So while we were home in February 2019 (our first evacuation), my mom had gotten me a copy of Mary Oliver's book Dog Songs which is a collection of poetry. I think it took me all of a half hour to read and fall in love with it. If you love dogs you should probably get ahold of this one. But God really spoke to me in one of the poems in particular (Spoiler alert "Luke's Junkyard Song" is the one I am referencing).
A little backstory- Alex and I rescued a puppy from the street we live on. She was about eight weeks of age and full of bugs and possibly diseases. In Haiti she is the equivalent of a rat running into your house so people were screaming and afraid and beating her with a PVC pipe. It is not AT ALL because Haitians are bad people but because a lack of understanding and a true lack of resources to care for sick little dogs like this (who could cause your family rabies or pass on parasites to your kids). We heard the sound of something screaming outside our window and actually thought it was a child at first. We rushed to see what was going on and quickly realized a tiny little puppy was making these big, traumatic noises.
Alex knew he could not just sit by and do nothing but I was hesitant. Not because I don't love dogs (because I so do and it makes it hard on us here) but because there are so many dogs and I cannot save them all and helping seems overly exhausting. Plus once we have saved this puppy- we cannot bring her around our other dogs (you know there are three of them now). But Alex could not ignore it so he went out on the moto to find the screeching puppy who took off down the road. I stayed inside partly because I was not feeling well, and partly because I know this is too much work.
That lasted all of two minutes when I realized this was something my husband was passionate about and I was not being supportive because it all seemed like an impossible situation. Conviction set in and I promptly got up and went outside to find Alex on the puppy hunt.
She was not hard to find- I could hear her screaming a couple houses down following a WHAP. I rushed over there just in time for her to run out under a gate and right into my feet. I scooped up this pitiful little puppy and knew (beyond all understanding) that somehow this was the right decision.
Alex searched for a momma or an owner looking for their lost little dog but with no results. She was so chill we began calling her Poze which is kreyol for relaxed or calm. We spent hours picking off ticks- at least EIGHTY the first day and over NINETY more the second day. Her poop was full of worms and she had open, clearly infected wounds from her various beatings. We drove an hour with her on the moto to the vet and got her examined. He was not sure if she was going to make it but he agreed to work on her for us. After searching here in Haiti for someone to care for her with no luck, I decided to make a post and reach more people. Not too long after the post I received a message from someone in the states who wanted her and was willing to help with all expenses including a flight for me to fly home with her!
To make a super long story much shorter- little girl was very sick. She developed a full body fungal infection from her wounds and it made it impossible to vaccinate her with what she needed to go to the states. Then the manifestations broke out and things escalated quickly causing us to leave the country and this pitiful puppy to stay in the hands of a couple young Haitian men.
They cared for her well! I was so impressed and so was Alex who got a whole extra month with her while I was still in the states. She healed up well and we got her vaccinations taken care of and her health certificate. She was ready to go to the states with Alex except for a few hiccups like flights, the health certificate being in my name when Alex checked in, and finding a place for her to stay the one night Alex was in the states before we left at 4:00 A.M. the next day.
I am happy to say Poze made her way to the states and her fur-ever home after being fostered for a week by the people who covered all the costs for us to be able to save her and get her healthy. Her name is now Allie and she is no longer the pitiful little puppy but more like the Powerful little Puppy! So where does this original book reference come into play? I'm getting there...
In "Luke's Junkyard Song", the last two stanzas Mary Oliver writes:
Though the worms kept biting and pinching
I said no to saving her. I said no to searching for her even when Alex said yes. I was completely justified in rejecting her because we do not have the means or funding to rescue dogs, because she is not a person, because she might infect our other animals. The list could really go on and on. God used this moment to show me many things. I am more likely to say no when I should be saying yes- fear, anxiety, planning are all factors in my need to control.
Saying yes to the puppy was what we needed to do to position ourselves to say yes to a little guy we were asked to take on a week later as an emergency placement. He would end up changing us forever, as do so many people you meet.
What is keeping you from saying yes to what God has for you?
What is keeping you from saying yes to loving people?
