Thursday, March 31, 2011

Just the Gift we Needed


Venette walked out on the crowded porch holding her new baby.  The women waiting for prenatals to start took one look and squealed.  "Venette!  You had your baby!"

They stood rejoicing with their friend over this precious new life.

Venette came to the maternity center in labor.  She arrived on the back of a motorcycle.  She was already at a 10.  She had a safe, healthy delivery.  We're so thankful.

I keep staring at this photo.  It makes my eyes fill up with tears.  Venette's birth was non-eventful.  We love Venette, and are thankful her birth was perfect and beautiful.  We're all so weary of one big sad mess after another lately.  Those of us working at Heartline today prayed before things got rolling.  We always do that.  This was one of those prayer times that found us crying and snotting...trying to find the words to pray, but mostly thanking God that he understands and makes sense of the groans and the tears.  Cries.  Words.  Snot.  Tears.  A room full of women begging God for mercy, healing, and grace...and thanking Him that He is strong when we're spent...done...and weak.

Seeing Venette holding her baby today felt like salve on a wound.  Salve on a wound?  Congratulations.  I'm officially 90 years old.  Okay it was more like eating ice cream after a long jog in the Texas sun.

These women.  Their babies.  They have stolen our hearts.

After you finish staring at those beautiful smiles in that photo and letting the gift of a normal birth sink into your soul, can we talk about how incredible these women are?

Let me know when you're ready.

Now?  Oh good.  I can hardly hold it in.

Venette rode on the back of a motorcycle for miles down Haiti's joke of a road system while she was in hard labor.  She was at a 10!  Let's marvel.  Selah.  Stop and think on that for a moment.  Can you imagine?

Some of Aaron's worst memories are of taking his wife to the hospital in early labor.  On our smooth, American rodes, in our air-conditioned, comfortable car let's just say I was a total **bleep** all the way (all five miles) to the hospital.

These women.  Oh these women.  Have they stolen your heart too?

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Some Days Simply Suck


Yesterday was one of those days.  As Tara recently wrote, it's been kind of discouraging lately at Heartline.  There have been several complicated deliveries right in a row.  Most ended in c-sections.  Some were stressful emergencies.  It seems as though adrenaline and heartache have been constant companions as of late.

I've recently started to officially study to become a midwife.  It's interesting that in the beginning of both books I've read, the first chapter is all about the women a midwife should not accept as patients.  The midwifery books do a wonderful job of detailing which women make healthy patients and which ones are too risky to try and deliver at home without emergency, medical equipment and specialists available.


When I read the descriptions of "who not to deliver" in the medical books it's glaringly obvious how high risk every single pregnancy is that we deal with at Heartline.  Our patients are malnourished, severely anemic, some have STD's, and most battle dehydration every single day.  The majority of our ladies do not have anyone supporting them.  No husband.  No boyfriend.  No family that cares.  High risk.  Each one of them is dealing with a high risk pregnancy. 


We've had a few scares recently, some c-sections, and other complicated births but I'm trying to remember that it's probably a miracle that countless women end up birthing beautifully under the care of our midwives.  All the odds are against our midwives and our pregnant ladies. Yet most of our women have uneventful births under the watchful care of Heartline's skilled midwives who know and love the ladies they are serving.  According to the text books I've been reading, what we usually see at Heartline is nothing short of miraculous.  Ladies with high risk pregnancies delivering vaginally with very little drama.  That's the norm at Heartline.  No matter how disappointing the last few births have been, I had to stop and thank God for that truth this afternoon as I sat reading through a midwifery book.


Yesterday Agathe and I sat talking with a 16 year old mom named Fedline.  We were getting onto Fedline for feeding her newborn baby bean sauce.  Argh.  Later Tara asked Fedline why she had cotton in both of her ears.  We listened to the Haitian women explain to us that after your baby is born things get in your ears that normally would not.  You have to protect your ears from the wind.  We also learned that after a vaginal birth lots of women sit in boiling hot water.  Some get third degree burns.  "Why would you do any of that?  Like what's the reason?"  We asked that very simple question.  The answer?  None of them knew why women do those things or tell women to do those things after they have a baby.  People just say that.  So you just do what people say.  Fedline had cotton in both ears and had no idea why.  We quickly asked her if she had boiled her lady parts.  No.  She hadn't.  Thank God.

Then a woman brought her baby girl in to be seen.  Her baby does not have a vaginal opening. Can these women ever catch a break?

Later in the day a three day old baby was brought in that belongs to a woman who was in our program.  She was so non-compliant during her prenatal care that the midwives wisely refused to deliver her baby.   This woman delivered her son in another hospital in Port-au-Prince.  Yesterday this mother sent her newborn baby to Heartline with the grandmother.  The baby looked like it was about to die.  We don't think he's eaten in three days.  He had fever, a swollen head, an abnormal chest, and his blood sugar was out of whack.  Tara took the grandmother and the baby straight to the hospital.

Seeing an innocent baby on the brink of death who is suffering right in front of your eyes is horrible.  I was about to say "it's almost too much."  It's not almost too much.  It's too much.  Plain and simple.  It's too much.  Tears will come at some point during the day.  You can bet on it.  


Agathe leading Friday Bible Study

After the drama for the day had ended I sat with Agathe.  Agathe has worked for Heartline for a long time.  She's Haitian.  She's a beautiful mother of three adorable little girls.  She's married.  Her family is lovely.  Agathe is one of the sweetest assets to our ministry to women at Heartline.  She's a wonderful example of a godly, incredible mother.  She teaches Bible Study at Heartline on Fridays.  She is also a sweet friend to us.

The room was quite.  I was sitting in a corner breathing deeply, hating the day, phone in hand, waiting to get a text update from Tara about the baby in-transit to the hospital.  Up until about a week ago, I could honestly say I've never felt angry at the women we serve at Heartline.

 
I've been heartbroken.  Sad.  I've grieved with them.  I've cried my mascara straight off my face for them.  Their lives are hard.  Most of them try their very best.  They are eager to learn the truth about women's health and keeping their babies alive.  They want to be good mothers.  It is a blessing to be in this with them.

The first time I have been mad was last week when one of our mothers went to some sort of village healer or voo-doo doctor and took something that caused her to go into labor.  The baby almost died during the emergency c-section.  The baby had to be resuscitated and was kept in the hospital for many days because she kept having seizures. 

Yesterday was the second time I've been flat-out mad.  I was frustrated at Fedline for giving her brand new baby bean sauce.  I was mad that so much superstition and old-wives tales keep women in bondage and kills babies.  I was angry that women boil their vaginas.  What the heck??  I was mad that the baby brought in was suffering and starving to death.  All signs pointed to the fact that this mother was being a lazy jerk.  Not at all typical for the Haitian mothers who are a part of Heartline.

