Friday, November 25, 2016

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.


 





Sunday, October 30, 2016

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.  


Saturday, September 3, 2016

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.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

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. 



Wednesday, June 29, 2016

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. )

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

ABOUT PLUNGERS AND PUBLIC BATHROOMS {and bigger fish to fry}

I love Jesus. I'm a Christian. I'm a pastor's wife. I'm a mother to 8. 

Guess what? I don't care who I share public bathrooms with. Guess why? THEY ARE PUBLIC. Guess what else? Even if they weren't...I STILL wouldn't care.  If a transgender person wanted to use my PRIVATE bathroom IN MY HOUSE....I would let them. Guess why? BECAUSE THAT IS WHAT JESUS WOULD DO. Guess what else? If they clogged the toilet....HE WOULD PLUNGE IT, too. I know this because I plunge the toilet at my house a LOT and it is PURE JESUS in me doing it. (I'm still working on the grace and mercy WHILE doing it thing. Don't judge.)


Here is where I get just plain CONFUSED....I mean, 








  •  153 MILLION ORPHANS IN THE WORLD
  • 600,000-800,000 PERSONS TRAFFICKED EACH YEAR ACROSS INTERNATIONAL BORDERS
  • 20-30 MILLION SLAVES IN THE WORLD
  • 805 MILLION PEOPLE ARE MALNOURISHED AROUND THE GLOBE
  • 1 IN 15 CHILDREN IN DEVELOPING COUNTRIES DIES BEFORE THE AGE OF 5 (MOSTLY RELATED TO HUNGER)
  • AN ESTIMATED 250 MILLION CHILDREN AGES 5 TO 14 ARE FORCED TO WORK IN SWEATSHOPS IN DEVELOPING COUNTRIES (THINK ALMOST EVERYTHING YOU BUY AT TARGET.)
  • AT LEAST 245 MILLION WOMEN AROUND THE WORLD HAVE BEEN WIDOWED AND MORE THAN 115 MILLION OF THEM LIVE IN DEVASTATING POVERTY 
  • OVER 400,540 CHILDREN ARE LIVING IN FOSTER CARE IN THE UNITED STATES
  • 32,658 PEOPLE WERE KILLED IN TERROR ATTACKS IN 2014 ALONE
  • THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA WASTES AN AVERAGE OF 70 BILLION DOLLARS OF FOOD EACH YEAR 
  • THERE ARE 125,000 ABORTIONS PERFORMED DAILY WORLDWIDE


BUT TELL ME AGAIN WHY BOYCOTTING TARGET AND NOT BAKING CAKES "FOR THE GAYS" ARE THE BIGGEST THINGS I'VE HEARD ABOUT FROM CHRISTIANS LATELY?


 




Monday, December 21, 2015

FOR THE NEXT FIFTEEN {to my Joey}


Yesterday was a BIG day! I wanted to savor every minute of it, and I did. (Which is why I'm writing this TODAY!) It was a beautiful Sunday before Christmas. Gospel turned 7 AND we celebrated FIFTEEN YEARS of marriage. I can hardly believe that I get to do life with you. There isn't a day that goes by that I don't ponder how thankful I am that God chose YOU to be MINE. I see Christ DAILY in & through your life. Through the way you seek hard after Jesus, the way your eyes twinkle and joy seems to break forth when you look at me, the way you treasure me, the way you light up when our kids bring you hand-crafted Lego creatures & carefully thought out notes of love and admiration, & through the way you parent our precious ones. I see Jesus in the way you give mercy and grace to the people you encounter, in how you listen to and love others, & in the ways you continually sacrifice yourself. I also see Jesus so evidently in the redemption I have seen played out BEAUTIFULLY in our midst over the last 15 years. 

When we met we were lost, broken and living our lives in darkness. It didn't seem to matter to either of us that we were individually hell bent on destruction. In one evening our lives were FOREVER changed. The day our eyes met in that bar on Third Street will be a day that God marked for HIS Kingdom and HIS purposes. It's hard to believe that we were those people. The ways in which God has redeemed our lives are more than I could ever quantify with words. I won't even attempt it.  I think back to those days and find myself unable to believe that was us. That we've made it this far. If you would've told me all of those years ago that we would have EIGHT incredible children, that our lives would be lives lived for others first, that we would have deep friendship and that our faith and submission (to whatever CRAZY thing God asks of us) would produce the type of love, compassion and grit that oozes from the depths of us, I wouldn't have believed it. I am humbled. I am grateful.

As I look to the future I have some prayers, hopes and dreams for the next fifteen. Here are a few......

I pray that the next fifteen would be filled with an even deeper love. I pray that the love we have for Jesus, for each other, for our children and for the world around us would grow roots so deep that nothing that comes against us would be able to hinder it. I pray that our love would be evident in the way that we parent, do marriage, do friendship, do everything. I pray that our love would penetrate evil and that it would light up even the darkest of days. 

I pray that in the next fifteen our faith would cause us to do even crazier things. I pray that we wouldn't ever become complacent. My hope is that our faith would be so loud (without words) that we would have lasting impact everywhere we walk. I pray that we would be bold in our decisions and the way we lead our family. My hope is that the faith we share individually and as a couple would be used in the Kingdom in ways we can't even begin to fathom. I pray that we would be brave. That as the world continues to spiral into the depths of despair that we would be a lighthouse. My hope is that we would live lives that are about others and not ourselves. I pray that we would have our eyes fixed on Jesus and that we would remain faithful to him and to each other.

I pray the next fifteen are filled with abundant peace & joy. My heartfelt hope is that no matter what the years will bring, we will be filled with joy, hope & peace as we navigate the storms of life. I pray that we will be a family that holds fast and holds furious. I pray that we would be bound together with ties that cannot be broken by ANYTHING.

For the next fifteen I look forward to more....
SNUGGLING, LOVING, KINDNESS, SANCTIFYING, GIVING, BELIEVING, HOPING, TRUSTING, STEPPING-OUT BOLDLY, HUGGING, KISSING, DANCING, WORSHIPING, HAND-HOLDING, SINGING OUT LOUD, BOLD PRAYERS and BOLD MOVES, GRACE AND MERCY, FORGIVENESS and UNDERSTANDING, DATE NIGHTS and LOVE-MAKING ( I know that you love that I added that one in there!).......

Most of all.....

I pray for fifteen more with YOU.......

Joey, I love you more than I could ever begin to express with words on a page. I am humbled to call you my husband and I am filled with tears when I think of the many ways you enrich my life. You teach me daily, you forgive me frequently, you inspire me to be more and more like Jesus, you model Christ to me in ways that I will never be able to thank you enough for. I pray that I would be even a fraction of the wife that you deserve and are worth. I pray that I would never stop striving to be your better half and that I would make you happy every day for the next fifteen and forever.

I love you...TONS OF BILLIONS OF INFINITIES. 

Thank you for being my better half.