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…

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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.

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.

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.

Thoughts For The Night: Capacities of Unknown Love

“It’s your unlimited power to care and to love that can

make the biggest difference in the quality of your life.” – Anthony Robbins

There is this reoccurring comment that I always hear when women have babies – that they knew they would love their baby, but they never knew that they would love them like this.

        

I didn’t exactly “get it” until I moved to Haiti and realized that there is something to be said about this love that allows me to love children who are not my own. Not just love them, but feel a way that I didn’t know possible. I never knew that this capacity of love existed within my heart. I didn’t know that I was capable of it.

I find myself burdened deep in my spirit by the things that burden them.

The big things that changed their lives forever and the small things that seem to be changing their lives for a moment (because to them, it’s all that important).

I know what it feels like for someone to love me that way. By choice. And the impact that it had on my life will never be fully known.

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And most, I am overwhelmed at the fact that this capacity never finds it’s limit.

Just when I think I’m loving a lot, a little Haitian kid comes crawling into my lap and all is right with the world again. I begin to causally pray and I hurt knowing the things that are hurting them.

This is the love that Christ called “unfailing.”

And it is THIS that I never want to forget.

I am 24 years old, I am not married, and I have no children. But I can confidently tell you that in this moment, as my heart is overwhelmed beyond expression, that I am currently experiencing motherhood.

And it is changing my life.

What Love Is This

I never knew that my heart was capable of this kind of love.

It’s not like how I loved my pets when I was a kid. Or even how I love my family. Shoot, it’s not even the kind of love like when I come across a beautiful pair of shoes that are marked down off an already reduced price.  It is this deep in the stomach, overwhelming, never goes away and never runs out, ultra selfless, do anything to see them smile, burdened by what makes their hearts hurt kind of love.

I’ve never felt anything like it. And once again, shout out to all the parents out there – man, y’all go through it for your children. So worth it.

When I moved to Haiti I was the ultimate Auntie. As a 12-timer, I’m good at the Auntie role. It’s pretty basic really – chocolate after 10pm, toys that make loud noises, stay up past curfew, always go to their school for lunch when in town.

So when I got to Haiti and had to take on a parenting role – implementing rules, changing wet sheets in the middle of the night, disciplining (the worst, but more necessary part – kids definitely crave structure!)  – I was less than prepared, and even less prepared for the overwhelming love that has grown in my heart for 115 of Haiti’s finest.

Literally. Like when I pray for them, my heart is deeply burdened for what plagues their dreams and the insecurities that manifest themselves through their actions (which is the nice way of saying when they’re acting a fool, but I can’t be mad at them because I know it comes from their intense past that I could never imagine). I wonder what they saw before they came to live at Danita’s Children and I desire, more than anything, for them to catch a slight glimpse of who God has planned for them to be.

I am in America this month  and I can’t stop thinking of them, how their doing, what I’m missing out on and wondering if they miss me.

It’s crazy how God has given me this love that makes us all family in Haiti. Not like a group of people who live together so are inevitably close – we are family.

I am so grateful to be at my home church for a few weeks (my word, God had to have known that I was insanely home sick for it) and working in our US offices, in the land of abundance and overwhelming choices. However, no matter where life takes me, my heart will always wonder toward the kids who God is using to change my life. Their insane courage and determination to rise above the statistics that surround them continues to humble me and encourage me to always push for more and to continuously count the blessings around me.

You should do the same – you’ll be surprised at how beautiful your life really is.

Let’s Just Say… Whoa.

So when I woke up this morning I had no idea what the day would hold. Work in the office, play with some kids, possibly deal with something crazy and never heard of in the United States. What I didn’t expect was to spend six hours at a Haitian woman’s bedside, fanning her with a piece of cardboard and praying her through contractions. All while another woman across the room screamed through delivery, a teenager came in with a prematurely broken water and two orphaned young girls hung out on a bed with an IV in the arm of one who was pregnant. No separation curtain things. No screens. No medication. Just some beds and some Dominican nurses with attitude and some screaming women. And me and my friend, Brittany.

I was praying this morning while getting ready, and may have asked God to give me opportunities to specifically show the love of Jesus. Little did I know – knowing what this day would hold before I was ever born – Jesus was replying, “ha… you have no idea.”

I knew I needed to make a trip to Dajabon at some point, so when I saw our errand staff on his way there I jumped in the cart to catch a ride. Ironically, I couldn’t do what I needed to do, but in true daily fashion, this lead to that, and I ended up at the hospital. One of our teachers was in labor, and whoa.

