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.

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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.

I’M OVER THE HILL! What 25 Taught Me & Starting 26 Off Right…

A quarter of a century. Done. Wow.

If I sat and told you the stories that consume the last 25 years we would be here all day, talking and listening. And well, who has all day to be here. Unless you’re getter paid the big bucks to sit and listen, and in that case, I don’t have those big bucks so don’t waste your time, but I’m sure I could use your assistance sorting it all out. It’s pretty messy in there.

In short: I could never say enough as to what god has taught me. A lesson isn’t really a lesson unless it’s learned, right? More like a statement. Unless you take it into your heart and process all its messiness and change your life accordingly. And always, always, always be mindful of the strategic hand of our Lord in your life – even when you don’t see him. When you can’t hear him. When you are certain he has walked away.

25 has wrapped up a quarter of a century more beautifully that I could have ever imagined. No, I didn’t do anything super glamorous. I didn’t get the corner office. I didn’t claim great success or novel romance. Even better. I learned more about this life, and what is important, than I ever knew I could in a year, much less in a lifetime (so far.) I loved selflessly, I lost painfully. A lot. And I saw how God sits so close to the broken hearted. How he is present in the simplest of moments. How he works it all out on our behalf.

Most of that was learned through this family.

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Elydia was 26 when she passed away. I was honored to spend the majority of 25 with her each week, and especially in those last two weeks, watching 26 years of shame and heartache be replaced with an undescribable joy of the Holy Spirit. Her life taught me more during 25 than I could have ever learned in a classroom.

All in all, I experienced the lesson that God is simple. It’s not that deep. And in the greatest pain, in the greatest joy, in the hardest of trials, He is present. In that, there is rest. Outside of control, of choices of others, there is rest.

I don't always turn 26... but when I do I wear hot pink tights and cowboy boots! Let's go.

Today I end the first quarter of my life. And feel as if I am so much older in my soul. The journey is truly the destination and 26 is just the beginning! His promises are true and I’m gratefully staying in the process. Great things are yet to come!

 
I don’t always turn 26… but when I do I wear hot pink tights and cowboy boots! Let’s go.

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.

New Seasons, Gratitude, and Preparing My Heart

Oh, seasons of transition. So much to be said of them.

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And again, two years later, here I am. At a fork. A transition. A new season. Well, not exactly even in a new season, but more like that awkward in between place of nothingness, you know, where the grace is lifting in what was, but the excitement hasn’t yet arrived as to what is to come. The position of complete faith where I am brought to tears over matters of little importance. Mostly because every task is a reminder to me that it is all going to be over soon.

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This little place of nothingness can really make or break a transition, you know. It’s the tiny opportunity to tie up the blessings of the present and prepare the blessings of the future – all at once.

A few months ago I sensed God beginning to prepare my heart for transition. He was reminding me of the season that I was in. The season He called me to. The assignment He gave me. And it completely – completely! – shattered my heart. There is something to be said of knowing the voice of our Shepard. It’s undeniable, to say the least, and impossible to argue.

With that, I am heading home.

I could never say enough about my life in Haiti. What has taken place. Heat, sweat, dust and all. ImageThe overwhelming amount of life that I have experienced and been a part of. The most ridiculous dance parties to date. The border crossings. The language learning. The moments of total fearful courage. And the unexplainable moments of faith and Jesus that I have shared and identified in the most interesting of places.

In sum: I am grateful.

Beyond words, humbled, and just all around at a loss for words.

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Not sure what else could describe my heart right now. In Haiti I have found peace, purpose, contentment, and home. I could never express my gratitude enough to Danita for allowing me to help raise her children and so much more. To the other missionaries for being family with me. To the mothers of all my babies in the Baby Rescue Program – they have each taught me incredible lessons of sacrifice and strength. For each one who we have lost. For each incredible miracle. For all of our children who have helped me identify a deeper love within myself than I knew existed.

And, for now, I am here. Ending the first half of my twenties in that awkward place of nothingness. Tying the bow on my present. Suspended in the balance of transition.

As we honor our past: Remembering September 11

In Eigth grade I didn’t initially understand the depth of the terrorism that was happening when the towers fell. I was sitting in a Journalism class and the rest of my day was spent watching history unfold before me on breaking news. Walls and racism and pride all fell  as strangers worked to save each others lives. It has since become a cornerstone in history and changed the way that our country perceived International Relations forever.

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I remember the days and weeks and months following this day and how so many courageous people lost their lives in pursuit of saving the lives of others. How our country came together. How our differences didn’t matter so much and we found pride in our unity.

