{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

a strawberry milkshake

It’s not that my day is anymore important than yours, or that it’s any more glamorous or that it is even worthy of a blog, but I’m going to make it into one.

This morning I woke up at 5:30 to the cries of my baby girl. Do not for a moment think this is sweet. This child of mine is an awful sleeper. She will go a week sleeping beautifully through the night and then go back to acting like she is a newborn infant, who has to wake up two times a night. For a while, she was putting herself back to sleep, but this past week, not so much. I will get her out of bed, give her some milk and think I have her rocked back to sleep, but the second her head hits the pillow, she’s back to crying. So, I give in, because I am a sucker for sleep and don’t want to fight her. I let her get her way as she falls asleep between Webert and I.

This morning, though, we weren’t just up at 5:30, we were up and we were throwing up our milk everywhere. Not a great way to start the day. I also discovered, as the boys got ready for school an hour later, that they had discovered a small red craft scissors and decided to cut the seams on some of their underwear. Talk about a major chew out session. There will be no movie tonight!

But, we made it to work and to school on time, which in itself requires many miracles to occur in order for that to happen.

I think I took my first real deep breath as I sat down to pray at ViBella. Then, we did some deep cleaning, as we are preparing for the Spring 2015 production to begin. I sat down for a bit to check out a necklace that was being made by two of the artists and somehow the topic of babies was brought up – after this morning, NO babies in the near future! The ViBella ladies nag me as they have wished for me to have a baby since last January, when I was married.

Anyways, I am just so grateful for my family at ViBella. I just feel so at home in that place working with them all.

But, the noon hour arrived and it was time for me to take the hike up the mountain to the school.

I love walking through the village. I love being a part of the rhythm and everyday activities. I meet a man on the way, who is singing a praise song, stops to say “good morning” to me in the most joyful tone ever, and continues walking on by singing his song. I passed an elderly woman, who spends her days laying out on her yard on a piece of cardboard. Whenever I stop by to ask her how she is, she responds with, “I am good by the grace of Jesus.” I pass by a lady who is serving rice and beans to a group of people and I see madam Israel, an elderly lady who always calls me sweetheart. She is sitting on a rock, in a nightgown, eating a pate – a deep fat fried piece of dough stuffed with onions and meat, a Haitian guilty pleasure of mine.

It’s hard to explain how a crippled woman, who lies on a piece of cardboard all day or a man caroling worship songs down the village’s way can bring such a deep sense of joy to this heart of mine. But, it does, people. It really does.

And, so, my day has gone from mass chaos of vomit and shredded clothes, to prayer and joy followed by, well, more mass chaos.

I’m hiking my way up the hill, as a teenage boy catches up to me. He wants a phone. No, I don’t have money for a phone. He wants new pants because his birthday is on Saturday. Um, no, again. Literally, these people know how to suck the joy right out of me, too. Because I am the white lady in the village, people find it acceptable to ask me for ridiculous things like this. This kid is dressed in another school’s uniform and I don’t even know his name. Seriously, I don’t even buy my own kids new pants on their birthdays.

Out of breath now, because I have just climbed an entire hillside.

I enter the kitchen and greet all of the cooks and the fourth grade class, who has just sat down to eat. Heart is filled with joy again and I have by now caught my breath.

I take my 25 goudes, aka 50 cents, to the vendors who sit by the school selling drinks and candy to the students. I buy myself an ice cold Coke. Nothing beats an ice cold Coke in Haiti’s heat. Welp, next to the vendors is a dad who wants money because his son is sick. And, behind him, is another lady looking for money to start selling stuff at market. I tell them to wait for Webert (it’s my go-to line!)

On my way back to the kitchen, I am stopped by another mom, and this mom, I really have a soft spot for her. She’s the lady I wrote about who comes to my porch every once in a while, because she has a hard time feeding her kids. We have been able to give her a job at the school working in the kitchen. And, although, she’s getting a fair wage now, she lives in a four-year-old tent with her three kids. The tent has begun tearing and when it rains they all get wet. She’s asking if I have any extra tarp to cover the holes. Uhh, heart is now shattered. I love this woman. She glows with strength and courage. She doesn’t deserve to be living in a mud puddle.

