SUGAR CANE


Bugoba Village, Uganda

BATTERIES AND BABIES






I’m sitting here trying to write an update about what we are experiencing in Haiti as a family, and as an organization. It’s hard to process as an individual sometimes….so, there are many days when I am overcome with a loss of words to adequately describe what we face here in Haiti. Anyone that knows me in real life knows I am not a woman that is short on words and stories often. There are times when I turn to laughter and joking as a means to cope with the harsh realities that I find myself surrounded by. And even now, I am unable to conjure up a joke to satisfy my ache, my process.



I need you to understand that this doesn’t mean that I am unwell. It doesn’t mean that I am depressed or that I am unable to survive another day. It means that I am so deep in wonder and thought that it is hard to find words that do justice to the brutal world in which we have been called to serve. And yet, I count it as pure joy. I count as pure joy the suffering my heart must endure to be a voice for those without one, the pain that my soul must count as its own to be a mouthpiece for the cries of the poor that aren’t heard, that are many times ignored. I choose to not relent in my pursuit of mercy, generosity & justice. One situation & one life at a time.



In the last few weeks we have had a man come to our gate with an infection that started out as a minor puncture wound, that has overtaken his leg to the point of mass infection. How he was able to walk was beyond me and revealed what a lightweight I am, sitting here with my dripping nose and roll of (non quilted northern) toilet paper to wipe it away.  We’ve had a one week old precious baby girl that we dearly love fighting for her life because of things that are 100% preventable with education and resources.  We’ve had the batteries that give our own house power fail and we are spending more money to keep our power on with our generator than we have in our budget. If we don't have power, we can't pump water. That means no cold showers. No toilets. No power means no refrigerator, no fans, no computers to do Upstream work or homeschool work. These are things we simply didn't have to think about in our Wisconsin home. City power here is unreliable at best. We get a few hours of it a day when we are lucky. The time of day? We never know. The rest is solar and batteries with a generator to back it all up. Our generator budget will soon run out and we will be (mostly) powerless like our neighbors. Except for us, we have American friends backing us. We have support. We won’t be without power for too terribly long. We’ve had a neighbor, that we call friend, come to us with a cut in her eye, and I was thankful that a few weeks before moving to Haiti I had tiny holes in my own eyes that needed medication. A medication that I had leftovers of that could heal my neighbor’s wounds. The same woman would get word about my dripping nose and moments later be at my gate with a bag full of citrus fruit to make me a drink that will SURELY cure my sniffles and sneezes. This community, this family in Haiti…they daily teach me about fight, about priorities, about love and about sacrifice. They also humble me on the topic of strength of faith.



I find myself pondering how we can spend money on batteries and making our vehicle work better for the long run, in a country where babies will die if they don’t get food, if they don’t get medicine. I know that these trivial things are part of life, and I have to remind myself to trust God for even the things that have little or no meaning to those outside of my gated compound. Because they….they are fighting for their lives out there.



Our needs as a family and as an organization are plentiful, and I am thankful that God knows. I am also thankful that we have generous supporters in our corner. We couldn’t do what we do without all of you.



Thank you from the bottom of our hearts for believing in us, for loving us, and for being generous with us and the people we love and serve.

I pray that you don't grow weary hearing about the many things we face here. I pray that my words don't come off as condemnation, but as encouragement to seek out your own call. Your own yes's. I pray that as we submit ourselves moment by moment that you would be inspired to do the same. Not everyone is asked to move to Haiti. Not everyone is asked to start an organization. Not everyone is asked to do the things we are blessed and humbled to do. But, everyone is called to live WITH and ON purpose. Find the yes's around you. Listen to the voice in your gut that tells you to say no to that thing you don't need, to say yes to the neighbor that needs you to pray AND pick up groceries, the man at the desk next to yours that needs to be encouraged, the "nerd" at school that needs to be invited to your table, the single pregnant woman the needs you to be FULLY pro-life before she goes to the abortion clinic. Welcome her into your own life. Be pro-HER-life so that she can be PRO-her-babies'-life.  There are many things in our midst that we can say YES to. Ask God to reveal them to you. I assure you that He will.  He has answered those prayers of ours ABUNDANTLY.



