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.

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.

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!

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!!

Grace, Gratitude and Punching People in the Nose.

“Be faithful in small lessons because it is in them that your true strength lies.”
– Mother Teresa

My heart is overwhelmed – truly overwhelmed – with gratitude today. Tears have filled my eyes because my soul is so stirred with gratitude – I feel grateful again – and I have nothing but a joyful heart, because that hasn’t been genuinely and truly felt in a long time.

I haven’t mixed tears with smiles in quite a few months, and the past two or so years have been the hardest and darkest place that God has walked with me through in all of my young years. Was I depressed? No, I don’t think so. But, just another chapter in a cycle of my story that has been in rotation for most of my life. I always hear that hind sight is 20/20, and I also always thought when I heard it, that I didn’t want to hear that cliche crap in the middle of my mess.

However, I guess I owe those people an apology, because each day in the after-math of this tornado, I am seeing effects of my decisions and purpose in the lessons (most of them anyways… they continue to come to pass, good days mixed with bad, as a situation struggles to take it’s last dying breaths; it brings such a new meaning to “where sin abounds, grace that much more abounds” and I am believing that God is sovereign and brings restoration to all things).

So, with that being said..

When I have one of these moments, I cry almost every time; and when I say almost every time, I mean absolutely every time.

I cry because I never thought it was possible.

I never truly believed that there would be a day when I was grateful for the pain of people walking away.

(Even when a certain person would tell me it would be different eventually.)

I didn’t think I would ever see the purpose in it, and

I didn’t understand why I had to experience this pain to such an extreme.

I don’t want to discuss the pain, because you wouldn’t believe me if I told you. You would think I was exaggerating, or that something so complex could happen to one person, at one time; but mostly because that’s not the juicy part of the story. The best part, what I want to talk about, is about God’s grace, and how He has allowed me to see with His eyes, just a little bit – to extend grace and forgiveness – and even more so, to actually feel it in my heart, and to actually want the best for a people who, to say the least, did not consider the best for me.

To be honest, for a long time I had to dig to a very deep place in my spirit to find grace… fake it ‘til you make it, I guess, because most days – I wanted to punch someone in the nose.

I never openly shared (see #7 – even only a month ago this blog post would have read VERY differently… isn’t it funny how God can truly turn the heart of kings like a river? Must work for young girls, too.) but finally I am to a place where my heart has some perspective.

And this is what I have learned:

1. People are people. They are made in the image of Christ, but they are not Christ. They are human and will always reflect human characteristics (aka will ALWAYS mess up) and fall short of the glory of God… just like me. That is humanity.

2. God loves them just as much as he loves me. (hard to believe, I know.)

3. Give people the benefit of the doubt… even when they use and abuse it… 7 x 70. Let them spell it out, and when they still do, allow God to do the fighting. He will certainly do so, AND he will bring people around to genuinely protect and cushion the blows, with no benefit to themselves. (hard to believe, I know.)

4. Never retaliate – When someone chooses to hurt (intentionally or un) turn the other cheek. Even when there are things to be said that are deserved to say, and have every right to be said, and would be justified, and no one would be mad if it were said, because they all want to say it too. These Biblical principles have never been so practical and/or real to me. Almost makes me laugh. Because how many times have I heard ‘turn the other cheek’, and when it comes to it, I have to remind myself (aka force myself) to walk it out.. call it spicy or just human, but it is definitely not in my nature… then read Genesis 38, and fall into line, because truth will ALWAYS be revealed, and where you fall within that is up to you.

5. Speaking of cushioning blows – it is in these dark moments that true character is revealed (personally and in others), true relationships are made, and people are qualified, as they see a very intimate and raw place. It is to these people, that I am so truly and beyond words grateful for; and can honestly say, without a doubt that it would be worth walking through the deepest depths if that means creating those relationships again in such an intimate place.

6. In every hard day – every night that I cried, every morning that I cried, every time I wanted to punch someone in the nose, every time someone gossiped about me, hurt me (intentionally or un), hurt people close to me, used me or blatantly took the sharpest jabs into my heart – there was a lesson for ME to learn about ME, about ministry, about people and about the world we live it. So, to but it simply, it is not about me at all (hard to believe, I know) It has been a series of heavy crash courses (to say the least) and, like much of my life, deserving or not, it just takes learning the steps of this new dance.

7. Qualify people – Be careful where you bleed. Even when things are good. It’s a small world. Allow your relationship with Christ to become your refuge. It will strengthen it, which may be a lesson in itself.

8. Be grateful for the trials. If there is always something to be learned, then that means – the bigger the trial, the bigger the necessity that the lesson is learned. There is a song we sing, “For every mountain, you brought me over.. for every trial, you’ve seen me through.. for this I give you praisssseeee!” and I would reach for every spec of thanks I felt (or didn’t feel) and force myself to say these words, crying or not, out loud.

