So I have been scrolling through all the social medias and noticing an epidemic. I am noticing how we portray ourselves to have it together. How we share the best pictures of ourselves or our family. I am noticing (and convicted by) the notion that we have to have it all together and appear to be perfect.
I know I have been passing judgements until I realized I do this EXACT SAME THING. So fasten your seatbelts- here comes a real struggle-bus-story-sharing. We just had the weekend from... well somewhere other than Heaven ;)
Seriously it was a disaster from Friday all the way until we went to bed last night. We had tempers flare up, emotions leak out all over the place, all composure was LOST. Our moto tire was flat with a nail in it- miles away from the nearest tire repair guys (which is never the case because they're everywhere). We literally had to walk at least two miles, uphill, in the snow... oh wait, no snow! Actually just some uphill but mostly downhill in the bright sunshine ninety-five degree weather. With every step I could feel the sun burning my skin deeper and deeper. Then we were stuck in another hour of crazy traffic on the way home and it is almost as if that sunshine made its burn down deep in my soul. I was LIVID at missed important plans and our day being shot after that.
Cue our Weekender coming over (as he does on the weekends ;) and he was in great spirits which helped. Fast forward to Saturday morning where we awoke to the beautiful sound of rushing water meaning we had power and our neighbors were filling their water tank. After about fifteen minutes of listening we realized our dogs had crashed into our water spout and broken it- causing all of the water in our holding tanks to spew and flood our yard (just like our emotions did all over the place this weekend)!
Good news though- we had power so once Alex fixed the piece he would be able to fill the tanks back up. He fixed the piece just after the water had emptied itself and (can you guess what happened?!) the power shut off so we had to run the generator during a gas shortage after we got power for the first time in several days and had our water already filled (OYYY)!
We finally get settled enough to leave for english class and I open the gate so Alex can drive us all over there when in walk four men there to work on some electrical stuff that was not finished, fix a window, and add screens to a couple windows. They were not even supposed to be coming Saturday morning but this made Alex have to stay back with them. Class went pretty smoothly though. Except our Weekender had some feelings about not sitting in the special chair that normally Alex would be seated in. Thus bringing out the desire to walk away a few times during class and trying to fight other kids. It was a little overwhelming while trying to lead class without Alex.
Are you over all these details yet?! ME TOO! Except they're not finished. Not even close.
The workers did not leave until six-thirty that evening and I could not even hide anywhere in my house because every part of the house was compromised with people who might see my true feelings. Have you ever had a day like that? Where you just want to hide away for five minutes, maybe ten minutes and just cry? Alex and I were arguing throughout the day about the stress and the guys working and various other things that probably were not even important. You could definitely feel the tension between us. Also- I was super sunburnt making all movements hurt and on top of that I was having "stomach issues" all day. Honest moment- just for you guys!
To end our night I was feeling too sick for bedtime routines which just made me feel like a horrible person.
Sunday- our neighbor has been asking to go to church with us for months but with only the moto we have not been able to bring her and her baby so finally this Sunday we were able to take her. I wish I could say this was a normal, easy, happy Sunday; however, that would be a complete lie. Let's be real- I HATE being late to things. And our church is at capacity for people so if you're not a little bit early it is difficult to find seats- and to me being on time but no seats is late. In the rush of trying to get ready and make breakfast for all of us and coffee to go I ignored my need to pee. Our drive to church was normal in that we hit some lite traffic and then on top of that we were stuck behind a water truck on a giant uphill climb. My stress was TANGIBLE to everyone in the car and I could not get it together. I was mad all through church and ended up not being seated with Pegguy which made me feel terrible and only added to the frustration. I literally argued with Alex through the entire service and my need to pee compiled suffering on top of all the other MINUSCULE details.
Guys- I know its nothing, all of it is nothing. I realize that... but I am showing you my human heart and fleshy weakness. Good thing God is in control and Pegguy loved the church and is set up to dedicate baby Nicky in a couple weeks- seriously ONLY GOD!!
Fast forward to getting home and our Weekender knocking over the moto he is not supposed to be touching and potentially breaking all of Alex's work that he had just fixed. Then trying to process Sunday feelings because having two homes is hard. Not to mention dealing with us and all of our tension. It was a lot I am sure. So we are preparing for his departure and recapping the weekend and talking it all out when we get a call that it was too dangerous to take him back Sunday night because of the ongoing gang wars and gunfire. Then my heart is put back in its proper place by God himself. Ouch, the realization of what a complete butt I have been for letting my emotions get the best of me.
And right before my eyes, there goes some of Monday's plans and meetings too. We don't have a babysitter and we have things planned first thing on Monday's almost always. But it doesn't matter in the scheme of things- we got a reset night for all of us. A night where we pushed the stress aside and focused on what was important. We got to calm down and slow down in our chaos and that can be ONLY GOD.
