{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

#pre-approved: part 1

“Until you are convinced of God’s incredible love for you, you will continue looking for replacement love everywhere but in the heart of Christ. No matter where you live or work, temptation confronts you. The enemy prowls around like a lion, stalking people on Wall Street, fashion runways, suburban cul-de-sacs, Facebook walls, and even gravel roads in rural Iowa. You and I are in a showdown with Satan, who will use every opportunity he can to whisper in our ears,

“What are people thinking of you?”

(page 54)

She’s a dear friend to the family and has been an amazing supporter to Touch of Hope and my personal journey in Haiti since the beginning. I’ve cried in front of her on a hard day, sought advice about hard stuff on other days and laughed as my boys showed her their best dance moves. I just feel real when I’m with her and I love that about her. Her name is Jennifer Dukes Lee and she has a message that is beyond real in her new book Love Idol. I just finished reading it front to back the other night and my heart was left still and challenged. I’ve never put a name to one of the biggest Idols in my life: Love, and Jennifer describes its symptoms and dangers perfectly in this book. But her cure is the greatest news of all: We have been pre-approved by Jesus and He loves us for exactly who we are. We no longer need to seek approval from the world!

I like to say that I don’t care what people think of me, and for the most part I don’t let people’s judgements play a part in the decisions I make. But, let’s be real, I so totally care. I joke with my sister that I want a wardrobe that would define me as a “cute missionary” so, even in a place where fashion has little to no importance, I still care. Maybe not as much as I once did, but I do.

And like every other woman, I worry about the number on the scale and the size of my jeans. In high school, I worried about the starting line-ups, winning basketball games, report card grades, the popularity contest and the number of activities I could list on my college applications. In college, I wanted more Facebook friends and crazy week-end stories. I loved having nice things, especially name brand jeans.

As the Lord began to break my heart, though, truly the number on the scale and the name on my jeans did become less important to me but, it was then that the Love Idol set up base in my broken heart, too. After a while, people tagged me as the “girl from Haiti” and I loved the attention that gave me. I enjoyed knowing my blog was becoming more popular and I felt pride telling people what I was choosing to do with my life. But eventually, it all began to feel fake. And, I hate fake.

Jennifer’s book diagnosed my problems and I love the fact, that in Jesus’s name, we are healed! We don’t need to worry anymore about statistics, popularity contests or the number of “likes” we get on Facebook. We are pre-approved in God’s eyes. His love is forever and as Jennifer puts it, “You are God’s favorite” (page 227)

Before the foundations of the world, He loved you.

Before the fall of Eden, He loved you.

Before He sent His son splitting through the cosmos of this world, He loved you.

Before He died upon the cross, He loved you.

When He rose again, He loved you.

And He’s coming back again because He loves you.

When you took your first breath, He loved you.

When you messed up bad, He loved you.

When you won and when you lost, He loved you.

(page 228-229)

I love knowing that I don’t have to care about my tag-lines or the popularity of this page anymore. I love knowing God doesn’t keep track of Facebook likes or judges us by the brand of our jeans. I love seeing God’s work in action, His love seeping in to the darkest places and His light shining a message of hope and love for the world to see.

About a year ago, an old basketball coach complimented me by saying, “you’re just awesome, what you are doing is so awesome.” I smiled, but humbly admitted I’m really not that awesome. I’ve never won any popularity contests, I don’t have any shiny awards and truly, I feel awfully mediocre on most days. But, yes, what the Lord has done in my life is more than awesome: He has done more with the school than we could have ever dreamed of, He has taken our ministry in so many new directions, He opens up new doors and brings new people into our lives when we need it and He is simply so very faithful. All. Of. The. Time. God is awesome. Not me, I’m very ordinary. Maybe crazy, but not awesome.

I actually feel that I am only beginning to see the awesome things that He is going to do through me, the school and in Simonette.

This moment with my old basketball coach has truly impacted me. In high school, I worked very hard to earn her approval. I worried entirely too much about basketball, in general. And here I was, nearly 5 years later, and she was giving me the greatest compliments. Compliments I had always longed and wished for. And, they weren’t satisfying for my soul to hear. They seemed fake and I wanted to give credit where credit was due.

This life isn’t about the approval that the world has to offer us. We have already been pre-approved. All the crazy and awesome things that have happened in my life are because of Jesus and my choice to follow him. And from the mountaintops – along with Jennifer – I want to tell you all about the love of Jesus. And like Jennifer, I want to be remembered by my love for Jesus, not the awesome things I did.

