An Ode to my Treadmill

treadmill

Don’t read this. This holds nearly nothing of value. Nothing about our missions work. Nothing in the way of a spiritual lesson, although I know I have learned things from it.  This is just about little old me and a gift I just received. Read this only if you think you might enjoy a silly walk through my psyche. 

“Running just as fast as we can, 
(walking/jogging really)
Holding on to one another hands,
(death grip on hand rails)
Trying to get away into the night
(or day, or anytime)
And then you put your arms around me
And we tumble to the ground and then you say
I think we’re alone now,
(be still my heart)
There doesn’t seem to be anyone around
(leave me alone KIDS! No, you can’t watch me run!)
I think we’re alone now,
The beating of our hearts is the only sound”
(and my gasping for air)

The immortal words of Tiffany (with context for clarity) were describing my new found relationship with…my treadmill.

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important aside – I saw New Kids on the Block open up a Tiffany concert. NKOTB!

I know the area (Mason, WV) from which this beautiful machine hails, but I do not know specifically which person at First Baptist Church made this dream come true for me. 

5 years ago I was running between 2-4 miles, 5 days a week. I had lost weight, felt great and running became my absolute favorite way to blow off steam. I prayed while I ran.  I worshipped.  I battled through fear, insecurities, and hurt. Running became a therapist, mom’s morning out, and prayer time all wrapped into one. 

I rely heavily on schedule (major flaw alert) so as we prepped to move to Haiti and started traveling and speaking, I just couldn’t figure out how to keep up with it.  I ran a handful of times every month but nothing like before. I thought surely I will run in Haiti. 

I have run in Haiti a handful of times at best in all 3 years we have lived here. I really tried. We live on a somewhat busy street so I tried running around a soccer field…jumping cow poop, waving to and politely greeting the woman holding the cow who just stayed and watched EVERY LAP, rolling my ankle on mango pits. Kris tried going out with me at 5:30AM, we detoured around the backside of the horse, walked over the pitted road, past the voodoo altar, and then I could run…past the crazy attack dogs, but still I could run. That worked, until team season had us working 16 hour days.  

Some missionaries/foreigners run here with no problem. Albeit, In a different neighborhood, but they don’t seem to mind the stares, the rock inducing ankle rolls, and the wipe-outs.  I have never been able to do it, not and enjoy it. 

I like to run alone. I don’t want to talk or be stared at. I want to process. I want to pray. I want to be quiet and listen to my heartbeat and my breath. I remember times running in AZ that I would run while processing life, enjoying God’s presence, a few times to the point of tears.  I’m over here admitting I would cry when I ran sometimes. The weepy runner. I’m so weird, ack, embarrassing.  

I usually bring my running clothes anytime I am stateside. I spent a week at my dad’s last year and I ran 14 miles over the course of about 7 days, because I missed it so badly.  I know that distance is nothing for you crazy marathon runners but, I hadn’t run much in 4 years at that point.  

I told Kris 2 years ago, “I need a treadmill.” For my health, both emotional and physical. How to make that happen we hadn’t a clue. I asked around online to see if any local aid workers had one for sale. No one said a thing. We looked at prices, no way. What we needed was a used treadmill…in Haiti.  I had daydreams about facing the treadmill toward the open door and looking outside while I got lost in a good run. 

About a year ago a wonderful church in West Virginia, bought a vehicle at auction to donate to KONBIT. They filled that thing with everything you can imagine. I knew they had so kindly put a treadmill on there for me. The vehicle needed to be shipped here so Kris’ parents drove it to FL and left it with a shipping broker. That was nearly 6 months ago. It was out of our hands. Then after 4 million phone calls the vehicle finally ships and arrives in Haiti. I chose to be stoic about the treadmill because I knew the damage that it could have sustained in transit. I watched it unload and my heart jumped, but I thought, it’s probably broken. I behaved like a bratty teen, because I was nervous. I let it sit one day and then Levi tried it to make sure it worked. It did!  

Now to yesterday. I jumped on it to run a quick mile. I put my music on, faced the treadmill to the door, and I ran. At one point I actually teared up. This may sound totally insane to you but it just means that much to me. So, for the next bit, I will be getting to know my treadmill, running and crying. I already ordered the maintenance kit because I have zero chill about this and my new sweet friend (the treadmill) needs to be regularly oiled and have the belts tightened. She is a fine tuned machine and must be cared for.  I want to name her, but what? Black Beauty? Chariot? Usain? Please submit suggestions.

