Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Mommy confessional: art projects

I don't like doing art projects with my children.

I do like doing art projects with ONE individual child, but projects done together with all 11 kids... I HATE THEM. I have kids ranging from 3-16. It is just not fun.

Don't get me wrong, I like parading the projects around when they are all done so I look like an attentive mother who cares about the creative development of my children. But I spend pretty much the whole time focusing on how they are doing it "wrong" or making too much of a mess.

Today Sanndi spilled an entire quart of yellow (oil based) paint on our front porch tile. Then, after we'd cleaned that up, she picked up her freshly painted yellow chair with her hands and was all surprised that it got her hands full of paint. Um???

Then this literally happened today. My kids were (finally) done with their painting their chairs and Nick and I were painting ours. Well, my kids decided this would be a good time to play soccer in our yard. I was nervous that they would kick the ball into where we were painting so I issued a blanket warning. "Kids, IF that ball hits us or our chairs while we are working, I WILL pop that ball."

The eye rolls and under-the-breath sighs abounded, because you know they are SO good at soccer that they wouldn't EVER loose control of the ball. "We're just playing. We're not going to hit you."

I am sure that you can see where this is going.

Not 25 seconds later, the ball hit into me.

You would think someone with 11 children would have more grace and patience than I do, but you'd be incorrect to think that. Because I stood up, put my paint brush down, grabbed the soccer ball, went into the kitchen, grabbed a steak knife, walked back out into the yard and slashed the ball. And then I threw it in the trash. The staff just kind of looked at me wide-eyed. Nick gave me that, "I LOVE that woman" look and my kids just shrugged and started riding bikes.

I issued the same warning about the bikes and they were extremely careful after that to steer clear of this crazy mama.

I wonder what my kids will remember about me when I am old. Will they remember today as the "fun day" we all worked together to make family chairs? Or will they remember it as the day their mom made painting no fun and went all psycho on their soccer ball?

Probably a little of both.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Less like Scars-- Mangine Year in Review

It's been a hard year
But I'm climbing out of the rubble
These lessons are hard
Healing changes are subtle


But every day it's
Less like tearing, more like building
Less like captive, more like willing
Less like breakdown, more like surrender
Less like haunting, more like remember


And I feel you here
And you're picking up the pieces
Forever faithful
It seemed out of my hands, a bad situation
But you are able


And in your hands the pain and hurt

Look less like scars
And more like


Less like a prison, more like my room
It's less like a casket, more like a womb

Less like dying, more like transcending

Less like fear, less like an ending


And I feel you here

And you're picking up the pieces
Forever faithful


It seemed out of my hands, a bad situation
But you are able
And in your hands the pain and hurt
Look less like scars


Just a little while ago
I couldn't feel the power or the hope

I couldn't cope,
I couldn't feel a thing


Just a little while back
I was desperate,
laid out,
hoping You would come


And I need you
And I want you here
And I feel you


And I know you're here
And you're picking up the pieces
Forever faithful
It seemed out of my hands,
a bad, bad situation

But you are able


And in your hands
the pain and hurt
Look less like scars
Less like scars
Less like scars...
And more like Character


Happy New Year From the Mangine Many!

(Lyrics: Less Like Scars, by Sara Groves)

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Disecting the Word.

"Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world." - James 1:27

This has always been a verse that has been near to my heart. Well, maybe not always, but since 2005 when I discovered that my world was larger than what I'd seen in my 27 years of experience living in the richest country in the world. It was that year that I (518 years after Christopher Columbus) discovered there was this small island nation called Haiti. It sounds stupid when I say that, but really, other than hearing about it once or twice in childhood, I knew nothing of it.

And then I came here.

And then we adopted a son from Haiti.

And now we live here.

And as I've longed to live my life in accordance with the way of Jesus, this verse resonated with my heart. If we really love God, the kind of thing that he says that he accepts as true religion is taking care of widows and orphans. As a person naturally prone to empathy for others, that seemed good to me. And living in Haiti afforded me the chance to live out this concept every single day.

BUT, just yesterday, I was reading the verse again and I realized there is a second part of it... "and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world."

And it just hit me that I am not nearly as passionate about that part of the verse as I am about the first part.

I think we, as Christians, like to wave around our "banner verses." Things that define who we are. Things we are "called" to do. We claim them as our "life verses" or tattoo them on our bodies. And I am not saying this is bad.

BUT... Is it that Christians just wave around verses that are really easy for them? Verses that exemplify how they are naturally wired.

