Legacy….What If?

As I plunged into the pool this morning to swim my laps, I thought of my friend, Kristen, and how much she loved to swim. Kristen passed away almost 2 years ago and  I cannot think of her without the word LEGACY coming to mind.  Leaving a legacy. She gave me the greatest gift when she showed me what it was like to give your life away and love the people in front of you. That leaves an eternal legacy.  She taught this to me and I pray I can model it for those around me, in spite of my shortcomings.  
So I started to think….what if?  What if we approached life with a greater purpose and focused our attention on what really matters?  It would change everything.  In our busy lives, we miss opportunities that are right there. Such amazing blessings in front of us but we don’t see them. Well, today is a new day!  I love that about life.  So what if?
Many of us drive to church on Wednesdays.
What if we talked to some parents in our neighborhoods whose children are unchurched and asked if we could bring them each week? That reminds me of my neighbor, Kadeem, whose dad works 2 jobs and he was home alone at night and and he just needed a ride to youth group (and some mom love).
What if?
Many of us have our children in sports.  
What if our team decided to sponsor starting a team in a third world country where they do not so much as have a ball to play with- much less shoes? That reminds me of the students at our school in Haiti whose love for soccer could be channeled into an incredible team but none of them have any of the equipment.
And yes, the shoe peeking out from the side of the picture belongs to my son while the others have no shoes. We are all a work in progress.
Many of us enjoy a sport ourselves. 
What if we decided to take our love for that sport and make a difference for those who need us? That reminds me of a sweet friend who I met on an Inheritance of Hope retreat. A 42 year old mom with 2 children, ages 9 and 11, who lost her battle with ovarian cancer on August 10th.  We can run for Inheritance of Hope and raise money so that families like Lisa’s can go on a family retreat and make precious memories.
What if?
Many of us take family vacations. 
What if we decided this year we will take a mission trip together as a family instead? That reminds me of so many families who have decided that serving together is the ultimate family vacation.
What if?
Many of you are already fulfilling your purpose and your lives reach so many. That is LEGACY. That is what changes everything.

Overcoming the Obstacles in Haiti

We all have a story. We all have overcome obstacles.  I personally have never had mountains to climb like those in these stories…….

 This is Jolie.  She stays at home most of the time because of her cleft palate and only comes to see us when our nurse is seeing patients and her mom insists that she comes.  Because of the shame of her condition she and her sisters have never attended school.  She is embarrassed to be seen or even speak because of the way her speech is compromised by her cleft palate.  Four days ago I got a call from Operation Smile after they received a letter from me asking for help for Jolie.  They do not have doctors that go into Haiti but Lizet took the time to pass my name on to a group in Canada called Broken Earth who might be able to help her. Jolie’s life to date has been very difficult but with the generosity of others, everything can change.  Join me in praying for surgery for her. I hope she and all her siblings will be in our school very soon.

 Yslene has just completed the first grade at our school in Haiti.  She did not attend school the previous year because her mother was sick and one of the children had to stay home and take care of her and the household. That fell on Yslene. Last summer she and her father were waiting patiently for me up the hill from the school on a sunny afternoon.  I have no idea how long they had been there waiting to see if I would approach them. I ran to Yslene and embraced her because I had missed her in school that year. Her father begged us to take Yslene back into our school, which was obviously a big OF COURSE! She returned and finished the year at #3 in her class. She understands the value of education and makes me so proud.

Guideline is somewhere around 12-14 years old. No one knows her real age because she was found wandering the streets as a toddler and has been raised by Madame  (in the second picture) ever since.  No birthdate.  No family history….but Madame took her in, in spite of her thyroid issues that cause her protuding goiter and how her daily life is difficult because of it.  For years they have sold candy and fried dough outside the school and Guideline has watched all the children go to school, knowing that without a birth certificate she cannot attend.  In March, we started the process to get her a birth certificate so she can start school in September.  She will enter as a kindergartener and her life will be changed forever by an education.

Angeline has a heart condition and was forced to leave halfway through the school year 2 years ago.  Her parents were faithfully carrying her down the mountain to get her to school until it became too much. She returned to school and rose to the top of the class.  Her health is improving and she was #2 in her first grade class.  She is such an overcomer. I am proud she attends our school.