So, that’s it.  I have no great spiritual lesson in this. I’m just probably the most excited a person has ever been to have a treadmill. I am already planning my run tomorrow. I need running music again. Cue the tears. Thanks sweet people in West VA. I know it’s hard to tell because of the tears, but you sent me a real treasure. Not to mention all the ministry supplies and (clears throat) the team vehicle. Ministry and all the amazing work we get to do aside, this was a gift for me. 

“I think we’re alone now,
There doesn’t seem to be anyone around
I think we’re alone now,
The beating of our hearts is the only sound”

Thanks to you, Tiffany.  Shout out to NKOTB for being such heartthrobs.

o-NKOTB-facebook

 

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Singing the song of our people

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July was epic but I am so happy to be back in Haiti.  We had a wonderful time with extended family and hanging out with our little immediate family but I missed our life here. To be truthful, this time, I did not think I missed it. 3 years into life here and the newness is well worn off and IT IS SO HARD sometimes that I think I can’t make it. Blah, blah, whine, whine. So, I didn’t think I missed life here, and I was a bit concerned. It wasn’t until we were driving back though Port au Prince that a sense of peace settled over me and I thought, man it’s nice to be home.  There is a bit of calm in my internal sea and I am enjoying this life and work again.  I am sure a month with our precious family is going a long way to explaining my current mental stability and feeling of groundedness.  Read on and I think you will hear why. 

Brief July recap. We spent a week in the home of a precious woman who lives in both Boston and Florida. She is in Boston this time of year so she allowed us to use her home. We swam, played monopoly, slept, rented a movie, went to the movies, ate ALL the berries, soaked up all the A/C and just healed a bit, emotionally and physically. We laughed so hard playing Marco Polo that I am surprised no one choked on pool water. Never had I realized how healing a vacation could be. We really need to be together away from 3rd world stress….and laugh. We sang the song of our people, laughter. 

Proverbs 17:22 “A happy heart is good medicine and a joyful mind causes healing…”  

What a sweet blessing that I almost cannot describe.  Missionaries DO NOT have places to unwind alone. If you have access to a place that you could offer to a weary worker, please do so. What a difference you can make. Christ Church in Venice, FL had a lasagne and salad waiting for us with gift cards for groceries and frozen Yogurt.  They left a goodie bag and what it really said to me was, we value you, we see your sacrifice, and we love you, please rest.  Tears.

We left FL after the most amazing week and took off to see our precious family. We stopped in Georgia, NC, and ended in IL.  At every stop we stayed at least a few days and we talked, hanging out with the people who shaped us and made us the weirdos we are. It was a very healthy thing to feel such a sense of belonging. These are our people and we felt so surrounded and accepted. We needed that belonging since we can’t even walk down the street or order food without feeling outside of culture and noticing our differences here in Haiti. (Side note: This is not because Haitians are not fabulously welcoming but because we ARE outsiders and that will not ever change completely) With family we ate ALL the steaks, and we stayed up late, and laughed that way you do when you’re with your people.  If you were a fly on the wall you would have heard story after story and laughter to tears and maybe some karaoke.  Being with our people and singing the songs of our tribe.  My sister and I have been singing the Reba McEntire duet, “Does He Love You” with heartfelt intensity as long as I can remember.  All of it felt healing and I think wrapped us up in a way emotionally that we are still carrying with us. Along the way we were able to take Anna to see a university she has been looking at and it felt good to give her that experience. She was like a kid in a candy store. 

When we got back to the house, the same life we left awaited us. The crazy pace, worn out batteries, sweat in weird places, bodies so tired we fall into bed, all the struggles but what also awaited us was the family we have here. Our Haitian community, Jessie, Jenna and our missionary community are here. As KONBIT we reconnected over pushing our HUGE (over 3 ton) truck across our yard so we could jump start it, and a comedy of errors ensued that you would hardly believe. To begin we are all pushing on the back of the truck when we nonchalantly asked the person steering (not pointing fingers, Jenna, don’t worry) if they had their foot on the brake. Their response, “yes, yes I do.”  Well, that made the resistance we felt make more sense. Not 5 seconds later we had 2 people pushing one direction on the front of the truck while 2 others pushed in the opposite direction on the back of the truck. None of this was intentional or because we thought we were being funny, we were all legitimately trying to get this thing done. We are a well oiled machine friends.  good grief!  I am glad we all lived and were able to jump start the truck. We laughed until we nearly wet our pants (well, Jessie and I) and this too is the song of my people. The word says in Psalm 68:6 that, “God places the lonely in families”.  So, I am glad to be home. With the family that God has been so kind to give us in the absence of our first one. We are so fortunate to be surrounded by love and laughter in 2 different countries.  So, come see us in Haiti some time. You can hear us singing the song of our people and loving every minute of this crazy life in Haiti. We have family here too and we do not take them for granted. 

