Tuesday, April 28, 2009

May 2, 2009

I've been dreading this coming Saturday.... 
I think you all know what I'm talking about. It's the wedding of not one, but TWO of my cousins, Erin Czepek and Jesse Moore. And just to clarify any concerns, they are on OPPOSITE sides of the family (Jesse is the son of my mom's brother and Erin is the daughter is my dad's sister). So, it's all good. :) 

When they got engaged last spring I was still in denial about missing it, even though my plans for Haiti were already a go. After all, there was still a possibility that I might be able to fly home for the weekend and be a part of the big day. But as the date has approached, and factoring in my big visit home for Christmas, it's been pretty apparent to all of us that this is a day that I will have to miss. I'm thankful for the understanding that I've received from my extended family, and especially from Erin and Jesse about my absence.

So now I've spent the last month wondering what to do myself when May 2nd rolls around. It's more than just the fact that I love weddings, more than being home to witness the marriage of my two cousins that I've known forever and watched the love story unfold, but the thought of being so faraway when so many family and friends gather for such a special celebration.

Yes, if it hasn't been obvious already, I'm feeling pretty sorry for myself. It's pretty pathetic actually.
But I've realized just now as I've been typing out all of my feelings that I have two choices here. 
I can sulk about it and have a big pity party here in Haiti while everyone gathers for the wedding in Wainfleet, or I can try to be optimistic and think about what the Lord might be trying to teach me through this.

It says in the Bible to count your blessings, so I'll give it a go...
The first blessing is technology. With my access to internet I will be able to view pictures and even be able to witness the ceremony and reception on tape when I return home this summer. In fact, there is even a chance that I might be able to view a portion of the day on a live video skype that my Uncle Randy is scheming. Who knew!? 
The second blessing I have is family memories.
I have a lifetime of memories with both of them. Family Christmases and summer picnics. Riding the quad up and down the dead end road at the cottage, and fishing at Lake Nipissing. Cousin sleepovers at Oma and Opa's, and Grandpa's expert Easter egg hunts. I could go on and on, and as I think back to the memories, I feel so grateful for the special family times we've shared. The wedding will be full of memories that I have to miss, but it can't take away all of the wonderful times that we've had over the years. I am holding tightly to those memories this week.
The third blessing is more learning.
It says in the book of James to rejoice in times of trial because it is then where you develop perseverance, patience and the truth that Jesus is all we need. I know that as I 'look up' and watch for the ways the Lord will use this time, the lessons learned can not be traded for the chance to be home. The Lord is up to something here, and even though it's painful, it's another chance for me to grow and lean on the Lord for my joy in this place.

So that's a start, and as always, I'm sure there will be more 'lessons' that I will become aware of down the road. Thank you for your prayers for me during this time. 

I'm ending this blog with a picture. This is one of my all-time favorite pictures of Erin and Jesse.... I can't even remember when it was taken, but it's definitely a classic! I hope I don't get in trouble for posting it, but I think it captures the character of their relationship so well.... If you didn't figure it out by the fit, Jesse is actually wearing Erin's coat! haha! To me, it gives such a reflection of the natural relationship of love they have for each other. I am blessed to know them and despite the distance, I will definitely be celebrating the day over here in Haiti. Love and blessings to you Jesse and Erin and you begin this new life together!

Saturday, April 25, 2009


I have a new appreciation for the rain.

After the past 4 months of hot, dry weather, we've finally begun to see the beginning effects of rainy season and it's exciting. This last week has also been exceptionally hot, so on Wednesday night when the rain came at dinnertime, it was a beautiful thing. The breeze picked up and the cool rain flooded down causing the heat to diminish and even made me cool enough to get a sweater and put on socks before bed! That's the first time I've worn socks in Haiti yet! :)

Then on Thursday afternoon, the kids and I were working in the classroom and trying to keep cool as usual. I had intentions of playing some outdoor baseball with them, but the heat was just too intense to do anything but sit in the shade and keep cool with fans. However, shortly after lunch we began to see thick gray storm clouds approaching in the distance out of our class window. Much to our delight, rain was on it's way and as the darkness drew nearer I announced that once the rain started, we would go out to sit on the porch and enjoy the fresh scent and sound. 