Let me finish with a great example of Jesus’ pre-approved love that I was able to see in my small corner of the world:

A few months ago, we had an 18-year-old orphan at our gates who was pregnant and needing a place to live. She was being kicked out of the house she was living in because she had gotten pregnant. She had nowhere else to turn. We unfortunately had no room for her at Tytoo, so I began thinking of people in Simonette who could possibly help her.

Our first grade teacher at the school came to mind. She had recently moved into a new house, was single and had no one else living with her. I knew she had the room, but would she really want to take in a young, strange girl who had clearly made mistakes in her past. So, I cautiously asked her, not wanting her to feel obligated to help, but almost immediately she said, “no problem.”

A few days later Jilliane moved in with Charlene. Her eyes sparkled as she told us this was the first time in her life she would have her own bed. (Amazing, I know.)

After getting her situated, I asked Charlene if there would be any rules for Jilliane or anything she wanted to discuss before I left. What happened next was amazing… Charlene began to explain that her only rule for Jilliane was to always let Charlene know where she was going if she left the house. She said, “If I hear there is an accident in Cabaret, but I know you are in Titanyen I won’t have to worry; but, if I hear there is an accident in Cabaret and I know you are in Cabaret, I will start running to look for you, even if I have no shoes or underwear on!”

Literally, she said no underwear. I can’t make that type of story up!

All jokes aside, I was blown away by the love Charlene already had for Jilliane. She didn’t care where she had come from, what mistakes she had made or what trouble she could cause. Moments after learning her name, she was saying she would run looking for her to make sure she was safe from an accident. Charlene showed me what “pre-approved love” really is all about.

I want to love more like Charlene. But, really, and Charlene knows it, too (she told me she did!) that type of love can only come from Jesus. It was His mission and the very reason why he came to walk on the same earth that you and I walk on today!

Jennifer is calling it the Love Idol Movement and I want to join her by sharing the great news that you are pre-approved and loved by Jesus. You can read all about at her blog: http://www.JenniferDukesLee.com OR go out and buy a copy of her amazing book Love Idol available to buy at http://www.amazon.com

And, by the way, Jilliane had a healthy baby boy just this past Sunday and named him Schneider. She’s still living with Charlene and plans to start working as a cleaning lady at the school in the near future. She also goes to church with Charlene every Sunday :)

this soul of mine


This little soul of mine seems to be bursting at the seems lately. Tears well in my eyes as we sing an old hymn. Butterflies flutter in my stomach as I turn the keys open to my new business. My heart skips a beat as I kiss my children goodnight. My list of thank you’s to the Lord grow longer each night. Some days seem so hopeless, yet there are so many moments that I wish I could hold on to for forever.

The day will come when I know I will look back and say “those were the good days” – what if the days we are living right now are the best that we will ever have and we are taking it all for granted. What if the problems we face are our biggest lessons and the tears are the glue to our broken lives. What if all those worries that swarm deep within are there for us to remember how wonderfully ruined we are. I draw closer to our Creator as I witness his miracles. His healing and His wonderful grace.

I embrace one of my favorite Haitians on the dirt path. I can feel every bone in his back; he’s near 70-years-old and walks with a cane bent over with terrible arthritis. He laughs and calls me “sweetheart” and I see Jesus shining in his eyes. He’s lived all his years in a dirt hut and his only real possession is a donkey. Sunday mornings, he stands in the back of worship with his wrinkled hands raised toward the heavens. I want to stand in the dirt path all day. Holding on to this moment, with a man who has more to teach me about life than my college professors ever could have. I want to love life like this man.

I want more of that joy that comes from some mysterious place deep within. I want to look a desperate mom in the face and say “it will be okay” and believe it. I want more love. More grace. More peace.

And I search for these things. I make an honest effort to live joyfully. I dance ridiculously with my children just to make sure I haven’t lost that innocent joy. I hug a little tighter and dream a little bigger just to make sure my faith is still in check. But, in my most vulnerable moments the devil knows right when to find me. He whispers lies, telling me, “it won’t work, it isn’t good enough, you aren’t brave enough and it won’t make a difference.”

My heart and soul wrestle with these lies. I long for contentment. I long for answers. I long for solutions. And when I think I have found these things, all those lies fill in the gaps. So, I make an honest effort to ignore them. I search for more joy and grace over and over again.

