Wednesday, April 2, 2014


I started this post back in October, right after I relocated to Ft Myers. I never finished it because, well, It was too hard. My heart was hurting and I wasn't ready to finish it. I recently revisited it and feel like its worth finishing. And sharing.

I'm in a new place. 

Its not how I'd planned it. Or what I wanted. 

Yet its where I find myself; in a new place.
A new country.
A new town.
A new car (previously enjoyed by some other nice folks for a while).
A new wardrobe. (If you'd seen what I was wearing in Haiti, you'd know this was necessary. It'd been a while since the closet had been restocked).
A new residence and new roommates.
A new job description.
A new route home.
A new routine.
A new season.
A new view.
This isn't a comfortable 'new' for me, but, sometimes new is necessary.
I sit here at the office, looking out the French doors that lead into the parking lot. It's a quiet area that doesn't get a lot of traffic. Across the parking lot, another small building is home to a few other offices. Atop that structure is a light gray roof which slants upward towards the clouds. Above the roof, the sky, which is itself a light grey hue of sunless blue. It's hard to distinguish the sky from the top of the building. 

There's a crispness in the air. Some would call is comfortable. I call it cool. I'm not complaining. It just means I need to start wearing more layers. Perhaps tomorrow, I'll adorn myself with boots and a scarf. Once I've done that, cool becomes cozy. I can deal with that.
On the corner of my desk is a vase of flowers; yellow daisies, purple mums, and orange lilies. I bought them for myself; sometimes a girl just needs flowers. The bright fall colors are beautiful and a stark contrast to faded hues of the outside.
In between my desk and the door there is a small table placed against a wall. On the table are a few decorations; a candle, a silk flower, and a plaque, spelling out the word "Faith" in large letters. Every time I look in the direction of the door, towards the greyness, my eyes catch a glimpse of the brightness of my flowers, and then before they can reach the grey, they stumble onto faith.

This isn't lost on me.
Its faith that makes the unbearable, bearable. Its faith that reminds me I am loved. That I am loved by family and friends and I am loved even more by God; God, who loves me so much that he is concerned with all the intricacies of what makes up the whole of me. It is this same God who assures me that the plans he has for me are plans for my benefit and not for my undoing. His plans are full of goodness and his intentions are for me to live a life full of hope.
So much of life is a contrast of the hard and the easy, the good and the bad, the colorful and the dull. Hope helps us transcend the challenges and celebrate the beautiful.  And somewhere in between the bright and shiny and the dreary and difficult, is faith. That doesn't mean that I have to like everything about this season. It certainly doesn't mean I'm going to understand all of the whys. But what I can do is to continue to filter everything through eyes of hope. And as difficult and stormy days approach, I'll try my best to cast my gaze towards faith, believing that God is working all things for my benefit and knowing that if I keep my heart turned towards Him, there will be sun.

And as each day passes, I'll deal with the difficult and hang onto the hope of brighter days.

And if I have to, I'll continue to buy myself flowers.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

