Saturday, April 30, 2011

the best swimsuits


So I was reading an article at REALSIMPLE because there was an ad from something else I was reading. So first I learned about 6 white dresses even a bride could wear. I disagree, btw, well, I mean yeah, a bride could wear them, but not a very dressy bride. WWKMT? (What Would Kate Middleton Think?) Or wait, does she have a new last name... come to think of it, what is William's last name?

But I digress.

I also found this super article about the best bathing suits for all body types. First problem with the piece-- they didn't include all body types... what about "all over chubby" body type? Hmmm? Didn't see that one there.

But I did find out that if my "problem areas" are ever my hips/thighs, this is the suit for me:

Um, yeah, like ANYONE with "problem areas" could wear that suit.

Whatever.

In other news, I found the ugliest swimsuit in the world on the list too. It's for you if you have a "straight" body style. (So no ladies with shaved heads can buy this, okay?)
Ug, that is seriously the ugliest bathing suit ever. Are you with me or are you with me?

Thursday, April 28, 2011

question from a reader

I got this question from a reader this week and since this is a "Haiti blog" I thought I'd answer it publicly to the best of my understanding.

***
Hey Gwenn-- I have a question I thought you might be able to answer. I just got a call from a friend up in Cap who asked if there are any legal requirements for a Haitian to decide to start bringing in kids and operate as an orphanage (not a creche). I know plenty of places in Port who do just that, and I'm pretty sure they don't have a single piece of paperwork. However, are you aware if any legal requirements exist? Thanks in advance for anything
***

First of all--
We are in the LONG, ARDUOUS process of getting our IBESR (Haitian Social Services) license. (Not as a creche, but as a residency orphanage.) It's a really difficult process. We were not aware until last summer that our organization did not possess this. We also learned at that point that we weren't a legal organization in Haiti. Since that time, we have taken the MANY steps and jumped through the many hoops to become a legal Haitian NGO and we're in the IBESR process. We do have written legal permission to operate as an orphanage in the Sudest from the mayor (now Senator) Edo Zenny, that protects us legally for a year while we negotiate this licensing process.

THIS. IS. AN. IMPORTANT. PROCESS.

Yes, it is true that there are many orphanages without a single piece of documentation. Now, you are talking about a Haitian person but the same laws apply irregardless of nationality. Unfortunately, most of the non-Haitian orphanages here are American-run and incredibly irresponsible. An (American) friend of mine was talking to a Haitian government official the other day and he asked her if she was sure she was American, because in his experience Americans in Haiti didn't think they needed to follow the rules. "Why don't they think we have laws?" was his question.

I often whine and moan about the processes in Haiti. Yes, there is corruption at pretty much every level. Yes, there needs to be widespread reform. But if WE are the people coming into a foreign setting it is ABSOLUTELY our responsibility to follow the laws of the country.

Now, here's where things get tricky. Pre-earthquake nobody cared. Seriously. Almost no once cared. You could pretty much do whatever you wanted. Now it's not that way. Unicef has merged with IBESR in Haiti and are being MUCH more vigilant about making sure everyone is following the rules. Up until last month IBESR 1 employee working in the Sudest. Now there are 14. Four of them came to my home last week for a surprise inspection. They stayed for a good 30-45 minutes and asked A LOT of questions. They gave us some recommendations and told us they'd be back soon to make sure we were implementing them. This is happening all over Jacmel right now.

And so what's the risk of not doing things legally?

It's called kidnapping.

Why don't you ask the Baptists if they think that could really happen?

The same system that is super-slow in getting paperwork processed is also predictably slow with carrying out justice. Haitian jail "pa dous" (is not sweet.) And that's where you'll be while it all gets sorted out.

Yes the system is broken. I know it's not fair. I know it's not an easy process. It's an expensive and down-right maddening to do things "the right way." Sometimes it seems like the laws are only there to punish the people who follow them.

But it's similar to adoption-- a long, expensive, drawn out process that you *could* just bypass by paying off the right person. (If you think I am exaggerating, read A Crime So Monstrous.)

So whether or not people do it, and whether or not people get caught, it's still against the law.

There's my two cents.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

hair.

So, again, I'm failing on Tell it Like it is Tuesday for the 3rd week in row. The blog series I was pimpin' as new and fresh and hip has become a one part series. I actually have another one written but today doesn't seem the right day to share it. Because it's about sex. And let's just all admit you have to have the right lead in to that.

I have something much more profound to discuss today-- hair.

So let me set the scene. I was in the truck this morning bringing Josiah to school and I had something itching my arm. I looked down and I had a piece of hair on my arm. So I picked it off with two fingers and just flung it off me onto the floor of the truck.

But then I started wondering. Wouldn't it be totally gross if hair was not biodegradable? Think about it. Hair is growing all the time. We get it cut and we lose about 50-100 hairs a day, everyday. What if hair didn't breakdown? I think by this point the whole world would be a giant tangle of hair. And dude, that would be NASTY. Hair would cover all the lawns and then when it would rain it would be all hairball-y. Think about how nasty it is to find a hairball in your shower. Imagine that times like a ZILLION.

And the oceans. Ug. I hate just the littlest bit of seaweed. I about can't take it. Can you imagine swimming in an ocean and coming out covered with long globs of other people's hair all tangled in your limbs? Seriously, I feel like I am going to puke now.

So yeah, today I am thankful that (even though I can't seem to put my finger on God right now and all that means,) God saw fit to make hair biodegradable.

;) Happy Tuesday.

And hey, PS-- tomorrow (if we make it that far) is our TWO YEAR anniversary of living in Haiti! Woot woot.

Monday, April 25, 2011

as messed up as I am

I couldn't sleep tonight so I thought I'd write some more.

Seriously folks, I cannot believe the emails/comments I am getting about this topic of Christianity and questioning…. let me share a few excerpts of the non-public messages sent to me (you can read the rest in the comments, on facebook, etc):

--Your questions on how we find that relationship with God could have been written by me…. Two things please. Know there is at the least one person me and I'm sure more, asking the same questions. The other is to please let me know if you find some direction, answer, wisdom, anything that will let me know why and how.

--I think you are speaking on behalf of the majority of us, whether we believe or not.

--Over the last two years, I have found that I've wrestled with questions of my own… so I can somewhat relate to your struggles.

--Thank you for posing these questions! They reflect my own whirling thoughts and I would love to continue this query...

--I remember grabbing onto God as if he were a tiny thread hanging from above—not because I trusted but because there simply was no where else to go.

--It's funny you write about this whole relationship with God thing. I JUST went through something similar to this…

--I did not begin to take Jesus seriously, at least in an adult way, until I was in my early 30's. So I may have some semi-recent relevant experience to talk to you about.

It's weird. In addition to the dozens of people who "get it", I've heard from people who have just opened their hearts and talked very openly about the ugly stuff that's caused their life to turn toward/away from the Lord-- loss of a loved one, abuse, betrayal… I am overwhelmed by your transparency and honesty.

I am still trying to put all my thoughts on this together and as I figure out who I want to be and what I should believe. And Nick (God bless him) is amazingly patient and logical… just letting me tiptoe (or jump in wholeheartedly) to different ideas and plans and experiences WITH him by my side. Super with me and nonjudgmental as I try on different ideas for size.

