Thursday, March 22, 2012

Haiti - Day 1

This first day felt like a week's worth of experiences and emotions. We woke up at 4 am and headed to the Ft. Lauderdale airport. I actually kept forgetting that we were on our way to Haiti. The morning felt so normal for a trip in America. As our plane approached Haiti, it began to sink in. I was gripped with amazement at the magnificence of the island. Mountains soared up out of the ocean into the clouds. As the plane turned, I could see the glittering of a city nestled into an inlet. The mountains seemed to wrap themselves around this city, almost as if protecting it. But as we came closer, I began to notice a blanket of buildings just stacked up on top of each other covering the base of the mountain. Cars crammed the streets and tents were plopped down in the midst of the chaos of this city. No, this city was not protected. It was filled to the brim with people barely surviving. The drive through the city confirmed this. The streets were lined with vendors who set up little stands right outside the walls of more profitable businesses. They were trying to sell anything from produce to used auto parts to random nick knacks. And there was a smell to the air. It was a mixture of garbage, cooking, and waste. There was no trash system so trash was piled up on the sides of the streets. We would occasionally turn down a street and see locals sweeping the trash to a pile, giving us a glimpse at the work ethics that infiltrated this culture. Animals roamed looking for scraps and so did some of the people if they didn't have anything to sell. As we made our way up the mountain to Chauffard, the towns became smaller and smaller with more farms. We passed farmers farming along the side of the mountains. We passed goats, cows, pigs, and other animals tied up and grazing. We passed rubble from the earthquake. The road got bumpier and scarier as we climbed higher and higher and eventually turned to gravel and rock. We went through clouds and kept climbing. And as we climbed the view got more and more breathtaking.

We arrived in Chaufford around 1:00, just 5 hours after our plane landed. The kids were in school, but I doubt the last hour of their day was very productive. We said quick hellos to some of the adults standing outside and then got settled in the bunkhouse. We were the first group to use the bunkhouse and it was such a blessing. We went back down to the school to observe a little and talk to the teachers. My sweet Maceline (the little girl we've sponsored for a year now) saw me before I saw her. She was sitting there with her eyes so big and a big smile on her face. I got to say a quick hello and give her a quick cuddle. It was perfect. We left and had a meeting to get our bearings. At some point the ladies in the village brought us a pot of noodles with fish in it. My first Haitian meal was exquisite! By the time we were done meeting and eating, the kids had finished school. Some of the kids came back after they changed out of their uniform to play. We got out a football, but they quickly used it to play soccer. We also sang songs and had them teach us some Creole. Julien, our other sponsored child, was there leading the game of football/soccer. He flashed a big smile when he learned that I am "Madame Jon". He is so sweet and respectful and smart. I instantly saw why Jon was drawn to him and wanted to make sure we could help him finish school. We had a worship service that evening. I was blown away at how wholeheartedly the people worshiped. Hands were lifted in praise, voices sang out loud and emotional, and "Amen"s echoed through the building. By the end of the worship service, we were exhausted. We went to bed, but I couldn't sleep. I just lay there amazed at all that I had seen this first day. There are so many needs here, but the people are absolutely amazing. The kids are so respectful. They played like kids. They didn't try to act all grown up, nor did they care about their clothes or who had what. They just laughed and played and were so excited to have new friends to meet. And the adults were so hospitable. The men rushed out to help with our bags, the women cooked for us, and they were all so welcoming at church. I am truly humbled by these people. I am now convinced more than ever that our tv's and our facebook and our busyness takes so much away from our lives. Maybe not for everyone, but for our culture at large. I finally fell asleep but part of me didn't want to. I wanted to hold on to the feeling I had forever. I know that when I go back home, the realities of life that are so evident in Haiti will start to fade.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Haiti and Kony and What's Important

I am leaving for Haiti tomorrow. I should be giddy or nervous or something, but I find that I'm more focused than anything. There are still some loose ends and this world just keeps moving. My plan was to have all clothes washed and put away, all dishes washed and put away, all bathrooms scrubbed, all floors cleaned, and everything dusted so the house won't (hopefully) be too gross for my kids and babysitter by Thurs or Fri, but clothes keep getting dirty and so do dishes and I've yet to keep all the toys off the floor, much less mop it. So, we will see how that all goes. Yes, life does not halt for my agenda I suppose. So, I'm just focused on getting done what I can. And there should be some focus on Haiti - like learning the language or fasting or something, but aside from some intentional prayer time, that's not as much of the case as I'd like it to be either. See, my family life is not the only thing that keeps going. The rest of the world does to. There are friends to see and homeschooling to do and news to read. And I'm finding my heart drawn towards the most recent wave of news - Kony.