 






THE HIGH COST


I knew when we decided to move our family of 10 to Haiti that there would be a cost. 

What I didn't account for was the exchange rate. The price gouge. The inflation.

I knew that I would miss my people. I knew that my kids would have to sacrifice football games and dances, sleepovers and late night talks with their friends. I knew that it would cost us, and cost them.

What I didn't account for was that friends would forget about us and about them, relationships would fragment and break away, and that there would be loss that cuts so deep you can hardly breathe.

I knew that I would hold starving children and weep over the injustice of it all. I knew that I would look into the eyes and souls of broken mothers and helpless fathers. I knew that I would hear gunshots in the distance from the comfort of my bed and that I would see streets riddled with trash to levels I can't describe with words. 

What I didn't account for was that I would hold a 27 year old woman in my arms just like I hold my 6 year old son, and that she would wail in my embrace and call out for her own mother... and that she would tell me over and over again that she loved me. A stranger, and yet, in those moments her closest confidant. She would cry about how her kids couldn't go to school and that she was dying. She would cry out ache that I have never known. She was frail and she was losing life. She laid in the middle of the floor and as I lifted her with the other women in a similar state and carried her to her bed, I couldn't help but wonder where God's people were. How it could be that I was alone there.

I knew that Joe and I would see the enemy attack. 

What I didn't account for was the never ending onslaught of illness, agony and ache. I didn't know that a place we love so much could cause so much devastation to our hearts and lives.

I knew that we would find out who our real people were. 

What I didn't account for was that there would be so few of them. 

I knew that we would wonder how we could go on another day. 

What I didn't account for was that our children would pile up together on my bed and weep over the brokenness of one of their own. That we would lay hands and pray over the ache and that even our dogs would know that now was the time to come together. Now was the time to lay it all at the feet of Jesus.

I knew that Joe would need to go back to the States while we lived here.

What I didn't account for was that while he was away I would have Zika (or chikungunya, or some other stupid crazy thing) and that my body would feel pain it hasn't felt before. That my toes to my head would be in a vice grip and that it would feel like satan himself was trying to squeeze the life out of me. 

What I didn't account for was that the loss that one of my children would go through would hurt more than any aching joint would ever begin to hurt, and that I would have to brave the loss with my best friend thousands of miles away. I didn't account for how much I would need Joe near. I didn't account for how many tears I had inside of me.

I knew that I would have my heart broken time and time again in this place. 

I knew that God would know it in advance and that HE would make a way for the pain to turn to peace. That HE would make a way for the mourning to be counted as pure joy. That HE would take the things that have ruined my life, our lives, in the most heart-wrenching and beautiful ways and turn them into our good and His glory. 

What I don't know is what the future holds for us in this place. What I don't know is what ache we will face tomorrow, what loss is on the horizon, what pain will overtake our hearts and send us further into the arms of Jesus........

What I am accounting for is that God will show Himself good, that He will show Himself strong, that He will show Himself mighty to save and victorious in ALL things we will face.

What I am accounting for is....

Only God.  


GIVE ME EYES TO SEA


We've been living in Haiti for a little over a week now. There are moments when I look at my children as we drive through the sea of people and can't believe that they are here. Beside me. Journeying through this with me. It's a gift and it's a curse. The complexities of this tiny island nation are more vast than I will ever be able to convey with my feeble words. How you can go from one moment dodging dangerous road blocks to the next when you are sitting at one of the most striking places that God EVER created will, hopefully, always be beyond me. How can it be that right outside of one of your homes are more choices than you'll be able to make in a lifetime...and outside of the barbed-wire walls and gate of your other home people are literally starving to death?

We spent today at the beach right down the road from where people lost their lives last night as roads were blocked for most of the day. Countless people were barricaded from going where they needed to go. Explaining why is more than I can do and more than I even understand. While we were there, Kalista brought me a hand of sea glass and I couldn't help but to ponder it.

The source of its very existence is brokenness. 

No one sees where it originated. How and why it landed in a place to be refined by the waves is a mystery all its own. 