I got married young. He got married younger. Over the past few weeks I've wondered if that's one of the things that's cramping my style lately-- I didn't do much or know much before being married. And so we both still had a bunch of growing up and changing to do. I now see that there is no greater joy that having someone by your side as you change and grow. Someone who is "all in" even when you feel like a screw up. (Cause let's just face it, we all are sometimes, aren't we?)

I guess all I am trying to say is thank you. Thanks to the people (many of whom I don't know) have contacted me from a place of grace and not judgment as I'd feared. The way Christians judge one another is one of the things that's been causing me to take a harder look at this idea of faith. I was scared out of my mind to admit that I was having these fears because it just seemed like everyone else had it all together AND it seemed like everyone else thought I had it all together.

Thank you that we can be totally screwed up, messy people together. Thank you for reminding me that life isn't a solo journey. Thanks for being a virtual community with whom I can share and commiserate--(living in a foreign country there's not a whole big ton of community going on in my life.) And not for nothing, but I am not so easy to journey with in person these days-- I tend to be a bit moody, so from afar is probably better. :) Thanks for telling me about your doubts and struggles too. I no longer feel so alone in these questions. Judging from some very sane people who've responded, I am no longer worried that I am going crazy. You all are just as messed up as I am. I am beginning to feel that maybe this place where I am at is a normal part of a journey.

Today in church I thought about Easter. When I looked at the story of the resurrection detached from faith, it just seemed silly and, frankly, unbelievable. And I started to worry about these thoughts a bit, so much so that I didn't take communion with the church. I just wasn't sure I would be taking it in a "worthy manner" with these questions and doubts. But then later as we were singing, I noticed my eyes closed and my hand raised in worship. I didn't think about closing my eyes or raising raising my hand. I don't remember exactly when I raised it, it was just raised. And when I realized it was raised, I stopped and asked myself why my hand was raised in worship. Was it just something I always did and so was, therefore, habit? I realized that wasn't the case. It was raised in worship as we were singing because I was worshiping. I didn't have to think about it or decide to do it, my body just took over for me. I don't know what that means, but I think it's a good sign.

I *might* be finally feeling tired so I am going to sign off for now. More later as I work through this more…

-G

Sunday, April 24, 2011

another question

I am overwhelmed by the number of really meaningful PMs/emails that have been sent to me during the past day or so as I've expressed my growing doubts. I am going to try to get back to each of you individually as time permits, so hang in there.

I've gotten emails from Christians, from non-Christians. I have had conversations with American people and Haitian people-- a lot of people finding themselves with a similar line of questions. And I still don't know which end is up, but I might have some ideas on how to organize my thoughts. Maybe we can all kind of try to figure this out together.

Okay, so here's the question.

I've heard a lot about "relationship" with Jesus. I've used the term before, and I believe I am a follower of Jesus. I worship him and pray to God, but I've never experienced a relationship with Jesus the way some people talk about it. People talk about Jesus like he's their best friend. They claim to love him more than their spouse and kids. And they pine away for their times alone together. I want to be in love with God like that. But I am not. And I don't know how to get there. It was easy to fall in love with Nick Mangine. I always wanted to be around him. And he wanted to be around me. And we got to know each other better. And I am convinced that the reason we fell in love and got married and lived happily ever after is because it was a 2-sided thing. (That and he's super-cute.) How the heck to you initiate a relationship like that with God? I think a lot of people claim they have a relationship like that with God because that's what they think they should say and what they want other people to think.

I hear church people say all the time that all the cravings we feel are just this God-shaped vacuum longing to be filled and we fill them with things that won't satisfy-- food, alcohol, sex, drugs, money, power... But we are left unsatisfied. What does it mean to transfer these cravings and longings over to God?

How does one do this?

Like literally. Do you have any ideas on what this looks like? How does one start a love relationship with God and seek satisfaction in him?

Comments are open-- or email me at gwenn@joyinhope.org

Friday, April 22, 2011

crisis of faith - questions.

I find myself lately with a bit of a crisis of faith. Here's what I mean-- the longer I am here in Haiti, the more questions I have. Things I thought I totally had down, things I thought I understood-- well, I am realizing I don't have them down and I don't understand. Pretty much everything I value (or thought I valued) seems to be coming into question. I am not sure which of my values and beliefs are just my personality, which ones are just because I am American, which ones came from the nurture of my family of origin, which ones come from my experiences as a wife and a mother, and which ones are because I am a Christian.

It's kind of making my head spin.

And then when I look at things objectively (or at least as objectively as I can) I still can't figure out where to put things. I try to put my thumb on very basic questions about who God is and what his nature is like, and I just can't come up with answers. The "evidence" seems so cloudy these days.

I mean sure, I have a big heart for social justice. I love children. The plight of orphans, the abandoned, the abused, and other "victims" move my heart to want to act. But where does that comes from? Is that Christ?

So then I am lead naturally to the question of what I believe. Am I really a Christian? Do I really believe all these things that I've said for my whole life? Or are those beliefs just a by-product of my upbringing and surroundings? So much about my life has changed by living in a new culture. And now I have to figure out what's real and what's not.

It's as if I am at the point (finally, at age 34) where I have to determine what the faith I've had since I've been a child is founded in.

And I don't know where to begin.

And I am a bit scared. No, I am actually really freakin' scared. Because what if I can't find a place for everything? Or what if the questions I have lead me somewhere other than Jesus?

I feel like I sort of want to start over as a Christian. Like I need to see Christianity and Jesus as if I didn't ever know him. But it's been so long that I've been on this journey that if I was to "start over" I am not even sure where to begin.

So, there are some Christ-following people that read this blog... some Christian newbies and some life-long devotees. I need your help.

Tell me a little bit about the beginning of your walk with God. Pretend I am someone who is seeking and really wanting the answers to some big questions. (Actually, you don't have to pretend.) What would you say to me to convince me that the way of Jesus is the way of life? Do you have thoughts on things I should read? Books/articles/Bible chapters, etc? Please, PLEASE only recommend things to me that personally made a difference in your life. I know how to do the bridge diagram. That's not what I am after. I don't want to know what Campus Crusade, or Joyce Meyers, or Billy Graham, Max Lucado, or Rob Bell recommends for new believers. It's not that I don't believe these people know something about this topic. It's that I realize that they are professional Christians and so they have to have some answers. Instead, I want to know what YOU, (YOU who call Christ your Lord) recommend.

I am taking a big risk by putting this out there... I wasn't going to, because I am a missionary who is able to feed the family because I too am a professional Christian. But as I talked to Nick about this, he encouraged me to be transparent. So I am kind of trusting that these doubts and questions will be met with grace and not judgment.

We'll see what happens, won't we?

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Sunrise

Driving through the mountains on Tuesday morning I got to see a killer sunrise...

It's worth clicking on this picture to see it a bit closer-- the mountains, the fog, the colors... Man, God knows how to throw a sunrise together, doesn't he?

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Update on Konekte/Pinchinat




I went back to Pinchinat for the first time since being on furlough a few days ago. We've been out of diapers (but many more are coming next week!) and we also received a letter saying that another organization was now in charge of running all the programs in the camps so if we wanted to continue our program we had to go through them to get approval. But I was there for a reason unrelated to diaper distribution. And it hit me once again that there are still thousands of families in tents. In many cases, they've lived in the SAME tent (or 1/8th of a tent as is the case in Pinchinat) for over a year. Each family is partitioned off by a sheet or a tarp or whatever they have to separate them from their (very close) neighbors. Can you imagine your family sharing a tent with SEVEN OTHER FAMILIES for OVER A YEAR?! I can't. I mean I can imagine that it happens because I've seen it happening now for quite some time. But I can't imagine that I could make it in conditions like that.

