Free Life Chapel: Intentionally Spiritual

 

Is it an oxymoron for a church staff to make an effort to pray together on purpose? Well, we are.

It sounds contradictory to your perception, right? Hate to burst your bubble but praying together is not on our weekly office priority list from Tuesday-Friday… we work, and lots of it.

However, this week at Free Life, we are going intentionally spiritual – as a staff and personally – to remember the why: why we are each here, and why we are here serving this city for the purpose of Christ. We’re starting our work day off as a group, praying with each other and over each other, and discussing the why of what we do here each week.

peace-it-does-not-mean-to-be-in-a-place-where-there-is-no-noise-trouble-or-hard-work

It has been exceptionally necessary for me, as I have recently forgotten, and remembered again, why I am here instead of somewhere else. Somewhere that may seem more enticing, more fun, easier, more perks, and in turn more distracting. I know this season is strategic, as was the one prior to that, and the one prior to that. Foundational. I know that God is, as always, trying to speak to my heart about something. The problem is when my heart becomes so heavy with other things that I cannot hear him. It’s seriously the worst… like trying to run in thick fog.

Yes, exactly, can’t breathe.

When I was in Haiti I would think sometimes that if I could just get a moment in an American church, with English worship songs, then I could certainly more easily connect with Jesus. Now I find myself, not only in America, but on staff at an incredible church – yes, on staff, which is like as much in an American church as you can get – and I find it so distracting at moments that it all just translates as chaos in my head .

However, I have heard the contrary from others before – feeling like if they could just go out into the mission field, do something seemingly more tangible, then certainly their passion for Christ would truly be ignited. To you, dear person who thinks that, let me help you with something – it won’t. You will just be hot and irritated, on top of all the stuff you arrived with. Not a good combination – trust me, I’ve seen it.

All in all, the ‘God life’ is in the heart, not in the life, at all. It has nothing to do with where I am or what I do each day for work. It is all a matter of my heart, and how my heart seeks the heart of the one who saved me.

There are so many times where I have a though of a different path that would be so much easier, and this week I am reminding myself that I didn’t ask for easy. I don’t want easy. I want worth it. And I know in the deepest part of who I am that the lessons I am learning right now, the distractions that are in front of me, the sacrifices that I am making in these years, are more worth it than I could ever pay for.

And for that, I am grateful.

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.

Go To The Well & You Will Thirst No More.

I’ve been in Haiti for almost a year now, and the more I get to know these people, their stories, their families, the more they have become my friends and neighbors, the more my heart is burdened for my home and American society as a whole. We’ve really missed it. And not because we are blessed, because pleasure of this world are from the Lord. But because our hearts are in the wrong position.

These people who have nothing. And yet they have everything. They literally have nothing – no food, no water, no shelter, no education. I can’t imagine the anxiety that wrestles in their daily thoughts. They go to bed every night knowing they will not have enough. Burdened that their children will once again go to bed with hunger pains. And yet they are so full of joy and contentment and faith that Jesus knows right where they are.

This makes it hard for me to see our lives in America and not just be frustrated with all that I deemed so important for so long. We are consumed with what we don’t have. We have all this “stuff”…. just “stuff”, and yet our souls have nothing. What is “stuff”, what is money, what is status, what is a nice car when our souls are longing, day after day, in a silent desperation for something more?

Something deeper. Something to move us, compel us, or drive us to a place of compassion.

This is what Matthew is saying in chapter 10 when he says that we shouldn’t worry about what can kill our flesh, but rather what will kill our souls to hell.

I agree that people’s needs must be met. God provides for His people through us. But if all we give them is food and water, then they will return again tomorrow with an empty plate. However, if we meet the needs of their soul at the same time, then they will find themselves never thirsty again – a hope that remains as an anchor (Hebrews 6:11) in the darkest of days.

It’s really not that deep. When the opportunity presents itself within your circle of influence – take them to the well, and show them the water.

And I’m not referring to those serving in developing countries. I’m talking about at home, where the desperation and darkness is suffocating. IN THE PLACES YOU GO EVERDAY, where so many that you may never suspect are silently desperate.

And then be grateful for all that you have, shifting your heart away from any lack.

Our God is good. And oh, so faithful!

Depths of Gratitude

Whoa, nelly – who has been way blog absent? Yes, I know what you’re thinking – you missed me so much, right?

I’ve been spending every recent moment soaking in all the moments that I can with close friends who have stood the test of time and my wonderful family, who I always feel 17 around again.

Right now I’m preparing to head back to my home – North East Haiti.

Sigh. Life is so funny right now.

I remember the first time that someone told me that my life would change most from the age of 20-25. I was on a tour bus in Israel, and that person has since become an essential part of that process. And, I’ve heard that same statements hundreds of times since then.

During these critical years, full of decisions and adventures and mistakes which I will later blame on “being young”, I continually find myself in moments with God where my heart is just so overwhelmed with gratitude.

He truly spoils me.