All that is seen is the finality of it's refinement. Not knowing how long it would take to get into the hands of someone that would appreciate all it had gone through...  this part of it's journey ends at the edge of the vast waters. It lies at the shoreline with hopefulness glimmering. It's chock-full of beautiful brokenness. It's picked up and cherished. Is it admired for what it has gone through to become so captivating? The one looking upon it can't fathom what it took to get where it did. Isn't it such with life?  

The people here have struggled and continue to struggle in ways that I have never and will never know. I can't begin to relate to the broken places that exist in their hearts and minds. The loss they have suffered, and the oppression endured by an entire population is beyond the scope of my life experiences. The injustice of it all is overwhelming to my finite mind.

And yet, the thing that stands out to me the most is the same glimmer of sea glass in their eyes. Brokenness refined into thankfulness. Joy. Hope. Beauty. Oh, the beauty...it can't begin to be quantified. James 1:2-4 comes alive here. "Consider it PURE JOY when you face trials of many kinds. Because you KNOW that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish it's work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.

As we travel about in the sea of brokenness around us, I pray I never forget to find the glass. I don't want to miss it. I want to see the beauty, yes, but I also want to remember the pain and suffering.


Jesus, give me eyes to SEA.

SOMETIMES


You start typing and you erase it. You do the same thing again.....

And again.

And again. 

Because, sometimes, words aren't enough. 

I can't even begin to write out all of the things that are hurricaning through my brain. I am  fighting with everything in me to not be taken over by thoughts of every kind. I am choosing to take as many thoughts captive as I can and thanking God for the grace He gives me when I let one or two (or ten) slip by.

This time tomorrow we will be in our new home..


(We are all currently feeling all of the feelings. )


I'm choosing to focus on PRAISE.

Thank you, God, for...

Getting us here.
Giving us this opportunity.
Using us.
Loving us.
Dying for us.
Choosing us. 
Giving us abundant life.
Calling us.
Equipping us each day to do your will.
Guiding us.
Trusting us in spite of us.
Speaking to us.
 
Giving us grace in this beautiful chaos.

Jesus. Thank you for Jesus. 

So, onward we go into the unknown. Trusting in THE ONE who said "WHO will go?"

Send us, Lord. Send US. 



ON KEEPING YOUR EYES ABOVE THE WAVES


Friends,

It's much easier said than done. To be honest, it feels like I'm underneath the waves with my eyes barely peeking through the surface. Sometimes I can't see the clouds and I sure can't see the land ahead. I feel the water haunting & taunting me. It's splashing into my eyes and the expanse of it threatens my comfort and reveals the depth and totality of my humanity. I'm blinking as fast as I can and I am wide-eyed trying to fight it off. At times my tears are the offender enabling the flood that I feel like I'm bound to drown in. 

I know ALL of the cliche' things and I know all of the truths. None of them mean that being led to and through border-less faith is an easy feat. Or a fully welcomed one in particular seasons. In 39 days our family is setting off to journey into the unknown. Except, much of it is known. Despair, stress, suffering, heartache, fear & brokenness, constantly watching for danger, REPEAT. There are days I wish that we were naively walking into our move to Haiti. And yet, I know that is not any better. 

I've cried all of the tears that are left in me. While I KNOW that HE has them in bottles and that all of my sorrows are counted....I don't want Him to have any more bottles on my behalf. I certainly don't want Him to have any of my children's. And yet, even as I say what is in my mind right now, I know that there is beauty to come in the midst of it. I know that I am to count it as PURE JOY. I know that what it will produce is a stripping down of the muck and a replacement with what is most needed. More of Him, less of me.

Jumping into the great darkness isn't something that we are unfamiliar with. As I look back at our life together (over the last 16.5 years) I see how God has clearly prepared for us (in advance) to do this. It doesn't mean I WANT to do it this time.

Haiti is dangerous.

Haiti is dark.

Haiti is overwhelming.

Haiti is also incredibly beautiful. AND, the people that we love, even those we will meet here on earth and someday in Heaven, are worth it all. Even if I don't want them to be. There are times I wish we could go back to our BH days. ("BH=BEFORE HAITI and AH=AFTER HAITI"  are times that have marked us in the here and now, AND eternally.) BH were the days when my worries were free of injustices. When my fears were surface and my walking out this great faith was hardly risky at all.