9. No matter how bad it seems, His promises really are true.. yes and amen.. absolute.. all the rest of the ways you wanna put it – He really will give no more that what can be handled (His eye is on the sparrow type thing..), He truly has our best interests at heart, and it WILL all work out for the good of those WHO DILIGENTLY SEEK HIM. Because He promised.

10. Although you know what you have in people determined by the fruit in their lives, give them the grace that you consistently ask for. I saved this one for last, because I want it to be the last point you dwell on. And because it is when I truly grasped this, that my heart was set free. It will allow for restoration to take place (don’t determine what this will look like) and my mind is absolutely – absolutely – boggled at the fact that when I pass these people in the world, I smile, my heart is warm, I want good things for their lives, and I feel so grateful for being a part of a continuum of great days that I get to call my life.

I know what it’s like to not notice the brightness of the sun anymore, to not smell the sweetness of the flowers and to not marvel at the stars. to wake up each day to another battle with people who are supposed to love you. To feel hurt and betrayed and confused. I get it. And on those days when you want to punch someone in the nose – when you’re over it, you’re sick of fighting it, sick of holding it, sick of being the responsible one, sick of not replying back, sick of not calling people out, sick of not getting in your say so, sick of people lying, sick of watching people believe the lies, so sick and darn tired of having to hold it all together when you feel like your falling apart – go grab a treat from Starbucks and a pedicure (or whatever boys do to relax, watch ESPN or something?) and remember these things:

You want more from your life, and I’m telling you like I know my name – It gets better. Just hold on. With tears in your eyes every time you hear it and frustration in your heart because you don’t deserve it. Hold on. Maybe not today and maybe not tomorrow, but when it does, the sun is so much brighter, the flowers are so much sweeter and the stars are like a blazing glory. This I KNOW to be true; and from that day forward, the good always seems to out weigh the bad, and every other trial that comes after that first, just seems like softball.

AND

just for what it’s worth – not only will you have cute toes from all of “those” days, but you will be so much more grateful, even if just for the fact that when it’s all over you aren’t standing in the ruins with your foot in your mouth. Humble pie is not very good in that moment, and it’s served in large portions.

P.S. There is a handful of people (one in particular, you know who you are) that walked with me through these life lessons, pointed them out when I couldn’t see them, kept things in perspective, spent too much time allowing me to hurt, didn’t let me feel sorry for myself and stepped into the ring when my burden appeared too heavy. To them (and you in particular – you taught me so much about grace and what that does not have to look like), I would like to say thank you and what you mean to me will never remain the same.

The A-List

When we read the Bible there key players.

They’re kind of like the A-list celebrities of the Bible.

You got Jesus. duh.

Adam/Eve. Noah. Moses. Mary and Joseph. Sarah. Ruth.

The list goes on…

But the point is that we see them as the big timers of the Word, and they were nobodies in their time. I mean prolly somebodies within their circle of influence, but even the big timers like King David and Solomon. They weren’t living to be written about. They were just living. They were walking out their lives.

I guarantee you Mary had no clue she would be the main event of a best selling Book for decades to come. That some people would actually pray to her. She was just a 14 year-old, scared, little girl. They were all people like you and me. Making courageous decisions. Or not so courageous. Praying to a mighty God. Being scared that it wouldn’t work out.

Walking through each emotion that accompanied their process. But they were the nobodies of their time, just like you and me, praying to One who was bigger and better and able to meet their needs. You know when Joshua prayed, he was scared. I bet if people in the Bible knew that they would one day be recorded about they prolly would have made such better choices.Ya know, like if you know someone is watching you it’s so much easier to do the sweet thing. If Joshua would have known he would eventually be the guy who everyone would read about when they needed to be reminded that God knew our plan before we were born, I bet he would have acted more hardcore. Like no God, I got this. I know you got a plan.

But no. He didn’t.

He lifted up (prolly with a shaky voice even) cries to God for help and protection and guidance and courage.

Because he was scared.

And I pray to the same God.

Not like ‘man we were both faithful, but lived thousands of years apart’.

Like, I have had conversations with one of the same people as Joshua. And Mary. And Moses. Heck, even Joel Osteen or Scott Thomas.

I see people doing great things and assume they have some special life or connection or  some special God or God just likes them more.

I guess it’s true what they say about people all being connected by 5 degrees… interesting.

So why do I assume that God can’t give me the same powerful answers as He gave to Moses, Mary and Joshua? Just because I can see the end of their story doesn’t mean that it was an easy ending to come to.

Know today that God isn’t just the lifter of your head, but He answered BIG prayers like splitting an ocean into two parts, putting a baby inside of a virgin woman, and leading a young boy into a leadership role of a tribe of people.

He looks at your biggest desire with not a drop of concern.

He can do the same for whatever it is that we even think in our mind or whisper about through our tears at night. He answered BIG prayers of little, insignificant, people. He asked for no criteria first. Just a willing and righteous heart.

This is what I know and this is what I will hold in my heart.

Goodnight.

XOXO,

Hope

Just something to think about: What if our lives were going to be written about in thousands of years to come. What role would be yours?