, to myself, stop trying to control a life that has already been set into motion. Not for me, but for God to be glorified. Just live with a willing heart and allow Him to make your way straight.

I literally just gave myself that pep-talk, while I wrote it and had a little pity party, and then re-read it and cheered myself on!

No joke. I’m so weird. Now I’m gonna go get on an exhausting 3 hour bus right and begin the process of getting to Florida!

Cheers to a hot shower and good water pressure in about 5 hours!!

XOXO,

Hope

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.

 

Some Days Just Get The Best Of You

It’s true.

I sat in church today feeling like once again I would have no clue what’s going on until we dismiss.

I love singing the songs that I don’t know.

I love watching the people worship to words I can’t say but I know are glorifying to God.

And everything around me just seemed to overwhelm me with thanksgiving.

It’s already been a slightly overwhelming week but God showed me so many people this morning that reminded me how good life is and how the small things are Oh, so small.

Our Evenson, who suffers from Muscular Distrophy, can barely walk and has painful joints, but is never found without a smile. Who stays after all the other boys have gotten distracted to help put chairs away. Who goes out of his way to come say ‘hi’.

He sat by me in church today. It’s often uncomfortable for him to sit for a long period of time, but he never leaves his seat. During worship, as most of our other older boys are reluctant to stand, or are bored, Evenson is standing in the middle of them, with his hands lifted and his eyes closed, lifting the most sincere and genuine worship and prayer to God.

I cried because I know God was listening to him.

I cried because he wasn’t embarrassed or ashamed that he wasn’t fitting in.

I cried because, well, I’m super emotional right now.

I cried because he doesn’t deserve MD. He deserves to run. He deserves to play soccer. I pray for him each day that God would heal his body, or at least give him comfort in his bones.

Pepito and Chris Jerry.

Pepito is a single father. He brings his son, Chris Jerry with him everywhere, including church.

Alone.

Every week.

A single father is unheard of in Haiti.

A father is rarely heard of, but a father raising a son all alone is literally unheard of.

Not to mention a son who has special needs. Who requires 24 hour care.

He is a young man, in his 20’s, who gave up his job, his life – everything – to raise this boy who will never say ‘I love you’, who will never jump into his arms or play soccer with him. Pepito has literal minimal resources.

Yet, Pepito loves his son so much.

I cried today watching their love.

I cried watching a father love his son so much with no requirement for a return.

The man in the front who stood giving thanks to God the entire morning.

A grown man being vulnerable is another unheard of thing in Haiti.

I cried watching him be so incredibly grateful for life. For provision.

I cried because of my selfish heart – the difference in the way that this man and I would define the same term of provision.

Provision.

Most likely his children were able to eat this week, thus he feels provided for.

They weren’t out on the streets. Or maybe they were. Whatever the case, he felt provision in his life.

I cried thinking about the lives of the people in the church today. When they’re not at church. When it’s just a normal day. What their homes look like. When and if they eat.

On Sunday they are presenting their best. Even then, in the states we would be in those circumstances feeling like Job, like there is nothing left.

Yet they worship, they give thanks, feeling like they have been provided for another week.

Think again the next time you beg for provision, and clearly define that term for yourself.

Then give thanks.

The Girl In The Yellow Bus

When we crossed this morning there was a yellow school bus ahead of us. The closer we got the more clear we could make out that the windows were all busted out and there were strips of rebar over them. Inside the bus was hundred of Haitians being bussed back into their home country from different locations, some hours away. Something like a Dominican immigration.

The interior of the bus had been gutted out and the people inside were just shoved in together like sardines. It took me back to all the reading that I have done on the Holocaust. Replace the bus with a cattle cart and it looked like a scene from a book – transferring the caged humans. I was in literal disgust passing the back of the bus and I just happened to look into the back corner where a young girl – maybe 5 years old – stood pressed against the rebar. She wore a little flowery sundress and her tiny little hand was wrapped around the strips of iron. Our eyes locked and my disgust melted into heartbreak. She had no clue or control about what was going on, but she looked helpless and hopeless.

I’ve been thinking about her all day and tonight I am praying that her heart is wrapped in God’s peace and contentment. That somewhere along the way she was given food today and that someone, somewhere showed her compassion.

Goodnight from Ounaminthe,
Hope