Sunday Confessional: May 29, 2016

I confess that when I moved back from Haiti four years ago, I didn’t really have the desire to go back ever again.

13245493_3990638883032_6557763790356576116_nYou may be saying, “What? I thought she loved Haiti!” And I do! But after being there for several months, I had started to focus on the difficult parts of living there. Being perpetually sweaty, covered in dirt, and working hard to communicate started to wear on me. And that’s not even including the little things… cold showers, intermittent electricity, and the same few meals (although delicious) left me begging for variety. It can be difficult to accomplish things in Haiti, and I found myself¬†focusing on the end result of accomplishment rather than the journey of learning to get there. I am American after all! ūüėČ

In January I could not shake this feeling that I should go back to Haiti to visit. When I dug deep, I remembered so many good things about living there! These positive memories had been shoved to the bottom¬†as I let the negative memories of culture stress rise to the top. I so badly wanted to GET OVER culture shock, that I didn’t let myself deal with it properly and just be present on my journey. Turns out, there was a group going to Haiti in May that needed a trip leader. I gladly accepted this offer from Global Orphan Project (goproject.org) and we ended up having a great experience just last week.

13256468_3990600962084_3622407768891605660_nI witnessed so much goodness my heart could’ve burst! From the moment I stepped off the plane I felt like I was “home”. I’ve said this before, but the bad part of traveling is that your home is in pieces all over the globe. I hope my team didn’t get tired of me talking about Haiti, I tried to encourage them to create their own perceptions and be present in their own thoughts. But I had forgotten! By speaking out loud I was not only encouraging them to see the goodness, but REMINDING MYSELF of it too.¬†

13267865_3990578361519_4190440226937945782_n¬†Whether they’re aware of it or not, the Haitian people I hung out with last week taught me many things. Where we see trash, they see treasure. Where we see brokenness, they see an opportunity for resourcefulness. Where we see a crowded church that “needs more seats”, they see a vibrant congregation ready to worship. Where we see boredom, they see a time for rest. But it’s not just about “them” and “us” is it? Because we’re really not that different. People are people, and we are all on our own unique journeys through life. So let me turn this around on myself. Where I once saw difficulty, I now see opportunity. Where I once saw frustration, I now see there is something for me to learn. Where I once hated the heat, I now can enjoy the times where the air conditioning is in fact working! Where I once saw a sound system that didn’t function properly, I now see the wonder of singing without the burden of equipment. And where I once experienced hopelessness, I now see peace and contentment.¬†13233058_3990607282242_7550166303212554831_n

The first thing I wrote in my journal was in kreyol, “anpil change” (so much has changed). I initially meant that a lot of things looked different than they had 4 years ago and was writing about the way dinner was served, the uneven step that got leveled, and the location¬†of the drink fridge.¬†But I think what really changed was me. You see, life keeps on going whether we’re ready or not. And I realized that I could let the frustrations of Haiti become my cry, or the joy of Haiti become my song.

I’ve made my confession, now go make yours.

Singing,

Abigail

 

Sunday Confessional

I confess that I didn’t think I would survive the last ten days, but here I am, so I must have! Let me back up a little bit. One of John’s courses for school was a ten day pilgrimage through Ireland and Northern Ireland which took place September 1st-10th. Eleven students and three leaders traveled to different holy sites and followed footsteps of Saints that came before us like Saint Patrick and Saint Brigid. They had a wonderful and meaningful time spent in meditation, prayer, lots of hiking, scripture-reading, journaling, and learning about Celtic Christianity.

Because I didn’t want to leave the kids, I didn’t go with them, but stayed behind with a missionary friend who lives in Wicklow, Ireland. Wicklow was the starting and ending point for their pilgrimage, so it just made sense that I would be¬†there for those times and she would keep me company while I took care of my kiddos.¬†IMG_8432

I spent ten days with the¬†boys without John’s help and it was quite the task! They were pretty well-behaved, especially considering they were in a new place with new surroundings, and one of their “constants” was not there. I was continuously¬†on the move trying to keep up with them. I was pretty proud of myself and how I managed to stay patient throughout the whole time, that isn’t usually the case. I think between John and me, I’m the one who gets impatient more quickly….

During those ten days, I managed to brush my teeth (and my hair most days) but always with a little one pulling at me. (I won’t confess to how few showers I took, only that the boys bathed more frequently than I was able to…) Sometimes I’d put Moses down for a morning nap or we’d go on an outing. We went various places like the grocery store, on a walk to feed the ducks, to charity shops, to the park, etc. often accompanied by friends who lived in the area. Once back home, we’d have lunch, then afternoon quiet time, play outside, eat dinner, then BEDTIME! We all slept pretty well, but 6:30 still came way too early every morning.