Lord, Lord, why does it have to be this way?

I eat my plate of rice and beans that my mother-in-law has so graciously given me and wash it down with my now not-so-ice-cold Coke.

Webert and I end up giving around $50 US to the dad with the sick son and turn the other woman away. We talk about Clievianne and wanting to give her not just a new roof, but a new house. Lord, make a way.

Then, I hop in the truck and head to Cabaret. I go to the Western Union to get money that was sent to buy medicine for the clinic. School kids point and laugh because I am a blan white person. I will be honest, it gets really old after awhile being the minority, the one who always sticks out! I am questioned and scanned by the security guard just to get inside. Yes, security guards sit at every door at every business in Haiti, it’s a bizarre thing, but you eventually get used to it. I get the money and make my way to Rosie’s.

I take my second deep breath of the day. And, help myself to a strawberry milkshake. Sometimes this broken heart just needs a milkshake to get through the day.

I guess I am not writing out my day in detail like this to get a pat on the back from you all. I didn’t solve any big world problems today, in fact, I feel like more have been laid out before me. Really, besides organizing a bunch of beads and listening to people’s problems, I feel like I haven’t done much. So, now it’s kind of like what do we do? You and I, together. I’m not sure.

And, just so you know, I am now making you somewhat responsible for these problems of mine, because you are now aware of them.

And that’s it, right there: the awareness of this all. I could go on ignoring them and acting like there are not elderly women on pieces of cardboard or families being drenched in the rain because there is literally no roof over their heads. I could, but I won’t. I feel so responsible to make a change and bring hope to these sweet, sweet people (minus the boy who only wants pants for his b-day, forget him!) Whether it is through a new roof or a new home, a paid medical bill or a loan to start selling goods at market, a meal to get a hungry child through the day or an entire education, a trip to the dentist’s office or just a trip to their home to pray over them, I want to bring the hope that lies in all of that.

And, you could go on ignoring this all, too. Actually, it is so much easier for you to do that because you are physically so much further away from me, them, us. The only thing connecting us is this silly world wide web at the moment. Close your browser, act like you never read this, I won’t know the difference.

Or keep it open, allow the reality of this world to sink in. Maybe God is speaking to you now, embrace that. Soak it in. Then, close your browser and do something about it. Send money my way so I can build a new house for Clievianne or pay more medical bills or whatever it is the Lord puts before me down here (except buy new pants for a random teenagers birthday, I will never do that) OR take your money, your resources, your knowledge, your time and use them for whatever the Lord has put on your heart. Turn those thoughts and dreams, into a reality.

Make some type of difference, it doesn’t matter how big or small.

We need you. The world needs you.

And, when you can’t figure it out or you’re completely worn out or have no idea how you can make a difference, treat yourself to a milkshake. You can’t ever go wrong with a milkshake.

Love from Haiti.

you world changer, you

I just want to say thank you. In case I have forgotten to say those two important words or you haven’t heard them enough, I want you to hear them today.

You, my friend, mean so much to me. You have encouraged, motivated and inspired me. You showed up when I needed you and I can’t say thank you enough.

You’re making my dreams a reality. You’ve lightened my load and given me peace.

Yesterday, I took 18 people to the dentist. We traveled over an hour and my sweet crew of students and members of the community spent 8 hours taking turns being seen by a dentist from Louisiana. This was the first time most of them have ever been in a dentist’s chair – we know how scary that can be! – and they were great. Teeth were pulled, cavities were filled and much pain was relieved. The grown man who had had pain for so long, hugged the dentist with the excitement of a child and with gratitude at the end of the day; his pain was finally gone.

We take so much for granted. You and me. Us, silly North Americans. But, can you believe it? The rest of the world goes on without dentists. They somehow survive, but there’s still so much hidden pain. Two of my ViBella artists had cavities filled yesterday and I felt so guilty not knowing they had been in pain for so long. I know you’re not guilty of something you don’t know, but people I work with side-by-side each day are suffering, it’s a shame.