Thanks for reading about our July, I know I promised an expose about “real Life” here but that just felt whiney and I am feeling grateful. Maybe another month for the expose, the dirty, literally, reality of life here. Today I would rather laugh.  

Juxtaposition July

 

What I want this month.
~24-7 Air conditioning
~steak (really, any meat with no bones)
~strawberries
~blueberries
~blackberries
~grapes
~cold, crisp salads
~smooth roads
~friendly customer service
~cold drinks
~ice cream
~my sisters, brothers, moms, dads, nieces, nephews, Aunts, Uncles, cousins… I want to squeeze them, catch up with them, laugh with them.
~traffic laws
~grass
~quiet
~nature
~personal space
~privacy
~to jog
~time with my children
~time with my husband
~a trip to Target
~no knocks at the gate
~no school
~milk
~organized, comfortable, nearby grocery stores
~a crock pot
~corn on the cob
~english worship
~no hassle electricity
~never-ending water supply
~hot showers
~to wear make-up
~to do my hair
~to meet with a counselor
~not to sweat into my eyeballs
~couches
~movie theaters
I apologize for listing all the foods individually, it’s healing…just ask my therapist.

 

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What I will miss this month.
~every “good morning” or “good afternoon”
~every smile and warm greeting
~every giggling child who wants to connect
~every knock at our gate
~every need we will not be here to know
~all the piklis
~all the Haitian coffee
~every visit from our community
~the delivery of every “Meals on 2 Wheels” buckets (it will still happen)
~our missionary Bible study
~our missionary tribe
~Stanley, Jessie, Jeanette, and Jenna (Team KONBIT)
~every sweaty kiss on my cheeks
~Sheriff, the greatest dog on the planet.
~watching God move in KONBIT 
~watching God move in Lafferonnay
~morning devotions in my “Jesus” chair. Don’t judge, it’s a great chair.
~joking with my neighbors
~being known and loved 
~serving
~community
I apologize for listing all the Haitian community oriented things individually, but the way they do community is addictive and just truly the most beautiful, Jesus like thing. Each deserved their own line.

It is hard to live here and it is hard to leave here. Even just for a month break. As a family we are looking forward to JULY. We will be stateside traveling from FL to IL and back again. We are looking forward to a break from the pressures of survival in Haiti.  We just want to play with our kids and spend time with them without needing to burn the trash, switch the power, pump the water, cook from scratch, open the gate and to meet community needs that can rarely wait. We always talk about our ministry on here but rarely the toll survival takes on us physically and emotionally. Maybe that will be my next blog. A day in the life, survival in Haiti. I will work on that for my August update.    For July we want to play and be together as a little unit. We are so excited to nurture and care for our children and marriage like we do our community and organization. I am afraid life in Haiti has made for much neglect of things we used to be so disciplined at prioritizing. We also get to be with extended family. My heart is so full as we plan to see and spend time with siblings and parents and their families. Every missed B-day, fun day, work day, lunch, celebration, and the feelings of grief multiply. We miss them so dearly and it only gets harder to be away…not easier.  

 

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The strange juxtaposition of feeling pulled between 2 places we love.  The creature comforts and our family in the US vs. our community, ministry, and team in Haiti.  

Thanks for supporting us as people and as a family. Thank you for not being critical when we take time to rest and be with loved ones. You might be surprised how many missionaries are criticized for even just taking a day at the beach. We are grateful that our friends and support base have always loved us and encouraged us to care for ourselves.  I believe we are better for it and more effective as ministers.  This month will be about us loving our little family and our extended family too.  Thank you for your prayers as we travel and connect.  We will be speaking only once to a large group (by design) but would still appreciate your prayers that we would communicate effectively.  I am also sure there will be a thousand small conversations as we travel about. You just never know how God will use those interactions to meet some of the needs of our friends here and continue to build our prayer team.

Until we return Ayiti Cherie.

Hope is not weak

I wrote a blog in 2016 called Hope is a Miracle. And it is, I see hope flourishing in the midst of impossible circumstances and swimming upstream against a flow of grief, hunger, sickness, and trial.  Hope is an absolute miracle and it is a miracle that is overlooked and under appreciated.  God has been teaching me more about hope lately. Hope is powerful. The word and concept of hope has in the past been a word that seemed void of strength. Like something we have when all strength is lost. Hope, it seemed to me, a weak substitution for being OK. Hope, all that is left when everything is lost. Hope, it truly is NOT what is leftover after devastation, but I have perceived it like this in the past.  Have you?  It is so much more than a leftover!  I have never seen it as a powerful word. I am a visual person so it is easy for me to imagine words as colors. For example, perseverance would be blue, black or metal, signifying strength.  Hope is pink, or light blue.  Faith is bright and strong like fire, love is deep and rich color but HOPE, it’s definitely a pastel. Like a word art piece with HOPE intertwined with wildflowers of all pastel colors.  Soft, sweet, …weak.

