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.

Going Away: They seriously love me!

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Is it strange that I think we had more fun at our dance party than our children?

I love this family. I hate goodbye but I love this family. I love how they completely knew what I would love. Acts of Service – it’s so my love language. Dance Party, it is. We danced all night and had a photo booth to capture wonderful/hilarious memories (thank you, Steven!) Imageand ate delicious cake (shout out to my girl and long time roomie, Kelly!) and laughed and cried and partied gangsta-style all night long (just ask the ultimate OG – Karris Hudson! I seriously couldn’t have desired any cooler way to say “see you later!”

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I love y’all more than you know and am more grateful to do life with you supa up-close” and now a tad bit further away. We will always share an understanding of each other that is only discovered within incredible nights of no generators, no water, no fans; the film of dusty sweat that marks a productive days work, the border crossings, hilarious language barrier experiences, and never to be left out – the incredible sandal tan line that is more a trademark or right of passage than anything.

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Thank you for an incredible send off!

Never Goodbye…

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.

Signs of Life: Even in death.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Signs of Life: Welcome, Baby Christla!

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Her eyes lock in when I hold her. Her little hands are so tight they are grey when she is hungry. She sucks on her first two fingers to fall asleep. She began her little life growing inside of her mom who was homeless and forgotten. IMG_0834 Elydia would arrive with her malnourished son – Bergly –  for Baby Rescue, always with her oldest (when I say oldest I mean 7) son carrying their possessions – a red water jug and a tiny black tote for Medika Mamba. When her son Bergly passed away she stress delivered her baby girl, Christla.

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I’ve always loved the redemption she held in her mother’s grieving, and I love how sweet Christla would, against all opinions, fight for signs of life in those first weeks. It’s been 5 months since Christla stole my heart and I continued to care for her, her mom, and the boys.

Today, Elydia is saying her goodbyes to this world and joining Jesus and her baby boy in the next. When I look at Christla sucking her two little fingers all I can think about is God’s incredible destiny for her: 5 months ago she was struggling for life and God’s perfect plan has strategically placed her in the arms of grace – anchored to hope and a future. She will never know the life of an orphan, she will never know the pain of rejection, she will never wonder who her mother was or if she loved her.

My heart cannot even comprehend. More on this on the other side of processing.

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I would like to take this moment to officially introduce the newest member of the Danita’s Children family – Christla Francois!!

Easy to say (and I won’t deny it) I’m obsessed. God has heard one of my deepest prayers.

Plenty of amazing pictures to come. Trust. Plenty.

The Face of a Statistic

October 11

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Tonight my heart is broken. Another loss. Loss at the end of incredible suffering, and another mother in Haiti who is feeling the intense pain of burying her son far too early, due to a simple and treatable sickness.

On Thursday I was holding him.

I prayed over him and treated him for parasites. Again. I claimed his little destiny for Christ and I discussed the importance of clean water with his mom.  I gave her diapers and made a note that it was about time to buy more rice and beans and oil for her family.

On Friday he was gone.

Just like that… into peace and joy sometime around 2AM.

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When I see the huge statistic numbers of children who are vulnerable and dying around this world my heart is overwhelmingly burdened for the suffering that plagues just Haiti even. How many sleep on dirt, have never known security, and how many will not see their fifth birthday due to things like dirty drinking water.

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However, today, my heart is so incredibly broken for the single life that made up a piece of those statistics. Loss looks totally different when it has a name and a face and a life. When a destiny is cut short… by something so preventable.

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In these moments my words hold no justice as to how grateful I am for all that Danita’s Children is doing to ensure that less and less mothers are made to fight a seemingly hopeless battle with malnutrition – and so many other basic sicknesses that plague Haiti… for Danita for saying ‘yes’ and for taking on so much pressure and sacrifice to bring Christ, medical care, and dignity to the sick and broken.

A lighthouse is an understatement to all that the DC Medical Center is in Haiti.

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… & To my sweet boy, Daubins:

If I had known that this day would have been our last together I would have held you so much longer. I would have hugged you so much tighter. I would have laughed more and taken 172,000 pictures (even if they all looked just like this one). These last weeks were a tough fight but I would have absolutely exhausted every avenue at my disposal to attempt and change this outcome. I am confident that God knows the number of our days, and I am grateful for those that I had with you.

Your smile brought me so much joy and I am so sorry and so angry that your life ended due to malnutrition. Your life was not in vain, sweet boy, and I will keep you in my heart always.