Here is what I found myself writing out in a moment of absolute peace:
"But then I sit here after a long- very full day and watch the sun go down and it sets on me different.
Find me joyful in this moment- find me peaceful.
The breeze, strong and steady, breaks up the stale, stagnant heat.
It pushes away the pests buzzing and biting.
The leaves dance on my wall through the corner window and I sit here on the couch I prayed for this time last year.
I sit here and listen to leaves rustling and mangoes plopping. There is a sort of stillness I cannot explain.
Only God can do all of this- Only God can be stillness in chaos.
My wiggly, waggly chihuahua nuzzles into the couch- silly.
My Weekender laughs.
The people are still here, buzzing about, making for anxious big dogs but...
Find me in the moment.
ONLY GOD can create this.
Let the sunset on your chaos but be in the setting of peace."
I found peace all around me in the chaos because I took a minute despite my to-do list and noticed the moment I was in. There is so much pain to be felt here, so much guilt to push through, so much bitterness to forgive- but when I am in the moment God makes my priorities clear and makes a way for all of the above. What is stopping you from being in the moment? A busy work day? A crying toddler? Screen time? A daunting list of tasks? You only get the moments you're in now. Time does not go backward for us- only forward. Make the most of it. Find the peace and find the joy.
Last night ended with me getting pepper spray in my eye (a story for another time haha).
This morning I woke up to new moments to capture and made the best of them. We all read our bible right in Psalm 73. I encourage you to read it for yourself and find the truths in it. It is packed full of many- find them and declare them over yourself today friend.
I know social media is intended to make us look a certain way. I know I have been putting on a certain appearance but I also know I am a real human who gets mad at her husband from time to time, or who struggles with failed expectations and then feels guilty for failing to compose myself. If you are struggling to- its ok! Let's bring God glory in our weakness instead of trying to glorify ourselves in false perfectness.
I have a knack for finding myself in impossible situations- especially here in Haiti.
(Roadblocks, fundraising, beating poverty, preventing orphans, becoming a family, etc.)
I realize I am often facing mountains immeasurably taller than my five-foot stature could ever stand.
I often come face-to-face with giants and Goliaths of my day who are so much stronger and more powerful than any courage I could ever muster.
I nonstop come against problems and complexities deeper than the ocean itself, and my solutions are more the grain of sand size.
Depressing? -Sort of. Overwhelming? -Definitely. Impossible? -Not so much.
Impossible is where God likes to begin.
I am sparing you the long stories and sappy feelings this post- I just want you to understand you are NOT ALONE in your weaknesses. God is in them too. He hangs out there so that we might shine His immense Glory all the brighter.
Whatever you're up against today- cancer, hardship, loss, or whatever else Satan is intending for evil; whatever it may be I promise God will use for GOOD.
(Romans 8:28 For God causes ALL THINGS to work together for the GOOD of those who love Him and are called according to His purpose.)
I know this is not brand new to you- but a fantastic reminder to us all.
Every time you find yourself in these impossible scenarios start praising God for the way He works in these times. Praise Him through it and trust me, the miraculous will become your reality.
He makes ways where there are none.
He allowed David to slay Goliath.
He moves mountains.
He provides my needs.
He provides a way through roadblocks.
He sets the lonely in families.
He creates new hope for impoverished families.
His ways are not my ways and His solutions are higher than mine.
Trust Him to make the impossible become possible. Join me in trusting and holding each other accountable to chin up and move forward. Join me in living messy and real when we face trials and tribulations meant to tear us down. This journey is done so much better together <3
Facing your own issues? Dig into these verses:
I am all for writing raw posts- even if this one is just a tad fresh.
If you read my last blog or you follow our pages on social media you already know about the political unrest Haiti has been experiencing. Shortly after that was posted we were evacuated from Haiti.
To begin to express to you in words what feelings we experienced will be very difficult because I am still not fully comprehending them myself. Maybe if I try it will help me process too. Get your coffee ready and bear with me.
Gunfire was heavy at the main intersection by our house. We made the mistake of going to church on Sunday and exposing ourselves to potential hazards. We are fortunate to have our little red moto(rcycle) and blend in that way. We did not know it at the time of purchase when we first moved to Haiti but it was also come in handy for passing through roadblocks- fifteen of them to and from church. I had never seen anything like it before.
A big dump truck flagged us down and stopped us on a back road we were following to a main road we had to travel to get home from church. He warned us and pleaded with us to turn around and try another way. We back tracked a little but ultimately there was not another choice. We made it to the main road, hesitant to pull out when a group of motos passed by so we jumped in their group. We made it home but truly regretted our decision to make the track to church.
I am not writing to highlight the protesters or the fear they instilled. I am expressing my truths in a way to show you what we face but also I am always blown away by this beloved country and I want to express to you the small acts of heroism that we experienced.
