{rice, beans & love}

"The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world's deep hunger meet" – Frederick Buechner

for the sake of hard

There’s this saying:

“Help a Haitian once, they’ll say thank you. Help a Haitian twice, they’ll expect it. Help a Haitian three times, they demand it.”

Unfortunately, this saying is quite true. It’s what can make a heart calloused and it’s something so hard to explain to people who don’t live here full-time.

About a year and a half ago an orphaned teenage girl came to Tytoo’s gate. She was being kicked out of her house because she was pregnant. I’m not sure how she lost her parents, but at some point in her life she had. I’m not really sure the story of the baby’s father either. Regardless, this girl needed help and a place to stay.

And, because there still is a chance with humanity, we found a single woman living by herself who invited her into her house. They’ve been living together ever since. Once she had the baby, we employed her at the school to clean the classrooms.

It’s been a year and a half with really no problems. The baby is healthy and the mom never really gives me any trouble.

Until yesterday. Yesterday, I was unfortunately sick by the end of the afternoon with a pretty bad migraine. As I was resting, there was a knock on the gate. It was the mom. Without asking how I was – my state of being obvious as I had to of looked like complete crap, with sweat dripping down my face – she started complaining about her living situation. After a few moments, she boldly stated, “you either build me a house or put my child in the orphanage.”

Guys, I about lost it.

The human in me gets really snappy when people expect things out of me. It’s more than draining, especially after finding her a place to live and giving her a job.

But, the compassionate, more patient person in me (which is harder to locate) hates this. It’s a righteous anger because I realize this girl has not had an easy life to begin with. She’s uneducated, orphaned and now a single mother. I get it. I see you, girl, I really do. I eventually explain to her how I will not allow her to put her child in an orphanage – even after she insists on telling me “how many problems the son gives her” – because, God gave her this son and it’s her responsibility to raise him.

And then, it’s kind of like, “well duh, the child is going give to give you problems.” It’s a baby! Babies are not easy. See that three-year-old over there, yeah, she’s mine and I think she wakes up every day thinking to herself, “how I am going to make my mom go crazy today?!”

It’s really frustrating and deeply saddening to see how quickly a mom is willing to give up her child here. And on a personal note, it’s all the more frustrating as I’m raising three children who have been given up and I fight to make them mine. It’s so unnatural that it’s actually impossible to even digest some days. Does the poverty and hopelessness really drain them this severely that they can’t even fight for their own children? Is it the illiteracy? Is it the oppression? Or even worse, is it our fault as the white people who just come in with open arms and insist on taking them in?

I don’t know what the answer is, but what I do know is that it’s not okay. Or good. Or right. Or healthy. Or normal.

Babies are supposed to be with their mamas. End of story.

I ended the conversation with this young mom by telling her she needed to make a plan. She needed to realize how important she is to her son and it’s her responsibility to take care of him. I told her I would talk to some people; whom I am going to talk to is yet to be determined.

I guess I am not sure how I want to end this post because this story is not yet finished. There has yet to be a come to Jesus moment. There is yet to be a happily ever after.

I guess what I needed was to just put it out there. This is the reality, guys. It’s the reality of so many people. It’s the reality of the poor. It’s the reality of brokenness and abandonment. It’s the reality of the mission field. It’s the reality of really hard situations that involve real human lives.

It’s hard. End of story.

It’s hard hearing the stories. It’s hard always being expected to give. It’s hard being expected of. It’s just hard.

This isn’t a post to earn a pat on the back or to raise money to build a house for this woman. Again, I don’t know the point of this post except that I just needed to get it out there. Vent a little bit, ya know?

It’s hard to act like everything is okay, when things are not okay in this world. It’s hard to scroll through my Facebook feed, when everything seems so shallow and pointless. It’s hard to enjoy my kids when the mothers at my gate don’t enjoy their own. It’s hard to enjoy good food, beach days and television when so many people go on empty stomachs and live in such broken homes – physically and emotionally.

It’s hard to see God. It’s hard to believe He is good when there’s just a lot of bad. It’s hard to stay strong for the poor. It’s hard to stand for justice when injustice would be a whole lot easier.

And since I’m to the point of blabbering, I would just like to say that as Christians, I think we have really messed up. We have allowed people to believe that following Jesus is easy. We convince people – I grew up being convinced – that being a Christian is all about rainbows, unicorns and lollipops. What we have failed to mention is that if we are totally in with Jesus, like all in, giving our life and our good and comfort away for the sake of the gospel that, in fact, being a Christian is the farthest thing from rainbows, unicorn and lollipops.

Following Jesus is the hardest thing that you could ever possibly do. It will require sacrifice, lots of that. With doses of forgiving when you’ve been hurt, reaching out when you want to stay right where you are, loving when loving seems wrong and sacrificing. Again and again.

The words of Paul come to mind, when he rejoices for being persecuted, imprisoned, beaten and insulted all for the name of Christ.

“Rather, as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: in great endurance; in troubles, hardships and distresses; in beatings, imprisonments and riots; in hard work, sleepless nights and hunger; in purity, understanding, patience and kindness; in the Holy Spirit and in sincere love; in truthful speech and in the power of God; with weapons of righteousness in the right hand and in the left; through glory and dishonor, bad report and good report; genuine, yet regarded as imposters; known, yet regarded as unknown; dying, and yet we live on; beaten, and yet not killed; sorrowful; yet always rejoicing; poor, yet making many rich; having nothing, and yet possessing everything.” 2 Corinthians 7:4-10

How often do our lives reflect Paul’s description as a servant of God?

