Sunday, July 28, 2013

Never Once.

During this morning's worship set, we sang 'Never Once' by Matt Redman.
Like those around me, I began to trace back moments of God's provision as we lifted the chorus - flashbacks of His faithfulness in days gone by, and for me, particularly within these past 5 years.

Back to the exact place and time when I took the email address scribbled on a torn corner of a bulletin from Mike Brownlee's hand, back when Laurens, Cheryl and their three children were still strangers.
Back to my jet-lagged posture on the sunbaked school bus, barely sitting upright in it's wind tunnel as we barrelled down Haiti's main highway, trying to absorb the newness around me.
Back to the first morning I awakened at Mission of Hope, my skin crawling with mosquito bites, my mind spinning with questions without answers all surrounding why I had come.

Those firsts in the journey were only the beginning of countless moments of loneliness and longing for familiarity. Moments of confusion and frustration in the midst of a foreign language and culture. Moments when I paused facing the chalkboard so the kids wouldn't see my tears of inadequacy. Moments of fear and desperation for security in the trembling aftershocks. Moments of heartbreak in the goodbyes and loss of friends.

These are some of my lowest points to date, and they will forever hold a piece of me. But more than that, I will cling to the lessons I learned through them. The points where I had to choose between trusting in myself, or trusting in the One who called me there. And though sometimes it took me a long while, in those surrenders, in those painful moments of release, I found an unshakable truth. That no matter how deep the pain, or how hopeless the circumstance, He stills me. He knows me. He holds me. With His truth, His peace, His love, He makes all things work together for good.

And so friends, that is where I go from here.
Over the past few weeks of being home, I've received countless warm welcomes and tight embraces, along with soft inquiries about what my next step will be... The answer is still foggy.
But even though there are still many uncertain things on the path ahead, there are a few things I am certain of. The first is that there will be more deep waters to tread through. I am confident that the refining that happened in Haiti is not over yet, nor will it ever be on this side of heaven. But I am also certain of this: that the same One who carried me through those storms and searchings, is just as present with me now as He was on that island. Just as He promises, each one of us can trust in Him as our faithful guide and our refuge.

And for that reason, we can sing, never once will we ever walk alone.
You are faithful, God, You are faithful.
Because He has not, does not, will not leave us - never once.


Friday, June 21, 2013

If these walls could speak...

4 years ago, Rachel and I rolled sunshine yellow over the white base coat of these concrete walls. And just like that, apartment #202 became my home...

my sanctuary.
a refuge.
a church.
a breakfast diner.
a movie theatre.
a dance club.
a nursery.

where new friends became family.
where smells of tropical fruit juice lingered.
where dusty bare feet found a resting place.

As I've dismounted my paintings from the walls, sorted through storage boxes, and selected couch pillows, sentimental mugs and books to pack in my suitcase, I've had plenty of time to reflect on my days spent here. And I've realized that this home has become more than just a shelter, but one of my dearest friends. I've developed an unexpected companionship with these walls as they've silently stood by in my highest celebrations and deepest defeats. These are the walls I've returned to time and time again after days of teaching, hikes to the mountains, long city trips, or months of being with family in Canada.

Through the day ins and day outs, they have developed character just like me. Each nick and scratch has a story to tell... Jagged cement cracks that mark January 12. Oil splatters on the kitchen walls from nights around the kitchen table with neighbours feasting on Bernard's famous pate. A rat-sized hole in the front window screen from that fateful midnight invasion. Purple nail polish drops on the tile floor from girls nights with Teagan and the Rumford sisters. Countless 4x6 frames perched as beautiful reminders of days gone by, and the seasons of people and stories I've been blessed to witness within these walls.

And if they could speak, they would tell of weary girls sprawled on cold kitchen tiles debriefing their days. They would tell of burnt cookies and loud music and dancing on the balcony. They would tell of tears and whispers and long hugs on a red velvet couch. They would tell of early morning sunrise light pouring in on wrinkled bedsheets and acoustic string songs.

... I grieve the day that my squeaky screen door closes for the last time, for behind it lie these stories - memories and laughter, music and tears that I could never forget. With them, a piece of my heart lingers.

But rather than cling to this earthly dwelling which will someday turn back to dust, with each step away, I pray that I may to echo the words of David: Who am I, O Lord, and what is my house that you have brought me thus far? (2 Samuel 6:18). Indeed, He built me this home, and the heartwarming surroundings of colour, laughter and calmness came only from His hand. Underserved, yet lavished upon me anyways. To Him be the glory for his gifts of love, and His faithful presence that resides with us forever.

