Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Somethings, You Just Don't Get Over

I have really big plans to write all about our recent trip to Haiti. 

To include as many of the details as I can remember and to give you as complete and whole picture as I'm able. Because it was an incredible, only-God-could-pull-this-off kind of trip and I'm so excited to share it with you all. 

But, I'm not ready yet. 

I'm still processing. 

I'm still sitting here wondering how it all happened, and even wondering what all happened. From the miracle of the play-set getting done, to the success of our orphanage and student sponsorship programs/parties, to the amazing people we met and served with along the way, all of it, still leaves me a little speechless.

And a lot emotional. 

The Lord is so faithful and so true and the fact that he uses our feeble attempts to serve and help others to grow & change ourselves in even greater ways is.... unfathomable. 

I started off on this journey fully knowing that it was going to change my life and prayerfully the lives of those I was sent to serve, but I had no idea to what extent it would change me or how deep the change was going to be. 

I'm still not sure. 

I want to be able to talk about what I'm feeling and how I got here.... but I'm still recovering, and I don't know what to say or how to say it or even how to process what I am feeling. 

I expected to be emotional and to care deeply for the people I met. 
I wasn't expecting to fall in love the way I did. 

I wasn't expecting the people and the stories to stick with me the way that they have. 
The faces. The laughter. The joy. The sorrows. The chaos. The calm. The poverty. The smells. The views. The gratefulness. The desperation..... I never want to forget.

I miss Haiti. 
Well, except for the freezing cold showers and the not flushing your toilet paper part.
I don't miss that. 
Though I should mention how grateful I was for running water and flush toilets. 

I miss things I never thought to think about missing. I miss not having TVs and computers and smart phones to distract me from the people who were standing next to me. I miss the ways the star shine even in the middle of the city. I miss the sounds of the church choir practicing outside our bedroom window. I miss riding in the back of a pick up truck. I miss the simplicity of having so much less. 

I miss watching kids entertain themselves with songs, hand games, sticks, rocks and balls. 

But I miss the people the most. Oh how I miss the people! 

I was expecting to go and bless the orphans and the students and the people of Haiti. I wasn't expecting to be blessed by them. 

Their smiles were truly priceless. They just melted me. 

Their genuine comments of "Merci" (Thank You) touched me in a part of my heart I didn't even know existed. 

Being in Haiti, serving a people that desperately need (and deserve) to be served, was one of the most humbling experiences of my life. 

I knew that I would meet people and learn their names and hear their stories and that it would be hard to leave. But I didn't know that I would take the memories of their smiles and their voices home with me. That their faces, and their stories would stick with me the way that they have. 

I didn't know that I would bond with a little girl who's name I can't even pronounce properly in such a way that I can hardly go an hour without thinking of her. 

It was day 1 of our visit to the orphanage when she found me. 

She. Found. Me. 

She. Claimed. Me. 

She grabbed my hand and my heart that first morning I stepped into the orphanage, and I don't think she'll ever let it go. 

Her name is Dienaylo've (I say it Jenn-ay-love, I'm wrong, but I'm close). 

She is 9. 

Or at least she thinks she's 9. 
She was born in 2007, she doesn't know the day. 
She has 3 sisters and 1 brother. 

Her mom died. 
Her dad abandoned her. 

Her aunt who was taking care of her, chose to give her up when she realized there were too many kids to care for. 
She doesn't know where her siblings are. She says, they don't know where she is. 

She's lived through more pain and more loss than most. 
And yet. She smiles.... All. The. Time.

She has one of the most beautiful smiles I've ever seen. 
She's a fighter. She's spunky. 
And she was always by my side. 

When we would pull up to the area where the school/orphanage/playground was children would always chase after us calling out "Blancs! Blancs!" (Whites). And as we would get closer, someone always seemed to start calling "Dienaylo've, Dienaylo've" and point at me. 

They all knew. 

I was Dienaylo've's. 

And she was mine. 

I miss her. 

I miss her hugs, her small hand in mine wherever I was walking. 

I miss bumping her in the head with my elbow because she was always so close to me when I would go to move. I miss her smile. 

I miss her deep voice and furrowed eyebrow when she got defensive. 

I miss the way she puts her head down and looks at her feet when she's feeling shy or embarrassed. 
I miss knowing she was close and that I was going to see her again soon. 

I expected some things. 

But other thing's I never saw coming, and I don't think I'll ever get over it. 

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Called For Such a Time as This (Part 2)

I just finished reading through the book of Esther. 