Actually, how often do we even allow things to get hard for the sake of the gospel?

I think what the struggle is for me is that so many, many, many people cannot face the realities of the hurting, so we continue living sheltered and boring lives. We are afraid to know because once we know we have some type of responsibility. Better yet, we call ourselves Christians but our lives are the exact opposite of Paul’s words.

And, what I love about the verses above is how Paul makes me believe a hard life is a better life. He had something to live for. He really was doing hard the right way.

I think I just needed to share this story of the woman at my gate to shed light on how things are hard here. How, no matter what the circumstance, really hard situations have to somehow be conquered. And, once I am aware of the situation, I then feel the responsibility to conquer the problem. Some days I just feel really alone because so much of the world is worried about dentists killing lions, gays getting married, and how good we can appear to the world that we forget to love people.

Because, let’s be honest. Loving people is hard. It’s so much easier to criticize, judge and focus on self than love.

I have yet to decide how I am going to help this woman. In fact, I would be lying if I didn’t admit how upset I am about how she approached me yesterday and the ultimatum she gave me.

It’s hard, but I think it’s time I rise up and just love.

“A man reaps what he sows. The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life. Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.” – Galatians 6:7-10

the redemption collection

Maybe you follow me on social media and have seen some posts about the Redemption Collection with #staytuned. Well, stay tuned no longer! It’s finished and I am so excited to show it to you all.

Basically, this is what it comes down to. I love Rosie’s Boutique. I love meeting new people as they come through. I have loved getting to know people who are here for the long run. I love treating people to milkshakes at Rosie’s. I love being able to continually support organizations by purchasing their product. I love how all of it is a full-circle thing: jobs, employment, community, support. It’s all mingled together in such a beautiful way. I love watching this God-sized dream of mine become a reality.

One of the biggest things I still fundraise for is the Lazarus Fund – I would love it if you would click here and read my heart behind the Lazarus Fund. I wrote this blog over a year ago and as I reread it to prep writing this post, I was strangely blown away by how my heart is still searching for contentment on these issues, how God has worked miracles and provided in big ways this past year through the Lazarus Fund and how I still feel God’s hand upon this all.

As I sit at Rosie’s, I am always dreaming up new ways to help people. And while the word and idea of redemption has been on my heart for several months now (I have written about it in several of my latest posts) I thought why not make a jewelry line that represents the works of redemption happening through the Lazarus Fund and works that are still to come. The best part is the profit from this collection will go directly back into the Lazarus Fund: to fund more stories of redemption.

Another beautiful full-circle thing, here. All of the jewelry in this collection was ethically sourced in Haiti. From leather and recycled aluminum to clay beads and birds, all of the pieces are unique and can be stacked together in fun ways. The jewelry was all handmade by artisans who are finding their way out of poverty.

In the past several weeks, we have already sold enough from the collection to proudly give our first loan to a woman in the Starfish Program (a program ran through Tytoo Gardens Orphanage and managed by Ali Treloar, click here for more information on the program) Her name is Dorci Manese and she has come so far since entering the Starfish program, in fact, with this loan, we hope to see her graduate from the program entirely.

Manese with her five children at school registration. All of them will be attending school this fall!

Manese with her five children at school registration. All of them will be attending school this fall!

She stands about 4′ 9″ but every inch of her small frame radiates encouragement to those around her. She has five chilren: a 2-year-old, 4-year-old, 7-year-old, 9-year-old and a 12-year-old. All of them are girls except the 9-year-old; he blends in well, however, as he is often sporting his sisters’ clothes. Clothing is very limited in their household.

If you were to see their living conditions, it would surely break your heart, as it broke ours. It was just as tiny as the mother’s tiny stature. Somehow her and her five children find a way to fit inside. To them it is home, a place where they can rest at night. To an outsider, not even a place you would want your enemy to sleep.

Ali met Dorci on the back paths of her village, Minotrie. Ali recalls her walking up to her with extreme confidence. She grabbed Ali’s arm and led her to her house.  Ali was led down an unfamiliar path and knew immediately upon arrival at her house that this woman needed help. Ali admitted Dorci into the Starfish Program by the end of the conversation.

Ali writes, “confidence is such a funny thing. I had complete confidence this woman needed help. Complete confidence this woman would work towards having a better life. Complete confidence that the faces of her five children would some day eat daily and go to school. I had complete confidence that the Lord was presenting Dorci Manese to me on that specific day for a reason.”

Dorci in front of her "home"

Dorci in front of her “home”

Dorci attends Starfish Program meetings regularly. She is always promptly on time and is very sweet. Ali once dreaded having to visit their home because it was such a horrific situation. She had no resources to help the family at the time and hated seeing the suffering. “I hated seeing how they lived and how the kids struggled to get by,” admits Ali.