I am naturally wired to love children. I am naturally wired to love the poor. I am naturally wired to reach out to my community.

But I am not naturally wired to keep myself from being polluted by the world.

And so I think we, who claim to be followers of Christ, do the gospel an extreme disservice when we pick and choose the parts of the Bible that we're good at, while neglecting the parts we're not good at.

I remember my friend Scott once told me he never underlined anything in his Bible because WHY should we focus on certain verses over others? It's all God's word. It's all true. There are not some verses that are better than others. Pretty compelling point I think.

This is still a thought in the making, but I am just curious, what do YOU think it means to "keep oneself from being polluted by the world?"

This is not a rhetorical question. I am really curious as to what people think that means. I am interested in theological answers as well as non-theological answers. I am interested in responses from people who are Christians, and people who are not.

I have opened up comments here on the blog and (as always) this will import into facebook too, so you may also respond there.

Curious as to what people might say...

Saturday, December 25, 2010

The obligatory Christmas post ;)

Sorry there's not been recent blogging on my part. We've been caught up in the hussle and bussle of Christmas. This year, it's been a bit different. And rather than me trying to explain all that, I want to re-post what Nick wrote today... because it's brilliant.

You can click on to his blog to read some of his other brilliant insights (he's been blogging for A LONG TIME), but this is just one that is so good I have to repost.


And you're welcome.

Christmas is Dead, Long Live Christmas

This is the story of us losing Christmas, only to find it. It's not the story in the way my wife would tell it, with pictures and jokes and a way with words that would actually hold your interest. No, I'm trying to figure out what this all means.

About a month ago we swallowed our pride, admitted that would couldn't actually afford presents for our gaggle of children and asked people we know to come together and buy gifts for all our kids. It wasn't actually a difficult ask—we're missionaries, asking for stuff is part of the job description. And it wasn't a difficult sell, we're lucky to have so many people that love us and our kids. But it turned out to be a difficult trip. The gifts were scheduled to come down with some very good friends who were visiting in mid December. However, as it is prone to do, Haiti didn't cooperate. Election violence led to canceled flights which led to a canceled trip and canceled Christmas.

But God, as he is prone to do, appeared in our mess.

Gwenn and I went into crises response mode. Our plan revolved around selling Christmas to our kids, not as a big party for us, but as a birthday for Jesus. I know it sounds super spiritual, but please understand this wasn't by choice, and I'll admit that I was skeptical of the whole idea. But the kids got it. It seemed to make more sense to them than it did to me, and so we ran with it.

And God, as he is prone to do, appeared in our mess.

He turned our inward focus outward. Sure, Christmas has always been about family, but that's still pretty insular, don't you think? What about half-starved women on the verge of death? What about families who have lived under palm fronds for almost a year? What about friends who have needs and we can meet them?

He turned the eleven little animals that usually sit around my dinner table in to perfect little angels eating an amazing dinner at what might possibly be the most beautiful place on earth.

He turned a simple, $5 secret Santa event into the most amazing gift exchange I have ever experienced—complete with chanting, cheering, laughing, screaming, and me receiving underwear.

This is getting sappy, so let's get to the point:

Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face

Somehow, in closing the door on "Christmas" (as we're used to it and expected it), the door was opened to heaven. Honestly, I feel like the last two days have been a glimpse of heaven—like Disney World and Friday night dates with my wife. And when did I see heaven? When God showed up in my mess. And when will you see heaven? When God shows up in yours. And how can you show heaven to other people? Show up in theirs.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm now going to go finish the cake that we're eating for dinner. Yes, cake for dinner—this may actually BE heaven.


Sunday, December 19, 2010

"Haitian kids play some messed up games." --Nick Mangine

Here is an example (as best we can figure out) of the game my kids are playing tonight called, "Marguerite."

A "Marguerite" is chosen. (Can be a girl or a boy.)

Margurite kneels down with his/her hands on top of his/her head and then everybody else stands in a circle and puts their hands on Margurite's head. Then there is a leader (carrying a switch) that begins leading the other kids in song and marching around the outside of the circle. And then at some point in the song (not sure if it's random or a specific point in the song), the leader whips someone with the switch.

And then the person that got whipped begins following the leader around the circle. This continues. The leader (and now the whipee as well) march around singing the song. Another person gets whipped. Then that whipee proceeds marching around the circle with the first whipee and the leader.