Maybe someday these walls will speak, and they will testify the Lord's favour and presence that filled them. But until these rocks cry out, I pray that I will recount His goodness daily, proclaiming that He alone is a refuge and a sanctuary for those who wait on Him.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

He meets me here.


Here, it's a season of thundershower evenings. A season when avocados, kineps and grenadia fruits (to name a few) grow in size and abundance... And so has the buzz around this campus. We've recently accumulated over 20 interns on the scene to assist with the hundred-plus team members visiting weekly in the next 2 months. It's exam time for our students, and soon graduation will wrap the year up with a bow and bring on the highly-anticipated VBS-palooza. Kids from the mountains to the coast will be swept into a flurry of sweaty silliness and gospel love. It's awesome. Not to mention our church advancement team, orphanage activities, and mobile clinics that are on the brink of new programs and big strides toward life transformation. Naturally, these also bring new summer staff and first-time full-timers merging into the action with ready hearts to pour out and serve.

This season, there is newness and acceleration happening just about everywhere you go. It's exciting and spreading rapidly across this campus, creating a current of passion, and drawing people in.

But for me, it's a different kind of season. My days, no matter how much I try to pack them full with fractions and vowel blending, guitar jamming next door, 3cord visiting, goat-trailing to mountain family sing-a-longs, smoothie sharing with neighbours, baby talking and report card editing, aren't going to last forever. With each passing day, I become increasingly aware that I'm not gearing up like the rest of this place. As much as my heart longs to fit in alongside these dear people and their upcoming plans, it's not the same as it used to be. The farewell gets a little bit more real everyday, and I feel my direction veering.

It's an awkward place. It's a foreign disconnect between my head and my heart. Because I want to belong and resonate here, but lately there hasn't been the same familiar connection.

And yet even in the discomfort of unknown whys and hows, He meets me here. He quiets my spinning thoughts with His love in the morning light that breaks over the backyard mountains. Yes, each day here is a gift! And He rejoices over me with lullabies in the flickering lightning over Port-au-Prince. He reminds me of His care in the dear ones who listen with eyes full of acceptance, even when I struggle to express the complexities happening in my head. His promises awaken me to new truth and trust as I tread on these new waters. And it's good. I hold my breath with each new step I must take, but His firm foundation holds me faithfully with every release.

Thank you for your prayers. That I may finish the year strong with my boys. That the hours in each day would slow enough for me to seize moments and breathe in the blessings of each God-given moment. And that I would find peace in whatever mix tomorrow brings.

I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statues and be careful to obey my rules. You shall dwell in the land that I gave to your fathers, and you shall be my people and I will be your God.  
~ Ezekiel 36:26-28

Sunday, June 2, 2013

These days,

These days, my fingers type a little slower on the keyboard. My thoughts and emotions tumble on a lower setting as I absorb my gradual release to this place. I know so many of you have been lifting me up and are curious about where I'm at, and what comes next. Thank you for your interest combined with sweet encouragement and understanding.
It's been a struggle to find words parallel to the feelings in my heart.

These days, I wake up a little earlier just to have an extra 10 minutes to sit still in my classroom until the boys arrive. I cherish every random question, every giggle, every boyish quirk I have with them, and grieve the day we will say goodbye.

These days, I call Mary Maude just to hear her chatter. I hold hands a little tighter with the Hope House kids. I make my market list a little longer just to savour the goodness of Haitian fruits for a few more weeks. I gather up barrettes and dinky cars to distribute as love gifts to those I will miss dearly.

These days, I purge bookshelves and find myself (hours later) buried in stacks of old letters and school planners, reminiscing and marvelling at each season of life in this place. I strategically pack suitcases with books and treasures gifted to me by past students and friends. I give my Christmas box and wall art to the girls next door. I wonder how much it would cost to ship my weathered velvet couch back to Wainfleet... I think I'm too sentimental for my own good.

These days, I dream about where I'll be a year from now. I get excited when Broc sends me Kijiji car ad links. I revel in the thought of being home to watch the leaves change this fall. I eagerly anticipate the moments that I get to soon spend with those who are held up by magnets on my fridge.

These days, I stand on the promise that it is in Him that we live and move and have our being. That even though my life may feel stretched and pulled and forever in a tension of where I belong, that it is Him who holds me together and keeps me rooted. These days, I covet your prayers as I spend one more month surrounded by rolling mountains and evening thunderstorms that take my breath away, Creole conversations and dear neighbours that keep my heart full, and a Father who quiets me with His love. May I live every day to it's fullest until it's time to say goodbye.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

who He is.

You don’t know what you are going to do. 
The only thing you know is that God knows what He is doing
And it is this attitude that keeps you in constant wonder, 
because you don’t know what God is going to do next. 
So God does not tell you what He is going to do—rather, 
He reveals to you who He is” 
~ Oswald Chambers

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

New whispers.

