Monday, September 26, 2011

the two kinds of overwhelmed.

Lately I have been taking a look at my life and all the "duties" I have to complete and I have been feeling overwhelmed. I have been thinking about parenting all these kids and it makes me feel overwhelmed. I think about the struggles I'm having relationally with a specific child of mine, struggles I've been having in my marriage, and the struggles I'm having to just stay ahead of the mountain of work-- sorting school supplies, organizing uniforms, remembering to document money spent, taking kids to doctor appointments, car repairs, staffing issues, keeping up with communications (like email/blog posts, etc), and I have been overwhelmed.

Our house is so disorganized. Our lives feel disorganized. And I feel so overwhelmed.

So this morning when I woke up at about 2AM and I couldn't sleep because my mind was reeling with all these to-dos, I laid there for a while stewing and thinking... trying to pray. But all I could think about was how I was so overwhelmed. And I felt a stirring in my soul to be connected to God in his Word. But I didn't know what to read. I have not been doing a good job lately of being disciplined about reading the Bible (which is probably directly related to my feelings of overwhelm... but that's a topic for another day.)

I sat down with my Bible and my computer before me and I went to Biblegateway.com and searched on the term "overwhelmed." I got 19 hits back. And it was interesting reading through the list of them because there were definitely two kinds of overwhelmed. The bad kind and the good kind.

The bad kind of overwhelmed has to do with guilt and sin and death and shame and fear. Our sin overwhelms us. Our shame/guilt overwhelms us. The psalmist speaks of fear that overwhelms us. Jesus says in the garden about how "his soul was overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death."

But then there's the good kind of overwhelmed too. These (largely) were related to experiences people had when they encountered Jesus and saw an exhibition of his power. I thought back to times when I've been overwhelmed in the good way and they were pretty much all times when I'd experienced the family of Christ reaching out to us and being a demonstration of Jesus' power. Like the time when Josiah was in the hospital for heart surgery and my family and church family rallied around us with money and childcare and food and help of all kinds. When we were getting ready to move down here and our family and church family rallied around us to help us with all kinds of support-- getting our house redone to get it on the market, helping us move, watching our kids while we were out trying to raise support, supporting us financially. All of these outpourings of love inspired by the love of Christ. As I remembered these things, I remembered that I knew the feeling of being the good kind of overwhelmed.

And as I went through the list of passages on my screen, this verse popped out at me:

As soon as all the people saw Jesus, they were overwhelmed with wonder and ran to greet him. --Mark 9:15

I clicked on to read that verse in context and found this story. It's 15 verses long-- I implore you to read the whole thing.
Jesus Heals a Boy Possessed by an Impure Spirit
14 When they came to the other disciples, they saw a large crowd around them and the teachers of the law arguing with them. 15 As soon as all the people saw Jesus, they were overwhelmed with wonder and ran to greet him.

16 “What are you arguing with them about?” he asked.

17 A man in the crowd answered, “Teacher, I brought you my son, who is possessed by a spirit that has robbed him of speech. 18 Whenever it seizes him, it throws him to the ground. He foams at the mouth, gnashes his teeth and becomes rigid. I asked your disciples to drive out the spirit, but they could not.”

19 “You unbelieving generation,” Jesus replied, “how long shall I stay with you? How long shall I put up with you? Bring the boy to me.”

20 So they brought him. When the spirit saw Jesus, it immediately threw the boy into a convulsion. He fell to the ground and rolled around, foaming at the mouth.

21 Jesus asked the boy’s father, “How long has he been like this?”

“From childhood,” he answered. 22 “It has often thrown him into fire or water to kill him. But if you can do anything, take pity on us and help us.”

23 “‘If you can’?” said Jesus. “Everything is possible for one who believes.”

24 Immediately the boy’s father exclaimed, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!”

25 When Jesus saw that a crowd was running to the scene, he rebuked the impure spirit. “You deaf and mute spirit,” he said, “I command you, come out of him and never enter him again.”

26 The spirit shrieked, convulsed him violently and came out. The boy looked so much like a corpse that many said, “He’s dead.” 27 But Jesus took him by the hand and lifted him to his feet, and he stood up.

28 After Jesus had gone indoors, his disciples asked him privately, “Why couldn’t we drive it out?”

29 He replied, “This kind can come out only by prayer.”

***

Now, there's A LOT in that story that I love. This story has had an impact on my life in many different ways over the years and I could write for a long time about a lot of different aspects of this story. But here's the two specific things that stuck out to me today.

