{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

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.

 

a Saturday night

It’s Saturday night.

I think of my friends back home and how they’re all probably out to eat or to the movies. Maybe they have gotten dressed up and are ready for a night on the town.

And then there’s me. It’s Saturday night and I’m in a little black number from the Kohl’s clearance rack and my hair is twisted up in a clip. My feet are covered in dirt and my nails have needed a pedicure since last month. I catch a reflection of myself in the rearview mirror and I realize I should have put on mascara before I left the house. I am so far from a Saturday night on the town.

But, it’s Saturday night and I find myself on the back of hip old green moped. My arms are wrapped around my husband and we laugh as we cruise down the dirt path leading home.

To one side I look at the mountains, which are covered by clouds and you can see where the rain is falling. And before me the sun seems larger than life and sets on top of the mountainside. And to the other side, the shore of the ocean runs along side me. It’s picture perfect in so many ways and I find a hard time finding the right adjectives to describe the greatness of this scene.

And, all of a sudden I feel so incredibly small.

My worries about my looks and appearances disappear as the clouds roll behind me, the mountains rise beside me and the waves roar before me. All of these grandeur scenes surround me and it is so intimidating. It is as if at any moment it could all engulf me.

I’m so, so small.

The shredded tents come into focus now and poverty storms my broken heart as the clouds press forward. Poverty has a way of engulfing me, too. Not thinking a difference will ever be made has a way of making me feel even smaller.

Yet, in the next moment I feel so incredibly loved.

And it’s strange to jump from one emotion to another, but I’m realizing in this moment that the Creator of heaven and earth, the Creator of mountains, sunsets, and storms is my Creator, too. And, He loves me and I’m so undeserving.

He loves my messy, dusty self and doesn’t care about my chipped toenail polish. I love knowing He sees past my clearance-rack clothes and looks straight at the heart. Because in this moment of feeling small, boring and not-so-pretty, my heart and soul have never felt so alive on the back of this rickety moped.

This is a come-to moment, a moment I feel He made just for me. Not everyone is going to see it, but I do. I see how the storms will always continue to rage on, all around us. When one problem is solved, another storm is developing behind the next mountain. But, my eyes keep focus on the larger than life sun setting before me. No matter how many times I get distracted by the storm, I refocus on the majestic sun before me. It’s calming and peaceful, reassuring me of another day’s worth of grace and love. I seem to forget about the fact that I may get down poured on at any moment.

And in this moment, I just desire more of Jesus. I worship Him for his majesty, creativity, grace and beauty. I ask for forgiveness because I see how the storms of life distract me. They discourage me and, quite frankly, suck the life right out of me sometimes. But, here in this moment, I know how very much alive I am. I’m reminded of how deeply loved I am. I’m reminded how much more alive I feel when I’m focused on my end reward and that’s a beautiful thing.

It’s a Saturday night and I just drove down a dirt path on the back of an old green moped. Life doesn’t get much better.

a modern day Jesus man

This has been a hard week for me. Just lots of stuff going on and seem to be emotionally, physically and spiritually weak. The lessons Jean Louis left me with are what got me through it. 

This past week Thursday we said good-bye to the sweetest man I have ever met. He’s a person who has always caught my attention for the way he radiated joy. He spoke love through his actions and the contentment he always resonated was something I long for. You see, Mr. Jean Louis, was a Christian, but he never once told me about Jesus. We never prayed together or swapped testimonies, but he showed me more Jesus in the way he lived than any other Christian I have ever met.

The pastor shared during the funeral service how Jean Louis was always the first person to put money in the offering pan. The pastor knew he never had much at all, so this always left a big impact on him. Jean Louis was the modern day character from the story in Matthew Luke 21:

Jesus sat down opposite the place where the offerings were put and watched the crowd putting their money into the temple treasury. Many rich people threw in large amounts. But a poor widow came and put in two very small copper coins, worth only a few cents. Calling his disciples to him, Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything–all she had to live on.” (verses 41-44)

I couldn’t help but smile as the pastor talked about Jean Louis this way. And, I couldn’t help but feel the Spirit, knowing I had met a modern day Jesus. It left me feeling honored and inspired. 

Jean Louis lived the simplest of simple lives. He never married nor had children. He lived at peace with the people of his community and helped those around him when he could. Besides a small bag of clothes, some pots and pans and a donkey, he left behind nothing else. 

Sometimes I would watch him walk to the big palm tree to tie up his donkey, and think, “what a perfect life this man has.” Just his darn donkey and a relationship with his Savior, realizing that is all you really need. 