Spring has always been a season of listening for me; a time to be intentional about waiting, fasting and praying for peace about the coming school term. In years past, it's also been an exciting time of connecting with parents and preparing for new students and grades. The Lord has been so faithful in giving me direction about my commitments year by year, and granting me with hopeful anticipation of what lies ahead...

The Lord said to Elijah, “Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.” Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper.
~ 1 Kings 19:11-12

I love this passage. It reminds me how God's word rarely comes in neon lights, but rather in the seemingly insignificant. I can look back and recount so many times throughout my life where the Lord has stirred my heart in the most wondrous of whispers. And so He has again...

He whispered it when the mountain families received their homes.
He whispered it on Micayel and Fania's first day of school.
He whispered it when Robenson received his driver's license.
He whispered it when Abigail Rose was born.
He whispered it when Rocky and Lily adopted Pierre.

I admit, at first I was ignorant to these clues. The thought of leaving Haiti was way too big for me to process. But nudge by nudge on His part, and denial after denial on my part, I became aware of a stunning realization:

That five years ago, as I sat at my small bedroom desk in Wainfleet, I faced these same whispers. Whispers that involved leaving a comfortable place. Whispers that meant change and newness and stepping into unknowns. Whispers bigger than I, that drove me to my knees praying that the only way they could come into fruition would be if He did it.
Eventually, I whispered back. Words of surrender and trust, and praises for peace beyond understanding which could only come from His hand.

And look what He has done! A journey which took me from a wide-open-spaces backyard view in a small town of loved ones to a foreign mountain village in Titanyen. A land where the most earnest desires of my heart and my greatest fears collided. A place where no one else could catch me but Him.
By His grace and provision, year by year, these strangers of a different race and tongue have become like my family. These 4 concrete walls crawling with lizards have become more than just a temporary shelter, but a home. Indeed, it's been a physical journey, but also a journey of the heart... And it's far from over.

Because, here I am again. Morning by morning waking to the same promises in His book, feeling my heart stir towards change that sends me spinning in a tension of dread and excitement. Little by little, I've whispered back words in my journal that resonate the peace I've found in letting His word be my lamp, even if it means I'll be led away from this beautiful place. And slowly but surely, my heart has rested in the decision that this will be my last year in Haiti.
Even though the road from here involves a painful letting go, and the future is still foggy, I find hope in my outward steps drawing me back to a familiar posture - surrendered with open hands, and eyes on the lookout for fresh glimpses of His presence and provision that can only be found by moving passed my comfort.

I thank you all, for standing by me, holding me close, and praying me through the past 5 years at Mission of Hope. Thank you for loving me so well and showing me glimpses of Jesus in the ups and downs. I am at a loss for words when I think about your generous sacrifices and encouraging words, not just in this season, but from the start.
I am beyond blessed to share the journey with you, and it's not over yet.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Seeking and finding.

I took a long walk down the hill tonight. The tropical blossoms awakened my senses and the sky shone another masterpiece. Little Jeremiah's satiny-chocolate cheeks brushed against mine and glowed from the sky's radiance. Up the hill a little further came the sound of his older brothers and sisters singing their evening chorus in the kitchen.
On nights like tonight, the air is ripe with His presence. It makes me wish I could stay here forever - marinating in the stillness and beauty. But Paul's words remind me that even when these evening shadows fade away with the light, and our world spins on, He is not far. May we live and move and have our being in Him alone.
Keep seeking, friends. 

Acts 17:24-28....
The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man, nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything. And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, that they should seek God, and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him. Yet he is actually not far from each one of us,  for 'In him we live and move and have our being’.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Piti a piti...

piti a piti, zwazo fe nich li.
little by little, a bird builds it's nest.

Laura shared this Haitian proverb with me on our way up from 3cords the other day. It's a quote that's been floating in my head ever since... A comforting reminder that even the smallest effort or investment can be added and accumulated up to the dream we are aiming for. But attached to it is a challenging question my heart has been asking - 'what am I building?'
We're all creating something, just like the birds that awaken me with their morning songs. So upon reflection, here are some of the things I've been building lately.

1) Relationships
I guess that's my best excuse for less post action on the blog... The Lord has brought some beautiful people to my doorstep lately. Whether in the form of a skype call, facebook message, watercolour painting with local artists, house guests(!), or late-night couch conversations with neighbours. Sitting around for turkey lunch at the Beaurivages, eating a traditional Easter meal made by my Haitian mommy, or having a taco potluck under patio lantern lights in the yard. To mentor and be mentored, disciple and be discipled... I feel blessed by the community and support system that the Lord has give me near and far, and I just want to keep pouring in.

