Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Last Day in Haiti

It’s hard to believe I have lived in this little island for about a year and a half. It’s hard to believe that today is my last day of living in the midst of mango trees, goats, chickens, and the sound of the ocean waves creating their own symphony as they roll back and forth crashing onto the shore.
Haiti has been by far one of the most challenging mission fields I’ve ever been called to – ministry-wise and personally. That being said, it has also been one of the most blessed seasons God has gifted me with. I’ve been blessed to live in a diverse mission community, made up of families, single people, clergy, religious, teens, toddlers & newborns. We have prayed together, laughed together, cried together, and fought the good fight for the faith together. We have also helped each other out on this road to sanctity by smoothing out each other’s rough edges as we have been called to grow in love & humility. What a journey it has been. I think it’s one of those things in life where I will be much more aware of all the workings of the Lord when I look back in hindsight. 
Sunset on my last Friday nigh in Haiti
 There is no way around it, leaving is hard. Tears have been shed and I’m sure they will be shed again, whenever I am reminded of the goodness of the Lord that was so abundantly poured out in the past year and a half. I know nostalgia will settle in my heart. But I pray that it wouldn’t remain as nostalgia, but that it would turn into a prayer of thankfulness for what God has done.
The hardest thing is leaving people. I’ve moved quiet a bit in my lifetime and that is the one thing that never gets easier. I think it actually gets harder. I’d like to think it gets harder because you allow your heart to love more, to become more invested. 
Nathaniel's First Haircut -I have loved being a part of his many "firsts"

Lunch - fresh out of the ocean
It will be hard to find myself humming a Haitian Creole hymn and not have Sara next to me to join in the song, no questions asked, as if it’s the most normal thing in the world. It will be hard to not hear Paul singing “What if God was one of us” to the top of his lungs, at least once a month. It will be hard to not have good conversations with Anna anytime, the ones that happen when you’re at the beginning of a new friendship, where you’re discovering so much of the beauty of the person’s story. It will be hard to not hear Fr. Louis make a song out of the last sentence he hears me say, or to not have philosophical conversations about life, ranging from theology all the way to “little v” and “big b” conundrum. It will be hard to not have Sean encourage me to do something that I don’t believe I can do like climb a mango tree, descend a mango tree, and use tools like chain saws. It will be hard to not see all of our kiddos everyday, and having them run up to me to give me a hug just because. This list could go on for a long time. But I think you get the idea. It’s the little things that stick with you.
This chapter of my life is coming to a close, and it’s bittersweet. I am thankful. And I am looking forward to what He has in store. The sense I get in prayer is that wherever He leads, I’ll be there for a good amount of time. I am excited to settle down and I am excited for what He will do, what He will write for this next chapter. I can attest that the Lord is a good Author.  