Dorci’s house truly defies gravity. It tilts in one direction and tears in the other direction. It once rained for 24 hours straight. After the 24 hour downpour, a Starfish meeting was held and Ali remembers Dorci’s bloodshot eyes. She hadn’t slept in over 24 hours and there was no life to be seen in her sunken face. She had been rained on for 24 hours straight, simply because her battered, gravity-defying piece of tarp that she calls home couldn’t hold back the rain. Usually it rains in the late afternoon or night here in Haiti. The mornings are spent drying out your house and your possessions. But, when the rain starts in the night and doesn’t stop, you never get a chance to dry out your things.

During that Starfish meeting, Dorci pulled Ali aside and said, “Ali, I am being kicked out of my home.” She explained how she had built her tarp home on the land of a friend and the landowner now wanted his property back. She explained how the landowner would come to her house and throw rocks and yell threatening and horrible things to her and her five young children.

One of Dorci's daughters in front of the "home"

One of Dorci’s daughters in front of the “home”

When Ali first admitted Dorci into the program, she promised help, but knew in her heart she didn’t have the resources to truly help. For six months, Ali continued visiting the family and continued promising she would help. The very next day, after Dorci had explained to Ali the details of her living situation, a visitor came to Tytoo Gardens. Ali took the visitor to see Dorci and the visitor promptly made a donation so Dorci could have a new home. A home on her own piece of land, where threats would claim her no more.

The new home was the beginning. Dorci soon got to start a small business selling rice, beans, spaghetti, oil and other commonly used Haitian food ingredients. She got this opportunity because of the Starfish Depot.

The Starfish Depot was founded by Ali and our superhero Haitian mami Sara. Sara is the head cook at Tytoo Gardens Orphanage and helps Ali solve problems for the Starfish Program. I have personally seen Ali and Sara in action and they are basically modern day superheroes on motorcycles. Sara is full of wisdom, grace and integrity. She’s not afraid to take in the hurt and bring them back to life.

The Starfish Depot is right in front of Sara’s house and sits right on the main road (well, the only road) in Simonette. Ali and Sara buy all of the basic Haitian necessities at wholesale prices and sell to the Starfish women on credit. The women pay back their credit during their weekly Starfish meetings and Ali is able to keep them accountable as she visits them almost weekly as well. I think this depot is such a genius idea; I obviously had to make my own investment as well. The Lazarus Fund proudly donated enough money to the depot to provide 8 more women with businesses.

In order for Dorci’s small business to grow, Dorci came up with the idea to sell cold drinks. She has asked for a loan to buy a small freezer. She explained how there are no places to buy cold drinks in the area she lives and it could be a great business. If only she could get a loan for a freezer…

enter Redemption.


We hope to have the freezer bought in the next week and I am sure to be the first person to buy a COLD coca-cola from her.

Today, some of the pieces are now available on my blog! Click the Rosie’s tab above and browse the collection. Fill out the form at the bottom of the Rosie’s page. Once we receive your order, we will send you an invoice over PayPal. When we have received your payment, your order will be on its way!

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The collection is also available at Rosie’s in Haiti and soon to be available at Rosie’s in IOWA! My mom and a friend are opening a Rosie’s boutique and featuring “sit-a-minute” cafe. So, if you are ever passing through Rock Rapids, Iowa be sure to take a minute to stop by and shop at Rosie’s!

Love from Haiti

burnt-out or something like that


I really hate the term. I feel like it’s an excuse. Maybe it’s a real thing, I am not sure.

I think I may have come close to it, however.

It’s like I am really tired, but wide-awake. It’s like I have 100 things on my to-do list, but feel like there’s nothing to do. It’s like I am so glad to be here, but want to run away.

Last week Monday, I commuted to work in the city and found myself with a flat tire on the way home. Of course, as my dad was about to change the tire, sheets of rain fell on us. After waiting out the rain, my tire was fixed and we made our way home, with some delays, of course. The traffic was way backed up at one point because water was covering the highway. Further down the road children were running in the puddles with no shoes on. Water was running from all directions, trying to find a place to drain. Homes were being flooded as men were redirecting floating piles of trash with long sticks.

Tuesday, school registration started. Moms came with their children and presented their children’s report cards to me. Many of the cards had been soaked in the rain. Because, when you keep all your documents in a suitcase under your bed and the rain comes in a flash, the odds are your suitcase will get full of water.

Thursday, a visiting group and myself delivered bunk beds to families who received new homes back in March. We came upon Nata’s house. Oh, this lady can get excited! When we came up to her house, she was sitting on a rock washing her clothes by hand. She started jumping with excitement when I told her we were there to bring her a new bed. She showed us inside and kissed all of the team members as they entered. She continually raised her hands in the air saying “Mesi Senye” (thank you Lord). We put her bed together, snapped a picture on the bed as she hugged me and then, I looked up.

Nata, I love your smile.

Nata, I love your smile.

In her roof were large holes and dents. I asked where they came from and she explained how people throw rocks at her house at night because they don’t believe she deserved a “new home.” Like, seriously!? This woman has a childlike faith, a contagious joy and has raised 7 children on her own. What she deserves is a pat on the back! But, people in her neighborhood think she is “dirty” and undeserving.

My heart breaks.

Like, can’t these people just catch a break?

I think of how ridiculous I am for always being tired. The thought of making excuses for being burnt-out seems so foolish as people are living in such horrific situations. Their lives are always at risk when the thunderclouds come lingering over the mountains.