Usually Haitians birth their own babies, in their own homes, with whatever they can find and a razor blade. No, seriously they do. But she, Lovelie, had the luxury of birthing in a hospital… and whoa. I just couldn’t believe the “luxury” that she was granted. Ceiling tiles falling out, rust and water stains all over the walls, painting and construction in the room next door (just what every mother wants for their new born baby – paint fumes and construction dust) and no privacy what-so-ever. There were eight beds in the room, each labeled with a piece of tape on the wall. All supplies needed for labor/delivery have to be brought in – sheets, towels, nightgown, receiving blankets, newborn outfit, socks, that little sucker thing that moms use to suck boogies out of their kid’s noses. Talk about planning ahead. If you don’t remember, you don’t have it. Don’t even think about being catered to or pampered in the worst pain any human can go through without dying.

Along with being in such luxury, Brittany and I were trying to fully understand the Haitian process of giving birth. Cultural differences at their finest. Lovelie’s sisters were there, just kind of watching and “allowing the process to happen”. They kind of smirked together as they explained these ways to us. That she couldn’t have pain medication because, well, you can’t have birth without pain. They’ll just know it’s time when her pain is a certain way (aka she’s about to die) and she pushes and a head shows. And she couldn’t drink water because if she needs a c-section it may come out. Duh… why didn’t I think of that?

Long story short, there are a lot of things about labor and delivery that are only known by people who have had babies. It must be like a secret society or something, because whoa. Prolly because they know if they shared with those who hadn’t been initiated yet then our population would slowly dwindle. I had no idea. And I must say, I’m a little traumatized. And will explain no further – for the sake of mixed company and others who are not yet in the society – I’ll just say… whoa, whoa, whoa. I just stuck to my job of fanning with the cardboard and praying when she looked like she might pass out and saying things that roughly translate to: “Jesus is here with you” and “push a lot down there” and “breathe like this”. What I didn’t do was let my eyes wander. Lesson quickly learned – as little eye wandering as possible. A couple of times things happened and Brittany and I just got big eyes and look around to see if anyone else was freaking out and tried to play it cool, calm and collected… clearly newbies into this society of pain also known of childbirth.

After one nurse kept screaming at her to not whine and to push like a man, popping her stomach a lot in this weird way (cultural?) and slapping her in the face when her pain was so heavy that she wasn’t focusing enough, she claimed it as “time to deliver”. The doctor continuously pushed on her stomach with the stethoscope and promptly rushed her out of the ugly room with all the beds while saying something in spanish about it being fatal.

 [WHAT?!] Exactly! I know, that’s what I said, too. 

Enter longest silent moment of my life…. scary, scary praying…. Brittany and I watching the scary delivery in the emergency room, because, well, what is protocol, anyways… the nurses, literally, pushing on her stomach while they jump up and down because the baby was too high to come through the canal, lots of other gross stuff, and then – big sigh of relief – the cries of a little baby girl!

They asked us to name her, to hold her before anyone else, and, after much deliberation and discussion during the earlier fanning process, we presented her to her mother… as Esther – a courageous girl who God gave a big voice to speak on behalf of her people in their suffering. The family was SO extremely happy because 1. It was a good, strong, Biblical name and 2. We made a little presentation of their baby to them, which they took very seriously, and stood with them for six hours and got them lunch and took care of their sister when it was time to eat. It really is the small things, folks.

After the Lion King-ish ceremony was concluded, Brittany and I exited down the hallway in an end of a movie type, full-circle, compellingly cool moment, tired and sticky with sweat, feeling pretty mid-wife-ish (it is hard work watching someone that stressed out), but ultimately content, and excited to return with goodies. We looked at each other and high fived. It’s been a good day.

Once again, I’m ending my day exhausted and grateful and honored for the amazing and beautiful and fully traumatizing moments that God allows me to be a part of in this crazy place and in this crazy life. I would want to be spending these days nowhere else.

Welcome to the world, little Esther Jean-Baptiste – you’ve been claimed and destined for great things!

Room For One More

 I am looking at this group of 13 boys and my heart is breaking. I am reminded that I recently asked God to show me his heart in Haiti.