First, the verse I mentioned earlier. There was a bit of a disagreement going on that had drawn a crowd and then Jesus comes on the scene. It says that when the people saw Jesus, they were overwhelmed with wonder. They are in this place of argument and then Jesus walks in and it stops. Instead of continuing to argue, they stopped what they were doing and ran to greet him. Is that our attitude about Jesus? When we encounter Jesus, do we just stop what we're doing and run to greet him? Do we desire to make him feel welcome amongst us? That stepped on my toes a bit because I am guilty of not engaging in the wonder of Jesus. (Especially if I am in an argument. ;)

But the second thing that stuck out to me was the actual story. This is the story of a parent who has a sick child. And I find it interesting because the child exhibited physical symptoms--namely violent seizures--but it becomes very clear by the end of the story that his is a spiritual illness. And it seems that the father in this story had tried different things to try to help his son and nothing worked. He'd asked the disciples to cast out the spirit-- but they could not.

Jesus has the boy brought to him and heals him. Later when the disciples ask why Jesus could cast out the demon but they (the disciples) could not Jesus says, "This kind can come out only by prayer."

Hmmm. From the very beginning of the passage where it was titled (admittedly by the person who translated the NIV version-- not God) "Jesus Heals a Boy Possessed By an Impure Spirit," my mind raced to my son, Yves. I've danced around the issue a lot but never specifically mentioned his name. It is Yves that is causing us a lot of heartache lately. He's a boy who is very ill. Whether his illness is mental, physical, spiritual, emotional-- I don't know. But he needs help. And we've been trying everything we know how to do-- we've been working with a psychologist, we've hired more staff to shadow him 24/7, we've tried so many different things-- and we will continue to try different things. But so far, nothing has worked and we (Nick and I) are SO TIRED from all this striving. You could say we are overwhelmed.

We are currently looking for another rental property that can be a location to house him separate from our house. We are also looking for a trade school/apprenticeship for him as we've been advised that he should not be around young children and so he cannot return to school. (Side note: I am NOT saying that Yves will no longer be a part of our family or that we are giving up on him-- that is far from the truth. I will never give up on Yves. We are just needing more separation, at least for a period of time, for the safety of all involved.)

But back to the story at hand-- what stuck out to me was that from what was described in this passage, it would seem that this was purely a physical ailment. Epilepsy comes to mind. But by the end of the passage when Jesus rebukes the spirit that was controlling this boy, it becomes clear that it was a spiritual sickness. And it could only come out by prayer.

I have been guilty of not praying enough for Yves. In fact, the ugly truth is that when it comes to this situation, I have prayed more for ME than I have for him. I have prayed for the strength to love him. I have prayed for the patience to deal with his issues. I have prayed for the safety and protection of those around him. But I am guilty of doing little praying FOR him. I've looked at this situation as purely an emotional stronghold (ie RAD) as a result of being orphaned at a young age, and being abused when he lived on the street. It didn't really cross my mind (well, not for long anyway) that this could be a spiritual stronghold. I've done much striving without leaning on the source of strength with the most power for healing-- Jesus.

So-- here's the ask...
Would you PLEASE join me in praying for Yves? Would you write him down on your calendar in specific intervals for the next month (daily, every other day, weekly-- whatever works for you)? Would you pray that whatever the cause of this harmful stronghold, that he would encounter JESUS' healing? Would you pray for a renewed mind? Would you pray for freedom from the memories that haunt him? Would you pray for freedom from the baggage of the past? Would you consider doing this together with your spouse or your family?

There is so much of me that doubts. There is so much of me that is filled with unbelief. I know what the statistics say about kids who've been abused/abandoned like Yves has. I know what his therapist/IBESR (Haitian Social Services) are telling me about him and situations like his. But deep down in my soul, I believe that Jesus is stronger. (It's REALLY deep down right now.) So please, join with me in praying for Yves, because maybe this kind can come out only by prayer.

Thank you, friends.

PS-- If you do pray for Yves and you have an extra minute, will you drop me an email to let me know you're praying? (gwenn@joyinhope.org) It doesn't need to be elaborate. Just include your name and that you're praying for Yves. I want to verbally agree with each one of your prayers.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

reason 9,875 to not play with matches.



So Nick, Andrew Brown and I were at the beach playing Yahtzee. (Which incidentally, Andrew will claim he was the winner even though EACH of the three of us won two games-- so go figure. I don't want to be down on the guy-- I mean I am sure cheatface is a sin habit that is not easy to recover from.)

