I know you hate being called teenagers!

 

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So calling all iGen (currently about 10-24 years olds). Teens get a bad rap and I feel like the stigma of it starts in the tweens and lasts into the 20s.

I love you. I hate this for you. Every part of you is hurting. Even though you understand you are not alone, it still hurts. You should have been graduating elementary, HS, or college! You are missing rights of passage, friends, first loves, weddings, and so much more. Here is the thing, though. You are equal to this. My husband and I were youth pastors for over 10 years and spent many years before that working with teens and young adults. We are also parents of three amazing members of iGen. As missionaries in Haiti many of our teams have been comprised of or contained young adults, and we have welcomed interns. From my 20 years of experience with this age, I can tell you. YOU ARE EQUAL TO THIS!

I see you losing your grip on schedule (and who cares) , trying to maintain school, and feeling a bit lost and lonely. I see you, and I have a challenge for you.  You are uniquely positioned as the “up and comers. You are the ones who will take our place at the helm of this ship. Many of you are brilliant and kind and will be the health workers, scientists, policy makers, philosophers, and educators of the future. Many of you are flowing with love and compassion and, partnered with intellect, you will become conservationists, aid workers, pastors, and more. Many of you are so creative that beauty flows from your pen, brush, voice, instrument, body and really from your heart.

You will design buildings, create technology, serve and love people in a way that will CHANGE THE WORLD.

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Why not start now, many of you already do. So, Here is the challenge.

Generation Z (or iGen) , We the Millennials, Gen Xers, Boomers, and the Silent generation are all tired and a bit discouraged too. We need your youth and energy and hope. Can you do something for us? Will you take those incredible gifts of intelligence, artistry, and love and make something of beauty to share with the world? You are not just our future; we believe in you now!

So make a piece of art this week that reminds us that there is Hope. Check this example by clicking on the picture below.

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Sing a song, write a song, or take a pictured and post it please! Write a blog or article (Not the school paper kind: the birthed in passion, who cares about grammar, no bibliography kind) about what you are passionate about. Share a story or a poem that you love. We need to hear from you. As the leaders of our future, you will learn so much from this experience. You and we know that this will shape how you see the world forever and many of you will be inspired into your careers after this experience. You will see the world differently; you really already do. You are passionate and realistic, what a combination.

So, if you know and love someone in iGen (born 1996-2010.) , encourage them to share with us. Share this and tag them! Ask them to share and add the #WeNeedYouiGen. Then please share your iGen’s contribution. Look for these amazing people to share with us all they are thinking and what they have to offer. Please do it. #WeNeedYouiGen

Weebles wobble, but they don’t fall down.

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Where my other 70’s or 80’s kids and parents at? I loved my Weeble Wobbles. I spent an embarrassing amount of time laying them down over and over again just so I could watch them pop up. Don’t judge, we had no iPads, gaming consoles, or cell phones. We had no computer and we had one TV. That TV only had programming that interested me a tiny fraction of the time. So, I watched my Weebles wobble. Desperation would lead occasionally to my watching Star Trek or Perry Mason (black and white) with my mom. I was fascinated by that toy. I was never perplexed by how they worked, but it interested me all the same. It’s clear that it’s weighted at its base. Simple enough. That reminds me, though, of those baby bottles that had “OJ” in them.

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You know, the ones that when you tipped them up the “OJ” disappeared like the baby was drinking it. That is a mystery I do not want solved, my babies were drinking it…period…end of story. But Weeble Wobbles are as simple a concept as can exist. If enough weight is placed at the base of anything, depending on the total height and weight, it is less likely to fall. That is way buildings are built in a matter of speaking. The foundation has to be strong. The taller the building, the deeper the foundation. 

These times are testing our foundation aren’t they?  In my personal life, I feel a bit like a an inflatable punching bag. One of those with a stupid grin that goes down hard and then pops back up, still smiling.