***Side note – I am such an out of control people pleaser that I need to add this caveat. If you love floral fonts and pretty things, well that’s great.  I do too.  Pink does not = weak.  Not the point. Please, wear PINK and flowers and scream from the mountain top about your  strength and vigor.  It might be weird but if it must be done…I understand.***

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Watson

This last week we have seen the POWER of hope and I want to share these stories with you.  Watson, one of our friends in Lafferonnay, recently received a gift from Jessie to start a small business.  He had been so sick from malnutrition and an intestinal infection that he could barely come ask for help. After KONBIT met his medical needs and gave him odd jobs and food, Jessie felt led to help him launch this small business.  He has since been steady working. He has a battery, inverter, and 2 power strips.  He uses these resources to run a charging station for peoples phones. He is healing up nicely, is able to feed himself and last week, for the 1st time, was able to send his Mom funds to help her. I know that sounds like no big deal, but to Watson, who loves his Mom and so badly wants to help, it means the world. The Hope that God has given him is POWERFUL and he is powering through impossible circumstances.  Through strength, endowed to him by Hope.  Hope that he has a future.  Hope that he is seen by the God of the universe.  Hope means Power to press through!

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Apredye

We have our dear friend Apredye who began a moto contract with KONBIT last year and who has worked as Jessie’s driver for 2 years.  His mother was so sick last year and she received medicine from us that got her back on her feet.  4 members of his family also have work because of their connection to KONBIT. Everyday we hear new things about businesses they are starting and new ways they are creatively providing for themselves. They have Hope and so they have POWER to press through and accomplish difficult things for their families.  Hope, like a fire in their soul, urging them on, giving strength to tired muscles.

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Daniel

Daniel and Dalien have worked tirelessly everyday to launch their barbershop that they funded with a micro-loan from KONBIT.  They work every day painting, and prepping for a business that really believe can provide for them in impossible circumstances.  They have Hope and so they press forward believing good things are to come.

Hebrews 6:19
“We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain”

There are many different types of anchors. Some for calm waters, others for storms. Some permanent and others temporary.  Many anchors work by embedding themselves in the seabed.  A permanent anchor is also called a mooring. The commentary in my Bible on this passage said that we are moored to God himself. Permanently anchored to God inside of the Holy of Holies!  Jesus’ once broken body, sits beside the Father and is  how this anchor holds steadfast.  He sacrificed his own body to ensure that this anchor could not be dislodged.  This hope that we have is not some mamby-pamby weak vice.  This Hope is not the absence of power; this hope is the power of God to sustain us and enable us to keep on keeping on!  This Hope is a direct line to resurrection power and is referenced 180 times in God’s Word.

Isaiah 40:31
“but those who HOPE in the Lord
will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
they will run and not grow weary,
they will walk and not be faint.”

It says, “Those who HOPE in the Lord will renew their strength.” The power and strength to do all God has called us to do is connected to Hope.

1 Peter 1:3
“Celebrate with praises the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has shown us his extravagant mercy. For his fountain of mercy has given us a new life—we are reborn to experience a living, energetic hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.”

So, here is to HOPE being written like fire or like steel because it represents the stunning, sustaining power and strength of the God of the universe. Hope is an anchor!  Hope is strong like an eagle soaring.  Hope is enduring like a runner that never gets tired.  Hope holds the universe and contains the power of God who breathed out stars, the size of 1,000,000 earths, during creation.

So I am determined to give HOPE the respect it deserves.  I need to recognize the power it has in my life and in the lives of the people that surround me.  Hope is not weak and our hope is anchored to God himself.  It is the strength of God manifested in our spirits when we could have thrown in the towel long ago.  Hope not weak and I for one am in desperate need to be reminded of its power daily.

Mouthing off to Jesus in the boat – Part 2

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So what was I reminded of that has me pointed in a better direction?

1) I had forgotten WHO God is and WHO has ALL authority!  spoiler alert, it’s not me.

Matthew 28:17-19 “When they saw him, they worshiped him—but some of them doubted! Jesus came and told his disciples, ‘I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth. Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.”