So, we got our teeth fixed. We enjoyed the beautiful view of the mountains. We even enjoyed a cooler day as the rain fell at noon.

And, this is where you came in. You paid for their meals. You paid for the gas. You paid for snacks when we were stuck in traffic.

You made yesterday possible. You gave me a peace of mind, when before I wouldn’t have been able to afford to take these sweet 18 souls to the dentist.

And, of course, because there is never a boring day in Haiti, as we were nearly done with the dentist, I got a phone call from my husband. It was late afternoon and two students had been severely injured in a motorcycle accident on their way home from school. The six-year-old’s face was all beaten up, the 12-year-old’s arm was a mess and the driver’s leg had a severe case of road rash. They needed an emergency room and needed one fast. So, my husband quickly drove the three to the nearest hospital, 45 minutes away in Port-au-Prince.

And, it was at the emergency room you showed up again. You paid for the bill. You paid for their medicine. You paid for their care.

You were a world changer yesterday.

Thank you again for believing in what we do and for making the Lazarus Fund possible, and wow, I just can’t thank you enough.

becoming unstuck: the finale

Hmm. The words I found this week have been so good to me. I hope they work in you like they did in me.

Isiah 58:6-11 reads:

“Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen:

to loose the chains of injustice

and untie the cords of the yoke,

to set the oppressed free and break every yoke?

Is it not to share your food with the hungry

and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter -

when you see the naked, to clothe them,

and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?

Then your light will break forth like the dawn,

and your healing will quickly appear;

then your righteousness will go before you,

and the glory of the Lord will be your rear guard.

Then you will call, and the Lord will answer;

you will cry for help, and he will say:

Here am I.

If you do away with the yoke of oppression,

with the pointing finger and malicious talk,

and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry

and satisfy the needs of the oppressed,

then your light will rise in the darkness,

and your night will be like the noonday.

The Lord will guide you always;

he will satisfy your needs in the sun-scortched land

and will strengthen your frame.

You will be like a well-watered garden

like a spring whose waters never fail.”

(emphasis mine)

HIS heart is for the poor -

we must work for the poor -

love the poor -

fight for justice  -

spend ourselves on behalf of the poor -

and then -

HE will guide us -

fulfill our needs -

sanctify us -

make us into a well-watered garden.

The cultivation is finished, may a harvest now be reaped.

This is where life is found.

The end.

becoming unstuck: part 2

So, I’ve been cultivating. Allowing God to work in me. Showing me where I need to plow and work.

I’m working on becoming unstuck and trying to find the purpose in the day.

I want to be made new.
Not once. But daily. Working daily to be made more of Him and less of me.

I want to be made into that person He created me to be.

The devil’s been a workin’ too, because he’s been making me feel that I’m not doing it right. So, I’ve been workin’ on tossing all the rocks and pulling all the weeds. Garden keeping is not as easy as some make it seem.

I’ve been praying with each new morning that I may see who and how and what He wants me to be.

Then, it happens. In an every day moment, I see Him finally smiling down on me. Showing me how He is actually somewhat pleased.

We are pulled up to the countertop, my kids and I, eating some homemade pizza. We are laughing and talking about our days. Loveson’s raving over the pizza as he grabs his third piece. Wishla is sucking every ounce of sauce off her piece and Jeffte is licking his fingers clean. Nothing better than pepperoni pizza drenched in ranch dressing.

We are safe. We are happy. We are healthy. We are full. We are clothed. We are family.
So many miracles happened to make all of this possible. Leaps of faith were jumped and healing occurred not physically, but spiritually as God made us a family.

And that’s it, I’m a momma to these three kids. How could I not see how happy God is whenever He sees us sitting down for dinner? Magic happens at the dinner table. We are together. We have made it through another day. We are alive and well.

For me, it’s being a momma to three abandoned babies. For you, it may be showing up to class every day to teach a room full of kids. It may be you being the only witness at work or on the football field. It may be being a single mom, or a graphic designer in a cubicle, or the boss’s assistant. Wherever you are, in that place you can be all that God has intended you to be.