2) Quiet times
In contrast to some of the beautiful moments I've shared alongside friends here, it has also been pressed upon me during the past few months to be more intentional about being by myself. I've been spending extra morning times to wait upon the Lord and seek His will for my upcoming decision for next year. He has been so faithful in years past, giving me peace beyond the ever-present questions that sweep my head with doubts. As I approach this time again, I am confident that He will show me which path to take. Thank you for praying along with me in this, and stay tuned for an update soon!

3) Love of learning
Each weekday morning, I sit in my swivel chair and hear the chatter of my boys making their way up the hill and into our classroom. Their morning greetings coupled with brotherly love and banter gives me a fresh wave of gratitude and awe for what I get to do every day. We've begun a new month verse on the fruits of the spirit, and with a little help from Pinterest, we have successfully created fruit trees out of paper bags (pics coming soon!) Reading silly stories and discussing the illustrations together (which has led to the most interesting of conversations let me tell you!), studying the states of matter through various hands-on experiments, and filling our inside walls with colour and design from our desktop creations has been so rewarding for us all. It has truly become our 'sweet spot'.
Time and time again, I am reminded of how blessed I am to work with such a happy, hilarious, and vivacious bunch of growers and seekers. As we look ahead to our final months of the school year, I am committed to filling our hours together with as much joy and purpose as I can muster.

With His help and blessing, piece by piece, little by little, these 'nests' are coming into fruition. Often, all I can do is stand back and be amazed at what He's already done. Keep building, my friends.

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Good, morning sunshine.

Yesterday morning, we awoke early to carry out our annual tradition of watching the Easter sun rise. And it was a good one.

the boys doing their best to keep warm in the early morning air.

noah jamming

joseph calling out 'there's the sun!'

morning masterpiece... He is risen, indeed!

This Easter weekend, I am reminded of a love like no other. A relentless love that pursues and consumes and overflows. A love so marvellous that words fall short. And just like that morning sunlight could not be suppressed by darkness, so it is with His love. It radiates and washes over and redeems my heart.
Thank you Jesus for your extravagant love.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Ti Pierre.

Pierre, affectionally called 'Ti Pierre' (Little Pierre) by the Hope House kids, is a child like no other.

I remember Sarah's phone call like it was yesterday, when she told me that there had just been a baby boy abandoned at the clinic. Later, when he was plopped into my arms for his first night at Mission of Hope, I was at a complete loss for the questions that flooded my mind. He was so helpless, so weak, so fragile. As Sarah and I attempted to care for his small frame, I wondered how his journey would unfold. Little did I know how significant he would become, or how much I needed him.

In the weeks and months that followed, Pierre grew in strength and spirit. His soft murmurs gradually turned to contagious laughs that rippled across this campus and beyond. His hollow eyes were lit with new life that twinkled like stars and shone to those around him. To this day, his magnetic personality draws in friends both new and old, regardless of age, gender or nationality.

And does he make friends... Just about every North American visitor and staff member knows him by name and can't get enough of his zest for life. Whenever someone passes by, he is the first to strike up a conversation or offer a classic 'Hi!', regardless of whether they are strolling uphill from school or flying downhill on an ATV. Pierre's dynamic enthusiasm for those around him despite his physical setbacks causes us all to be captured and in awe of God's amazing presence in his life.

Music is his joy. Every Sunday morning when the worship band starts their set, Pierre's grin stretches to the farthest sides of his cheeks and he claps and shouts along with the lyrics. Other days when I visit, we sing 'Jesus loves me' (his favourite) over and over again, until the generator comes on and his head naturally starts to bob up, down and around to the blaring Haitian radio.

Lately, Pierre has also developed quite a growing vocabulary. As soon as he has someone's undivided attention, he doesn't miss a moment calling out requests, telling them where he wants to go, what he wants to touch, and how to get him there. His chattery dialogues with the mommies are my favourite.

Here are more highlights in picture form:

Pierre and Sarah waking up on day one
Another one of Pierre's favourite people - Naoki.
Hope House sister love 
Jolly Jumping with Julien
Building those neck muscles!
Broc turns Pierre's wheelchair into a race car
Birthday songs with Rocky and Lily
That toothy smile.

Somehow over the past 2 and a half years, Pierre has filled a part of my heart that I didn't know I had. There have been countless evenings where I've felt an inner restlessness, and I have found myself sitting off on the hillside with him in my lap. He has listened to my discouragements and vents, heard me cry desperate prayers for strength, and has let me tell him my wildest dreams about the future, all the while never losing interest. His head on my shoulder and little arm around my neck has comforted me and blessed me more than I could ever express. And every time I reach the foot of his doorstep, he calls me by name and welcomes me back in.

