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.

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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. 

Simply Presented With Hope: 13 Boys Update

It was in this month, one year ago, that 13 little boys walked into our lives at Danita’s Children, and changed the atmosphere as we knew it.

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I remember that day like it was yesterday [read about it here]: the overwhelming feeling of sympathy, the literal sickness in their eyes, and the even worse sickness that was apparent in their broken little souls. That first night was one that I will never forget, and the weeks that followed were spent learning a lot of “firsts”. First time in using a toilet, first time doing nightly devotions, first time eating THREE times in one day, first time getting new clothes/shoes, and many other first that I will pull out as embarrassing memories when their 14.

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That group instantly attached themselves in our hearts and the atmosphere was filled with the presence of little ones again. I can’t imagine my life in Haiti without this precious group of boys, even more so, it overwhelms me to think about what their lives would be like if they would have never been driven onto our property in shocking surprise that day. They keep me laughing, that’s for sure!

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Today, they are all enrolled in school, learning to ride bikes and love going to church and singing worship songs. Some will still find their way to me during the day just to say “thank you” for something they received long ago – even just a meal or a small treat. Yesterday, Wes came up and stated in clear English: “Are you going out today?” I naturally replied back, “no, I’m staying here…” until I realized what was happening. He was full of pride with himself that he is learning English now.

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They truly are a testament to how quickly a life in changed when it is simply presented with hope. Their future is bright and they are all blazing ahead. I have spend so many moments this month thinking of these boys, and what that day was like when they plopped themselves right into the center of my heart.

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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.

An Honored & Slightly Exhausted Perspective

So, talk about blogging much… or the lack there of!

Sorry, folks.

There are so many moments that need to be shared, it’s sometimes hard to decide which to dwell on or even if I have it in me to process through it instead of accepting that it happened and continuing on. Lately, I haven’t found time to gather a simple sentence in my brain, much less put down those amazing, extreme, never-the-same-day-twice, life altering moments onto digital paper.

The past few weeks I’ve been running the girl’s house at Danita’s Children. A never ending mix of girls and teenagers and a whole heck of a lot of  hormones – my own included.

And, lucky for me, our girls are amazing.

They’re conscious of God and of others.

It’s an honor to hold the pressure of who these girls are becoming.

I can’t even get into their backgrounds and what they have overcome and how they still smile and press on.

It’s hard sometimes because I do what I can on such a lack of sleep, but wow. Life is very different in the disciplinarian’s shoes. I am good at being the “cool Aunt”. The “responsible, safety conscious, look out for their own future good” one… wow.

Ahh, Girls.

God knew what he was doing.

The worst part is, I see myself – my 12 year-old self, my 16 year-old self, my current self – in all of them.

Which makes the words “just trust me” weigh so much more.

Sigh.

The things that college doesn’t prepare you for…

That being said, and in light of the past few weeks of my life, I would like to state the following:

I get it now. I have had the epiphany of a parent’s perspective.

To every person who has ever has or is parented/ing: Props to you. Major, massive, props to you.

To My Mom: I’m sorry for calling your name or knocking on your door or looking through the crack to see if you were paying attention (or all at the same time) 18,000 times a day, everyday for the better part of about 14 years. I’m sorry for not doing it the first time you asked and for not realizing the extreme amount of strategic effort that it takes to just make a day with children happen from rolling out off the mattress at the sound of an alarm clock to falling back onto it at the bedtime that never seems to come.

To My Middle School Friends: I would like to acknowledge each and every very intense moment of our dramatic 12 year-old lives that we encountered together – boys, cheerleading, the works. Big shocker to us now – it all turned out all right. And when I say alright, of course I mean transitioned from 12 year-old intense moments to 20-something year-old intense moments. Such is life – surely in 20 more years I’ll be writing this same thing about today.

So… it is safe to say that I am now re-living those moments from a different perspective, being re-paid for the ones I thought I got away with and feeling like my mother on so many different occasions that it is scary!

All those parent-isms aren’t just for something to say after all.

From disciplining for things that are hilarious just to prove the principle while trying to keep a straight face, to buying an abundance of chocolate and Oreos when there is rumor of a potential heartbreak, to using the sandwich method at all times (something soft and sweet, then the harsh middle, then something positive again) to dodge any major potential meltdowns. With ages ranging from four to 20, you could get any thing at any time.

As you can imagine, I have found a whole new level of respect (if that is possible) for Brenda, our house mother, and her never ending amount of grace and patience, and a whole new appreciation for moments of silence.

I got to Santiago yesterday to pick up some visitors and the room they put me in is on the inside of a hallway so there are no windows. I’ve never loved a three hour taxi ride more. I literally – literally – walked into the room, put my bag on the foot of the bed, turned off the light and fell fast asleep for the next two hours, in a wonderfully freezing, dark, cave, where you never know exactly what time it is because there are no windows.

Bliss. Pure bliss.

… and if I haven’t said it lately: Thank you to all of you who make this life possible. I may be exhausted, but couldn’t be more content and honored to be living this life.

Life, Sleepovers and The Plague

My goodness, life has gotten the best of me and I have not touched writing. However, for those who keep up – I am doing well. Life is good – and summer has arrived early this year! My goodness, the sweating never ends. No reason to even try and appear decent – all efforts are an epic fail. I wrote a post last year around this time about how I never knew that I could sweat this much. Well, truly nothing is new under the sun and it’s just daily life now-a-days.

We have had a massive virus free flowing through our camp – I call it the plague – and I believe we are finally on the up climb from it. Weeks of multiple kids with 104 fevers, vomiting, coughing and just looking so sad and pathetic is never fun. It is in those moments that I am always wishing that their little mischievous personalities would return because I hate seeing them so tired and listless. I got caught up in the madness for about a week of feeling like I got hit by a truck – which made me feel even worse for our little guys because I knew they were feeling just as bad. However, I am recovered and vaccinated – no typhoid or malaria for me, folks!

All in all, life is wonderful. I am so grateful to be spending my time here and committing these young years to service of God’s children. It is a true testament to having a plan, but God writing the story of my life.  I have a semi-freak-out-wanna be-meltdown in my head every now and then because I have no plan, but I read an article recently (you can read it here) about the staff and what it represents (the power and faithfulness of God) and it reminded me that my God is bigger than my plan, how He is always true to His promises and how He doesn’t change – not when times were worse and not ever in the future – and how my plan ultimately doesn’t matter anyway if I’ve given away my whole heart to Him and am walking in His ways.

In the mean time, life is full of hard work, long nights, birthdays, sleepovers and dance parties – always a staple at Hope For Haiti!

  

Thank you to my few sponsors who make my time here possible. Every time I buy groceries I am thinking of you and thanking God for the ability to be able to do so. These are definitely years of sacrificing and growing and learning and continuing a foundation that will sustain anything that the future holds.

…and the adventures continue – I’m gonna go sweat some more and maybe eat a mango or something!

P.S. I have some special some ones coming in just about a week that I am so beyond excited to see! I am like a kid at Christmas. They say some mumbo jumbo about coming to see the kids or something, but we all know it’s solely for yours truly! It has made this heat and sickness so much more bearable knowing that a part of my family is making the trip to bare it with me – I’m not sure that they are prepared for all of this, but I’m trying to down play it until they get here – muahahahahaha!!! < evil laugh

XOXO,

Hope