Wednesday, November 19, 2014

"Good Day" (A Mangine Many Music Video)

A few years ago, my friend Sarah told me about how she loved making family music videos.  I was like, "What does that even mean?"  So she showed me a few of hers.  She just took a song she liked and then filmed her family singing it and dancing to it and doing all sorts of crazy things that would look cool in a music video.

I was very inspired.

And so I made the decision that one day I, too, would make a family music video.  So, a couple of months ago, I picked a song, and we began shooting.  I love showing off my family, and I love highlighting that orphan care doesn't have to mean neglected kids in a dark, dank orphanage.  On the contrary, in our case, it means family.  Additionally, you all KNOW I love showing off Jacmel, Haiti, as it is, in my opinion, one of the coolest places on earth.

I am not videographer or video editor, so this is by no means professional.  But I am super happy with my first try.  My only regret is that I didn't think to include myself in the video when I was shooting.  (I guess that will give you all something to look forward to next time.

So without further ado, please enjoy the premier of our inaugural Mangine Many music video, "Good Day" by Nappy Roots.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Micro-blogging update (with pics)

So yeah.  I suck at keeping the blog updated lately.  I just can't seem to keep things updated when I am in the States.  But just last night I was reading my friend Tara's blog and she did a bullet post update of her previous month.  And it inspired me to have my own micro-blogging session.    I may not have anything profound to say but I can at least hit the highlights of what we've been doing with our time in the States over the past couple months.

So here's some micro-blogging for you to make up for the lack of posts lately.


We left Haiti on September 15 and my Americans kids began their journey of being cold.  I, for one, am enjoying it.  They, on the other hand, have mixed feelings.  They feel like they are getting the short end of the stick by having to be in freezing temperatures without any snow.


The first weekend we were in the States, I hosted a "preview sale" of all the Haitian merchandise that I had collected to raise funds for Schneider's adoption.  So far we've made just over $2,500 and still have more opportunities for selling!  We're feeling encouraged.


One of the stops we've made along the way was to Manteo to see my family and to have a booth at the Outer Banks Bluegrass Festival.  It quite the family affair-- I got to see my parents and my sister's family.  I also got to see my Uncle Digger and my cousin, Trina.  I hadn't seen them in many years, so it was a happy reunion.  Nia learned to play the cigar box guitar.  Nico tried his hand at percussion, and Josiah LOVED playing the washtub.


After the festival, Nick and I left the kids in Manteo with my parents who were hosting a cousin camp for all their grandchildren.  This freed Nick and me up to go on a vacation.  We went on a short cruise to the Bahamas out of Jacksonville.  It was nice to be alone with one another.  Well, other than the other 5,000 people on the ship.  But, you know, practically alone.

We broke the rules and decided that rather than pay $20/picture the crew takes of us, we'd take pictures of their pictures.  I reasoned that if they had permission to take a picture of my likeness, I had permission to take a picture of my likeness, too.  Call us cheap if you want.  I prefer to call us SMART.  (Plus, I look GREAT in this pic, don't I?)


After getting back from the cruise we settled into our US "normal."  This includes me going to my cooking club with some of the greatest ladies God ever created.  They are a breath of fresh air to me and we eat like royalty.  (Below was our chili night.)


I took the kids to the NC State Fair as a part of homeschool.  It was sort of fun.  But if I never go again, that's okay, too.

The best part of the Fair was, by far, was the Kenya Safari Acrobats.  Oh my word.  Amazeballs.  And Nico has decided he wants to be an acrobat from Kenya when he grows up.  Bless his heart.


Nick returned to Haiti at the end of October to visit our kids there.  It was nice to Skype them a lot during his time there and just connect with them a bit better while he was there.  While he was gone, I took the kids up to Lititz, PA to visit my sister, Melody.  We had a wonderful visit with the cousins.  We went trick or treating together, visited the Wilbur chocolate company, and even ate at a Haitian restaurant.  (It was super authentic in pretty much every way, and that's all I am going to say about that.)


Also while in PA, I got the chance to see my high school best friend, Ronnie.  My kids and I had a meal and some fun with Ronnie and her kids.  Oh man.  So awesome.  I could have sat and talked with her for a hundred more hours.

And our kids were fast friends, too!


After Nick got back from Haiti, we had a great visit from our friend, Fun Andrew.  I've talked about him numerous times in the past.  He's our bestie and just makes every day a party.  I can't think of anyone who has more consistently modeled Jesus to me than Andrew.  The three of us played games (that I mostly won) and we got into all sorts of deep conversations.  If we ever leave Haiti (which we're not) it will be because we want to be Andrew's next door neighbor and we can't convince him to move to Jacmel.


One of the highlights of our time here in NC has been getting to participate in all of the activities associated with Crosspointe's, "The WHY Project."  You should visit the link to learn more about what that is and read about the exciting journey our home church is on as they strive to meet the needs of the West Cary community.  This is a snap of Nick placing a hand-written prayer about the project at Crosspointe at their commitment experience last week.