Learn more about the DC Medical Center & help alleviate suffering in Haiti!

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.

Pain, Heartache, and Identifying True Love

Tonight I am reminded of God’s heart.

How he is so close to those who are broken hearted.

How his heart is broken for those whose hearts are broken.

And how my own broken heart (while not minimized!) is so trivial in comparison.

I could never pretend to know or even try to understand the pain that accompanies the loss of a child. The intense void that grows in the days to follow and the seemingly endless journey of unanswered questions and “what if?” scenarios.Image

We fought for baby Bergly’s life. We sought out resources. We took him away to a better-equipped malnutrition center, unknowing to this mother that it would be her last time seeing her baby boy.

I don’t care where you are from or what kind of lifestyle you experience or how common poverty or death is around you: loss is loss and pain is pain, and no matter how often it happens, it hurts nonetheless.

Just hours after she found out of Bergly’s passing she stress induced and delivered a baby girl, HIV + and tiny, the same night. Immediately she was faced with mourning the loss of one child and taking on the responsibilities of a new child whose resemblance is enough to make it impossible. 

In a world of survival mourning is not an option. Crying is weak. And nobody has time for speaking of the past. Realizing that this overwhelmingly pained woman is rapidly stepping outside of her mind we took them in to better care for the situation on so many levels.

What broke my heart tonight was not the pain that this woman is enduring, it wasn’t the silent sobs that were coming from within her on her bed because she misses her baby son so deeply, but it was the look on her face as I comforted her when I told her that there were people here who love her. That Jesus loves her. I have no description. It was as if she had never heard the words, or maybe it was just this time that she first felt it to be true.

I’m not sure if she knows Jesus, but I can say that I know that she feels love here, so much that is overwhelms her. I don’t know what her life has looked like… desperate, worthless, lonely… whatever words would have described her I am beyond grateful to God that he allowed her into our path to identify true love – love that only comes from Him – and the only love that can truly heal her heart. 

God is love. His eye is on the sparrow. And he is hard at work.

Baby Bergly: Choosing To Fight Anyway

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No matter how many miracles (on every scale) that we witness on a daily basis – whenever a rescue doesn’t end in success it is painful. It is painful because in choosing to fight for a child’s life we are choosing to be attached. To love. To go all in. Even when it doesn’t look promising. Even when it doesn’t even look hopeful. Aware of the potential pain in hopes of the potential success. And choosing to fight anyway.

Tonight my heart isn’t hurting for Bergly.

It actually makes me smile a little knowing that he has no more exhausted cries that sound like light little hums or emotional meltdowns (on his behalf) to get any kind of food into his belly. At two years old Bergly weighed only 11 lbs. (ya that’s right, what you probably weighed at birth) and any sense of exerted energy was just about too much for his little body to handle without a nap. And when I say exerted energy I mean swatting my hands away for too long and/or thinking of strategic ways to get the food out of his mouth before I got it back in. It really took it out of the little fella.

Tonight my heart is not hurting for him, but for his young mother who is about to receive news that her baby died. That she won’t even able to be there, to say goodbye, or to grieve at a burial. Just continue on with life as usual, as if he never was. My heart is hurting because I can not even imagine how her heart will be hurting.

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I am grateful, however, that along with the news of baby Bergly’s passing we are able to sincerely say that he didn’t go down without a fight. That there were many people working on his behalf… staying up nights and monitoring him each day. Interceding on his behalf to the God who created him and numbered his days. There were people caring for him and loving him and taking care of his mother and brother. I am grateful for The Real Hope for Haiti and how they were willing to take him on, knowing his severity, and fight for him until the very last moment.

Bergly is only one of many stories of complications within malnutrition. The inevitable effects of a food crisis, a country in crisis, and a family in crisis. Stories like his are taking place many times every minute. Unknown names. Unknown faces. So often fading from this earth only known and loved by Jesus. One more reason I am so grateful to all who are making it possible for Danita to make our Medical Center a reality. So Mom’s like Bergly’s don’t have to spend the rest of her life wondering what her baby boy would have grown up to be like.

Psalm 34:18 “Our Lord is near to the brokenhearted, and he saves those who are crushed in their spirits.

Our Lord is always with us, but especially close in the moments that break our hearts. And tonight my broken hearted prayer is for Bergly’s mom. That she would find peace within the tragic reality and pain of losing a child after two years of a desperate struggle, and that she would know that God hears her hurt and He is present… even when she can’t identify Him.

… and that her sweet baby boy is safe, happy, and whole.

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