What is keeping you from loving yourself enough to say yes and get in your word?!
What is keeping you from saying yes to intentional?
When we said yes to what God was calling us- He was provision. He made a way every time there seemed to not be one. He was in control more than my worries let me think. Who or what is the junkyard puppy in your life? I know a lot of times its myself and my dreams. It's the stories I do not share with you all about what Haiti is doing to us. "A junkyard puppy learns quickly how to dream"... let it flourish like Allie did. Find your yes, find your why, find whatever it is God is calling you to- you never know what He is positioning you for.
It is simple really:
"LISTEN, WHATEVER YOU SEE AND LOVE-
THAT'S WHERE YOU ARE." -Mary Oliver
There you are, living in the moment again. The moment for which you were created.
You never know what God can accomplish through the most unlikely of things; to Poze our little junkyard dog- we thank you for being the vessel God used to teach us He moves in all things.
The biggest lesson I am taking away from this (especially a year later) is I am the junkyard dog sometimes. God could have said no to me and been completely justified. But he didn't. He looked at pitiful ole me and saw worth. He calls me His masterpiece even when I am nothing. He said yes to saving us and sent us His one and only perfect Son to die on the cross so He could say yes despite our sin. If you do not have knowledge of how deep or profound this love runs- let me walk you through how to say yes to Jesus.
Pray and ask forgiveness for all the wrongs in your life.
Tell God you want to follow Him and you accept Jesus into your heart.
Say Amen and know you are God's yes.
Then Abide in His EVERLASTING Love.
Sometimes we are called to love beyond our capacity- to the standard of His measurements. Learning the measurements of God's love are so vast, unconditional, know no bounds, and are poured out beyond understanding makes it hard to attain the equation for this bold kind of L O V E. However, once we are recipient of His love, it is ingrained within us.
He gave us His son Jesus to be the standard we must replicate. He gave us a perfect love that we are called to give freely. The only way to give this love in abundance is to realize you must Love Anyway.
Love Anyway the ones who cannot possibly love you back.
Love Anyway the ones who have nothing to offer.
Love Anyway the ones who are in need.
Love Anyway the ones who are covered in pride.
Love Anyway the ones with which you do not agree.
Love Anyway the ones who have wronged you.
Love Anyway the ones who have no idea you are loving them.
Love Anyway the ones who might disappear from you quicker than you met them.
Love Anyway the ones who might reject you.
Love Anyway the ones who need it (hint- as you look around you'll find this is everyone you meet!)
Starting at the beginning of the year we met a very precious boy in a tough situation. He came into our home with a quickness and left it just the same. He visited on weekends but this too became not enough to keep him from choosing the streets. We lavished a lot of love on our little buddy only to have him take a small piece of our hearts with him when he left. There was an opportunity where he showed back up and I realized- though this boy was not mine, I had much love for him and in return wanted nothing but the best for him. A small glimpse of the Father's love for the return of the prodigal son.
Reflections on 2019 led us to the realization there is a time for Everything Under the Sun. These times have led us even deeper into the revelation of this next blog.
Fast forward to a small baby girl, fighting the monster of malnutrition. This baby was not known to many of you but there was a time when we thought this precious little one was going to be our daughter. Upon finding out about her situation we tried hard not to get too attached because in Haiti these things can change abruptly- so we proceeded with caution. Our first visit- we "cautiously" showed up to meet this joy-bundle and the walls we had built around our hearts crashed down as we saw each other holding the embodiment of hope for us as a family. Upon leaving that first visit we arrived home with tears of joy and the hopes of what could be welled up inside our souls. Simultaneously, we were overcome with the fear of failure and not feeling quite prepared for another let down. We prayed together and knew that God was calling us forward to LOVE without BOUNDS and without FEAR. He quickly reminded us that love is something we must freely give even when there is a chance of loss.
Our hearts continued to fall more and more in love with baby girl everyday until a couple months later when things unexpectedly changed and she was placed back into a situation that was less than ideal.