After being on a shelter in place order for almost a week with things escalating each day our organization let us know they would need us to evacuate. We had already been in contact with a security firm to see what that would look like for us to leave but at the time had no one to come and be at our house with our fur-family while we left. At one point we were imagining having to close the gate on them unattended. As things were unfolding we were living out our worst nightmare. Without focusing on these feelings too much just take a second and try to imagine yourself in a very slow burning house. You have plenty of time to save all your loved ones and even those sentimental material things. But you can't.
We had someone coming to the house to stay until our return and we were prepping for our "extraction" the next morning. But our hearts were wrecked at the reality of everyone we have come to know and love staying behind and the guilt of leaving them. There was so much guilt.
Heartbroken is an understatement.
So again- without focusing on the negative too much as I have made my point, there were some pretty incredible things we experienced.
On the morning of our exit we were picked up by a security team who drove us to the airport. A part of the team was two young men (early 20's) who rode on the sides of the car covering my window and covering Alex's. Should anyone try to throw rocks or do anything, they were literally a human shield. Watching the bravery of these two who have never met us before was almost too much. They were paid the equivalent of $7 USD each. That half hour of my life will always be a painful one. My life is not worth more than theirs but for such a small amount they were willing to protect it.
Our own neighbors and neighborhood came to our aid and even encouraged us in our leaving. They knew we needed to go even though they could not and they were so supportive of us and loved us through the process.
Our go-to Haiti guy walked at least 11 miles on foot through roadblocks and such to make it to our house to watch over things for us. I am still blessed by the bravery that took.
And again I cannot brag on our neighbors enough through this time- we had a mishap where our very scary guard dogs escaped through our gate that somehow opened while no one was home. Typically (and especially with aggressive or scary dogs) Haitians would have had the right to "take care" of them in whatever means necessary to protect themselves while our two goofballs took to the streets wreaking havoc. Instead they took the time to call us and let us know what was going on but we could not get anyone over there who knew them to catch them and put them back in our yard. When our guy finally arrived home to handle things, turns out one of our neighbors braved up and got them back safe and sound.
We are so in awe of the people we have come to know and love. They are such a blessing to us and such a blessing to work alongside. I am daily inspired by their acts of bravery and ability to put other's first. I am daily inspired by their strength and unity.
I watch in awe at measures our Haitian family took to ensure our safety, our awareness, and even the well-being of our dogs. I hope in reading this you can begin to picture fully the scope of feelings we had in this experience.
What I witnessed more often than not was bravery and tenderness among absolute chaos. A deep level of care for us that are foreigners in their land.
So much love in such a tough time. I aspire to learn from them and learn from this experience.
As I sit here writing this I can hear gunfire on the main roads about a quarter mile from my house. This country we have come to call our home has been protesting since last Thursday. Things are heated and tense out there. We drove home through many smouldering roadblocks and rock throwing yesterday after church.
To be honest, my anxiety is high. You can tangibly feel the heaviness in the air. But God keeps speaking to me, "It's gonna be worth it". I lean in to him to feel his presence and breathe in his peace, what does that even mean... worth it?
Rewinding a bit (about a month ago)- before this chaos began on the streets we were in a boat the first time I had this message. I was watching the most beautiful sunrise I have ever seen. Rising strong over the mountains while I looked backward from our boat on such blue Caribbean waters. Clouds speckled across the bright blue sky. And I began to cry over the desperate things of this beautiful nation and over the desperate things from my own heart. But as I gazed back at that sunrise over a land full of hope I felt God's reminder then for the first time. "It's gonna be worth it."
Loving this land of mountains is hard. It's not a task for the faint of heart. Loving deeply and sincerely opens you up to so much heartache. To truly feel for the physical lack and need daily is exhausting. Heartstrings are pulled beyond what you can imagine and stretched out beyond bouncing back. To love is to be vulnerable but more than that it is to be daily allowing yourself to have whatever coping mechanisms you've made stitches (for the brokenness) to be reopened. To love this nation is to be willing to die to comfort and fear of attachments.
You cannot help but attach to the loving people here, you cannot avoid loving them with tenderness and admiration at their resilience. You cannot circumvent the desire for the wealth of joy they hold and always freely give. Your heart cannot build walls high enough or strong enough to withstand crumbling at the smile of a child or a sweet momma. You cannot prevent melting when greeted by a fiercely loving older woman.You cannot protect your heart from the vulnerability of loving here. You are face to face with strength and passion like nothing this world has to offer.
And then you see all the ones you hold dear to your heart face such atrocities- used for money, beatings by a father, abuse from a landlord because rent was late, hunger, and now severe economic instability at the hand of a government who does not appear to have Ayiti Cherie's best interest in mind.
"It's gonna be worth it".
