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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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. 

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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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.

Because She Said ‘Yes’

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God told her to build it.

He didn’t give her a plan. She is not a doctor. But she heard the voice of God. And, once again, she obeyed.

She obeyed and drew up plans. She met with teams. She sought out council. She spent more hours than people could ever comprehend and moments that only God is aware of, working and praying and traveling, in order to fulfill this promise that she made to God and to the people of Haiti.

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I mean, seriously, this woman deserves a raise.

In the last year and some months of my life I can say that watching God’s faithfulness to her vision is number one on my list of life lessons that I have been made deeply aware of.

He is so truly faithful to us.

He is faithful to his children. He is faithful to his promises. He is faithful to every desire of our hearts. He is present in our pain, in our triumphs, and even when we feel like He is absent – God is so very present.

Currently, we are pushing through the final stages of construction. Lesson #2 that I am continually being made aware of: Excellence and patience go hand in hand.

I am grateful to be a part – we have no comprehension of what God is birthing through Danita and Danita’s Children right now. We can’t even contain it in our understanding, what He is preparing and planning.

Because she obeyed. Because she said yes. Because she graciously presses forward when so many obstacles stand in her way. Not knowing or seeing what the future will hold.

It is because of her sacrifice and dedication to excellence that our new medical center will be opening, state-of-the-art, and equipped to rescue, love, and care for thousands and thousands of vulnerable and hurting people.

Danita: you are a woman who I have no words to describe… I am not even sure Proverbs 31 is on your level, and I am grateful to be a tiny part of the story of what God is doing through you in Haiti.

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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