Saturday, December 15, 2012

Peanut butter, jelly and sea salt.

a perfect day

Yesterday I sat on Haiti's gorgeous shoreline. Through the droplets on my sunglasses, I watched my dear friends from 3cords splash and swim to a chorus of endless laughter that I echoed back again and again. Beyond the blue where the mountains rolled out to the sea was a crystal cloud horizon that our cameras could never justify. 
In my lap sat two-and-a-half-year-old Ned, Elphine's son, who chewed on a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. With the waves sweeping up over our legs and then sliding back out again, the white bread between his fingers continued to absorb more and more saltwater until I'm certain it was soaked through, but he didn't seem to mind as his small bites gobbled it up in no time.
Tossing beach balls with the kids, scanning for fish in a leaky rowboat, and basking under thick palms to the sound of Christmas music were other mentionable highlights of the day, but most of all, I thank the Lord for letting me spend the day with such an inspiring group of individuals - each one of them affected by more loss, pain and unrest than I may never fully know, but who choose to live with a contagious amount of courage and joy... Even the paradise around me wasn't enough to outdo that kind of beauty. 

beautiful friends

elphine and her son, ned


loving the sea!


group photo complete with homemade sun visors!

blessed beyond measure.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Snow and such.

Of all of the years I wish I had snow outside for my students, this is the one! Joshua, Olivier and Joseph have never experienced nor learned about winter before, so today's story about snow quickly 'snowballed' into explanations about building forts, catching flakes on your tongue, and frozen rivers. I pulled up a youtube video that showed people skating on an outdoor ice rink and they were totally mesmerized as we watched them coast around. 
Due to our limited 'cold' resources in this 90-degree weather, we then made paper snowmen as a part of our study on shapes. The whole concept of piling the balls and dressing it up like a person was very amusing for them. I am still chuckling at Olivier's earnest question, "the nose is a carrot!?!?"
I can only imagine how fun it will be for them to make one with real snow someday!



And as an added perk to this 'winter theme', there is an unusually gusty wind blowing outside my open window this afternoon. A giant grey cloud has blocked the intense afternoon sun from radiating in, enough that I can get away with lighting candles in my apartment. If I close my eyes, I could almost be tricked into believing that there is a snowstorm happening outside. 13 days and counting until my dreaming of a white Christmas is a reality... At least I hope so! :)

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Perspective.

Sometimes I complain when I have to walk down the hill on a hot afternoon. Or when my ankles are swarmed with mosquitos under my school desk. Or when the internet cuts out during an evening skype.

Last night Stacy and I sat in the warm glow of Christmas mini lights, and talked about some of our Haitian friends who work on staff here at the Mission of Hope. One by one we recounted their devotion and passionate work ethic for their jobs here.

Take Mary Maude for example.
She is the supervisor at 3cords and shines as an incredible leader by gracefully balancing a strong commitment to quality products with an incredible rapport and motherly love for the 19 other employees at 3cords. A few weeks ago, Stacy dropped her off at her house in Croix-de-Bouquets (about a 2-hour drive from MOH) which was a very eye-opening experience. Several miles from her home, Mary Maude began pointing out landmarks where she waited for transportation. This included the staff bus pickup, tap-tap rides and even motorcycle taxis. In total, we calculated that she travels to MOH everyday via 5-6 different motorized vehicles. This means her workday begins far earlier than her arrival at 3cords at 7:45am every morning, and ends far later than when she closes her office door at 3:30pm. During the work week, she is never home during daylight hours. For a woman with only 1 leg, this is an incredible example of dedication.

Rawol is another exceptional employee in his work as a groundskeeper at MOH. I like to think of him as an outdoor janitor as he assists with the garden work around the staff housing, and collects trash from all of the different garbage sites around campus in a beaten-down tractor. From my observations over the years, I have noticed how he circulates between 2 shirts throughout the work week. This wouldn't be so much of a big deal if he worked in an office, but given the smells of the garbage and compost in the sweltering sun, these clothes would not be easy to get into day after day. Nevertheless, when I pass by him on the road, or see him in the distance as I beat my chalk brush outside the classroom door, he gives me his widest grin, and is always the first to shout enthusiastic greetings to those around him.

Last but not least we have Frankline, who is our head cook in the kitchen. She arrives with the earliest staffers to start breakfast for our North American groups, and often doesn't leave until sundown, after the last of the dinner dishes have been washed. Fortunately, she lives in a village next to the mission which makes for a quick commute, however being the only employed member in her family, she returns to a full household of children, and her work continues. The idea of putting her feet up or relaxing by a fan with a good book like I usually do after a day of teaching would not even be an option for her. Instead she cares for her children, feeding them and settling them down for bed, only to awaken early and send them off to school before she begins another day in the kitchen. Like Mary Maude and Rawol, Frankline maintains one of the sweetest and welcoming personalities I know whenever I cross paths with her in the guesthouse.

Needless to say, the complaints I listed earlier pale in comparison to these friends, not to mention the 300 other dedicated Haitian staff we employ at MOH. I am certain that any one of them could trump me when it comes to struggles surrounding their job, their commute, or daily discouragements, but rather than complain, they choose to be thankful. They accept each day as a gift, and each work hour as a privilege. They are simply grateful for the opportunity to support their family.
It is truly inspiring to see the passions and commitments of those around me...The hope they exhibit as living testimonies of God's life transformation. And because of this hope, they hold such a conviction to  use their gifts towards God's kingdom, and seeing their country changed. What a blessing and an honour it is to do life with these incredible friends. Friends who inspire me everyday.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Double harvest.

