Monday, May 25, 2015

Oh the places you will go (MRG)

You're on your way!
Tomorrow is your great big day,
We'll celebrate and have lots of fun
We all can't wait for preschool to be done! :)

It's 3:00 pm on Wednesday, the day before the preschool graduation day and I'm EXHAUSTED to say the least. I've run on all cylinders since Sunday morning, dragging the girls along with me for everything I've had to do. Meanwhile, we've somehow managed to bake 15 dozen cupcakes, have a friend for Taco Tuesday, shop for all of our teacher friends, celebrate the ending of a great year with the coworkers, blah blah blah blah blah. It really all just starts to run together. All of the busy just starts to sound boring. Ha. 

Today, thankfully, there's a brief part of the afternoon that I knew we could come home for a break and so both girls were sent to their rooms for a nap. Lydia has no problem wanting to rest but I have to coax Miriam only when I know she needs it most. So today I just sat with her.  She looked at me for a long time. I could tell she was getting tired so I turned my back and within moments she was fast asleep. 

Tomorrow my oldest daughter will graduate from preschool. The daughter I thought I'd never have. The daughter we thought we lost. The daughter we prayed for and tried to conceive for so long. The daughter we had to take medicine for. The daughter who decided to come on her own timing. The daughter who spent the fist three weeks of her life in daily medical care. Her first moments of life were so wobbly I'm not sure I considered thinking about what time would look like on the day she would be done with preschool. And now, here we are. So many great things are ahead of her, with her wit, spunk, and room to grow on learning in obedience :) God is so gracious in teaching each of us about forgiveness, love, humility, gentleness, and peace through this special child!!! We love her so. 

To my dearest Miriam my prayer for you is this:

O Lord, you have searched Miriam and known her!  You know when she sits down and when she rises up; you discern her thoughts from afar. You search out her path and her lying down and are acquainted with all her ways. Even before a word is on her tongue, behold, O Lord, you know it altogether. You hem her in, behind and before, and lay your hand upon her.  Such knowledge is too wonderful for her; it is high; She cannot attain it. Where shall she go from your Spirit? Or where shall she flee from your presence? If she ascends to heaven, you are there! If she makes her bed in Sheol, you are there! If she takes the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there your hand shall lead her and your right hand shall hold her. If she says, "Surely the darkness shall cover me, and the light about me be night,” even the darkness is not dark to you; the night is bright as the day, for darkness is as light with you. For you formed her inward parts; you knitted her together in her mother’s womb. I praise you, for she is fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. Her frame was not hidden from you, when she was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw her unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for her, when as yet there was none of them. How precious to me are your thoughts, O God! How vast is the sum of them! If I would count them, they are more than the sand. I awake, and she is still with you.

Search Miriam, O God, and know her heart! Try her and know her thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in her, and lead her in the way everlasting! (Psalm 139:1-18, 23-24 ESV)

Broken sea shells by the seashore

Our first full day of vacation and it has certainly been perfect in every way. The weather, the company, the snacks, the activities, everything. All of what I imagine and built up in my head and anticipated for this week all year has already culminated into awesomeness. 

My run this morning, although accompanied with some intense and excruciating IT band/knee pain, was gorgeous. My prayers were in harmonious solitude with the crashing waves. Our breakfast was large and filling. We played with cousins in the sand. We ate some sand with our sandwich. We already discovered the places where we missed sunscreen on everyone's body. We've had the perfect ratio of beach time:pool time. And most fantastically, there are no diapers nor swim diapers this year. HOLLA!!!

The girls have rekindled quite quickly their love for the ocean and the sand, and are a joy to watch playing together as best friends. I treasure these seasons because I know soon, they will be old enough to want to bring friends and that will bring a whole knew dynamic to our time together. Even better, they are now old enough with which to play frisbee and catch. And today we did the fantastic family seashell walk thing. Some of our treasures:
We versed only about a quarter mile strip south of our spot but it took nearly 45 minutes because we had some INTENSE searching for the perfect shells. I realized quickly that MY idea of perfect was far beyond what the girls saw as perfect. And it typically involves me saying "nah, that one is broken," or "ewe, that one isn't that pretty," or "we already have one sort of like that one."  Before they could get frustrated with me (I think) for rejecting all of their precious shells, Something changed my mind. M had just found this shell 

and the words "this used to be gorgeous, but now it's not worth anything. We don't need it" actually came out of my mouth and without stopping she tossed it. I then stopped dead in my tracks, turned around and picked it up. And thought about my own, broken torn up, jagged edged self that once wasn't worth anything. 