There’s the heat. The carrying of water. The washing clothes by hand. The not knowing if they will fill their babies’ bellies. The coughs, infections, fevers and illnesses that hover. The access to no clean water or convenient healthcare. The walking miles every day because they don’t have cars. The sleeping on the floor or pieces of cardboard.

Then there is the injustice. The illiteracy. The bullying. The oppression. It’s like there is just some universal fist just pushing and holding them down. It makes me hardly breathe.

Their strength, though, is that of a superhero. How do their bodies do it?

And because we are educated, have access to everything at the tip of our fingers and come from America; we can use the word burnt-out while serving the poor. Because, how I see it, we think and believe we are giving up oh, so much to serve. So, we can consider ourselves over it when we have had enough.

How fortunate we are to have a way out. A passport. A savings account. A way to go back.

I can only imagine how truly burnt-out we would be if we were the poor.

Yesterday, I had a day out with my husband. I hadn’t spent “quality” time with him in over a month and we thought it would be wise to spend time looking at each other and conversing. It’s usually good to do that, for the both of us. We had lunch, bought groceries and held hands. A date in Haiti doesn’t get much fancier. But as my husband would say, “it is what it is.” And, I’m fortunate to have a husband who can drive me to the city and buy a nice meal for me.

He’s the only person who knows how I tired I get. When people knock on the gate, it’s our gate they are knocking on. When someone asks me for something, I send him or her to Webert and he sends him or her back to me. We are a team. I complain to him and he sometimes complains back, but usually he shrugs it off. When I cry from all the pressure, he wipes the tears.

Yesterday, as we left the grocery store together, with our back seat full of food (I know, the irony. I can barely buy groceries without feeling guilty), I watched an elderly woman on the corner.

Traffic was moving slow, so I had enough time to embrace her existence. She stumbled with a walking stick in one hand and a small cup to wave in front of people for their spare change in the other. Her shoes were old and her burgundy dress was worn and faded. She had years of untold stories in her wrinkles. I could see the calloused hands from where I sat. Maybe life had been good to her at one point, but it looked like it had been hard. Maybe always had been. It took her five seconds to take each step and I couldn’t help but wonder where she laid her head at night.

Her entire being read burnt-out as the Holy Spirit fueled my veins.

After watching this woman, I squeezed my husband’s hand a little harder. We didn’t talk about her. He probably didn’t even notice her. I think she was there just for me.

I later made a promise to God. Because, these past couple weeks I haven’t felt alive. I’ve been pondering this entire idea and the state of being burnt-out. Because, what if that’s where I am? I’ve let to-do lists, emails, flooded homes, the lack of resources, the state of the poor and the state of the rich consume my spirit into a state of burden, unrest and, dare I say it, anger.

I promised God I would stop. I would stop doubting His plan and His future for my family and me. I would stop complaining. I would stop relying on my own strength. I would stop judging His justice for who gets what and how much of it, because He’s God and who I am to question that? I promised I would stop judging people for how they use their resources. I need to let it go. I have got to let it go.

Because, I need to. I have to if I am going to finish this race.

I keep thinking of this little old lady on the street corner. She led me to this prayer. She made me see something that I have yet to understand. She made me realize I am far from being burnt-out and that what I have “given up” is nothing in comparison to what she has never had. She has inspired me to cling tighter to what I have been given as well.

I saw her as a human in that moment. I wondered what it would be like to walk in her shoes. I wonder how hard it must be each day to wake up and the reality of your life be sitting on a street corner, shaking a cup and looking for change. I wonder how much pain she is in. Both physically and spiritually. Is she ready to go home? You know, to the eternal home.

This woman. This tiny, slow, wrinkled woman made me look towards heaven in a very real way yesterday.

I don’t think it is burnt-out. If our strength comes from Lord, He wouldn’t let that flame burn out. I think burnt-out is still an earthly excuse. A selfish one, even. A reason to quit. If our strength comes from the Lord, He won’t allow us to quit until He calls us home.

This woman, she reminded me where we are headed. All of us. We, humans, are all headed home, it is just of matter of time until He calls us.

Am I ready to go? Yes.

Am I ready for the suffering and pain to be over? Yes.

Am I ready to spend eternity in a perfect place? Yes.

But, until I go, I am going to live busy and tired. I am obligated to make this place better. I am going to try and make a difference. Small or big, I don’t even care. I will live joyfully. I will stop seeing the poor as a burden and start seeing them as people. I will stop using excuses and being burnt-out.

I promised I would live zealously. So, here’s to living it.

Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord.  -Romans 12:11

“as complicated”

Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect. – Romans 12:2

America, the beautiful. Oh, how I love thee.

I forget how beautiful you really are. How awesome the weather is this time of year. How green the fields are and how they seem to go on forever. How the sun doesn’t set until after 9:00 p.m. and how the fireflies dance in the night. How wonderful it is to hear the firewood crackle and birds sing again.

It’s a strange thing coming back to the place where I once belonged. Hugs feel warmer and laughing just comes easier. I go months without seeing the people I call my best friends, but we can pull up to a table and talk like time never even separated us. I consider it a pretty incredible thing.

It had been over 9 months since I had last seen my grandma. She ran to greet me at her front door when I got to her house. There’s just something in the deepest parts of my being that rings I’m home in those moments.