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Maybe the smile is ideology, positivity, and a dash of insanity, but it’s there. I launched my oldest kid 1 month ago. She is in the US and that would hurt normally. Now this pandemic and I have no way to return to states. I hate feeling powerless. I can’t get to my kid, I also can’t get to my parents or siblings. Hit, Hit, Hit. I was laughing at you all when all your kids came home to for the rest of the year. I’m sorry. I knew it was wrong, but I had been homeschooling for 5 years and for the first time in 5 years all my kids were being educated away from me. That laughing lasted 2 days as our schools canceled and my 2 younger kids are back home. I had 1 month. Sorry, Kids I really do like you but… Hit. Eating here is a decent amount of work. Normally, I have help with shopping and cooking so I can manage all the laundry and ministry. No help can come to work in these day and there is no take out, no frozen pizzas, no cheap easy meals, at all, ever. So, I cook. Like really cook. Hit. My kids are missing their sister and their friends. After returning here in January, their school and friends were what they looked forward to the most. My kids are hurting. Hit, Hit. We are quarantined and locked into our compound again. Before we left for our furlough we spent the previous year locked in our compound on and off as Haiti dealt with a deep political uprising. Now, After months in the US we returned rested and ready to minister. Now we sit, unable to do all we had hoped and prayed we would be able to. We feed people and we hand aid through the gate, but it’s not the same. We cannot meet with our friends and we cannot risk having people come to the KONBIT house which could quickly spread the virus community wide. Hit, Hit.

Would you believe I’m actually not complaining? Probably not, but hang on. 

These are just the facts right now. Isn’t this all of our story? How many of us have HS and college seniors grieving? How many of us have a scary loss of income? How many of us have family we cannot access and loved ones that have us so worried?  I am not one to say, “buck it up soldier”. I don’t think that is healthy. I think we have to acknowledge fear and loss or it festers like a wound. So we connect, share our worries, grieve for each others children, and worry about each others loved ones. We pray for and encourage one another. That’s Healthy.   

But do you feel your spirit popping back up after each hit? Is there a weight in the bottom of your soul that keeps you standing?  How deep did we dig the foundation in our families? How much weight is at the bottom of our faith? How deep go the roots in our marriages? 

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

Hebrews 12:1-3
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.”

It is real work building our foundations in God, in our marriages, and in our families, and what an opportunity we have RIGHT now! Pull out the Word of God and dig that foundation. Pray with your spouse and be real about your fears. Hang out with your kids, pray with them, and work on that relationship. Pray for the essential workers who are on the front lines and if you are home, doing your part…work on yourself. This is what I have to do. I have to add weight to my soul, I have to deepen my foundations with my family, so I/we can keep popping back up. These are tough times but some of us have space and the investment will not be wasted. Let’s be Webble Wobbles, they wobble but they don’t fall down. 

Luke 6:48
“They are like a man building a house, who dug down deep and laid the foundation on rock. When a flood came, the torrent struck that house but could not shake it, because it was well built.”

If your house is shaking, don’t be discouraged. Just dig. Let me know if I can pray for you. 

PSA because I love you: If you struggle with depression (your weeble wobble is unexplainable on its side for 3 weeks or more) or anxiety, please get help. “Pray until it goes away”, “pull yourself up by your bootstraps”, or “all you need is God” are not practical or helpful insights. There is NO shame in seeking counseling and getting help to figure out what is going on inside your mind. Our brains need care just like every other body part and people are trained brilliantly to do just that. I take advantage of the wisdom of counselors regularly, there is no shame in my game.

