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.

 

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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.

No Drama, Just Trauma

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This was a run of the mill wound infection.  This little guy could not walk well as his entire ankle was swollen due to infection.

I have a confession.  There is so much I do not tell you.  My mundane everyday details of life can send people away worried and distressed.  So, I try to keep it light.  I love what we do and at this point my everyday life FEELS a lot like yours does.  I am not blown away by the trash, or the poverty.  I understand our power and water system and cold showers are no big deal.  We have bugs so big my son kills them with his air-soft gun and it is ALL fine.  We catch viruses with scary names and we are honestly used to chronic diarrhea.  Sometimes though, when sharing just everyday things, I hear shock and worry in responses and then I am always surprised, even embarrassed.  I don’t want to shock and scare my friends.  I want you to know and love Haiti, not fear her.  This is what has led to my not sharing ALL that we face.   It is not your fault, or mine I suppose, I am just figuring out how to best communicate with you all.

This is not the best scenario, for 2 reasons.  It is isolating for us and it keeps our battles away from the people most able to encourage, pray and support us though them.  I keep hearing that you want to know more, and that the details have purpose and help with perspective.   So, I am going out on a limb to give you some details, in one small area of the battle.  The good, the bad, and the ugly.  Tell me what you think.

Last week, our friend Jeff was in a moto (motorcycle taxi) accident. He was thrown off the motto into rebar which sliced into his leg.  He went to the hospital and then came to us because he needed help with bandaging.  I knew he had been to the hospital so I expected this to be straight forward.  I was floored when I removed his gauze to reveal a 9 inch gash through to muscle, closed by only 5 stitches.  5 STICHES!!!  The stitches were under pressure and looked about to pop with one inch holes between the stitches. His muscle was clearly visible.  I stayed calm and swallowed my desire to run away and hide. I told him I would be glad to help with his bandage changes.  I changed his bandages, added antibiotic ointment and told him I needed to see him in 2 days.  The next day I sent a picture of the wound to my nurse friend here in Haiti.  She informed me that she had a team of Dr.’s coming in 2 days and they could see him.  To summarize, they added 9 stitches to close it, somewhat, and I dress it everyday.  It is looking great, and I am feeling quite relieved.  While typing this story, another moto driver arrived who had just fallen off his moto and now has road rash on his shoulder, hip and elbow.  I got him cleaned up and will see him again soon to follow up.

The culture here responds vastly different to death, they have to, as they deal with it almost daily.  They do not process like westerners do and accidents on the road are not covered by clean white sheets to protect the deceased.  I have seen things that, if I let them, could destroy my heart.   Because of this is am extra concerned for moto drivers.  I care that they wear their helmets, which few do.  I have talked to counselors to unpack some of what I have seen as it haunted me for a bit.   I have taken people to hospitals for everything you can think of knowing that the care they will receive may do nothing, or could even harm them.  We do not always have any other options.  I have tried to deal with conditions myself that are intimidating.  I have listened to babies breathing, dressed burns, administered pain meds, dressed infected wounds, treated for parasites, diagnosed and treated fungal infections.  I have also been alerted too late and had a Haitian friend die of an asthma attack.  It is intense, and if I had another option, I would use it.  Sometimes I am the best option available to a person, even if it is just because I might fund their seeing a medical professional.

This is the stuff that is difficult for me, my cold shower at night is a downright delight.  It is hard to process that in an emergency I could be life flighted to the US, but that for Haitians, medical care is terrifyingly inadequate and even dangerous.  I feel guilt for my privilege even while doing all I can to help.  The guilt is always present like a deep sigh and sadness.  There is no back up plan.  What is really scary is that for some of my friends here, we are the plan.  To be ultra transparent, this is financially difficult as well.  We have personally paid for hospital visit after hospital visit.  The most recent case is an older man who was laying in his tiny home, dying, because of prostate problems.  After $300 in hospital visits, he is doing so much better.  He is one of about 20 injured or sick people that we have paid hospital fees for so they could be seen.  When we were traveling around the US with our family, budget in hand, raising the funds so we could work here, we did not factor in a monthly medical budget to give away.  WE SHOULD HAVE!    I battle fear for my family and also for our friends.  I memorize and repeat Bible verses like, “For God has not given me a spirit of fear but of peace, love and self discipline.”  God gives me peace that passes any understanding and in that place of HIS reassurance, we keep moving forward.