How grateful am I that I have a loving Father who isn't like the sea shell pickera we were today. He doesn't pick and choose us because of our current beauty.  He doesn't rescue us from being washed away because we are completely whole and put together. He doesn't save us and mold us because our edges and corners are so neatly rounded and shaped. Clearly. 

Instead, we are ugly, broken, messed up, missing the goodness in our life, have sharp edges that need filing down, habits that need to be broken, sins that need to be confessed, and DAILY repentance from a disobedience to the law of LOVE that we are called to. We are continually being molded and fashioned into a beautiful piece of artwork, a masterpiece for the Creator himself, who delights in the joy of seeing His very creation desire after him. 

May our hearts and bodies seek to serve Him, in our busy AND in our rest. 

And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. (Philippians 1:6 ESV)

Monday, May 11, 2015

Why I didn't cry for my mom on Mother's Day

It's quite odd actually. Perhaps it's still the adrenaline and emotion and reflection coming off of the Honduras trip and still living in a Zombie-like life, but Mother's Day this year just seemed a bit off, in the sense that I didn't set aside moments of sobbing for my own mother. About midday I wondered "what's wrong with me? Won't I cry for her? Don't I miss her?" 

But instead I was overwhelmed with emotions and thoughts that wouldn't escape me of dear friends who weep for their own mothers and mothers themselves who were struggling to celebrate the day, and those women who simply longed to be celebrated as a mother. My mind wondered all day in thoughts around my dear friend from college who lost her mom to brain cancer in August and then upon disbelief, her father passed just days before Christmas months later. Yesterday, she tried not to weep, as it was the first Mother's Day she would endure without her precious mother by her side. I was also reminded of another girlfriend whose mother passed away 4 years to the day from ALS. She was one of the most influencing and loving women, especially when it came to babies. And it just so happens that her two daughters had to remember that the day she passed fell on Mother's Day this year. And my sweet friend from church who is so in tap with the big picture of New Life in Christ, but still aches when she remembers the beautiful life her mother lived until the very day she passed just this February. This day of celebration without her presence was probably so different in a few ways, as I remember the first Mother's Day without mom and how I almost tried to ignore it (and how that really didn't work...). I've got about 5 other girlfriends who also tragically lost their mothers to cancers or heart health problems over the last 5 years since my own mother died. It's a reality for so many young women. 

And then I also thought of those friends I met last week. Cáterine in the jail, who will soon be a mother herself but won't be able to celebrate Mother's Day in the most common way because she is in jail, and she, too, is missing her mother her passed away from cancer. I thought of all of those 120 new mothers that I saw all of their smiles and scared faces ("what do I do wth THIS thing?!?") and celebrate with them now for their first Mother's Day with their new babies. And I think of the five or 6 women that we met that are still grieving the loss of their babies even today. Their is no celebration for them, they didn't have cake or balloons or flowers brought to them. They still have tears flowing from their eyes. And I think of another dear friend we met who is still remembering the death of his mother as if it were yesterday because he was right present when his mother was hit by an oncoming bus in the middle of the street. So. Much. Pain. 

Now I did think about mom yesterday. That sweet, crazy lady. I get it honest.  I think about her almost every day. I can't help it-i have her mini version living in the form of M. But I was filled with so much thought and emotion and prayer for all of these other friends that the tears I normally cry for my mother....there just weren't any tears of my own to cry for my own. None in fact. My hurt and loss seemed to be so minimal compared to the pain my friends around me have and are experiencing. Compassion went into overdrive and for once, the tears for mom were all dried up.

Oh how I'm challenged more and more that this is how we ought to love our brothers and sisters in Christ-that our tears should not be those of our own, but we should weep with others as Paul tells the Romans, let your love be genuine....
"Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep." (Romans 12:15 ESV)
Thank you Lord, for revealing such a lesson!