When I think of the immense detail that He has orchestrated for me to walk out I can do nothing but cry. Literally. Right now I am sitting on a flight and I put my glasses on – *side note below – to cover my watery eyes and continue to dwell on the power of Christ on the human heart. It has completely changed every desire that I thought was important and brought perspective to every trial that I considered too hard.

As I am continually in this state, and trying to express my heart to my Father, I just can’t get passed “Thank You”.

Thank You.

For my family.

For my life.

For his grace in my humanity.

For the fact that He knows the plan He has for me since before I was born, even when I seem to have forgotten it.

I can never get over the fact that I get to be me. And THAT is something that I find priceless.

His blessings are more than I can ask for. And I’m just so darn grateful.

*Side Note: Yes people – I had to get glasses! I made all my routine medical appointments this time around, and one of them was to the eye doctor. I’ve always had great eye sight (I guess carrots really do work) so you can imagine my surprise (actually, I gasped out loud) when the lady asked me to read the bottom line and I couldn’t even make out the first letter. I acted all cool like I just had a momentary lapse of focus and began to read: “1, 2…” when she interrupted with – “If it helps, they’re all letters.” Oh, no she didn’t. I know exactly what you’re thinking, because it is exactly what I was thinking: RUDE! So, needless to say, I hit up the Lense Crafters special of 50% off frames and sunglasses… what, what!

Also needless to say, I don’t care what the rules are, I will only be wearing these bad boys while working on the computer or late at night. Or apparently when I don’t want people to see my crying. So there – take that stupid eyeglasses!

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!!

Back On The Saddle & Always Grateful

Thank God the process of getting from America to Haiti is over and I am officially back to work at Danita’s Children! Nothing exciting to report this time around (which is a good things!) just the usual airport, airport, airport, hotel, transport home. My time in Florida was wonderful as expected and it is never fun to leave Free Life Chapel. It is truly an amazing house of worship and family to the community in Lakeland.

Someone said to me while I was there, “You know it’s good for you to come back so that you don’t remember it in your head as more than what it is.”

No.

I went back.

… and it is just as good as I remember it to be.

Thank you to everyone who made my time at home so so great! To my pastors and Caleb – as much as I tell you that you bless me – it is so much more than that! Thank you for providing for me so much more than just a place to stay – I couldn’t love you more!

Thank you to everyone who is so supportive in prayer as I continue this journey, and a special thank you the few who have joined with me finically – you make it possible for me to be here and I am so grateful for you!!

Lots of things happening since I left – our medical center is looking AMAZINGand is closer and closer to it’s opening – and I am so grateful to be a part of the team at Danita’s Children. Thank you for helping us fulfill the Great Commission as we rescue, care and love for orphaned children in Haiti! It takes everyone’s special part to make it happen!

God is so great, graceful and truly provides everything that I need!

Blessings From Haiti,

Hope

These Words Won’t Leave My Mind

As I continue to get backgrounds and histories on our children there are just some that don’t leave my heart. It’s so different when you see a child, then learn what their life is like.

I never continue to see them the same.

I then understand their actions, I feel their heart, I see their pain and I am humbled at their happiness and laughter.

One of our boys has a mother. She lives in our village and is very poor. She has a lot of children and leaves them alone a lot to go into the Dominican and work. They live in a two room house, and when I say two rooms I don’t mean two bedrooms. I mean like two rooms total in the house. Two wooden, square rooms the size of walk in closets.

Our boy loves his family. He is proud of them, but also grateful that he lives with us. He was having some behavior issues one time and his mother came to talk to him. What she said to him hasn’t left my mind.

She said, “I think you have forgotten what it’s like outside these walls, son. You don’t understand how good you have it…” – then the kicker – “…I just had to sell our bed to be able to feed the rest of your siblings this week.”

Sell their bed. The only bed. In order to eat.

Now all of his siblings and his mother will sleep on dirt at night. No blankets. No pillows.

I’m not asking you to feel guilty for what you have because God provides and His word says that He provides in abundance. More than enough. Extra… just because He wants to.

But I am asking you to feel grateful.

Because you really have it pretty good in life if you just take a second to look.

If you look around for things to be grateful for, you will indeed find things to be grateful for. However, if you look around for negative things, that is what you will find as well.

The question is – what are you looking for?

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.

Hot Showers and Such…

I was recently reading a blog of a girl who lives in a developing country and she does great things for God: she raises multiple children who would otherwise live hungry most days, and she feeds hundreds each week and she teaches English at a small village school. Her life is full of joy and hardship I’m sure, but she is gracious and humbled to do what she does. Although I was inspired by her faith and pursuit, there was a small bit that I couldn’t disagree more with and that I fear a lot of times the terms “missionary” or “mission work”, etc.. get wrapped up in.

This girl was describing the lifestyle of some of the people who surrounded her – their living conditions, their eating habits, their constant desperation for help – and challenging her readers to think more often toward those are aren’t as fortunate as themselves. However, she took that a bit further to say that she was praying that every time people who live in America take a hot shower that she is praying that they feel guilty over the water running over them.