I began to regret the caution we had willingly abandoned at the tiny, precious feet of this little one- this is me, being vulnerable. Instantly the Lord began to bless me with the realization that although this was hard- it was ok. Although it was painful, it was part of our journey. Although it did not go how we had hoped we loved anyway. It was something God really desired for us- to soften, to embrace, to love anyway.
There it is friends- the way to Abide in Love- love anyway.
Love anyway, the ones who are incapable of loving back. Love anyway the ones who reject you. Love anyway when it is the hardest because that is exactly the Abiding Love- the direct replica of a Father who Loves YOU Anyway.
"There is a time for everything,
And a season for every activity under the heavens"
2019 was a year full of many things for us, many hard things.
Transition, loss, abrupt evacuations, and many unknowns.
God used every single instance of uncertainty to grow and mold us to rely more on Him. He continuously shows us there is a time for everything under the sun.
"... a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot"
Reflecting on 2019 is only the beginning and honestly one of the hardest parts of laying foundations for this next year is to look back on all that we have experienced and know that God is good through it all.
There, I said it. It is still extremely hard to remember God exists outside of circumstance. He exists even when my world seemed to be falling apart, this is the best way He can hold us together. We planted roots and beliefs through 2017 and 2018. There was a time for planting and 2019 was the year where God said it was time to uproot. Dreams were born and some had died but there was a time for that too.
"...a time to kill and a time to heal, a time to tear down and a time to build"
Last year was a time to destroy lies we believed, tear down walls around our hearts. God used a few instances that were difficult to tear down the Jericho walls we have developed on our hearts: A sweet, sweet boy who became a weekend visitor, a boy (who found himself almost a man) facing tough decisions, a young woman who was on her own for the first time, a mom who loved her boy so much she wanted to give him a chance, a father fighting the monster known as poverty...
God used these stories to show us more of the Father's heart for discipleship in Haiti. To remind us of Himself, the Good Shepherd leaving the ninety-nine for the ONE. So we let the walls be torn down and now we watch as God builds away at our vision ONE person at a time. Through this trusting God process we find Him to provide a time to heal.
"...a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance"
Mourning and weeping were no strangers to us last year- we grieved many losses from the beginning of the year to the end. Friends moved away, movements to adopt fell through, and we even experienced the heaviest grief- loss. We lost a baby last year, unexpectedly my grandpa, and even a friend. So much loss in just the twelve months of 2019.
Also many times, despite the gripping sorrow, found us full of laughter and dancing. Times where regardless of the sadness, you could find us joyful. That could only be the power of God in our hearts working by His abilities not our own. We learned to lean into God in all things ugly and beautiful. Not everything under the sun is easy, but you can almost always find a moment to dance.
"... a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them, a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing"
Many people may not understand why or where you are scattering your stones- if the Lord is calling you scatter instead of gather, take the time to un-embrace what the world says. We learned a lot this year about embracing and refraining from embracing. Embrace only what the Lord calls you to- and I can almost guarantee you He is not calling you to embrace the opinions of others or what is popular. Do the hard thing and do it fearlessly because if God calls you to it- no matter if it is time to scatter or gather, He will lead you forward and there will be a time for everything under the sun. Embrace Him.
"... a time to search and a time to give up, a time to keep and a time to throw away"
Giving up, throwing away- sometimes God calls us into these seasons. Often they are uncomfortable, sometimes they are lonely but God is in those places too. He leads you forward with grace and gentleness. He shows you when it is time and He is with you while you make that toss or exhale and surrender. Then there are the times God calls you to search and to keep. The times where fighting forward makes all the difference, He is in all these moments under the sun. He is in everything and is good, merciful, and just in all things beautiful and difficult.
"... a time to tear and a time to mend, a time to be silent and a time to speak"
There is a time for everything under the sun. No matter where you find yourself in the verses, it is always time for God to use what is going on around you for His glory. In the year two-thousand-and-twenty I hope that you are able to see God is in the details. He is the big picture. The hard days are saturated with mercy and the breezy days are dripping with joy.
"... a time to love and a time to hate, a time for war and a time for peace."
In every season under the sun, God can be found along with His grace abundant grace.
Kristen & Alex Bradshaw