Repeat

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I have some muscle memory here. What do I mean? We stayed indoors for a week with 3 Haitian families as Hurricane Matthew swirled nearby. We stayed in doors, not even able to make it 1 mile to school, as unrest swirled nearby. We stock up on water, diesel, meat, and yes, even TP when we don’t know when we will be able to shop again. There were seasons we could not even go on a walk, because the unrest was too near. Gun shots have had us staying in back hallways.  We worry incessantly about viruses that kill. Dengue, Malaria, Zika, Cholera, Diphtheria, Tuberculosis, and Chikungunya. We are always concerned about medical care and never have access to medical facilities that are NOT overwhelmed. We unfortunately watch people die and see selective life saving measures dolled out and withheld regularly. So, yes, we have muscle memory here. We have exercised the muscle of calm in chaos. We have exercised the muscle of giving when we want to turn inward. We have exercised the muscle of faith when we are overwhelmed with fear. 

Why am I telling you this? Because my heart hurts for you. Because I know how scary it can be. I know that it can feel hard to breathe when anxiety tries to take over. I know that you and your kids are paying prices, mine have too. I know that it hurts to watch our kids grieve what they are missing. So, I am writing because I see you and if my experiences can offer any hope, then I want to share them. I am not bragging, this is not an accomplishment. Oh, How I wish Haitians did not live like this, and, oh, how I wish you all could never taste it and am still praying you do not. So, here are my greatest lessons learned living through scary and difficult times.

1. Peace is a gift of God, it is not from ourselves (John 14:27). Sit with God in your fear, bring it to Him (1 John 4:18). Allow him to use His word to walk you beside still waters and refresh your soul (Psalm 23). You may have to return to this place every hour to keep a sense of peace, so be it (Romans 12:2). When you feel your heart and spirit lurching with anxiety, take a deep breath and sit with God (Isaiah 26:3). He will meet you (Deuteronomy 31:8). Breathe in His presence, praise Him,  and breathe out fear (Psalm 150:6). 

2. Look for the good, the gifts. What good can this extra time with your kids mean? What perspective can they gain from this? When all I can see are the prices my kids have paid, I am missing out on gratefulness for all my kids have learned and gained. All I can gain too. They lost prom, they gained empathy. They lost friendships, they gained depth and independence. Maybe you finally get to play a board game (or 20) or read a book as a family. How can God use this experience to deepen us as individuals and a society?

3. Don’t self preserve, preserve community. How can you be a light to others right now? Physical isolation doesn’t have to mean loneliness. Reach out to people. Serve with words of connection and encouragement digitally. If there are ways that you can serve the older generation who need to stay especially isolated, do it. Go through drive through for them, lysol the bag, and leave it on their steps. Drop off supplies (that have been disinfected) to the vulnerable. Make sure the people on the front lines have what they need, like masks. Don’t be a selfish turd. simple.

4. Don’t panic. Do 1-3 again. Breathe and be with God. Look for the good and the gifts. Help others. Do it again. 

Breathe. See the good. Serve others. Repeat.

Breathe. See the good. Serve others. Repeat.

We are praying for you all. If we could bring you toilet paper (disinfected) we would.  We have plenty.

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What all have I forgotten to tell you?

Now then, you my little girl fly the nest. It’s earlier than expected but nothing you do or are capable of should surprise me. I do wonder as I imagine not being at arms length for every decision and hiccup, have I told you everything you need to know? 

You should keep emergency supplies in your trunk. Don’t eat too much fast food. Things like that. Then I realize, you have that stuff, what do I really want you to know.