I saw the video Wednesday afternoon and by Wednesday night, I had come across a blog criticizing Invisible Children. The blog post definitely got me upset, but the comments were just a bit outrageous. And there were a ton of them. American after American explaining why the video had too much of an Indie feel or justifying why we should just stay out of it or how Invisible Children spends money on salaries and transportation costs. Really? There are thousands of children getting abducted and raped and mutilated and turned into drug infested killing machines, and we want to debate traveling costs? Oiy. Yes, it is wise to research an organization before sending them money, but we can still spread the word without it costing a penny. I have a ton more to say about it, but the dirty sheets on my children's beds are beckoning me. So, I would encourage you to read this blog to give you something to think about. And if you haven't seen the Kony video yet, I would encourage you to watch it here and at the very least spread the word. And if you want to justify being a complacent American, I would like you to read this. And if you want to debate whether or not we should get involved, feel free to comment, but know that I will not reply for a week as I will be in Haiti, hopefully loving on our sweet sponsor children and making some new friends. And finally, if you'd like to pray for my trip and my family while I'm gone, please do!!! In the meantime, I will try to keep my focus on what's important - not the dishes and the sheets and the floors, but the people I get to minister to and the kids I get to meet and the lives I have the opportunity to impact. Maybe we should all try to keep our focus on what's important?

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

What are we made for?

So I realized something about myself. I am on the crazy cycle. I heard a quote once that reminds me of myself. It goes something like: Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. I'd like to thank my sweet friends who talk me through my anxieties. I realized, I have my anxieties because I fail to embrace the same truth that is constantly getting re-revealed to me. What is that truth? The truth is that the single most important thing is worship. Funny thing is I just read this on someone else's blog a couple of days ago. I read it and thought, "Sounds good, I guess." and then kept reading. See, worship is one of those churchy words that we tend to pass over - or at least I do. It doesn't mean singing like so many churches often elude to. Worship (as defined at is "reverent honor and homage paid to God or a sacred personage, or to any object regarded as sacred." See, we were made for God. We were made in His likeness and are His creation and are meant to worship Him. Now, it is through that worship that other purposes are revealed, like loving our children and spouse well and serving others and caring for the widows and the orphans and doing unto the least of these. But it all starts with worship. My husband and I were talking about the Lord's Prayer and he mentioned the part that says "Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven." He was talking about a sermon he heard on the importance of bringing God's kingdom to earth. But then I realized that before that part it says, "Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name." His name is hallowed, meaning holy or sacred. We need to first acknowledge just how sacred God is before we can be a part of His kingdom coming to earth. So, in the busyness of this season, I can only see and hear God when I stop and worship Him. period. I cannot use God as a means to some end. God himself has to be the end. Now, I'm not saying that I am going to simply pray and sing and meditate all day. No, truly worshiping Him means carrying out the commands God gives us in His word.  We honor God by loving well and by living out the example He set before us, but only when we make it all about God.  When we exalt our actions or our choices or our character, even when they are good, we take the focus off of God. So, when I make my focus my kids or our adoption process, I stop worshiping God and start worshiping my kids and the fact that we are adopting. The song below has been a great reminder that I am made for God. I hope you enjoy it! (If Christian music is not your niche, I'd like to encourage you to go to youtube and read the lyrics below the video.)

Sunday, March 4, 2012

The chaos in these moments

Do you ever feel like your head is spinning and you just can't make any decisions? That's where we are at right now. All of the life changes have come to a sudden halt. We aren't planning on staying stopped, like deer in the headlights. At least I'm not. I don't even know what my husband is thinking at this moment. That's how much chaos we are living in right now. We haven't even finished a conversation about all of our life changing decisions that need to be made. Since I haven't written in a while or maybe you are new here, let me catch you up to speed. We decided to adopt. Then we started thinking about sending our oldest son, who we've been homeschooling for three years, to private school. And finally, I am leaving for Haiti in a week. That's all. I think this is going to be where I use my blog as my not so private therapy session. I hope you don't mind. :)

So, let's start with the one that's weighing heaviest on my heart: adoption. I literally feel like I am on this emotional see-saw. We decided to take adoption classes through the state, which would put us on the path to adopt domestically. Most of the children available are older, which means they have either been in the foster care system for a while, had a tragedy occur later in life, or abuse was not reported until they were older. All of these scenarios are heartbreaking. And honestly, we worry a little about how some of these scenarios might play out with our biological children. We know that we cannot go into adoption only thinking of the child we are adopting. That would be naive. I hate even thinking that because they are the ones who have such a great loss, but that is the truth of it all. So we have thought about looking into international adoption. We are not guaranteed to get a child with less baggage if we adopt internationally by any means. The heartbreak behind their stories are equally, well, heartbreaking. They likely have parents killed from AIDS or starvation or from violence, or they were tossed aside like garbage because of some slight imperfection or they were raised in an orphanage with thousands of others and treated like a number rather than a child. No, the baggage here would be just as great, but there is something about the American culture that is a little unsettling for us. Sorry if that's offensive, but we choose to fight the uphill battle against raising our children in this culture. So, we talked and prayed and thought that we should heavily consider international adoption. But then I looked on the website that gives the bios of the kids in our system and fell in love with a handful of them. I sat there crying and praying over these children. And then I read about how girls in America who are in foster care are easy targets for child trafficking and that the average age for a girl to enter into "prostitution", if you can even call it that when they are just kids, is 13. (Yep, I wanna puke just thinking of that.) And then there are the finances. We have been paycheck to paycheck for our whole marriage. And with 3 children and growing it feels irresponsible to choose the more expensive route. But then there are grants and fundraisers and so many options. So all that to say, we are standing here undecided, not making any decisions while our future child(ren) are sitting in some sort of foster home/orphanage somewhere.