I don't know exactly what God means by this, I think its more in the eternal sense. I find inexplicable comfort in this. I find peace that surpasses all understanding in His voice. I have a strong declaration for this nation and it might not even make sense for the 'right now' we are facing.
Psalm 9:18 tells us, "But the needy will not be ignored forever; the hopes of the poor will not always be crushed." All of Psalm nine is perfect for this time. Join me in deeply loving and fiercely believing for this country. Join me in praying for peace and God-sized solutions for the current circumstances. Join me in seeing the beauty of this nation while embracing the hardship. Join me in the vulnerability we know as love- and abide in it with me while we continue to bring this same love that abides in us to the people of Ayiti.
It's gonna be worth it.
I pray these words find you right where you are- you with the mother's heart but an empty womb.
I pray somehow the emptiness that has made its way from your empty arms into your soul can be replaced with just a glimmer of hope. I pray you find comfort in the arms of the Father who holds you so tightly.
I pray you can be honest with yourself and come out of hiding. Face the truth but also find your solid ground. I pray you can find refuge with the Lover of your soul, the caretaker of your heart.
Maybe you too have found yourself crying bitter tears- tears of longing. I can no longer watch a video with a baby's laugh or happy family without being reminded of my own emptiness. I looked into my husband's eyes today and saw his pain as he saw mine and there was a strange comfort in that moment. A moment where I was not completely alone in this struggle. And then I was reminded there are so many of us out there- in the waiting.
We are waiting for answers, for joy, for the desire of hearts to be fulfilled. I would say there is no greater desire, no stronger desire than that of a woman wanting to be a mom. It leads us to fertility treatments, doctors upon doctors, searching for answers. Sometimes it leads us to other countries to run an orphanage or to foster care in the states.
It can make us crazy or jealous. I have found myself lapping up from the pool of jealousy- like a rabid dog. Watching happy families and wanting to stay away. Watching babies born into less-than-ideal scenarios and wondering why God has forgotten me? Not forgotten me- forsaken me. Blaming God for not giving me what I desire most. Every failed pregnancy test or false hope led me deeper and darker into despair. I let so much ugly into my life with envy and anger. I almost did not recognize who I had become.
I pray for you- in the waiting with me- that have felt those feelings. The pain is all too real and raw. I know the desperation. Grasping for air while you are drowning in a baby shower or unfollowing pregnant friends on Facebook not because you're mad but because it is too painful to watch someone else's belly grow while yours remains void of life. It is ok to grieve. This waiting is hard. But do not let the emptiness consume you. Do not let the emptiness steal your hope and joy.
Listen Momma (I am speaking this over you right now in FAITH). Find a friend and borrow their faith when yours runs out. When your well of hope runs dry grab His Word and fill up with the Living Water. Replenish what empty has stolen. Then chin up and press on.
We cannot do this journey alone. We cannot bear this pain alone. If you're anything like me it also brought you hopelessness and shame. It stole your very purpose. I wondered why God did not think I could care for a child. Why I was not worthy of being a mommy. I felt ashamed like others were judging our lack of a child. I found myself withdrawing from friends, succumbing to the aloneness.
But you are not alone. You are worthy. There is no shame in the waiting. You are full of purpose. Hope is within you. Joy can abound from you. You are not a failure.
I had to borrow some faith from a very kind friend a month ago and her response will stick with me for the rest of time... "When you finally meet them you will tell them you would have waited a million years even for only a minute with them. And it will all make sense why it had to be not until that moment. Because if it was any other moment, it wouldn't be them. And you wouldn't trade it being them for all the waiting. He knows what he is doing. He doesn't want you missing out on his very best for you. He is making something more beautiful than you could ever dream of."
And this truth is the same for you. It's the same whether you're adopting or trying to conceive. Because before anyone is a mother- they are first a daughter. You are a Daughter of the Creator of Life. You are a Daughter who is loved and cared for tremendously large and in every way intricately small also. He has a plan for you. To fulfill your desires of motherhood in the best way He knows how for you. God gave me a vision years ago of Himself as my Daddy- dancing with me on His toes. Helping me learn to ride a bike. Dancing with me at my wedding. And then Him sitting with while I cried over EVERY single failed pregnancy test. A Loving Father, always there for His child. He never leaves us or forsakes us.
Take heart my friend, He holds you in the palm of his hand.
Take heart my friend, He catches all your tears.
Take heart my friend, He is with you & you are not alone.
Take heart my friend, He has a plan and its better than you can imagine.
Take heart my friend, He is in the waiting.
He is with you & YOU ARE NOT ALONE.
One of my favorite songs for this season I find myself in- Take Courage by Kristene Dimarco. Read these lyrics then find the song and let your heart take courage.
"Slow down, take time. Breathe in, He says. He'll reveal what's to come.
The thoughts in His mind, always higher than mine. He'll reveal all to come.