Do you know that your family HAS you? It doesn’t matter how far we are. If you need us, we will climb over the ocean to find you. Do you know that every moment you think of us, we will have have thought of you 1000 times. Do you know that I have been thinking of and praying for this moment since God put you in my arms 17 years ago? Did you know that I have had thousands of conversations with you since you were tiny so that in this moment you would know just how ready you are? Did you know that 99% of being ready to leave home is belief in your ability to navigate very simple things? Did you know that I believe you are 100% capable to do this and do it well? Do you know that God will work out the details, like really, the tiny details? Do you trust Him? Do you know that the God who causes the sun to rise is watching you rise, everyday? He thinks you’re beautiful. Do you know that you are a treasure and worth being protected? Do you know that the right guys will protect you too. Do you know that you will have hard days and then they will pass? Do you know that you will have amazing days and they will pass too? Do you know that some connection to others will be hard fought for and will be fruitful? Do you know that some connection to others will be hard fought for and will bear NO fruit? Do you know that any connection made to God will bear fruit in your life for all eternity? Do you know that I love the smallest and biggest things about you? Do you know that your face still gets soft and warm like a toasted marshmallow when you sleep? Do you know that for years every morning when I got you out of your crib, I loved and kissed those warm cheeks? Do you know that when you were 5 you could wake up and get ready for school by yourself? Do you know that every adult who has gotten to know you, tells me they see something uniquely deep and beautiful in you? Do you know that you will make mistakes, fall down, get hurt, and get broken? Do you know that you can do hard things? Do you know you can be happy and enjoy easy things too? Do you know that you will never be defined by your accomplishments? Do you know that you are so much more than your GPA? Do you know that on the other side of your worst failure is Jesus? Do you know that most trite sayings are true? Do you know that it’s not how many times you fail, but how many times you get back up? Do you know that 1oz of discipline is more valuable than pounds of charisma? Do you know that integrity > emotion? Do you know that every part of my body has dreaded this moment and yet always been so excited for you to have it? 

Now, lock your doors at night. Don’t walk outside barefoot in winter. Back to the stuff in your trunk, you need a blanket, water, and flashlight. Give more than you take. Meet with Jesus everyday and you’ll never be lonely or lost. Do your dishes and take out the trash. Tell people when you are not OK. Some days you won’t be OK. Drink water and take your vitamins. Eat protein and love your body and heart like I have. Do yoga and watch the sunrise. Choose things that bring you life and reject things that take it away, those things are usually small.

Know this. Every moment of raising you, my precious, has been my joy. You have loved your brother, sister, dad and me with passion and grace. You have raised us well and we will be ok. You taught us how to put each other first and how to pay prices for each other. You have loved Levi and Lydia so beautifully and they are more whole because of you. You have loved your dad and I so beautifully and we are more whole because of it. Lydia and Levi will never forget devotions with you. They will never forget how you chose them. Neither will I. Thank you for falling into my arms for the last 17 years and allowing me to hold you. Never forget that we are your crew and we are walking with you, even when you can’t see us. You are NEVER alone in any fight, you roll 5 deep. 

Do you know that neither height, nor depth, nor anything in God’s creation can separate you from God’s love in Christ Jesus?

If you know that, you have all you need. 

I am 100% sure. 

Anna Banana, Anna Bear, My NerNertz, My first baby, Anna Lucille.

17.5 years. I am not going to say all the cliché things. They are true, but they seem to diminish this season. This is much harder than I imagined. When we said a huge, “Yes,” to God about Haiti we knew what it meant. We knew that eventually our children would live on another continent. When your kids are 12, 10, and 5 it feels like a lifetime away. I spent nights surrendering this eventuality to the Lord, in tears, but knew we had time.  

Time is up, with our oldest. I had felt God whisper to my heart MANY months ago that it was almost time for Anna to move stateside. I even felt peace about where, but had NO IDEA how it could come about. Due to the uncertainty, I never mentioned my feelings to Anna. 

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Anna gave me this sticker for Christmas this year. She knew my heart was in a panic, trying to let go but determined to hang on. She knew I worried, so much that I couldn’t sleep. The sticker says,

“I will be okay. I will be okay. Even before everything falls into place.” 

Christmas morning was a cry fest when she gave me this. I really wanted her to be in Rockford, IL, with the community at City First Church, but how? While in Rockford, IL on our furlough we sat down for lunch with our Pastors, Jer and Jen DeWeerdt. We had not shared with them about my desire for Anna to stay in Rockford and had no intention of bringing it up at that meeting, or maybe ever. Nearing the end of our time, Pastor Jeremy just looked at us and asked, “Does Anna want to stay here?” My chin about hit the table. Had I said something? I racked my brain trying to remember if I had mentioned something to them earlier. I had not. I just responded, “Well, not necessarily (because she doesn’t know it’s an option), but I think she is supposed to be here for a season.” 