Next up: sending my 10 year old to private school. I hate even considering not homeschooling. This is kind of funny for me to say since I always state that we take homeschooling one year at a time. But I've grown to love having all of our children at home. I know that before I know it they will be grown and busy with their own lives and our work in raising them will be done. Plus, it makes me feel free to do other things. Sounds weird, but when I spend all day teaching them and playing with them and feeding them and raising them, I don't have as much guilt going on a date night or sending my oldest off to stay the night with a friend or even going to Haiti for a week. (Ok, the last one is going to be super hard, but I can do it!) And I absolutely love the idea of my oldest helping to teach his younger brothers. I have this picture in my head of us all sitting around learning together under a tree in this education Utopia. And even though it may never look like that, I'm ok with the reality that we can at least all sit under a tree and eat lunch together on a Thursday afternoon. The thing is, my oldest is easily distracted. And my middle son is starting to learn his phonics and basic math and how to write. So, when we are in our homeschool room coloring or playing phonics games, my oldest has a hard time getting his work done. And we are constantly trying different scenarios, but the fact remains that our home is loud and he wants to be where the noise is. But then my oldest gets frustrated very easily with his 4 year old brother and I think that holding onto my image of our education Utopia might be at the expense of my 10 year old having a good relationship with anyone in our family. Plus, he is so smart and I do not think I have the time and energy to push him to reach his potential. Sure, he's learning more than he would in public school, but public school was never our standard. His best has been our standard. So, we visited this school and bit by bit I became more and more at peace with the idea of him going there, but then our finances became uncertain. I prayed and prayed during those talks with and visits to this school. It just seemed like doors were opening for this to happen, and now it does not feel wise with all the financial uncertainties facing us. So I'm wondering, at what point do we step out in faith and at what point do we wait? I don't want to be like the Israelites who went on their own to conquer the Canaanites and got slaughtered. (Am I being dramatic?) Well, basically I don't want to jump into something without it being God's will for our life. I'm all about taking leaps of faith, but only with God. So here we are again, standing still, waiting. There is the verse about Christ being the lamp unto my feet and the light unto my path. We set out on these journeys trusting that God will light our path. But I must say, the moments of waiting to see what direction to go are hard!

Last up: Haiti. Now, there's not much for me to figure out with going to Haiti. I'm going and am super excited and super nervous, but know it will be amazing. Prayers for this trip are very welcomed! There is a small team of us going - just 3 women from Lakeland and a couple of men from a church in Clermont, so please pray that we will accomplish what we need to accomplish. We will be working with the children in our sponsorship program, and the men will be assessing construction needs and taking care of some details from the December trip. Also, please pray for my husband and children and all of their awesome caregivers who are stepping in to help with them while I'm gone. Especially pray for everyone's sanity as my boys are rambunctious!

I am trying in the midst of these anxiety filled moments to just trust. I am trying to remember that I serve a faithful and good God. I do not consciously doubt that, but I have to fight the tendency to take the bull by the horns and make something happen. I've been making things work my whole life, so it is against my instinct to wait and listen for God's voice. I think that's maybe one of the battles with this culture. Our culture says plan, be responsible, plan some more, be productive. But God says follow me, wait for my mana and be content with what I give. I've been reading in the Old Testament about how the Israelites became discontent with the mana God had been faithfully providing while they were in the desert. So God sent meat for them, but it was followed by a plague for all those who ate the meat. I just wonder, am I craving God and therefore content with whatever He gives or do I want something other than God to fill me? I have always had a heart to help others, so adopting now or yesterday feels right. And my kids have always come first, so doing whatever it takes to do whatever is best for them has always been my resolve. But where I am being stretched is to simply follow Christ. Yes, Christ wants us to be his hands and feet. But more than that He wants us to get our strength and direction from Him. He wants to be our everything. There would be no point to the cross if we could pull ourselves up by our bootstraps and make this life work all on our own. So, that's where I'm at. How do I calm my mind and my busy schedule enough to hear God's voice right now? (This is not a rhetorical question!) How do you hear God's voice when life gets crazy and busy and overwhelming? I'd love the pointers!