So that's a (non-exhaustive) recap of what we've been up to.  Some drama of late has meant that we don't have a firm date to return to Haiti, but we're doing everything we can to get back as soon as possible.  We miss the kids in Haiti like crazy, and are encouraged as we hear of how well they are doing.

As always, thanks for reading.  And here's a tip- if you want more info on us, you should read Nick's blog. He does a way better job of regularly updating his blog than I do!   (And his thoughts are way better than mine.)  Check it out at:

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

This is my story...

We are in this weird season of life where we find ourselves waiting on the Lord.  Again.  We find ourselves in a time of failure.  Again.  We find ourselves in a time where we just don't have a heck of a lot of direction.  Again.

And if I am completely transparent, most days I feel like staying in bed, pulling the covers up over me and hibernating.  I feel like hibernating until this season of waiting and failure and directionlessness  (I know, not a real word) is over.  But I've done that in the past.  And it didn't end well.  And so each day, I get up.  I school my kids.  I do my work.  I clean my house (just not very well).  I make meals for my family.  And I am active in my hope in the Lord, even though each day it can be a struggle.  And some days are more of a struggle than others.

On Sunday we were at Haitian church and it was a packed house (like a good 20 people there!) since another Haitian church about 50 miles away decided to come up and visit the Cary church.  And we sang this old hymn... (the French, pictured above, is not a perfect translation to the English version that plays in my head whenever we sing this one...)

Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine! 
Oh, what a foretaste of glory divine! 
Heir of salvation, purchase of God, 
Born of His Spirit, washed in His blood. 

This is my story, this is my song, 
Praising my Savior all the day long; 
This is my story, this is my song, 
Praising my Savior all the day long. 

Perfect submission, perfect delight, 
Visions of rapture now burst on my sight; 
Angels, descending, bring from above 
Echoes of mercy, whispers of love. 

Perfect submission, all is at rest, 
I in my Savior am happy and blest, 
Watching and waiting, looking above, 
Filled with His goodness, lost in His love. 

And I got to thinking, "Do I really believe this?"  Do I have assurance that Jesus is mine?  Do I believe that I am his heir?  Am I living in perfect submission and delight?  And I seeing the echoes of his mercy and hearing his whispers of love?  And I at rest in him?  And I watching and waiting?  Am I filled with his goodness?  And am I lost in his love?  Is my story?"

Unfortunately, I cannot honestly answer yes to those questions.  

But, y'all, I WANT that to be my story.  I feel like my life has been an interesting story during the past 5 years.  It's been exciting.  It's been challenging.  It's had some ridiculous twists and turns.  And it's been quite the ride.  People have told me I should write a book about it.  But it's not always been a story of me praising the savior all the day long.   And so that's not the book I want to write.  I want to get to the place where my story is praising my savior all day/every day, because then it will be the story I want to live.

How about you?  What kind of story are you writing with your life?  Let's give it a go today.  Let's let the story of our lives be praising our savior all the day long.   And tomorrow.  And this week.  And this month.  And this year.  Any maybe next one, too.  And it may be exciting.   Or it might be boring.  But it will be the best kind of life we can live.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Throw Back Thursday- October 2007

Seven years ago this week Nick and I brought our kids to Haiti for the first time.  (He and I had been a few times before and had been working with Joy in Hope (then called Haitian Children's Home), but this was the first time with the whole fam.)

Here are some #TBT pics from that week--  it was quite adventuresome!  TS Noel rolled through and totally soaked the Sudest...  It was crazy and fun.  And it was on that trip when we became convinced that the Lord was calling us to move our family to Haiti.

Here's the travel down...

Josiah and Berline.

Here I was introducing some of the kids to their online sponsors.

 Josiah and Elinda.

Our whole family at the Raymond beach-- Nia was 4 years old, Josiah was 5 months old, and Nico was 2 years old.  Seems like forever ago.

The day we went to the beach, the babies from the Hands and Feet project were there with Michelle, and Josiah hopped right in their baby pool.

Walking the land with Nico.

Nia slid right into children's church.

Sweaty and happy.

Man, these kids were tiny and cute back then.

 Then the rain started.

And it didn't stop for a long time.

TS Noel brought almost 30 inches of rain to the area.  The mountain road was washed out and we got stuck in Haiti a few more days.  And we didn't mind one little bit.

It's crazy the ups and downs since then.  This journey hasn't always been fun. But it's been good.  And I still believe in the call the Lord put on our lives that week 7 years ago.

A big thank you to the supporters who have brought us this far...

I can't wait to see what the next 7 years will bring.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

On a Moto Episode 24: Proof of Life

Yes, this is very similar to episode 22: Hog tied.  But this was a separate incident and I was just going to tack it on to that post.  Until I realized this picture offered something very distinct that proves this pig was alive when the photo was snapped.