So take courage my heart. Stay steadfast my soul.
He's in the waiting. He's in the waiting.
And hold on to your hope as your triumph unfolds.
He's never failing, He's never failing.
Sing praise my soul. Find strength in joy. Let His words lead you on.
Do not forget His great faithfulness. He'll finish all He's begun.
So take courage my heart. Stay steadfast my soul.
He's in the waiting. He's in the waiting.
And hold on to your hope as your triumph unfolds.
He's never failing, He's never failing.
And You who hold the stars, who call them each by name, will surely keep your promise to me that I will rise in your VICTORY."
Abide in Him who is in the waiting with you. Abide in Love.
Bonne Annee- Happy New Year! At the stroke of midnight I was surprised to find myself thinking that last year is finally over- I breathed a sigh of relief and did not realize how ready I was for the year to be over. I did not realize how much I would be relieved come 12:00 AM January 1st, 2019. Deep breaths and light tears... don't mind me, I have a lot of feels these days.
With a New Year comes new promise, new hope, refreshed strength. I am clinging to that tightly. Trying to stretch it all out to last for twelve more months. We are barely even to midday on the first when our neighbor comes to ask for work again. We have grown to dearly appreciate this sweet man. His smile warms your heart and he is always ready with a enthusiastic greeting. I stood upstairs in my room yesterday and watched him chase his daughter around outside. She giggled like nobody's business and the love between them was tangible. I know it must have been hard for him to send her back to her mom for school. I know he worries he cannot pay his bills and wants to keep her out of an orphanage which mom thinks is an easy solution to money issues. We are really praying to be able to provide him work to sustain his needs and ability to provide.
This morning is Haitian Independence Day so more than just New Year's its a big deal! Fireworks last night all over and music playing loudly. We struggled so hard to stay awake until midnight. We had a dinner by lantern light followed by a game of Yahtzee and a special ice cream treat! We knew we could sleep in this morning and around 8:30 AM were woken up to a knock on the gate. Our other neighbor came to tell us soup joumou was finished and they were waiting to eat with us. We got ready and headed over to enjoy a traditional New Year's meal with this sweet family. We dreamed for 2019 and job creation together. They are such an incredibly loving family. We were so blessed to be invited and accepted in, to feel like a family and friends. It was a great way to start 2019.
This morning is such a different reality than what we experienced this past Sunday watching a karate championship and soccer tournament finale in Cite Soleil. We spent the day playing with kids who had so much need. They had so much need but so much JOY. It is a really hard thing to process when you see it, I was ok during the day and the time spent investing. After the fact when my exhausted body finally made it to bed- I woke up in the middle of the night unable to sleep. I kept seeing those faces and imagining what its like in their homes. I kept seeing the mommas and dads aching to provide and the kids not fully grasping why. So much difficulty. But again, so much joy. We sang songs and practiced names- the joy was inexpressible. And I think to myself about my own struggles and moments of sadness. Why can't I grab onto to this joy? Why can I not tap into the beauty in the midst of pain? Why are these kids suffering so much?
There is always constant battles with God about why's and why not's. As if knowing the answers gives me control and changes the circumstance. Its all about trusting Him who knows infinitely better than I do. But its still tough. From hunger to feasting on soup jou mou, Haiti is hard to wrap your brain around. I can't always explain it to you but I can sometimes muster up the thoughts and stirrings of my heart. Two nights in a row it has been super heavy. A little overwhelmed at the thought of Jonas and his daughter, of our loves from last year, of Tifamn needing to get to the doctor and Djamina needing her black mushy tooth pulled. Then throw in a hundred new and sweet faces that have need more than I can bare to acknowledge.
Tonight I take comfort in God's ability to leave the 99 for the ONE.
Tonight I find solace in the word that says He is the AMEN.
Tonight I will try again to find peace for my weary soul.
Tonight I will Abide in Love to get my strength for tomorrow.
"... To be jolly. Falalalala la la la la." And so it is and was. Christmas has already come and went. And I am a little late to the posting on this but we survived Christmas- more specifically our first Christmas away. We stayed in Haiti this year and really enjoyed the Christmas prep and the idea of having the kids over to our house to watch Christmas movies, play some minute to win it Christmas games, eat yummy food and of course open presents!
This right here- this was an extremely long paragraph about what changed our plans with the kids. It was full of pain, anger, and resentment. I feel relief in having deleted it. Details that will stick in my mind and I can work through in my heart. What you must know is we ended up going to the kids ourselves on the 26th. We had Christmas with them in the dark (no power or inverter or generator for some reason or another- it is Haiti). Their chaos in unwrapping gifts one by one, their excitement and joy was so fun. Also, because of circumstances came with a deep, gripping heaviness in my heart. Again the details are long but you can cover us and the kids in prayer.