So, there it is.  Truth one in what could be a series.  This is just an example of the kind of honest sharing I am alluding of.  I hate the idea of being all dramatic, so sometimes I avoid sharing reality.  It feels dramatic, but it is actually just traumatic and true.

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Djersie after her surgery to remove a tumor on her ovary.  This was the first time we asked for financial help dealing with a medical emergency and you guys paid for her whole treatment!

Now, I cannot leave these thoughts down in a dark pit.  My sunny disposition does not allow for dwelling in pits.  I have to redeem this reading by sharing with you the amazing people on the other side of this heartbreak and care.  Jeff, Moto accident 1, is a part of Family Social and the neighborhood guys call him “deportè”, then laugh hysterically.  When he asks for Kris, “Tolboss”, he breaks into huge smile.  He is a funny guy and his mama adores him.  He is making his way to Chilè soon with hope he will find work.  Michèl, an older gentleman with prostate problems, softly kisses our cheeks when we meet.  He works caring for the livestock of others.  It doesn’t pay much but he is always at work finding places for the animals to graze.  SonSon and his girlfriend, Moto accident 2, remind me of teenagers from our past as youth pastors.  He looks at me suspiciously as I bandaged his wounds.  I think he is deciding if we can be trusted and if he would ever let us in to his life.  I could go on and on and on about the wonderful faces and spirits we encounter everyday.  Djersie, Simone, Jodlyn, Anderson, Lukner, and on and on and on.  What a wonderful light they are to us and how much we love living in relationship with them.  I would never choose money or ease over these faces and lives.

Thanks for listening and let me know if this is something you enjoyed and would want more of.  God bless you dear friends!  If you go to the Dr. this week, whisper a prayer of thanks.  You are so very blessed.

****If caring for the medical needs of our community is something you would like to help us with, please reach out.  We are running low on some bandaging supplies and I can let you know specifically what you could send.  Our greatest need is dollars to pay for medical care in emergencies.  If it is on your heart to help with a one time gift towards this, please let us know.****

Kris

Kris loving on little Naïka

Who Am I?

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This is Marjorie and this is not about her specifically.  It’s about all of us.  I made up the character of the woman in the poem based on many different stories I have heard and many different woman I have known here.  

Who am I:   a poem by Rachael Coleman

Blessed to be a combination of my parents heart and faith. My mama’s inflection and my daddies’ affection.  My mother’s writing, my father’s conversation.  I am full of their influence, recognized or not.  I have her laugh and her need to be needed.  I have his passion.  Their minds, hearts, conversations shaping my thoughts, attitudes and desires.  

I am also where I have been and what I have seen.  These experiences, conscious and subconscious, frame what I see and how I feel.  My childhood was easy and my belly was full.  My education was guaranteed and support unwavering.  I was respected, cherished and cared for, now I feel secure, strong and sure.

I am a weird mix of who they are and what I have seen and how I see and experience the divine.  On Christ the solid Rock I stand, but my ground is rarely sinking.  God redeemed and worked and molded and divided and I know I am His.  I rest in His grace and I trust in His purpose.

I see things as only I can.  No-one else has my exact experience with my family, life or God to frame their view.  My view is mine alone.  My choices flow steadily from this view.  It shapes how I see me, others and God.  

But what If I were her?

Who is she?

Her Papa’s chin and her Manmi’s eyes.  Blessed to be the combination of their quiet strength, determination and faith.  Her father’s passion, or so she hears.  She has her mama’s joy, expressed in rolls of laughter with her friends.  She understands loyalty and her mother’s strength both intimidates and inspires her.  

She is a combination of her family and her experiences.  She helplessly watched her Daddy die when she was 6.  She cried, but not for long, they had to survive.  Since she was 3 she’s been carrying water everyday starting at dawn, so at 6 she is strong and capable, confident in what her body can do.  School is a dream and she pretends she is sitting in class when she has time to play.   Life deals blow, after blow and her tired mom can’t feed her anymore.  She has been hungry before but now she is scared.  “Another family,” her mom says, “can give you what I can’t.”  She dies a little inside as she leaves her home and in her new place her capable body is put to the test.  Laundry, watch the baby, make the meals, clean the floors, and “here’s some food,” now do some more.  She is on her own now.  She has to be strong.  One step, then the next and suddenly she is 24.  