Now, in Pinchinat, there are tents inside of tents. In a lot of the little spots that each family has been allocated you will see a small pop up tent INSIDE of the big army tent. The army tents are so old that they are ripped and no longer waterproof, so people have started trying to find tents once again to put inside the tents to keep dry. I remember being in the tents (just the army ones) last summer. It was so blisteringly hot that you felt like you couldn't breathe. I don't think it would be an exaggeration to say it was at least 120F. No circulation. All the people covered in heat rash. I can't imagine the temperatures of the tents inside of tents. (This year I am going to bring a thermometer in to measure actual temperatures.) "They say" (whoever they is) that 250 more families are going to be moved into houses soon and that the remaining ones will get new tents.

I say, "We'll see."


I was reminded once again that the people living in Pinchinat were the reason that we started Konekte. Then, because the pregnant women and children mostly got moved to Bwa Vital, Konekte activities began focusing more on Bwa Vital because that's where there were the most babies. But since then more people have become pregnant and have babies in Pinchinat. And the need for help with the babies and children there (Pinchinat) is again more pressing and probably where we need to focus more since the sanitation/drainage/EVERYTHING! situation is so bad. Bwa Vital is like the Ritz compared to Pinchinat.

If you're the praying type, please be praying for a meeting I have on Monday morning with this group that oversees Jacmel camps. I don't know if diaper distribution in any of the camps will be permitted to continue. I want to be of service to these families. I see a gap and a way to help in a significant (though admittedly small compared to the need) way.

This last picture here really hit me. When I was there I didn't see it, but when I was looking at the pictures on my computer I saw the peach house in the background. I thought this was a good picture of the situation in Haiti. (Not just now, but throughout history.) There's this beautiful rich-person-house overlooking an IDP camp. Or more likely, before douz janvye, (January 12), a slum. Haiti is like that. You might have someone really, really rich living next to someone really, really poor. Or actually it's more likely a lot of really, really poor people.


I am not stupid. I know that I am one of the rich people here. This is not a judgment call on the rich people. Or maybe it is. I don't know. But if it is, I am included.

How, OH HOW, can we be more intentional about spreading around resources?

Let your kingdom come. Let your will be done on earth as it is in heaven...

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

extremes




So this is NOT a Hot Topic Tuesday discussion but rather just an observation (moment of growth?) I had today.

When my bio kids were born, I was not much into the attachment parenting thing. I will admit that I had read Babywise, and I really liked the concept. More than really liking the concept, I liked the application in our family. Nia's temperament was very suited to being put on a schedule, and I really, really liked that I knew what I could expect in terms of eating/sleeping patterns. It really worked for us. (Hang with me here because I may not be going where you think I am going.)

Josiah was similar but not exactly because of his rough start in the hospital... the first two weeks of life he was in the hospital and recovering from open-heart surgery. The constant probing and checking lead to no natural patterns in him. However, after a while, things started to get more consistent and he was on a schedule too.

Enter Nico. Nico came home to our family in July of 2007 at age 2 and a half. Multiple abandonments and primary care-givers left him with a lot of confusion in terms of attachment. Though Nick and I liked the freedom that putting our kids on a schedule gave us, we realized that was not going to be best for Nico. He needed to build trust with us and he was already running on a trust deficit. We couldn't be as rigid with him. We needed to be more open to him sleeping in our room, and being physically close to Nico for a long time was necessary. (And still is.) It's important to all of our kids but him more than others. And now here we are with 8 more kids (and now and then a foster kid or two.)

When there's abandonment issues (which I would argue that there generally are, at least to some degree, with nearly all adopted children at some point) it is the responsibility of the parents to do what ever is necessary to try to foster the attachment relationship with that child. It is not the child's responsibility and while their behavior may necessitate changing methods that parents choose, but it should not change the responsibility. The parent is the adult and chose that route. It's not always easy and unfortunately, well-meaning but uninformed people head into adoption without a full education about what *might* happen and, therefore, end up causing already-fragile children more trauma.

So, all this is to say, over the past few years, we've sort of become bigger proponents of an AP lifestyle, or at least parts of it. We've thought, "Okay, this is the way we need to go" and even though it wasn't/isn't OUR style, we needed to get over our preferences for the sake of our kids.

However, as we went on to learn more and more about attachment in kids with a history of abandonment, we learned that they really desire structure. They need boundaries with which they can operate in. They need to know what to expect and when to expect it. Now, that doesn't mean that you can NEVER change the plan but being able to be secure in knowing what is happening in their environment is a big step in the direction of them coming to trust you. And there's a biological aspect too-- if their blood sugar isn't regulated within a certain structure, dips in that can lead to giant tantrums. This is true with all kids, but I've found it to be MORE true with kids who have a history of not being able to eat regularly. The feeling of hunger seems to trigger sensations that are very uncomfortable to them as their (conscious or subconscious) memory recalls that feeling from the past, which are super in-twinned in hurt and insecurity.

So fast forward to this week. We have this baby with us who is almost 5 months old. It's just for a couple of days. He loves to be held. He craves it. He loves being in the sling. And even though we put the Moses basket in the bed with us, he hated it because he wanted to be right near us. So he slept with us an actually ON us at times. He just wants to know people are near him. That works well because we have a lot of people in our family. And my kids fight over who gets to hold him. So he's getting a lot of attention and physical closeness. And that has chilled him out a lot. So-- score one for AP, right? But then we noticed something else.


The first day/night we fed on demand. He'd usually just eat a bit and fall asleep and then wake up an hour later crying again. The second day/night we tried to focus on full feedings. If he fell asleep, we'd wake him and burp him, and really try to feed him a full 3-4 ounces. basically, we were trying to fill his belly more than just the ounce of milk it takes to lull him to sleep. And yeah, totally helped. Woke up 2 times last night crying, as opposed to at least 8-9 times the night before. So that was way less crying and getting a goodnight sleep helped us all. And he's super chill. So score one for Babywise.

And so what I realized was this. You need both. Well, you may not, but I do.

I have met downright militant people on both sides of this issue. But what if (as it is the case with many things) there isn't a right or wrong? What if the answer is more gray? What if both sides have merit and there are different things that work for different people?

I read this yesterday during my Bible study-- Ecclesiastes 7: 17-19
***
Do not be overwicked, and do not be a fool— why die before your time? It is good to grasp the one and not let go of the other. Whoever fears God will avoid all extremes.

Wisdom makes one wise person more powerful
than ten rulers in a city.

***

I am not saying that in this case I think one side of the issue is wicked and the other is foolish. I think that the heart of what I am saying is that avoiding extremes might also be called wisdom. I think it's fine to take an extreme approach in your own family if that's what you prefer and what works for your kids. But just because it works for you doesn't mean it works for everyone. Everyone gives and receives love differently.

And I think that you may find that developing charity in your thinking towards others makes your case for the extreme side you stand on seem to have more credibility.