As far as Christmas Day goes, it was quiet. It was just Alex and me. We ate yummy food all day and watched White Christmas. I even had hot chocolate at night. We were a little sad (ok a lot sad) to be kidless for Christmas again. We were a little sad to not be with our families and enjoying the traditions we have grown up with for twenty-seven years. Expectations can be a bad thing sometimes- sometimes we need to learn to let go. We were blessed with a last minute invite to Christmas Eve with some friends and it was a great time. Friends really are a great medicine to the soul.
However, I cannot say this will be the last Christmas away. And we did go ahead and make some traditions of our own. There is beauty in the hardship. In the midst of loneliness God has encountered me as a friend who doesn't give up. He has embraced me through my tears and heartbreak, He has stayed up with me through several sleepless nights. He proves He listens to the cries of my heart, He proves to me that my reality is not hopeless and I am desperate for Him. I am not desperate solely for what He does but for who He is. I am so blessed to be called Daughter by a God who does not give up on me when I am weak- but that He sees my weakness and uses it.
I am a ball of many emotions right now- but I am processing and working through them. We love you guys and your ability to read these posts while praying. Thank you for your support and prayers. Keep reading, keep praying, keep encouraging- Lord knows we need it. Keep Abiding in Love- for us, for them, and for yourself.
The last blog was a little rough, I will be the first to admit. However, I cannot disregard those feelings I held in for SO LONG. We were so often told it was going to be hard here- but little did I imagine the ways hardship would find me. It was not always banging down the door, but sometimes a gentle tapping disguised as a friendly stranger. Hardship is no discriminator of persons either, it is truly accepting of everyone and every circumstance.
But I am not just talking about my own hardship, I am talking about the exposure to a world of hardship. I am talking about being surrounded by need upon need and a world of chaos and sin, just to survive. We dove in head first- no trauma training, not quite prepared for what we would encounter day in and day out. We were pouring out daily; we were pouring out but not sure of how to pour back in and replenish what was gone.
One of the hardest parts of being here at first was standard. Am I doing enough? Were we seeing the kids enough- we would be there from 7:00 AM until 10 or 11:00 PM Sunday to Sunday. We spent and spent at the expense of our property getting broken into every time we left because they quickly learned no one was coming to catch them. On the way to see the kids we would pass neighbors in need, kids who were hungry, sad little boney dogs. So much sadness that was vastly different from what we had left. I never felt like we were doing enough. To cope with missing the mark daily I became numb. I accepted the poverty. I had to look past- and you would too.
If there is nothing pouring into you, nothing replenishing the water that leaves the cup- well its not philosophical at all- your cup stays empty. It is that simple. We were serving beyond the means we had- we were not making time for bible studies or community or church that we could understand on Sunday. We were given spiritually and completely poured out. This led to a lot fighting and stress and empty feelings inside of me. I could not fathom that we were even making a difference living here because we could never do enough. Nothing was ever enough.
Sound familiar? I can bet you have felt that way a time or two? Or maybe you deal more with Not-Enough's twin: Not-Right. Am I even doing this right?! I compared myself to every scale and type out there. Comparison is a motive killer. My cup is in a much healthier place and I can tell you if you want to be empty and broken just compare yourself to everyone else. That is a never fails strategy to burn out.
God is a good God. I stand firmly behind this everyday forever and ever. We had such a difficult season and I will always proclaim this to the ends of the earth. Eventually we realized we could not do enough EVER. We trusted in God to tell us what was enough. He is the standard. He is the measuring cup I go by for the sprinkles of this life. He sustains me and paces me. He waited patiently for me to take up this revelation and still has to give me peace for my shortcomings (to my standards).
The numbness- that was a coping mechanism. We all have them. Honestly, its still a struggle. More recently, since pressing into my God time more I am seeing all that can be done and all the heartache, wrapped up ugly, and letting it hit my heart. I have been coming face to face with it as a motivator. Staring right into this spiritual war and proclaiming victory over hopeless situations. I then entrust it to the one who can strategize a victory. He knows whats best even when we cannot see it yet.
Keep pouring out. I am not writing all of this to discourage or deter you from the mission field. More to encourage you to run harder, faster, and stronger than you ever have before. But run right into the arms of the one who replenishes you. Let Him pour you out wherever you are. Maybe your not called to foreign nations but to ministry within your own family. Maybe your called to listen more and advise less. I believe we are all called to be missionaries where our feet touch everyday. Bring that Good News with you! Just make sure you prioritize the replenishing. Or rather, the One who replenishes. Empty cups continue pouring but at the expense of heart. You will pour yourself right out and you really need to be pouring God's abundance out.