I sat there trying to calm down, take it all in, praying for Tara...that she and Winnie would be able to get this baby into the actual hospital.  That's never a guarantee here.  Finally I broke the silence...

Agathe and her girls.  photo credit: Joanna Howard

"Agathe...how do some of these women sit in these classes for months....how do they come here every week...how do they hear us teach and teach and teach and teach about breastfeeding and truth...and then do these stupid, stupid, things."

Agathe let me get angry and raise my voice.  Then she calmly said...
"Heather, we have to teach what we teach but then we must pray.  Pray that the women hear.  That the Lord helps them to see."

Silence again.

She's right.

Before the day was out I knew the crying would come.

When I was by myself I cried. I told God what I thought about sick babies, superstitions, and teenage mothers.  I cried out all the anger and frustration.  Part of being angry is not even knowing what I'm angry about.  Am I frustrated at God or these ladies or Haiti or injustice or stupidity or sin or selfishness?  It makes me tired trying to sort through my thoughts and emotions.  So oftentimes I leave my thoughts unsorted and simply cry.

I fell asleep last night asking God to make me wake up eager to teach (even though I don't feel like the women are always listening) and eager to pray (even though it doesn't feel like God listens sometimes either).  I'm sure...when I'm not so frustrated God will show me my own sin and depravity in each of these women's stories.  I'm sure He'll remind me of his grace and how He loves us even when we're selfish, stupid stinkers.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Disagreeing with Driscoll gives me Digestive Issues



Earlier this week Mark Driscoll wrote a post on his blog called Loving the Pastor's Wife.  It bothered me.  There.  I said it.  Usually when I'm reading a blog and it bothers me I move along.  I haven't been able to move along with this one.  Maybe it's because the topic is an important one to me.  We all have "our things," right?  Judging by how Driscoll's post kept me awake last night, I'd say this must be one of "my things."

I subscribe to Mark Driscoll's blog.  There is no hidden angst here against Mark Driscoll.  No one has to defend him.  This isn't a personal attack.  All you Driscoll fans can put down your fists.  All you Driscoll haters can be warned...I won't side with you if you turn this into a Driscoll bash. 

Side note:  I just had an imaginary argument with Mark Driscoll.  In my fake argument I started crying after he said nine words to me.  For the record, I would never want to get into an argument with Mark Driscoll.  I experienced intestinal trauma, started sweating profusely, and got all red and blotchy from simply imagining a nine-word, terse exchange with Driscoll.

So that's not what this post is about.  Although I was a staff wife for 13 years at a good sized church, I wasn't a pastor's wife at a mind-blowing mega church.  So maybe I'm trying to foolishly shove Driscoll's thoughts through my own personal paradigm.  My own life's filter.  I'll be the first to admit that doing something like that is always dangerous.  Maybe I'd agree with Driscoll completely if I was a staff wife at a mega church.  Or...on the other hand...maybe his post is being read by lots of people just like me whose husbands serve smaller churches than Mars Hill.  I don't know.

Either way the post bothered me because I'm probably extra sensitive to the idea that some people in the body of Christ should be treated differently than everyone else.  Maybe I'm hyper sensitive to this because I was a staff wife for 13 years.  Maybe this sensitivity comes from now being called a "missionary."  Staff wife.  Missionary.  Two "labels" that may cause other people to try and make me into something I'm not.  Two labels that may cause myself to allow other people to make me into something I'm not.

You can read the article for yourself.  It was tweeted 417 times, so chances are you already did read it.

Did I mention that I liked some of it?  I did.  However, I think one of Driscoll's main points of this post is to point out that a pastor's wife should be a Christian church member like everyone else.  Those are his exact words, actually.  Those words were so important they appear in the article in red, big fancy print.  Then his post seems to give a whole lot of ways to treat the pastor's wife that make her exactly nothing like everyone else.

Being on staff at a church for 13 years I made lots of friends with other staff wives.  A common complaint?  "I'm lonely.  No one wants to be my friend.  I feel so alone.  Everyone sees me as the pastor's wife before they see me as a person.  People seem to have an agenda for getting to know me, or they don't even consider me human enough to try to get to know me."

That's the crux of my "issue" here.  So please don't make my issues about things I don't have issues about.  I know staff wives (I can't speak for pastor's wives....my husband was not a pastor) face lots of complex issues being the wife of someone who is leading a church.  I totally get that.  But it grieves me when I hear staff wives say they are hurting...have no friends...and feel alone.  They don't feel like regular people.   I was that person once.  I did a lot of things poorly as a staff wife.  I'm not claiming to know all the answers.  I just know that I felt alone in a giant church for years, and I know women who feel that way right now.

I just want to throw this idea out there...

If you're following Driscoll's advice, maybe that sign in the parking lot that says, "Reserved for the Pastor's Wife" is one of the reasons why people don't see you as a regular person.  Just sayin'.

I'm no expert.  13 years as a staff wife sounds like a long time, and at the same time a short time.  People in a church can be demanding, needy, and often times rude jerks.  They can expect too much.  They can treat you like you don't exist.  Somewhere along the line I learned a valuable lesson.  How people see me is my own responsibility.  The moment I quit allowing the people in my church to make me into something I was not...ah...freedom.  I felt free.  I tried to blame people in the church for putting stress on me to be something I didn't want to be but the truth was...at least part of the truth was...I allowed people to make me feel that way.  I was insecure.  I was immature.  Part of the problem was me.  Oh wait.  A big part of the problem was me.

It's a hard, constant, fight to be a normal person.  I think working hard to be yourself and to live the life you and your husband desire for your family is a fight worth fighting.  I found that refusing to allow people to shape me...to simply be myself...be honest...and allow God to do the shaping was a place of sweet content and joy.

And guess what?  I had friends.  Good ones.  Close ones.  Crazy, crazy close ones. 

This part is free...

Want a fool proof way to make sure that the single moms in your congregation or women with dead-beat husbands automatically dislike you?

Call yourself a single mom on Sundays like Driscoll suggests in his article.  Any time a woman married to a godly, awesome husband and father calls herself a single mom it is incredibly offensive to a real-life single mom.  For years and years and years I had to get one...two....three....four little boys ready for church by myself.  There were times I resented it.  Not because I should have.  My husband was a great father and helped me tremendously Monday-Saturday.  If he wasn't doing those things, he should not have had his butt up on that church stage.  ONE day.  One day of doing it on my own?  One morning?  I resented it some times, but mostly because I was immature and needed to grow up.  This was not a church issues.  No one needed to write a blog post or read one about how to help fix my problem.  What I needed was for God to sit in my soul and remind me of how blessed I was.