One of the things that I love about living in Haiti is that I get to partake in a lot of different celebrations and traditions than I would typically not be exposed to back in Canada. Haitian weddings, creole cuisine, and learning how to play 'Texas hold'em poker' are just a few of the ways that I have expanded my horizons on this island.... Some more cultivating than others. ;)
This coming weekend is no different. On Saturday evening with my American neighbours, I am excited to join in on another thanksgiving feast with real turkey and "all the fixins" (as they like to say in the south).
In keeping with the theme of the season and my students' family traditions, our devotions have also revolved around thanksgiving for an extended time this fall, and our class tree is now bursting with fall leaves inscribed with gratitudes. With this in mind, I can't help but center back around the blessings that I've been so lavishly given by my Father in heaven. Indeed, He is the giver of good gifts!
So along with giving thanks for things like the Butterball turkeys (generously donated by a manager at Publix) and evening rainfall and laughter in the back of a pickup truck, I am thankful for the double harvest reminder of what it means to live a life of thankfulness. It's my prayer that as the season changes and new themes emerge, that I could claim this lifestyle the whole year through. May I be aware of the joys that are so creatively sprinkled through my days from a God of love.
... As a clever quote on Pinterest likes to say ~ Thanksgiving is great; Thanksliving is better.

Happy 2nd thanksgiving from Haiti!

Friday, November 9, 2012

Intertwined.

Last January I wrote this blog inspired by Ann Voskamp. She called it 'eucharisteo' - an outlook that probed me to turn gratitude into a moment-by-moment practice. Chapter by chapter, everyday things like soap suds and footprints and sun rays became glorious pictures of our Creator's artistry. Heartbreaking tragedies were woven and spun into newfound hope and promise.

And again today I read her God-inspired words, except this time they are about something surprisingly familiar. The story of 3cords. A God-ordained vision that was sparked in the heart of my dear friend, Diana Cherry. A beautiful, growing journey bringing hope to disabled and marginalized women that I've been so blessed to witness since the earthquake. It's the story that began with utter brokenness and now by the grace of God has become a reason to rejoice. These are the faces of my beloved friends - some of the most tangible testimonies of hope I've ever known. Who, in a purple building down the mission hill, gather everyday and sew beautiful things.


I marvel today about the theme of Ann's post. A story of strings and connectedness in the body of Christ. And from my velvet couch on a small island, reading her words, I feel ever more attached to a greater body. From farmer's wives, to Haitian seamstresses, to one-room schoolhouse teachers, we are supernaturally intertwined.


To read Ann's post click here: http://www.aholyexperience.com/2012/11/what-youve-got-to-know-about-women-friday-on-the-farm/?fb_action_ids=10152241030480046&fb_action_types=og.likes&fb_source=aggregation&fb_aggregation_id=288381481237582

To learn more about 3cords or order products, go to www.3cordshaiti.com

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Stop and Stare.

Do you ever have those moments where you just wish time could stand still? Over the past few weeks, I've searched for a way to freeze frame moments of joy that have shown up in the most marvellously simple of ways. I am so thankful to the Lord for placing me in moments where I am continually captivated and filled with an awareness of His presence. Even though I can't remain in these sweet spots, I've begun to compile a list of 'stop and stare' moments. Come what may in the months and years ahead, I will always keep these memories in the back pocket of mind... Reminders of the Lord's goodness and guiding Hand. Indeed, He is here.

Cascading shadows on my kitchen tile in the last hours of the day.
Pierre making friends with the girls from the mountain family during worship at church.
Joseph's grin when I draw a picture of an elephant on the chalkboard.
The hope house kids morning chorus drifting up from the kitchen on my way to school.
The irresistible smell of fresh grenadia juice being shared amongst friends next door.
The boys laughter on the trampoline at recess.
Long Saturday drives to the grocery store to the sound of Chelsea's phone playlist.
A sea of green, white, beige and red uniforms at the School of Hope.
The hum of sewing machines harmonizing with Creole chatter at 3cords.
The purple flowers blooming vivaciously at the foot of the balcony steps.

This is the Lord's doing; it is marvellous in our eyes. This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it. ~ Psalm 118:23-24

May we have eyes to see and the time to stop and stare at Your abundant beauty that surrounds us day after day after day.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Ooey Gooey.

In keeping with tradition, this morning at school we mixed borax with glue and created the famous, ooey, gooey, green slime. As the elements began to react in the big white bowl, the boys could hardly wait to get messy... Needless to say 'indoor voices' did not apply to this activity.









With 2 months of school already under our belts, I feel amazed at where the Lord has already brought us, and blessed to get to do life with these 5 fantastic boys.
Last week we lost our internet signal due to the hurricane, so Noah and Caleb were unable to complete their computer coursework. I decided to throw together a quick 'buddy-reading' session where I paired off the boys to take turns reading with one another. Joseph and I read about dinosaurs for a while, and then I did a quick glance around the other side of the room where Caleb and Olivier were reading. Much to my surprise, I found Caleb at the chalkboard drawing a diagram with squares and numbers, and when I asked him what was happening, he explained that Olivier didn't know what hopscotch was in their book, so he was teaching him about it.
All of you teachers out there will understand the significance of this... BEST!
Amidst the dance offs, trampoline flips, growing bean sprouts and even the slimy messes of today, we are stretching our brains, and practicing perseverance, trust and joy - both in our faith and with one another. Looking forward to what November has in store!