As an answer to my prayer He showed me his hurt,

which came in the form of two UN trucks and a van full of orphaned children. Their cheeks were stained with tears and they were all naked. Onto our property filed the Mayor, the Judge, the national social worker and a variety of security detail, UN guards, etc…

They shut down an orphanage in our village and with nowhere else to go they brought the children to our door in hopes of giving them a new home. These children were taken off of the street to be cared for, which clearly never happened, and as I peered into the van windows they were terrified and crying.

I can’t imagine what their day was like. And it was only lunch time.

The boys filed out, each one of them naked, one boy putting the neck of a t-shirt around his waste to create a skirt. Their faces were scared and their bellies large and expanded. They followed along, kind of confused, prolly a little embarrassed, and were slightly skiddish in the room full of missionaries and national officials, just watching. Naked. I wonder if they were ashamed? Sad? Just plain hungry? All I could do was hold them in my lap and tell them it’s okay now. It didn’t matter that they were naked, would prolly pee on me and clearly have infections all over their eyes. I couldn’t hug them enough. I knelt down next to one little boy and asked him, “How are you?” He put his head down with tears in his eyes and quietly whispered, “I don’t know.”

                 

When asked if they wanted to bathe they all eagerly agreed, even more than they wanted to eat. Who knows how long it’s been since they have had a bath, a toothbrush, a bed. As my heart is breaking, but I’m grateful that they’re here. I’m grateful that I will get to rock them to sleep tonight. I’m grateful that they are safe, clean, with full bellies and each will sleep soundly in a bed. I hope that they fall asleep feeling like this is a new beginning. A good beginning. And wake up feeling like they’re loved.

                                  

Learning how to pray.

Our sisters can scrub a kid down with the best of them, so first up with baths. Next was dinner. I don’t think they understand yet that this will happen THREE times EVERY day. Our kids trust that we will provide for them, but you can always tell the new guys from the bunch – they eat like they truly don’t know where their next meal will come from.

What made my heart overwhelmed most was how our boys took them in. They introduced themselves, took them by the hand and led them toward the playground. They prayed for them during devotions (And when I say prayed during devotions, our kids don’t play. They pa-ray). In Haiti, prayer is not a sweet notion. It is a real conversation with a real God. And even as young children, they get that.

One boy, sweet Moise, asked me, “Can they stay here for a long time so that they can go to school like we get to?” During Friday movie time I saw two let the new boys sit in their laps so the new boys could see better, and then when their legs got tired they gave up their prime viewing position so the new boys would remain comfortable and stood in the back. When it was time to get into bed they led the confused ones to an empty bed and got them a blanket before claiming a bed for themselves.

It is those moments that my heart of a mother beats – to watch the children that we brought in the exact same way and raise each day to be grateful and considerate and God conscious –  to then identify insecure, identify pain, and walk out everything we hope that they take away from life – when no one is watching – to ensure another child’s wellbeing.

Sigh… things that make you cry.

I ended my night rocking 13 little boys to sleep. Best part of the day for sure. Everytime I took one into my lap he immediately cuddled in and crashed. I know their day had to be so crazy. They all said they were tired and I know that it has been a long while since they have been rocked, cuddled, anything but laid on the ground for bedtime. As they fell asleep I sang to them and prayed over their little broken spirits. I’m choosing to see a hopeful future in them. What they are going to be. What their future now holds. Their countenance has already changed so much in only a few hours.

 

As I write this I am sitting in our office winding down. The kids are asleep, counted, double counted and prayed for. I love that time of the day. Our boys are so sweet when they’re getting sleepy. It’s late, but I’m not ready for bed. I’ll regret that tomorrow. I keep wondering about these boys and what they must be thinking about right about now.

In the midsts of all the growing and construction and work that goes into making each day a success at Danita’s Children, we were reminded today – that there is always room for one more.

  

I’m grateful for the reminder and grateful that I am able to be a part of their story. Also so grateful that Danita followed God’s call to her. It gives me such reassurance in the fulfillment of God’s promises – even when they seem crazy.

And on a day like today, you see the fruit of it. When 13 little boys file out of a beat up van and never look back.

I am going to sleep feeling ready for bed, but so content.

Here’s to purpose – Cheers & Goodnight!

P.S. Sidenote – we now have 13 little boys who desperately need sponsors so they can begin school, etc… please share with your friends and family and help us change these boys future!

The Love Of Christ Will Jack You Up.

I sat in on a Bible Study recently and what was reflected upon was a great reminder as to why I do what I do, why I am in Haiti right now and an explanation to all those moments that I just couldn’t quite explain why I was drawn to certain actions.