Early last winter, Rocky and Lily Evans visited MOH to meet Pierre in order to begin paperwork for his adoption. As you can imagine, I was pretty guarded about the whole idea. Knowing Pierre's setbacks, I understood the importance of him receiving medical care and therapy from the states, but it was hard to picture life at MOH without him. However, the more I witnessed their perseverance and ever-growing love for Pierre, the more I knew that the Lord had His hand in such a wonderful new chapter of his life. This past fall, when they visited him again for his birthday, I found myself praying along with their family and friends that Pierre would be released into their capable hands.

This morning, our prayers were answered. Pierre was granted a medical visa so that he may travel to his new home in Indiana. There he will begin receiving treatments and therapies that he so desperately needs, not to mention receive the beautiful love of a mom and dad, and 2 brothers to call his very own. I stand amazed at the Lord's provision in his little life, and can't wait to see and hear about the impact he will have on the people around him in his new northern home.

And so in these final days, we hold him longer. We let him smudge those greasy fingerprints all over our phones and cameras. We take extra long walks just to feel those little arms wrapped around us. We cuddle him closer. We kiss him because we can.
And then, we let him go. We acknowledge that he has given us far more than we could ever give him. But even so, we send him off with cuddles and kisses full of gratitude for the joy he shared with us, for the lessons he taught us, and for the fresh love he sparked in our hearts. And knowing that he is held in the Everlasting Arms, we entrust him into new hands, believing that they need him just like we did. Our tearful smiles beam as we remember our time with 'Ti Pierre'. We will never forget these days.

Saturday, March 16, 2013


Week by week, Joshua, Olivier, Joseph and I have turned page after page of the Jolly Phonics storybook. As each letter and vowel combination is introduced, we flood the chalkboard with words where we hear the sound, and then we take the letters and turn them into art to be plastered on our classroom walls... We are getting quite a fantastic collection!

Friday we didn't waste any time getting down to business... Joshua was eager to create a boat complete with stick-mounted sails for the 'oa' sound. Olivier grinned all the way through his creation of a mouth, teeth and lips to end with a winning smile for his 'ie' sound. And I sat down beside Joseph to tell him about my idea for his 'ee' sound... It was going to be messy one. But as you can see from that look in his eyes, he is always up for a good challenge.

After a few giggles and his nod of approval, I pulled the paint tubes from their shelves and snatched the biggest brush I could find, while Joseph took off his shoes and socks.
And then, with a confident sweep of bright blue paint on my brush, I took a breath and painted his feet.
As the cool, wet colour covered his toes, his heels, and the ticklish arch in between, his sole swerved and scrunched and he let out many uncontrollable shrieks and kicks. The look in his eyes was a combination of despair and pure thrill. I'm sure the gardeners outdoors were questioning what on earth we were up to this time. Joshua and Olivier stopped their work to watch the show, and by the end we had all reaped a generous dose of laughter for the day.

Several dozen wet wipes later, we had exactly what we had hoped for: 2 perfect footprints to hang on the wall for 'ee'.
'ee' for Joseph's feet. And 'ee' for all of the squeals.
Mission accomplished.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Window seats.

It's a perfect day for flying, and I'm soaring over Haiti. Below me are the barren mountains, the hazy clouds, a jigsaw arrangement of block homes, and the Mission. I see the Hope Village long houses, and  follow the goat trail of a road to the tin roof of my classroom, where Noah, Caleb and Corinne are working diligently even now.
As the ground pulls back from this plane in our ascent, I can see far off into the blue, and my heart is full. Full of love for this place. Full of gratitude for the life below me. And as my mind shifts towards my destination, full of anticipation for all the coming weeks will hold in my roots.

Almost 2 weeks later, I sit in Chicago. Mumford and Sons have a song titled 'Hopeless Wanderer', and here on the ground, that is what I suppose I am. After countless baby cuddles and belly laughs, I find myself here again. Wandering foreign terminals and feeling estranged in body and spirit. Spotted across this continent, I have lighted homes and warm-blanketed beds and steaming cups and bright eyes and tight hugs. But in these airports I feel small and easily forgotten. The chill in the air seeps into my heart. I feel alone and vulnerable and long for a place to belong.

Time ticks by, and we board. Weary hands carry bags and tired eyes gaze out a small port window into the hollow darkness. Then we lift off, and I see it.
The softest glow of a horizon. Through the darkness, there emerges a line. The bluest of hues that grows ever wider. And then my eyes behold the beauty of new colours, evolving and emerging from the darkness. In a matter of minutes, the once-hidden horizon is all glory in a majestic climax of a sunrise. My mind is awakened and my heart warms once again as I marvel at His love lavished upon me. That high above a sleeping world and overcast clouds, I am gifted with a window seat to be reminded that He is still with me.