Because yeah, very few people like being around militant people.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

"TiLiiT"

This is just a general announcement to say that yes, I realize it's Tuesday and I have a new weekly feature. But here I am, the second week, slacking. Actually, not slacking. Doing actual work. (gasp!) So, there will be no Tell it Like it is Tuesday today.

Because that's how I roll.

In the meantime, enjoy this easy and cheap (and fairly healthy other than the sodium) for Six Can Chicken Tortilla Soup...

I made a modified version in Haiti with what we could find here. Turned out fantastic. (My only additions would be sauteing some onions/garlic in olive oil before starting, and adding some of your favorite herbs/spices so it's not so bland.)

How about you? Do you have any favorite easy recipes that you like to make?

I need some new ideas.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Rara season

It's Rara season in Haiti. Each evening is filled with the sounds of the parading dancers/revelers/musicians that walk for miles together, stopping at significant spiritual places to offer songs and voudou sacrifices. It's a party, a ceremony.

I am just now learning more about what Rara is all about. When I first moved here I was somewhat scared of Raras (although I pretended not to be.) Now that I understand them better, it's just another part of life here.

Here's a website that has a short overview and 15 minute video on Rara -- http://rara.wesleyan.edu/introduction/intro.php

And here's a website that has a (free) online book about Rara that I am reading right now-- Rara!: Voudou, Power, and Performance in Haiti and it's Diaspora. You can also download it on Kindle (not for free) which I did because I love reading/highlighting in the Kindle format.

I know that a lot of Christians are really weirded out by voudou and feel like doing anything other than denouncing voudou is wrong. Here's the thing-- I am a little weirded out by voudou too. I don't practice voudou. I don't attend voudou ceremonies. But I believe voudou exists and that it's a real thing. I just don't believe it's right.

That being said, I am interested in learning the basics of the the dominant religion and culture in this place I now call my home. I feel like it's socially irresponsible not to. And if for no other reason, try to figure out why this very "holy" time of year for voudou, coincides with this most holy time of year from my world view. In reading more it seems that there's an undeniable presence of spirits and spiritual things during this season. To surround myself with information and truth helps the process of figuring out how to love people around me well with a fuller picture of the reality we walk in.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

School of Beauty for all the Women of the World (SBWW)

So just in case you're a woman in the world and you're looking for a place to go to beauty school, I have found just the place--


There's a part of me that really actually (seriously) wants to go and learn Haitian cosmetology. But I am sure (even though I am a woman of the world) my slow, clumsy hands don't have the patience for micro-braids and extensions.

Friday, April 8, 2011

so, I am an idiot

When I had the great idea to make a Kreyol audio Bible a Google search would have been a good idea.

Apparently, I am not the first one with the idea.

http://www.faithcomesbyhearing.com/

Thanks Rick Smith for the link. Listening now.

Now I don't have to feel weird asking my staff to read to me. (Now, to decide on the drama or non-drama version... I think Haiti has enough drama so I am going to go with the non-drama version.)

my selfish idea

So I have a great idea. Well, I don't know if it's a great idea but it's an idea.

I just ordered this sound recorder for Nick for Father's Day. Don't worry, I didn't ruin the surprise-- I told him ahead of time because I wanted to know if he wanted that or a new phone more... Just like I told me I got me a new Ipod for Mother's Day. Here, gift-giving occasions are not confined to certain days of the year. It's just whenever you have someone coming down and then you find an excuse to spend money because you're feeling grumpy and old. I had a friend in college who was a Jehovah's witness. Since they didn't celebrate holidays, sometimes NEAR Christmas, she'd come home and her mom would have bought her a new present and wrapped it in non-holiday paper. But she was sure to mention it wasn't a Christmas present.

This is the opposite. It IS for a holiday--Father's Day--but it will come in April.

So, I don't exactly know what he wants to do with it, but he wants to do something. So I figured, if we're going to spend a few hundred dollars on something like that, I'd best find ways to get a little use out of it to.

So back to my idea. I want to record the Bible in Kreyol on MP3. I had that idea for 2 reasons. First, one of our staff members (Felecia, age 56) LOVES the Bible, but she doesn't know how to read. I was thinking it would be cool to record the Bible and then make her CDs (or better yet, get her an MP3 player with it loaded on there) so she can have a way to "read" the Bible. Now, you may wonder why I just don't teach her to read. That's a great question. We may someday do that. But it's not just her. Only somewhere around 50% of Haitians are literate. Wouldn't it be cool to have this as a free download (or more likely SET of downloads) for anyone who wanted it?

Now, I know what you're thinking. This is very PLSW of me. So I am sure you'll be relieved to know that it's NOT just my desire to "spread the gospel" that's birthed this idea. I assure you that there is something FAR more selfish behind this. Do you remember that story when King Saul would have these fits when evil spirits would seize him and he had David come play the harp for him to calm him down? For a long time I have been trying to figure out ways to relax. Deep breathing just makes me feel light-headed. Meditation is hard for me because of the constant distraction of NOISE here. Hot baths are not an option. But I've found that listening to someone read the Bible to me in Kreyol is extremely relaxing. It sounds crazy, but just the fact that it's in another language and my brain has to engage with the sounds to try to figure out the words distracts me from my racing thoughts. Plus I LOVE hearing the way some things are translated in the Kreyol bible.

So, I am not sure where this will end up. It might not ever happen. But it would be NEXT TO FREE to make this happen. Free if I can find Haitian people to read for me for free.

The thought of my selfish idea morphing into something like this is fun to think about. Cause you know, I am only living in Haiti for my reputation and all. ;)

on feeling deeply

There have been 2 children (so far) in Haiti that have wrecked me.

One was sweet baby Patricia and her death just over a year ago. As we carried her body through the muddy camp in the pouring rain I remember thinking I was in hell.

I went on to process that day for a long time. I wrote about her on my blog over and over and over again. Everyone got really tired of hearing about her I'm sure, but I didn't/don't care.

The second, is (of course), Marie-Marthe. Her story is recent enough that I don't have to include links back. I am sure her story is getting kind of old to you. But it isn't to me. In fact, I can't stop thinking about her. You know that feeling when you get a new car and then realize after the fact that everyone else around you has the same car and you just never noticed? That's kind of what it's like now... every time I listen to music I hear something that brings her face (or her scarred body) to my mind.

"I cannot seem to operate and you my love are gone."-- Ingrid Michaelson

"The screams of the young are both silent and painful to the ears that are closed, don't you recognize the silent screams?" --Absence of Ceramics

"I thought of you, and where you'd gone. And the world spins madly on." --Girlyman

"It makes us so angry though we feign to care. But who will be the scale to weigh the cross she has to bear. The girl with the weight of the world in her hands..." -- The Indigo Girls

But yeah, I am kind of wrecked.

It's funny how that happens. Not funny ha ha. Funny weird. It's weird that I can live here and be surrounded by situations like this all the time. Dying babies, kids getting beaten, starving kids, sick kids. Moms trying. And it sinks in at some level, but then, yeah-- BAM. For whatever reason sometimes these stories become really, really, really, really, REAL. And I do not know how to move on. And I wonder if this is God telling me something about where I need to be heading in my life. (I honestly don't know if that is the case, I am just trying to put some sort of meaning to these feelings.)