God has shown Himself faithful and strong in our journey. And yet, I sit here wondering how in HEAVEN and on EARTH He is going to pull this one off. 

We don't have plane tickets.
We don't have a vehicle in Haiti.
We don't have schooling materials OR someone to help me teach and love on my babies when I need five minutes to cry or an hour to work. 
We don't have prescriptions we need or medical and evacuation insurance.
We don't have all of our vaccines.
We don't have extra money. 

The list drags on. 

(I know, I know BUT GOD. )

39 days.

38 is mocking me in the not-so-distant horizon. It's waiting and ready to steal another day from me. 

My thoughts can get caught up here. I seem to run out of gas in this neighborhood more often lately than in the neighborhood of the Spirit-filled trees. 

It's just where I'm at. And I'm not a liar. So, here is the awfully dirty truth.

Sincerely,

The one that is THANKFUL that the Spirit intercedes for me & helps me in my weakness. That when I don't know what to even pray for anymore the Spirit himself intercedes for me with groanings too deep for words. (Even when the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. Which is what got us into this beautiful chaotic mess in the first place. )

TEN WAYS YOU CAN GIVE {EVERYDAY}

 
Today is GIVING TUESDAY, in case you didn't hear! It's a day (The Tuesday after Thanksgiving & the ever notorious Black Friday (in which humanity tends to show her greed in full force)) that people are supposed to band together and give to causes across the globe. It really is a beautiful thing.....at the same time, I happen to think that deep and lasting change happens from giving more frequently than once a year. Giving more than finances. It also seems to happen way closer to home. It begins in our own hearts. In the way we live our lives. 

Here are ten practical ways that YOU can give EVERY SINGLE DAY. 

ONE.
ENCOURAGE SOMEONE TODAY. Tell someone you care about how and why you value them. Compliment a stranger. Write a note to a coworker, boss, friend, or family member and tell them what they mean to you. Don't be critical. Find the good and call it out in people. Remind someone that they are worth loving.

TWO.
SERVE SOMEONE TODAY. Open a door for someone. Bake some cookies for a friend or neighbor. Do your teenager's laundry...even though it's their job. Scrape the ice off of someone else's window. Cut the neighbor's grass (mine does this and it BLESSES me big time!!). Volunteer at a homeless shelter or food pantry. Just DO something for someone else.

THREE.
SMILE AT SOMEONE. This should be self-explanatory....but in the event it's not...I'll explain it. Your mouth does this really cool thing when you lift your cheeks and pull them back. It's called a smile. It can brighten up the darkest of days. You never know how this simple gesture can make a difference in someone's day. Make smiling your favorite.   

FOUR.
SAVE MONEY YOU WERE GOING TO SPEND & GIVE IT TO SOMEONE ELSE. Skip a latte, a fast food run, another pair of shoes that you don't need. Give that money to someone in need. There are many amazing organizations out there doing good DAILY. There are people in your own life that need a helping hand. So, save what you would spend on something you don't need & spend it on something LASTING. 

FIVE.
LISTEN TO SOMEONE. Having someone take the time to know WHO you are, and to CARE about what is going on in your world is one of the greatest gifts. To know that you are worth someone's time in this ultra busy world is a treasure. Be a listener.

SIX.
APOLOGIZE TO SOMEONE. Let's face it...sometimes we can be REAL idiots. So, my guess is that you've messed up at least once today. I know I for sure have. So, make it right on your end. Apologize and ask for forgiveness. Then, don't do it again. (And if you fail at that, too...well, you'll be thankful for #7)

SEVEN.
FORGIVE SOMEONE. Maybe even yourself. In this world there WILL be trials. In this life we WILL mess up. Sometimes big time. People will hurt us. We will hurt people. Forgive others. Forgive yourself. 

EIGHT.
MOVE FOR SOMEONE. Offer the better seat to someone else. Don't ignore the guy with his blinker on trying to get in your lane. Let someone behind you go in front of you in line. Change your plans to be there for someone in need. Rearrange your day to be a blessing to someone else. 