Saturday, May 9, 2015

La calle

If I were to be completely honest, which I can be now since the time has past us, I had the most fear of the entire trip about our last ministry which happened Thursday night. 
But first, meet Bessy and Carlos. Bessie is one of the girls that has grown up with the family of Nelly and Alvin.

 She is married to Carlos and they take care of Bessie's younger siblings, one of which is Brittany (the SWEETEST little girl that Erin and I absolutely fell in love with...when I bring the girls back to Honduras M & L are going to have such a blast with her!!!)
This is sweet Brittany. 

Anyway, Bessie buys food on Wednesdays and she spends Thursday's preparing all of the food and packaging it. For this week, she prepared 186 plates of tortillas filled with beans, cheese, basically like an enchilada. 186 of them. 

After we finished our dinner as a team, we piled in our van and headed toward downtown around 730.  Alvin said there were about 9 stops he COULD make but we would just have to see. We stopped at the first place along the river and some children came out. They all knew Alvin and they were grateful for the food then they went away. While we drove to the next spot, there were a few homeless folks sleeping on the streets that we would stop and hand food to then be on our way. The next stop was a little difficult, because we saw several young people with bottles and cups with glue...they were drinking that. They were certainly not in their right mind. But they were grateful for the food as well as the visit from Alvin and the American people he had brought to give them food. One of the men there, 22 years old, told us he had been seeing Alvin on the streets since he as 7 years old. (Alvin has been doing this ministry for about 19 years.)  we piled in the van and what we were about to see I could never have prepared myself for nor will I ever be able to erase the images from my memory. 

We traveled to an intersection from the downtown area where at the top of a hill where two roads met was a dumpster. Here, the Wendy's, Little Ceasars, and the fast food chicken joint sent their garbage. And in the garbage, were little kids, digging, as if they were flies swarmming, and filling bags. It was here that we actually ran out of food. And we were unable to feed anymore people. 186 people were given food this night....and yet in just 45 minutes there were many many many more who remained without. We saw one girl who crawled in after the pizza place dumped their stuff and she found a whole pizza. I'm not sure sure if she cried tears of joy or what, but she sobbed. There were other children who walked up to you, and looked into your eyes, and you could look deep into theirs and see the hurt and the need. 
For a moment we took a minute to chat about what we were looking at and some of the children ran up to us. The poverty was striking. The need was large. And we had basically done all we could do to help for the time being. While talking I starred at a little boy who meticulously gathered chicken bones and put them in a plastic bag that would be his meals for the week while another boy gathered breadsticks from one bag to another and carry them away. This, friends, began the water works of my tears that I have yet began to control. 

Friday, May 8, 2015

Digestion and reflection

Last Thursday, before leaving town, I cried for a bit. I was leaving my family and putting them in the absolute safest care of some of the best friends I have and my husband would be right by their side. They all were going to be having one of the greatest weeks, even though I wasn't going to be with them. But it was still hard to leave them. For the first time I was going to be without the people I am with everyday of my life for 8 days and I had no clue what I would endure in Honduras. BUT I knew I'd return home a week later. And I KNEW I'd have pictures and stories to share. And it would all be fine. So when we got on the plane, I read the sweet letters and pictures, cried one last time, and then let the Lord begin opening my heart to bring joy, laughter, and rest within my soul, ready for the week ahead. 
But as the days unfolded in the city of Tegucigalpga, the Lord has been doing a miraculous work in my heart and life. With the work we did, everything from the hospital visits, the teaching in the guardarías/preschools, time at the detention center, feeding the homeless, even our time on top of the mountains in the mornings, my heart longs to stay in this country. I've been craving with the same love for these people as I did my own family. To the pastor and his wife that housed us all week, to the ladies in the kitchen that cooked amazing meals for us and supplied an unending amount of coffee all week (of which I now drink black), to the young man who dreams to come to the states to study music and has such drive and passion and is such a gentleman, to the children who without caution attack you because you have a smile on your face and talk to you (even if you don't speak their language), to the beautiful landscape of the country. 