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Then there would be times that we would meet along the dirt path. He probably weighed no more than 95 pounds and only 5.5 feet tall. I would embrace him and feel all the bones in his back. He would kiss me on the cheek and ask, “kijan ti bourik ou ye?” how’s your little donkey? We first became friends when I bought my little donkey from him. We danced the night away the night of my wedding, and he would later tell Webert, he had never been to such a party in life. And, I know all the wedding guests noticed his child-like joy.  

On Sunday mornings I would shake his hand and secretly watch him as he worshipped in the back of the hall, with his palms lifted high. I wanted what he had. 

If I could do it over again, I would stay on that dirt path a little longer. I would ask him where his joy came from? How he learned to be content over the years? Where did he find happiness when life had given him nothing more than a mud hut and a donkey? We can probably guess pretty accurately what his answers would be just by the way he lived out his life, but I wish I had sought out more advice from this modern day Jesus man. 

At first I was so sad to say good-bye to this sweet man. I’m just going to miss seeing him in front of his house, waving at me each and every time I pass by. But, I know they had the biggest dance party ever as they welcomed him Home. His aches and pains are no more. Poverty will never strike him again and we celebrate because we know full well he has been given the greatest gift of all. 

He will be the first person I want to visit once I get to those golden gates someday. 

As, we cleaned out his house late one afternoon, I asked if I could have his old, tattered Bible. It now sits on my nightstand as a reminder of who Jean Louis was and all that he taught me. He showed me Jesus like no one ever has and leaves me wanting more. More Jesus. A deeper relationship, something so audacious and authentic, that it too, will leave people wanting more Jesus. People won’t have to ask me where my joy, love and contentment comes from…they will just know! Just how I knew all that about Jean Louis. 

Thank you Mr. Donkey Man for teaching me something so remarkable and for teaching me it all through yours actions and love. How simply humbling and amazing.

 

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Lazarus Fund: an update



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First of all, thank you. Thank you for turning my fears and doubts into a reality and blessing. Thank you for saying, “we believe in you.” Thank you for walking this journey with me.

When I first introduced the Lazarus Fund, I was scared. I have never wrestled with an idea for so long nor doubted the words I typed on the screen. I felt vulnerable, and who likes feeling that way?

I had had the idea of the Lazarus Fund on my heart for about six months before writing about it. Within 48 hours, close to $4,000 was received and all I could think of was God laughing at me, saying, “I told you it would work.”

Thank you for responding to my needs and the needs of the people around me.

The Lazarus Fund was founded in order to help my husband and I give money and help people around us. We have gotten to a point in our lives where we can’t keep giving all that we have, yet we are surrounded by people who need to be given to. The Lazarus Fund is in place so that you can help us help them. Today, I want to tell you all about whom YOU have been helping!

First was Mami. Mami is the sweetest woman you ever will meet. She comes to my house twice a week to help me with laundry, it is how she feeds her family. When she asked if I could help her pay for wood to finish her roof so the rain would stop falling in her house, I had a very hard time saying no. Fifty dollars later, Mami had a new and improved roof and her house now stays dry when it rains.

Next was Masila. Masila wanted to start a small commerce a.k.a. small business selling goods (a very, very common thing in Haiti). I said sure, but I wanted to know all about it before jumping in. Her idea is to make fish and other Haitian food to sell at the beach. On the week-ends the beach can be very busy and she saw a demand for such a thing. So, $150 later, Masila now has a business to call her own.

 

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And then there is Nadeg’s family. He is an experienced sewer and wanted to start a business making school uniforms, pants, etc. for people in the community. We thought it was a great idea, especially since he proposed the entire business plan to us himself. We bought him a sewing machine for $200 and he now proudly sews on his front porch to support his family of seven.

 

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In the midst of all this excitement, we have also helped several people finish school and helped a pregnant mom through a medical emergency. So, the Lazarus Fund has been seeing a lot of excitement!

Last but not least, I used some of the money to buy a bed for my favorite elderly man, Jean Louis a.k.a. Donkey Man. I bought my baby donkey from him so, that’s where the nickname comes from. We were in the process of planning to build him a new table and a staircase to help him climb up his porch, but unfortunately, last week little Donkey Man passed away after having a stroke so we never got around to those things. But, praise Jesus for the Lazarus Fund money and we will now be able to hold a ceremony in honor of him.

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Thank you again for everyone who has donated to this cause and for allowing all these amazing things to happen, I can’t wait to see what else God will do through it and you.

 

To donate to the Lazarus fund, send a check to Touch of Hope at:

205 Old Mill Lane, Rock Rapids, Iowa 51246 *memo note: Lazarus Fund

* Touch of Hope is a recognized 501(3)c non-profit and all donations are tax deductible

what I want: a reflection

One whole year ago. Where did the time go?