 NINE.
THINK ABOUT SOMEONE ELSE. Think of others before yourself. Think before you speak. Think of how your actions & decisions will affect those around you. Think about how your words will impact the heart of the person you're talking to OR about.

TEN.
BE THE CHANGE YOU WANT TO SEE IN THE WORLD.

Be kind. Be loving. Be thoughtful. Be humble. Be loyal. Be forgiving. Be merciful. Be honest. This world is full of heartache....be someone that seeks to be a DIFFERENCE-MAKER. Change and be THE change. 

PRAYERS FOR MY CHILDREN (& YOURS)


I pray that you live to your FULL potential. That you would GO where you feel led. That you would SHINE BRIGHT in a dark and hurting world. I pray that you would EMBRACE your calling and that you would give your FULL HEART to everything you do. My hope is that you would LEAD others to SHINE and that you would be a BLESSING beyond anything you could IMAGINE. I pray that you would CARE more about PEOPLE than pleasures, more about OTHERS than obstacles, more about GIVING than getting. I pray that you would be BOLD in FAITH and that your HOPE would be found in HEAVEN and not here. I pray that you would cause CHANGE wherever your feet step. I pray that you would GIVE as if your earthly life depended on it. Because it does. A giving life is something you will NEVER regret.  I pray that you would LOVE bigger each day, and that each day you feel even more loved than you did the day before. I pray that as you walk in COURAGE that you would be blown away by all that you are able to accomplish. I pray that you would have humble GRATITUDE for EVERYTHING in your life. The good, the bad, the dirty, the ugly. I pray that you would BE exactly who YOU were CREATED to BE. My hope for you is that who YOU are wouldn't be based on who anyone else is. That you would be your TRUEST you and that in being YOU, you would cause a RIPPLE EFFECT for GENERATIONS to come. I pray that you would MOVE bigger mountains than I ever do or ever dream to. I pray that you would walk this life in FAITHFULNESS...because, that is your most HONEST IMPACT. I pray that DAILY you would discover more and more about your PURPOSE and that you would walk CONFIDENTLY in it. My truest hope and deepest prayer is that as you CONQUER this life.....that you would know that in EVERY fear, EVERY failure, EVERY victory, EVERY hope, EVERY dream, EVERY heartbreak and in EVERY ounce of JOY that JESUS has been and FOREVER will be there. I pray that you would seek HIM with your WHOLE heart, with your WHOLE mind, with your EVERY breath and with EVERYTHING that is in you. I pray that on your DARKEST of days you will find IN YOU faith even as small as a mustard seed and that you will pray humbly to the God that created you. I pray that you will KNOW THAT YOU KNOW THAT YOU KNOW that you are purchased and PRIZED. I pray that the truth of that never rests anything less than HEAVY on your heart and that you will live a life worth living because of it. 


 I love you, precious ones. Tons of billions of infinities. 

BEAUTIFUL CHAOTIC

 

beau·ti·ful
ˈbyo͞odəfəl/
adjective
adjective: beautiful
  1. pleasing the senses or mind aesthetically.

    "beautiful poetry"
    synonyms:attractive, pretty, handsome, good-looking, alluring, prepossessing; More
    ravishing, gorgeous, stunning, arresting, glamorous, bewitching, beguiling;
    informaldivine, drop-dead gorgeous, easy on the eye, killer, cute, foxy;
    formalbeauteous;
    archaiccomely, fair

    "beautiful fashion models"
    antonyms:ugly
    • of a very high standard; excellent.

      "the house had been left in beautiful order"



cha·ot·ic
kāˈädik/
adjective
adjective: chaotic
  1. in a state of complete confusion and disorder.

    "a chaotic jumble of spools, tapes, and books"
    synonyms:disorderly, disordered, in disorder, in chaos, in disarray, disorganized, topsy-turvy, in pandemonium, in turmoil, in an uproar; More
    in a muddle, in a mess, messy, in a shambles;

    "the whole town was chaotic"
    • Physics
      of or relating to systems that exhibit chaos.