One of my favorite things was when Moses would take a morning nap, because then Hosea and I got to¬†paint together! I’m not crafty AT ALL but went to Poundland and got some paints/paper/brushes a few weeks ago to prepare for this time away. Hosea absolutely loved painting “pictures for daddy” and 3-D cardboard animals. We’d have great conversations about things during this time too.

“Why are tigers orange? How did God stretch out the elephant’s trunk so long? What sound do giraffes make?”

IMG_8358I love his curiosity.

I enjoyed those ten days more than I thought I would. I was exhausted, yes, but we had so much fun just being together! I wasn’t preoccupied with getting things done, I just made it all about them.

By the end of the day we were covered in paint, dirt, food, and sticky from who knows what, but we were happy and we all felt loved. (Yes, even me.)

IMG_8405One day our friend took us to find sea glass at a nearby beach. Hosea was in his element: jumping in puddles, finding and burying sticks, filling his pockets with stones, and climbing giant rocks. I managed to find several pieces of sea glass despite constantly fishing sand and rocks out of Moses’ mouth (he was exploring in his own way). John and I always talk about how cool sea glass is, because it starts out as a sharp shard of a broken glass bottle or something, then after tossing around in the waves for a looooooong time, it becomes this lovely piece of smooth glass! It’s a great image of how God refines us over time to become more like Christ.IMG_8442

Exhausted and back at home in Millbrook, we are all four happy to be reunited. I confess that it wasn’t just John who had a meaningful time away, but me too. Just in a different way. This is all just part of the crazy journey.

Peace.

Sunday Confessional: Our story

I confess that today is my wife’s 26th birthday. We’ve been married a bit over five years at this point and I think I should share a bit about how we met. Over the next week or so I will chronicle a bit of our together story. Here is goes:

It wasn’t until the spring semester of our junior year (3rd) in high school that our paths finally crossed. Our choir took a ten day trip to the Republic of Ireland, where we toured around the country. This trip was essentially a whirlwind of activity and I’m sure I did a poor job appreciating the weight of everything that I saw. What I was able to appreciate was a few of the new friends I had made on the trip.¬†It was the year 2006, fat drops of rain fell onto the windows of our tour bus, the sky had opened up like the angels themselves were crying. ¬†Our high school choir had just finished singing to the rhythmic crashing waves at the enormous Cliffs of Moher when we had to make a mad dash for the bus. As our group pulled out of the parking lot we all began to talk. ¬†There were two girls in the seat in front of mine and I introduced myself. Abigail was one of them, and during the trip we talked frequently enough that when we returned home we stayed friends. We would get together sometimes as friends and go for walks together. At this point we had no idea that we would one day fall madly in love with each other, which is good because I had not yet met Jesus, and begun my walk as a Christian. When high school ended we stayed in touch and it is through staying in touch that we were able to take our relationship from friendship to marriage.

I’ll tell the some more of that story in another post this week, so make sure you check back in if you want to read some more.

I confess that I’m in love with my wife! I also confess the blood of Jesus as my redemption!

I’ve made my confession, now go make yours.

Day Trip to Rathlin Island

ry=400-2At some point we realized that all of the kids would be off school here in a couple weeks and everything would start getting super busy. We’d talked about visiting Northern Ireland’s only inhabited island for a while and¬†so we made an impromptu trip¬†to go see what we could find.

The ferry to Rathlin Island leaves from Ballycastle, a nice town on the North coast. You can find timetables on this website.¬†We arrived just in time to catch the next departure¬†and got seats on the roof for our 25 minute journey. Our 2 year old enjoyed the view and waved “bye bye” to Northern Ireland as we sailed away.¬†The baby, on the other hand, must’ve been trying to compete with the wind and waves because he sure was making his voice heard!¬†ry=400-1

Once we landed, we decided to pop in and get some food¬†at McCuaig’s Bar. Arriving a bit before the lunch rush, we had most of the place to ourselves! Any feelings of awkwardness from bringing our children into a pub (totally normal around here) were quickly dispelled by looking at the pub’s only other customers at the time, another family with two young kids ūüôā Our fish and chips were delicious by the way! I should note that there is an ATM inside just in case you need cash.

ry=400This is when we stumbled on a nice playground and let our 2 year old run off some steam. Swings, a see-saw, slides, etc made him really happy! There’s even a few picnic tables inside the enclosure so you can bring/eat your own food.