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Hurricane Sandy.

Last night I slept wrapped in 2 big blankets. Now that's a big deal.
With Hurricane Sandy passing nearby, I look out from my kitchen table and see the trees swaying rhythmically as the tempests flow by. The rare heavy grey skies overhead give me reasons to do uncommon things like light candles instead of oscillate fans, and make soup for lunch instead of cold guacamole.
This morning, my boys wore coats to school and I wore jeans (another rarity). We had to adjust our seating due to a few leaky spots, and we read from Psalm 107.


Some went out on the sea in ships;
    they were merchants on the mighty waters.
24 
They saw the works of the Lord,
    his wonderful deeds in the deep.
25 
For he spoke and stirred up a tempest
    that lifted high the waves.
26 
They mounted up to the heavens and went down to the depths;
    in their peril their courage melted away.
27 
They reeled and staggered;
    they were at their wits’ end.
28 
Then they cried out to the Lord in their trouble,
    and he brought them out of their distress.
29 
He stilled the storm to a whisper;
    the waves of the sea were hushed.
30 
They were glad when it grew calm,
    and he guided them to their desired haven.
31 
Let them give thanks to the Lord for his unfailing love
    and his wonderful deeds for mankind.


It's on days like today that I feel small and powerless. The thick clouds, forceful wind and gusty sounds of the strongest trees being threatened remind me that I am fragile and helpless. But in the words of David, this is where I see the Lord's powerful hand moving. It's when we are made weak, we can better know the strength of the One who is strong. It is here I testify His wonderful works.


What peace I find in David's words that the Lord heard the prayers of His people whose courage had melted away. He attends Hie ear to the cries of His people. He stills the storm to a whisper. He guides us to a safe haven.
Today I've been reminded to lift my eyes to the One who is faithful and has power to save us from the storms that invade, whether outside our homes or inside our hearts. May we rest in His care and thank Him for His unfailing love.

Monday, October 15, 2012

My week in pictures...


My camera has been working overtime these days... Photo-shooting in the mountains, overnight trips to SourceMatelas, and capturing my hardworking students in the classroom. I've been delayed on a blog post for a while now, so I hope these snapshots will give you an update on what's happening on my side of the globe. :)
Francia, Wahla and Shaylyn on their first day of school in SourceMatelas

Peterson, Michayel and Fania on their first day of kindergarten

Isn't she the CUTEST!?

Olivier's concentrated finger-spacing

Colouring always goes better when you stick your tongue out :)

The birthday boy (Caleb) taking flight

Sunny side up

Olivier,  Joseph and Joshua loving their land


A classic ending to a night out with some of the girls on staff


Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Finger-lickin' good.

As we embark into October, I am so very grateful for my job here at MOH, and the way I get to spend my days with 5 of the best boys on the planet. I'm also really enjoying getting to know my newest additions to the classroom better day by day, and learning about their unique personalities. Joshua loves a good challenge - he tackles 3-digit math problems like a champ, Olivier is a great encourager - always giving his brother high-fives, and Joseph loves to be on the move - and he's got great rhythm!

Today I learned a little bit more about Olivier's funny bone and it's a story worth sharing, so I hope it brings you a smile!

In connection with our tree study in devotions, we began studying the seed this week, and how we are to be planted and grown up in Jesus. This morning, I sliced open a sitwon (small Haitian lime) and grenadia (passion fruit) to demonstrate how all fruits and vegetables have seeds that allow the plant to multiply over and over again. I circled the classroom, allowing the boys to get a close look and smell of the sitwon, and then submerged my finger into the goopy center of the grenadia to draw out a seed on my finger. Again, I made my way around to each workspace so that the boys could get a better look of the seed, first to Joseph, then Caleb and Noah, onto Joshua and finally to Olivier... who leaned in close, opened his mouth over my finger, and gulp - no more seed.


Stunned by the quick snatch of the seed, I thought 'you little stinker!' and looked down at Olivier who bashfully gazed back up at me. I think he may have been second guessing his decision, but soon the giggles couldn't be suppressed any longer. I think it's safe to say we have a class clown. :)
As we laughed, I made another round with the grenadia, spooning seeds into palms until only the rind was left. Delish!

Another morning, another lesson, another finger-lickin' good moment in our little blue schoolhouse.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Afternoon rain.

Since the start of school, the boys and I have been focussing our morning devotions on the different parts of the tree and how they symbolize aspects of our spiritual life.

We start out like the small seed. Seemingly insignificant in the world's eyes, but known and planted by God, chosen to become all He designed for us to be. The trunk, how it grows and stretches to higher heights as the years pass by, and how we too are to build up our faith and strengthen our hearts as we grow up in Him. The way the roots sink down deep into the soil and draw up nourishment, and how our lives need to be anchored deep into God's promises of love, and hold fast even through the storms of life. And the branches that reach towards heaven and produce a bountiful harvest, may we stay connected to the True Source that will produce in us the fruits of the Spirit.

Just a bit ago, with school done for the day and a few hours before dinner, I was sitting and reading in my room. And then I began to hear it... The rumbling thunder. Thick waves of pressure rolling overhead, which beckoned me out to the balcony where I now sit. The rain is singing it's song on the tin roof for my background music, and the garden leaves are dancing along.
There are few things as refreshing as the smell of fresh rain air, or the softness of cool mist that kisses my skin. After several days of hot sun in a cement block house that bakes from the outside in, this is what I (along with many others) have been waiting for.