I have been bluesy for a couple of days now. Not wanting to get out of the bed. Thinking and crying. Not having energy. Feeling hopeless. Feeling like a huge failure. I know these are the classic symptoms of depression. Before you start calling everyone in to the rescue, know that this is something I've dealt with before. I am on meds, I just have hard times some times. Well last night I was talking about this to a Haitian person. Through tears, I told him that sometimes I just don't know where to put everything.

He said to me, "Gwenn, you know what your problem is? Your problem is that you don't understand life is like this. Sadness comes and knocks at everyone's door. You, however, invite it in. You say to sadness, "Come in, sit down, let's talk." And then once it's in, you have a really hard time telling it to leave."

This (of course) made me cry harder because I saw truth in it. I think I do get that life is like this. I just don't want it to be like this.

And I started thinking about the way that I am. I feel every emotion deeply. I feel happiness, and sadness, and fear, rejection, and excitement-- I just FEEL them. I can't explain why. This leads to me having a really satisfied life most of the time because yeah, I have great family, great friends, a beautiful home, everything I need. Life is good. Except when it isn't. And then as good as the good feelings are, the sad feelings are just as sad. Am I crazy or is this just the way everyone feels?

I mentioned a few months ago that I just stopped feeling. I wanted to cry but I couldn't. Now I feel like I am making a breakthrough and I can cry again but I can't stop.

Friends/therapists/Nick try to tell me to "be gentle with myself," or "be kind to myself" or "I need to take care of myself."

Here's my question... what does that look like?

Yeah, I can read the Bible. I can listen to happier songs, but HOW do I walk through a season of wintertime well?

This is not a figurative question.

This is a literal question.

When you've walked through hard times, what was it that "gotten you through?"

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Tell it Like it is Tuesday-- The Four Types of Missionaries

I wanted to start off Tell it Like it is Tuesdays with a basic description of the types of missionaries I see around me. I think this gives us a good base for moving forward with other topics. Living in Haiti (a very missionary-dense environment), I have had the chance to meet lots and lots of missionaries. And in my experience, they generally fit into one of four categories… at least loosely.

Disclaimer I feel like I have to include: This is based SOLELY on my experiences. This is (in every way) my opinion and not the opinion of any organization, my husband (can you tell he's really excited about my new Tuesday theme?), Haitians, Jacmelians, Americans, white people, other Christians, or any other missionary.

Also, this commentary is a work in progress. There are probably more than four categories. I just don't know yet, I will do an update if I discover any new trends.

Okay, with that done… Here we go!

***
Type One-- The Perpetual Long Skirt Wearers

Type One Missionaries, "The Perpetual Long Skirt Wearers (PLSW)" are the typical picture that comes to mind when you think of the word missionary.

Attire: Conservative. Proper. The women wear long skirts and the men wear either a dress shirt/tie everyday or (some of the newer ones) might branch out and wear khakis and a golf shirt.

Schooling: These missionaries usually went to Bible college and knew since they were very, very young that they were going to be missionaries.

Approach: The approach of Type One missionaries is generally salvation-based and is focused on getting as many people to pray the "sinner's prayer" as possible. They are very focused on the numbers-- and in their monthly (snail mail) newsletters, may include a regular column that lists the number of souls saved this month. "As the Deer Panteth for the Water" is the first song they translate into the language of their host culture.

Lifestyle: PLSWs lead very conservative and upright lifestyles. They never drink beer. They shudder at the thought of tattoos. It is entirely possible that they've never said a curse word in their lives. They marry people with the same set of values. They have many children, who are all given Bible names, who they also homeschool. Their kids play the violin or the piano and dress similarly to their parents (and generally help lead in the singing/accompaniment of the aforementioned song, "As the Deer Panteth for the Water.") Their daughters all have long hair and their sons all have shaved heads. Their prayer cards feature a "casual family shot" of the males in their khakis and a white dress shirt, and the women in denim jumpers and french-braided hair. Their friends are usually other Perpetual Long Skirt Wearers.

Attitude towards locals: This group has a lot of respect for the locals in their community. They will wholeheartedly learn the language, however, they generally don't personally become friends with natives. Their kids will probably learn the language too, but mostly this is in order to talk to other adults at church functions. The kids aren't friends with national kids.

Pros: This group generally leads lives of inner-holiness. PLSW's are faithful in prayer and reading of the Bible. In their hearts, they really do have a passion for the souls of other people.

Cons: One of the drawbacks I see in this group is the tendency to be unaware of the physical needs of the people to whom they are ministering. They go into a place preaching the good news in a place that has little good news and, therefore, can lack credibility.

***
Type Two-- The Bleeding Hearts

Type Two missionaries, "The Bleeding Hearts (BH)" are a newer breed of missionary that seems to be growing in popularity. They are a group driven by a passion for social justice.

Attire: BH attire generally falls into one of two distinct categories-- super trendy or messy. The super trendy Type Twos might be wearing Toms shoes (except not today because today is the shoe-free day), funky glasses and possibly a "vibey" hat. (Sorry Troy Livesay, had to steal your word.) The messy Type Twos wear tattered, sometimes dirty clothes and don't care at all if you think it's gross. They also may be barefoot for a large portion of their lives.

Schooling: Bleeding Hearts usually are educated, but not often in a ministry-related area. They are likely to be former professionals for whom being a missionary is a second (or third, or fourth...) career after they had an "awakening" about the plight of the poor.

Approach: This type of missionary is very works driven. While they love Jesus, they can be more focused on being his hands and feet than they are focused on being his mouth. They feel that caring for the needy IS the gospel and are quick to quote the first part of James 1:27, but can be slow to quote the second part.

Lifestyle: Types Twos are somewhat liberal in their lifestyle. They may be beer drinkers, but even if they aren't, are generally fine with other people drinking beer. Same deal for tattoos-- may or may not have them but are cool either way with other people having them. Ditto again for piercings. They may have "creative" facial hair (for the men) and edgy hip haircuts and color (for the women-- or sometimes the men too). Nearly without exception, every Type Two family owns an acoustic guitar and a DSLR camera. They may or may not have a prayer card, but they do have a blog, twitter, & Facebook. Their friends are usually other Bleeding Hearts.

Attitude towards locals: Like PLSWs, BHs generally develop respect for the people they are working with. However, unlike PLSWs, BHs will also have good friends who are nationals. Their kids play with national kids in the neighborhood and possibly attend national schools and, therefore, quickly surpass their parents' language skills.

Pros: This group really does try to understand and apply their work to the culture of the people they are living amongst. They are generous in meeting the physical needs of others. In their hearts, they really do have a passion for the souls of other people.

Cons: Because this group is so works based and culturally-relevant, they may shy away from sharing verbally about their faith, missing out on some great opportunities to see truly holistic life change. Sometimes it is hard to distinguish the lives of these missionaries from the lives of secular humanitarians.

***
Type Three-- The Social Outcasts

Type Three, "The Social Outcasts (SO)" are an aggressive group of people who usually come to the mission field because of an inability to thrive in their home culture.

Attire: Runs the gamut. Could be super metro-sexual or could be total white trash.

Schooling: This group of missionaries is usually not educated past high school.

Approach: Social Outcasts are very manic in their approach. They usually lack the focus of doing one (or a few) things well and run down a lot of rabbit holes depending on what's popular (or currently being funded), claiming that as their passion. Their fast and loose personality fits in many third world environments, where the lack of concrete laws or rules help support their lack of desire to respect authority. They generally do not have good things to say about other missionaries or organizations around them, because it feels like a competition to them.