It still amazes me that God's name is not once mentioned in the book. Yet, His Hand is all over it. While it's a thought that I ponder, I think I'm beginning to get it - to understand why God didn't write His name in that book. 

I think it's to show us that God is there, all the time, always in control, always working whether He's acknowledged or not, He's sovreignly at work in the lives of us all, when we mention Him by name. And when we don't. 

As I was reading through the book of Esther this time, I really tried to read it with "new eyes", I've read the book many times before and sometimes I have a tendency to read things quickly when I've already read them before, so I attempted to really notice the details as much as I could this time, and the book of Esther really got me thinking.... 

I wonder if when Esther was just a young girl she ever imagined herself as queen?
I wonder if she ever realized the role she would play not only in history, but specifically in the history of God's people. 
I wonder if she realized her name would grace the pages of scripture. 

I doubt it. 

I doubt she ever thought of herself as much more than "just a girl". Like most of us, she probably saw her life going about as "normal", as fairly uneventful. She probably imagined growing up, possibly marrying a jewish man, popping out a few kids and living life in Susa as a jewish exile. It wouldn't have been a bad life by any means. 

But that wasn't God's plan for Esther. 

God had much more in store for Esther. 

Esther would end up changing the lives of more people than she could have ever fathomed. Esther's act of trust in God, would save the lives of the Jews and end the lives of many of their enemies. Esther would intercede on the behalf of those who could not intercede for themselves. Esther would become an example for women (and men) for generations to come. 

Yes, God had much more in store for Esther. 

I believe that God always has more in store for us than we have for ourselves. 

We may not ever hit celebrity status, or make the history books or the pages of scripture the way that Esther did, but that doesn't mean we aren't meant to do something life-changing in the lives of others.

We won't ever know all of the ways that our lives affect others but we can be certain that we are affecting them, one way or another. 

For Such a Time as This....

God will do what He has said He will do, with or without us, but do we believe He may actually choose to use us to do His work? Or do we leave that work and responsibility to someone else instead? 

I don't know about you all but, I want to be a life-changer, I want to be a tool that God is able to use, however He chooses to use it. 

I want to live my life living every moment as though it were "such a time as this." I want to remember that there are no little moments. That I have opportunities all around me to make a difference. 

I want to serve people the way that Jesus commanded us to in Matthew 25 
34 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’
37 “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’40 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

I want to give up some of myself to serve others, as though I were serving the Lord Himself. I want to give to those in want and I want to bless those that are in need. I want to go and minister to those who need to be ministered to. I want to live my life serving the 'least of these'. 

And even more than that, I want to do it in the name of Jesus. I want His name to be exalted and glorified. I want to give those who don't know the Lord a glimpse of His hands and feet. I want to be an example of sacrificial love. 

I want to give more than just a dress. I want to give them the Source that can clothe them in robes of righteousness (Isaiah 61:10)

I want to bring them more than just food. I want to bring them the Bread of Life (John 6:35).

I want to give more than the luxury of toys and extras that they're not used to. I want to give them a hope for an eternal life beyond imagining (John 3:16). 

I want to show them through my minimal sacrifice the One who sacrificed far more for them than I ever could. 

I want to go, even when I don't want to go. 
I want to give, even when I don't want to give. 
I want to serve, even when I don't want to serve. 
For His glory. 

For such a time as this. 

Monday, February 1, 2016

Called For Such a Time as This (Part 1)

February is here. 

The month that I have been planning for and praying for, for nearly a year. 
The month in which I take my first (ever) missions trip. 

We (Tim and I) leave in fewer days than I care to even think about, to go to Hinche, Haiti - a commune in Haiti, 2 hours or so from Port-au-Prince, home to about 50,000 people. 

We go to visit a people that we have supported prayerfully and financially for over 3 years. We go to see the faces of two young people that we have sponsored for the past 2 years to attend school. We go to minister to nearly 50 orphans and to serve a group of children who will probably never know the luxuries that our children (and we) take for granted every single day of our lives. 

We go to a country that is described as the "poorest country in the Americas". A place still recovering from an earthquake that happened nearly 6 years ago. A country known for political corruption, that even now is experiencing political unrest and uncertainty.

We are going to an area where running water and electricity are considered a luxury. 
We go during a time when a travel advisory exists for the entire country. 
And I'm so very expectant and hopeful for our trip. 
And I'm also very nervous and even scared at times. 