Focus on Him. I know how that inner turmoil of self doubt works. It darkens every corner and bogs down with hopelessness weighty and full. The best way to fight these battles is to do nothing- to just be still. Let Him fight your battles for you. Praise, bow down, and stay still while He goes ahead. That is the ultimate trust and He will honor it. He will lead you out the darkness, to His everlasting light. He will refill your cup and allow you to pour out continuously. He will also allow brokenness to happen, and in those times just face Him and trust. His promises will never fail and He will always be good.
Reality check served with a little raw feeling minus the shame
So you think you want to do missions? Maybe you have been inspired by a short term trip experience or really love to help people. (Its raw but if you keep reading I promise it gets better ;)
Let me ask you this- Do you also really love to have your heart broken? Do you love to have the fragments stomped on often? Or maybe you really love to be face to face with the world's hurt and feel guilty for everything you have or a lot of times what you don't.
The feeling of broken and poured out is exactly that- things do not break open by a gentle breeze or a butterfly kiss. Breaking open to pour out means there might be some jagged edges or scarring. There might even be some aftershock like quakes that tear up what is left.
I think so often we beautify missions and we glorify it in ways that make us look good and look heart happy. The reality is we all have things we are dealing with under the surface of that smile. Chances are they are just waiting to boil over and bubble out leaving us in a pile of mess. Our pictures are full of joy, yes, but also unspeakable heartache.
Being a missionary has its moments, the ones where I have played and loved on some pretty incredible kids while sharing the love of Christ with them. Or the time I was serving at a malnutrition clinic and twelve toddlers escaped their care simply because I was holding one and they were just tall enough to reach the door handle. Those moments are near and dear to my heart and bring a smile to my face.
There are other moments though- visiting a home for dying and destitute people where I sat with them and offered massages and a hug. So many older women dying in these beds, with no morphine to ease their suffering. As the bell rang and I had one more massage to give out to complete the task so everyone had received, I quickly rushed to the feet of a woman to hurry and be done. Thank God Holy Spirit prompted me to smile at her face and it was then that I realized this was no woman at all, just a girl. I placed myself on the side of her bed and began talking to her. She was afraid to die. She was sad to be dying alone. She had no momma to hold her close and no papa to tell her how strong she was. She had no family at all and only seventeen years of life experience. I could imagine she was vibrantly full of joy and spirit before she became sick with tuberculousis. And now she was withered, the life gone from her long boney limbs. She was caving in before my very eyes and there was nothing I could do. I did do one thing though, I held her hand and looked into her eyes and offered all that I have left of my own broken, fragmented heart. I gave her everything she needed because I already have it- I asked her if she knows Jesus. I told her he will be the reason she does not die alone. I told her God is the good Daddy who will carry her home and she will no longer suffer but be in an eternal embrace of love and affection. She was so ready to pray with me for the love of God to wash her sin away and accept a new life. My heart lost another piece of itself that day. Maybe we become this way because it is when we lose all the pieces to our puzzled hearts that we truly find our lives. I trust my pieces to the Puzzlemaker so He can make the puzzle more complete. I entrusted this precious one right into His care because I can do nothing to change her circumstance but He can.
Those hard moments are also near and dear to my heart but come with a price. The whole first year working with those precious kiddos and learning the reality of what they face and what orphanages here are about- came with joy and so much pain. Then there are the inbetweens- you know, everything that makes up the majority of our time. There are the other missionaries who love to judge whether or not your posts are up to their standards. Or there are the ones you serve who have formed opinions while trying to survive and maybe want to try to squeeze you for as much as they can even if its hurts. There are those back home who need to know what you're doing but the weight of doing it tastefully, so as not to leave a bad impression of your life, brings you down. And even when you think you're doing it right someone lets you know its still wrong.
Aside from those realities- the social interaction is just enough on whatever social network you now reside in virtually to keep you from banging your head on the wall. The loneliness is strangling. And the times you long for that coffee chat with your best friend but avoid socializing because you are processing a lot internally. For awhile we operated in so much fear of posting anything- we were afraid of the judgements of fellow missionaries. We were afraid of misrepresenting the country we serve. We were afraid of deterring people from wanting to come visit (especially those closest to us) but it does not matter how you paint the picture- if it is important to them they will make it happen even if its all done in crayon and goes outside the lines.
So many painful realities we face daily. So much negativity in this world and we chose to succumb to fear. We are no longer standing by idly while opinions are thrown at us. We will portray things the way we perceive them and we will not feel guilty for it. We will fight against the guilt we have of having a home with a roof and food to eat and work harder to provide opportunities for those who don't. We will continue to bring Jesus wherever we go and equip whoever we can with the Good News so they too can can fight their battles. And you know how we are going to accomplish all of this? We are going to praise and worship and bow down to The One who fights our battles for us.