Women's Ministry

Fr. Louis sharing the Gospel

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Last week in my 20's

I turned thirty years old yesterday. The first words that came to mind when Sara (my roommate/friend/missionary sister) asked me how I felt was that I have ad a good life. We both started laughing because for a moment it sounded as if I was 95 years old and had had a plethora of life experience I was looking back at and reflecting on. But that is honestly how I truly feel. I have had a good life. Sure, I’ve seen my fair share of suffering and had some suffering of my own – but in the midst of all that, the one thing I can attest to with 100% conviction is that the goodness God has blessed me with far outweighs any measure of difficulty. Even in the midst of sorrow, He has brought forth beauty and goodness, showing me over and over again how He has conquered the world (John 16:33) and that my life is in the Almighty hands of Infinite Goodness, Perfect Love.
This past week we had the CSU (Catholic Student Union) from FSU come and serve/journey with us. To be honest I was very tired on our way to pick them up at the airport in Port-au-Prince since we’ve had groups come back to back since January aside from other ministry events. My focus was more geared on being able to get through the week as opposed to looking forward to journeying with people that God was leading here. But thankfully, by His grace, despite my being tired, the Lord quickly reminded me that His power is made perfect in weakness. On our 3-4 hours truck ride to the base I was able to get over my being tired and my eyes were quickly opened to the beauty of the young men and women He gifted me with this week. Right off the bat, I started having deep and substantial conversations with different members from the group.
The depth and beauty of the human soul is pretty astounding once you take the time to actually listen and ponder the magnificent ways the Lord writes each story with such delicacy, attention to detail, sense of adventure, twists and turns - a perfect picture reflecting His redeeming and transformative love. It’s amazing. Words don’t do it justice.
I felt as if in big ways and little ways God used this last week in my 20’s as a reminder of all he has done in my life. It was a week jam packed with prayer, communal life, sharing the Gospel, sharing my life story and getting to hear others’ stories, taking care of people who were sick/injured, dancing, singing, traveling, playing with little kids, great coffee, flowers, and the Lord even brought a fellow Texan here for me to be able to relate to :)    
I am one thankful girl. I am excited for what the next thirty years have in store. I am excited for what is to come. I am excited to jump back into nursing full time and one day go back to school. I am excited to see friends and family. I am excited for entering into my vocation - I have no clue of when that will happen but I feel that is something the Lord is working on.
I know leaving Haiti will be very difficult. As the time draws near for me to return to the United States, my heart is keenly aware of the pain it will go through from leaving people that I love, people that have a piece of my heart. But I was once told, or I read it somewhere, that if you really love a person, pain is inevitable, and that means you loved well. I sure hope so. 
Akrin, little girl at Fr. Deu's monastery/orphanage. LOVE her.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

“Leaving on a jet plane…”

Well, not quite, but I am leaving Haiti at the end of April. What an unexpected, challenging, blessed and fruitful journey it has been. I think summarizing almost a year and a half of being on mission here would take several paragraphs. I can say that that is has been real and it has been very good. I’m thankful. I still have about 2 months until I come back to the United States, and I am hoping and praying to make the best of the time I have left - “carpe diem” as they say. I will also do a much better job at blogging – sorry about that :) Music – I love music. So, for some reason, “My Favorite Things” from The Sound of Music came to mind as I was trying to figure out what to blog about in regards to my time in Haiti thus far. I’ve come to realize that it’s the little things- the things that seem so ordinary, little things that might not be as noticeable at times, that really stick with me. So here are some of my favorite things from Haiti...in song - sort of :)

Freshly picked mangoes and laughing ‘til I cry,
Saturdays with Loucie, watch the Gospel change lives,
Trips to the monastery and Chez Den wings,
These are a few of my favorite things

Practicing nursing for the underserved,
Magnificent sunsets with colors unheard,
Countless church choirs with a talent to sing,
These are a few of my favorite things
Colorful dresses and head wraps galore,
Cute little toddlers in school uniforms,
A majestic ocean where I can swim,
These are a few of my favorite things

When the goat bites
Mosquitoes sting
When I'm feeling sad
I simply remember my favorite things
And then I don't feel so bad

Freshly roasted coffee and loving ‘til it hurts,
Trying to bathe with water coming out in spurts,
Living in community and going hiking,
These are a few of my favorite things

Access to the sacraments, baby missionaries,
Living simply, surrounded by mountains and trees,
A wider worldview and new friends I’m making,
These are a few of my favorite things

When the goat bites
Mosquitoes sting
When I'm feeling sad
I simply remember my favorite things
And then I don't feel so bad

*In case you've never heard, "My Favorite Things" by Julie Andrews in The Sound of Music, here you go:

Thursday, October 10, 2013

God Laughs

--> Last night the psalm response for daily mass was “Lord you are merciful and gracious” (Psalm 86). I’ve heard about his mercy and grace my whole life. But last night I had a revelation. It wasn’t expected and it didn’t hit me like roaring thunder. It was more like a whisper and truth settled in my soul, gently, yet firmly.
He is full of mercy. He is full of grace. He is merciful; he is patient on an infinite scale. To often I feel that my faith should be perfect, unwavering, without any bit of doubt or feeling shaken. 
I’ve come to realize that on this side of heaven, although I truly desire with every part of me to love and trust Him perfectly, the reality is that I will fall short. There will be times of struggle. There will be times of intense aridity that can make doubt a heavy and almost crushing load. That in a way is inevitable in this world, in this season of life.
But what I think was revealed in my heart yesterday is that God knows I will fall short. He knows my faith will not always be strong. God knows my trust in him will at times fail. He knows all that. It’s not news to him. He knew all of that before I even came into this world. But what I know now with greater assurance and conviction is that he is merciful. I think he looks at my faithfulness. I think he cares much more that I chose to love him and follow him, even if my head and my heart at times seem to feel anything but certain. He is merciful because he knows – he knows me.  
There is peace resting in His mercy in grace.
In his book, Faith & Doubt, John Ortbergh refers to G.K. Chesterton’s final chapter in Orthodoxy. He sets it up by giving an example. Imagine you have a 5 year-old daughter. She becomes very sick and needs to have surgery. You don’t know what is wrong but you are worried and fearful that she might die. Remember all you know is that she is really sick and the doctor told you she needs surgery. The doctor approaches you and explains your daughter needs to have her tonsils taken out, a very routine procedure and she will be fine. You are relieved and joyful. You proceed to enter your child’s hospital room and attempt to reassure her that everything will be ok. But your child is terrified; she is nervous and does not yet understand.
Ortbergh continues,
“So you cannot let her see the lightness of your heart. You cant joke around. You can’t laugh. She would think you didn’t care. You must take her fear seriously. You must let her know empathize. But every once in a while you have to leave her sickroom. You have to be able to laugh. You know all will be well. What if the human condition is something like this?...What if all things are going to be well? What if Jesus knew? Really knew? Then everything would have looked different to him. God would be the parent and we would be the 5 year-old in the sickroom. And God would have to accommodate himself to us; he would have to knit his brow, nod his head and take our fear seriously. But every once in a while God would have to excuse himself just to go outside and laugh.”   
This example sets up the G.K. Chesterton excerpt well. In Orthodoxy, Chesterton writes:
“Joy which was the small publicity of the pagan, is the gigantic secret of the Christian…The Stoics ancient and modern, were proud of conceiling their tears. He [Jesus] never concealed his tears, he showed them plainly on his open face at any daily sight, such as the far sight of his native city. Yet he concealed something. Solemn supermen and imperial diplomats are proud of restraining their anger. He never restrained his anger. He flung furniture down the front steps of the temple and asked men how they expected to escape the damnation of hell. Yet he restrained something. I say it with reverence; there was in that shattering personality a thread that must be called shyness. There was something that he hid from all men when he went up the mountain to pray There was something covered constantly by abrupt silence or impetuous isolation. There was one thing that was too great for God to show us when he walked on earth; I have sometimes fancied it was his mirth
Can you imagine? His mirth. Wow. So, my heavenly Father knows. He knows everything so well, and he is merciful and gracious. And he laughs. Not a condescending or careless laughter. He laughs because he knows that all will be well. What blessed assurance! He tenderly acknowledges my fears and insecurities but he can be joyful because he is fearless and absolutely secure.
In this life I may stumble and at times fall. I might feel shaken. I might have days that I thoroughly understand that the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak. I might have days were certainty is hard to come by. But that is ok. Because he is full of mercy, because he is full of limitless grace. He calls me, asks me to strive for perfection but he does not say that I will not have trouble or trials. When those come my way, I have the choice, even if I feel all kinds of frailty, to follow him. I can chose even if I’m burdened with doubt, to trust him. He can take my feeble attempt at following him and loving him with all my might, and he can make it good. He can transform my fragile faith into unwavering conviction.  A priest recently told me that here on earth, we are never going to love or trust God enough. We don’t have the ability to love and trust him as he deserves due to our fallen nature. But get this, that is ok. He knows all about our fallen nature. I think he delights in our efforts, even if we stumble.
Two songs came to mind as I was reflecting today: 
Caedmon's Call, "Shifting Sand"

Alli Rogers, "Choosing"


Saturday, August 17, 2013

Where have all the mangoes gone?