Loveson prays:

Thank you for mom. Thank you for Wishla. Thank you for Jeffte. Thank you for papa. Thank you for my bed and food. Amen.

It’s that easy. The faith of a child. Work in me to have a childlike faith.

Thank you for working in me Lord and making me sit for a moment at the dinner table and realize how so very good You are to me. I have never felt more loved by you than I did last night at the dinner table. Thanks for showing up and working in me and showing me how simple life should be lived. Thank you for the beauty in every day moments.

Thank you for allowing me to be enough just the way I am. I come to you with my rocks, my sins, my dusty feet and worn out self. Thank you for forgiving me and making my load lighter. Thank you for giving my soul some rest, for I am tired from all the cultivating. Use me in all the ways You intend.

“Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and YOU WILL FIND REST FOR YOUR SOULS. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”

-Matthew 11:29-30

becoming unstuck

Do you ever feel stuck?

You know, just stuck with where you are in life.

I do. And, I hate it. I just can’t seem to figure out why.

Before me lies a life full of blessings and gifts, most of them I am so undeserving of. No way am I worthy of it all.

And, I try to soak it all in. Embrace the day, give thanks.

There are these moments when my two boys are belly laughing so hard that their laughter literally sends shockwaves of joy through my bones. Or when my two-year-old daughter snuggles into the deepest part of my chest and there we both find comfort. Or the love felt in a genuine hug, making jokes with village kids, handing someone a gift, walking across the schoolyard as children shout my name. There’s nothing greater than feeling belonged and a part of something.

There are moments that fill me up with all the goodness I believe God intends for us to experience.

But, in the darkness of the night I lie awake wondering if I am getting it all? Am I spending my days out there with purpose? Am I doing it right? Am I experiencing all the goodness there is to get?

And then, I get to worrying about the future. I worry my husband will never get a Visa to the United States and my children will never have a chance to travel with me. I worry about having a baby and never having enough money. I worry about the school, ViBella, the orphanage, Rosie’s…the list goes on and on.

I worry about the gigantic rat that has taken over my house and him visiting my bed.

Then, I plead, please don’t let that rat near my room and please make all my wishes about visas and babies come true. I worry again, am I doing it how You intend? Am I doing it right?

Please, don’t jump here and say that I am because my resume looks so shiny.

That darn resume. That thing will fool ya.

Because, I am learning, that we, as in all of us humans, believe if we work harder and do better and be nicer, our lives will be full. If we climb out of the mud and if we keep climbing up some ladder our society has created for us to climb with no real destination in sight, it is there, we will be satisfied. But, no matter how much money we earn or high up we climb or how long our resume gets, we won’t ever reach the top.

And, I fall for all of this. If I work longer hours, I will feel satisfied. If I do a better job, I will feel for qualified. If I am nicer, I will feel better. If I make my resume sparkle a little brighter and add more “good deeds” I will feel more worthy, less stuck.

I have filled my days with so much business that I feel I am missing out on something so much greater. I can’t tell you the last time I sat in a dirt hut praying for someone. And, I hate that. I know it is there, where the blessings overflow and I am filled.

Maybe that is what is making me feel so stuck; I haven’t been spending enough time doing exactly what the Lord calls us to do: spending time with the poor, giving up more time and money, and spending more time in His presence. I have exhausted my energy on work and worrying.

If it were Jesus down here, I think He would be doing it differently.

I feel stuck. I feel exhausted from the details. I feel the routine drying me up.

I feel the evil one whispering me all of his lies, he is so very good at doing that and suffocating me in the place where I stand. Rooting me in the lies, defining me by my worry. Making me believe I am unheard.

Truth is, I am scared to death my husband won’t ever get a Visa, more than that I am petrified about coming to terms with God’s plan on never granting us a Visa. In the end, it’s His plan, and what if His plan doesn’t have a Visa in it? Aren’t we all afraid of God not giving us what we want, leading us to get stuck in a puddle of worry.

Unfortunately, the truth is, I get really ugly and dirty on the inside. I get selfish and think I am worthy. I get cocky and forget to say thank you way too often.