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Today we remember. We honor so many who fought during this time on behalf of our country, who fought for us before our world came to a discreet halt, and who have since fought for the USA in the name of freedom. We honor wives who lost husbands and husbands who lost wives, children who lost parents, and Americans who survived that day at ground zero.                                                       Image

In the days after today, it is so important for us to never forget.

To never forget the feelings we had, the stories we have heard, and the unsung heroes whose names and stories remain unknown or on monuments throughout our country.

Today, as history repeats itself in Syria, we cannot remain silent in the face of evil – it is crucial that we continue to be courageous, come together, look past our differences and identify unity where we can. If we cannot find beauty in our country that is desired for it’s freedom we will destruct from within.                     Image

Let us continue to honor our past, be grateful for our present, and look courageously toward our future – we are blessed because of the grace of God and those who have sacrificed on our behalf.

Thank You to the families of all of those who made those courageous sacrifices on September 11 and in the days after.

Let us never forget. United we stand.

Saturday.

I took a few of the boys out today to help in the community.

It was originally as a discipline, but as time went by preceding this morning so many of the boys were coming to me saying, “Mami Hope – I was bad too… do I get to go help?” I forgot how much gratitude is at the heart of our children. 

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The boys were so helpful – washing clothes, sweeping and mopping, helping cook food – while I sat and visited with the womanwho we were helping. She sells us mangos each week and her children go to our school, and she was so happy that her Saturday wasn’t spent doing all these things. She felt so special and just kept saying, “I can’t believe you brought the boys to help work.”As if she was in disbelief. She is a good woman and she works hard for her children. Her house is small, but filled with the traditional Haitian decor – silk hanging plants and covers on the table to keep out the flies.

 

All in all it was a great Saturday, and a wonderful reminder of the many blessings that I obtain in this life alone. God is gracious to remind me with such tenderness, as it is so easy to forget.

God is love, and we are his hands and feet. Happy Saturday!

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!

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!

Provision: A birds of the air kind of thing.

Disclosure: So I know that when we give to others our left hand shouldn’t know what our right hand is doing and all, but in light of finding perspective in all sorts of ways this week, this one is worth sharing.

As the year is coming to an end my mind has been dwelling – knowing that God is faithful and my provider and that He will provide ALL my needs in abundance – on raising money for support next year and how it will all work out and just concerned with having enough.

Oh, God’s reassurance is always on time.

So, I was exercising outside, listening to a podcast, and you know, just dying in general. When I say exercising I mean going for an hour in circles around the perimeter of the 6-foot wall that outlines my house. The community isn’t the safest for an American girl who sticks out like a sore thumb to be running around all alone (not that walking to the bank or the store all alone is any different, but that not the topic here, all you safety police out there) so I stick to my little hamster on a wheel routine while my Rottweiler waits until I get around the corner and then tries to race me down the alley/knock me over/run between my legs, or some variety of that sort.

Anywho, as I made my way around I saw Watson, a street kid in my neighborhood, standing at my front gate. Watson is a Haitian kid who now lives in Dajabon after his mother died, leaving him orphaned. I’m not sure a lot about his life, where he sleeps or even how I came to know this kid, but I see him each day in town, buy him food every now and then, a haircut, let him help me walk home with my groceries, talk with him, pray with him or just slap him a high five on my way past his “post” aka begging corner.

I stopped, trying to catch my breath, while Watson became embarrassed, probably wondering why I was running, or really probably more like who I was running from, and in Creole said,

“Hi, Mami. I needed to talk to you and knew I could find you here.”

Okay, so real talk. I’m not gonna lie – in the moment I was thinking how it really wasn’t a great time due to the massive amounts of sweat and dehydration that were taking place, but I pulled my headphones down and walked over.

“Alright, Watson. Why did you need to talk with me?”

And then, almost simultaneously, as I was thinking all of my selfish thoughts about how I couldn’t breathe, I knew I was about to get a heart check:

“Well…. because I’m hungry.”

The thought alone of how many long it has been since his last meal is enough, but not to mention that he came to find me – knowing there was hope if he was successful.

I brought him back $5 USD and told him to get dinner and then save the rest for food the next day, and that before he eats he needs to thank Jesus for this money because He is the one who gave it to him.

It made me wonder how long he had been concerned, in the same way that I have been, about where he would find provision – the amount is irrelevant –  and our Father knew all along.

Matthew 6:26 “Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?”

Watson looked at me with an unexplainable expression that I know will hold in my heart forever, knowing that he will not go to sleep hungry tonight, and immediately all of my concerns turned into overwhelming, tear filled, gratitude as I watched Watson walk around the corner with $5 in his hand, he and I feeling the exact same way in that moment – completely provided for.

Just another one of those reminders that I am taken care of by my Father and confident that there is always enough to share with someone else.

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!