Now that we are past all the tough stuff we have been bottling up for a long, long time lets move forward. There is beauty wherever we go here. And in the midst of so much pain and brokenness we do find our lives and our joy. But it is only possible with God. We do not have our funding yet but also know that every need we have is being met. God has been providing a way for all of them as they arise. We recently gave out a microloan that will become a savings account for a woman we love dearly here. We truly did not have the money to give but we will make it work so she and her family can continue to live in their home. We will make it work and skim on our own groceries for a family that stays together. And we will work toward her having the money in an account to be able to pay for her next emergency- empowering her to use her own earned funds to cover costs and building her self confidence and making an example for her children.
This is the passion and the heartache that drives us here. There is pain in various forms but as we learn to walk things out in faith instead of fear we are able to overcome. We are learning to be truly satisfied by a Holy God. To trust Him with all our needs (physical, emotional, mental, & spiritual) and the needs of those around us. When I talked about feeling guilty for what you have and what you don't, I simply meant its hard to live in a third world country surrounded by people with nothing and have things they don't. Its even harder to live in a third world country surrounded by people who have nothing and need money or food or a job when you do not have the funding or the means to meet their needs. As our time here continues I continue to trust God for all our needs but especially laying down their needs too. He is always in control.
"Hope is symbolized in Christian iconography by an anchor. And what does an anchor do? It keeps the ship on course when wind and waves rage against it. But the anchor of hope is sunk in Heaven, not on earth." Gregory Floyd, a Grief Unveiled
Its time for me write but to be honest the words are a little hard to find right now. As many of you know our new house fell through two days before we came back to Haiti. With it- the plans we had mapped out for the year revolving around this idea of a community center. We had so beautifully prepared the soil for what was to come- a building in the area we already know so well and centered around the kids we spent a year getting to know so deeply. You might be confused about why ALL the plans are subject to change, after all it was just the space falling through, right?
Currently with only our moto (motorcycle) as means of transportation we are slowed down on the house hunting as it has been raining and causing these back dirt roads to be thick with mud. Mud is no problem in a truck but on the moto it presents a slippery sort of mucky danger.
We found one house suitable for the dream we had in this area however it was double our price range and the yard still did not have the accommodations for the various types of trainings we wanted to hold. The original property had about two acres of grass and trees to create space for others to come and participate in bible studies, medical clinics, job skills trainings, after school programs, and much more.
Knowing that our current home area is possibly not an option we began looking to other towns and saw a couple houses that just do not match our needs.
I appreciate those of you who encouraged us before we left. For others who felt the burden with us and were pushed to pray. And for the rest who felt the disappointment with us and just held our hearts with tenderness. We were severely discouraged as God had shaped this vision Himself and revealed so much to us the last year, and within one minute it was all gone.
We questioned what He was doing. We really were not even sure we were supposed to stay in Haiti after that but seemed to have a deep gut feeling the best is yet to come. "It definitely gets harder before it gets easier. But it will definitely get better--if you don't give up when its hardest. 'So lets not allow ourselves to get fatigued at doing good. At the right time we will harvest a crop if we don't give up, or quit' (Gal 6:9 MSG)". This excerpt is from the book "The Broken Way" by Ann Voskamp.
So in the not-knowing we trust. We still do not have the answers or a secure location but we still praise God for what He is doing. We trust His plans are bigger and infinitely better.
Are we still bummed? Of course.
Does this mean we quit? Absolutely not- we are ready to harvest what we have been preparing this soil for- and what rich fertile soil it is! We will continue pursuing the ones the Lord has placed directly around us from the precious ones at the children's home and their neighbors to the neighbors on our own street.
Is that not faith? Even in less than optimal circumstances we are still called to trust and to choose peace. Last year's faith looked different- we had no idea what the year would hold but had mostly secure details. This year we will not lose heart over missing details. We realize God will bring the perfect circumstance to us for the ministry He has chosen.
We are in contact with a couple ministries here in Haiti and realizing we are not opposed to working full time with those who have the wisdom and experience we need to solicit to navigate this island.
We write about this part of our journey to encourage you who are in a similar season where the details are unknown or what was mapped out dissipates. We encourage you to press into the ALL-KNOWING God who is not surprised or overwhelmed by your situation, He brings peace to your circumstance.
We write to offer this knowledge that you are not alone on your journey. At times we all face the unknown. At times we all face the concrete becoming abstract. Everything here on earth is subject to change which makes it all the more important to press in to God as our constant.
We began our journey last year with HOPE. The Lord showing me my hope was in the wrong place- it needs to be anchored to Him.
If you're unsure- anchor yourself to Him.
If you're disappointed- praise Him anyway.
If you're discouraged- pray to Him.
If you feel alone- reach out for prayer. I know this is sometimes the hardest part but this is why we write. We want to show you our vulnerability so the Lord may get all the glory. He is made strong in our weakness.
If you are unsure if the best is yet to come- Abide in Him and I promise you it will!
Abide in Love sweet friends
Kristen & Alex Bradshaw