What if getting your kids ready by yourself in the morning is a beautiful, gracious gift God has given pastor's wives and staff wives to identify with some of the most hurting people in their congregation?  Single moms and married women whose husbands will have no part of church.  What if God has given you the sweetest gift to be able to hurt for those women?  What if getting your kids ready for church by yourself means you can walk up to a single mom in your church, hold her close and tell her that you only get your kids ready for church one morning a week by yourself and it about does you in.  Tell her there are mornings you show up to church sweaty, mad, and wanting a divorce.  Tell her there are mornings when you're a mean jerk to your kids because you slept too late on Sunday and were rushing around.  Tell her how much you grieve for her that she has to do your Sunday every single day of her life.  Tell her how much you love her.  How proud you are of her.  How much you admire her.  And then if your husband doesn't sit next to you during the service, invite that woman to sit next to you. 

There are many issues surrounding being a staff wife.  My heart breaks for this one issue.  How can a pastor's wife be a real person when the whole world is bent on making her a non-person?  How can she stay human when it seems like the odds are against her?

It's a constant struggle.  Finding our identity in Christ.  Being honest about our failures.  Being quick to share the ways we fail.  Quick to repent.  Being a regular ol' Christ follower who happens to be married to the man who is leading the church is a beautiful gift worth fighting for if you ask me.

__________________________________________________

Before we moved to Haiti I had a lot of time to think about saying good-bye to our lives as staff members at a church.  I wrote my thoughts out before we left the United States.  I'm going to repost them here today.

Moving to Haiti marks the end of a huge chapter of our lives.  For 13 years we've been involved, in one way or another in leadership at a church.  As with everything else, I've spent time this summer thinking over so many things...saying good-bye to church ministry is one of them.

I was thinking the other day about how different my life would have been over the past several years if something drastic had not happened a few years ago. 


Ya see, a few years ago Aaron and I were both on staff at a very large church.  That church started two new churches and when it did we went with one of the new churches.  Aaron has been leading worship for New Life up until he left for Haiti.


While on staff at that larger church I had bought into this super weird lie (probably no one's fault but my own...not wanting to blame anyone, just saying this stupidity on my part happened while we were at the larger church). The reason may have been that I was young and immature.  Who knows.


The lie went something like this:


You are in leadership, so that makes you very different.  You can't really let people know you or be honest about your failures.  Oh you can be honest about failures publicly, but only AFTER you are no longer dealing with those problems any longer or if those failures make you really seem super holy in some weird passive-aggressive way.  If you have "victory" in an area of struggle...share that, but if not then keep your problems to yourself or only share them with other staff members.


I'm not exactly sure where that came from or more importantly why I believed it, but my word...how dumb. Maybe I am the only person who has ever dealt with this.  Who knows.  I will be the first to admit I can fall into "dysfunction" faster than most people.


No matter where it came from, that train of thought led to lots of unhealthy ways of thinking and behaviors.  It led me to believe that I could not have any close friends, because that didn't look good.  It might make others in the church jealous.  It made me think I was not a real person.  It made me want to take breaks from the people at church because they were a job to me instead of dear friends.  It made me want to go on vacation from the people in our church body because I wanted to get away from our job...our vocation.  The church was a career, not my family.  No one knew the real me.  I thought I had to seek out close friendships among other staff wives or among minister's wives from other churches.


I'm seriously rolling my eyes just remembering this craziness.


Thankfully, through a series of fortunate events, God began to heal me and reteach me.  Total freedom ensued.


I was struck by the Jesus of the Bible...the Jesus that was so loved by his closest disciples that they were willing to die horrible deaths to defend what they had seen and learned from Him.  Jesus redefined family.  He said anyone who does the will of His father was like his mother...his sister...his brother.  His disciples loved him...as a person...a friend...not as a public figure.  They saw him weep.  They saw Him get angry.  They loved being with Him.  They did not live in fear of Jesus.  They were themselves with Jesus, almost to the point of embarrassment. 


Slowly I began to ache for real, genuine relationships where I could be myself.  Where people could see how I was struggling...present tense struggling, not past tense struggled.


People in the church became my family.  We grew in close relationships with others.  Instead of wanting to hide away on our "day off" or turn our phones off, when people from church called, we answered because those people weren't people anymore.  They were our friends.  We didn't want time away from them.  We went on vacations together.  We hung out constantly.  Yes, we still reached out and met new people...and I pray we were just as genuine with them as anyone else.  But most importantly we no longer felt guilty about having close friends who knew us, loved us..all of us...the good, the bad and the downright shameful and embarrassing parts of us.


When I'd catch wind that people were jealous of a relationship I had with someone else, it didn't even bother me anymore.  It still doesn't.  I refused to allow anyone to put me in that yucky, prideful place I had allowed myself to be in years earlier.  That place was gross and unhealthy.  It was also unhealthy for everyone else around me.  No one and no snide remark was going to push me back into that nasty spot where I thought I had to be...the girl with the frozen smile, waving, being friendly, knowing no one and no one really knowing me.


If your pastor's wife has a close friend, please don't be upset that she does.  If your worship leader's wife has a bff, good for her.  They are people too.  Just like you.  They aren't any cooler than anyone else.  I promise.

They are just as needy, just as sinful, just as human as every other woman in your church.  A pastor's wife or a worship leader's wife or an elder's wife or any other staff wife isn't a female Jesus.  She's a person. She's human.  She can't invest in every single person that passes through the church foyer.  It's impossible. It's silly for her to think she can and it's just as silly for people to expect her to do that.

If your pastor's wife looks like she's sitting on a parade float, for the love...grab her, sit her down and tell her you're going to be her friend.  Kidnap her and don't let her go until you convince her that there's nothing really special about her.  Nothing that makes her have to live her life far away from the love of people and close friends. No title is worth that.


I hope you know me well enough to know that I'm not advocating for cliques or holy huddles.  Jesus despised exclusive groups that practiced favoritism.  However, I do think staff wives can go too far and be so afraid of cliques that they have no true friends...no real connections with others.  They can be alone in a giant sea of people.  Leadership becomes synonymous with isolation.  Somehow Jesus pulled off leadership and still had close community.


All that to say....


We've learned in over 13 years of ministry and 14 years of marriage that relationships are most important.  Although it hurts desperately, I am most thankful for the way God has literally woven our souls together with so many precious people in our lives.  We feel the sting as we're saying good-bye, but only because we've already invested deeply into these relationships.  A few years ago, we could have left this town and people would have been a little sad...but all they would be grieving would be the loss of our position.  Not the loss of us as people.  People they know.  People they love.  People who have known and loved them.  Praise God for His rich mercy for teaching us how to love and how to be loved.  Real.  Honest.  Genuine. Love.


If the Lord ever puts us back into church ministry, I will never ever go back to being the lady on the float.  No way.  People want to be her, but people don't love her and from way up there on that decorated float, it's awfully hard for her to love other people.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Remember


March 27 is a special day in our home.  It's a day to thank God for intervening and healing our son.  It's a day to celebrate, retell a story near and dear to us, and remember.