And then those folks whom we served, the young children who maybe heard about Jesus for the first time and made beautiful butterflies, the girls in the carcel especially Cáterine, the new mothers, those celebrating life with new babies and those who are still grieving the death of their babies like Lauren, the weak youth on the streets searching for their food on the streets. 

Sadly, my airplane companion probably thinks I'm crazy because I've been crying like an emotional train wreck since we started on the tarmack. He looks like an army kind of guy, all tough and rugged and beside him I'm a sobbing MESS. Pull it together sister!!!
I have been crying for these people, this city, and this country in moments when my heart is carried to thinking about where they are in life, how they live, and how they will be living tomorrow. Some of them DO know Jesus, though many of them still do not. Alvin and Nelly continue to serve and have others serve with them to be the hands and feet so that others may come to know Jesus. 

You may remember that one of my biggest a prayer requests/concerns was that the language would come back to me rather quickly and easily. Well, walking away this morning, I can say that it did and I was beginning to become more accustomed to Spanish than English, that turned out to not even be the need at all. While you probably did pray for that, I do thank you for those prayers. The language grew naturally out of immersion as it should have. But I should have never been worried about what I was going to say or how I was going to say it in the first place. What I came to realize is that simply we were called this week to be the hands and feet of the gospel. To serve, feed, clothe, care, love, kiss, hug, and share with the least of these. We have been given much. And for that, I can be grateful. And in response I can give in return. 

Alvin and Nelly basically live their life in service with the call of the Great Commision found in Matthew 28, but they also use this passage for their encouragement and daily motivo for ministry in Honduras. 

Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink?

And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’ (Matthew 25:34-37, 39-40 ESV)

May God also put this desire in my own heart so that I would be an overflowing cup of thankfulness in service each day, whether that is in Rock Hill or in my return to Honduras. One thing is certain, part of my heart remains in that city. 
Yo voy a verla muy prontito-I will see it again-very very soon. 

Oh no-a migraine!

Well, as par for the course, I avoided a migraine almost all week. However, we climbed the mountain rather heroically this morning and I must have failed to drink all of my water and I've probably not rested as much as I needed to, and then I had a huge pancake breakfast without any protein. So, it came upon me right after the hospital visit. I took some meds, ate some lunch and decided a nap would be best. And can now scratch something else off the bucket list: nap in a hammock in Honduras. I woke up with the house dog (a HUGE puppy) nudging at me, completely refreshed and migraine gone. Ready for the biggest and hardest experience of the week yet....

Our last day of ministry

We got word that we would have another day at the hospital to see more babies. So the team decided with some funds that had been set aside to purchase diapers, wipes, and materials for blankets. We still had some onesies left over and the plan was to visit and deliver 6 diapers, 10 wipes and a blanket to each child. If there was a baby without clothing, we would offer. What this meant is that we were going to stop by the store for diapers and then the fabric store for flannel for the blankets. 

( Eeeeeeeeeek. The fabric store!!!!!! While a very different experience and crazy tiny, I'm thankful I didn't find anything I couldn't live without.) we cut about 60 yards of fabric which ended up costing about $65 and that made enough blankets for 60 new babies. Remember, since we saw the last set of babies on Saturday, about 250 babies have been born in this one hospital alone. And this day, practically none of them had anything. But this time around, I didn't enter into the rooms with sadness. Some other team members ended up praying with one or two other women who had still horns, but this time around I was more fluently able to offer congratulations, blessings, and offer assistance to change the babies. The mothers are definitely willing to let you do so and are grateful for the help and love that is poured out on them. Once they are released, they grab their baby and whatever they may own and they get up and walk out of the hospital. No one rides them out in a wheel chair, they don't have pain meds, and they don't even have instructions to see a pediatrician in 2-3 days. Some mothers don't even have shoes to leave. Some don't even have water so one of the Danish girls on our team gave away her water. 
We have already begun thinking of a way to pack our bag for a return trip for a better way to serve and give to the women. Some small bag, a newborn onesie, a small bag of wipes and diapers, some flip flops and a New Testament. 

Pray for all of the 52 or so women we saw today and for the next few days, for their healing and for their patience as they enter into this new world with such babies.