Lifestyle: This group doesn't necessarily look similar physically, as is the case with the two previous groups. The thing that defines this group is their history of failure in relationship, reputation, or vocation and their desire to re-create themselves. These people can generally not hold a job very long, are financially irresponsible, and when they do fail, are conspiracy theorists about how it's not their fault and people are against them. They leave a trail of people and hearts in their wake. It's rarely a surprise to people who know these individuals when they repeatedly experience social, occupational, organizational, moral, or legal failure. They aren't friends with anyone very long, but when they do have friends, it is usually with other Social Outcasts.

Attitude towards locals: SO's generally learn the language quickly. Often they will get close to nationals but not really understand the dynamics of those relationships leading to them using nationals to try to advance themselves, or being used by nationals for the same purpose.

Pros: A lot of times, Type Threes have a big burst of energy when starting a project and so they may be able to get things done. If they humble themselves and can learn boundaries, their testimony can help them become great leaders of people.

Cons: Social Outcasts do not become missionaries because they care about the souls or conditions of other people. They care about themselves and use the title missionary because it gives instant credibility to trick people into paying their way. Social Outcasts do not last forever on the mission field UNLESS they learn how to change the things that caused them to be social outcasts in the first place.

***
Type Four-- Long Termers

Type Four-- "Long Termers (LT)" are a mix of the first two (and sometimes an evolved version of the third) groups of people. They cannot be defined in many of the same ways as the other three groups, but instead are defined by the tenacity, courage, and mental outlook that allows them to remain on the mission field for many years.

Attire: There is no defining link in the clothing choices of Long Termers except that it is generally some variation of the original group (PLSWs, BHs, or SOs) that they originally arrived in their host culture with.

Schooling: Ditto. Same as the clothes.

Approach: Ditto again. Their approaches may vary, but (predictably) the sheer amount of time that they've been on the field makes their projects grow some roots in the community as they learn how to get things done.

Lifestyle: This is where the lives of LTs get interesting. LTs *might* hold to the lifestyle choices of their original group. But they might not. Long Termers are generally pretty chilled out. The things that got their panties all up in a bunch when they started on the mission field may not bother them as much anymore.

Attitude towards locals: Long Termers learn how to function well in their community from a language and culture standpoint BUT they seem, more or less, to hold to the same attitude towards locals that "their group" has. Additionally, their longevity leads to good political and social connections and are quite an asset to the first three groups in their earlier years on the field.

Pros: Type Fours generally know how to get along well with other people and rise above the drama that is oh-so-prevalent in missionary lives. They've figured out how to balance living sustainably in their host culture. In their hearts, they really do have a passion for the souls of other people.

Cons: Because of the depth of the need they witness on a daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly basis, these missionaries' hearts may become callous and un-compassionate to the people around them. They can become "dream squashers" because they get a pretty fixed mindset on what can and cannot be done. They also might lose the ability to mesh with their home culture.

***
So-- there it is. My observations based on the kinds of people I see around me. They are completely general and there is crossover between groups. I really do think the majority of missionaries I know are really great people. I love their hearts. I love their passion (regardless of their "type.") We differ in strategies but yeah, that's a GREAT thing because there are a lot of different kind of people in the world and so certain ideas and preferences are going to mesh with certain kinds of people.

So, what do you think?

What am I missing?
Are there other types of missionaries?
Am I missing any descriptive categories?
Am I way off?
I'd love your feedback.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Marie-Marthe-- closing the loop

So, the last I reported, Marie-Marthe was back in the hands of her abuser.

Literally was IN THE HANDS of Fifi (her abuser) before we left the courthouse.

This. made. me. livid.

It made Nick more livid. He lost his top a little. But not in a bad way. He went out into the road and screamed and pleaded with the parents not to do this. As they got on motos with Fifi and Marie-Marthe, he ran down the street chasing them begging them not to do what they were doing. He held up the pictures we'd shown in court. And he ran after her screaming and begging and calling Fifi out for what she had done.

Now this doesn't sound like the actions of someone who is all-together sane. But I honestly don't know that there has been a moment in our marriage when I was prouder of him. Nick will admit this was the first time in his life (or at least in a REALLY long time) that he's been moved to emotion like this about something that mattered.

I am sure this will come as a shock to you, but Nick and I occasionally disagree about things. And this might also come as a shock to you but-- I can be, hem, spirited when I am mad. Another way to say it is that sometimes I am mean. Still others might say that I can be as mean as a rattlesnake when I am angry. And that tendency in me sometimes brings out the worst in Nick's emotions. And when we went through a huge betrayal last year, Nick's emotions got the better of him at times. But it's never been like this before. It's never been out of compassion like in was in this case. (Don't take this as me cutting the legs out from under Nick, he'd agree with me.)

When we first got Marie-Marthe, Nick warned me not to get to attached to her. (Yeah, like I'd do THAT! :) He reminded me that she was most likely temporary in our home and that we didn't have any rights to her for more than a few days. And so, as if to prove it to Nick that I could do what he was asking, I did. I kept her at an arm's length. I comforted her when she cried, but I also was REALLY careful to try not to absorb (or even think about) her situation.

Then the evening before we went to court I called Nick on the phone as I was heading home from my Bible study and he was a wreck. I asked him what was wrong and he said, "Gwenn, this is a little girl. She's just a little girl and we had better damn-well fight our hardest to make sure she stays safe." (Sorry for the swear word-- I think it doesn't count if it's in a quote, right? )

And I said, "Nick, I get what you're saying, but remember what you told me. We probably won't have any option to keep her. We need to guard our hearts."

And Nick said, "No. Gwenn, she is just a little girl. She was crying on and off today and telling me and the little girls some of her story. And I was comforting her and as she was collapsed in a pile of tears in my arms and I really started looking at her. Her arms, her legs, her face. The are all covered in scars. Oh, Gwenn. She's just a little girl. This may be her only chance. We had better do everything we can to protect her."

I got home a few minutes later and I just sat with Nick while he processed the fact that finally, after two years he (in his own words) "grew a heart."

And then it didn't work out the way we'd hoped in court. We'd hoped her parents would feel the same righteous anger for what had been done to their daughter as we did. But that didn't happen. That morning we'd left the house really hoping that Marie-Marthe would have a happy reunion with her parents. But then when they showed up to court, they showed up with Fifi. And it went from this case where the parents had put out a summons to have Fifi deposed about what they'd done to their daughter, to them being on the same side as Fifi and fighting us to return Marie Marthe. We made it clear we had no intentions of trying to "steal" their daughter, she was merely brought to us and we felt compelled to try to help her.

The court case was a joke. We hardly got the chance to talk. Fifi had a lawyer. We didn't even know we needed a lawyer. The lawyer claimed we were just these blan (foreign) interlopers coming to Haiti to cause problems and that we should have our organization revoked and be deported. Now, let me be clear. We were never in danger of that happening. The judge agreed that we have a right to be here and involved in the situation. He agreed that what had been done to Marie-Marthe was wrong.