But when the rain came, it was just too hard for Bridgely to resist. He was the first one with his rubber boots on and ran out into the front yard, jumping for joy as the rain poured down. This set off a chain reaction as both Grayden and Teagan made a dash for their boots and also brought out Cheryl's pair for me to put on. I hesitated at first, eyeing the boots from a distance, but it didn't take long before I too fitted into my gear and ventured out.

I can't remember the last time I played in the rain up until that point, but I realize now that it had been far too long. As soon as I left the shelter of the porch, huge drops of water began to soak into my clothes, and it was only a matter of minutes before all of us were drenched through and through. Above the roar of the water gushing down around us, we managed to play tag and I don't think there could have been anywhere else in the world I wanted to be. We were jumping, spinning, laughing, squealing, splashing and loving every minute of it.

At one point, as I looked up toward the dark sky, (I had to squint my eyes from the sting of the drops coming down so fast) I had to catch myself in the moment. I took a deep breath of fresh 'rain' air and as the water streamed down my face, it was an indescribable feeling of peace and love - as if the Lord was washing away all of the doubt and anxiety in my heart. 

Rain has often gotten a 'bad wrap' from the perspective of weather. We often perceive it to be gloomy when compared with bright sunshine and puffy white clouds, and yet yesterday I saw rain in a whole new 'life' kind of way.
As the heavy drops fell to the ground, they brought a sense of coolness and relief to the heat and dryness of the earth. The water began to wash away dirt around my feet, cleansing it of all of the built up dust and stone, and most of all, it provided a source of food to all of the plants, making them vibrant with color and full of life once again.
The effects of the water falling on the earth also symbolize a lot of what the Lord did in my own heart as I stood in the rain. I felt the Lord cleansing me of a lot of my own 'dust'. Dust that has been accumulating from concerns about what this next year may bring, and dust from the doubts that have been bogging me down as I make this important decision. There have been so many variables that have been churning in my mind, and yet in that moment I felt like in a lot of ways the Lord was telling me that I don't have to figure it all out, He simply wants me to stand. 
When the storms of our lives come in, it's easy to cower away or run for cover in order to avoid destruction, and yet I felt like God was speaking to me, just like a song I've listened to recently, 'Stand in the rain'. If my faith is real, and my trust is secure, then Jesus can give me the strength to stand. And as I stand with the dark clouds surrounding me, His love and mercy and grace pours down and washes over me. Where the thick clouds hover, it is there that His abundant love 'reigns'. There is a peace that can't be explained and a hope that His plan is full of blessing, so I need not be afraid.

This week I believe I have learned a lot about God's character. That the love He has for His children is far greater than I allow myself to believe sometimes. He's been casting out my fears. He's forgiven me of my past. He's been healing me of my brokenness. 
And because of this love I have realized this week that He isn't going to take me up a mountain and drop me off a cliff. He isn't going to lead me to the desert and not provide a stream. He is the God that provided for Moses and Joshua. He is the God that stood with Shadrac, Meshach and Abendago through the fire. He is the God that rescued Daniel from the lions. He is more than just the God of today, but He has proved His faithfulness from the beginning of time. And for that reason, I know that I can trust Him with whatever plans He has for my life. As He promised, I will never leave you nor forsake you. So though the path gets steeper and narrower and I begin to wonder if this really is the right path I'm on, I am comforted knowing that He is beside me and I have nothing to fear.

Thank you all for the support you have been to me during this time. Each morning all week long as I have checked my e-mail, my inbox has been full of encouraging messages and prayers from many of you who have read my last blog posting. I can't thank you enough for the love that you have blessed me with and I have truly felt your prayers during this time.
I wait in anticipation for what's next in this journey as I stand in His rain.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009


I'm sure a lot of you who keep up with my regular Saturday morning blogs have been wondering what's been going on with me lately... I'm a little embarrassed for my lack of communication, but to be honest, I've been at a loss for words. Everything feels foggy.