She has been hungry, abused, under valued and discarded.  But she is strong, capable and determined.  She is a beautiful mix of what she has seen and how she sees and experiences the divine.  When she was little she prayed and God has stayed very near.  On Christ the solid rock she stands and she can truly say she has nothing else to stand on.  God has been companion, comfort, family, and rest.  She has to trust Him, without Him she is lost. God redeemed and worked and molded and divided and she knows she is His.  She rests in His grace and she trusts in His purpose.

She sees things as only she can.  No-one else has her exact experience with family, life or God to frame their view.  Her view is hers alone.  Her choices flow steadily from this view.  It shapes how she sees herself, others and God.

Who are you?

Can you assume to understand our choices and what motivates our souls?  Do you understand our perspective or see where our brokenness lies?  Even our victories and defeats can only be truly understood by God.  But you can try and so can I.  

Let’s approach each other, humbly.  We have so much to learn about what shapes the soul and causes a fire to burn.  Help us to be kind, God, even when we can’t comprehend.  Every person we connect to, has a history too complicated to understand.

Thanks for taking a minute to wax philosophical with me.  I wrote this as I was pondering my desire to approach my Haitian brothers and sisters (and all people really), with grace and love.  I realize this applies to ALL of us but sometimes crossing the divide between her experience and mine is extra tough.  I want to approach her humbly and assume nothing about why she struggles where she does, anymore than she could really understand why I struggle where I do.  Who am I to say, “Well, If I were in his/her shoes, I would never!”, or even assume to be able to understand enough to judge?   If I will ever be able to connect and serve my Haitian friends well, then I have to let go of having all the answers.  I need to be honest and humble.  God understands my brokenness and the brokenness of others too, it is not my job to figure that out.  I can just love and that is what I aim to do.

We always have so many of our life experiences in common.  as they are human experiences.   So grateful for the common ground of love and grace given freely by Jesus to anchor our relationships and remind us we are not so different after all.  I’m just gonna love.

Broken people, needing God and each other.  Life is better when we #konbittogether.

Just something I have been mulling over.  Hope it challenges you as much as it is challenging me.

Deep anchored truth, foundations, 3000 emails and 2 hurricanes

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Last nights sky

How do you test a foundation?  I am not a builder.  I have no idea what actually goes into foundation building, specs, amount of concrete, depth needed.  I know you dig down, further than seems necessary, and you place concrete, a thick slab that shores up and protects the house from destruction.  I wonder though if they can be tested?  How do you know if you went deep enough, if the right mixture of concrete was used?  Did we come to what we know about foundations through trial and error?  In some way I am sure we did.  When houses we thought were safe, fell away, engineers put their minds to make making it safer, going deeper, doing math (bleh) and figuring out what is needed.    The only real test, in my simple mind, is an attack on that foundation.  Then you know.  Well, it held or it didn’t.

The last 9 months have been a testing of my foundation as a person.  Read what Matthew said about our foundation, Matthew 7:24-27  “Anyone who listens to my teaching and follows it is wise, like a person who builds a house on solid rock. Though the rain comes in torrents and the floodwaters rise and the winds beat against that house, it won’t collapse because it is built on bedrock. But anyone who hears my teaching and doesn’t obey it is foolish, like a person who builds a house on sand.  When the rains and floods come and the winds beat against that house, it will collapse with a mighty crash.”

In this passage it is clear that CHRIST himself is the solid rock foundation our lives are to be built on.  What a relief because if I had to dig deep enough or make sure I put enough rebar in the right places spiritually, I would fail for sure.   I love reading the word and I desperately seek to obey Him but I fail at times to remember whose I am and I fail to lean into Him the way I should, in prayer.  I am not God and the solid rock of my faith is not based on my performance.  ***Sometimes my ability to carry on feels based on coffee consumption, but I digress.***  CHRIST is the solid rock and that foundation does not fail.  He is an anchor that holds when the winds are trying to carry us away.  Hebrews 6:19  “This hope is a strong and trustworthy anchor for our souls. It leads us through the curtain into God’s inner sanctuary.” 

Praise!

If I could paint a picture for you of what my life has felt like the last 9 months it would be of a house stripped to its foundation over and over again.  Wall up, wall down, structure in place, structure destroyed, like a tornado swirling over my life, roof pieces and security flying away from reach.  In my mind’s eye though, I see a foundation that stands.  Steady, un-moving, while my life continues in chaos that feels beyond my control, my foundation is steady.  My anchor holds.