Today marks the five year anniversary of when Hayden got to eat dinner with the rest of our family.

Five years ago today we ate spaghetti with tears in our eyes and an epipen on our kitchen table.

Five years ago Hayden ate all his spaghetti, stayed alive, and declared noodles and sauce the best food ever.

Five years ago God healed our son.

We will celebrate this day for as long as we live.

Spaghetti Day, March 27, 2006

Very shortly after Hayden was born we knew that something was not quite right.  His entire body began to break out in hives.  He was sick.  His skin was constantly hot to the touch, felt like leather, or he had open oozing sores all over his body.  I remember with my first baby sitting and nursing my child rubbing those precious legs.  Soaking in that baby skin.  The feel of those soft baby arms and legs seemed like one of the sweetest gifts this side of heaven.

Hayden's skin was nothing like that.  His skin was not normal baby skin.  He looked like a burn victim.  We kept his skin covered at all times.  If not, he would scratch his skin and would quickly get secondary infections.  Some of my saddest memories were walking into my son's room to pick him up out of his crib and finding his sheets with blood all over them.  His skin was such a source of misery to him that if he had any access to his skin he would claw at it, quickly causing gaping, bleeding wounds.  Socks were sewn into his pajamas. He wore socks on his hands.  For years he lived his life in long-sleeve, long-pants pajamas and with socked-hands.  We kept his skin covered to keep him from clawing at his skin, but we also kept it covered because his skin was so damaged that if he even touched things he was allergic to (dust, food, etc.) he would break out, his nose and eyes would start running, he'd have to be given benadryl, and his skin would have to be covered in topical steroid.  With major reactions, it would take a week for him to recover.

After allergy testing, he could only eat eight foods.  Leaving the house with Hayden was always a gamble.  The times we risked it, we usually ended up coming home frustrated and in tears.  We'd definitely pay for it for days later as we watched Hayden react and us have absolutely no real idea what was happening to him. Hayden paid for it the most as it was him who physically had to suffer.

We took Hayden to all sorts of doctors.  We were sent to specialists.  I've written about what our life was like and some of the things God taught us during this difficult time.  There was a lot of suffering.  Hayden was in constant pain.  We will always look back and say that watching our child suffer for years was hopefully the hardest thing God will ever ask us to do.

When Hayden was three he was put through his yearly round of allergy tests.  This time the allergist called me at home with the results.  No nurse.  I was startled.  I remember him telling me that out of the eight foods Hayden was eating, he was now reacting so strongly to four of them that we needed to remove those from his diet as well.  Four foods.  We were down to four foods.  The allergist also told me that I needed to understand the severity of this.  He explained that with Hayden's body reacting so regularly that this would cause long-term damage to his major organs.  He gently said he'd like to set up a meeting with his team so we could determine how to keep this child alive.  They seemed to be finished trying to find a solution.  The best doctors had already looked at Hayden and could not figure out what was wrong.

It was a devastating day.  I already felt like we were doing everything humanly possible.  Our lives had completely shut down.  We rarely left the house with Hayden.  I cooked all of his food.  I fell into the bed every night exhausted trying to keep him safe, the house swept and mopped every single day, and the house dusted from top to bottom.  Every.  Single.  Day. 

What more could we do?

The next Sunday I shared with our church what we had just found out from the allergist.  They prayed for Hayden.  The most beautiful part of this story happens now.  Don't miss it.  Standing in the front of the church with people praying for my son, I wanted so badly to open my eyes, look at my three year old son and see his skin had miraculously been healed.  Like those stories I heard in Sunday School...wide eyed as a little girl...those stories of when Jesus healed the people with leprosy.  The sores were there one minute.  Gone the next.  One flannel-board lady had leprosy.  Then a new flannel board lady appeared whose skin was soft and beautiful.  I wanted that.  I wanted our family to be a flannel board family.  One minute a wreck.  The next minute healed.  The people said, "Amen"...I opened my eyes and Hayden looked the same.  I was so disappointed.  I was used to being disappointed.  This was not the first time we had  begged God to heal our son.

God did not miraculously reach down and heal Hayden that day.  Instead...on the day I shared about Hayden in front of our church....a new family was sitting in the congregation...they had just started visiting our church.  The father of that family was a doctor.  He listened.  He prayed.  He later contacted us and asked if he could see Hayden's chart.

As a church body we began praying for Dr. Bacak.  God help this man help our son.  Dr. Bacak found that Hayden had an amoeba in his body that he had probably gotten in utero during our trip to Mexico when I was seven months pregnant.  It had gone untreated for three years.  The results were life debilitating for Hayden.  To make a long story short, after a couple rounds of medication, our son's body began to heal.  In October his allergist was trying to figure out how to keep the kid alive, and by March...with Dr. Bacak's help Hayden's skin was clearing up.  Hayden was wearing shorts!  We took him places.  Healing was happening.

A few months later, Hayden was getting so much better...his skin healing up...that Dr. Bacak said something outrageous at one of our visits.  He looked at Hayden.  Looked at me.  Then he said, "Heather...let's do something crazy.  Let's feed this kid."  I answered, "Like real food?"

Yes.  Feed him real food.

I went home nervous.  I held my three year old son in my lap and asked him a simple question.  "What is one food you have always, always wanted to eat?"  There wasn't even a pause.  "Seggi!"  Hayden wanted spaghetti.

We ate.  For the first time Hayden ate the same thing his family ate for dinner.  He lived.  We cried.  We celebrated.  It was a day we will never forget.

Exodus 13:8-9 and 14
On that day tell your son, 'I do this because of what the LORD did for me when I came out of Egypt.' This observance will be for you like a sign on your hand and a reminder on your forehead that the law of the LORD is to be on your lips. For the LORD brought you out of Egypt with his mighty hand. "In days to come, when your son asks you, 'What does this mean?' say to him, 'With a mighty hand the LORD brought us out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery."



We remember this day with a spaghetti feast and a retelling of the story.









This day causes lots of thoughts to hip hop around in my head.  Thoughts about suffering.  As a three year old Hayden suffered with such joy.  That touches me.  It teaches me.  I have thoughts about the church.  How God uses people.  I think of the sin and selfishness I saw in my life parenting a child so needy.  How God's grace covers those dark places.  I remember how human I am.  How weak.  How it didn't matter how much I wanted to serve my child selflessly...I was selfish.  I tried hard, but I was no hero.  I think of how loved we felt by our church family.  How God gave us not only an incredible doctor, but great friends through the Bacak family.  But mostly I think of the things in my life that seem hopeless right now.  The things I think are too big.  The things I feel frustrated and hurt over.  I think of those things on this day and remember....God is powerful.  He restores.  He frustrates science.  He takes situations that have been labeled "hopeless" and completely changes them.  There are places in my soul that need to be reminded of that truth today.