And so it is once again that the Lord speaks to my heart, reminding me that I am like the tree. Planted, cultivated and showered on. It is His perfect provision and timing that captures me, as He gently lavishes down His love in the way of an afternoon rain.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Wonderfully unexpected.

It's been a while since I've sat on this couch. My apartment's screened entrance has become like a revolving door as I step in and out of the different contexts, lesson plans and people groups of the day. Despite the busyness of my routine, I cherish the early mornings with a cold cup of iced tea and my Bible. It's these moments that truly have sustained me and kept me centred when the hours of the day seemingly begin to unravel.... Staying fixed on the blessings rather than the burdens are what keep me going. And let me tell you, the blessings aren't hard to find!

Let me tell you just one quick story about the Lord's goodness this week...
As many of you already know, ever since I left Haiti this past June we have been on a hunt for an assistant to pick up some of the slack in the classroom this fall. With such a wide range of grades along with a second language in the mix, I can use all of the help I can get! But weeks turned into months, and though we had several qualified applicants for the position, nothing was really 'clicking'. I didn't have much of a choice but to accept that fact that I would be starting my year solo, all the while continuing to pray alongside many others that the Lord would provide in His timing. 

Several nights ago, I sat on the guesthouse porch with the staff girls as we ate dinner, and a few newcomers who are a part of this fall's intern class (serving at MOH from September through December) stopped to chat with us. As we were getting to know one another, I learned that one of the girls in particular (Lindsey) had received her degree in Education a few years earlier and had since worked as a high school math teacher. As you can imagine, I was immediately enthused to chat with her more in depth and since then, she has begun working with me in the classroom, focussing specifically on Noah and Caleb's grade 7 and 8 courses - her specialty. :)
Needless to say, it's been more than I could ask to have her not just as a qualified assistant, but a new friend! And most of all, it's pretty amazing to look back and see how the Lord had been planning this all along... He truly provides in the most wonderfully unexpected ways!

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

A week in review.

Today marks day 5.
5 days of boxed crayons, pencil marks on the wall, calendar jingles, chalkboard letters, oscillating fans, trampoline recesses, star stickers, condensation on plastic cups, popcorn kernels, Tropitex paint, blown up balloons, thesaurus.com, and Luke 2:52.
It's been a blur to say the least, but so far, so good!

Several times over the past few weekdays, I've found myself sitting back on my kitchen chair and staring off into space. After 4 morning hours of interchanging English and Creole, tracking with Noah and Caleb's online courses, and keeping the eyes on the back of my head fully engaged (every teacher's superpower), the luxury of silence and stillness combined is enough to lull me away from my avocado sandwich.
And it's in these quiet moments that I've prayed desperately for more wisdom, more creativity, more joy, more clarity, and a double helping of patience.

Thank you all for praying along with me and for me in these virtues. That despite the sense that it's all just a little too overwhelming, I could take each day moment by moment, and child by child.
Because when I look back on this year, I want to remember the way that these 5 awesome boys and I laughed together, the way that we celebrated the milestones, and the way that we grew not just in our knowledge of the world and each other, but in the Lord.
Yes, may the bright eyes of Noah, Caleb, Joshua, Olivier and Joseph light a fire in my heart to keep me rooted and growing the whole year through.


The flower that was blooming outside the classroom door on our first day back

Class of 2012-2013 from left to right: Joshua, Caleb, Joseph, Noah and Olivier

Our classroom tree

Olivier and Joseph raising their hands - Yes!

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Rest.

On Sunday at church I got to see and reunite with many familiar faces and families including my dear friends from the mountains. As I embraced each one, I was so thankful to see them in good health and the children continuing to grow and develop beautifully!
I wasn't sure about how the youngest ones would respond after not seeing me in a while, especially due to their timid nature, but even Fania and Micayelle approached me with big smiles and affection.

I followed the families into church where we filed into a pew bench one by one and soon after, Fania wiggled her way back down the row to sit on my lap. It wasn't long before she drifted off to sleep, and there she remained curled up in my lap until the last 'Amen'. Several times I looked down at her to check if she had been startled by random noises or movements on the bench, but despite frequent feedback in the sound system, or her older sisters shuffling by us to go to kids church, her little eyes remained closed and her angelic face stayed in perfect peace.

I thought to myself how much I wished I could have this kind of trust, this kind of peace and rest like little Fania. Because yesterday and today and tomorrow I awaken to a new day. A day of decisions to be made and lessons to be planned and phone calls to answer and appointments to attend. Before my feet hit the floor, my mind visualizes a scale of possibilities and impossibilities, wondering which one will win out. I think now more than ever in this new school year start, I can easily get tricked into busyness equalling my worth. It's a vicious cycle of needing to do more and be more in order to make something of myself. But before I even realize it, I'm spun out and unraveled.

Sunday taught me a lesson with the simple act of Fania sleeping in my lap. The decision to simply rest, rather than chase an idea of control or perfection that I could never fully be satisfied with. Just as this precious little doll let down her guard and rested so peacefully, I want to do the same. I want to stop and let go of the things that prevent me from finding comfort in the arms of Jesus.

Tomorrow morning kicks our school routine off for the year. The dusty desks have been pulled from their corners and wiped down for a whole new batch of boys. I am eager and ready to begin with them, and excited to fill these months to the brim with growth and fun. And yet the picture of Fania's peaceful  sleep also reminds me to stay rooted in my Comforter, taking time to get away, to breathe, and to find rest in my Father's arms. That whatever may come, I may be fully surrendered and trusting of Him to carry me through.