It was so hard to be there while Marie-Marthe was there sitting right beside us. Everyone was talking about her as if she wasn't sitting right there. And nearly the whole time we were there, Marie-Marthe had her head buried with her eyes shut super-tight and she was plugging her ears so she didn't have to hear what was happening.

So then came this time where he made Marie-Marthe stand up and I thought he was going to ask her to tell her side of what had happened. But he didn't. He just told her to walk to her parents. He told us he was signing an order putting her back in the hands of her parents and signing another order saying we were within our rights to have her for the time we did and not liable for anything that might happen in the future.

And then, just like that, it was over.

I was kind of stunned. Tears sprung to my eyes and I respectfully asked to judge what was going to be done about Fifi. She'd abused this child repeatedly for the past 3 years. He said, "Don't worry, you're not liable for this." And I told him that I wasn't concerned about our liability but I was worried about Marie-Marthe. I was afraid if she stayed with the parents she was going to end back up in the hands of this woman who'd abused her. He basically said, "Yeah, it's the parents' choice. They can do what they want to do with her. You don't have any claim to her."

And then he stood up and walked away. And Marie-Marthe and her mom and dad and Fifi all weaved their way through the crowd. (Cause this is Haiti so people come down to the courthouse to listen to cases as entertainment.) And then when I realized it was over, I started crying. And Nick started getting upset. And I said, "Nick, follow her. We can't let her end back up in Fifi's hands." And Nick weaved his way through the crowd after them while I slipped out the side door to get some air (because I really felt like I was going to be sick.)

And now we've come full circle in the story. Nick begs the parents to (as I mentioned) to no avail. They all leave together. Nick walks back into the courtroom and finds the judge and tells him that Fifi was holding Marie-Marthe by the arms before they left and then they all left together. The judge was kind of taken aback, but kind of not surprised all at the same time.

Nick saw that I was breaking and he put me in the truck and we rode home and I just lost it. I was crying and screaming and yelling and snotting everywhere. And I was punching the door and banging my head against the window. My heart ached. The only other time I remember feeling grief emotions this strong was the night we learned that Josiah was going to need heart surgery. And because of a mis-communication between us and the doctors, Nick and I both thought they were saying he was going to die. That was resolved after about an hour or so, but that was one of the worst hours of my life. My heart felt as if it couldn't stand emotions so strong.

Later on that day, I got a call from a friend (the same one who'd brought this situation to our attention) that one of her friends is family with Fifi and she'd gone over to her house and Marie-Marthe was there. We knew that had probably happened, but now we had confirmation.

The next day I laid in bed all day. I didn't feel anything except ache. The day after, I decided I had to see Marie-Marthe again. I had put together a backpack of stuff before we went to court-- clothes and toys and hygiene products but then they left so fast she never got it. So I reasoned that I could stop by Fifi's house and ask to see Marie-Marthe so I could give her the backpack.

I drove up. Her gate was open. I went into the yard. There were a bunch of kids there. I didn't see Marie-Marthe, but in just a minute Fifi came out of the house and asked me what I was doing there. (Fair question.) I told her I had some stuff for Marie-Marthe that she'd left in the car and I wanted to give it to her. Now, I reasoned this was okay because --a. I was in denial. And -- b. The mom DID tell me (early on in the process) that I could visit her after the fact.

Fifi said Marie-Marthe wasn't there and told me I could go. She wasn't real mean about it, just kind of matter of fact. I tried to ask more questions about her location but it she wasn't interested in talking.

So I left.

The next day I spent nearly the whole day in bed again. (I am not claiming that was an emotionally stable thing to do, but honestly, my nerves are somewhat shot these days and I just didn't know what else to do.)

And then the day after, (or was it the day after that?) I went to back Fifi's house with the bag of stuff. This time, the neighbor (who shares a yard with Fifi) saw me coming and slammed the door in my face. Reasoning that I wasn't there to see her, but someone else who shared that gate, I knocked. And she told me to go away. And I knocked some more and I said that I had some stuff I wanted to give to Marie-Marthe. And she came out and yelled at me and told me to keep the stuff and to go away and never come back. Fifi came out at this point and she was angry too. She said Marie-Marthe wasn't there anymore and that I needed to leave. I realized there was nothing I could do-- no way I could know if Marie-Marthe was really there or not. And I also realized that I had two angry women in front of me and at least one of them is mean enough to abuse a kid. Wisdom started to overshadow denial at this point. And so I walked back to the car.

After we left I asked Hugues call to Marie Marthe's sister to find out if she knew where Marie-Marthe was. (We'd kind of made friends with her during the process.) She claimed that the parents had taken her away somewhere far. I was hopeful that was the case, but I didn't really believe it.

Later in the day, Hugues was in the market and ran into Marie-Marthe's mother (she's a water vendor.) He asked where Marie-Marthe was and she said that the father had taken her away somewhere far away. So I called my friend who lives near Marie-Marthe to ask if she had any information. She asked around and found out that Fifi had been doing a lot of the chores Marie-Marthe had been doing-- cleaning and shopping. She also said that no one had seen Marie-Marthe in about 2 days.

So. We don't really know what happened, but it APPEARS that Marie-Marthe is no longer with Fifi. That's what we're hoping anyway. We just don't know.

We all still really miss Marie-Marthe. I've been praying for her regularly.

I really hope it's working out well. But I get it. I know how these things usually work.

And if I am going to be honest, the thought that keeps haunting me is this-- with the amount of abuse she'd sustained, we were extremely surprised to find out (based on her words and a physical examination by a healthcare professional) that it appeared she hadn't ever been sexually violated. SO MANY girls/young women here are sexually abused. In my opinion, it's one of the biggest social problems facing girls/women in Haiti. And that was this one little tiny thing I kept clinging to in my spirit-- at least she hasn't been raped. This tiny little sliver of wholeness and dignity that she was permitted to keep.

And now... who knows? And I about can't breathe every time I think about it too much.

One thing Nick said to me during this was, "I don't want Marie-Marthe to be that story in our heads-- you know what I mean, the story we have about how our eyes got open to the plight of restavek children." But sadly, that's happened.

I love/hate this picture of Nick with Marie-Marthe. We were just about to leave for court and we were saying our goodbyes. In this picture it's so clear in Nick's face that he knew. He knew. He was hopeful-- we were both hopeful, but he knew what was about to happen.



I know that I am not God. I know I cannot control what happens to Marie-Marthe. I know I am probably never going to see her again. And I know that some would claim that this is "not my problem" (like the judge said, and like the emails that I know I will receive from readers who think I am misguided in my intentions to work towards solutions in a place like Haiti.)

But I guess my question is this, if I think Jesus is pretty serious about people who cause children harm (see Luke 17:1-2) and I claim to be a follower of Jesus-- WHY isn't this my problem?

And honestly, if you claim to be a follower of Jesus, why isn't this your problem?

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Announcement and new feature coming next week!

Well howdy blog readers--

Part A-- Announcement.

I would love to encourage people who don't like my blog, think it's "ridiculous" or "full of lies" to be freed of the burden of reading it. There is an UNSUBSCRIBE button on the blog. If you'd no longer like to receive this blog via feed, click that button. Also, if you'd like to not see it on the world wide web, please no longer type the address www.mangine.org into your browser, because that will bring you here and then my blog will show up on your screen. Finally, you are ALWAYS more than free to "defriend" me on facebook since my blog imports there. I'd really hate for you to be burdened any longer by my thoughts.