I don't know why God allowed Hayden to suffer for three and a half years.  I will never understand it.  But I do know that for some reason, God wants Hayden to remember that He is big.  He is strong.  God is faithful.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Patty Whack and Roast Beast

So apparently, in some parts of the world St. Patrick's Day is a big deal.  It's not a big deal where I'm from.  I vaguely remember something about the color green and getting pinched.  Maybe something about Lucky Charms?  End of story.  So, when Beth McHoul said, "St. Patrick's Day is my second favorite holiday" I thought she was being funny.  I was just about to respond back with a sarcastic "Oh...well...Presidents Day is my second favorite holiday, right after National Pistachio Day"  until I realized Beth wasn't kidding.  She was being serious.  She's from Boston and in Boston, they know how to celebrate St. Patrick's Day.

"We're going to have corned beef and cabbage!  You always have corned beef and cabbage on St. Patrick's Day!"  Beth was so excited.

Corned what?  I had never heard of this.  Even though we were not sure what all this St. Patty's Day hoopla was all about, we would never miss a holiday at the McHouls.  No way.


Carrots (the carrots in Haiti are incredible and freakishly large), potatoes, cabbage, corned-something-or-other, and homemade rolls.  This was a very special day for anyone who remotely likes food.

That corndog beef or whatever it's called was delicious!  We decided right there at the dinner table that from now on, from this day forward, we will forever be Bostonians on St. Patrick's Day.  Texas, you know I'll always be your girl but admit it...the Lone Star State is totally lame on St. Patrick's Day.


Beth made cupcakes for the kids to decorate.

 Why waste time smearing the icing on a cupcake when you can eat it right out of the cup?
This moment made me proud.

I swear.  There was no alcohol at this party.  Ashton was drunk on beef and sugar.


oh.  I love these ladies.

Holidays are extra special in Haiti.  Eating food that actually required some forethought (that's not how most of our meals go down in this country), hanging out with friends, watching our kids enjoy the day and laugh with the sweet community God has given them...these things are priceless gifts to us.  They remind me of how deeply we have been blessed.  Undeserved blessings.  God gives them, and I don't know why.

Beth and Tara.  Aren't they lovely? 


A long anticipated feast.  A banquet.  A party.  Friends.  Family.  Catching up.  Laughter.  Love.  Holidays will forever and ever remind me of what God has in store for us in heaven.

Beefy-corn and cabbage.  Now one of my favorite meals.  How many days until the next St. Patrick's Day?

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Link Love

Below are some thought provoking, inspiring posts that I've recently enjoyed.  They were too good to keep to myself.  Happy reading!

{{Mission Work Posts}}



Thinking Through Short Term Missions
by Tara Livesay (the girl has been on a roll, knocking out some top-notch posts).
She offers honest thoughts about how short term mission work can do more harm than good.  Before signing up for a mission trip, I'd read this post.

Are Short Term Mission Trips the Answer?
I wrote this post last semester.  I'm only including it because the comments from long-term missionaries were fascinating.  I learned a lot.

Harbor House, the People, The Place
by Tara Livesay
For those of you who have fallen in love with the young mothers who live at the Harbor House, this post introduces everyone involved.  So many of you gave money and shopped for the Harbor House.  We're slowly beginning to get some of the boxes you shipped.  We're incredibly grateful.

Laboring Against Superstitions
by Beth McHoul
A few days ago the Heartline staff had to transport a mother to the hospital for an emergency c-section.  It was the day Aristide arrived.  Traffic was a nightmare.  We were begging people to pray.  Beth tells the story and gives more information.  Apparently there was some sort of voo-doo involved that caused the mother to go into labor.  The baby is still not doing well.  This will give you a good idea of what we're up against in this country.

Haiti Can Be a Dangerous Place
by John McHoul
Wondering if it's safe to come to Haiti?  Long-term missionary, John McHoul gives a perfect answer.


{{Adoption Posts}}

Courage, Fear, and Adoption
A post by Staci King about adoption and infertility that will make you think and possibly make some people uncomfortable.

A Letter to Grandparents of Children with RAD
RAD stands for Reactive Attachment Disorder.  Children who have been through trauma and/or been adopted out of orphanages or the foster care system are at risk for RAD.  This is an honest, wonderful post about a grandmother with a grandchild adopted from Ethiopia.  Christine's blog is one of the few that speaks openly and honestly about parenting children with RAD. 

{{Fair Trade/Responsible Shopping}}

The people at Trade as One are doing a phenomenal job raising awareness and offering education about modern day slavery and how that affects the items we purchase at the store.  If you've ever wanted to learn more about fair trade or responsible consumerism, I highly recommend that you spend some time reading the last several posts at the Trade as One website.   

Monday, March 21, 2011

Home

Our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior 
from there, the Lord Jesus Christ.  
Phil.3:20


Driving home in the dark in a dirty car, windows down, I watch the people.  I hear them.  See them.  Only able to pick out phrases.  Words.  Not full conversations.  Snippets.  Pieces.

Three women stand near a light that's mounted on the wooden roof of a lotto stand.  The three of them laugh.  Something is funny. Their faces are animated.  Strong.  Beautiful.  Their eyes wide with laughter.  What fun.

I stare at them and wonder.  Would I ever be allowed to stand with you?  Could it ever be natural?  Would I get your jokes?  Would I know when to laugh?  Would I understand why what you just said was hilarious?  Could we ever be...you know...can I say it....friends?

Or will my white skin and my US passport always cause you to act a little strange around me?  Like reality TV.  The people on the television try to act natural, but there is always this awareness that the camera is on. The red light is flashing. Which means there is no such thing as reality TV, is there?  No one ever acts the same way when others are watching as they would minus the cameras.  And so I yearn.  I hurt.  Knowing there is a very real chance we could live here in this country and our white, American skin be like that mounted, motion-sensor camera making nothing normal and everything not quite right between us.

I can't stand the thought of always being an outsider.  I close my eyes.  I think of home.  America.  My friends.  Family.  Riding with the windows up.  My car that had air conditioning.  Smooth streets.  Eavesdropping on conversations at restaurants.  The place I understood.

I am a foreigner.  Every day.  It's obvious.  I am not from here.  This is not my home.  I'm reminded of that fact every time I walk out of the door.  "Blan, blan."  They call out at me.  "White, white."  That is my name in Haiti.  White.  There is no blending in for me here.  My white skin is sort of like a giant, illuminated, flashing arrow...a sign, pointing straight at me that says, "She is an outsider.  She doesn't get it."  

And while that grieves me, because I truly do want to understand this culture better, I am...perhaps for the first time in my life...aware of that tension that should probably exist in the souls of God's children whose citizenship is in heaven while their bodies are clumsily walking this earth.