This continues until everyone (except Marguerite) has been whipped and everyone is marching in a circle around Marguerite.

Then a dialog begins between the leader and Marguerite. At the end of the dialog, Margurite runs for his/her life and everyone else chases him/her and tries to tackle him/her to the ground. The first person to tackle Marguerite gets to BE Marguerite in the next round.

Note: The leader never changes.

2nd Note: The leader is Fritzie.

3rd Note: I think Fritzie might have made up this game.

There's also a game Haitian kids play where you have to try to kick people's legs out from under them hard enough to make them fall. I am not sure of the rules of this game, so I will try to investigate and get back to you asap.

I concur with Nick. Haitian kids play some messed up games.

Our little advent conspiracy.

I can't explain this well because it probably sounds like I am being too "missionary"-like. This is not intended to sound this way. This is not image management to make you think we are all holy because wow, I am convicted more and more every day how much more I need to lay down if I want to really follow Jesus.

But I am just going to come out and say it.

THE BEST thing that has happened to us this Christmas season is that we aren't going to be opening presents on Christmas morning.

This is, by far, the best Christmas season I've ever had. I am being completely honest. As we've been working through advent and teaching our kids about the Christmas story, THEY ARE GETTING IT.

And instead of nagging us about gifts or special treats, we are engaging in REAL dialogs about how we give Jesus gifts on Christmas. As I mentioned in a previous post, we were given some money by my home church when it came out that the presents wouldn't arrive on time. So we've thought and pondered what to do with that money and how we can celebrate well together as a family, giving of ourselves, giving the gift of our presence to one another, and bless our community at the same time.

Here's how our plans are shaping up:
  • We are going to have our kids help get more people moved out of De Izin refugee camp this week. They will help with the moving and the painting, digging latrines, setting up kitchens, etc.
  • Tomorrow Fritzie and I are going to Bwa Vital to pick up a very, very sick, very, very, VERY malnourished woman and bring her to the hospital and pay for her tests. She went to the hospital last week but they ordered a bunch of tests and she can't afford them. She's the closest thing to a human skeleton I have ever seen. I am going to be honest, I don't feel that optimistic that whatever she has is going to be treatable. But this is a human life, and she's worth helping, regardless of the outcome.
  • We are going to all take dance classes together as a family 3 days a week for the next 3 weeks.
  • We bought some little homemade chairs and we're going to paint them. Each family member (including live-in staff) will get their own chair and be able to decorate it however they want to. (I am particularly excited about this project.)
  • We're taking a little five year old boy named Bebe to the hospital for a consultation for hernia surgery. He has a VERY large umbilical hernia that cannot repair on its own. If repair is possible, we will pay for his surgery.
  • We are going to distribute bags of nutrient-fortified rice to every family in Pinchinat and Bwa Vital on Christmas day. My kids are going to spend the week working on hand-made gift tags for them.
  • We're going to plan 1-2 "beach outings" for kids in the refugee camps during Christmas break from school. Guernia will help us choose kids/parents as chaperons.
  • We're going to take buy prescription medications for a few people in the camps.
  • We're going to take our WHOLE family (including live-in staff) and the Rigel family out to a NICE dinner at Cyvadier Plage on Christmas Eve before church. This is HUGE. We are NEVER able to do things like this. You simply cannot imagine the squeals of delight that came from our kids and staff when we told them today.
  • We're going to pick names and give each family member/live-in staff members 200 gourdes ($5US) to go out and buy a "Secret Santa" gift for another family member. We will tell the story of the real St. Nicholas when it's time to reveal the secret gifts.
  • We will have a birthday party (with cake, of course) for Jesus. (Cause I am pretty sure that he would want cake at his party, right???)
  • And we're going to squirrel the rest of the money away to go towards our big, end-of-the year BASH with our staff and their families. We have excellent staff and we're going to give them an EXCELLENT party. It's been a rough year, and they've been in it with us through it all. We can't wait to serve them in this way.
And the best part about it is that in a few weeks or months (whenever it happens) our Christmas gifts will arrive. And we will get to have ANOTHER party. (And my kids/staff have GREAT things coming their way because of your generosity!)

See? I told you this was the best Christmas ever.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Black's recovery. (Graphic pictures)

Black, one of our security guards, was in a moto accident a few weeks ago. I am still a little sketchy on how it happened, but I know the front tire blew out and he went over the handlebars.

Getting stitched up.

Headed home from the hospital.

The next morning

About a week later.

Today. (About two weeks later.)