I try to enjoy the day as the Lord blesses me with it. I try to recognize this journey as the best days of my life. I want to be more like the donkey man in our community. I try to sing a little louder and worship a little longer. Pray a little harder and stand more confidently in the Lord at the end of each day. For He blesses my soul and I have no reason not to love every moment of this ridiculously complicated, hard and beautiful life.

Bless the Lord, O my soul
O my soul
Worship His holy name
Sing like never before
O my soul
I’ll worship Your holy name

The sun comes up, it’s a new day dawning
It’s time to sing Your song again
Whatever may pass, and whatever lies before me
Let me be singing when the evening comes

(It’s my husband’s birthday today and he’s my biggest inspiration for this post. He makes me a better person and never allows me to stay discouraged. He’s so wise in his years and I have so much to learn from him. He also lights up every room he walks in to with his distinguished smile and genuine joy. He always makes my days brighter.)

kaylawebert-558

60 day challenge

It’s that time of year, spring is coming, but not quite here yet. The snow is melting, but the flowers have yet to peak through. Warm weather wants to come, but it has been a long winter. I’ve been home for only two short weeks and I’m already so sick of the cold, ready to get back to the Caribbean heat!

It’s lent season and they’re telling you to give something up, but today I want to challenge you to take something on! For the next 60 days we will be posting a child every day who is still in need of a sponsor on our Touch of Hope Facebook page.

If we get these 60 children sponsored in the next 60 days, we will have reached 300 children sponsored in our school sponsorship program. For those of you unfamiliar with our history, we started this program in the fall of 2011 and it has exploded into a Kingdom program with 900+ children in 2.5 short years. For me, knowing 300 children are sponsored means Jesus is in and all around this program. He’s blessing the sponsors and the children who are sponsored.

Sponsoring a child provides these children with a daily meal at school, uniforms, text books and school supplies. It also pays the wages of our 50+ employees. Sponsoring a child is kingdom work and God delights in that. If you are already a sponsor, please click and share and tell friends about what’s happening on our mountaintop. Invite people to like our Facebook page and like it yourself if you haven’t already done so!

 

choosing joy

The morning sun is beginning to peak through my windows and Wishla is crying loud enough for the whole world to hear her. Doesn’t she know church isn’t for another three hours and today we can sleep in? I lift my head up ever so slightly and see her standing up in her crib, watching for one of us to give in and come pick her up. Sleep is one of those things you give up when you choose to become a mom, and I’m honestly annoyed I can’t just get one more hour of sleep.

So, I give in and pick her up. We lay back down with her head heavy on my chest. I try not to move a muscle, to see if she’ll fall back asleep. After a few seconds, she pops her head up with energy, I peak my eyes open and she’s just grinning from ear to ear. She melts my heart all over again and I laugh out loud with this sweet child.

My feelings of annoyance and fatigue turn into joy as my day begins to unfold.

It’s a choice, that’s what I’ve been learning, anyways. It’s a choice to choose joy instead of bitterness – or in my case annoyance. It’s a choice to live in thanksgiving, acknowledging every moment as a blessing from God.

Pancakes are in the fry pan and the aroma of delicious bacon is filling the house. I love Sunday morning breakfasts.

We find our way to church in our Sunday best. The boys go to children’s church and I bow my head in prayer on a wooden bench. Wishla bounces in my arms and loves to clap along with the crowd. We begin worship and she falls asleep in Webert’s arms. Announcements pass and the sermon begins; Psalm 145 are the closing verses.

“I will exalt you, my God and King;
I will praise your name forever and ever.
Every day I will praise you
And extol your name forever and ever.
Great is the Lord and most worthy of praise;
His greatness no one can fathom.
One generation commends your works to another;
They tell of your mighty acts.
They speak of your glorious splendor of your majesty –
And I will meditate on your wonderful works.
They celebrate your abundant goodness
And joyfully sing of your righteousness.
The Lord is gracious and compassionate,
Slow to anger and rich in love.
The Lord is good to all;
He has compassion on all he has made.
All your works praise you, Lord;
Your faithful people extol you.
They tell of your glory of your kingdom and speak of your might,
So that all people may know of your mighty acts
And the glorious splendor of your kingdom.
Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom,
And your dominion endures through all generations.
The Lord is trustworthy in all he promises and faithful in all he does.
The Lord upholds all who fall and lifts up all who are bowed down.
The eyes of all look to you,
And you give them their food at the proper time.
You open your hand and satisfy the desires of every living thing.
The Lord is righteous in all his ways and faithful in all he does.
The Lord is near to all who call on him,
To all who call on him in truth.
He fulfills the desires of those who fear him;
He hears their cry and saves them.
The Lord watches over all who love him,
But all the wicked he will destroy.
My mouth will speak in praise of the Lord.
Let every creature praise his holy name forever and ever.