The rest is history. The church had room in one of their dorms and they are graciously allowing Anna to come live with their students. She will ride with students into the church everyday to do school using the churches internet. She will be surrounded by one of the healthiest spiritual communities I have ever been a part of. She will serve at the church, attend youth, finish her senior year and then work over the summer. Once the college students go home in May, Anna will be moving in with a very kind woman who has opened her home to her. She will have her driver’s license at that point and will work until she starts school in the fall. 

Anna is feeling very drawn to a university in Lakeland, FL. They are giving her a missionary discount and due to her academic scholarships, federal grants, and other things, it should her very manageable for her. We are very grateful to potentially have her somewhere we can get to her quickly and she can fly home to Haiti easily. Haiti has a direct flight to Orlando!  We had no idea when God organized our furlough in Rockford, IL, all that would fall into place. All of the mountains that would be moved. God is moving mountains to provide for Anna. 

We are grateful to God for providing people in the body of Christ for Anna. I dread leaving her in Rockford in February and already have a friend lined up to force me to leave that day, if need be. THE NEED WILL BE, Haha. It is so much easier, though, when it is so clear that God has been moving on behalf of our kid. So, we are at peace. She will be far away for the next 6 months, and then in FL for the following 4 years. 

From the moment she was born, I have been so in love with every part of her. Her fierce determination and will, her passionate love for God, her kindness and willingness to go against the flow, her hunger for God, even her tiny feet and warm cheeks. She is treasure that we are honored to share with the world.

Anna, we may be an ocean away but it will not keep us from you when you need us. We will swim if we have to. We love you unconditionally beautiful girl and we are forever in your corner. Go do your thing, and remember, 

“We will be okay, too. We will be okay. Even before everything falls into place.” 

Back to Haiti: Rats and Washers

We moved to Haiti on May 7, 2015. We left in July 2019, to prepare our oldest to transition back to the US for university. We also had years of ignored medical issues to see Doctors for, as well as many logistical life things to accomplish that we just couldn’t attend to in Haiti. Anna acclimated to American culture well and we got LOADS done, then Kris returned January 9, 2020 and the kids and Rachael returned January 18, 2020. We had all planned our return for around November 27, but with all the political turmoil in Haiti, we were delayed. 

We made every effort to return as a family, with Kris and Rachael and the kids returning to Haiti a stronger, healthier, even more cohesive unit. We made our plans, thinking through every roadblock, and went to book our flights. Due to the amount of baggage we would have, we needed to fly in on a flight for missionaries in Haiti with Missionary Flights International. They had NO availability for a family our size until February. We could not wait that long due to various schooling conflicts for the kids. We decided it was best for Kris to go on ahead on MFI followed by Mom and kids on a commercial airline. Now, Let me tell you why this “unfortunate” and expensive change of plans was the best thing that could possibly happen for our crew. 

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When Kris arrived on January 9, he got to work on all our rooms preparing them for our return in 2 weeks. Upon entering both Levi’s and Lydia’s bedrooms he found that rats had infested their rooms that had been closed for so many months. The rats had destroyed bedding (sheets, blankets, pillows, mattress pads, & covers), stuffed animals, and left feces and urine everywhere! After facing off with a rat in Levi’s room he got to work burning the things that could not be saved and washing in our little washer what could be redeemed. For a week he emptied their rooms completely, disinfecting items, and destroying the evidence of all the damage. He said that the damage was so extensive that both children would have been devastated to find their rooms in that state. We are so grateful to have avoided that and that our children were spared seeing that or dealing with it. When they returned to Haiti their rooms were put back together. We have just received their replacement bedding and all will be good as new very soon. 