After getting some wiggles out at the playground, we hopped aboard the Puffin Bus for a trip up to the sea bird viewpoint. It was maybe a 20 minute journey and the driver stopped along the way to point out interesting “fun facts”, like the hill that is said to be a viking burial site! Rathlin Island is supposedly the first place in the whole of Ireland where Vikings settled.

ry=400-5We entered the viewpoint through a Visitor’s Centre (they had water and biscuits available, too!) and took some photos of the gorgeous view we saw!

You know that bird poop smell? That’s what filled our noses over here. BUT, it didn’t take away from the stunning panoramic coastline views!! There were binoculars available for use and a kind employee offered a child’s pair to our toddler. He was absolutely thrilled and LOVED “taking pictures” of the birds. All the black and white dots on these rocks show the vast¬†variety of seabirds that the island receives every year. We learned about puffins, fulmars (in the albatross family), guillemots, kittiwakes, and razorbills. I’ve never been super interested in birds but it was fascinating to see so many and ask questions of the knowledgeable staff members.¬†ry=400-6

Instead of taking the bus, there were several groups of people who chose to hike or cycle up to the viewpoint. If we’d had the foresight, we would’ve checked with the bicycle rental company to see if they offered bike trailers for children. Next time we visit I hope we can walk one of the 8 hikes and/or cycle too.

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“Look, mommy! I can see a puffin with my binoculars!”

 

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We caught the Puffin Bus back to our starting point and admired the coastline for a while longer. We didn’t see them, but supposedly you can watch seals splashing in the sea during the summer!

ry=400-3We had a wonderful day trip to Rathlin Island and it would be fun to go back! We even saw accommodation; I think this would make a great overnight trip.

After riding the ferry back to Ballycastle, you can round out your day with a Maud’s Ice Cream and more playground time (both within walking distance of the ferry car park!)

ry=400-8 Have you been? What did you think?!

Traveling Excitement 1/17/13

There’s always a sort of excitement that goes hand in hand with travel. Whether its the rush of getting everything prepped, the race to get there on time, or the actual destination, it’s always exciting in one way or another. This weekend brings some traveling excitement all it’s own. Abigail, Hosea, and I are heading to Nashville for a cross cultural orientation and interview weekend. The interview is for a potential position in South America. It’s actually a little funny that we are going to Nashville for this trip because we just barely missed the interview weekend in Kansas City, which would have meant no travel. Also no excitement that goes with travel. Anyway, let me just testify to how amazing the Lord has been with his providence on this weekend.
#1 We have a place to stay in St. Louis (half way point) thank you Proutys
#2 we have a place to stay in Nashville these both include meals ÔŅĹÔŅĹ Thank you Kimbre!
#3 we have people to watch Hosea!

All this despite the fact that we have never been to Nashville. It just feels like the Lords will is really and truly in this and when it feels like that it is beautiful! We love travel for sure. Even more than travel we love to watch the Lords providence in action! Thanks for supporting us