I get it, there are a lot of words right there. I chose to include them all, because different words speak differently to different people. For me, I love verse 7:

They celebrate your abundant goodness
And joyfully sing of your righteousness.

These people recognized all their blessings, all the good stuff, and the gifts. All these things brought them joy. So much joy, in fact, they were led to sing about it! Let’s not get carried away, I’m not about to sing for joy when Wishla wakes me up early in the morning, but I want to recognize the moments of blessings and give thanks.

The Lord asks us to give thanks in all circumstances.

Remember the lady on my porch? The woman has hungry children. She is without a job and desperate. She came back. Just the other day, in fact. I wrote about her a while ago, in a post title the woman on my porch. Nothing has changed since she last came, she told me she was coming back to see if anything had changed for me. I shook my head, ashamed. She told me she cries a lot, but then she reminds herself to stop crying because crying will get her nothing so, instead she prays. She says something will come out of praying.

I agree, although an older version of myself would have doubted this god she prayed to in hopes of something. In this journey of choosing to give thanks and choosing joy, I completely agreed with her on my porch this time. I told her to start giving thanks for what God will do, for what he has done, and I too would join her in prayer. Will you join me in praying for her?

I go back to this chapter and see verse 9:
The Lord is good to all;
He has compassion on all he has made.

He will be good to us…let’s give thanks. He has compassion. It continues to promise us that he hears our cries; he saves us and watches over us. I’m choosing to believe in these promises. For my sake and for her, for her children, too.

It ends by suggesting we praise his name forever and ever. Tears well in my eyes are these worlds of thanksgiving, promises and joy collide.

_________________________________

You’re probably wondering where this is all coming from, why such a random journey of thanksgiving and joy. But, it is because we’re coming to the end of a Bible study called 1,000 gifts by Ann Voskamp, maybe you have heard about it, maybe not. But, she challenges the participants to choose joy and to live a life of wholehearted thanksgiving. And so, with all of her words, thoughts and ideas, for the last four weeks I’ve been trying to live this way. I’ve been trying to take the ordinary details of life and recognize them as gifts. I’ve been trying to turn my frustrations, problems and annoyances into blessings and moments of thanksgiving. I’ve been trying.

I think we are guilty of it all: taking things for granted and allowing our joy for life to be trampled by the troubles of this life.

Even as her early morning cry cuts my slumber short, there is truly no other way I would want to wake up. I give thanks for Wishla coming in my life every single day. I’ve chosen to give thanks for the dirty dishes because dirty dishes mean we’ve had food to eat. I’ve chosen to give thanks for dirty boys and a noisy house because that means I have two boys who have overcome it all and are healthy. I’ve chosen to give thanks for the big things: friends, family, a house and a car. But, I’ve chosen to give thanks for the little things more often: sunsets, bedtime prayers, hugs from orphans, a still ocean and holding hands with my husband. I’ve chosen to see moments as blessings and the details of the day as gifts. I don’t want the miracles of the every day to pass under my nose anymore.

My hope is that we all choose joy. I pray that the lady on my porch doesn’t lose hope in the god she prays to. I pray for miracles and the impossible everyday. I believe my prayers are answered because I seem to witness unexplainable beautiful things all the darn time in this wicked and dark place. Amongst all the ugliness, I see beauty and for that I will sing of His righteousness.

Choose joy, my friends.

life isn’t fair

I grew up hearing the phrase “life isn’t fair.” I heard it when I didn’t get the shoes I wanted or didn’t get to go to the sleepover I wanted to go to. I learned the truth to the statement as life threw disappointments my way, but it seems as though this phrase has taken on a completely new meaning to me lately.

Some of my most relaxing days here take place on a balcony, where I string beads together, listen to the hums of village life, feel whatever breeze the day has to offer and take my mind off everything as my hands put together jewelry. May seem strange that I say working is relaxing but it’s nice not to talk or think about much for a few hours out of the day. But, somehow life always interrupts me. Just last week, I had a total of six random strangers find me in my relaxing place. A group of three women told me their stories of hunger and desperation. A pregnant woman stopped by looking for baby supplies. Another set of women came up to the balcony, looking for work.

I’ve come up with some go to Creole phrases: “Mwen pa gen anyen kounye a” (I have nothing right now) “Men, m’ap sonje ou le mwen genyen” (But, I will remember you when I do have something) And they respond, “Ba bliye mwen” (Don’t forget me)

Life isn’t fair.