I was at a conference last week and a speaker, Robert Madu, said, “We need an awareness of God’s authority.”  Those words have been bouncing off the walls of my spirit since he said them.  Jesus has all AUTHORITY! He is in charge, the big boss, the main cheese.  More respectfully, The Alpha and Omega, The Lion of the tribe of Judah, the omniscient, all powerful, all present God.  Come on!  That makes me want to get up a do a little jig.

I forgot WHO held this all together.

When the disciples were nervous about this whole gig, Jesus said, “I have all authority…therefore GO!”  All authority!  Say ALL!  I’m telling you this is an old revelation exploded into my heart new and fresh all over again.  We were never meant to go and move in the calling He has on our lives without his power and authority.  His calling on all our lives is too great for us to attempt it alone.  I was attempting it alone, although I did not know it.  It is hard to have confidence in God when you have forgotten WHO He is in the grand scheme of things.  We have to be reminded (literally daily) who God is and what He can do, that brings me to #2.

2) Our minds must be OVERHAULED in The Word and in worship

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#OriginalConference 2018

Psalm 91:1-2
“Those who live in the shelter of the Most High
will find rest in the shadow of the Almighty. 
This I declare about the Lord:
He alone is my refuge, my place of safety;
he is my God, and I trust him.”

I had forgotten how to DECLARE the Word of God over my mind.  Our minds cannot dwell on the lies of the enemy and the truth of God’s Word at the same time.  If your mind is whispering lies of defeat, failure, condemnation, and fear, then it needs to be washed in the Word.  Devoted, expectant time in the Bible and in worship aligns our thinking with that of Christ.  When we really soak in God’s Word and declare His truth in worship, we develop the mind of Christ.  Now, I can testify that you can come to worship to check a box for the week.  Or you can have your devotion time to check a box, done. If you enter worship determined to meet with God and to surrender to Him, He WILL meet you.  If you open God’s Word hungry for meat to fill your soul then His Word will revolutionize your thoughts.  I needed my thoughts to be not politely altered but REVOLUTIONIZED! When you don’t want to worship, You CHOOSE to worship, Why?  Because your feelings are not the boss of you!  You have to declare who God is in your life even when every molecule of your being is just, bleh.

Do you dwell on the Word?  I wasn’t doing that anymore.  Sure, I read my devotions but I was not dwelling on and soaking in God’s word.  Does your heart have a song of worship threatening to spill out at any moment?  Mine did not, but I can tell you what was threatening to spill out.

anger, tears, blame, hurt, fear, stress, pressure, pain

Can you relate?

2 Corinthians 5:17 “Anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!”

I didn’t feel like the a New Creation anymore.  I was and am a new creation, because God’s Word is truth; but man alive, I didn’t feel like it.

Unnecessary recap.
1. God has all Authority in heaven and on earth.  He spoke the earth into existence, i.e. I CAN TRUST HIM.  He has got this. He HOLDS my babies, even if an ocean separates us.  Literal tears, oh this hurts.  He didn’t say it wouldn’t hurt.
2. God’s Word declares TRUTH over our lie ridden minds.  The truth of His acceptance, His PEACE, His victory.  The truth found in obedience, surrender, and sacrifice.  Then worship places us in the correct position to hear from HIM and it EXALTS Him over our circumstance.  THERE IS POWER in acknowledging God’s place on the throne in our difficult situations.

Folks, I am still in the boat with Jesus.  Sometimes, I continue in the stand-off, lacking  trust.  Sometimes, I understand the victory and I can dance in the storm.  Sometimes, I can just rest with Jesus in the peace that He had on the boat.  I will be wrestling with this for a bit, but for the first time in many months I am not wrestling alone.  Like the fourth man in the fiery furnace with Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego (Daniel 3), I know God is with me.  I am so glad to be wrestling in God’s Word, wrestling in worship and wrestling covered by the power and authority of the God of the universe.  I don’t have all the answers and am most certainly chief among sinners, I hear ya Paul.  But by God’s grace I also see a glimpse of peace and I recognize that I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.

God orchestrated a whirlwind of spiritual activity over the last 6 weeks.  So grateful to Jesus for continually leaving the 99 to come find me.  Thank you to some amazing folks who have poured heart and soul into my tired spirit this last 6 weeks.  Everyone of your efforts to minister fell on a listening, albeit somewhat hard heart initially.  God used you in my life.

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A hazy pic of me and my love, just because.