I feel like maybe I need to back up a bit. I just re-read what I had written and even to me it seems a little "cray-cray" (I'm sorry that I had to resort to using teenage slang there, it's just that I cannot bring myself to use the actually c-r-a-z.... I can't even finish typing it..... the word.... it just hits too close to the vest I suppose :)) 
I have known for years, and by years I mean probably decades that I needed and wanted to go on a short term missions trip. Since probably middle school I had had the desire to go, and it just wasn't the right time for me, for some reason or another. Once I got to college, the idea just kind of sat on the back-burner while I started life as a new wife and a couple of years later a new mother. Traveling across the world to "help other people" when most of the time I felt as though I could barely help myself not only seemed "cray-cray" but completely unrealistic. 

Eventually the desire to go, somewhere along the way, turned into a desire to definitely-not-go. I'm not sure when or why it happened but for several years of my life I was like "Nope. I'm good here. I have no problem praying and sending and supporting, but actually "going"...? I'm pretty sure that's not my gig." Like I said, I'm not sure when or why the change happened, but it was definitely there and it was definitely rooted in all types of insecurities, fears and anxieties that managed to pop up sometime during my twenties.

Even during this time, however, I did notice a few things that made me think somewhere deep inside of me that maybe one day I would still go. 

For example, I always cringed a little when the Matthew 28 passage came up (you all know the one, right?). The one that says "go". I would catch myself saying "Jesus said in Acts to be His witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria, they were from Jerusalem - I'm pretty sure I'm called to my Jerusalem, I'll be here, holding down the fort while others go out to Judea and Samaria." 

It wasn't until about 3 years ago that I started to realistically think about taking a missions trip again. I think I was preggers with our youngest, Titus, when the thought first crept into my mind. A thought, mind you, I quickly and emphatically pushed to the back of my mind and chalked up to crazy pregger hormones meeting a picture of a cute little kid with worn out clothing and sad eyes. 

I don't know the next time the thought popped back up, but I know that the second time it hit me, I couldn't shake-it-off as easily.

After awhile in order to appease the conviction inside of me, I remember coming up with an entire list of reasons why it was insane for me to even have the thought of going on a missions trip anytime soon:
- I was homeschooling 4 children, half of whom were still in diapers how could I possibly think about leaving the country to go to some impoverished-possibly dangerous- area of the world?!?! I mean, I'm a mom to young children, need I say more?!?! 
- I felt called to women's ministry and family ministries.... I enjoy serving in the office at church, I mean I clearly had my plate full of ministries here at home, no way I was also called to do missions.... right?!? 
- If I really did feel called to do missions work so badly, I should start right here at home, there is plenty to do right here in America. 
- I don't even have a passport! 
- I only speak english, and even speaking one language, I don't always do that well communicating. 
- I have a lot of anxiety 
- etc. 
- etc. 
Still, even with my rock-solid list of reasons I couldn't go. The desire never really left me. 

Then, two years ago, a small team from our church planned a trip to Haiti and while I knew that that was not "my" trip, the thought did cross my mind "maybe next year" Titus had just finished nursing and neither Tim or I were comfortable leaving him for that long, that far away. 

The following year (last year) as the next team started preparing to once again visit Haiti, Tim and I seriously discussed going, and we realized that it was not the time for us to go, it was a hard decision to make because by this time I KNEW I needed to go. I KNEW I was called to go. But Tim and I also agreed that this wasn't the time to go.... it felt like a weird decision to make but the timing was clearly not right and we both had a lot of peace in our decision. 

Strangely, however, as sure as I was that I wasn't supposed to go then, I knew before that team had even left on their trip to Haiti, that we would be going on the next trip. 
I can't explain how the Lord presses these things onto our hearts or how he makes us so certain of things without verbally speaking but it's a comforting feeling when He does. To know beyond a shadow of a doubt that you are doing what He's called you to do.... I wish every decision felt as sure as this one. 

So here we are, a year later, getting ready to actually "go" and I have a million thoughts swarming in my head. Most good. 
Most expectant and hopeful. 
Most are prayerful and peaceful. 
But some.... some are not. 
And that's okay. 
Because regardless of my thoughts, I know that God's working even now, even in what I see as uncertainty and worrisome. He's got it all under control. He's prepared me for this. He's prepared Tim for this. 

For this time. 
For this trip. 
For this moment. 

And He's prepared all the people that we will be coming into contact with. Nothing is outside of His power and His control. 

DISCLOSURE: The pictures I used are from Voice of Compassion's website, which is who we are partnered with and going with on this missions trip. 
I can't wait to be able to post my own pictures and share our experiences with you when we return!!