Thank you Jesus that just like the sun, you are radiant and ever present. And though I find myself lost and wandering, I can rest in your faithfulness and constancy. That despite my fears, my doubts, my weaknesses, and these ever changing circumstances, your right Hand holds me fast and leads me into Your marvellous light.

 You are chosen by God, chosen to be a holy people, 
God’s instruments to do his work and speak out for him, 
to tell others of the night-and-day difference he made for you
—from nothing to something. 
~ 1 Peter 2:9-10 (MSG)

Sunday, February 24, 2013


I've seen it italicized in Habakkuk and the Psalms, or as a title to a musical interlude on a worship album. But this morning I was prompted to dig a little deeper.
Selah is defined as a musical direction, but more than that, it is rooted in the word 'connect', which expands to meanings such as 'stop and listen', and 'let those with eyes see, and with ears hear'.
I resonate with these words because lately the Lord has really been putting it on my heart to 'selah'. To intentionally seek Him in a quiet place. To pause and reflect in stillness, because it is here that I can truly listen and tap into the deeper layers of His word. As the light from my window streams in ever fuller in the early morning hours, so His light shines down on my path ever clearer.

I appreciate your prayers in this time. That the Lord would reveal His perfect plans and peace in my heart as I tread onwards.

The Sovereign Lord has given me his words of wisdom,
    so that I know how to comfort the weary.
Morning by morning he wakens me
    and opens my understanding to his will.
The Sovereign Lord has spoken to me,
    and I have listened.
    I have not rebelled or turned away.
~ Isaiah 50:4-5

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Pote mwen.

Pote mwen.

These Creole words were some of the first I learned upon my arrival in Haiti. At church, at the Hope House, or visiting a local village, you hear it countless times.
It means 'carry me'.

Sometimes in the heat of the day, you question the idea of clinging to another sweaty body, but the little children of this country could care less. They scramble to your side, take a hold of your hand and look up at you with those twinkling eyes. It doesn't take long until they give your arm a gentle tug and yearn to be lifted up... Up where their dusty (usually barefoot) feet can rest easy. Up where they can touch the overhead palm leaves. Up where a shoulder is a perfect match for a pillow.

This past Sunday, the Church of Hope was hosting a youth camp, so the pew benches were packed to the max. After scanning around for an empty seat, I finally found myself in the standing-room-only section at the back of the sanctuary. As the worship team began to sing, a little girl who wasn't much older than 5 years old approached me. We exchanged smiles, and she stood by side for a minute before leaning her body against my legs and uttering those familiar words. All during the worship set her skinny arms clung to my neck.
On the way back up the hill after church, my mind kept focussing back on the simple act of being carried, and I felt the Lord probing me to dig a little deeper...

Isaiah 46:4 says that 'Even in your old age and gray hairs, I am He who sustains you. I have made you and will carry you. I will sustain you and I will rescue you. 

This verse brings one of two reactions. The first is relief. There is such comfort and peace knowing that I can be rescued and carried by the One who is greater than I.
But deep down, I react to the verse a different way. Avoidance. Because as much as I long for a sustainer, being carried means that I have to be vulnerable. To be carried, I have to admit that I'm weak.
Frankly, I often care too much about outward appearances, and would rather struggle through a task than ask for help. I want to be independent and able. I want others to think that I am competent. And so I try to do it alone.

The simple act of carrying that sweet little girl at church was an important reminder to me. A reminder that I was never meant to go it alone. A reminder that we as followers of Christ were made for one another, and that carrying one another and being carried is how the body functions.
I was also reminded of the Lord's faithfulness of how He has carried me in the past. All of the times looking back where I had nowhere else to turn, and yet how He sustained me even then.
And last but not least, a reminder of what is to come, as was written in Isaiah - that whatever the years before me will bring, come what may, I can be lifted from my tired wanderings and rest safely in His everlasting arms.

Thank you Jesus for making me in such a way where You knew that I would have to be carried. May I embrace the areas that make me weak and burdened, knowing that You hold it all, and You hold me.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Wash day.

It feels like forever that I've sat at this empty text box. Between rat raids and mid-term report cards, amongst the visiting Cancrete team and other past staffers, my days have been brimming with activity. With February's theme of LOVE in the classroom, I've been bringing it on with post-it hearts full force - each one marked with an action of love we have either been shown or will show that week - and it's been so fun to see our classroom evolve into a pink paradise. With Valentine's Day just around the corner, we're looking forward to more festivities surrounding our month verse from Mark 12:30-31.