You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on You, because He trusts in You. 
Trust in the Lord forever, for the Lord God is an everlasting rock. ~ Isaiah 26:3-4

Friday, August 31, 2012

Climate change.

My last blog posted started with me waking up in Canada. Today looks a lot different. I just climbed back up the mission hill and my dusty feet stretch before me as I sit on the tile floor. The shiny new fan that I assembled this morning circulates heavy air and a plastic cup full of ice water sits to my right. These are my feeble attempts to cool off.
This familiar Haitian sunshine, this familiar posture I take on the floor before dinner time, this familiar creaking of the screen door, these familiar faces that I have come to love. It honestly feels as if I never left.
The past 24 hours since my arrival on the island have consisted of countless reunions with people who are so dear to my heart. There is no better way to transition then into such open arms, and the more time I spend with them, the more full my heart becomes. The emptiness I felt lifting off from Buffalo has been replaced with a new kind of joy in this place.
There is undoubtedly more going on in my brain right now than I can properly verbalize. Scenery, climate, people and routine has all changed drastically, but right now in this moment as I look up at the green hills, I can only express the hope of a still, small Voice that whispers and sings over me with love.


Thank you for all of the prayers that have been and continue to be lifted up for me during this time of transition. The Lord is near, and His faithful presence has been reflected time and time again. Let a new story begin!

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Come and fill.

I sit in my bedroom. Windows wide, inviting the fresh morning air to linger long. My quilted bedspread still hasn't been made, crumpled under my morning devotional readings and the laptop I type on. Desk and cabinet space are consumed with canisters of creams and soaps, granola bars, ziploc bags, phone cords and spare change. The piles that develop on my floor from summer accumulation are progressively taken to the basement where my suitcases sit at a close distance to the scale... A slow but steady build up to 50 pounds.

Tomorrow is transition day. I will wake up before dawn in this same Wainfleet bed, wrapped under covers and sock feet, and hours later lay my head down in Titanyen, where the buzz of a fan coupled with a hopeful evening breeze will lull me to rest again.

As always, I have mixed emotions about returning to Haiti. Summer 2012 has been more of a blessing than I can put into words, and it's hard to think about closing this wonderful chapter. Clinging to comforts has and always will be my default, and I dread the end of this familiar routine. I can still smell Grandma's perfume from our goodbye hug earlier today. As she drives away, there begins a knot in my throat which will stubbornly take up residence for the coming days. If any of you have advice on how to make goodbyes easier, I would be glad to listen.

But in my mind there is also picture of what awaits: Pierre's reaching hands and bright white teeth, barefeet that run in my direction from mountain houses, loud Creole greetings across the fields, a much anticipated morning routine with my boys in the classroom, and a next door living room full of beautiful hearts and laughter. Oh, how I have MISSED these moments!

And so amidst the tension of going and coming, sadness and excitement, I find myself in a familiar sense of desperation for the One true constant in my life. The peace that I can be rooted in despite the emotional roller coaster I'm about to jump on. Dad's stereo plays downstairs, and I stop and sing along word for word with a song I've known for years...

Come and fill my heart with hope,
Come and fill my life with love,
Come and fill my soul with strength to carry on 
because from here the climb is steep, the road is long.
Come and fill my days with dreams,
Empty me of all the empty things that I hold onto,
Come and fill my life with You.

Yes, this is my prayer, sent from heaven.
This is what I long for - that Jesus would come and fill. That I may I be able to testify the way that He alone fills me with hope and love, fills me with strength and dreams, and may I be emptied, only to be filled again with Jesus.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Jesus, Saviour, pilot me.

Several years ago I stood alongside my cousins and sang a hymn for my grandmother's funeral. I was not familiar with the song at first, but it was chosen by her to be a part of the service, and I soon fell in love with it.
It's interesting how some things in life just don't let go. Time and time again over the years I have found myself almost sub-conciously humming the melody. Then just a few days ago I noticed some sheet music on my mom's piano, and there again were the familiar lines...

 Jesus, Savior, pilot me
 over life's tempestuous sea;
 unknown waves before me roll,
 hiding rock and treacherous shoal.
 Chart and compass come from thee;
 Jesus, Savior, pilot me.

 As a mother stills her child,
 thou canst hush the ocean wild;
 boisterous waves obey thy will,
 when thou sayest to them, "Be still!"
 Wondrous sovreign of the sea,
 Jesus, Savior, pilot me.

 When at last I near the shore,
 and the fearful breakers roar
 'twixt me and the peaceful rest,
 then, while leaning on thy breast,
 may I hear thee say to me,
 "Fear not, I will pilot thee."



There have been moments over the years when I don't have the words to pray, or even the emotions to properly attach to some of the situations that have hit me head on, and ever so gently this song's tune and lyrics will weave themselves into the forefront of my mind. It's a lasting remedy, because it brings me back to the promise that despite life's storms, my Saviour is continually guiding and piloting me through. And just as He always has, He always will.

As I embark into a new year, with new students and new staff, I anticipate great things to come. I look forward to reuniting with friends, and kicking off the school year with my boys. It's impossible not to get excited about what the Lord is going to do in our midst at the Mission of Hope. And yet I also can't ignore the challenges waiting at the doorstep of my heart. Feelings of insufficiency and frustrations can easily overthrow all of my high hopes for what comes. But once again my mind drifts back to the familiar lines of the old hymn, and I echo the words 'Jesus, Saviour pilot me'. Pilot me through the waves, the undertow, and whatever lies underneath. Give me courage to leave the harbour, knowing that there is so much more to discover in You.


Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Waiting vs. Discovering

This is not your season of waiting, 
this is your season of discovering who you truly are. 

I came across this line a few days back, while reading 'Nurture' by Lisa Bevere.
My heart said: Write it down. Remember. Snap out of waiting. Go discover.
Because the tendency that I have and hear from others is that waiting is more of an excuse to be unproductive and bored. An pointless phase when you just hit 'cruise' and hope to get through it as fast as possible. But the even bigger problem is that sometimes, the longer we wait, the more we want to stay there, despite the empty drone. Unfortunately, the rut gets comfortable. The wait undoubtedly wins when all we think about is passing the time - and the slower and more defeating it becomes.

But whether we choose it or not, waiting is a fact of life. From test results to due dates, red lights to long lines. I could go on, but I think Dr. Suess says it best (from 'Oh The Places You'll Go!).


The Waiting Place…
…for people just waiting.
Waiting for a train to go or a bus to come, or a plane to go or the mail to come, or the rain to go or the phone to ring, or the snow to snow or waiting around for a Yes or a No or waiting for their hair to grow.
Everyone is just waiting.
Waiting for the fish to bite or waiting for wind to fly a kite or waiting around for
Friday night or waiting, perhaps, for their Uncle Jake or a pot to boil, or a Better Break or a string of pearls, or a pair of pants or a wig with curls, or Another Chance.
Everyone is just waiting.
NO! That’s not for you! Somehow you’ll escape all that waiting and staying.
You’ll find the bright places where Boom Bands are playing.

I have a confession. Although it's embarrassing to admit, this is often me.
Leave it to Dr. Suess to expose the true silliness of my human nature. Waiting, waiting, waiting. I just want to reach into that cartoon illustration and shake people from their trance... Wake up!

But going back to Lisa's quote, I realize how often I gravitate to becoming stagnant in times of waiting rather than seizing opportunities in the present. The devil tries really hard into tricking us into the idea that the 'waiting times' are a chance to shift into neutral. Because when he does it, he wins. I think one of the devil's greatest feats is convincing us that we can't be productive while we wait. Therefore, he keeps us locked in this helpless standstill, allowing the days to pass while we 'wait' for change that might never come.

In Ephesians, Paul calls this a cop out:
Make the most of every opportunity because the days are evil (Ephesians 5:16). If it's alright with you, I am going to go ahead and add on that we need to make the most of no opportunities too. Because, although it may be harder to see at first, no opportunities could offer more possibilities than that one door we wish would just open.

Here's how this all relates to me: it's in my season of singleness. Honestly, it would be much easier to sit around and sulk (and believe me, I've done it). Standing along the sidelines, watching the couples gather two by two, and wonder why my knight in shining armour hasn't shown up yet.
In doing this, however, I am unknowingly turning the wait into a far more gruelling time than it is. It also hinders my confidence with the Lord's plans and interferes with my trust in Him (another win for Satan). If I could just get off the bench and take part in the action of the game - seizing opportunities, stretching my boundaries, and experiencing so many wondrous new opportunities that come my way, I would no longer have time to feel sorry for myself. I may even feel, dare I say, fortunate to grow in these unique ways while I can... Imagine that!
And by the grace of God, I'm beginning to open myself up to this idea. Gradually peeling off the layers of remorse and pity, and scanning the horizon for new delights that my heart didn't even know I had. Truly, these single days are a gift and a joy. How many opportunities I've missed over the years while I 'waited'. With the Lord's redemption, I hope to compensate for some of those lost years while I still have the chance!

So whether we're single, or married, or have a little one on the way, or have a full minivan of family, may we all break out of the trap of the wait. May we find the 'bright places' and 'boom bands' that Dr. Suess writes about. They may not have the shimmer that we expect at first, but oh may we stay confident that the discoveries we make in our waiting are far more glorious than another hour of watching the clock.
Yes! Let's discover! And while we're at it, stumble upon a little bit more of who He is, renewing our hope and faith in the Creator of time, who is working all things to work together for our good.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

All that glitters.

We live in a shimmery, sparkly world.
Every time I come back to North America, I am always enthralled with the new. Flashy screens and glossy magazine pages all around advertise the most current technologies, car models, fashions, music, hot spots and food. It never ceases to turn my head.
12 days ago I arrived back in Canada, and every since I've been captivated by the latest and greatest. Coconut mocha frappucinos, magnetic nail polish (?!?!), luxurious lotions and perfumes, glowing city skylines, racks full of purses, shoes and sunglasses, chrome wheels, rainbow-coloured flowers blooming in cashier lines, touch screens, and the list just keeps on going.


As if that wasn't enough, I went to Texas. Chelsea, my dear friend and neighbour from Haiti invited me to visit, and thus began another blur of bigger and better. We rode around in her sweet SUV with the country twang cranked, and all the while I snapped pictures of glassy skyscrapers, perfectly iced cupcakes, rooftop music parties, and neon light signs, not to mention all of the cowboy hats and boots.