Every scene my eyes behold in this country is viewed through the lens of my culture.  I see things like health care, infrastructure, and relationships with American eyes.  I can hardly help it.  My response is immediate.  The United States is what I know.  It's my only frame of reference.  My first language.  Everything new about this culture is constantly being filtered through my American upbringing.  Part of my frustration is looking at the problems here and immediately wanting Haiti to be like America.  Not because America is perfect.  I know better.  But selfishly, it's simply all I know.

Every day.  I'm not making this up.  There is probably at least one time.  One instance.  One moment when I miss what I know.  So much so that it hurts.  I miss my culture.  I feel that dip in the depths of my chest.  The drop.  The longing for the place I once knew and understood.

Homesick.

Until living in Haiti, I rarely really thought of heaven.  I felt so at home where I was, it was hard to imagine a different home.  I did not feel like a foreigner or a stranger.  I would go long stretches without thinking of the kingdom that was coming.  The place I will live forever was something I rarely thought about.

I am a citizen of heaven.  I have all the rights and privileges of God's Kingdom.  What a lofty thought.  Yet I know very little of this Kingdom that holds my citizenship, even though God has been so very kind and talked a great deal about what this Kingdom is like.

I read something interesting recently.  In Hebrews.  You probably know it.  The passages that list the people in the Bible who made it to the Faith Hall of Fame?

All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance, admitting that they were foreigners and strangers on earth. People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own.   If they had been thinking of the country they had left, they would have had opportunity to return.  Instead, they were longing for a better country—a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them.

In their homesickness it seems like the fathers of my faith quit moaning and groaning about the place from which they had come and instead longed for the place that they were going.  They let that desire for the place they knew...the place they loved and understood...turn their hearts towards heaven.

I think I may always feel out of whack here.  Like I don't belong.  Maybe being a foreigner is a gracious gift God will use to train my heart to hurt for heaven.  What if I longed for the comforts of heaven like I do the comforts of the United States?  The things I think are stupid and ridiculous in this third world country immediately cause my mind to hurt for home.  When I see injustice, poverty, relationships falling apart, and my own depravity, it would be so beautiful if those tragedies would make my heart sick with longing for a better country...a heavenly one.  Looking at tragedy and longing for America is probably ridiculous.  Looking at tragedy and longing for heaven is exactly what Jesus said to do.  "Your Kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven."

I want to know that Kingdom well enough that in those moments when I can't take the sadness or the reality around me, I can close my eyes and imagine I'm back home.  Heaven.  The streets of gold.  Justice reigns.  Family.  Friends. Where the last are first.  The first are last.  All things are restored.  Death and sin defeated.  The place worth selling everything I own in order to be there.  Where we'll delight in God forever.  Home. sweet.  home.

During that one car ride where I wondered if this place would ever feel like home the thought occurred to me:  I am a citizen of the United States of America living in Haiti whose real, eternal, trumps-everything-else citizenship is in heaven...another land and culture I know very little about.  The entire thought made me feel very small and unsettled.  I find myself turning...tearing really...through the pages of scripture looking for clues about the Kingdom where I'm headed.  What will that place be like?  Will I feel at home there?  Tell me.  Describe to me.  What will this place be like?

Maybe that's why, when Jesus was here...a foreigner on this earth...He kept saying, "The Kingdom of heaven is like....."

The Kingdom.  Jesus couldn't stop talking about it.

Maybe He was homesick.  Maybe He wanted us to be as well.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

The Season of Lent



Awe-full

Great and holy God
awe and reverence
fear and trembling
do not come easily to us
for we are not
Old Testament Jews
or Moses
or mystics
or sensitive enough.
Forgive us
for slouching into Your presence
with little expectation
and less awe
than we would eagerly give a visiting dignitary.
We need
neither Jehovah nor a buddy -
neither "the Great and Powerful Oz" nor "the man upstairs."
Help us
to want what we need...
You
God
and may the altar of our hearts
tremble with delight
at your visitiation
amen.

--Frederick Ohler (USA/Contemporary)


Traditionally Lent is a season of sober, realistic reflection on our own lives and our need for a Savior. It is a time for turning away from anything that has kept us from God and for turning or returning to him. It is a time to pray that God renew our love for him and our dependence on him. -- Noel Piper

Until a few years ago, our family had never really thought much about Advent or Lent.  We're Baptist.  To be honest, those things sounded a little cookey to us.  We can be ridiculous that way.  We took a deep breathe and decided to give the Advent thing a "go", taking the weeks prior to Christmas to intentionally study the Christmas story and meditate on the beauty of what we would ultimately be celebrating on December 25.  The result?  It was a wonderful experience.  One we have since repeated for several years.  Our Christmas season was drastically altered from previous Decembers.  The joy real.  The worship heart-felt.  Our love for Jesus grew.  Our children were truly touched and were learning to understand the depth and majesty of Jesus coming to earth.  The story of the living God was coming alive.

We decided to give the "Lent" thing a whirl.  We were the first to admit that like Christmas, Easter would sort of land on us.  We'd walk into church, our hearts unprepared, and then try and take in within one church service the complexities and rich beauty of the cross and the resurrection.  Impossible.  We left kind of numb.  Perhaps a tad-bit moved.  But mostly overwhelmed and feeling a little let down.  Just as celebrating Advent completely changed Christmas for us, taking the weeks prior to Easter to really savor the story of Jesus' death and resurrection has been life changing.  The gospel.  God's great love for this world.  Our sin.  Redemption.  Salvation.  This undeserved gift.  What medicine for the soul.

art by hayden

We started Lent last night.  Yes.  Late.  As always.  By now, no one should be surprised.  Our family levels all playing fields.  Hopefully our inability to ever get it together will forever be an inspiration to others. 

We pile up on the couch.  We dive into this study.  We discuss.  We pray.  Sometimes the boys are great.  Sometimes we want to strangle them.  Sometimes it feels like something holy has happened.  The boys ask great questions.  They pray a prayer that makes a momma get teary eyed.  More often it feels like we're trying to teach ancient, beautiful truths to giggly, squirmy, squirrels.  We finish up and Aaron and I ask each other, "Why do we do this again?  Remind me?"  No matter how embarrassing our Lent study can be, I always fall back on this one truth:  It's probably good for our kids to hear their parents pray. 

Every year our goal is to do one devotional with the boys every week night.  The Pipers have a great, free study that can be used once a week (or the seven days prior to Easter).  We shoot for every weekday only because we know we're lame and some days we'll forget, or it won't work out, or right after dinner I'll look at a child and suddenly despise the length of their hair and vow to remedy the situation immediately.  Life is like that here.  We don't stress out if we miss days.  If anything, during Lent we simply confess that we're unfaithful.  We're sinful.  We're incredibly imperfect.  We need a Savior.  Isn't that the very thing we so desperately need to be reminded of during this season?  Makes me think of a beautiful post by Ann Voskamp about failing at Lent.  Perfect words for this season.  She has lots of great thoughts and resources on her blog for Lent.