I see the look in their eyes and they want to work. They’re not lazy; they want to take care of their children. They’re trapped in the mess we call “poverty” and I see it sucking the life out of them. This phrase brings on new meaning as these people are clinging on to whatever small opportunities life will hand them, not just being upset if they didn’t get the right pair of shoes. This phrase’s meaning goes from something so shallow and materialistic so something so much deeper for me.

As they come looking to me for work, a part of me wants to hand over my jewelry making tools and teach them, give them my job. Give them some type of opportunity. I think of all the opportunities I had growing up. In high school, I worked at our local drive-thru flipping burgers and making ice cream cones. In college, I served pizza as a waitress and could make over $100 in tips on a Friday night. My senior year of college, the Lord opened doorways for me to become the manager of a ViBella center and I’m blessed by this job in so many ways. Oh yeah, on top of these not-so flattering jobs, I graduated from high school and had the opportunity to choose whichever college I wanted to go to. I always had access to clean water, a refrigerator full of food and a bed to sleep on.

I had always taken my days at the drive-thru for granted, but these mothers and fathers are searching and desperate for a job. They’re grateful for jobs that pay $5.00 a day and I was disappointed when people didn’t tip well. They’re willing to do anything to put their children through school and put food on the table.

It’s not fair that the biggest difference between the opportunities I had in my life and they don’t have in theirs is that I was born there and there were born here. Because they were born here, from day one of their lives, they’ll be trapped in all the issues poverty has to offer: no jobs, no healthcare, limited access to clean water, limited electricity, limited educational opportunities, corrupt governments and the list goes on and on… And, I realize our government has issues all of their own and people struggle to get by in the land of the free, but the issues of extreme poverty are just on a level all of their own.

And, life just isn’t only unfair these days but so bipolar, too. A month ago I celebrated and had one of the best days of my life as I married Webert. Three weeks later, I attended a funeral for a sweet 16-year-old girl who died from an asthma attack. It was a death that shouldn’t have happened if only appropriate treatment had been accessible. Half the people at the funeral had danced and celebrated with me at my wedding and the brother of the girl who passed was one of the groomsmen. Judeline, who lost her 13-month-old baby to pneumonia this past December, cried at our morning devotional the other day because she misses Rosie. Later that day, we sang and danced together on the balcony.

I get frustrated by so many small things and struggle with finding contentment, yet I have such a beautiful family and spend most of my afternoons laughing and playing with my kids.

It’s hard to figure it all out. Some days I’m not even quite sure what exactly I’m even trying to figure out. Maybe it’s this thing we call life, but who knows. It’s so full of unfairness, uncertainty and heartbreak. But, then the end of the day comes and sun’s rays strike through the clouds as if God is screaming only at me reminding me of his miracles, mercy and grace. I allow myself to breathe deeper, laugh harder and dance a little more ridiculously as my kids egg me on.

I find hope in his promises. And that statement sounds nice, since that’s what we are supposed to find to find hope in as his disciples. But, I don’t want the statement to sound cliché. I want to figure out why I believe in that statement so much.

I think what I’m figuring out the most in life’s unfairness is that it’s okay to not have it all together. It’s okay to make mistakes, not have all the answers, have bad hair days, and feel stressed out. We have to realize that life is going to knock us down, push us out of our comfort zones and make us feel like giving up. I’ve felt all of these things. I’ve wanted to throw in the rag and call it quits, but God somehow finds his ways through the clouds and the sunrays stab my discontented heart.

His beauty reminds me of his promises. His justice. His goodness. So yeah, life may be unfair, it may be bipolar and I’m a far way from figuring it all out. But, at the end of the day it’s about realizing that life is still good. So very good.

“God is always good and I am always loved” – Ann Voskamp

through Molly’s eyes

Moving away from friends has been one of the hardest things in this journey, but I’m blessed to have really good friends, four of them who blessed me by coming and standing up for me in my wedding.

I have known Molly since grade school. We grew up doing sleepovers, sports, proms and everything in between together. I call her one of my best friends, she’s a pretty great one to have at my side. This was Molly’s first time traveling out of the country and visiting me oceanside. Here she is as my first guest writer and sharing her experiences.

 

Day 1 “And we’re off!”