Upon my arrival in Dallas on Tuesday night, I had the privilege to attend 'The Porch', which is a thriving young adult ministry at Watermark Community Church. Standing among the hundreds of others in attendance in the massive sanctuary we were led in worship by the band, singing...
'Everlasting, Your light will shine when all else fades, 
Never ending, Your glory goes beyond all fame'


Such a familiar song, but oh how the words struck me. I realized in that moment how nothing has, can, or ever will compare with the majesty and glory of our King. Ever since I left Haiti, I've been in a constant state of awe and excitement. Wide-eyed and heart beating fast for what I get to experience in these days. It's all so good, but reflecting on those lyrics, I realize how easy it is for me to get wrapped up in relationships, new products, or travels that seek to claim to fulfillment of my life here on earth. I fall for those empty promises daily. And yet the truth still remains that our God is far beyond anything that may try to distract us. As the lyrics state, His light keeps on shining higher and brighter, and His glory reaches far beyond the glitter and glamour of our 21st century.


With more weeks ahead of me, I embrace all that this summer has to offer. Aisle by aisle, road by road, destination by destination. I feel blessed to experience the sights and sounds of this beautiful nation. But I also pray to be reminded of the expiration of all these things tangible. How nothing can truly satisfy my soul but the love and goodness of my Saviour. Above all, may I live to make His glory known.

'And the cry of my heart is to bring You praise,
From the inside out, Lord my soul cries out'

Friday, June 29, 2012

Graduation.

All over facebook this week, I've scrolled through pictures of diplomas, prom dresses, caps and gowns. As the boys and I finished up our last days together with concerts, pool time, and a piñata smack down with the Johnson kids, vacation time is clearly in the air!
Among the celebrations this week, my precious cousin, Julia graduated from grade 8 along with her peers - many of whom were in the same kindergarten class where I had the privilege to do my grade 12 coop placement. Seeing photos of the class all grown up, and Julia as such a beautiful young lady, how I yearned to be there to cheer her and all the others on.

... It's funny how the Lord ordains moments across our paths even when we doubt His timing. They may not always be what we hope for at first, but His joy is unmistakable.

And so it was this morning, when I got to watch 102 high school graduates cross the stage at the School of Hope's commencement ceremony. It was just another picture of the Lord's handiwork bringing hope and promise into the lives of our Haitian community as many of the audience's sons, daughters, sisters and brothers graduated for the first time in their family. The joy on the faces of the young men and women, all decked out in their caps and gowns was priceless. You couldn't have fit any more pride and potential in that open-air sanctuary if you tried!



It may not have been a sentimental, small-town, Winger school graduation, but sitting alongside my dear friends on the front-row bench and celebrating the hope of education in Haiti was a pretty good trade off.

Thank you Lord for never ceasing to shine joy in the most marvellous of ways.
PS - To all of the graduates of 2012... Congratulations! In the words of Met Soufrann, the School of Hope principal, may the Lord take you farther and higher!


Monday, June 25, 2012

Brave.

I admit, I have no idea what movie or character this article is referring to. I also admit that this is probably not the best preface for what I've included below. I'm sharing it anyways though, because after giving it a read myself, I felt so wonderfully compelled and challenged. I hope it inspires and taps into something new in you like it did for me. To change and be changed - that's our choice every day, but sometimes I forget, and this was my reminder tonight.




Don’t Settle for Being Brave
Life lessons from Pixar's first leading lady.

Full disclosure: I want to be Brave. I don’t want to be brave, but I want to be Brave—I want to be that Scottish girl with the crazy red hair, the black horse, the sweet archery trick shots. Google tells me her name is Merida. I prefer to call her Brave.
And I don’t think I’m alone in this. I live in Los Angeles, where billboards for Brave tower over me everywhere I go, and I have yet to hear a single friend say they’re not excited about this movie. And when they say they’re excited, what they really mean is, “Let’s get serious and just bring the whole Kleenex box, because you know this is gonna be a claaassssssic Pixar cry-fest.” A cry-fest in the best sense. All of us—from average “I love The Expendables” dudes to highbrow “Wes Anderson is just too mainstream now” film snobs—all of us recognize there’s something special about this movie, even if we don’t yet know exactly what it is.
Part of the appeal may be the girl hero. At least, it is for me—and not just because I’m a grown-up girl myself. Many film critics and culture watchdogs have already written at length about the number of Pixar firsts in this movie—first female protagonist, first princess, first fairy tale—so rather than blather on about the socio-political importance of a proactive princess in the Hollywoodland of passive Bella Swanns and Anastasia Steeles, I’d rather just focus on the appeal of Brave—okay, okay, Merida—as a character, just a person on a journey. Granted, her femininity is significant, since—according to the trailer, at least—her journey has something to do with her spirited defiance of traditional gender roles.
But her age may be a more crucial element in her characterization. She stands at the threshold of adulthood and, with it, all the expectations of domesticity and “settling down.” She doesn’t want to be married; there doesn’t seem to be a romantic interest. (Quite the opposite of Disney’s princesses past, and perhaps quite different than what many of us young evangelical women have been taught in Sunday school.) She represents a true hero, something to aspire to—not just for young girls, but for grown men and women.
SHE ENDURES ORDEALS AND TESTS, IS PURIFIED BY SACRIFICE AND RETURNS HOME WITH THE POWER TO TRANSFORM THE WORLD JUST AS SHE HAS BEEN TRANSFORMED.