Truth is, I need a cultivating of the heart.

Hosea 10:12 says:

“Sow for yourselves righteousness,

reap the fruit of unfailing love,

and break up your unplowed ground;

for it is time to seek the Lord,

until he comes

and showers righteousness on you.”

It’s not where I am, but how I am. The condition of my heart is like mud baked in the Hatian sun, cracked open and dry, longing for a new rain. And, in the quiet darkness of my room, this light cracks my hardened heart. God’s gentle hands plow and stir, where dirt and rocks have too long been.

Lord, I pray, reap in me the fruits of your spirit. Fill me with your love and allow your works to be worked in me. Prepare me and make me available, plant in me new hope for a new season.

Please, I beg, take my worries and forgive for me each of them.

I don’t want to feel stuck, for I know the truth and the truth says I am free.

In my anguish I cried to the Lord, and he answered me by setting me free.” – Psalm 118:5

Life has a way of sucking us in and planting us in our worries and problems. Illnesses, cancers, emergencies, turn of events, the unexpected and the unknowing tend to dry us out and make us hard. I have been praying for cultivation in my heart, becoming ready to receive what God is intending to do in and through me. Today, I am praying this for you, my reader, hoping you will allow Him to work in you as He intends to, also. Let’s become unstuck together.

the harvest is great

I am finishing up a two and a half week trip in the US and to say it has been a whirlwind would be an understatement. My first week was full of just adjusting and seeing friends. I was able to get away with my sister for a couple days and go shopping and to a college football game, where we met up with some of my friends from college. I got to eat my favorite pizza with my aunts and drink a beer with my best friends from high school. I love all of these things and I love being with people who reenergize me, but the longer I am in Haiti, I have realized, the harder it is to “fit” back in.

And as hard as it may be, I would not have it any other way. My wish is that more people would struggle like I do. More people would wake up in the sleeping church, remove their blindfolds society has slapped on us, and allow our hearts to shift from wanting more, needing more and succeeding more to less and less of us. If only we could have a shift in our hearts and focus on what is at the core of God’s heart: the poor, orphaned, widowed, needy, naked, and hungry.

Jesus says in Matthew 9:37, “the harvest is great, but the workers are few.”

If only we could rise up and take care of the people in our world. The harvest is great, but the workers are few.

America just amazes me every time I come back. The restaurants, the casinos, the stadiums, the malls. All the events, concerts and fairs. The clubs, gyms and activities. What amazes me more is the people in all of these places.

I ate in multiple restaurants the past couple weeks, went to a brand new Hard Rock Café casino to watch a band, went to two different college football games, and walked down all the aisles of the mall. All of these things at my disposal, realizing these are very normal things for any of us, but concepts so many people around the world will never see or imagine.

And, I watch all the people at all of these events and wonder how many of them know what the rest of the world looks like? Do they know of the suffering? The hungry? The orphaned? Do they know how great the harvest is? Do they know what their potential in changing the world and becoming a worker?

I surely don’t think we do. Not in this society. Not in this America. Not in all the wealth. Not in all the distractions. We have all the resources, money, education, creativity and technology we could ever need to make us the generation of workers God is calling us to be. In our homes and families. In our communities and school. In our world full of darkness and sin.

I head back to Haiti tomorrow and every bone in my body is anxious to see my husband and children. I miss the kids at Tytoo and my little ones in the village. I miss morning prayers at ViBella and all my friends in the village. I miss speaking a different language and the Caribbean heart. My life is in Haiti and although I won’t ever be able to figure out America, I sure do feel grateful for where I come from. But, more than that, I feel blessed to have been able to travel back and share with so many people what is on my heart and share with familiar and unfamiliar faces about Jesus’s works and miracles in my own life.

Tomorrow, I leave for the home where my heart is. A place I feel destined to be. Today, though, I say yes again to Jesus. I say yes to the calling and purpose God has put before me. I say yes to being his worker and gathering the harvest.

a hard lesson

My middle child, Loveson, stole my heart the minute I met him. Only after a short day of knowing him, I knew there was something special happening between the two of us. Webert and I would later take him in as our own and a peace would settle deep in my soul, as he would begin to call me mama.

