Tuesday, August 14, 2012


So, I recently finished a book called 7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess. It was very eye opening. Basically, this lady (Jen Hatmaker) decides to fast 7 different things for a month each. You may be wondering why she decided to do this. One of the main reasons was "to purge the junk and pare down to what is necessary, what is noble. . . [it is] an intentional reduction, a deliberate abstinence to summon God's movement in my life. A fast creates margin for God to move. Temporarily changing our routine of comfort jars us off high center. A fast is not necessarily something we offer God, but it assists us in offering ourselves." I read this and immediately wanted to fast myself.

The first month, she fasts food. Not all food. She only allows herself 7 items to eat throughout the whole month. She went through caffeine withdrawal, had to figure out how to eat while traveling, and experienced lots of moments of intense temptation. So, on August 1st I started my food fast. (It just sounded too fun to pass up!). I changed mine up a bit. We get weekly produce bins, so I decided to allow myself anything from my produce bin + chicken, eggs, and millet bread. I am only using salt and pepper for seasoning and can use olive oil to cook with. Yep, no coffee, no butter, no pastries, no well, no a lot of things. I thought about doing this a different month because this month is my birthday month, but then I realized it would be easier to do something like this right after getting back from Haiti.  And I think that considering my friends on the mountain with no Starbucks or Dunkin Donuts, no Yogurt Mountain, no ovens for their grandmas to bake cookies in, no Subway or Chick-fil-A or a cazillion other restaurants to choose from has helped me cope with my food cravings some. They just have their little outside kitchens with a wood pile to cook on. They cook whatever meat or produce they got from their farms or from the nearest market. They butcher their chicken or goats, they cook their dried beans for hours, they harvest and chop and prepare their food all by hand.

Well, by the end of the first couple of days, I decided that I hate this fast. It is not the least bit fun. I have realized a few things about myself. 1. I use food for comfort, especially coffee. 2. When I don't have my comfort food, I am cranky. 3. I get jealous about what other people eat and secretly plot against them when they have the comfort foods I am craving - even if it's my own children. I've gotta say, millet bread with no butter is rather dry and I'm tired of my chicken tenderloins for lunch and dinner every day. I am so incredibly grateful for all the potatoes I have left over from a previous produce bin, or I doubt I'd ever feel full. And my lack of coffee started out great because I so intentionally weaned myself, but after only getting 5 hours of sleep one night, I started hating life. I actually took a nap in the middle of the day that day (I never take naps).

I get tempted to wallow in my self pity, but then, I think of my friends in Haiti who usually only eat one meal a day, and it is usually rice and beans. And then I think of the people in Darfur who sweep up the left overs off the market floor to form mud pies. They are eating just enough to not die of starvation, but they have probably never known what it's like to feel full. And forget about coffee or even clean drinking water. Their water is brown. It doesn't even look clear. It is just filled with all kinds of bacteria and parasites.
So, even though I'm hating my food fast and whining way too much, I am learning a few things about myself and God and this world. I am realizing how much I truly have. Even now while my husbands is in between jobs and we are always uncertain about when we will get money next and how much it will be, we are blessed just by living in this country and having the family and friends that we have. I am realizing how much I lean on my comforts and my desires and my routines rather than on God. I have prayed more and read my bible more these couple of weeks because I am not first curling up with my coffee and a pastry and a book. I was desperately needing to change some of my habits. And finally, I am realizing how important it is for us to obey God's word. We wonder why God allows people to suffer, to starve to death, or to die of curable diseases. Instead, we should wonder why we squander away what God has given us on ourselves and our wants. Matthew 25:41-46  says: Then he will say to those on his left, 'Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.' They also will answer, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?' He will reply, 'Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.' Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.

As I feel unsatisfied and lust after the Dunkin' Donuts my husband brings home or the banana bread my grandma made, or the cookies my children get at Publix, I will remember that I still have so much more than most of the world. And even though I do not have temporary access to my big mug of coffee, I do have access to my heavenly Father. Purging my junk may not be fun, but it is most definitely necessary if I want to allow God to move more in my life.

Check out this video about the people in Darfur:

Friday, August 3, 2012

My second trip to Haiti

I came back from my 2nd trip to Haiti this past weekend. It felt different this time. When we flew in, I wasn't overwhelmed with it's beauty like the first time. I mean, it was still breathtaking to see the mountains, but I felt like I was coming home. I felt a peace at the familiarity and an eagerness about seeing people who seemed to have a fuller picture of the importance of life. As we flew in, I was not filled with anticipation at whatever may lie ahead, but felt harmony with this place and these people who are not inundated with facebook and tweets and busyness. The trek up the mountain was still a little nerve wracking, but even that gave me a sense of peace because I knew the worse the roads got, the closer we were to our village. We arrived in Chaufford right in the middle of a wedding. There were not glares from guests because we interrupted the ceremony nor were we made to feel that we just ruined the bride's big day. Everyone just rolled with it.

But even in the midst of the peace I felt about being in Chaufford with these friends, I had a hard time. I came with a specific task - to teach some women to make beads. When I got there, I brainstormed with Jennie Ellis, one of the leaders of CPI, and we felt that it would be best to get girls in their late teens/early twenties to make the necklaces. Most of the older ladies have arthritis and a lot of the moms really don't have time to make beads. Plus the girls we were considering are in secondary school in the city, which costs their family a lot of money. We talked with a few girls and asked them to round up a total of 10 girls who would be responsible and would work hard. I told them I would teach them to make the necklaces and then we could sell them in America. They were very excited about it. Things were going in the right direction.