I never thought that it would be like this. The last couple of months I've spent in Haiti have been really fulfilling. I didn't think I'd have too much trouble accepting a further commitment to teach another year if that is what the Lord was calling me to, but recently these notions of confidence have been absent. I feel like I've had to re-evaluate this decision all over again. 

Over the last week, the Lord has been teaching about what I'm really here for. I've realized that I've developed a lot of twisted ideas about my calling here in Haiti, and I've been hit with the fact that a lot of it has to do with my pride. 
This past summer before I left for Haiti, I wrote a blog about a verse from 1 Thessalonians that really spoke to me. A verse that emphasized the Lord's faithfulness in what He calls us to and how He will do it. I committed this verse to the Lord on both the level of dependence and letting go of my pride, and it's become a verse I've fallen back on a lot during my months in Haiti. And yet, I feel like I've been swept back up in the lies.... Lies about of having it all figured out. About how this year shows just how much of a strong, solid Christian I am, and how I've 'arrived'.

But I've been wrong.
The Lord didn't call me to serve in Haiti so that I could be proud about what I've done. He called me here to accomplish His work as He lives in me. 
It's not about me.
It's all about Him.
And more than that, part of being here to do His work is working alongside others, not comparing or judging to show how much better I am. 

The kingdom is all about unity in Jesus.
We are all part of a body. Each part has a function.
Just like each person has a story. 
Each person has a different past which defines who they are and what they are called to do. Each person has a uniqueness that makes them who they are. It's how we reach other people. It's a diversity that God intended. He created it.
We need diversity just like we need each other. 
I can't do it alone.
No one can.
And I'm not just talking about people in Haiti, it's being united with brothers and sisters all over the world working with a common purpose - To glorify the Lord. Just like a body, no part is needed more or has more value than any other. 

Somewhere along this road I bought the lie that my role in Haiti is more important that than my role in Wainfleet. That I needed to go beyond Ontario and do something 'extreme' to really glorify Him. And so when thinking about my decision about next year, I didn't really feel like I had an option to say no. I felt like in a way I would be failing myself, failing others, failing God to step out of this place. After all, to follow God, I needed to do something radical, right? But lately, He has been teaching me that each one of us plays a key part in furthering His kingdom, which doesn't mean everybody has to pack their bags and go to Africa (or Haiti). He's been teaching me that no matter what I do or where I go, He will use me.

It's like a Nooma video that I watched once... One line of the clip still rings in my ears when my heavenly Father says: There is nothing you can do that will make me love you less. God's love is so beyond what I can fathom and there's nothing I can do to change it. 
Lately, I have been focussed on EARNING God's love. Satan has been deceiving me and feeding me lies about what I'm here for. But the truth is, God's love isn't on a measuring scale. I need to stop thinking about where I stand in terms of His love or the glory I receive for being here, and focus on the blessings that await me, right here, right now. Blessings that come from being unified with others to further His kingdom.

This has been a lot to process, but I've been learning a valuable lesson. Wherever life takes me, whether I stay in Haiti for another year, another 5 years, or a lifetime, or whether I come back home and start supply teaching, or another door opens and I end up moving to a place unknown to me at this moment, whatever happens in the future, the Lord is with me and I need to let go of what I'M doing and open myself up to what HE is doing through me.
As I embrace the hope of working alongside brothers and sisters in unity and following His call on my life, no matter how glorified, I am in His sweet spot. As long as I keep my eyes focussed on Him and listen for His voice, He will guide me and He will do it.

So now I'm back to the fence. Back to where it all began. I'm starting over. I'm not thinking about expectations. I'm no longer focussed on doing it on my own. I'm trying to look at the bigger picture and wait on the Lord for peace. 
I want to take a moment to thank all of you  so much for the e-mails and messages you've been sending my way lately about how I am being prayed for and supported during this time.
I'm so grateful and amazed at the Lord's goodness to me during this time of decision-making. I sometimes wish that the Lord would just send me a message in the clouds. Like a simple yes or no. It would make this part so much easier. And yet I think He is up to something much greater than I anticipated - a chance for me to be humbled, and to catch a glimpse of to how vast His love really is, no matter what I decide. 