The word “hero” gets tossed around frequently. People in Hollywood, and likely the Pixar folks up in Emeryville, Calif., tend to define it in mythologist Joseph Campbell’s terms: “A hero is someone who has given his or her life to something bigger than oneself.” (For those of us who did not study the classics or literature in college, we may be familiar with Campbell as “that one guy who is constantly referenced in the DVD extras of Star Wars.”) Campbell analyzed world myths and broke down their key beats into something popularly known as “the hero’s journey,” outlined in his famous book Hero With a Thousand Faces. As a Christian, there are many aspects of Campbell’s universalist philosophy with which I disagree, yet in it there are as many brilliant insights that ring true. In Campbellian terms, a hero is not defined by her state of being. A hero is defined by what she does. She hears a call to adventure. She resists the call at first but then meets someone or is put into a situation that changes her mind. She crosses a threshold into a new world full of terror, excitement, allies, enemies and tricksters. She endures ordeals and tests, is purified by sacrifice and returns home with the power to transform the world just as she has been transformed.
The trailer for Brave succinctly summarizes the Campbellian call to adventure: “If you had the power to change your fate—would you?” It’s an intriguing question, and rather than engaging in an esoteric debate about predestination versus free will, for which I am hardly qualified and for which this is hardly the forum, I’d rather focus on its idea of change. According to Campbell, a hero is not defined by her state of being but rather by the change in her state of being. And the hero’s journey is not about character growth. It is not about being a better person. It is about complete and total transformation. You see, no one goes to the movies to watch someone undergo a few stressful situations and change a little bit as a result. We go to witness revolution. Rebirth. Resurrection.
Thus, a good story—and arguably a good life—isn’t about being brave. It is about doing brave. Living brave. Making a choice. Crossing the threshold. It’s not about waiting in a tower for your prince to come and whisk you off to a Cinderella castle. It’s about going on a journey, facing your deepest fears and surrendering yourself to the possibility that in attempting to change your fate, you will inevitably be changed. And perhaps also discovering, along the way, that sometimes coming home can be as brave a quest as going out into the world.
So let’s not settle for being brave. Let us instead aspire to do brave things. Let us live boldly. Let us transform the world as we have been transformed. Heady words, but grounded aspiration for young girls as much as it is for old men. While I have not yet seen Brave, I suspect this idea is the spine on which its story bends.
As for so-called fate, well, I don’t know. But if “fate” should decide to bestow me with a fast horse, curly red hair and mad archery skills ... I’ll take it
.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Zumba!

Ever since the Zumba fad started, I've been dying to try it out. Many of my Canadian friends attend regularly, and I've made an effort to join them on occasion, but it never seemed to work with my summer schedule.
Tonight though, Zumba came to me.
This week, there just so happens to be an instructor here, who made it his personal mission to offer Zumba sessions after dinner. So tonight, on the cement loading deck of the new warehouse, I got to break it down with 67 other staff, interns, hope house kids, and guests. It was by far the largest, hippest and most hilarious workout I've ever had. After the cool-down song ended, the entire crowd cried out an encore. And dance we did.
So with the sun setting over the mountains to my left, and Bailey, Katie, Elizabeth, Kelci, Kelly, Georgie, and KaraLynn, among the many others grooving to my right, my heart did more than just speed its beats per minute, it swelled with sheer joy.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Eyes to see.

A few evenings ago, I took a stroll with Julien, one of the twin babies who lives at the Hope House.
His curious eyes and pointer fingers were fully engaged as the chickens skittered across the gravel paths, the trees waving in the wind to the clouds above, and the vibrant flowers bursting from their branches. His little voice narrated in baby talk all that he was taking in - Everything was so new and exciting to discover.
I followed his eyes and we left the sidewalk to get a little closer to the beautiful pink blossoms bursting with life. There I held out a cluster of petals where I watched him touch and smell and learn how to say 'fle' (Creole for 'flower'). 

It was a moment I will cherish - guiding Julien in his discovery of God's incredible creation, while at the same time, having a fresh discovery of my own. 
I wondered in that moment what it would look like if I had eyes to see like this little boy in my arms. If everything was new, and full of life and potential. Because as I wrap up another year on this island, sometimes my tendency is to forget the lustre of life, as the 'newness' has worn off. I want to look through an untainted lens, but instead Satan wants to trip me up with a mundane outlook that prevents me from seeing and experiencing the joy that is happening around me.

As I watched Julien take in the sun setting in the west, the countless leaves of green, the kids running and jumping and laughing on their way to the kitchen, I wondered if I could see it with the same eyes of wonder and enthusiasm. The Lord is so faithful in bringing across such never-before-seen beauties, I just have to take the time to notice.

And so, as I step onto the brink of another school year in Haiti, committing to all that is seen and unseen, I pray that I may have eyes to see the beauties and glimpses of heaven that are to come. I want to fully re-discover the endless goodness that awaits at each turn.
Tonight the sky is clear and the stars scatter the sky in a picture-perfect display.  Thank you Jesus for giving our eyes such magnificent glories to behold. May we always have the eyes to see.


The Lord has done these things, and they are marvellous in our eyes. 
This is the day that the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it.
~ Psalm 118:23-24

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Single digits!


Noah, Caleb and I are counting down to a summer explosion - happening in T-minus 9 school days. It's been a sweet year, and I've had such a blast learning and growing with them. We've battled the elements of rats, mosquitos and heat, during our mission to get through a big stack of textbooks, and we've come out on top. Just a few more days left of our morning routine, and we're gonna make the most of them.
Keeping these verses in our minds on the sprint to the finish... May all that we've acquired along the way prepare us for what's next.

Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever.
~ 1 Corinthians 9:24-25