Kris was determined to make the house as nice as he could prior to our return, so he did one last load of laundry on the morning of January 18. Our washing machine sits on a wooden case with castors that Kris built. When we want to do laundry we move the machine to our front steps, connect the hose, set up the drain, and lock the castors.  This day as the machine agitated the locked castors could not keep it still. It moved closer and closer to the steps until it fell down them. Kris was doing other work so he did not know it was happening until he heard the crash. It fell down 6 concrete stairs and did not survive.  So, the rats are gone, or they will be once they eat all the poison I brought. Our first “nice” washer is gone too. 

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So, we are back and that is what our return looked like. It was a bumpy ride but we are here and we ARE so grateful that God arranged our return to protect our kids.  We purchased a new washer, all new bedding, and rat poison and bait boxes to the tune of about $1,200. 

Things are getting back to normal and we are hard at work loving our community while the kids are hard at work in school. We are catching up with our staff, business owners, and friends. Meeting new babies and hearing of loss of family members.  Vendors are telling us their stories how business was lost in the political upheaval and we are hearing how God has moved in a church we partner with.  Life is wonderful and hard with the swinging pendulum of those 2 realities swinging steeper in this place.  There is beauty and there is trash. There is birth and there is death.  There is loss, but there is also trust in a good, good Father who provides. So, we are over the moon happy to be home. Rats and washer and all. The rats and the washer are a tiny pieces of a huge puzzle that include so much blessing and provision.

My next update will be all about Anna and what is next for her. God has moved mountains for that girl and we are excited to tell you about her next adventure. It’s time to share our girl with the world and the world will be better for it. 

walking1.jpgWe are walking back to Haiti, at least that is the plan. Not literally walking, although sometimes I think that it would be easier, logistically. We have decided to go back in January, as long as the calm continues. It was our plan to return in Nov and we just could not pull the trigger due to the danger at the time. Things have calmed but to be honest, not much has changed except that we have peace. It was not an easy decision to go the first time in May 2015 and this is no different. We are nervous and THRILLED! What an honor to walk with Haitian people. 

I have missed walking with them. Their perspective on life, Jesus, family, and forgiveness challenging the well worn pathways in my brain. They make me a better person. I miss walking in their joy over everything and I even miss walking with them through grief, which they/we experience often. These are not perfect people, just like me. What has been happening in their country is messy and if I am honest with myself, as an outsider, I don’t even know who the good guys are in this fight. I do know that Simone, she is the good guy. I know that Hillare, he is the good guy. I know that Sherlanda, she is the good guy. And Justine, and Fabiola, and Jeanette, and MILLIONS just like them. I want to walk with them. Through puddles, up mountains, across rivers, and beside still waters. I want to walk with them as we walk with Jesus. 

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Thank you for graciously allowing us time to walk in familiar territory for a bit. So much healing, rest, and catch up took place. We are stronger, wiser, more focused, more rested, less angry, less hurt, less confused, and less broken. 

A little shout out to those who walked with us. Family! What on God’s green earth would we do without you? City First Church, the path layers and provider of people to walk with. Christian Life School, the people who carried our Lydia through one of the best experiences of her life. CFLC, the connection for Anna and Levi, making foreign seem friendly and delivering them to a million memories. Pastors Jer and Jen, mentors and leaders to us for over 25 years. Discipled us, married us, found us our first job, counseled us through ministry, encouraged us on the field, & stand with us today. Lord knows. Jay, Beth, Grace, and Caleb Baier, our home away from home. A podiatrist, dentist, and orthodontist who donated services, God used you. Stephanie Ellis, who set Lydia up for school and made sure she knew she was in good company in your sweet family. So many people traveled to see us and for that we are so grateful. Your visits reminded us of where we have been and all God has done. Everyone of you walked with us when it would have been easier not to be bothered. Thank you. We needed you and you walked with us. 

Walking with people