So I guess that brings me to the end of the blog, and I'm still waiting. I'm still feeling an unrest in my heart about the options, so I'm not going anywhere. And I'm in no hurry. I'm simply waiting on the Lord. I'm confident that He will bring me a peace, and in the meantime, He's refining me. He will give me an answer. And when that answer comes, I will be ready.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Decisions, decisions...

It's spring. A time for new life, new change, new beginnings.
This time of year also brings thoughts about the future and what's ahead... and a lot of decisions.

Yesterday I had a chance to sit down with Laurens and Cheryl to talk briefly about their plans for next year. Over the past few weeks they have been praying about what's next for their family, and they've also been in contact with Brad and the MOH board about what's next for their roles at the Mission of Hope. There have been a lot of different variables that affect their decision about continuing their commitment, but as we spoke last evening, they spoke very positively about serving in their roles for another year at the Mission of Hope. 

As you have probably already guessed, this decision also has a great affect on me. Their children need a teacher, and they have asked me to begin praying about possibly continuing with them.

This thought brings mixed emotions. First, excitement.
Excitement about all of the possibilities of what is to come. Excitement about being a part of the mission in such a stage of growth and blessing. Excitement about becoming involved in other areas that the Lord may be leading me as I take another step of obedience. 
Like Laurens and Cheryl, I feel like this year has been productive and fruitful, but I've only just begun. Thinking back to my planning over last summer for this school year, I was so blind and unaware about what I was getting into. I feel like I could be such a better teacher with a chance to do it again. If I stay to teach another year, this summer I would be so much more capable of discerning what I do and don't need, and wiser in structuring the school year so that my students can get the most out of our school time. In life, you don't always get second chances, but this would be one of them.
So yes! I'm excited! I'm thrilled! What a great time this next year will be! I'm so ready!

And yet, something inside me is screaming.... Wait a minute! Is this REALLY what you want?
As much as this decision bring anticipation and excitement, it also brings equal feelings of fear and hesitancy.
You would think by now I'd have the whole fear thing down pat. What do I have to be afraid of? I know exactly what I'm getting into this time. I've been through the ups and downs. I've survived (so far!). 
But the truth is that the whole idea of me doing this all over again scares me to death. 
I admit that when I committed to this year in February 2008, I was aware of the possibility that the commitment could be extended, but I had too much else to worry about with the whole first-time move to concern myself with the possibility of another year commitment.... I wouldn't have to worry about that until........... now.
To be honest, I kind of thought that I would do this year in Haiti and be off the hook. Leave my home, serve in a new country, live different lifestyle, be changed, and then be finished with the whole 'missionary' life. I know it probably sounds bad, but I really felt that the Lord would take me away and do some things in my heart, and then take me back to where I started and everything else in my life would all go back to normal too.... I guess He has something else up His sleeve.

I've been down this road before, so I know what's causing the fear. I'm afraid of loosing something... afraid of loosing everything. I thought I had let down my walls and been broken enough, but apparently there is still some work to be done. I admit I still have a good grip on a few areas on my life, even in Haiti. My knuckles are tight and I'm stubborn about letting go. It's going to take some more deep valleys before I realize how weak I am.

So now I'm left with two sides.... Two opposite extremes, and I have to find myself somewhere in between.
There is a verse that God gave me this morning that ties into these feelings I have about weighing the options....
Luke 14:28
And if you do not carry your own cross and follow me, you cannot be my disciple. But don’t begin until you count the cost. For who would begin construction of a building without first calculating the cost to see if there is enough money to finish it?