From the Silence

A few months ago, I set a goal to start blogging again, once a week even. As is evidenced by my continued silence, I fell a little short of that goal.
Partially because I’ve been so busy; I haven’t had the energy at the end of the day to sit and process my thoughts, write something meaningful.  And lets face it, after a year (or more) of silence, it only seems fitting to break that silence with something profound.
Today in Haiti, the first of May is a holiday.  Offices close down, people go to the beach and spend time with their families and missionaries have picnics.  The missionaries from this area are picnicking together.  I didn’t go.  I needed a day off and an off day.  I’ve been hosting a lot of events recently and I’ve had to be ‘on’ so I needed the day to not be on.  I’m at home.  I slept in.  I had a satisfying and healthy breakfast of diet coke and crackers.  And now I sit and blog.  As I sit here in front of the computer, the ladies that work at my house are listening to the radio and singing along.  Its been sprinkling on an off all morning (its officially rainy season and we so desperately needed the rain!). There’s a nice breeze coming through the windows and birds are chirping.  I paint my nails. Nothing terribly profound.  And yet, just the kind of day I need.
Tomorrow I will be back in the office. Back to the busy. Back to the grind.  
But for now, I’ll sit and paint my nails, listen to the radio, and enjoy the moments of stillness today provides.
Two days ago, the twenty-ninth of April, marked the beginning of my fifth year in Haiti.  April 29, 2009, I first set foot on Haitian soil as a missionary with RMI.  Some days it is hard to believe four years have passed.  Other days it feels as if this is all I have ever known.  I have learned so much and yet have so much to learn.  For now I plan to stay in Haiti; to continue working; to continue learning. For now, I know this is where God has called me to be.  I gladly accept the invitation to stay. 
I gladly accept the invitation for more crazy busy days; for more organized chaos; for more exhaustion; for more days of being 'flexible’ (if you’ve ever been to Haiti, you know just how flexible one has to be!); for more days of learning; for more days of pausing, painting nails, and feeling the breeze; for more days of knowing despite all of its quirks and frustrations, Haiti is a beautiful place with a special place in God’s heart and a special place in mine.
Hello, year number five.  I’m glad you made it.  Lets sit down and chat.  I believe you’re going to be a good one!
*raises a glass of diet coke in celebration

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

I got dirty feet

This is a repost from my Facebook page earlier today- so if you’ve seen it there, excuse the repeat…

I am "sacrificing" my pride (by showing how terrible my toenails are in need of 'pedicuring') to prove just how dusty it is around here. Its so dry that the roads just turn to clouds of dust anytime a car or truck passes over them, even motorcycles and 4wheelers can cause quite a stir. Today, I walked from my house to the Guest House (about 1/4 of a mile or so...) and when I started out my feet were perfectly clean and my shoes were spotless.....SAM_0566












And this is how they were when I got to where I was going....

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Manicures and Pedicures

Tessa, Rob and Becky’s four and a half year old daughter, saw the blue I had painted my toenails and on more than one occasion told me, “I wike yore nails”.  Her mom said it would be OK if I painted her nails that color too so she and I set up a salon ‘nail polish’ date.

As most things are when there are multiple children in a family it became a family event.  toes1

You can’t see it too well here but I painted hearts, polka dots and butterflies on Tessa’s toes.  Drew, 5 1/2 yrs old, painted my toenails (and toes).  He had asked me what the clear coat was for and when I told him it was to help the color stay, he made sure to put a lot of the clear coat on my toenails so that it was last a long time. 


Tessa decided she wanted to paint her own fingernails (she wanted the paint removed after only about 15 minutes) and Braden, 2 1/2 yrs old, wanted to paint my fingernails.  All in all, he did a fabulous job and only got ‘out of the lines’ a couple times!  ;o) Braden was actually upset that he couldn’t paint his nails and was devastated when both daddy and I told him that he couldn’t paint his nails because that was for girls. 

So much fun!  We’ll definitely have to have another salon date!

Friday, February 11, 2011

Educational Assignment

I was given an assignment.  I was to take a walk down into the area below and find some children who had no way to go to school and learn their story.  Marie France, one of our National Staff was asked to go with me.  She immediately said she had neighbors who would be great to talk with.  We set a time for 10am the following day.  We were going to meet with Jeff. 

jef's house

To get to his house, we took a partially paved path that led up between a building on one side and some trees on the other.  We left the pavement and traveled another 20 feet or so on a dirt path.  We arrived at this house, which was set back about 15 feet from the road on a small embankment.  The foremost part of the yard was covered in thin grass, some small trees and, a few leaves.  There were steps that had been carved out of the soft compacted mud and the roots that jutted out among them helped give us a place to put our feet.  It had rained the night before so the mud was soft but we managed to climb without falling.  Marie called out asking if anyone was home.  Jeff’s mother responded and in a minute or so she emerged from the house carrying a baby and beside her was her three year old daughter.  She explained that Jeff wasn’t there. 

