Thursday, July 13, 2017

Five Years Later

Five years ago, I had the adventure of a lifetime as I journeyed to Haiti for the very first time.

Five years ago, I was looking out an airplane window squealing excitedly because “that’s it!  That’s it!  That’s Haiti!!”

Five years ago, I was walking down a dirt street hand-in-hand with a five-year-old boy.  Dodging motorcycles and soaking in the sights and sounds of Saint Louis du Nord, Haiti.



Five years ago, I was dancing under the stars with Janide, falling in love with something totally new.


Five years ago, I was stumbling sloppily through a language I hardly knew, using a combination of French, English, Creole, charades, and awkward laughter to communicate.

Five years ago, I was exhausted.  I was confused as I wondered if I really could be a long-term missionary.  I was questioning God’s call for my life because living in Haiti was just so hard and I was just so lonely.

Five years ago, I left Haiti with tears streaming down my cheeks, promising my host family, my Haitian friends, and myself that this wasn’t goodbye.  This was just “see you later.”  By the time I got on the plane back to Arizona, I had no doubt in my mind that living in Haiti was my new dream.


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Now, five years later, I’m embarking on a new dream.

Now, I’m packing my bags…and boxes…and crates…and tubs…and anything else I can find.  I’m taking myself and my cat and all of my belongings and moving across the country to start a new job.  A new adventure.  A new life.


Now, I'm saying my goodbyes – which aren’t really goodbyes, because I’ll come back to visit, I promise! – in fluent Creole.  I’m savoring every hand-hold, every hug, every conversation knowing that it may be the last.


Now, I’m wading through the bittersweet transition, the heartbreak, the confusion, the joy, the excitement, the fears, the questions, the uncertainty, and the certainty with courage that only God has given me.  How appropriate that the words God gave me for this year were BE BRAVE.


Now, I’m trusting God with all the details, all the plans, all the moments that I wish could last forever and all the moments that I can’t wait to happen on the other side.  I’m trusting God with my move, my summer, my new home, my new job, and especially my new dream of adoption.  I don’t know where this road will lead me, but as long as God is the One guiding me, I know I have no reason to be afraid.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Duck and Cover

It's official.  Mango season has arrived.  And I couldn't be happier.

Every year for mango season, we try to take our residential kids mango picking.  (I use the word "picking" lightly because it's actually more like a very extravagant Easter egg hunt than anything else.)  Anyway, this was the first year that I had the chance to go.  And what an adventure it was!  Here are a few pictures so that you can feel like you were part of the adventure...or maybe so that I can show off how awesome my life is.  You choose which.

 The hour and a half bus ride there.

Off to find the mango trees.

Trying to cross the giant mud swamp.  Only 4 or 5 kids fell in...

The view.

MANGO TIME!!



I call this one "Duck and cover because someone's up in the mango tree shaking branches and geez those falling mangoes hurt...but only those brave enough to stand under the tree are quick enough to get the mangoes...so just cover your head and hope for the best."

A little tree climbing while we wait for everyone to finish up.


Headed back on the bus. 

Some of us were a little tired...

About 1/10 of today's haul.

The moral of the story?  Be jealous of mango season in Haiti.


Friday, March 24, 2017

Confession: I am discouraged

I almost didn't post this blog.  I almost decided it was better to hide behind the cute pictures and happy smiles and "everything's great when you're a missionary" facade.  But then I decided that there's nothing more beautiful than being real and honest and broken.  So here's the blog post I almost didn't publish...

..................................................................

If you look at my Facebook page, you'll see pictures of cute kids with big smiles and a happy teacher.  You'll see crafts and Bible verses, cupcakes and dance routines.  You'll see a whole lot of happy.

And all of that is true.

But what you see on Facebook is only 5% of my reality...and usually the best 5%.  What you don't see are the late nights I spend on my knees begging God for direction and not understanding why I can't hear His voice.  You don't see the fears and the heartache and the questions and the doubt.  You don't see the tears that make me human or the heart that makes me real.

So here I am - just me and my heart and a whole lot of messy honesty.  Because the truth is that right now, I am discouraged.

I'm discouraged because God has given me a vision.  It's an amazing vision, but a vision that not everyone shares.