There is retail therapy here, bottomless chips and salsa, smooth roads where cruise control can be used, pedicures with chairs that massage your back, and strawberries. Endless amounts of strawberries: strawberry pie, frozen yogurt with strawberries, strawberry salad, fresh strawberries picked by grandpa Jo and plain strawberries eaten at every snack (fun fact: strawberries cost close to $14 in Haiti, so we never get to eat them)

It’s real easy to be American. It’s fun to buy new things, enjoy good food and to stay up late.

But, it’s hard.

It actually keeps getting harder. Every single time.

I thought after three years I would be able to transition back and forth just fine. But, truth is, my heart, my purpose and my loves are all in Haiti. So much of me is empty without them and without being there.

This is not to say, however, that I don’t soak up every minute of being here. It’s not to say that when family comes over or friends sit across from me that I’m not enjoying every second of it. Because, I am. I’m refreshed by people that I care deeply about. People that I miss and cherish most every day. I hate missing out on their lives and I hate how much they miss out on mine some days, too. My kids are growing up and they’re amazing and funny and bright and all I want to do is tell stories about them, because I want people to know who and what they are missing out on.

We are all missing out on something or another because life has led me away from America. And knowing I won’t always be able to attend family get-together’s or have family and friends celebrate our get-together’s in Haiti, only makes the permanency of the situation harder.

I went on a walk the other day. Circled around the grounds of the elementary, middle school and high school where I grew up. Lots of things are changing because a casino was built in our county a few years ago and the casino has now started giving money to the schools in the county. It’s awesome to see. A new office for the elementary and high school, a new weight room and wrestling room and I hear that every student has a laptop these days.

But, I cringe on the inside. (disclaimer: I have nothing against casinos; I know a lot of people have their opinions, but I am really opinion-less on the topic) I think of how many people probably went into the casino for a fun night out with their spouse or a girls night out with friends. They spent $20 on slots and maybe another $20 on drinks. Heck! Last weekend I was at a casino for my roommate from college bachelorette party. I spent $2 on a horse race (won’t $6.60, by the way!) and at least $20 more on beer and food. I’ve never seen horse races before and it was a beautiful evening and I loved it. A live band played afterwards and my friends and I danced the night away. What’s not to love?

But, I think of where all the money came from to make all the additions to my old high school.

I think of how it only takes $35/month to sponsor a child in Haiti and the unfairness in that thought.

I think of how all of my students in Haiti can walk over a mile to school on dirt paths in their brightly colored uniforms to receive an education that may be their only chance out of poverty. How filled I get every morning when I see these dirt paths filled with students making their hike to school. How they walk with worn out shoes and ripped back packs and crumpled books.

How a building made of cement blocks with a tin roof and nothing but wooden benches and a chalkboard can change and save a young child’s life.

I cringe on the inside, my heart breaks by the realities of this world. The night and day differences of here and there are so vastly different, it makes me angry (just a little) but also makes me want to crawl in the fetal position and cry.

Because, what if? What if we stopped gambling our money away and invested it into the Kingdom? What if our retail therapy turned into an education for a child in poverty? What if our overcrowded closets and piles of shoes became new walking shoes for children who walk so far to school?

Just, what if?

What if excuses and selfishness and indulgence and materialism and compulsive buying became the answers to prayers. To filled bellies. To new back packs or #2 pencils or child sponsorships.

The hardest part is this: here I am, enjoying all America has to offer me for a two week thrill, only to feel like a hypocrite, because I know of all the hungry, homeless, abandoned, and needy people back home. I know their faces and I can call them by name. I am humbly ruined by the realities of my American passport and United States citizenship. How did I deserve to be born here?

Where typing is taught at an elementary age and organized sports lead to university scholarships and unlimited opportunities are always knocking.

Where it’s the law to go to school and education is not a luxury but a given. (another disclaimer: I know there are many schools in America that struggle and many students in America who didn’t have the educational opportunities I did, but my point is that in America, education is accessible and for the most part free. In Haiti and in so many other parts of the developing world, people are never given these opportunities of education.)

Why do I get to enjoy so much of life while so many, many people are struggling to get by…

Why are we, as Americans, so numb to the realities of the rest of the world?

I love you America, but you make me so numb. You make me so conformed. You have a way of seducing me with your pretty advertisements and delicious food. You make me so comfortable.

And, to be honest, I hate it. And for this reason, I’m declaring our relationship “as complicated” and hoping you will be able to come around and start getting your priorities in line and stop making excuses to help the poor, because I just can’t go another day without giving my life to the poor.

Until next time, America.

let’s get uncomfortable

“The poor will always be with you.” – Jesus

Quite frankly, I’m a little upset with Jesus about this statement. Why always? Why will the poor always be among us? One thing that has remained throughout the history of the entire world is the reality of poverty. And, I just don’t get why…

More than ever, though, do we have the technology, information, access and ability to change this fact. YET, more than ever are the rich richer than ever and the poor poorer than ever. It’s the truth, Google it if you don’t believe me!