Seasons - in Haiti, there are marked seasons for different kinds of produce. It never really dawned on me that each season determines what kind of fruits and vegetables you get to eat. I’ve lived in Guatemala, California, Maryland, Atlanta and Dallas. Everywhere I have lived, I’ve had access to pretty much anything I would like to eat at any time, yes, sometimes maybe one or two things weren’t available but that wasn’t a frequent occurrence.
Haiti on the other hand is a whole other story. If something isn’t in season, you simply don’t get it. You have no option but to wait for the season to come back around. For example, a couple of months ago we were right in the peak of mango season – and it was fantastic. One night, Paul, Anna and I ate 14 mangoes in one sitting! They were so good, and toss in the fact that they are good for you – we were sold, and we had a jolly old time feasting on this tropical fruit.
Mango Season

Kinnep Season
Well mango season has passed, so we no longer have access to this treat. We have all mentioned at one time or another how much we enjoyed mango season and wished it was a year-round fruit. But then their came the “kinep” season (also known as quenepa) which was pretty tasty. This season is currently in its last days, so lately we have been trying to get every bit of fruit off the tree before they all spoil and rot.
Paul mentioned we can get mangoes from Port-au-Prince, people refrigerate mangoes to try and have them last past their season. But many of the locals will tell you, they are not as good as when they are in season and often times you get rotten mangoes. Now for kineps, there is no way around it, you can’t make them last longer, they will rot.
Being a foodie myself, I have become increasingly aware of the kinds of food available to us with each season in Haiti. It struck me recently that I am more appreciative of what each season brings, because I know the facts: 1) The supply is available for a limited amount of time 2) The produce is best enjoyed when in season 3) If you try to keep the produce past the season, it will likely rot 4) If you try and eat a fruit before it’s ripe, it does not taste good and you’ve just wasted a perfectly good treat of nature, all because of your refusal to wait.
So this got me thinking about life, and how each season in my life, God has different gifts He desires to give me at that appointed time. If I trust that God has ordained with careful precision that said gifts be given to me at an appointed time, then I will be able to enjoy them and gain some sort of growth/strengthening in my heart (just as fruit is healthy for your body and allows it to function on a more optimal level).
So what are the gifts (at least the ones I’ve been able to recognize so far) since my arrival in Haiti?
  • Feeling completely outside of my element when I am the only English speaker trying to understand a myriad of native Haitians chatting it up in Creole. If I am paying enough attention, this serves as a reminder of the importance of communication, of the deep seeded desire to be in communion with others, to be heard, to understand and to be understood. If I remember this every time I am in this setting, this could be a great opportunity (gift) to enter in conversation with the Lord.

  • Sabbath days, when I get to go down to the beach, spend time with the Lord, and feel like a little kid in a majestic playground (beach, mountains, blue sky fading into all sort of pink, orange, yellow and purple hues).
  • Being single, all the while having the conviction and desire in my heart for marriage and family. Although challenging and at times lonely, it is helping me appreciate the time that I have now with the Lord, a very unique time that I won’t have in the same capacity once I am married. And it is helping me to be way more intentional in praying for my future husband and family.
Playing with Nathaniel, our missionary baby (Paul & Anna's son)- love him!