I'm discouraged because I feel forgotten.  Because texts, phone calls, emails, and Skype dates are few and far between.  Because after three years, no one bothers to send cards or care packages anymore.

I'm discouraged because saying hello to something new means saying goodbye to something I love.  And I simply don't want to do that.

I'm discouraged because I don't feel brave or strong or inspiring or any of the other things I want for myself.

I'm discouraged because words of encouragement are scarce and I wonder if it's because I'm doing something wrong.

I'm discouraged because even though I haven't lived with depression for a very long time, there are days it still tugs at the corner of mind, trying to get back in.

I'm.  Just.  Discouraged.

And I hesitate to tell you all of this because I don't want you to think I'm complaining.  I don't want you to think I don't love my life.  I don't want you to think I can't handle everything God has blessed me with.

But I tell you it anyway because I want you to know that I'm human.  That I'm real.  That being a "missionary" doesn't make me a superhero.  And it certainly doesn't keep me from getting discouraged.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

International Women's Day - What I Want My Girls To Know

Today is International Women’s Day – a chance to celebrate women.  As I have been reflecting on this topic which I am so passionate about, I have been thinking about what I want to teach my female students about what it means to be a woman.  Because underneath the curly hair and school day ribbons, the blue uniforms, dirt-streaked faces, and skinned up knees, these five-year-olds are women.  And I want them to learn what that means.


I want my girls to know that they deserve respect.  That nobody has the right to treat them disrespectfully for any reason, including their gender.

I want my girls to know that they are strong and that strength has nothing to do with muscles.  Strength is standing up for what is right.  It’s loving completely.  It’s doing hard things.  It’s getting knocked down, standing up, brushing off the dust, and going back for round two.

I want my girls to know that there is hope.  Life is hard, particularly the life of poverty they have been born into.  But there is hope in the midst of it and there is also hope for a better future.

I want my girls to know that they are never alone.  That they will always have teachers, parents, siblings, and friends on their side.  Most importantly, they have a God who will never leave them or forsake them.

I want my girls to know that they can change the world.  Their stories, their opinions, and their voices matter, and if used properly, they can change the world for the better.

I want my girls to know that they can impact someone’s life.  Their struggles and hardships, their victories and triumphs.  By sharing these with others, they can have a lasting impact on another person.

I want my girls to know that they are beautiful, inside and out.  Their hearts, souls, and minds are beautiful.  Their skin, hair, and faces are beautiful.  Every inch of them is imprinted with the beauty of their Creator.

I want my girls to know that they are valued and loved.  No matter who they are, where they’ve been, or what they’ve done, they will ALWAYS be valued and loved beyond what they can possibly imagine.  There is a God in heaven who could never love them more or less than he does right now.

To be a woman is to deserve respect, to be strong, to have hope, to never be alone, to have the power to change the world and impact someone’s life, to be beautiful and valued and loved.


I celebrate International Women’s Day because I celebrate women and what it means to be a strong, beautiful woman.

Saturday, March 4, 2017

National Eating Disorder Awareness Week

For the past two years, I have had the privilege of using my blog to share my story for National Eating Disorder Awareness Week.  This year, rather than doing daily blogs, I decided to do daily videos.  If you missed seeing them on Facebook, you can check them out below!

Introduction - This video talks about why EVERYONE needs to be aware of eating disorders.  Yes, everyone includes YOU.  (You over there who thinks you aren't affected by eating disorders, I'm talking to you!)  Click here to watch.

Day 1 - This video discusses the most dangerous myth about eating disorders.  Click here to watch.

Day 2 - On day 2, I talked about hidden warning signs that aren't as obvious as we pretend they are.  Click here to watch.

Day 3 - What would it be like if we actually LOVED our bodies?  This video comes with a challenge to reconsider the way you think about and talk about your body.  Click here to watch.

Day 4 - A deeply personal but extremely important video about the role that exercise and self-harm play in eating disorders.  Click here to watch.

Day 5 - This video talks about the fact that recovery is possible, but it isn't one-size-fits-all.  These are some common barriers to recovery and how they can be overcome.  Click here to watch.

Day 6 - I have been told that a person never fully recovers from an eating disorder.  This is a MYTH!  Watch this video to hear about full recovery and COMPLETE freedom.  Click here to watch.