On Tuesday, December 31, I embarked on a journey to the country of Haiti where I would be witnessing one of my best friends in the entire world (literally!) get married. Our plane left Minneapolis early that morning, which then connected to Chicago, to Miami, and arrived in Haiti around 4 o’clock. We had been warned to stay very close to each other in the Haitian airport and to come off very confident, which was hard for me to do, because anyone who knows me knows how awful I am at traveling! We were approached by several people who wanted to help us with our bags, in hopes of earning an extra dollar or two. As soon as we left the airport, we saw Kayla and her fiancé, Webert waving their arms and we quickly greeted them with huge hugs! We hurried to the truck and gave the men who helped us with our bags a few dollars, and when they told us they wanted more, Kayla told them in Creole to “Shut their mouths” and we got in the truck and left Port Au Prince with our trusty driver, Fan Fan! The streets were very overwhelming and we weren’t quite sure what was going on. When my friend Danielle asked, “What are the rules of the road?” Kayla simply replied, “there aren’t any”…it was then that I realized that my father, the drivers-ed instructor and grade-A worry wart, would never ever be traveling to this country!

We finally arrived to Kayla’s house, about an hour away from Port au Prince. We got to play with 3 of the most joy-filled kids I have ever met. They sang, danced, wrestled, and wore us all out! So much, in fact, that we didn’t even make it until midnight to ring in the new year, and slept right through the firework celebration that was going on in the village.

Day 2 “One of those days that I’ll never ever forget

I realized that Day 2 of Haiti meant day 2 of no cell phone–something that is rarely seen out of my hands when I am back home; however, I was surprisingly not missing it one bit. It was nice to know that I still have a pulse without continuously refreshing my facebook, twittter, and instagram feeds!

I woke up Wednesday and kayaked that morning with Danielle, who informed me I am very slow at kayaking. The ocean was so still and beautiful that morning. I am so envious Kayla gets to view the ocean from her porch every day!

Next, we went on a tour of the school where Webert works and where the children go to school everyday and also received a tour of Tytoo Gardens Orphange. I had heard Kayla tell so many stories of the kids at Tytoo in her blog posts, so I was excited to put faces to all the names! The children at the orphanage were so full of life! One of the best parts of the orphanage was meeting all the great people who work there and dedicate their lives to helping out all of the kids.

Later that afternoon, we gathered in the Canter and traveled up to the top of a windy road that lead up the mountain, in search of a group of people to deliver some toiletries and clothes that had been donated. We saw a group of about 9 people and decided to give each of them a shirt and a pair of shorts…within minutes, there were dozens of people who had gathered around the canter, chanting “You! you! you!” trying to get our attention to give them something. There were so many people, and we began frantically handing out items, trying to make sure everyone got something. This part was what hurt my heart the most, it seemed no matter how much we had, it wouldn’t be enough. This was the moment I realized why my friend Kayla does what she does.

As we made our way down the mountain, we stopped at Joelle’s orphanage to deliver 17 backpacks that had been donated for the children. We greeted the kids with tootsie pops, and they each shook our hands and greeted us individually by saying “Bonswa!” (Good Afternoon).

The children then gathered and sat on benches patiently. Webert serenaded us with his guitar skills! I had no idea Kayla was marrying a rock star! My heart immediately melted when they performed a mini-concert for us and sang “This little light of mine” in Creole and in English. These children, who had so little, didn’t let that stop them from spreading all the joy that filled their hearts. After singing, we passed out the backpacks full of goodies and toys for the kids. It sinks in, especially after Christmas, when we see how selfish we can be with everything we think we ‘need’, and then to see how happy a toothbrush and tube of toothpaste made a little boy. Oofta!

I will be the first to admit that I had my doubts about this trip, stories of those who had gotten sick, the crime that happens, voo doo (ok, that one is from my coworkers, they know how to get under my skin). But going to bed with those happy faces in my head, feeling like I may have made someone’s day is so gratifying. As I was lying in bed, I once again realized why Kayla lives here, and why she does what she does.