When not with the squirrels, I'm reading Devotions for Lent and Seeing and Savoring Jesus Christ.

In the past we've used this study with our kids.  Last year we simply read through the book, The Passion of Christ, Fifty Reasons He Came to Die.    

Here's a great list of children's books that talk about the concepts surrounding Easter.

Because I just can't stop myself (no matter how old the kids get) we make a play dough mountain on Good Friday. This year my family will have to knock it off with the eye rolling because Hudson baby is the perfect age to love this.  In your face, family.

"It’s not at all important whether we name this particular 40 days Lent. It’s not important whether we think in terms of a church calendar. There aren’t certain specified activities that must be done. Whatever we do or don’t do and whether or not we give a name to the season, at the end of 40 days, it will be Easter, the most important day of the year for a Christian. Will it sneak up on us, or will we have prepared our hearts?" -- Noel Piper

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

The Rumor is Worse than the Riot

Once again there is talk in Haiti.  Panic.  Tension in the air.  Things feel unstable and unsettled.

Aristide is rumored to be returning to Haiti tomorrow.  It seems to be confirmed that he left South Africa where he has been exiled for seven years.  Aaron just saw on Twitter that internet is being installed at Aristide's house in Haiti tomorrow.  That screams of an upcoming arrival if you ask me.

I won't even pretend to know the full story on Aristide's past deeds in this country.  Here's the basics:  He became President after Baby Doc was run out of Haiti.  He was loved by the Haitian people.  There was a lot of tension and political unrest in Haiti during his time in office.  People who lived here during the Aristide years have lots of interesting (scary) stories.  The US played some sort of role in removing Aristide from Haiti seven years ago.  He has been exiled, but a lot of people in Haiti still love him.  One article I read today said the people here equate Aristide's return to the return of Jesus. 

Now he's on his way back to Haiti.  Sunday is election day in this country.  During election time, it's always up in the air what will go down on this island.  Remember the first round of elections?  We posted lots of pictures of the riots.  We were safe behind our tall walls, but the city was shut down for several days.  So was the airport.  No flights in.  No flights out.

Soso (the lady who works for us) walked in the front door today, said her normal "hello" and then unloaded on me how worried (and irritated) she is about what could happen over the next few days.  "Aristide is coming."  She is afraid she won't be able to come to work.  She's scared for us.  She says there will be a lot of trouble.  A lot of people will act crazy.  She made sure we had plenty of food.  She was determined to get all our water containers filled.  The only other time I have seen Soso act this way was the day before the last riots started.  She usually laughs when I tell her the things I've heard.  "That's not true, Madame.  Don't worry.  Things will not get crazy."  Well, today she was singing a different tune.

A friend of mine who lives in Haiti called this morning and told me she was being evacuated.  She found out today that she's leaving today.

So it sounds like things might be nutty around here for awhile.  Except here's the deal...

Maybe things won't be nutty.  The point of this post isn't to warn anyone.  It's not even to inform anyone.  Never look to me for accurate news coverage.  Never do that.  The point of this post is to say this...

The weirdest part about living in Haiti is having absolutely no real, tangible idea what's going on here, or what is about to go on here.

Rumors.  The things I've heard today made me nervous.  I sent an email asking people to pray.  I was anxious.  There is a chance things here could be off-the-hook insane in the coming weeks.  As usual no one seems to know what to expect, but everyone agrees that Aristide's return is a big deal.  Some missions organizations are evacuating their people.  Some mission teams that were here for the week are changing plans and leaving on earlier flights.

We know that rumors cause fear.  If we left this country every time there was a rumor that something was about to happen, we'd never live here.  If I stayed home instead of going to Heartline every time someone told me school might be canceled or a riot could start, there would have been countless days I would have stayed home only to watch absolutely nothing happen that was predicted to happen.  But then again, if something actually did happen and we didn't listen, wouldn't we feel like idiots?

There.  That's what I'm trying to get at...the constant state of not knowing. Not being able to make informed decisions.

It all makes me freak out, pray, be reminded that God is in control, freak out some more, pray again.  You get the picture. 

This is life in Haiti.  I've decided that selfishly I'd almost prefer an all out riot on the other side of the wall over the constant tension and the rumor of riots.  The rumors.  They make it hard to decide whether parents should send their kids to school.  They make it difficult to know whether or not schools should cancel school.  They make it hard to know how to prepare.  Go buy food?  Stock up?  Stay home?  Go to Heartline?  If I go, and it's fine in the morning, will it be clear and safe on the ride home?  Do we have enough water?  What about diesel?  Are we being stupid?  Maybe.  Maybe not.  And then there's the disappointment in myself for really worrying at all about this.  Where is my faith?  My worry makes huge statements about the way I view God.  Notice how all these worries and frustrations are first world worries?  They are the worries of the wealthy.  What about the people who do not have the luxury to worry about things like stocking up on supplies?  They can't even eat every day.  Let's get real.  We're going to be fine.  We have enough macaroni and cheese in this house to eat on for a month.

So how can you pray?  You can pray for us to trust the Lord.  When I stop and pray, I am at perfect peace.  Pray we abide in Him and depend on the Holy Spirit to guide and direct us.  You can pray specifically for me...that I'd trust Aaron and his leadership over the coming weeks.  I want to take my cues from him.  Ultimately he carries the weight on his shoulders of how to plan and prepare for our family.  I would not want his job.  Pray for wisdom for Aaron.  You could pray that those here on mission trips get out of the country on time.  If the airports shut down, that would stink for a lot of people who need to get back to jobs and families.  

But most importantly would you pray for Haiti?  That things would remain calm and peaceful here?

Because ultimately...as with almost all political unrest, the people who will suffer the most are those that are the most vulnerable and the weakest.  Women like these...


...who could go into labor any day now and have to deliver in a dirty tent, without sterile instruments because the city is shut down and they can't make it to Heartline.

Or people like these guys...

photo credit:  Heidi Saylor 

...who will go to bed with hungry tummies because their mothers cannot work when the city is in a mess.

But then again, maybe none of this will happen.  Maybe life here over the next few weeks will be the normal sort of strange and unpredictable.  The strange and unpredictable we've grown accustomed to the longer we've lived here.  Maybe I'll feel like a total dork for even thinking about these things or forcing you to think about them.  Maybe.  Maybe not.

Sigh.  This is Haiti.

Housekeeping Items

 -----{teachers} -----

We're still looking for teachers for this group of crazies:


Even though Tara did a top-notch job of describing how craptacular living in Haiti can be, I've been overwhelmed by how many eager, qualified people have responded to the need for teachers.  Either these people are lunatics, or Jesus is in this.  I'm going to choose to believe that Jesus is in this.

We're meeting this weekend to go through all the emails we have received and send applications to some of those who have applied.  If you're interested in one of the teaching positions (we're hiring two teachers) please send us an email by Friday.  The job description and contact information can be found here.