The first part of this verse talks about the cost of being a disciple. A follower of Jesus. In order to share in the joy and love of being with Jesus, we also must be prepared to experience pain and suffering just as Jesus did. But Jesus doesn't just ask us to choose Him. He teaches us to first count the cost. 
I feel like that's what I'm doing right now. Counting the cost. I'm not jumping on board yet. I'm thinking.... Thinking about what it means to be gone another year... Thinking about the events I'll have to miss. I'm thinking about the people that I love who I won't get to see. I'm thinking about the sacrifices I have to make financially. There is a cost, and it's not cheap. But the question I'm asking is this - Is it worth it?
I hold onto a promise that it is. That His gift is so much better than what I have to miss out on. Just as He has shown me this year in Haiti, His grace is sufficient, His ways are so much higher, and His plans are more abundant than I could ever plan for myself.

I have a decision to make. I ask in the week to come you would especially keep this in your prayers for me. That the Lord would make the choice clear to me, and that above all I would have a peace that passes all understanding. Thank you for journeying with me on this road. It's been quite a ride hasn't it? And apparently it isn't over yet.

Just a note, on Tuesday (April 7), I will be traveling with the other Mission of Hope staff-ers (the van der Mark family, Rachel and Amy) to the Dominican Republic for a week. It's our school spring break, which was initially planned by the van der Mark's as a family getaway, but with their 5-person family they automatically got upgraded at the resort to 2 rooms. As a family they only need one room, so they offered the other one to Rachel, Amy and I. I'm looking forward to having a week off and away, and it also falls in good timing for me to take a break with more time to reflect and pray about my future.

Thank you for your support and prayers during this time and I will post an update when I return.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Sick days.

Monday night was not fun.
I spent most of my sleeping hours in the bathroom, until there was nothing left in my stomach. As a result, I had to 'call in sick' for my teaching on Tuesday where I slept for hours at a time broken up by a few spoonfuls of jello. I think a combination of a bug with something I ate was the cause, but it's still hard to say. Looking back, I've actually been amazed at how healthy I've been leading up to this point. For the amount of teams that come, and the sicknesses that they suffer from after being here for only 1 or 2 weeks, I have been extremely blessed. But of course, I'm not immune, and when it hit me, it hit hard.

As I lay in my bed yesterday morning, all I wished for was that I could be home in Wainfleet with my mom nursing me back to health like she always does. I didn't have that yesterday, but the Lord provided in other ways. First, Dr. Cheryl (emphasis on the 'doctor'!) came into my apartment after I woke up around noon and checked my temperature, turned on some fans in my bedroom, brought me a cool washcloth, and poured me some water. She also informed me that Teagan and the boys would be coming over later on to do my dishes and tidy up my house for me. A little later on as I drifted off to sleep I heard some dishes clinking and woke up a few hours later to find my once-cluttered kitchen counter all cleared and even the medicine bottles in my bathroom neatly set on the side of the sink. They had also written me a 'Get Well' card which brought me a smile. I gave them an A+ for that! haha

Finally, later on in the evening, Rachel and Amy came to visit and gave me to update on all of the people who were arriving for Ed's funeral today. It was a blessing for me to have them come over and sit with me for a while. Last night was also our weekly 'date night' where we make a point of eating dinner together and then watch a movie. I wasn't up for either last night, but just being able to chat with them for a while was enough to make me feel more like myself.

Fortunately this morning I woke up feeling a lot better. My stomach still felt tender, but I had more energy after sleeping through the night, and was even able to take a shower before going to school. During the morning of teaching, I began to feel a little unsteady again, so much to my disappointment, I was unable to attend Ed's funeral. It was quite a let down for me not to go. I really wanted to be there for the Tytoo children, but I felt that based on my sickness from yesterday it would be better to take it easy. As I sat at my desk in the classroom while the kids continued with their work for the rest of the morning, the children and family members were very close to my thoughts. I thank you for praying along with me for all of those involved in the funeral today, and especially for the children of Tytoo gardens who are suffering a great loss.

I also thank you for your prayers for me as I continue to on the road to recovery... I am thankful to the Lord for providing for my every need, and with the help of my 'Haiti' family, I should be back to my old self in no time. :)