Day 7 - None of these videos matter if you don't walk away changed.  Here is a challenge for changing the way you think about, talk about, and interact with eating disorders.  Click here to watch.

To everyone who has supported me through NEDA week, to everyone who watched, commented, liked, and shared, to everyone who took the time to look at eating disorders with fresh eyes: THANK YOU.  I couldn't have done it without you.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Lamou se fòs ki pi fò nan mond lan. (Love is the most powerful force on the planet.)

 

These words were penned by Jamie Tworkowski, founder of the non-profit organization To Write Love on Her Arms.  Today, a day set aside to honor and celebrate love, I can’t think of any truer words. 

Love is the most powerful force on the planet.


What if we lived like these words were true?  What if in politics, relationships, orphan care, and every other area of life, we embraced the power of love?  What if we allowed it to transform how we treat people?  What if we allowed it to transform how we treat ourselves?

From before time began, God has been proof that love is everything.

From the moment He created mankind in His own image, God has shown us that love is everything.

From the day you were born, God has spent every day teaching you that love is everything.

When Jesus came to earth, lived a life of unconditional love, and died on the cross, He gave us the perfect example of the fact that love is everything.

God’s love is eternal.  Infinite.  Unconditional.  Perfect.  Strong.  And powerful.  As a matter of fact, it’s the most powerful force on the planet. 

How do we live love in our classroom?

We live love when we help each other understand hard concepts.
 

We live love when we apologize through tears of remorse and when we forgive with ease.

We live love with acts of kindness.

We live love when we pray for others – when we pray for America, Haiti, hurricane victims, and Anna’s baby brother who has been in the hospital for a month.

We live love when we proclaim affirmations over ourselves every morning (self-love is an often-overlooked, but extremely important aspect of love.)
 

We live love every day because God is love and we are His and therefore His love is in us and through us and among us.  The bottom line is: we are called to love.  To love God.  To love others.  To love ourselves.  To love as eternally and infinitely and unconditionally as we are capable of.  To love completely and imperfectly.  To just love.


Happy Valentine’s Day.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Three years. A prayer for moments and calling and suffering.

Today, as I celebrate three years of life and ministry in Haiti, I am reflecting on all the reasons I love this amazing country.

I love this country because I love…

...the moments.
The raw moments.  Kneeling in the middle of the dirt road, a half-clothes Synthia clinging to me as if I’ve been gone for a lifetime rather than just the summer.  Synthia’s sweaty, sticky skin clinging to me as she refuses to let go.
The real moments.  Shama crying for me to be the one to feed her when I come to visit her family at lunch time.  Shama falling asleep in my arms between bites of bilga and rice, her sleepy head lolling onto my shoulder.
The rich moments.  Twenty hands coming together to help me move classrooms at the beginning of the school year.  An endless chorus of “what else do you need?” making it wonderfully impossible for me to finish my own projects.
The rewarding moments.  Nikka’s eyes lighting up when she understands something new.  Isabelle’s smile showing hope for the first time in months.  Lina and Amos seeing me from across the yard and sprinting to me, arms high, desperate to tell me they missed me over the weekend.

...the calling.
To be called, to know beyond any shadow of a doubt that you are exactly where God wants you to be, to feel at peace with your life and your work and the place you call home.  To belong to something bigger than you.  It’s an amazing feeling.

...the suffering.
No, I do not love that people suffer.  But life is suffering and not engaging with suffering doesn’t make it any less real.  I have found that being in the middle of it, sharing the heavy burden, telling orphans they are not alone, letting the suffering surround you and leaning into it and being a part of it…there’s power in thatThere is something beautiful and magical and painfully difficult but infinitely worth it in just being a part of the suffering.  Reaching into the lives of others.  Sharing your pain and letting others share their tears.  Being there when Anna needs to cry herself to sleep, when Louis needs to scream and yell because life hasn’t been kind to him in his 7 years here on earth, when Isabelle needs to be reminded that she is loved, even when she feels lost and abandoned and unheard and unlovable.
Suffering exists.  I am blessed to be a part of God’s hope in the midst of it.


The past three years have been amazing. I have lived fully, loved completely, laughed hysterically, and ached deeply.  I have learned to trust God in ways I never knew possible…a lesson I’m still learning today.  I pray that my future is rich with moments and calling and suffering, wherever God leads.