Faith Presbyterian Church in VA https://faithepchurch.org
Velvet Ashes Retreat https://velvetashes.com #VelvetAshes2018Haiti
Haiti Missionary Ladies/my family – Thanks for falling down and getting back up and sharing your stories.  You make me better, stronger, more sane.  Praying for you all as you all fight your battles in Haiti.  You’re my tribe and we have a beautiful Chief.
Original Conference, Rockford, IL #originalconference http://www.originalconference.com, find a way to GO!
Nic, Trina, and Stephen thank you for sitting in the mess with me.  You were my fight club last week.  http://lalalovelythings.com, GET TRINA’S BOOK!
Jen DeWeerdt, https://www.cityfirst.church/contributors/jen-deweerdt,   I cannot even you right now.  I’ll send a note, or a video, or a novel, maybe a short documentary. Thank you, said along with my ugly cry.  I am soaking in enough light these days to shine considerably brighter, even at home.
Alex Seely, http://thebelonging.co/our-team/,  you speak a lot of Freedom.  My heart heard you.
Robert Madu, http://robertmadu.com,  Awareness of God’s authority like an echo chamber in my spirit.
Lysa TerKeurst, https://lysaterkeurst.com,  Life between 2 gardens, the brokenness overwhelms some days, but I can see his protection in the pain.

 

Mouthing off to Jesus in the boat – Part 1

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Photo lovingly shared by my dear friend Jan on the occasion of my Bday.  I now gift it to you all.

Part 1 – because I was feeling ridiculously long winded and now I am not sure anyone has time to read this in one sitting.  Just know that even though I leave blog 1 at a teetering precipice, God once again redeems my mess in the end.

Pre-Blog note to say that since Jacob wrestled a angel (who some scholars believe was Jesus) we should be nice to me, even though I was snotty to the God of the universe.  OK, as you were.

Have you ever obeyed God when He asked you to do something?  Yes?  Me too.  Even Stevens.  That’s all the call to missions is.  A yes.  There is a lady who writes a blog called the worst missionary or something along those lines.  Can I reference her?  Is that taboo?  I have no idea and I also have only read a few of her blogs (which are great) but the title resonates with me right now.  I am the worst and I relate to the apostle Paul when he says in 1 Timothy 1:15-16, “Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst. But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his immense patience as an example for those who would believe in him and receive eternal life.”  I am just the worst.  Did you know that I was sarcastic with Jesus the other day?  Let me recap our convo for you.  I was at a retreat with other missionary ladies in Haiti and we were participating in a exercise where we imagined ourselves in a particular scripture.  As the scripture in Mark was read we were to close our eyes and imagine the scene and place ourselves inside of it.  The story is included here for context.  I would also note for scriptural context that the disciples and Jesus were absolutely spent at this point.  Ministry had been coming at them full speed and even Jesus, i.e. God in a human body, was worn out.

Mark 4:35-41, Jesus Calms the Storm

“As evening came, Jesus said to his disciples, “Let’s cross to the other side of the lake.” So they took Jesus in the boat and started out, leaving the crowds behind (although other boats followed).  But soon a fierce storm came up. High waves were breaking into the boat, and it began to fill with water. Jesus was sleeping at the back of the boat with his head on a cushion. The disciples woke him up, shouting, “Teacher, don’t you care that we’re going to drown?” When Jesus woke up, he rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Silence! Be still!” Suddenly the wind stopped, and there was a great calm. Then he asked them, “Why are you afraid? Do you still have no faith?” The disciples were absolutely terrified. “Who is this man?” they asked each other. “Even the wind and waves obey him!”

So, before I let you into this little kerfuffle I have had with Jesus, let me give you some personal context.  Our 3rd anniversary of moving to Haiti is May 7 and in many ways living here is my absolute joy and quite normal.  I have noticed over the past 6 months something building inside me.  I had never experienced anxiety like this, but now I know that anxiety was starting to creep up into my heart and mind, robbing me of all my peace.  Anxiety that is mostly rooted in where God’s call on my life has me living, Haiti.  My call to mom here, serve here, and live here has for a short season been overwhelming my spirit and choking my joy.  It was a slow, sneaky slide into this place of tension and before I knew it, I was being swallowed whole.  Here I am, a missionary, full of the knowledge of the power and authority of God, and I am terrified.  I am going to let you in on a secret, missionaries are a mess.  No for real.  Actually had another missionary say to me 2 weeks ago, “We were such good Christians before we were missionaries.”  Ouch.  Where did I go wrong?