When the love of Christ begins to dwell inside of us, at some point it will overflow. It is in that overflow of relationship that people see what is pouring from you.The following are the results of the love of Christ acting in our lives.

The Love of Christ…

  1. …compels us. There are moments when were asked to do audacious things that don’t quite make sense. But it is because of the love of Christ that our hearts are compelled  to take particular actions.
  2. …give us power to change the world. The world being whatever that means to you. Each of us have our own “world” and circle of influence which we have the power to effect, good or bad.
  3. …gives us the ministry of reconciliation. Of being the bigger person. Of making things right because that’s the right way, not because you found justice.
  4. …gives us the power to lay our lives down. Against all the pleasures of this world. Not because the pleasures are bad or wrong, but because God compels us each in different ways. What is a pleasure/sacrifice to you may not be to the next person. But God’s compelling love causes us to push aside our own wants, literally and metaphorically, for the purpose of His plan and purpose.
  5. … cuases extra-ordinary obedience. Sometimes it seems crazy. Sometimes it’s a gamble. But the point is that on the other side of it is more than you could have ever wanted in the first place.
  6. …endures. When it’s lonely, when it’s hard, when you feel unappreciated.
  7. …cause you to remember to keep your promises.
  8. …waits. Psalms says that God’s promises are birthed through faith & patience. Wait on God and His plan is always better than our own anyways.
  9. …gives. In the abundance of God’s gifts, so rich and so fulfilling, things are just things.
  10. …forgive.
  11. …serve. Not because it’s a cool job or has great benefits. But because we are so undeserving of God’s grace and mercy, much less the things of this world that we are so consistently blessed with. It is the smallest sign of gratitude that we could possible attempt at paying such a debt.
  12. …covers. A multitude of sins. Who are we to expose another when we are saved by the grace of the same God.
  13. …defends. Defends the weak. The poor. The needy.
  14. …takes a risk. Even when some say it’s a crazy idea, It’s not “normal”, It’s a gamble, the results won’t be as good as the alternative, or it’s not the safe route. Most great decisions were made in a very risky setting.
  15. …is a decision. Anyone could love God and not follow through with these things. It is when the love of God overwhelms our hearts, when our relationship with Him is consistent, that as we are molded into His image as we were intended to be that these come to pass.

I feel humbled to reflect on these things, grateful to walked some of them out and very challenged to take on the rest.

When I say these things, it’s not as a “missionary’, it’s as a Christian. I don’t feel like my walking out a Christ lifestyle changed because I relocated to the mission field full-time. All of these things are still applicable and neccesary and relevant to our lives in the states. Each day we are taking risks and keeping promises and laying our lives down for the plan of God and being compelled to serve and endure challenges. This is the call of Christ.

It is that love of God that compels me to be here. Even with so much to lose and even when I’m tired and lonely and dirty, I am reminded of these things. Why I came in the first place. Because the love of God compelled my heart and through His plan I go to sleep at night excited to wake up early in the morning to spend my day with 500 kids who are hyper and typical and always humble toward their blessings, and a village of people who have no other option but to rely on God to meet every single one of their needs.

Only the love of God could compel that within me, because some moments I think I’m going crazy!

Watching Love Change Lives.

I’m sitting with a 6 year old girl in my lap. Mideline. Every time she sees me she latches on to my hand and doesn’t let go until I leave. Whenever I look down at her, she looks at me with the best smile. A few months ago she was found raising herself and her little brother in the forest, literally, after running away from a step mother who would burn them with hot irons, and I wonder if she has every been cuddled in her life. I constantly wonder what kinds of things she encountered, people who she ran into/survived and situations that God saved her from. She doesn’t talk much, but when she down her words are a high pitched Creole-ish language of it’s own. Her brother is the same way. Like they have their own made up communication between the two. We call it chipmunk, but they get it.

We give our children such little credit. They are so much stronger then we allow them to be, but at the end of the day they are children and we don’t realize how much they need, want and desire our attention and affirmation.

I guarantee, like so many Haitian children, that Mideline has never been able to be a child a day in her life. She loves calling the girls “Mami” and it is so obvious that she feels so secure within the walls of Danita’s Children. It’s just another one of those things that amazes me here.

I love seeing her love the love that she receives.

It doesn’t take much. Just love. Encouragement. It truly changes peoples lives.

Try it sometime.

That’s all, just a short thought while I’m working.

Internet has been crazy here so I haven’t been able to post much, but I am writing a lot and will have it all up as soon as I can.

Life Is Good.