Do you see it? (Click on the pic to enlarge it if you don't.)

You're welcome.

PS- To see the whole series so far, click HERE.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Embrace the Heat

First, some business.  Good news.  I am still alive.  I can see how not sending out an update in over a month might have some wondering.  We are one month into a three month furlough to the States.  It's been quite a bounce this time for me in terms of transition because we sort of over-booked ourselves (as we often do).  From a work perspective I have accomplished approximately zero useful things during this time so far, but I think we're finally into a groove now where we can (and want to!) move forward. Sorry to all the people awaiting email responses!  With that off my chest...

One thing our family has really looked forward to on this furlough is attending a Haitian church plant in Cary in addition to attending our home church, Crosspointe.  The Haitian church, (which is what we call it since I don't think it has an official name yet), meets at the Crosspointe office and it's a total mind blow for Nick and me because it's totally an authentic Haitian church. The same songs are sung with the same Chans Dèspèrans hymnals.  (We had heard this was the case and brought our own, which is the way it works in Haitian churches.)  The same loud voices sing these songs with a sound system hooked up for each week, even though there are only about 5-13 people that attend on a weekly basis.  (And remember, our family makes up 5 of those!) The same proclamations ring out through the service... Beni swa l'eternel! Jezi pi gran!  Bondye beni'w (to which everyone responds "amen.")  The preaching is spirited and lively and the pastor is not afraid to call out sin.  Sometimes the forward-ness of this kind of preaching makes me inwardly cringe, being so afraid of someone walk away offended.  Sometimes I find the boldness refreshing. (Well, what I understand of it.  The truth is that my comprehension of Kreyol, while conversationally fluent in Haiti, lacks at times.  Fast talking or yelling (especially when distorted by a very loud sound system) sometimes goes over my head.  So, I maybe understand 65% of what's being said.  I can follow the drift, but not all the nuance.  But, as usual, I am digressing.)

Today I had a revelation during Haitian church.  Sister Denise was up front leading worship today since Paulette (the lady that usually leads the hymns) was out of town.  She said something like this-- "The air outside is starting to feel cool.   Everyone is starting to be cold.  And we want to run from that, but with Jesus inside of us, we can feel warm.  He can make us feel the heat again.  He can be our heat." Spoken like a true Haitian.  In my experience, Haitians hate to be cold.  When the temperature dips to a "chilly" 82F, 90% of people will be wearing long sleeves and possibly a woolen or fleece hat.

I couldn't be farther from Haitian in this respect.  The truth is, I hate the heat.  I despise it.  And y'all, Haiti is hella hot.  My friend Gayly, a Haitian national, always gets so irritated about how much I complain about the heat.  To which I always retort, "I wouldn't complain about the heat around here if the country wasn't so freaking hot!" You guys.  I don't do well with the heat.  So when Denise was talking about the coldness being a bad thing, I almost had to pipe up and say something.  This cooler weather is perfectly delightful to Mama Gwenn.

And in that moment, I saw this reality--  Haitian people like the heat.  And Americans, well, not so much.  We all live in houses with air conditioning.  We drive cars that are air conditioned.  And the businesses we frequent are air conditioned.  I can live in Haiti for the rest of my life, and probably, my preference will always be cooler weather.  Just like for many of the Haitian people at church have lived in the States for some time now, their preference is hot weather.  It's just one of those inherent differences.  And it's this tension I feel as I live between two cultures.  But in that moment, I felt this feeling that told me this, "Gwenn, you need to embrace the heat."

Each year, starting in about April, I start praying, "God, please help me get through this summer's heat."  I even brought it up as a prayer request at church this past year.  I sort of view it as something to get through.  Something from which I am always seeking relief.  But how would my life be different if I could start embracing the heat?  What would it look like if I started praying in April, "God, help me to embrace the heat this year."?  What would it look like if, instead of being frustrated and constantly trying to find ways to get out of the heat, I decided to live life in the heat?  Not in spite of it, but in it.  What if my quest for comfort is derailing the work that God wants to do in me?

So what is it for you?  What's your nemesis in the way that heat is mine?  Could it be that God does not want to deliver you from it, but in it?   I guess my point is this.  I think we Christians are too caught up in our own comfort.  We want to be spared the discomfort of life.  But life is inherently uncomfortable.  And so often I see that I use my resources, my connections, my talents, my time, and my energy trying to find relief from my discomfort.  I think we all do. But maybe the time is coming where God has a more beautiful plan to deliver us in the heat, not from it*.

*But if you still want to pray that it's not that hot in Haiti this summer, that's okay for me too. ;)

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Too funny to not double share.

Our family has been working on shooting a music video for fun.  Yesterday we were down at Lakou Nouyok and I was letting the boys freestyle a bit.  While the actual video I shot is much longer, I shortened it down to 14 seconds so as to not waste your time.  (Sorry for the double post for all the facebookers.)

You're welcome.