Day 3 “Night with the Haitian friends

The third Day was a ‘down’ day. We plopped a patio chair in the sand and soaked up the Haitian sun for a few hours while Kayla went to ViBella jewlery to do some work. Most of the group left for Wahoo Bay this day, but the bridesmaids stayed back to enjoy a ‘mini’ bachelorette party. Later that evening, 3 motos arrived to Kayla’s house to pick us up to take us to Guapa Pol (probably spelling that wrong!), a chicken restaraunt. There, we met up with some ladies who worked at Tytoo Gardens. (a.k.a. the Haitian friends!) We were seated on some patio furniture at the top of a building. Our dinner served that night was chicken legs, beans, picklees, a Haitian style coleslaw (favorite!) and plantains, a fried banana (not so much a favorite). Next, we left the restaurant and headed back to Kayla for some fun games and several laughs. P.S. Haitian friends, I think American friends won, just to set the record straight

Day 4 “Let the wedding festivities begin

The bridal party packed up their things and we were off to Wahoo bay! On our way, we made several stops to pick up the groomsmen who would be standing up for Webert and Kayla, and also made a stop at a marketplace to get some food for the weekend. There was some excitement in the marketplace where we learned a tourist lesson on minding our own business! Danielle was angrily approached by a man because she had taken his picture, while Hannah had pieces of bread thrown at her face for…well we’re still not really sure why Hannah got bread thrown at her face, but it made for several laughs!

We finally arrived to Wahoo Bay and took advantage of their Wi-Fi connection. I logged onto Facebook only to reassure my mother that I was safe and was yet to be kidnapped, and also to rub in our gorgeous view to my friends wearing hats and mittens back home in the Midwest. We had a few hours to check out the resort before the wedding rehearsal. The supper at the resort that evening was amazing! (Mainly because they had more of that Haitian coleslaw that I couldn’t seem to get enough of!) We hung out for a few more hours and were sure to catch some Z’s before the big day that was approaching us!

Day 5 “The Day

When we first woke up that morning, we thought we lost the bride! Luckily, she just couldn’t sleep in and woke up around 6 to start making sure everything was set for perfection, and the day was nothing short of that.

We helped set up a few things in the reception hall so that we could get the right “vision.” That Renae, Kayla’s mom, and decorating extraordinaire, had planned it all out in her head. The coral and tan colors fit so perfectly in the reception hall! Picture your dream wedding that you have saved in your pinterest board, then picture it on a warm island over looking the beach…yeah..it was that perfect.

Everyone then began getting ready, and then the waterworks began to pour out as I saw my best friend wearing white. She was such a beautiful bride, and I’m almost positive that her dress was made for her. Everything about the day turned out perfect. I am so honored that she asked me to be apart of her special day. After the ceremony, we enjoyed a FEAST of food and made many toasts to the new bride and groom! We danced the night away and probably stayed out a little later than we should have. I’m sure the locals enjoyed us as their entertainment!

Day 6 and 7 “The Final Days

The final days were spent recovering from the wedding and soaking up the sun before heading back to the rumors of the negative 50-degree temperatures! Monday evening, we ventured back to the orphanage to witness one of the cutest things I have ever seen! Webert got dressed up all fancy, Kayla got back in her beautiful dress, and they held a ‘mock ceremony’ for the kids who were not able to attend the ceremony. Dell walked Kayla back down the few pews in their worship center, full of cheering children. One of the women from the orphanage, Hillary, stepped up as the minister, and once again pronounced Webert and Kayla husband and wife! When Webert got the go-ahead to kiss the bride, the kids jumped from their seats and the crowd erupted with cheers and laughs! We were once again treated to an amazing meal of chicken, picklees (YES!), rice, and beans, that everyone at the orphanage prepared for us. With full bellies, we traveled back to Kayla’s house and got some sleep as we prepared for another big day of traveling.

The next morning we prepared for departure. We gave our hugs and said our goodbyes, knowing I might not see Kayla again for a few months. Leaving her is always the hardest, but leaving her knowing all the work she has been doing, what she sees everyday, and the certain struggles she goes through was even harder. We loaded into the canter as Fan Fan, our trusty driver, brought us back to the airport in Port Au Prince.

She is so detailed with all of her blog posts, but they really don’t do it justice. I had no idea what to expect when I left. As cliché as it sounds, we really don’t know how good we have it in America. The whole time I was in Haiti, I couldn’t help but compare as to how things would be if it were in America: the laws, safety and health standards, it really does blow one’s mind. It is, however, reassuring knowing that there are people like Kayla, her friends at the orphanage, and several other missionaries who are giving it their all to spread hope throughout Haiti.

Four years ago, if you would have asked if my friend Kayla would end up finding the man of her dreams in Haiti, I would have laughed right in your face. Now, I really can’t picture her life any differently. Congratulations to Kayla and Webert, I can’t wait to see where this crazy journey takes you next!