Pomegranate, Pita, and the Promised Land

In January 2011 we had the amazing opportunity to travel to the Holy Land with Southern Nazarene University. Our time there was packed from start to finish so we’ll just share some of the highlights!
After a series of long flights we landed in Jordan where we spent two nights. While in Jordan we had the opportunity to go to The ancient city of Jerash, a city of the decapolis. We also got to visit a house church in Jordan which was incredible! The people there truly live out their faith in amazing ways. Then we stopped by the beautiful Jabbok river, where Jacob wrestled God, earning himself the name Israel. The next day he and his family crossed the river and made peace with Esau. After seeing the Jabbok river we took a driving tour of Amman and were extremely impressed with the beauty of the city.
The next day we took the route out of Jordan, into the land of Israel! On the way out we stopped at Mount Nebo where God showed Moses the holy land. He saw a land filled with milk and honey and we got to see it, too! Also the last chapter of exodus tells us that God buried Moses here in an unknown spot. And in 2 Maccabees 2:4-7 it says that the ark of the covenant is buried here…Indiana Jones was looking in the wrong spot! After our stop at Nebo we crossed the Israeli border in record time and finally arrived in the holy land. I guess it usually takes a while to cross borders but we must have been lucky. We met our bus driver and traveled through no-mans land, where bedouin shepherds camped. Their tents and sheep lined the desert hills. On our way to Nazareth we stopped at Jericho, the oldest city in the world! From Jericho we were able to see the temptation mount, where satan tried to tempt Jesus into sin…fail. After a wonderful falafel lunch in Jericho we headed over to yardenit, which is the part of the Jordan river where people can be baptized. It looked like an amazing rain forest cut out of the desert! It was absolutely beautiful. After a very long day we finally made it to Nazareth. We visited a place called Megiddo which overlooks the fertile Jezreel valley. King Ahab built a waterway at the time of Hosea and Amos here and we got to walk through it! This is how they got water while under siege because the water source was outside city walls. There was also a big grainery here and is referenced in the Bible when Amos and Hosea chastised Ahab for his opulence.
We were able to go to a place called the House of Hope. A man named Elias Jabbour met and greeted us with falafel, hummus and some other delicious foods. He spoke to us about peace in the Holy Land and we were so impressed with his passion for God and for peacemaking. We didn’t want lunch to end, we just wanted to keep listening to his Jabbour’s jokes and eloquent speech. He said, “We’ve tried war, so let’s try peace. If it doesn’t work, we can always just go back to war.” He told us we can help by spreading the word about the need for peace and also by praying for them.
Then we went to the basilica of the annunciation which commemorates the place where the angel Gabriel told Mary she would have a son and name him Jesus. It started raining but we all wanted to roam the streets of Nazareth. We explored the bright colored textiles, and the fruit! I got a pomegranate and John got some olive oil. They are the biggest exporters of olive oil! Also, they have the largest and yummiest pomegranates I’ve ever had! I bought at least one every day! They were only like 10 shekels so how could I resist.
Another amazing thing we got to do was sail on a fishing boat on the Sea of Galilee. Yep, the sea where Jesus walked on water! We sang worship songs in Hebrew and enjoyed the sun and water. It was an incredible experience! We learned, “Kadosh Adonai Elohim sev rah ot.” It means, “Holy is the Lord God Almighty.” (but I’m not sure of the spelling!) Our captain showed us how to fish with the same sort of net that Jesus and his disciples would have used. We had communion on the Mount of Beatitudes and visited the primacy of Peter where supposedly Jesus forgave Peter for denying him 3 times. We went to Tabgha where they say Jesus multiplied the loaves and fishes for the 5,000, visited the Mount of Olives, the Garden of Gethsemane, a grotto where Jesus was supposedly arrested, the church of the Nativity, and shepherds fields commemorating where the shepherds watched their flocks by night. We decided to collect nativity scenes from everywhere we travel and so we bought one carved from olive wood in Bethlehem.
We got olive oil soap and visited Jacob’s well. This is the place where Jesus talked to the Samaritan woman! The dead sea was a fantastic place. It’s so salty you can just float! And the mud I guess is really good for your skin. We visited Qumran where they found the dead sea scrolls so that was pretty neat, too. We got to ride a camel, visit the old city of Jerusalem, play soccer with kids in Palestine, visit the wailing wall, walk the real stations of the cross, wander through a bunch of markets, talk with the most hospitable people we’ve ever met, and eat pita and pomegranates in the holy land! The Bible truly came to life on this trip!!

Bondye Beni Nous (God Blesses Us) 10/24/10

We just got back from Haiti this week and have been trying to really process what God did in our lives. We spent the entire trip loving on and playing with orphans at an orphanage dedicated to supporting earthquake victims. It’s truly amazing to see God’s heart for the poor. We are so privileged to have been able to go! There are two kids we want to tell you about, Ellison and Jamison.
Ellison is a seven year old boy who is only as big as a four year old. He is cute and fun and the most joyful kid either of us had ever met. This is so striking after hearing his story. Ellison was found in the trash after being thrown away by his father who just couldn’t care for him anymore. Sadness isn’t what you feel, though, when you see him on John’s shoulders singing, “Jezi remen tout ti moun…” (“Jesus loves the little children…”). God loves this little boy and Ellison knows it!
Jamison is another seven year old boy and he is one of the most beautiful kids! He has brown eyes, light brown skin (not the stereotypical Haitian), and a shy smile. He barely talked and when he did, we couldn’t distinguish his “wi” from his “non”. At first he seemed really sad but we found him slowly warming up to us. Needless to say, he captured our hearts. We later found out that he had seemed sad because his mother had recently been in contact with him, only to leave him again. He would always be so silent that he’d just fall asleep in our arms! Once John started running around with him, we had the privilege of seeing him smile. What a joy!
Now we want to tell you a little bit about the organization that we went with. The Global Orphan Project’s (GO project) mission statement is so unique compared to other mission organizations. Their goal is to empower native leaders to continue ministry in the name of Jesus. In order to accomplish this the GO project partners with local pastors and works with them until they are able to function on their own. This develops a culturally sensitive ministry that is able to fulfill the needs of the surrounding area.
We are so blessed to have visited Haiti with an organization that has such commitment and wisdom! God truly blesses us.

Forever in Service,
John and Abigail