This month, I also get to visit Abby-girl in Canada which is highly anticipated to say the least, but in the meantime I'm doing my best to make the most of these days...
Earlier this afternoon, I visited the mountain families with Robenson. In my most recent visits, the girls have been doing 'concerts' for me, where they all line up and sing worship songs from church. Sometimes they even add a little dance to their songs, which always gains an extra squeal when they watch themselves on video with my camera.
As we approached the homes this afternoon, Shaylyn came dashing out to meet us with many of her younger sisters and brothers not far behind. When she took my hand, I noticed it was cool and wet and when I asked her about it, she replied that she had been washing clothes. Soon after making my rounds of greetings and kisses I was invited by her, Dida and Marie Rose to help out with the laundry, which I couldn't pass up. I plopped down to the edge of the giant 'kivet' (basin) and watched as the girls modelled the proper hand scrubbing technique. I took hold of one of the baby shirts and tried to mimic their action, which brought forth a chorus of giggles. Beside me, Marie Rose assisted in adding more soap and water onto the fabric and encouraged me to keep scrubbing. It wasn't long before the rest of the family was hovered over watching us, and just like that I had become the day's entertainment. As the laughing continued, Dida (the youngest) managed to compose herself and in her most authoritative voice she shouted out 'Pa ri ti moun!', which translates to 'Stop laughing, children!', which of course made us laugh all the more.

Just another wash day in this beautiful place... More soap please!

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Abigail Rose.

It feels like just yesterday that Broc and I were riding our bikes around the driveway, kicking each other's feet under the kitchen table, dressing up our dog, Chevy, and breaking ping pong records in the garage. Growing up with no other siblings, we were each other's best friend and rival enemy. Now, I consider him only the former, and see him more as a much older, wiser brother, even though I came first.

In 2009, Broc fell in love and married Ashley, and I adopted a sister. I have loved having her as a part of our family, and more and more I see how her and Broc are perfect for each other. It doesn't take long when I return from Haiti that the 3 of us are down in Dad's rec room cranking up the speakers and breaking it down. In my months away, we skype regularly, and I always look forward to their travels to visit me in the spring. During Ashley's first trip, I learned how to say 'sister-in-law' in creole, which translates to 'belse'. Translated literally it means, beautiful sister, which suits her perfectly.

This past spring, we were chatting on one of our usual skype dates, and they broke the news that they were expecting... As you can imagine, the last 9 months have been a huge buildup to meeting the first daughter/niece/granddaughter on both sides of the family. It became evident very quickly that this baby was going to be smothered - No way around it.

I will never forget last night as long as I live... I sat up, wide-eyes glued to my computer screen, with those childhood memories of Broc spinning around in my mind. Before long, his grown-up, beaming, just-became-a-dad face greeted me on the other side of the screen. He gave me a brief play-by-play of the day, and then whisked me into the delivery room where Ashley, glowing and gorgeous, held the most angelic little doll. Yes, my baby brother and his bride are parents! Apparently cell phones were not permitted, but I am so thankful that I can count on a family that goes above the call of duty to break hospital rules. I saw her little hands and heard her cries - proof that baby Abigail Rose is perfect, and like her name, she has already overflowed this family cup with joy!

Welcome to the world, sweet Abby-girl. May these first days of love be a prelude to a life filled with joy, hope and peace! I love you.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Dirty dishes.

A few weeks ago I found a photo on pinterest of a sign above a kitchen sink. It read:

Thank heaven for dirty dishes, 
They have a tale to tell,
While others folks go hungry, 
We're eating very well.
With love and health and happiness,
We shouldn't want to fuss,
By this stack of evidence,
God's very good to us.

This morning at school, in keeping with our theme of the days of creation (today being the 7th day when God rested) we all wore our pyjamas to school. This was a first for the Benard boys, and by the way they dashed into school grinning this morning, I have a feeling that it won't be their last!

After recess, I rang the bell from my apartment balcony and treated all 5 of them to pancakes to go along with the cozy wake-up theme. We dined, we laughed, we used over a half bottle of syrup, and all left with full bellies. When I entered my apartment for lunch, I took an assessment of the damage. Syrup smudges, crumbs under chairs, a counter full of pancake ingredients, and towards the sink lay a mountain of dishes.

Immediately, my mind zigzagged back to the pinterest poem and I let out a big breath of satisfaction. Within 10 minutes, my kitchen was scoured and swept of all the sticky fingers, and I stood at the sink, thanking the Lord for spilled syrup and little boys that don't take time to cut small pieces and the goodness of comfort food.