 Jean Marc has a condition called epiphyseal dysplasia.  Until June 2013 he had never seen a doctor and did not know why he was short in stature and in chronic pain.  Because of an amazing friend of ours, Frank, who works periodically at Cure hospital in Dominican Republic, he was diagnosed and is given medication to help manage pain.  He will eventually need new knees and hips but in the meantime he is a full time student and supports his education by making baskets and bracelets that we sell for him in the US. He is an amazing example of someone who overcomes the odds.  He is extremely bright and in his last year of high school.  He teaches me what it means to persevere.

Because of Jean Marc’s diagnosis, we were able to treat his brother, Reginald, at CURE as well.  He got a life changing surgery on his knee to straighten it out and will need continual surgeries as he grows.  Their condition is not curable but hip and knee replacements will lessen their chronic pain. Reginald is a happy go lucky, playful child in spite of the pain he deals with on a daily basis.  We are praying that one day he will get the extensive surgeries he will need.

The days I start to wallow in self-pity, these and many more stories like them scroll through my mind. Perseverance. Overcoming obstacles. I think we could all learn from their stories. I know I have.

We Don’t Always Have to Be “RIGHT”……

I have been married for 20 years and 3 days. I have been shaped by my marriage in so many ways but the one that really stands out is:  I don’t always have to be RIGHT.  “Winning” an argument accomplishes nothing and only puts a wedge in the relationship.  Have you been with couples who argue about everything?  What they had for dinner last night or who the actor was in the movie they saw 14 years ago?  You see it all the time and it is such wasted energy and completely unproductive.  Why do they do it?  I don’t really know- pride, boredom, and maybe insecurity?

In this world where politics and social issues are understandably “hot topics” I see so much bantering back and forth of opinions and “convictions” and often it only leaves others feeling like prisoners to the harsh words thrown at them.  What if, before we spoke or wrote something, we considered who might be hearing it?  Before we make blanket statements about prostitutes, illegal aliens, and addicts, we think about them as real people.  Instead of throwing stones and political views we imagine what it would be like to be Venus, the stripper who was raped at 14 years old, had the baby, found herself homeless and was picked up by a guy who “said he loved her” and now she is working so he won’t kill her.  Or Steve, the 30 year old heroin addict who was given his first joint at 12 years old by his drug dealer father and told “real men can handle it.” We don’t have to agree with the behavior but we also do not need to be self-righteous and judgmental.  Everyone has a story.  Instead of getting on the bandwagon of being right, what if we sat on the curb in front of McDonald’s and listened to David’s story?  You know- the homeless guy who sips his 65 cent coffee and stares off in space…..instead of bashing the government for not doing enough, how about if you did something?

Then there are the issues that many of us face:  how to birth our children, how to discipline them, what to feed them, how to educate them, how to talk to them about dating…..the list goes on.  What if we did not need to be “right” about how we choose to handle these issues?  When we talk, post, tweet or whatever we don’t know who we are reaching.  And guess what?  Your way is not the “right”way.  I believe the Bible to be the true word of God and no where does He tell me if they should eat organic carrots or go to Christian school.  We, as families, come up with what is the best for us as a unit.  Amen to that.  But when we broadcast that we have found THE Way we are being arrogant and prideful.  Epidural or not epidural.  Homeschool or public school.  Breastfeed or formula.  Gluten or no gluten.  Does it really matter if I choose a different way than you do?  Is that the dividing line between us?

There are so many jabs on social media about all these issues.  But what if before we posted something, we thought to ourselves- I do not have all of this figured out and each person is just finding his or her way the best they can and God is not displeased that one mom breastfeeds and the other bottle feeds.  Those are not eternal issues and they never will be.

I am not saying that we don’t have personal beliefs that we should live by.  We do.  We should.  But are we arrogant about it?  Do we have “hills we would die on” that are hardly worth it?  Do we hurt those around us because we are so stubborn and insensitive?