We were told he would be back just after 1 so we agreed to come back to talk to him at 1:30.  We asked if we could sit and hear her story.  We sat in white plastic chairs on the neighbor’s front porch under the shade and talked with his mom. The youngest child, a girl of 1 year old climbed into her lap, whining so she sat and fed the baby as we chatted.  Emily is 37 years old and has six children, ranging from 1 year old to 16 years old; Jeff being the oldest.  She was born in an area called Pestel but spent most of her life in Port au Prince.  It’s the chance of a job and a better life that draws so many there.  Six years ago she had trouble with rent.  She couldn’t pay it.  So she left Port au Prince for the quieter, less expensive Cayes.  She has family here. When they moved from Port au Prince she had hoped the new place would give them a new start.  She said in reality, it has only brought her more suffering.  Her tone of voice was matter of fact and the look in her eyes was soft and resigned.  A look that spoke of her obligation to accept her life as it was.  She never once asked for anything and only politely answered any and all questions I had.   

I don’t know whether the man she calls the children’s father really is the father of all six of them but that’s how she referred to him.  He is in their lives but not a part of their lives.  She has chosen to follow Christ and her husband has not. For a time he helped with the rent.  They rent a room in the house; a space all eight of them share.  He hasn’t helped her with rent in months.  She said that they are behind on rent and if it isn’t paid up in 20 days they will be evicted.  She is also solely responsible for providing food and clothing for all the children; and schooling when she can. 

Jeff wasn’t there because that morning, like many other mornings, Jeff had gotten up, put on his uniform and headed off the school. He was hoping this would be a day he wouldn’t get sent home because he hasn’t yet paid.  That’s not an unusual thing.  Children, in hopes of being allowed to stay, will often get dressed in their uniforms and go to school like all the paying students, hoping to make it through the day without being sent home.  When they are eventually sent home, that day or some other, they may wait several days or sometimes weeks and try again, hoping to learn something, hoping to catch a break, and in the meantime hoping to find a way to pay for school.  Jeff had an exam the following day and was hoping he would be able to stay at school to learn the material.  He had no assurance he would be allowed to take the test, just a desperate hope.  That’s why we weren’t upset when he wasn’t there at 10am and agreed to come back later.  It seemed that on this day, he hadn’t been asked to leave.  In fact, all four of Emily’s kids that are old enough to go to school live in this cycle.  Some of their school debt has been paid for, some by her and some by Jeff who goes fishing and tries to sell the fish to earn enough money to pay off some more of the debt.  Other days he fishes and gives it to his family to eat.  I didn’t see the two other schools aged children.  I didn’t ask where they were.  His thirteen year old brother was at home, on an off cycle.  In a few days he will try and go back.

Marie France rents space in the building next to the family so she was already there when I arrived at 1:30.  School usually lets out at one and Jeff comes straight home because there is a show on television he likes and the neighbors that share the house with Marie have a TV.  I arrived and climbed a different set of stairs to get to Marie’s house.  The houses are side by side.  In her front yard stairs have actually been carved out of the stone and the compressed mud starts a little higher up.  I walked beside and almost under the roof of the house that was built directly in front of her building. I greeted the neighbors who were outside and slid a bit in the moist mud that was their yard.  I greeted Marie France, who had put out a white plastic chair where I could sit while we waited.  Jeff had yet to arrive.  Jeff’s mother had gone down into the village just below but his thirteen year old brother, and the two youngest were there.  After a little scurrying and some conversation back and forth with Jeff’s brother and some of the other kids there watching TV, trying to figure out if anyone had seen Jeff he came running up to the door out of breath.  “Sorry they kept us late at school today”. 

His uniform is a bright pink and white gingham short sleeve button up paired with bright green pants.  Before we started he asked if he could change out of it. 