I had a chance this week to finish going through emails that have been piling up.  Over 3,000 to be precise.  It was an annoying task that caused my computer and phone to glitch and freeze.  Some emails were deleted, some kept so I can apologize and respond, but every 100 emails or so, something would glitch (probably Haiti internet) and 30 of the emails and sometimes more would return.  In this aggravating process I was wondering when this spiraled out of control.  It was easy to find the culprit.  I stayed pretty on top of email correspondence until October 4, 2016.  When hurricane Matthew hit.  While our belongings were safe my life was launched into a season of spinning that has just ceased.  We went from Hurricane recovery, to KONBIT launch, to an unexpected house move, and through 8 teams.  Here we sit staring down hurricane Irma with a pit in out stomach, as we prepare our house and try to prepare for a response after.  It appears Irma will be off the northern coast but can we agree we DO NOT want this lady hitting anyone???  It is difficult to know what we can do to get ready as we have no idea how much damage will be done, if any.  We try anyway.

Can I tell you that I worry the house is lifting up again in my life like a tornado has hurled it into chaos.  I am standing, in the center of my home, arms lifted, on a rock that does not move.   I am anchored in His truth that the most wonderful place to be is in God’s will.  Here we are positioned to love and serve on the other side of whatever this storm brings.  God is not moved by what throws my life into chaos and HE is my anchor.  I am not moved…because HE IS NOT MOVED.

So as we prepare.  I feel his presence reminding me that while everything around me moves and shifts, feels unsure, my foundation is deep, has been tested, and it holds every time.

Take a listen to the song below and remember that you are not held steady by your worth, accomplishment, skills, or  anything else.  When all is striped away, we stand, on the Christ the solid rock.

The Extra Mile

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View on my run 1 morning

Matthew 5:41  “If a soldier demands that you carry his gear for a mile, carry it two miles.”

When the Bible was written the people of Israel were living under Roman rule.  During that time it was not only law, but required that if a soldier was walking on a road and needed/wanted help he could require you to carry his pack and walk with him one mile.  In this passage Jesus is referencing this law when he says, “If a soldier demands that you carry his gear for a mile, carry it two miles.” Jesus was such renegade and taught so many upside down principles.  The last will be first and such.  The heart of Jesus in this passage puts a fire in my belly.  I want to be an extra mile walker.  With my family, my friends, my calling.  Evidently many of you do as well!

I got the sweetest email this week.  It was from a precious couple who have supported us since day 1.  They have given faithfully every month.  They have prayed, read our updates, and been quietly, prayerfully, faithfully in our corner.  In their email this week they hated to inform us that because of their recent retirement they could no longer financially support our ministry.  They mentioned in the note that they understand this must be difficult for us to hear but that they will always support us in prayer and will take any opportunity near them to participate in fundraisers on our behalf.  Their email meant so much to me.  I completely understand that circumstances change for people and I expect that people will leave our giving team and God will bring others.  It was in their loving note that my heart was ministered.  They took the time to love us as people.  They knew we would notice and they wanted more than anything to be sure that our hearts were not discouraged.  What beautiful people. They didn’t have to be so considerate, but they were.  They really didn’t have to, but they did.  It was an extra mile after they have walked many for and with us.

This past month the 5 of us set out to spend some time in the states.  Family, like always, went overboard making our trip a success for us and the kids.  This was important trip home for all of us.  Kris and I were truly exhausted and needed rest.  Real deep soul rest.  The kids needed it too.  We set up this trip to meet the needs of our champion kids who were in need of different things as well.  I prayed specifically for each of my children that God would direct the trip this summer to minister to them.   In the midst of this praying God planted in me this idea of a trip for our family that was really just about our children.  Anna would head to Phoenix to be with friends.  The kind of friends that fill your soul and simultaneously make your snarf soda out of your nose.  Levi wanted nothing more than to camp with his Dad and grandpa.  He wanted to be one of the guys and really settle into that place with some family.  Lydia and I were going to stay put here in Haiti to save money, but when my mama heard this she offered to pay our way home.  So Lydia left Haiti for the 1st time in 18 months and we went East to see my sister and parents.  My family truly never stops going the extra mile to serve us while we serve here.  My mom drove 51.5 hours over the three weeks to shuttle Lydia and I around and get us back to our flight.  51.5 hours!!!  She didn’t have to but she did.  My sister spent most days creating moments for Lydia to enjoy her cousins.  She and Wes, My brother in law, took her to the pool and many other things so I could rest.  My dad and Sue paid for counseling to help me address some anxiety and my processing of life in general here.  Side note: Please pray for your missionaries mental health.  I had no idea what an issue this is for virtually all missionaries until we moved here.  They paid for me to see a counselor and then arranged my days so that nearly everyday with them I could run 3 miles and spend time in prayer and writing.  They didn’t have to but they did.