I'm so thankful for the sticky juice pitcher that I filled with fresh passion fruit last night for Chelsea and I to sip on and unwind from our days. Thankful for the ice tray that I empty daily. Thankful for the conglomeration of bent forks, spoons and knives that I've inherited over the years. Thankful for a stack of plates and bowls with chips and scratches.
Yes, these dishes may keep me occupied, but I'd much rather clean them daily than have them collect dust in a neat stack. Baking and hosting has become one of my favourite things, and I am so blessed to have co-workers who are neighbours who are such wonderful friends... Beautiful people who I get to do life with, who challenge me, and who bring such joy into my life.

So here's to more dirty dishes, more spilled cups and more sticky fingers.
I just texted my mom to ask her to get me some more dish soap to send with the Canadian team coming in a week... I'm looking forward to using it up. :)

Thursday, January 17, 2013

He holds it all.

I've begun this post many times only to hold down the backspace key and start over. This week has been such a smattering of colours and conversations that it's hard to know where to begin.

~ Ashley is due today. TODAY. Every time my What'sApp ringer goes off on my phone, my heart skips a beat... I can't wait to be an auntie and welcome this little babe into the world, no matter the distance! 
~ This past Saturday afternoon I sat with Pierre and watched the late afternoon sky turn to dusk. 3 years since the earthquake, evidence of brokenness still exists, but through the cracks, there is so much light. I am in awe of the way that the Lord redeems.
~ I adopted a new student (sort of)... The Beaurivage family has moved down to Haiti long-term and Joslyn is taking secondary correspondence courses, so she has joined in on our afternoon study period in the classroom. It's so nice to have another girl around!
~ Yesterday morning I smelled something awfully familiar. A terrible stench that could only mean one thing: You have a dead rat in your house. Worst. So I enlisted Noah and Caleb to my search party, and after emptying my storage closet, we found it. I am still cringing as I type, but fortunately I have students who willingly assist me in times of crisis.
~ Sarah and Creighton booked their wedding date! I'm so excited to celebrate with them this spring!
~ I read this really good article last night. ( It's about life questions and choices and the freedom we have in the Lord. It was just what I needed.
~ Grant Rumford just called me. He and Sandy are on the island for the next few days with a dental team. I can't wait to see them and hear all about 'my kids'!
~ We've been studying creation in devotions. Did you know that there are over 10,000 species of birds and over 40,000 species of fish? I typed 'bird' into google images and we could have scrolled through pictures of different vibrantly feathered friends for days. I find it so incredible that the Lord didn't just create one type of bird or mammal or fish, but THOUSANDS. If that doesn't show His creative side, I don't know what does. Don't even get me started on sunsets and fingerprints.

And maybe that's where I'll stop. Despite the randomness of this blog and these moments, I rejoice because I am held in by a Maker who is not just before all things beautiful, but holds them all together (Colossians 1:16). As the weekend draws near, may I rest in that.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Ever-pressing onward.

The last couple of weeks have been a revolving door of wonderful people and places, where every minute that passed just wasn't quite long enough. In many ways, sitting on my velvet couch this afternoon with the fan blades spinning overhead, it feels like I never left. And yet the memories of my Christmas break take me back to a dreamland of foreign familiarity.

Perching on my parent's couch overlooking MillRace Road, mesmerized by the giant flakes falling down. Sitting round Oma and Opa's kitchen table for Sunday lunch of homemade vegetable soup and golden zwiebachs. Sipping warm Starbucks deliciousness with Darcie. Embracing Ashley, my sister-in-law, and feeling the kick of little feet belonging to my soon-to-be niece or nephew. Raising my candle with the rest of the congregation in Wainfleet BIC's Christmas eve service. Holding the oh-so-sparkly hand of my dear, newly-engaged Sarah. Road tripping to Springfield with Ryan. Breakfasting and praying with friends new and old.
These are just a few of the highlights forever etched in my memory from a farewell to 2012 and kick-off to 2013. I am so ready for all this year has yet to hold, while also marvelling at how much it has held already.

Thank you for journeying with me this year. I'm excited for all that is to come in this place where the sun shines bright and the mountains awe and the people embrace you with open arms. A place where bare feet meet tile floors. Where friends come over early and stay late. A place where Creole greetings are heard across the sidewalks and every evening is a picnic supper. Most of all, a place where you can hold hope, and where every morning 10 feet scamper into a one-room schoolhouse and 10 bright eyes seek to learn.

My deepest prayer for 2013 is that my eyes would stay wide open so that I don't miss a moment on the horizon. And not just my physical eyes, but the eyes of my heart. That I may be continually aware and fixed on the Lord's presence with me as I venture outwards and onwards. Praise be to the God who keeps us ever pressed forward to what lies ahead.