Let’s get back to the exercise on the retreat.  The lady is reading the verse and asking us to imagine getting into this boat with Jesus.  I imagine myself as a disciple because, word, I would follow this guy anywhere.  The boat pushes from the shore and I can feel calm settle over me.  Any boating aficionados here?  The sun warming and soothing tired muscles and the spray of the water gently hitting my arms.  I close my eyes and enjoy the rest. Then the winds pick up, and the sky darkens.  A chilly breeze begins to touch my skin and I can sense the danger.  My spirit, accustomed to the storms now, braces for a fight.  I am acutely aware that I must act.  Jesus is asleep and I know how tired He is, so I want Him to rest.  Weird, right?!?  Jesus, I’ve got this…you siesta.  Take the wheel, Lord.  As the storm rolls in and begins to shake us violently, I get to work.  I have a job to do.  I must keep the water out.  I must bail.  I must do all I can to keep us all safe.  I cannot sit on my hands and watch this happen.  I have to FIX THIS!  Then Jesus is awoken and he DECLARES Peace!  The peace is instantaneous and I am left standing exhausted and on edge like I have just fought with a lion for my life and the lives around me.  Then Jesus looks at me and says, “Why are you afraid?” Now I wish I had responded as many of my friends did, with “Lord help my unbelief”.  Or “oh yea”, as if reminded, “I should have known he had this covered”.  How did I respond?  “What kind of a ridiculous question is that Lord?  Um, there was a terrifying storm and I was just trying to stay alive and keep you all safe too!”  Then Jesus and I were left in what I can only describe as a stand-off.  Now, In fairness to Jesus, who I happen to think was not ruffled by my sarcasm, The stand-off was of my making.  My eyes held all the fear, all the anxiety, and all the anger.  His eyes were patient and kind but unwavering, as if to say, “I asked you a question?”  “Yes, I heard you Lord, and I answered already,” So, there we stood, in the boat, on water as calm and smooth as glass and surrounded by some “Oh, no she didn’t” disciples.  The exercise ends here and I am left with this spiritual conundrum and I am not quite sure what to make of it.  I don’t remember ever feeling so much fear and anxiety in God’s presence.  My spirit knew that He was all I needed to have peace, but my mind also refused to let down my guard.

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My greatest calling is these 3 and their Dad.  These 3 are also the subjects of my hardest fought surrender to the Lord.

I moved to Haiti across a miraculously split sea of God’s provision!  I survived the first year here solely on His grace and the power of His Holy Spirit!  If I had completed this exercise in our first year or before we moved, I feel certain I would have been dancing in the storm!  Somewhere along the way, things became bearable here and I believe I started to live here in my own power.  Maybe this is where all missionaries, broken like me, go awry.  I was just plugging along.  Barely stopping to breath, much less to really feed my soul.  Let me recount for you a couple things I had forgotten.  Maybe these things will help you too if you are struggling to really trust God with YOUR circumstances, your storm.  Are you struggling through Divorce, Depression, Sickness?  Schooling my kids here is the hardest and I can feel SO defeated and ill equipped.  My stress level is perpetually at defcon 1, because the 3rd world life and I wonder sometimes if God can use this messy offering to make any difference at all in peoples lives.  All that, and I am battling with the idea of living in a different country than my children, as they grow and fly the nest.  It is 2 years away for birdie 1 and my heart is already lurching in my chest.  Lord, I agreed to move my 12, 10, and 6 year old here, I do NOT remember agreeing for them to move back for college without me.  It really was/is a trust issue for me.   Do I trust God with my babies?  Side note: Yes, they are babies.  Only a 191 month old, 167 month old, and finally my newborn a 104 month old.  Just ask my mom, I am a mere 516 month old.

God has had me on a journey the last 6 weeks.  People have prayed and poured into my life.  God backed my fear and anxiety into a corner, and I was forced to wrestle this with Him.  So what was I reminded of that has me pointed in a better direction?

Read Part 2 tomorrow to find out what God is speaking to my soul and how He is redeeming my little emotional mess.

Creole…my best friend, my arch enemy

We have to do this.  We have to learn Creole, and we want to.  Nothing is more frustrating than wanting to communicate or connect and being stuck exchanging shallow pleasantries.  Ask any team member that has come here, the desire to communicate, to hear and be heard, is overwhelming.

This journey to speak Haitian Creole began in 2015 with French lessons.  Then later in 2015, Skype Creole lessons weekly for months.  We have used Apps, computer programs and constantly practice with friends.  Haitian friends teach us one word at a time, correcting our pronunciation and usage.   A dear friend comes every Monday just to help me really absorb the language and we work for 2 hours.  Everyone in our family is in a different place in creole mastery.  Anna is the most natural speaker.  Rachael has the biggest vocab.  Lydia can play with Haitian kids but will rarely speak Creole to adults.  Kris has worked very hard and uses index cards to study but keeps a translator near so he can continue to function.  Levi can manage small conversations and has taken lessons from Haitian friends as well.