I’m so broken by this. I have so many moments of hate and despise against the human race for this. I want to believe it is a righteous and holy anger I’m experiencing, but what if it’s not? I feel at moments it is judgmental and cynical. And, I am sorry for that, but I’m broken by it, too. So many of us are numb, oblivious and consumed while the poor go on so desperate, lonely and hungry. So many are plump full yet so many more are skin and bones.

Yesterday, I stood with a group of 8 college-aged kids from Iowa in front of a house made of tarp, sticks and tin. The woman living there is in the Starfish program at Tytoo and her and her children literally get drenched in their home every time it rains. We stood in front of the home with the hopes to “fix” it to stop them from getting wet. Rainy season in Haiti is only days away and the thought of this family sitting in a puddle of a home for the next two months is just beyond me.

Unfortunately, we were not able to help fix the house because we didn’t have the resources and truthfully it is too far-gone. They simply just need a new house.

I feel like I am starting to sound like a broken record with all this talk about needs for new homes, but I don’t sleep at night because of what my eyes have seen.

Last night, I sat in a circle with this same group of people and heard lots of talk about how much “excess” there is in America. How we are so stinkin’ spoiled and have taken so much for granted. And, I hear this a lot when people come to Haiti for the first time and have their eyes opened to poverty for the first time.

Northwest Iowa sheltered me and comforted me as I grew up. Not once do I remember being exposed or taught about poverty, whether it was at church, school or in my house. I think the thought of poor people crossed my mind at moments, but never once did I digest the reality of their lives. And as a result, when I came to Haiti for the first time it ruined my life. I was heartbroken for the people but also ashamed I had gone my entire life not even being aware of the poor’s existence.  Today, I no longer am able to live comfortably knowing about the masses and masses of people suffering from the reality of poverty.

And, sometimes the scary part about writing so honestly about poverty is that it may cause some of you to become uncomfortable. How dare I make you feel uncomfortable? Shame on me. But, I think it’s time for people to roll up their sleeves and get uncomfortable. I don’t want you to feel guilty about what you have been given; guilt is just another form of sin (taught to me by a dear friend) But instead, I just want to shake up your perspective a little bit. Because the truth is, you can do more. You can give more. Your priorities can change. And, you can stop making excuses. It’s time for a little come-to-Jesus moment: people are literally falling over from starvation; others are losing their lives to preventable diseases; moms are abandoning their babies at orphanage gates and we just can’t stop keeping up with Kardashian’s.

Uhh..my heart just can’t even.

But, my heart has been set on fire to fight for the poor. And, I realize it’s maybe not the coolest thing to be passionate about. Having a fashion blog with hip clothing would be a much more acceptable thing, but I’m just so over that. I want my life’s work to be writings of redemption, bringing the poor up and out of poverty not just physically, but spiritually and with dignity. I just wish more people were willing to fight this fight, too.

And, so yes, I’m angry, but righteously so. I sit in front of these homes and listen to women plead for their lives. One woman told me yesterday, “I have no life. My children are without hope. Please, let me come and just sweep your house, so I can find money to feed them tonight.”

While only a few hundred miles away, we obsess over celebrities, name brand jeans and Frappuccino’s. Seriously.

I look back at Jesus’s statement of the poor always being with us. It’s as if he was almost content by this.

Maybe it was because he knew he was coming to save us, the poor included.

And, a few days after making this statement he would hang on the cross. He knew what was to come.

I like to think He was even a bit confident in humanity at that moment.

Jesus knew how he was about to change the course of history.

His act would be so profound; it would lead all of humanity to reach out to all people. No one would go forgotten.

His sacrifice and what he stood for would change people.

The gospel would lead people to lives of service.

The poor would be taken care of because of what happened that day on Calvary.

People, I think we have forgotten about Calvary, because here we are 2,000 years later and the poor are poorer than ever.

And, I just don’t even know where to go from here…but, I can’t stop fighting and believing in the promises of the cross. I can’t stop believing that at some point it will change. Or stop relying on the fact that the Second Coming is going to happen and on that day all the captives will be set free. On that day I will be set free.

Dear Jesus, set our hearts on fire.

Let us be consumed with a holy and righteous anger, enabling us to be the change.

{Make us do’ers. Make us selfless. Make us holy.}

Turn us away from our society of materialism and consumerism.

Turn off the social media and notifications so we can focus on YOU and on THEM. No more me, me, me.

{Make us uncomfortable, Lord.}

Open the floodgates. Make money and resources appear in unknown and mysterious ways. Lead people to give. Make a way for homes to be built. For children to stay dry.

Make a way for redemption to be written.

Lord, soften our hearts. Make us compassionate. Work miracles in our lives.

Turn our gifts into blessings. 

Mold us into all you created us to be. Let us be the change.

celebrating coming home

Five months ago I came to you with a God-sized vision…today I celebrate, with you, how this vision has come true.

I am so humbled and amazed how all the pennies trickled in and amounted into a total much greater than I expected. How God used your dollars and multiplied them into answered prayers and new homes. How it only took days for us to reach our goal, when I thought it would take weeks or months. How compassion filled me and nothing but grace and miracles poured out into the occupants of these new homes. And, how so many more miracles continue to happen in these households and through the people inside.

Over the past five months, foundations have been poured, concrete blocks have turned into walls and keys to new homes have been given away.

Over the past five months, six beautiful families have been given a secure and dry place to call home.

And now the time has come to celebrate all of these homecomings.