Kris’ parents arranged their summer to minster to Levi and Kris. They set up fishing, camping, shooting, 4 wheeling, laser tag and other things to love on Levi.  Kris was able to sleep in most days and give his body a MUCH NEEDED break.  They didn’t have to but they did.  The extra miles folks, seriously.

Finally, Here is our ode to the non-blood related family who carried our packs a LONG WAY.

When this whole trip was just a glimmer of an idea in my spirit I sent a message to dear friends in AZ to see if this was even feasible.  Anna would need a ton of extra mile walking for this to happen so I started with a question.  “If by some chance I could get Anna out to AZ for church camp could you and your family host her for a few days before camp and a week after?”  The response still brings me to tears.  My friends said, “Yes, only if you let us pay for camp!”  I am not joking when I say the tears are coming so hard now I can hardly see to type.  They welcomed my tired baby with open arms and hands full of Starbucks.  They did the airport runs, took her to Starbucks, bought her donuts, brought her to stores so she could walk around unsupervised with friends like a normal teen, took her for mani/pedis, and on her last night with them they ran her to Subway late at night because they realized she hadn’t eaten her favorite food yet.  Anna came home so light and saying, how she hadn’t realized how much she needed that.  I cannot even articulate the extra miles they walked and what it meant to this mama.  I am currently ugly crying and blubbering because writing it all overwhelms my heart.  They really didn’t have to but they did!  This family walked so many extra miles that I worried it would weigh them down, but they never let on if it did.

When it came to Lydia, I really wanted her to be with her closest cousin, Emme.  They have been tight since they were babies and they have given up so much time together.

My sister and family has recently moved from Los Angeles, CA to GA and were living with my sister’s in-laws while they bought a home near Atlanta.  So, to be clear they were staying with my brother-in-law’s parents.  So, let me see, that makes them my…nothing.  We are just not related.  That made no difference to them, nor has it ever, as they welcomed Lydia, I and my mama into their home so that we could be together with my sis for a week.  They bought food, cooked, cleaned and lived in a general state of overwhelm as my sisters family of 5 grew to 8.  They opened up their lives and home as if it was the most natural thing in the world.   Can we all agree it was not the natural choice?  They walked the extra mile, over and over again.  They arranged for me to speaks at a friends church one evening and I was a bit of a nervous wreck.  Kris does most of the speaking and here I was exhausted, depleted and given an hour service.  I was so grateful to be able to share but I was nervous at the same.  I spent days preparing and after it was done I truly had no idea if I had strung even one coherent thought together.  We got back to the house and my sister’s Father-in law squeezed me around the shoulders, kissed my head, and told me what a great job I had done.  The tender kindness of that moment…and the tears are back.  He didn’t have to, but he did.   They didn’t have to, but they did.

I cannot contain the overwhelming gratitude I feel.   So many extra miles walked and by so many people.  Many of you have been walking these miles with us since this journey began and I just want you to know that it has never gone unnoticed.  From a friends and family discount at Columbia clothing store, to the school supplies being sent in for our kids.  From 84 shares of my curriculum need post on Facebook, to the English major teaching my child to write.  From the limes squeezed nightly for limeade, to the supplies from our Amazon wish list.   We can feel the lighter load and we can sense your companionship.  You extra mile walkers are the reason we keep moving forward.  God never intended any of us to walk alone and you have never let us walk alone.

I have never cried so much writing a blog.  Good grief.

We are back in Haiti and back to work.  We are back to gate opening, hand holding, feeding, praying with and loving the beautiful people God has called us to.  We are full of God’s love because you poured it into us.  God gently restored our tired souls as we walked.  The Body of Christ spoke life into us and we are energized to continue in this work.  We say it all the time, but you have to know that your presence in our ministry is critical.  Thanks for going the extra mile friends.  Thank you monthly givers for quietly, faithfully standing in our corner. Every goat path we walk, every tiny body we hold and every hope restored is done while you hold us.

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It is like this.

May God’s richest blessing overflow in your hearts and restore your soul as you have been used by God to restore ours.

Ephesians 1:23   “And the church is his body; it is made full and complete by Christ, who fills all things everywhere with himself.”