Repeat

IMG_5666

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.

image

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. 

IMG_7577

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. 

IMG_4973IMG_4974

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. 

washer

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. 

Walking with people

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. 

walking2

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. 

He’s a Very Good, Sweet Good Boy

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

***This post feels silly in the light of all that is happening in Haiti. Though, as I am learning to feel what I am experiencing, I am coming to terms with my need to grieve what is happening in my life as it is happening. So here goes, An ode to our faithful companion in the wake of his moving in with his new family.***

It was October 2010 when we went on a walk behind our house with Anna, Levi, and Lydia who were 8, 6, and 1 years old respectively. We passed a house with puppies in the back yard and we wanted to see them as we had been wanting a dog. We walked around to the front of the house and asked if they were selling the yipping puppies in their yard. They said yes and we spent quality time meeting everyone of them. There was one little guy, who was all red, so gentle and friendly, and ALL OVER Levi. Levi was commissioned to make the choice. Although we could not take him home that day, the next weekend, Sheriff Coleman, a red boxer-beagle mix joined our family. He sat on our laps everyday and as his size changed he continued to expect to sit on our laps. We sat on the floor everyday because he wanted to be in our laps as much as possible. Even when he hit 60lbs, there was room on our laps for him. When Lydia was a baby he would lay perfectly still as she napped with her head on his body. He took family vacations with us to Payson, AZ and we let him run over the tall grasses at the lake. He could roam free at that lake because if we called him, he ran bounding over the grasses back to our side. He was so protective and hated when Lydia was pushed in her playschool car because he thought she was being hurt. He looked after all of us and would only be aggressive to stand between us and someone he did not know. He eagerly ran many, many miles at my side and was never as excited as when he saw his leash and my running pants. He started cozying up with Levi to sleep in our home in AZ when Levi was 10.

He moved with us to CA to train for our move to Haiti and dealt with that move like a champ. Then when it was time for us to travel and speak to raise our funds to move to Haiti, he moved to Kris’ parents house. We left him that day to travel and speak and I will never forget the sound of him crying, I cried too. After 2 months on the road we returned to get our boy and he would not let us out of his sight. When it was time to pack up to go, he bolted outside to make sure he was in the car this time. When we moved to Haiti, he moved right with us. He was so good in Haiti and still fiercely protective of his family, alerting us to all movement outside the gate and especially someone wanting to enter. His face and ears and paws greyed fast during his years in Haiti. He stayed near the children and slept most nights in Levi or Lydia’s room. He stayed at our feet for staff meetings and met so many people. I am pretty sure he learned some creole. Haiti was hard on his body and hard on his nerves and we began to think through moving him home to the US. 

When our furlough was approaching we realized with broken hearts that he could not come with us to America. We decided that the best decision was to leave him in Haiti with a trusted friend so that he would be with us when we returned. We just weren’t ready to give up on having him his entire life! She sent us pictures and keep us informed about how he was doing. He was happy with her. Unfortunately, the news that our friend needed to leave Haiti meant the dogs needed to leave too. With the great decrease in missionaries on the ground there just  was no one who we were aware of who could keep him for us. His nerves wouldn’t allow him to stay with just anyone so “Operation get Sheriff out of Haiti” began. He traveled with our friend past roadblocks, gangs, and burning tires. It was a harrowing journey that needs to be made into a movie. He landed in FL on a Missionary Flight Cargo plane where Kris met he, 2 other dogs, and our friend. 

While it was a logistical nightmare to get him to the US, It had to be done. We so badly want him with us, but cannot have him as the housing we are in does not allow dogs.  We are in the missionary housing of City First Church and they have served us so beautifully. We understand their rule as they have SO many people in and out of these apartments.  He can’t be with us and we have to admit that it is our sweet Sheriff’s time to retire from the mission field. Haiti is hard on him and he deserves better in his last years. His joints are stiff, he is tired, he is stressed, his back hurts, and his precious face is grey. He is 9.5 years old now and he has protected and loved us on 2 continents and for nearly a decade. We have loved him too and will tell you that there has never been a better very good, sweet good boy. 