A last issue that I have to address is how we talk about abortion.  We all have a strong feeling about it one way or the other and we should.  But how about before we make general statements and accusations we realize that there are many women out there suffering greatly because of a past decision to have an abortion? Before we throw daggers of hate, we just stop and pray for those women who have so much self-hatred for what they did.  We need to think before we speak or write.

I am a recovering “I need to be right” individual.  What I have learned to be true is this:  we all have a story.  What if we listened more and spoke less?  What if we stopped drawing a line in the sand between how we do things differently than other people and how that makes us incompatible?  It would change everything.

Lessons Learned from Yard Sales

Today was yard sale day….well, actually just about every Saturday is.  I love to get up at 6:30 AM on Saturday morning with my destinations written down from craigslist and start to drive all over town looking for deals.  I look for clothes, shoes, anything I can take to Haiti, and craft materials I can use for a few outreaches I do.  It is pretty simple- drive by, check it out, and stop if it is a good one.  Actually, I left out a simple detail- check and see if I know the person having the sale.  If I do, I weigh out whether it is REALLY worth stopping.  Why?  Because I am prideful.  Plain and simple.  You might be able to come up with a less accusatory name for it but I know that at the heart of it, it is pride.  YUCK!  I don’t want to be worried about what people will think of me if I buy their used stuff but I do.  Character flaw in me that I am working on.

The flip side of it is that people DO judge.  A few will greet you with kindness and dignity and the rest will either give you that “I am sorry you need to yard sale” look, start yelling at people around you for trying to get the price down, or give you the impression that having a simple yard sale is sending their nerves into overload.  Really?  It is a yard sale- sell it for 50 cents and move on.  It is stuff you don’t want and money you would not otherwise have.  I vividly remember a time when I was at a yard sale of a wealthy family and her children’s clothes were priced way too high no matter what the brand was.  A lady asked if she would take less and she began screaming at her saying, “That is the price!  If you don’t want to pay it I will go donate it somewhere and someone who appreciates it can have it.”  WOW.  The lady asking was clearly poor and the lady selling was a doctor’s wife.  When did it come to this? Everyone, no matter the situation, deserves to be treated with respect and dignity.

I have started looking at having yard sales in a different way.  How can I bless people?  How much of my stuff can I give away for free for people who really need it?  I can use the money- I am not going to lie.  But do I really?  Every time we have a yard sale we are able to give away clothes and shoes to families who go out to yard sales faithfully so they can send things back to their families in poor countries. They cannot afford the prices at Salvation Army and Goodwill.  A lot of people can’t.  So the opportunity rises to give and bless. It is so simple and everybody wins.

As we look around our houses, how much stuff could we give away?  Just give it to a friend who would love it, take it to a shut in, or put it on a neighbor’s doorstep anonymously.  Believe me- you won’t miss it.  I have a new thought lately- if I love something I own, someone else probably will too.  Instead of letting it become an idol, give it to someone and let it go.  It has changed how I look at everything.  I love clothes.  Yesterday I had the chance to give a ton of them away to a friend starting at a new job.  A few I was attached to but to see her excitement about them was way better than wearing them myself.

Let’s go love people.  Treat them kindly.  Bless them abundantly.

Learning to Embrace the New

I have no idea what people are talking about when they quote the latest Disney movies- I know nothing about Brave, Tangled, or anything else that came out after 2005.   I am from the Toy Story/Mary Poppins era. (For the sake of my son’s dignity, I won’t mention here which of my boys seriously crushed on Mary Poppins and I think still does). My boys were the ones dressed like Buzz going to the grocery store and carrying Woody around for weeks on end.  I always thought I was out of the loop with the princess movies because I had all boys.  But yesterday enlightened me…..

Cooper and I were at Disney yesterday and found ourselves sitting in the Beauty and the Beast Show (he was definitely not thrilled but was taking one for the Mom Team).  I did not think much of it besides it is a cute movie and we could finally sit down.  As the show started, I knew EVERY SINGLE word to the songs AND the dialogue.  What???  Where was that coming from?  Then a slide show of pictures ran through my head of my sons as little guys with pacifiers and blankies curled up for a long awaited movie in the late afternoon, and Beauty and the Beast was a favorite- more for the Beast part than the Beauty.  I had to catch my breath as I reminisced.  The tears welled up and I was homesick for those days.  The days of a warm snuggle and “I love you, Mommy.  You are beautiful.”  Even as I watched parents manuever big strollers and diaper bags through a hot, crowded Disney, I was a bit envious.