Part B: New feature coming April 5th--"Tell it like it is Tuesdays"
I used to have a feature called "Hot Topic Tuesday." It was about the mommy wars we mommies fight... This was back in my pre-Haiti days and at times, it caused quite the stir. In fact, my most-ever read blog post (I recently learned) was on the topic of "Off Label Use of Benadryl" .

I did one on vaccinations, expectant mother parking for adoptive parents, circumcision, spanking, the great schooling debate... and a few other less controversial topics like "What is your favorite Hershey's miniature?", and the ethics of caffeine pills.

After time, I didn't like the way it stirred up arguments in my spirit, and it was consuming way too much of my Tuesday. I felt like keeping it going was just not best and so one day, I quit.

Here, two years later, I have no problem telling you what the controversial topic was (now that there's been some time passed.) It was disrupted adoption. As I was making the decision to quit, there was a family that had adopted from an orphanage here in Haiti who adopted two kids and when they got home, found out one had Hep C and decided they weren't going to keep the child. So they got rid of the kid. There was also a family who went through the entire process of adopting a kid from Haiti (a process that is YEARS long) and then went to pick her up and decided once they got there, that they didn't like her and that she wasn't "grateful" enough. So they left without her. The problem was, the adoption was already final in Haiti and they weren't willing to sign abandonment papers, so there was another long process to get abandonment papers processed so that she could even be PUT BACK ON THE LIST for a new home. She was adopted again after a few years and is now in her new home.

So, yeah, I know parenting is tough. I am not saying that it's never okay to have to have your children live somewhere else if they are a threat to other family members. But sorry, it's NOT okay to say you're going to be the "forever family" of a child who already has abandonment issues and then tell them "Just kidding. Your RAD is too much for me to handle. So I am not your mom/dad anymore. Someone else can deal with this."

I have kids with RAD. They exhibit severe symptoms at times. And I hope and pray that there is never a situation where we have to find alternative placement for them until (if such a time arrives) that they can be reunited with us. But I don't care if we do, because they will never stop being my kids.

I have some friends who have had a really, really hard situation with their daughter who has RAD. They had to make the choice to put her in a treatment program where she is separated from them for a long period of time. But they are (very occasionally) allowed to visit her. They ache for her to return. They ache for her healing. We ache along with them. But they are committed to her no matter what. I am so thankful for their example in my life. I am also thankful for the professionals/therapists/counselors who continue to help us deal with these hard situations so we can make informed decisions and move forward with our eyes wide open.

Whew! I have been holding that one in for TWO years!

Okay, now I feel like I can move on.

So-- "Tell it Like it is Tuesdays" will be a new feature where I am completely honest and unfiltered about what living as a missionary in Haiti is like FOR US. I will discuss such topics as "The Safety of Living in a Country Without Due Process", my "masterpiece" on "The 4 types of Missionaries", "Why unpopular/overweight/middle-age American girls/women like living in Haiti", "Why Short-term Teams Always Leave an Impression", "Becoming Sarcastic and Callous about Abject Poverty", "What it Feels Like to be Sexually Harassed Every Single Day", and other topics that are yet to be decided.

Now, the purpose of this is not to stir up controversy. The purpose of this is to take an honest look at some of the things I HADN'T FULLY CONSIDERED before coming to live here. I have A LOT of people who follow this blog because they have a vested-interest in Haiti. I know at least a dozen families who read this blog who are considering moving here. I know at least 50 families who read this blog that have adopted a Haitian kid and are trying to figure out what that means. I am IN NO WAY an authority on Haiti. But I have lived here for nearly 2 years now (our 2 year anniversary is this month-- the 26th). These will be based on OUR observations of living here. I will open comments but close them if they get too ugly.

I am so excited... now to decide which topic to post first... Any suggestions?

PS- If you made it to Part B, if after reading the links above you decide you don't like me anymore, feel free to follow the instructions printed in Part A.

:)

Friday, April 1, 2011

Jesus loves me this I know.

I love to take my kids (individually) out on dates. Sometimes it might be to go get a soda, sometimes we just hit the beach by ourselves and, sometimes, even though I couch it as a "date", it's just an errand I need to run. Sometimes I let just that one child secretly pick a new toy out of the donated toys bin or the donated treat bin. :) Why wouldn't I do that every now and then? We have generous people who bless us, it doesn't cost us anything to do, and it makes them feel great. Every child loves individual attention and I would venture to say that when you have a big family, individual time becomes even more special. I LOVE this part of being a mom. I think I enjoy giving them these good things even more than they enjoy it.

I have been trying to be more intentional about the presence of God lately. I have been trying to spend more quantity AND quality on our relationship. And in doing so, I've seen really concrete ways that he's trying to give me individual blessings.

Here's an example. (Some of you might think what I am about to say is stupid, but I seriously cannot tell you how much this meant to me.) The past two times I've been in the states, I've visited the crocs store a total of 4 times. I saw these black peep toe platform crocs that were kind of like dress shoes. As I age, (and as I live longer in Haiti) I realize more and more the importance of wearing supportive shoes. I thought these shoes be perfect for date night. They were so wicked comfortable and kind of fun and flirty. But I couldn't bring myself to spend the $50 on them. Because yeah, I had just bought a pair of Chaco flip flops, and really, that blew my footwear budget, so they would do.

Well, we have this team in now. They are really cool. And I noticed on the third day that one of the women was wearing the very crocs I've been trying on. I wanted to ask her how she liked them, how they were working for her in Haiti, etc. but I didn't. See, as a missionary and someone who helps lead teams, I try to be very careful because people come here and they are all moved by what they see, and if they hear one of us say something like this, they are likely to give you the shoes off their feet or the clothes off their back. That is really sweet and humbling BUT, I don't want to be THAT missionary that guilts everyone into giving away all their stuff, especially when they really didn't want to give it away. (Believe me, teams have enough of that to deal with at the jobsites.) So to that end, I try to over-compensate and make sure teams realize they are not obligated to leave ANYTHING behind. So I never said anything to this woman.

Well, last night I did a bit of debriefing with the team and then headed back home because Josiah had school this morning and I had to get him to bed. Nick stayed later and helped them get all wrapped up. He also brought home some stuff that they donated.

I know you know where this is going, but check out what was at the top of the first bag I looked at---
And guess what size they were? They were size eight.

And guess what size I wear? Eight.

Here, sitting in my living room was the very shoes I'd been thinking about buying. Four times.

This is an excerpt from Psalm 103--
1 Praise the LORD, my soul;
all my inmost being, praise his holy name.
2 Praise the LORD, my soul,
and forget not all his benefits—
3 who forgives all your sins
and heals all your diseases,
4 who redeems your life from the pit
and crowns you with love and compassion,
5 who satisfies your desires with good things
so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.

Again, I realize to some, this assertion seems ludicrous. The idea that the God who created the universe would care about something as trivial as size 8 black crocs platform peep toes. I can't explain why he does except to say that he's the ultimate good parent. And if I, as as a marginal (at best) parent, totally delight in giving my kids individual time and treats and attention, why would I think that God doesn't to do the same for me? Dude, it's all his. Everything on this earth is his donated toy/treat box.

Sigh. It' feels good those days I realize God really does love me.

And PS-- Tonight is date night! Rawr... ;)