To Sheriff:
We love you, and as much as our hearts ache that you cannot stay with us, we know that Aunt Michal, Uncle Wessie, Presley, Emme, Gray, and their boxer Llama are your family now. You will be happier with them. We love you very good, sweet good boy! Please don’t forget us because, I promise we will never forget you. If we could do this work in Haiti and have you, that is what we would do. We cannot do both but Oh my broken heart wishes we could. Be happy sweet boy, because you made us so very happy and you helped make Haiti a good place for our kids while they adjusted. You did good work and if we could tell you that everyday for the rest of your life, it would not be enough. 

To the Robertsons:
The tears will slow eventually and when they do we will know that he is where he can be happiest. Thanks for loving our boy and for letting him love you. He will fight for you, rest assured. As you are professional dog spoilers, I know that his most comfortable years are ahead. He will be a most faithful friend to Llama and you all. He is made of all things gentle and kind and is well suited to a life of couch space and heated blankets. Thank you for giving him the last part of his life with your amazing family. It makes giving up the last years of his life bearable. 

IMG_6863

vi·ra·go

vi·ra·go
/vəˈräɡō/
noun
ARCHAIC a female warrior
key
A friend in Haiti has been caring for our dogs. As much as we hated to do it, it was easier to leave them there and we had a friend who was willing to care for them. She was looking for a place to stay, so we offered our place rent free if she would look after the dogs. That was going great until the unrest boiled over into what now feels more like a war. She is a medical professional and was beginning to have trouble traveling to work from our place, 2 miles away. In order to insure she could get to work daily we asked her to relocate. She moved with Sheriff, our 9.5 year old boxer to live on the clinic grounds until things settled. Our tiny chorkie, Libby, stayed with a Haitian staff member who was moving into the KONBIT house to look after things while it was empty. This was going ok and Sheriff was happy to be on a large compound with grass. Fast forward to 48 hours ago. Our wonderful dog caretaker, found out that she had a very ill family member and would need to leave country very soon. She had to get out and we were out of options for our dogs. She was also caring for Jessie’s dog, Cherie, and so a plan began to take shape to evaluate our friend and 3 DOGS! The only way this could work is if she could navigate the roads to Port-au-Prince and if Missions Flight International was flying and had space for her and the pups. So very many variables and they all had to line up perfectly for this to work. We got to work setting everything up so she could work in the clinic everyday and serve her patients. 

1st – MFI was flying Thursday and they had space. CHECK.

2nd – We found a driver willing to brave the roads. CHECK.

3rd – We got the health certificate for the 3 dogs completed by an American Vet/missionary. CHECK.

4th – Get the van ready to make the trip. Scratch that because it won’t start. Get the truck ready to transport. CHECK.

5th – Find all the dogs medicine, leashes, collars, kennels, and medical records in Haiti…from the states. CHECK.

6th – She will need help caring the kennels, so we need to hire extra people to travel with her. CHECK. 

7th – Make sure our friend has enough cash to pay driver, assistants, and to bribe gangs at roadblocks if necessary. CHECK.

Every thing is lined up and there are only 4 million ways in which the entire thing could unravel. At 4:45AM Our driver and truck arrived at the clinic with 2 helpers to collect our friend and the dogs. They took off and we were so excited that they arrived at a coffee shop in Port in decent time despite all the road blocks. After a little break, they headed for the MFI (Missionary Flight International) office near the airport. While there doing initial paperwork it became clear that they were stuck. Blockades had been erected on either side of them so they and the truck were totally stuck. They attempted to walk, carrying the dogs in their kennels to the terminal but they could not pass. At this point, the KONBIT family and prayer warriors went to work. Prayer chains from several churches and many individuals asked God to make a way so that our friend and dogs could pass. We don’t know many details, but we know they hopped into our truck at 11AM and they went for it. And Praise God, I don’t know how, but they made it! I don’t know what God did and I don’t know how He did it but I do know that He worked. Many people were lifting this effort up to God and I know that He moved. I fought today, in prayer. Many others fought today in prayer. Our friend fought fear, doubt, and fatigue and she made it. Because of her courage and willingness, with thanks to God for splitting the sea, she and the pups are safe in the US for a bit. What a warrior she is. For her patients, for her friends, and even for the dogs.

I wore this key as a necklace all day today. I needed to be reminded that I could fight. That while I could not physically do much of anything I could fight in prayer and I could make a call for prayer. So we do not despair about Haiti! We fight. We are warriors, so are you ,and so is our friend. When you can’t help physically let’s lend our strength to prayer. THERE IS HOPE! Jesus is HOPE and HE is not asleep and He has not forsaken Haiti and her people.