Those are the basics of our Creole journey but they don’t tell the story of what it is like to live in a culture where every interaction is a challenge.  It does not begin to explain how many times we have embarrassed ourselves, been laughed at, been scared or just confused.  If I could count the amount of times I have said “yes” in conversations because I just had NO IDEA what was said and I was too embarrassed to ask again.  If I could count the number of times I have tried so hard to say something and then received that same empty “yes” I so often give.  If I could count the amount of times I have picked up 2 words out of the sentence spoken and then tried to connect the dots between the fish and the mountain, the 2 words I understood.  I have unintentionally agreed to be a God Mother and unintentionally agreed to buy 1000’s of pencils and pens for a school.  At times I get a little overly confident and begin rattling off in creole only to have the responding person begin speaking rapidly.  How sad it is to watch their face fall when they realize how lost I am.  If you heard us speaking you might falsely believe we have this creole thing in the bag.  Smoke and mirrors friends.

Because all people should have the opportunity to hear the stories of our language foibles…and because it is the Christmas season, I give you the gift of laughter, at my expense.  So here is our Christmas “card”, photos and all.

Story #1
I was trying to take the picture of a group of sweet kids that came to visit us everyday after school.  As I was taking their picture I thought I said in Creole, “Smile!” which is souri.  Instead, I said kouri, which is, “run!”

Story #2 – TMI warning
Intestinal problems are a hobby here, especially in the first 6 months.  During that time, we spoke regularly to our close friends about how we were feeling.   One day a dear Haitian friends asked me how we were as he knew we had been sick so often.  Earlier that week I had leaned a new word, “reg.” which I understood to mean diarrhea.  I am embarrassed to admit how often we speak of this, but trust me this will be worth it.  So in an effort to communicate to Elimage what we were dealing with I said, “Our whole family has reg.  Kris has reg, all the kids and I have reg”.  In my mind I was telling my friend the gravity of the situation, i was about to put our entire family on antibiotics.  Little did I know I was communicating something far stranger.  It turns out that “reg” actually means female menstruation.  Elimage looked at me with an odd grimace and I took note but did not question it.  I continued to use that word for the next 6 months before someone informed me.  I’m blushing just telling you.

Story #3
My friend, Imakila, had defended another friend of ours whose husband was hitting her.  She had held the girls husband at bay and protected our friend.  The next day after I tended to the bruises of my crying friend I thought about how much I appreciated Imakila and her courage.  She didn’t sit back or say it wasn’t her problem.  She put herself in harms way and I loved her for it.  I was just so full of emotion and and admiration when I saw her later that day.  Although my creole was horrible, I knew I needed to talk to her and encourage her.   I looked at her and with emotion said, “You are a good woman, a good strong woman.  Good friend, strong friend. Thank you.”  I walked away from her feeling so proud of all my encouragement until I mentally translated how cave-man my encouragement had been.  She is still my friend and it is a tribute to her sense of humor and loyalty.

Story #4
One morning I was up trying to start school with Levi and I  kept having to put it on pause to help with community medical needs.  I did wound care and then helped two elderly gentlemen deal with some varying heath issues.  As they were leaving, our friend Michel arrived.  He has prostate problems and we had spent days in the previous month driving him from Hospital to Hospital trying to find him care.  So, in the absence of a translator, I assumed he was here because he was in pain and needed medical care.  We had told him to return if his pain recurred.  I asked him if he was in pain and needed care?  He pointed briefly to his back.  I brought him in and got him water.  He drank it quickly and I got him another.   After talking with him a bit, I put him on a motorcycle taxi and sent him off to the hospital.  As he was pulling away, the moto driver told me that Michel was hungry.  I said we would send food to his house to be there when he returned.  As I turned to walk away, I realized that I was not sure that Michel had told me clearly that he needed medical care.  The only thing he said clearly was that he was hungry.  Yes, I think I may have sent our sweet friend to the hospital because he was hungry.  Lord have mercy.  We did feed him after.

Living in a culture where you do not fluently speak the language has been a terrifying, confusing, exhausting and hysterical adventure.  Some days after trying to speak Creole all day, my brain is so tired  I CANNOT translate one more word.  I think in 2 languages now and rarely speak English or Creole alone.  I have fused them into a mess that neither Haitians or Americans can completely understand.  I am working on it.  I hope you enjoyed our funny language mishaps more than I did fumbling through them.

So Merry, Merry to you my friends!  Hope this brought a smile to your face.