So, you are probably wondering why I had a hard time. I mean, all I had to do was make beads with ten teenage girls. But, if you know me well enough, you would know how much out of my comfort zone I was sitting with these girls. 1. I am not crafty or creative in the slightest. I am an inside the box thinker. I cannot conjure up images or patterns or fashion ideas in my mind. I put my clothes together in a formulaic fashion. I categorize and match colors and have such a hard time doing anything the least bit outside of the box. 2. I am a doer. I do not like to sit still. Laundry and dishes are the last chores I finish. In fact, I'll have vacuumed, mopped, dusted, and cleaned the bathrooms a few times before getting a basket of laundry folded. It's just hard for me to sit still. I always feel like I should be doing something. I've gotten so bad that I feel like I spend a huge chunk of my day walking in circles trying to decide what I should prioritize first. 3. I am not a girly girl. I do not paint my nails on a regular basis or even fix my hair very often. I loathe shopping and wear flip-flops almost every day. I have 3 boys and (aside from the noise) love it. I love watching them wrestle and jumping into tickle fights. I love that their version of dress up involves capes and guns. I love that my sons do not talk about who they will marry when they get older. So, you can see how making beads with ten girls is not my normal activity.

Me and my beautician
The first day I was supposed to meet with the girls, I woke up, went to our team meeting and then went to organize our room and get everything laid out. I "swept" the floor with a rag and had everything separated into piles. The girls were supposed to arrive at 10:00. I was ready by 9:45. (Yes, I was actually early!) By 10:30, I went looking for them. I didn't have to look far. Most of them were at Milo's house (one of the church leaders) right next to the church building. They were still waiting on a few girls to meet them there. So while we waited, they braided my hair and tried to teach me Creole. It was nice. I honestly cannot remember the last time I had someone brush or braid my hair. I could tell how sweet and mature these girls were, but I still felt way out of my comfort zone. Once the other girls got there, we headed to the church and I started our bead-making lesson. They learned quickly. I had to tweak a few of their beads, but they were naturals. However, they quickly began to make the beads their own. I kept handing them "pretty" paper and tried to get them to make beads all the same color and perfectly symmetrical. That did not bode well with them. Some of them made their beads from straight strips of paper instead of long triangles. Most of them used paper that looked plain and bland to me. But as they worked, I noticed how beautiful the beads were turning out. By Tuesday, we were stringing the beads and they did an amazing job combining colors and patterns. They had a knack for this creativity thing. But by Tuesday I was also feeling useless. I had been sitting in a room with teenage girls for 2 days, barely talking to them (because I don't speak Creole), and helping them make beads. The rest of the team was putting up walls to finish the upstairs and healing wounds in the clinic and leading huge groups of kids in English classes and VBS. I just went from girl to girl helping her make beads and not even speaking into her life. By Wednesday, I tried to stop our bead-making early so that I could go "do" something. But they wanted to keep making beads. I was getting so antsy.

My girls hard at work
But then I started to realize that maybe me sitting with these girls and helping them make beads was worthwhile. I think my realization came from the book I was reading. I was reading 7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess by Jen Hatmaker. I was on the chapter about Media. She was talking about how we are so inundated with media that our mental abilities are shifting. We brag about being able to multitask emailing and texting and work and phone calls, but really, we are losing the ability to dig deep and stay focused on long term goals. My girls were perfectly content sitting and talking and singing and making beads. They knew that the end goal is to help their family with their school expenses. They were very content fellowshipping with one another while they worked on their common goal. And I wasn't doing nothing. I was helping them. I was encouraging them and teaching them. When they felt uncertain about their beads or necklaces, they had me there to ask for help. After reading that section in the book, I decided to try to embrace my time with these girls. I couldn't ask them about their school or if they have boys in their lives. I couldn't tell them to stay away from the bad guys and to study hard because an education can make a life or death difference in their lives. But I could encourage them and help them and show them that I value them. Over the next couple of days, I found ways to laugh with them and tried to focus more on how to encourage them than on trying to hurry up so I could get busy.
The finished product!!

The water souce
On Thursday, we had to wrap up early because of the construction that needed to be done in the room we were working in. That morning, I decided to walk down to the water source with some other people, which meant I got back past our 10:00 (which normally meant 11:00) meeting time. I expected that they were going to just start to arrive when I got back, but found that they were already in our room working. When the construction guys told us they were almost ready for our room, the girls diligently finished up the necklaces they were working on. They wanted to have as many necklaces finished as possible. They ended up making over 100 necklaces. In one week! That was more than double what I expected. I was floored. I realized that their 1 week of work would help them pay for about 1/3 of a year of their schooling. That is huge. They each got a bag of supplies so that they could continue to work on the necklaces throughout the year. I am so excited about the skills these young ladies are learning and the ways our project can help their families. And, I ended up being able to "do" something after all. Once the construction was finished, I got to help sweep the upstairs to make it ready for the up and coming school year. I even got blisters!

In addition to our success with the necklaces, the CPI teams finished the upstairs to the school, we had amazing worship services every night (in which the Haitians way outlasted us tired Americans), Bernix (a Haitian-American who lives in Miami and is involved with CPI) provided food so that we could serve meals or pass out food to take home, Troyce (our nurse from Clermont) treated a cazillion patients, we held English classes and VBS every day, Kendall and Kenny (the two pastors) trained pastors, our teachers who went held teacher training workshops, we cuddled lots of sweet children, several of us were able to connect with our sponsor children, and every person on our team walked away impacted from the beautiful people of Chaufford. It was an amazing week.

On the way down the mountain, I noticed several houses not too far from Chaufford that I could totally see my family living in. Wouldn't it be amazing if God opened those doors?