How do we treasure the memories of when they were small and embrace the next season of independence and adulthood?  This may be disappointing to hear, but I don’t know really because I am in the thick of it and feel like a boat without an oar sometimes.  But I have learned something as I have been pondering and praying about it lately.  Here are my thoughts…..

I have become much more aware in my 40’s of my mortality.  We have one shot at life on earth here.  If we live in a season that has passed, we are cheating everyone around us.  Our kids need us NOW right where they are.  When Coleman wants to watch and quote The Office for the 500th time I need to sit and watch it and laugh even if I have no idea what is going on!  When Cooper wants to play ping pong in the 110 degree heat I need to go out there and play.  When Connor wants to talk about his job at Chick-fil-A, I need to listen and act like I have a clue. When Kobe calls from basic training, I need to engage and encourage even if he is talking in Army language.

They change, but they still need us.  It has been hard for me to put my head around that lately.  It looks so different but they still value our opinions even if they don’t show it.  Sometimes I hear them retelling something I told them and I think- they were actually listening!  Amazing.

They especially need us to pray for them.  They live in a whole different world than we did.  Snapchat, kik, instagram- they have a world at their very fingertips and it is scary as a parent.  We have to be detectives- check their phones, delete apps, check the history.  There is a lot of evil that many are tapping into and parents have no idea.  One of my children dared to call me a stalker and I corrected him and told him that we call that PARENTING.

They live in the “selfie” generation. We need to be the balance- pulling them away from themselves long enough to see those around them.  Entitlement and selfishness are rampant.  They need to hear “it is not all about you” and we need to act on it- put them in situations which has no gain for them except the spiritual growth that comes from giving.

We can do this.  Our kids need us.  They don’t need a friend…..they need a parent to lead them.  They are listening.  In spite of the sighing and eye rolling, you are getting through.  Keep on keeping on.

How do we live with such contrast?

It is a constant struggle.  A GOOD struggle.  How do we live with plenty, serve the poor, and not be in a constant state of angst?  Each one of my kids have asked me that numerous times over the years.  Coleman asked one time, “How do we eat steak and know that our friends in Haiti have nothing to eat?”  Each time I come up speechless because there is no answer to satisfy and I don’t think there should be an answer.  We need to sit with this dilemma and decide individually how we reconcile it.

Kenny and I just went on an anniversary vacation.  Typically our trips together are to Haiti but this time we went away and took in beautiful scenes like waterfalls and hiking trails and ate delicious food.  In the back of my mind was always my friends in Haiti.  The hard life they lead.  The protein deficiencies in the children.  The lack of electricity and water.  And the images are always there in my head and forever placed in my soul.

As we drove from one excursion to another or late at night or over dinner, we talked about our friends in Haiti, pitched our organization to a guy on the airplane, called Jean Marc to see if he had started school, gushed with stories to Lynn (our amazing hostess on our trip), and brainstormed about my trip to Haiti coming up in a few weeks.  Some will say, “You deserve to get away and not think about that.”  My response to that is, “Are you crazy?”  They are not a project I need to put on a shelf that I can pick up later….the people in Haiti are a part of me just like my own children.  It brings me life and it is a bond in my own family that keeps us grounded and aware of God’s kingdom, which happens all over the world.

So now to get to the question, “how do we live with such contrast?”  We sit in it.  We don’t divert our eyes when we see the pictures.  We don’t distract ourselves when God puts the poor on our hearts.  We stop.  We think.  We pray.  We learn more.  That is how the world is changed-one person at a time.