We were initially told Loveson had no parents. We were later told he did have parents, but they never visited him in the orphanage where he had lived. And later on, his parents would call social services and tell them they wanted him back.

To say it has been an emotional roller coaster at times would be an understatement. A month ago, we were told to bring him to social services the very next day with the expectations to never see him again. His parents never showed up that next day and it was yet another confirmation of how ridiculous this system is and how much harder I would have to fight to keep Loveson safe.

Two weeks later the same news was given, but this time the parents showed up. I didn’t go to the meeting because people from ViBella were visiting and I had lots of things going on. At one point, they asked if I was worried or needed to call Webert and I responded by saying, “for some reason I am not worried at all, I know that God put Loveson in my life and I am suppose to raise him as my son.”

Maybe that sounds crazy, but like I said before, deep down in my soul I know that’s what I am suppose to be.

Loveson’s mom and dad saw Loveson last month for the first time in four years. They were excited and were able to answer lots of questions we had. We learned Loveson has two older siblings and a younger one. He was put in the orphanage at the age of two because they could not care for him. They never knew how awful the conditions were inside of the orphanage. They are happy to know he is in a safe place now. Their only request is for Loveson to come for a sleepover and to spend time with him.

So, now the question stands, will we let him go for a sleepover?

I’m worried Loveson will get confused, or he will feel he has to choose who to love. I’m worried he won’t know where he belongs. I tried explaining to him how he can love his mom and dad and can go to visit them whenever he would like. I told him he can ask any and all questions he has.

I asked him if he would like to go there and spend the night with them, his answer, “No, because I don’t want you to cry.”

You see, Loveson has the tenderest heart and he is also too smart for his own good. I have tried not to cry in front of him as we have gone through this process, but I clearly didn’t do a good enough job.

I wrestle though this all the other day as I braid bracelets and necklaces for ViBella. My mind races every which way as my hands bead and thread.

I really do want to grant the parents’ wish and let Loveson get to know where he comes from, but I have a hard time knowing this may cause confusion and who knows what other types of emotional trauma. There really is no easy answer.

And the selfish, very ugly side of me just wants to guilt Loveson into staying with me. Tell him how he won’t have a bed, if he goes to be with his family. Tell him he won’t get chocolate candies at night or have any toys. Tell him he won’t be able to go to the beach again or have a television to watch movies on. I could tell him how poor his biological family and its only best if he stays with me. How incredibly awful of me would that be?

And from the tears he has seen me shed, it looks like it has already had this effect on him. Insert big sigh.

And like the undeserving daughter that I am, the Lord whispers these words on my heart:

I love you. I wait for you everyday to acknowledge me, but you get distracted. I, too, am jealous for you like you are for Loveson. I have every reason to guilt you into loving me; think of all the things I have given you. I have given you immeasurably more than you could ever ask for or imagine; yet you forget about me. You go about your days forgetting to acknowledge me. When you are weary, you forget to rely on me. When you are worried, you forget to trust me. I understand how you are feeling, for I feel the same way when you forget about me, my daughter. Trust in me.

Tears are now welling and I realize how the love I have for the Loveson, the urge I have to fight for him and the sacrifices I have made for him are only a fragment of the love, fight and sacrifices God has made for me.

I am reminded how my job is to love Loveson. Of course the situation is hard and complicated, but I don’t need to have all the answers, all God has asked of me is to love this child. How foolish I am to think I can take care of the rest of the details on my own. The details are for Him to deal with.

This has been a hard lesson for me, because my human instincts are to still respond with worry, anger and selfish desires. My instincts are to respond with guilt and hate. But my God works in mysterious ways and He teaches me to love even when it is the enemy, to be content even when the circumstances are hard and to trust even when the answers are so far from being known. He teaches me that all I need to do is turn my face towards is.

From a broken and healing servant,

Love from Haiti.

We have yet to take Loveson for a second visit to his parents, but we plan on doing so soon. In the meantime will you prayer for Loveson, his family and for our family as we walk this journey together.



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