 Wait.

Not only is a hot shower not shameful, but it is a hot shower that a business owner, church member or basic supporter is under each night who make every bit of a missionaries work possible.

I understand her point. But, it is being focused within and being consumer driven and selfish that is wrong. It isn’t the hot shower that should ensue guilt. It isn’t having nice things and enjoying all the abundance of the Lord. It is a greedy mindset that is wrong. Not thinking past ourselves or of the priorities of our God that is wrong.

In fact:

I am so grateful for every single business-minded, wealthy person, pastor, church member, believer, or non-believer for that matter, who understands the importance of legitimate change in developing countries, and sees the potential to act as the hands and feet of Christ through providing for others to go. Whether they may have never been out of the county, never have a desire to rescue a dying child off of the street or could simple not want to rough it in the mists of under-educated people and desolate, desperate lands.

 I’m even grateful for them if they took a hot shower tonight.

Even a little jealous.

The point is, it doesn’t have to be this or that. One is not right or wrong, or better than the other. All equally important although some are not doing what were doing, or doing it how were doing it.

That is all. Goodnight folks. Enjoy your shower.

XOXO,

Hope

The Night Sky: It’s telling a beautiful story.

Pleiades – a star cluster that covers an emmense span of more miles than we can count in 43 years.

With stars big enough and bright enough for humans to see from earth, yet it is one of the newest star constellations in the universe (not even 100 million years yet… pshhh, baby.)

It is one of the greatest marvels of the known universe and yet God says of it simply, “Can you hold Pliates in your hands, Job? Or unloose Orion’s belt…”

To what I can imagine was returned with a humbling reply of, “well.. no.”

These always remind me of my Dad. When we were young and had to be silent on our sailboat and look into the night sky and find these specific stars.

“Well then there… because I can.”

He goes on to put His ability into perspective by saying:

“ Then go ahead and man up and answer me this… (Literally, he says it, verse 3)

…Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth? Go ahead and answer since you have it all figured out…

[Who knew God could get such an attitude?]

…Have you commaned the morning since your days?… Can you guide Arcturus with his sons?…

Try guiding that bad boy.

 …Can you lift up your voice to the clouds and make it rain? …

better yet…

…Can you simply put wisdom and understanding inside of a person’s heart?   Because, I can.”

 As if He knew there would be a confused little girl in 2011 with so many questions who would read that statement in all of her frustration and searching for direction, and He would call her by her name in her spirit because He knew that she needed something to cling to and He would say… “But, Hope… I can.”

“So stop worrying about what will happen. Cus i can.”

“Or how it’s gonna work out, because, I can do all of that and more.”

Isaiah 40 says that He measures the entire universe in the span of his finger tips.

And yet we continue to so easily doubt if He is able.

 He measures 46.6 billion light years in the span of His hand and yet His eye is on the sparrow.

In all of the constellations, and galaxies, and all the other things that man has not yet been developed enough to see, God sees you and He sees me.

We are known and prized by magesty.

He knows us, and He loves us, and He cares about our fears.

Even the little ones.

How undeserving and how small we are in that spectrum.

We live on earth. Not the biggest or grandest planet. Not in the middle of our solar system, not in the middle of our galaxy, not in the middle of our universe.

Just a small, pale, blue, dot.

Look again at that dot. That's here. That's home. That's us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives. The aggregate of our joy and suffering, thousands of confident religions, ideologies, and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilization, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every mother and father, hopeful child, inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every "superstar," every "supreme leader," every saint and sinner in the history of our species lived there--on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam.

When looked at from a far there is no awareness of our posessions, our cars, our homes, glamour or fame. There is no sight of the great need that exists. Merely a mote of dust suspended in a sun beam.

And each of our lives have been lived out on it. Every war been fought on it, brother killing brother.

A tiny little blimp on the radar of history.

 A vapor.

I can’t help but conclude that maybe we’re just not that great in ourselves after all.

And yet he knows every hair that just fell out of your scalp.

I think the Psalmist got it right when they said, “When I consider the heavens, the work of Your fingers, the moon and the stars, which You ordained; what is man, that You are mindful of him? and the son of man, that You care for him?”

I can’t help but be consumed with the beautiful cluster of stars called pleiades that is 43 light years wide, yet is held in His palm, and the story that it is telling in the night sky, in the spectrum of who we are in relation to God.

Put into perspective by a single conversation with Job, where God identified the significant insignificance of our lives – how important we are and yet how it’s really just not about us after all.

Just in case you were wondering.

So the next time that you look into the sky, remember the Psalms and give thanks for the heavens, “which are declaring the glory of God… Day after day they utter His words, and night after night they show His knowledge… (V. 26) Lift up your eyes unto heaven, and remember who created them and know them each: He calls them by name and by the greatness of His might, not one has failed.”