  • Getting to provide medical care to people in need. Even though I am currently not able to do as much as I would like (resources, needing more education to expand my practice etc.). This setting as a nurse has confirmed to a greater degree the calling to practice nursing. Also, it has sparked a newfound desire and passion to expand my education and learn more regarding my practice, so that I can provide more care for my patients.
Some of the medical supplies that have been donated to our base

  • Living in community. It’s a good, difficult, shaping, and fruitful venture. A friend talked about his relationship with his wife once (whom he loves dearly), and he said that she is like sand paper to him and vice versa. They smooth each other out, and it can be rough at times but it is good. In community, there have been definite seasons of sanding out each other’s rough edges.
  • Times of aridity in prayer and times of spiritual attack. These gifts are much more difficult for me to receive with trust and joy. My tendency is to think something has gone horribly wrong and that causes stress and anxiety. Little by little though, I am learning to remember that the Lord is sovereign, and He allows seasons to come and go with it’s gifts for a good and holy purpose. When I remember that, my heart is able to endure the pain of trials and refinement, with the knowledge in my head and in my heart that His hand is holding my heart and He’s got me, and I’m safe.

Good reminder a friend sent me from her Magnificat
In the book of Ecclesiastes chapter 3, verse 1 it says, “For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven.” My prayer is that I can remember this, and when my memory gets murky and I find it hard to enter into the season the Lord is giving me, that by His grace I’d be reminded of this truth. 

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

I will wait

Waiting. A topic that is quite prevalent among several young adults that I know. I've heard about waiting, read about waiting, sung about waiting, talked about waiting, prayed about waiting - all the while...waiting.

As I wondered what I could blog about this month, I hesitated to write on this particular subject. For one it's somewhat vulnerable, secondly I've read several solid truths on the matter that I am sure most young Christians who are called to marriage and are seeking to follow the Lord wholeheartedly have already come across. So this is nothing new, not a revolutionary revelation, it's just what the Lord has been teaching me, personally.

I am 29 years old and I've never been in a serious relationship. I came to know the Lord, to really enter into a relationship with Him when I was about 15 years old. Prior to my full conversion of heart, I was very much focused on having to have a boyfriend because everyone else was in that boat. I very much believed my worth was weighed by whether or not I was in a relationship. After encountering Christ, I knew that was a flat out lie. I came to know and believe the truth that my worth is and will always be found in Him. It was during that time of transformation that I told the Lord I did not want to date until He deigned it to be the right time, I even went as far as to ask Him to not let me date until my husband was ready for me and I for him. Well, let's just say God certainly heard that prayer and has been faithful to it. And even though it can be difficult, I can honestly say that I am thankful.

It's not easy but rather wait than settle. I rather wait than date for the sake of dating. I rather wait to receive than grasp for what was never intended to be given to me (we all know what happened with Eve). I will wait. Waiting doesn't mean I am putting my life on hold until my husband comes along. Waiting doesn't mean I will let marriage/family become an idol. Waiting doesn't mean I won't have joy. Waiting doesn't mean my life won't have daily surprises, new lessons to be learned, new miracles to attest to, a deeper understanding of His love, a greater appreciation of His mercy and a greater reliance on His guiding hand. 

As I wait on Him (the Lord), and as I wait for him (my spouse), my heart is actively being cultivated and sown by the hands of the Sower. Fruit is coming forth. Branches are being pruned. Life is budding forth. And when the time is right, when the appointed season (as ordained by His divine wisdom and perfect love) arrives, then the active waiting for my spouse will end. A new chapter will begin, His will be all the glory as I can attest to the brilliance of His penmanship in the book of my life, and another season of waiting will commence. And that too will be good, because He is ALL GOOD and can only give good gifts.

I am aware of the ache in my heart, more than I have ever been. But I am also aware that this ache is part of my life, and it is not meant to dominate it nor suffocate it. It brings me to my knees in prayer, expands my capacity to love, and increases my reliance on the Lord. And all of that is good. I m also aware that just because I am called to wait on Him in this way right now, that does not mean my life is at a halt - not at all. He wakes me up every day, He breathes life into my lungs every few seconds, He makes my heart beat an average of 86,400 beats a day - He is giving me life so that I can LIVE IT. So that is what I want to do - "
carpe diem," they say. So yes, I will wait and as I wait, I will seize each and every day.