Dear Nata,

You have broken me and driven me since the day I met you in your ragged blue dress. I’m sure you remember that day. You were hiding under a small tree, trying to catch a break in the shade from the hot sun. I was busy passing by on a moto and barely noticed you. You popped out and said you needed me. I said I was too busy. I told you to come to my house later. You came. I had nothing to give you and I was sorry I even told you to come. But, you came again. You came every week for about six months straight. I never had anything to give you. But, there you would be again, at my gate, hopin’ for a miracle. I could see the look in your eyes: you were tired. Tired of working so hard, but never having enough to feed your children. I saw the desperation and I wanted to take it all away. I saw your tiny frame and that blue dress became too familiar as you wore it every time you came to visit me at my gate. But, the miracle finally came. God built you a house and I got to be the vessel. We celebrated on the concrete floor as you danced like a child on Christmas day. I wanted to capture all the joy you resonated as you opened the door to your new home to show me inside. I wanted to put all that joy in a bottle and hold on to it for all the years to come. There wasn’t a glimpse of fear or hurt in your eyes and how I loved seeing you like that for the first time since I met you. Nata, dear, I can’t tell you how happy I am that God made a way for you to have a new home for you and your babies.


Nata, with the excitement of a child on Christmas morning

old sitting next to the new

old sitting next to the new

Dear Viola,

I have cherished you since the day I met you. I will never forget when you raised your hand in the crowd of people to accept Jesus as your Savior and I learned your name. I have loved getting to know you and see you grow. We have had so many conversations about building you a new house and I never knew if it would be possible. But, the day has come and we celebrate in your new home. No more will we pray together in a house of blue tarp with dirt under our feet, but now we have a solid foundation to bow our heads on. And, I love how you have opened your new home to your sister and her four children. You are using your gifts to take care of others and I cherish you even more for that. We will pray for your sister and the unknown lump in her throat to be healed. Thank you for your heart. You inspire me to be a better person.




Dear Sonia,

You too, have inspired me since the day I met you. Remember when you abandoned your daughter Daphta at an orphanage gate because you couldn’t take care of her? We then gave you a job at the school as a cook and you have been able to care for your babies ever since. Three years later we celebrate all that God has done. You now have a home with a bed for you to rest your head on at night. I see how you have become so fragile from the tuberculosis and we pray for continued healing. I hope this house is a house of healing and comfort to you and your family. May you no longer worry about nights of rain, but are renewed every new morning.


Dear Clivianne,

I see this picture of you standing in front of your new house and am nearly speechless. You, too, came to my house looking for a glimpse of hope and on that day I had nothing but a jar of peanut butter and the change in my husband’s pockets to give you. I remember you telling me how the only food your children ate most days was what they were given at school. I appreciated your honesty, but your honesty also broke me. I wanted to put together all the pieces and have life give you a break. Today, we celebrate the break life has given you. I like to think that first jar of peanut butter was the start to something new and beautiful. I see you now, as you wash the dishes at the school and am so grateful you’ve been given that job. You teach me how joy can come from all circumstances, even when washing dishes for hundreds of school children. I loved welcoming you into your new home as you prepare to have your sixth baby with your husband. May this baby not know what hunger is. May this baby know how beautiful, strong and wonderful his mama is, too. Clivianne, dear, you deserve mother of the year.




Dear Yolin, 

Your smile is so contagious. Your faith and joy, as well. God has taught me so much through you, do you know that? I remember how you came to me with nothing but a cooler full of Coke and 7-up, explaining you needed a better way to feed your six babies. The pop business just wasn’t cutting it. I remember how warm your hug was when I asked if you wanted to come on staff at the school as a cook. I’m so happy you won’t have to worry about rainy nights anymore, either. I won’t ever forget the innocence in your daughter’s eyes when she told me she gets wet every time it rains. Do you know how badly my heart ached for your family? Not knowing if I could help you in your disintegrating house. But, God showed up. I asked for five houses and He made a way for six. He has not forgotten about you, Yolin. You’re a daughter to the one true king and He loves you, even though I know you already know all of this. You may not know, but I watch you in church. I see how you leave it all at His feet. Your faith humbles and teaches me. Thank you for being you.





Dear Chrstiana,

You are one of those mamas I just don’t know what to do with. Life has been hard on you and I am sorry for that. But, today we celebrate the new home that has been built for you. For you and your four children. And, may they, too, not know what hunger means anymore. May their childhood be filled with memories of school and play. May they always remember how mama walked them to and from school every day, loving them all the way. Even when you had nothing to give, you stayed by their side. I see how you’re tired, too. My prayer is for this new home to bring you rest. May you feel comforted in this house and have the strength to carry on.



Friends, stories of redemption have been written. Your faithfulness and giving has spoken measures and lives have been changed. What’s so awesome is that these mamas are going out and making a difference in their communities. They’re inspired by what’s happened in their lives and they want to touch people. They want to make this world a better place, too.