Jeff is sixteen.  He is tall and slim and a serious kid. Sweat beads formed around his mouth and forehead as we started.  He sat, leaning slightly forward with his hands clasped together and elbows resting on his knees which is how he stayed for most of the conversation, often shifting and then returning to that same position.  I asked him a lot of questions.  I asked him what his favorite things about school were.  He loves math and wants to be an accountant. I asked him if there was anything he didn’t like about school; his response?  He didn’t like when there was nothing to do.  He prefers learning.  I asked him if there had ever been a year when he had been able to finish a grade in a year.  Once, he said, when he was in second grade.  I wanted to know if it ever frustrated him that this was how it was, or if he had just learned to accept it.  His answer was a definitive, “It doesn’t matter how long it takes or how old I am.  I AM going finish.”  But coupled with that determination is the fear that he is getting too old to find good work once he finishes.  We talked a lot about his future and hopes for a better life.  It was evident that his heart was heavy for his mother.  He said he wanted to be able to get an education so that he could get a good job so that he could get his mom out of the place she is and into a better life where she didn’t have to suffer any more.  I asked him if there was anything he wanted to share with me that I hadn’t asked.  He sat thoughtfully for a minute and said not really.  His brother had been sitting with the two youngest there in the hallway where we were, listening in.  At this point, he jumped in and said he wanted to talk.

Jeff got up and Janel eagerly took his seat.  Janel is thirteen but very small for his age.  I would have given him nine or ten.  He was dressed in a plain white tee and khaki shorts. He was a bit more playful than Jeff has been.  I asked him many of the same questions.  I found out he had also been able to finish a grade, once, in just a year, back in first grade.  Even though he was now in second grade he had been trying for several years to finish that grade.  As we sat and talked, the same baby that climbed into her mother’s lap earlier in the day now climbed into Janel’s lap, crying.  As though it was second nature, Janel cradled her and rocked her just as her mother would have done.  He often steps in as caregiver for his younger siblings.  He also helps with the cooking.  I asked him what he liked to do for fun and Marie France quickly laughed and said he was a trouble maker and that sometimes he torments the neighborhood dogs.  He laughed and I teased him about it.  I asked him what he liked to do in addition to tormenting the dogs.  “Joking and cutting up with my friends”, he said, “and I like playing soccer”; left field is his best position.  When asked what obstacles were keeping him from accomplishing his goal of becoming an engineer he said money and the fact that he misses so much school for lack thereof.  Unlike Jeff, he does get frustrated because he says getting and education is much better than just sitting around doing nothing.  His heart was also deeply burdened for his mother.  His goal for the future echoed the sentiment of Jeff, to get an education, to get a job, to make money and to make a better life for themselves individually, for their brothers and sisters collectively, and especially their mother.  I asked them both if they believed there was hope for their future and in reaching their goals.  They both answered yes but both seemed to understand that unless they could find a way to get their education that was going to be difficult.

One of the things that struck me, that I noticed was missing from all three of the conversations I had was the word opportunity.  I was hoping for someone to tell me that an education gave them an opportunity for a better life.  I finally asked Janel what opportunities an education would give him but when Marie translated the question into Creole, she never used the word opportunity.  It struck me to think that on so many levels maybe that word doesn’t really exist in a cultural context.  Sure, there is a word for opportunity in Creole but perhaps on a much bigger level, it’s what the Haitian people are lacking.  Opportunity.

At sixteen years of age, most teenage boys in the US are downloading their favorite tunes on to their IPod, texting the girl they have a crush on, or are dreaming about their first kiss or their first car.  At sixteen years of age, Jeff has already decided what he wants to do when he grows up, is burdened by his mother’s incessant suffering, wishes to make a better life for himself so he can make a better life for her, and hopes that maybe this year will be the year he finishes 5th grade.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

On cold showers, roosters and being home.

