Kitchen Chronicles: My Everest

Upon my return to America I decided it was basically detrimental to my sanity to fill my new life – full of structure and routine – with a couple of things to conquer. Nothing better to fill up time then with a little challenge.

So eventually, I finally buckled down and had a hard hitting conversation with myself. I said, “Self, you really should get your life together and figure something out in the kitchen because right now you’re standing on the whole chicken with a big butt fiasco and well, it’s a little embarrassing.”

And myself agreed. So here I am, three years later, ready to document my failures and successes. Let’s do this.

My first conquest upon returning to America was the gym: because well, 2 years of rice and beans had not done me good. So, there’s that.

P.S. I had this great idea to record the journey of conquering the gym with photos and inspirational messages throughout my ups and downs of muscle gaining and fat burning. Ya, that didn’t happen. I quickly realized that I’m totally not secure enough and pretty much thought I may make it through like three weeks before I just called it a day. However, 16-ish weeks later I’m on a roll and thoroughly enjoy finding some “woo-sa” time throughout the week. More on this later. It’s good stuff.photo4

So anywho, currently I feel like what better way to compliment my new healthy lifestyle then by conquering the hardest, and most intimidating/overwhelming challenge of my life.

The kitchen.

Sigh… my Everest.

I can’t quite pinpoint why, but it’s so terrifying to me. I can stand toe to toe with a 6’ 5” Haitian guard on market day, dodging loads of rice and chickens on wheel barrows, and argue in another language about why he won’t let my friends with work visas cross the river; but give me more spices than salt and pepper and I will buckle I tell you. Fear of failure doesn’t even begin to describe.

Ever since I was a little girl I was always the one to volunteer to peel the potatoes when my sisters were learning to gourmet the simplest of dinners. It gives me anxiety when people say things like “just put whatever marinade you might think would pair nicely with that raw, disgusting, chicken breast.” (or something like that.) And I’m all like, “first of all, gross, and second of all, what is a marinade, and third of all how the heck am I supposed to just ‘might think’ what might pair nicely?”

However, what I lack in passion or desire I make up for in determination. Or just desperation. Interchangeable. BUT I NEED HELP, PEOPLE!!!

I just don’t get it. And I’m a visual learner so most recipes don’t help much because all the terms are a little general, and across the board simply unfair if I do say so myself. How do you marinate? What is a “poach”? If it says “a pinch…” how do you know if your pinch is the same pinch as the chef? I already had to learn the hard way the difference in a “bulb” and “clove”… ya, it wasn’t pretty. Read here.

My current situation basically consists along the lines of Tyson Ready chicken in a bag, eggs (basic American staple), and cottage cheese. I know, I know. Just give me grace in this moment.

I need suggestions – tips, beginner meals, etc… okay, “meals” may be used loosely here because that’s another scary thing is multi-task cooking between different dishes all at once. I just think I’m gonna ruin it all. That is why I initially went for a crock pot. But, it’s been a few years. I’m ready to conquer. Plus, starting small may boost my ego and give me a little confidence in the whole process. Advice/tips/tricks below, please!!

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…

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. 

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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Life is Hard. God is Love.

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My day started off praying to God about my life in another part of this world, on behalf of uncertain and undesirable situations that are uncontrolled by everyone involved. My day continued praying to God about the uncertain and undesirable situations in my grasp right now, today.

My consistent prayer: to provide peace, enlightenment and rest to my family and to those in this life who hold no control.

My consistent thought: life is hard

It’s hard no matter where you live. It’s hard no matter what your name is or what your list of assets look like. It’s hard for me with the uncertainties of learning God’s character and walking the uncertainties of this life in faith, as it is hard for the man sitting in a corner office feeling like there is nothing to live for, to the homeless woman who brings her baby each day, who sleeps on the streets of Haiti each night, her life containing three children and an orange water jug.

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I can’t image what this hard life would look like without anchoring to something bigger than myself. Without the certainty that comes from my God, who encompasses all love, reminding me that I hold a hope in Him that would anchor my soul. Because within these hard days sometimes that’s all there is to hang on to.

Hang on and remember:

that He is working on our behalf.

That God is love.

And

that this too shall pass.

Messy Love.

Sometimes love doesn’t look as expected.

Sometimes it’s takes your breath away.

Sometimes love is playful.

In so many cases love isn’t fair and doesn’t make sense at all.

For children, love is out of their control, and their lives will be shaped and formed by what they perceive to be love.

Sometimes love means cleaning up the selfish mistakes of others.

And sometimes, such as today, love is just plain messy.

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Speaking of the latter, as I was thinking today of how unpredictable love is, I got a new Rescue baby this morning into our Baby Rescue Program at Danita’s Children. He came with his homeless mother – a kilo lighter than when I saw him last week (not to mention every rib in his cage showing) which puts him below a severely malnourished category – so it’s an understatement to say that I was excited to start the process.

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It was as I was force feeding him Medika Mamba (it takes a day or two to be considered enjoyable… you would think starving children wouldn’t be so picky), covering his dry, blistered, and bleeding lips with vasoline, talking with his homeless mother about the importance of clean water (and filling her only source – an orange water jug), and praying over his tiny malnourished body as he hit my hands away and bit me a lot, that my frustrated self came to realize: this is love.

As much as this tiny baby hates me in this moment, this is love. It may not be as tender and sweet as many would describe, but this is as real as it gets. Literal messy love.

And, call it ironic, but my heart is honored to love this way. To have the angry little screams and frowny eyebrows as I forced medicine and Medika Mamba into his mouth and to get the glove on my hand bitten by tiny little teeth with all the tiny little strength his 12 lbs. can muster. Truth be told, it makes me smile to see him fighting back – because it it those tenacious and tiny little fighters who survive.

Love doesn’t always appear with hearts and butterflies, and sometimes it isn’t even love at all – only the imitation – but today, love came in the form of force feeding, loads of prayers, and hopes for the promises of the future.

Please continue to prayer for baby Bergly in his recovery, all of our children, and everyone at Danita’s Children. I know I do not only speak for myself when I say that we are so grateful for this life.