A year ago I was newly engaged, 23-years-old and loved where my life was at. I was comfortable and felt right on track. Then you know what happened the very next day? Not even 24 hours after saying “yes” to my fiancé, a little life came into my life and turned it all upside down again.

A lost momma had given up her 11-month-old baby at our orphanage gate and upon meeting this child I knew my life was forever changed. It took a couple of weeks before she became mine, but the journey to make her mine was the biggest leap of faith I had ever made in my life.

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My mind told me so many lies: you can’t do it, she’s a baby, you’re too busy, you’re planning a wedding, and you already have two boys. But, my heart kept crying, “Yes, you can.” So, we did. My crazy fiancé and I took in an 11-month-old, 8 pound, severely malnourished, AIDS positive, tuberculosis fighting baby.

She’s a miracle and she reminds me that miracles are an everyday thing as long as we have our eyes open to them. She’s also hilarious, a little naughty but a literal bundle of joy. She has the biggest smile and a personality that makes you fall in love with her almost immediately.

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It’s been a year.

But, a year before Wishla came into our lives, Loveson made his debut. He also came out of nowhere, but we fell in love with him instantaneously. Also malnourished and weak, and kind of goofy looking, he had the most contagious spirit.

This past Sunday I watched him graduate preschool (preschool graduation is a very big deal in Haiit!) and I have never been so proud. I really think he has taught me more about life than I have taught him, though. I don’t know what he will grow up to be, but I do know that whatever it will be, it’s going to be incredible and he’s going to make the world a better place.

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So, needless to say I’ve been doing a lot of reflecting of the past two years the last couple of days. I’m blown away that God would trust me with the many roles he has given me, but I have to admit there have been more days where I feel totally inadequate and unqualified than I do feel equipped.

I dreamt of having this very simple, missionary life when I moved to Haiti. I would spend my time playing with village kids, holding babies and learning a new language. Somewhere along the way it became so much more than that, though. The lessons I’ve faced have been far from easy. Figuring out how to do things the right way and not ruin lives in the process has been the hardest part. Realizing that lives will always be at play when poverty is the issue is what makes things difficult.

You can’t stop fighting and working when there are lives at play. Even when I find a new job for someone or put another child in school, there are always more waiting. There will always be someone knocking at the gate. The idea of this becomes daunting and exhausting. Some nights my mind just doesn’t know how to shut off because I either haven’t solved the days’ problems or I worry tomorrow’s problems may be just too much.

But, somehow I keep holding on. Sometimes it seems by just a strand, but for what its worth, I like to believe a strand is just enough to get me by. The pressure of poverty and the worries of tomorrow haven’t stopped me from dreaming any bigger.

In the past year, my dreams came true when I said “I do” to the craziest, most loving man I know on a beach at sunset. He’s my rock and my partner in crime when it comes to solving our problems. I followed my dreams when it didn’t make sense to open up a new business and somehow that is working out for me, too! I never dreamed of being a mom, but putting my three munchkins to bed after another day feels a little like a dream come true, too.

But, at the same time all the dreaming can get in the way. Some days my “to-do” list is longer and more of a priority than my “to-love” list. My days seem to run out before me and the simple things like walking through the garden to see my favorite grandma, or going to visit the donkey man, or visiting a mom with her newborn baby, or getting down and dirty to play soccer with the village kids don’t get done. The hard things seem to trample the beautiful things.

Basically, in a nutshell of a reflection, because my mind can’t seem to figure out what it wants to say and my heart has had a rough couple of days….all I really want is more Jesus. I want a love that is simple and pure. I want more love and to be a forever vessel of that love. I want to be broken day after day, to be exhausted at the end of every day and to be reminded again and again what my purpose is. I want to stop being distracted. I want more justice for the hurting, more freedom for the oppressed, more jobs for the unemployed, more hope for the hopeless. I want light to shine in places where it has never shown before.

I know it’s a far stretch from reality, but really, I just want things to be okay in my corner of the world. I want the man who can’t pay rent and is forced to live on the streets with his three kids to find a job so he can provide for his family. I want the mom who keeps showing up at our gate to find a way to feed her six babies. I want the dad who just used all of his savings for his son’s surgery to find a job so he can have a sense of security again. I don’t want us to be rich, have the nicest things or prettiest clothes, I just want it to be okay.

So, I’m going to keep on dreaming (and working as hard as I can) to make a path for a better tomorrow. It doesn’t have to be the best, just for the better, so people can say they’re okay.

And, I don’t think I will be okay until they’re okay.

Until then,

love from Haiti

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