-----{hendrick housing sitch} -----

Last Sunday after church the Heartline group met at the new property for lunch and a time of worship, prayer, and discussion.  (these pics were taken by Beth and Joanna)

 
 








One of the points of discussion was whether or not our family should move on the land in August.  As many of you know, Heartline has purchased three acres of land.  Eventually we will be building a beautiful maternity center on the property, moving some of the other programs out there, and hopefully building a hospital on the land as well.  The plan is to try and put as many of our programs on one piece of property.  This new project would also include building missionary housing so that those working full time for Heartline could live together right on the land where the programs are housed.

Communal living.  All of us at Heartline really love each other, but that's not the main reason living on the same property together where our programs are housed is a smart idea.  Having one piece of property, one set of security guards, fewer generators, shared vehicles, chickens, a giant garden, etc. is by far the cheapest way to live in this expensive country.  Ultimately this means more money will go to ministry.  That's exciting to all of us.     

When we first committed to work with Heartline next year, the original plan was to move into a community that is closer to where we'd be working.  We began looking for houses, trying to determine a budget for next year.  After looking at a few houses, we were discouraged.  The houses we looked at were really expensive.  Not only were they expensive, they would also require work (thus money) for us to be able to move in.  I don't mean the houses would need work to make them pretty or feel more like "me".  You should see where I live right now.  Although having the cutest house on earth used to be a part of my life, it no longer is.  Shockingly I'm more fine with that than I ever thought I would be.  When I say they would need work, I'm not talking paint and new counter tops.  I'm talking about things like one house had zero ceiling fans.  It was hot as Hades.  To make the house bearable, we'd probably have to buy about 10 ceiling fans (at about $300 each).  Then we'd move out in a year to the land that Heartline owns.  Sounds like a waste of money.  We're trying to be wise and not waste money.  That kind of stuff makes our stomach hurt.  Being wasteful with money is probably always wrong.  Being wasteful when living on support and surrounded by people who don't get to eat every day is nausea inducing.  We simply can't do that.

So right now we're praying about bypassing renting a house in the original area we thought we'd be living and moving directly to the property instead.  We'll probably put a house like this one....


Out on the new land....

We're still praying and asking God what we should do.  We're also praying and asking God to provide two more acres of land.  Heartline bought three acres, but there are two acres for sale that are connected to the land we own.  Please, please read John's post about the additional two acres we'd like to buy.  We'd be so grateful if you'd be praying with us about this extra land and all the Kingdom things we could use it for if it belonged to Heartline. It was a beautiful day on the property talking, praying, and dreaming about all God will do on this new acreage. 
 

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Beach Day with a Sprinkle of Ministry Thoughts


The grand finale of Spring Break Week of Awesomeness?  
A day at the beach!


We stole two of the Livesay kids for the day.  Everything is more fun with friends.  Our original plan was to steal the entire Livesay family, but Noah was home sick. There should be a rule.  No one should ever have to be sick on Spring Break.  No way.


A hole.  Remember when digging one could keep you fascinated and busy for an entire day?  I sat and watched the kids for hours.  It was like enjoying an artsy film about childhood.  For one day their entire world was that hole.

  

This used to be a pristine beach.  Our children destroyed it.  Their epic hole grew and grew...so much so that innocent people sitting nearby were forced to relocate their chairs.  On any normal day I'd probably suggest to the kids that tearing up the entire beach is maybe not so great of an idea.  I would normally call them over and remind them about how people have personal space...a bubble that needs to be respected.  Hayden gets this talk about every other day.  "Hayden.  Seriously.  You practically had your head up that man's shirt.  Don't get so close to people!"  Personal space.  It's an ongoing parenting issue that we seem to be failing at severely.  Even though the kids were throwing dirt on sunbathers, I didn't have the heart to kill their fun.  This was Spring Break Week of Awesomeness.  It was their week.  Their time.


They worked well together.  Shared the labor.  Divided up jobs.  Encouraged one another.  At one point I thought, "Well, if the adults who work for Heartline ever can't get it together, we could always just sit back and let the kids run the show.  They seem to know how to get the job done." 

When they weren't digging the hole they'd take short breaks and do things like snorkel...


and swim...


drink coconut milk...



catch lots of strange sea creatures...






sleep...



and just sit around looking mighty handsome...



Last week was wonderful.  Our lives are incredibly full and busy here.  There is always work to be done.
I have a feeling there will always be work to be done.  I've talked a lot this year about the temptation when surrounded by so much need to neglect our marriage and our children.  It seems like a daily struggle.


God has been faithful to remind us that He did not call us to Haiti to serve Him in such a way that would ever compromise our relationship with each other or with our sons.  We walk this road asking God to keep us from making our family an idol that prevents us from doing ministry, while also constantly reminding us of our responsibility to our children and to one another.  No matter how much need surrounds us, God has written in black and white letters biblical truths for husbands, wives, and parents.  He's preserved his heart for families for thousands of years.  What may seem like ordinary things...a home, a marriage, energetic children...these are holy to God.  Holy.  They are tiny pictures of the gospel. 


This family is a gift.  These children our nearest disciples.  Our closest neighbors.  May all that we do in this country flow out of a place of love, health, and thankfulness for the great privilege it is to love, grow, and serve together.  My greatest fear is that we would ever come to this place in the name of missions and fail at the mission God has placed right under our roof.  God help us and give us grace to do this job well.

Reminds me of Jesus.  The stories I read in the gospels.  There were many times when he ministered to the masses.  He was busy doing God's work on earth. He spoke to large crowds.  He healed the sick. There were grand, public displays of power and might.  But there were many times when the only people who witnessed a miracle were his closest disciples.  His first miracle of changing the water into wine was only seen by his mother, a few waiters, and the people closest to Him.  He must have known they needed those intimate times of ministry.  He was God and so He balanced his public ministry and his private ministry perfectly.  We're human.  We're lame.  So we struggle and have to continually ask God for wisdom and grace.
 

It's hard to see this picture and have proof of how close my oldest baby's head is to the top of mine.

These days are numbered.
 
Like that annoying kid who counts too fast while playing 
hide-and-go-seek, the moments...they move too quickly.

Leaves me feeling kind of panicked.  Unable to find a good hiding spot in time.  There is so much left to teach them.  So many of those lessons about God and others we want them to learn here in Haiti.  We want them to learn truths about Jesus and His character by watching their parents faithfully and selflessly serve.  But I know they also have to learn those big, God-sized lessons by being loved and served by their parents as well.

Mommas reading this post with a baby in your arms, mark my words.  You'll blink.  Then they will be as big as you.  This week we made memories.  We intensely invested in our first, close to home, surest, nearest disciples.  Such a gift. We returned this week to our real life as stronger people.

Long-live Spring Break Week of Awesomeness.