I’m a mama and this Sunday I’m celebrating that. Along with all the rest of the mamas in the world. So many mamas are hurting, but these last six mamas are relieved from so much of their hurt because a roof for their babies have been given to them. Thank you for making this mother’s day a day to celebrate for us in Haiti. But, before we go, there’s of course one more mama I want you to meet. Her name is Denise and I’m wishing for another story of redemption to be written for her and her babies. She lost her home in the earthquake five years ago, too. She then lost her husband two months later. She was pregnant with her fifth child when he passed away. She sold most all of her possessions to pay for his funeral. Denise and her five children now live in a broken home made of tin and cloth. Her children have never gone to a day of school. A new home would mean a new beginning.

Can we do one more? One more house? Write one more story of redemption?

We have no day but today to make a difference in this world. Denise is waiting. I need $3,500 to give this sweet family a home.



Dear Denise,

I know it’s hard to just keep praying when that is all you have been doing for the past five years. I’m sorry you lost your home in the earthquake and lost your husband two months later. My heart aches for you. I see your babies, their tiny frames and how they light up when I ask them if they want to go to school. I want that glimpse of hope to last. I want them to know God has not forgotten them. I see how your house is falling apart, how can we actually expect the tin and cloth to hold in the Caribbean heat and the hard rains? How your body must always ache from sleeping on a piece of plywood. I can’t imagine how tired and worn you must be. Sweet Denise, I hate that this is your reality, but believe me, God has not forgotten about you. Do you see my friends? Have you seen their homes? God did that. And, I believe it’s your turn for Him to do that for you and your babies, now. I’m praying for you. I’m praying for God to make a way. It’s time for your story to be heard and I can’t wait for the day when I write you to celebrate how He made a way. 

Until that day,


Donations can be sent to

Touch of Hope, 205 Old Mill Lane

Rock Rapids, Iowa 51246

or click here to donate through PayPal

leave a note or memo: house for Denise

*all donations are tax deductible*

p.s. Thank you Jennifer Lee and Lydia Lee for helping make this happen and joining me in writing these stories of redemption!

meet Chedline

For several months, Ali has been asking me to visit a little girl with her. She jokes how she has another child picked out for me to take in: a little girl who can’t walk and lies in the dirt all day.

I avoid Ali’s invitation and shrug off her jokes.

You all know of Ali, right? She’s my best Haitian, real friend, in case you don’t know of her. She’s been living at Tytoo Gardens orphanage for close to two years and she is the real deal. She runs the Starfish program at Tytoo and has desperate moms coming to her on a daily basis. Basically, Ali carries the same burdens that I do and handles them with grace while trying to find a solution. Ali sometimes tosses her problems my way and I toss mine her way. She’s the one friend who does poverty with me and I am truly grateful for her.

Anyways, Ali finds a way to get me to meet this little girl. When a pediatric, Michelle, comes from South Dakota to visit us, Ali has the both of us sitting in the dirt and on a bucket checking out this babe. She’s four years old, weighs around 18 pounds, does not walk nor barely talk. Her mom passed away when she was three months old and has been tossed around households since. For the past 8 months she has been living with a Starfish woman and that’s how Ali first met her. Michelle diagnosed her with spina bifida after assessing her and seeing the dimple at the top of her butt cheeks.

Her name is Chedline and she has had me since the moment I met her.


From the moment I met her, it scared me how much she reminded me of my daughter Wishla. They don’t really look anything alike, but there’s this spirit radiating from the both of them that makes my heart tremble. Something so familiar, yet hard to recognize. And after a couple nights of thinking and dreaming of her, I know exactly what these feelings mean: God is at work again.

I find God’s timing remarkable. I love how He waited to introduce me to Chedline until Michelle came to visit, because Michelle and I both want to help her.

Michelle left Haiti four short days after meeting Chedline and has been busy praying and thinking about Chedline as well.

Tomorrow Chedline will become a part of my little, crazy family. Our first steps are to get Chedline legal guardianship over Chedline so that we can start working on a medical visa. Michelle and her family are working on finding doctors who can help Chedline and will be her host family, if God makes a way for Chedline to find her way to the United States. As I have been reaching out to people here in Haiti, learning how to obtain a medical visa, I am becoming more and more hopeful as I learn about several spina bifida cases that have gotten medical visas in the past.


I sat down with my boys and showed them a picture of the little girl who will sleep in the new bed set up in Wishla’s room. I explain to them how she can’t walk and how I want to help her get better. I show them a picture of her sleeping on the dirt and explain how she doesn’t have a bed to sleep on. They ask me why she’s so small and I further explain how she doesn’t always have food to eat. And Loveson…bless him…says, “well make her come here so we can give her food and she can have big muscles like me!”

So, that’s what we are going to do: take her in so she can get big muscles. I am encouraged by the hearts of my own boys. How they want to take care of her as well.

At this point, we don’t know the long term plan for Chedline. Our main focus is to get her the proper medical attention. If it’s God’s plan to have her stay in the US and be adopted, He will make a way. If it’s for her to come back and be reunited with family, He’ll make a way. If it’s for her to be a part of our forever family, He’ll make a way and be sure to do a lot of convincing in my husband’s heart ;)

So, will you pray with us as Chedline transitions into our home this week. Will you pray for all the papers to be retrieved quickly as we work towards custody and a medical visa. Will you pray for Chedline’s spirit and health. Will you pray for my family as our home will change with this addition. Will you pray for wisdom as we make decisions about her life.

“Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed,

you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move.

Nothing will be impossible for you.”

– Matthew 17:20


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