I stood in the bathroom this morning for a while, just listening.  My bathroom is at the front of the house and faces the direction of the small road leading to other missionary houses below, as well as in the direction of town farther out in the distance. If I strain my eyes and the weather is clear I can see Ile La Vache and the ocean out the window. Standing there, I was reminded of my first day in Haiti. While I am much more familiar with the sounds of Haiti now than on my first day, it has been awhile since I’ve heard them.  In the states we live in houses with locked wooden doors and closed windows.  In Haiti we lives in houses with open windows and screened front doors which means we hear most everything.  Haiti, or at least the places I frequent, has a very distinct soundtrack.  Roosters, cows, barking dogs, diesel engines, motorcycles, and horns. Being in a place that's so open these sounds are a real and intricate part of every day life.  As I stood there this morning, I heard the sound of water running from the hose and the voice of Rameau, the gardener, standing in the front yard talking to one of our house ladies in the kitchen.  Hearing his voice made smile.  Down in the valley, the cows mooed, and of course, an obligatory rooster crowed.  You know, I actually don’t mind the roosters as long as they’re not in close proximity to where I am.  It’s a very natural part of the acoustical landscape and can at times be almost charming.

I stood there in the bathroom for at least a minute.  I was taking it all in sort of like taking in a deep breath, only, with my ears. I would like say that I was standing there enjoying that moment and all its delectable acoustic goodness.  But truth be told, it was more like one of those moments when you know you have to jump feet first into ice cold water and you’re bracing yourself for the shock. I was indeed enjoying the sounds of the morning but it was really mostly that I was avoiding jumping into a cold shower.  The first one is always the hardest. 

Despite the shock of the cold shower this morning, all in all, it has been a fabulous first two days.  Yesterday, I had great traveling companions, I got to see parts of Port au Prince I had never seen before, I was able to visit with one of my dear friends, Jenn, and share a really great meal with her, Gary and Benjamin on the way back to Cayes, and I arrived in Cayes to find my room clean and my sheets freshly changed and awaiting my arrival. Today was a beautiful day with a nice breeze and gorgeous skies.  I caught up with our ladies and Rameau, saw some of the RMI staff, got gas in my four wheeler, had a delicious lunch, unpacked my bags (though arranging what came out of them will happen another day), chatted with lots of ladies at Ladies Tea, made a new friend, and got to talk on the phone with a couple of ‘already’ friends.  Over a nice dinner of lentils, homemade German sour dough bread, cabbage salad, and fresh tomatoes, Suzanne and I caught up on our time out of the country and talked of computers and cellphones. 

A church service down the hill just ended not too long ago and the preacher could be heard on the PA system all the way up here.  The church is in the valley below.  Dogs scuffle, a cow moos, and off in the distance the sound of traffic is a dull but steady hum, or maybe that’s the water pump.  Or maybe a little of both.  Sometimes its hard to tell.  Right now the air is filled with the sound of crickets chirping.  I love that I can sit in my room and hear all of that.  Cold showers notwithstanding, I love the sounds of Haiti.  I love being here. 

I love being home.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Go There

At 7am, Monday, January 24, 2011, I board the plane for my return flight to Haiti.  Its been three months.  For a few days now I’ve been thinking about the post I wanted to do upon my return to Haiti.  I was going to reflect on my time here in the States, on how I have been assured in my heart that Haiti is the place God has called me, on how much I have been looking forward to my return and yet how conflicted I feel in my heart over the things here I am, once again, leaving behind. I am going to have to save that post for another day.  What I will shared instead is a lovely poem.  This poem comes from a collection of Haitian Poetry compiled into a volume called Open Gate*.  One day, looking for an inspirational poem to share with someone I found this one.  I believe its quite apropos to share upon my return. 

Go there where you see your heart
Leading you keeping you from changing
Into a dry desert of sorrow
Worse than the skin of a drum.
Go there even when you’re discouraged
When you end up as salt meat
In banquets for bigwigs.
You have to go there, my brothers and sisters,
Where the people suffering
Never hear “Good Morning”
Where there’s no light
To enliven a day with hope.
Go there and bring the warmth of your love along
To make the people’s heart happy
To defy injustice and evil
Endured by the wretched of the earth
As if they had no right to be there,
There in the morning splendor of being alive.
You have to go there, live there, join us
If only with the little smiles of your mouths
O my sisters and brothers, we have to be there
Where together, without any dirty tricks,
We can grow corm, oranges, and friendship
For all of us on earth so in need of transformation.
-Tontongi, pg 227

*Open Gate: An Anthology of Haitian Creole Poetry