Love, Molly

*Webert has no guitar skills, Molly was lying. *The restaurant we ate at was Gwo Papa Poul (Big daddy chicken) but loved your attempt at spelling! *I also have no explanation why Hannah had bread thrown at her! *My friends made my wedding day perfect by being there to stand up for me. *The “second” wedding at Tytoo was hilarious and so precious! *Thanks so much Molly for being my first guest writer and sharing your experience!

my beating heart

Today, I find myself on a balcony overlooking the ocean. A sandy beach lies before me with extra large beanbag chairs to sink your body in. An ice cold coca cola sits to my right and I’m just mesmerized that this is my life.

Years have passed now since this crazy journey began. I think of specific moments that led me to this specific place in time and I just see God smirking above saying, “I bet you didn’t see this coming, did you?”

Last week at this time I was getting ready to walk down the aisle and marry my best friend. Three and a half years ago a man walked onto my porch asking if he could help paint and we all joke that he never went home since, but my beating heart is so thankful he never left my side.

From the first day of our friendship, we found ourselves on an adventure. Before even becoming official “boyfriend and girlfriend” we rescued a dying three-year-old from a hellhole of an orphanage. Today we know him as our Jeffte. Since then, we have watched God explode our mountaintop into a place for over 800 students to be educated. It is a home to fifty chickens, lots of goats, and one ugly sheep. Over fifty people find employment at this place. We have taken in two other miracle children, who bring abundant joy to our lives every second of the day. And you have read some of the other ways God is at work, right here on this blog: the blessing of ViBella, Tytoo Gardens, sponsorships and real relationships.

You’re right God, I didn’t see any of this coming my way.

As I reflect on this balcony porch, my heart begins to skip a beat. I am truly so blessed. I think that this world is full of so many people who are looking for what they’re called to do and somehow, literally by the grace of God, I stumbled upon a life that is so full of calling and service. I have somehow found something to live for.

I paint this beautiful picture of blessing, but I will actually be the first to get pessimistic about the way the world looks. People complaining about not having a warm shower just tick me off these days. You’ve read the statistics, millions of people will spend their energy fetching water just to survive and we are going to complain about not having some “lukewarm water,” really? Maybe that sounds rude of me to actually put into writing, but you will agree with me, won’t you. We’ve got it pretty good if our biggest complaint is a cold shower.

Besides the children at the orphanage in Simonette, I live in the only other house in my village that has running water. My neighbors don’t have refrigerators or flushing toilets. At nighttime, our village is dark because we don’t have electricity 24 hours of the day. There is one road in our village, no streetlights or stop signs. I even know people who will sleep on dirt floors, drink contaminated water and never visit a dentist because they have no other options.

It makes my heart beat quickly. Makes me almost angry that people, people who I love, live like this. And some days it feels like this is the only place in the world where poverty strikes the innocent, but I only witness a speck of it. Books and statistics will tell you that we, North Americans, are actually in the minority. The poor are the majority. The majority of the world lives this way; I’m not discovering something new here.

But, my neighbors teach me the most. When I’m sick, they bring me soup to drink. When we play, they teach me new songs and the “real” rules of soccer. They invite me into their homes, always making a chair for me to sit on. They tell me of their struggles and my heart breaks over and over for them. They show me how to worship, when they have nothing left to give.

It is a picture full of so many oxymoron’s and contradicting feelings. It is hard to find contentment at the end of the day. The struggle is real, but my heart keeps beating and I know someday we will rejoice together.

And isn’t it funny, the moments when I feel most alive are when I’m sitting in a house made of tarp with a dirt floor and a mother tells me how she has found hope. I wonder on paths made of dirt wondering where the next miracle will come from. I belly laugh with orphans, hold new born babies under mosquito nets, and dream of riding a donkey to market someday. The dirtiest and poorest places make my heart beat with joy and gladness.

Last week, I started a new chapter in my life when Webert and I became husband and wife. A friend told me, “I can’t wait to see what else God is going to do in your lives.” I’m afraid of what He is going to do, honestly. Look at how much He has already done. I am afraid of the challenges He will put in front of me. I say that, but I also can’t wait to see what the future and the year of 2014 has in store.

I can’t wait to see how my heart will break, beat and jump for joy. I can’t wait to laugh at my mistakes, dance ridiculously with my kids, watch God work wonders right under my nose and see where this whirlwind called life will take me.

I hope 2014 is the year that you find a heart so alive you can feel it jump with joy in the good times and break in the bad times. I hope you find what the Lord is calling you to do and find ultimate joy in the journey getting there.

{thank you all for following my journey thus far – all of your kind words, donations and support allows me to keep pushing forward}

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,978 other followers