Besides marrying an amazing man and having 4 awesome kids, serving in Haiti is my biggest privilege.  I don’t know why I get to go and be with people so much wiser and so much stronger than I am.  I am not qualified- I have no real skills and no real qualifications.  I just heard God say GO and I went.  I don’t know the language, I am more out of shape than every Haitian in the country, I don’t know all the right Bible verses, and I can’t get done in a week what they do in a day.  But I do know how to hug a child with sincerity and show tough love to a student not doing well in school.  And God says that is enough.  Just go.

I don’t know where you are in this journey God has called you to live but I wonder if you think about the poor and their needs.  I wonder if you love deeply and give of yourself sacrificially.  Maybe we just need to think and pray about it more and God will do the rest.  We don’t have to figure out today how to eat steak and enjoy it while other people are hungry- but we need to ask ourselves the question and then LET GOD.

Being the Bridge

As I hiked today with Kenny, the sight of this bridge stopped me in my tracks.  Such a simple little thing but for me it represented something more.  As soon as I saw it I told Kenny it surely should make it into one of his sermons and then I remembered I had a blog so I could stop trying to give him preaching ideas (after 20 years of doing so) and write it myself.  A relief for both of us!!

We all need people who are bridges in our lives.  You might be wondering what that even means.  My definition is someone who helps us a reach a place we feel we cannot get to on our own.  My kids are my bridges to understanding their generation and my husband is my bridge often to understanding Scripture.  (It is a true blessing to be married to a walking Bible concordance).  My friend, Leila, is my bridge to becoming a better teacher and Nancy bridges me to the life of a missionary in a third world country.  We all have bridge builders in our lives.  Who are yours?

As we understand that Jesus was the ultimate bridge to God because our sin kept us helplessly separated from Him, we know we are not supposed to be Jesus to anyone…..however, through  teaching, disciplining, sharing the Gospel, and loving people we are to be bridges.

Whose lives are you impacting?  Who would say that your care and love are pointing them to Jesus?  A smile and hand shake is not cutting it on a Sunday morning.  Who are you bringing?  Who are you walking beside? Who are you showering love on when they least expect it?  I am not talking about your best friends……I mean the lost, the broken hearted, and the lonely.  Does your heart ache for them?  Is your life positioned so you even have contact with anyone besides the people just like you?

We must look to Jesus and know He has called us to live like He did- to walk with tax collectors, prostitutes, and lepers.  In our day, that means all who are far from God.  I will let you fill in those blanks.

We must become alive and truly live.  We can’t sit back and spend all our emotional energy on what theme park we are taking our kids to this summer and how we are going to overindulge them.  As you reflect back on your summer, how much has been about you and yours and how much has been  about seeking to find ways to be a safe refuge for hurting people?  How have you modeled Jesus to your children?

Let’s make these last few weeks of summer matter.

We will be talking about subjects like this every Wednesdays at First Presbyterian Church from 6-8 PM.

Who is with me?

A Love for Writing

For as long as I can remember, I have loved to write.  I still remember 7th grade at Southwest Middle School learning how to diagram sentences and thinking that I was coming alive in school!  That sounds so weird as I write it but since I was bored to tears by math and the sciences were too technical for my brain, words became my best friend.  Spelling became an obsession and another teacher in middle school said if we could find grammar or spelling errors in the newspaper we could bring them in for extra credit.  Just today we were at a national park visitor center and they misspelled “cemetery” and I about jumped through the roof…but don’t ask me to tell you where ANY states of the US are located, which bodies of water surround us, what bones are in my arm, or how to do my son’s fourth grade math. I can spell them all for you and alphabetize any of them but that is IT!

We all have to find our groove and the English language is mine.  I have tried to conquer other languages as well- Spanish and Creole- but clearly those are not my groove so I am sticking with English and thanking God for translators.

People have asked me why I did not have a blog for a long time….but want to know the truth?  Until a few days ago I did not even know what one was. Honestly.  I am not from this generation of bloggers, instagramers, selfie takers, or hashtaggers.  In fact I have NEVER hash tagged in my life.  Still not sure how to do that but I HAVE decided to try the blogging.  I have a lot to say as you probably already know so I am venturing into this official world of internet writing.  EEEEEKKKK!  I am not very cool or catchy AT ALL but I think God has taught me a few things that I hope to share on these pages over time.  Let the journey begin….