Anyway. We were at the beach. We had just taken a break from playing and had ordered lunch... Tassot (beef) for me (even though I received grillot-- pork). Lambi (conch) for Nick, and pwason (fish) for Andrew. While we were waiting on the food, Nick decided to do some snorkeling out by the reefs and my phone rang. It was the frantic voice of our cook Magalie, "Gwenn ou bezwen vini-- kay'w pran dife!" (Gwenn, you need to come here, your house is on fire!) Right then the connection cut out (her phone card ran out) and I (equally as frantically) tried to call back. And when I couldn't get her, I tried Hugues, and Rodler, and Felecia, and St. Cia since they all were at my house. (Or at least I thought they were.) I also called Mikey in hopes he was close.

Andrew went out in the ocean to go fetch Nick and I finally got back through to Magalie... the fire, which she informed me was in my bed, was out.

Nick burned rubber getting back home and found this scene:




Long story short. Nico decided it would be fun to play with the matches he found in the backyard but he knew he'd get in trouble so he went upstairs and into our room as he knew we were out. After lighting the bed on fire he initially tried to pour a cup of water on it and was surprised to realize that didn't help. Nia heard the commotion and ran to get Wildarne. Wildarne came in and ran out to get Prisca. Prisca came in and ran and told Jerry. Jerry came in and had the sense to go downstairs and tell an adult.

Mad props to Rodler (the security guard) for extinguishing the blazing mattress/box spring. So thankful to God that no one was injured. This could have been very bad.

Nico was scared out of his mind.

Yes he's been punished.

Here he is cleaning up his mess.

Phew. Never a dull moment.

baby rolls.

Remember that time when Schneider was all malnourished and sick?

Yeah, not anymore.

Giveaway winner!

Hey all--

Giveaway winner was chosen this evening--

Congrats Maria K!

Thank you all for participating. Denise does monthly give-aways on her Jacmel Bay fb page, so keep following them for other chances to win!

Friday, September 16, 2011

Recipe-- Cocoa Mocha


So it's almost fall which means that the temperature will be dropping. (Well, for those of you who live in normal places and not the Caribbean.)

Here's a great drink mix to have on hand-- it's warm and sweet and coffee-y and chocolate-y.

I got it years ago from Kris Stoner--

Cocoa Mocha
1 cup dry hot chocolate mix
1 cup dry non-dairy creamer
2/3 cup instant coffee crystals
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg

Mix ingredients together well and store in a dry container. Mix 3T into a cup of hot water. Stir well. Put on your cozy pants and enjoy!

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

It is beginning to look a lot like Christmas...



Even in Haiti they start early... :)



(Or just keep it up year round.)

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Contest--Jacmel Bay Giveaway!

Hey all--

I have a great giveaway for you!

My mom, Denise Goodale, is the founder of Jacmel Bay, a company deeply entwined with the process of redemption. She creates with the broken treasures washed up on the shores of Jacmel Bay, (a small city on the southern coast of Haiti) including sea glass, sea ceramic, earthquake rubble. All of these beautiful "treasures" were made out of items that were one time very, very broken.

But that's just the beginning. Denise, a sign language interpreter, teaches classes/clinics in sea glass creation to a group of deaf young adults in Jacmel, Haiti. She provides supplies for their artwork and buys from them wholesale. This enables these young people, who currently have no other options for work, income which she hopes will one day be enough to support themselves. Denise sells their work (as well as her own creations) online, in boutiques on the Outer Banks of NC, and at a variety of craft shows. 25% of her profits return to Haiti to support the work of Joy in Hope. Finally, Denise offers significant bulk discounts to teams/individuals raising funds to come and serve in Haiti (with any organization or individual).

In order to get the word out about the work of Jacmel Bay (currently in its second year of operation), Denise is offering a great giveaway.

The winner will receive the following items:
Nativity Scene made from earthquake rubble and Jacmel Bay sea ceramic.

AND

This beautiful cobalt earring/necklace set made with sea glass collected from the beach of Jacmel Bay, Haiti.

There are three ways to participate for SIX chances to win... Via facebook, via twitter, or via blog.

Here's how it works--
  • Go to facebook and "like" Jacmel Bay-- one entry
  • Go to facebook and link to this blog post- one entry
  • Tweet this blog post--one entry
  • Write a blog post linking people back to this post - three entries (Now that's what I call bang for your buck!)

When you've done one (or all) of these things, leave your name, email address, and which entries you completed in a comment on this blog post.

THE CONTEST WILL BE OPEN TODAY, September 13, 2011 and will end on September 20, 2011 at 5PM. On September 20th, I will put the correct number of entries into a bowl and have one of my kids draw the winning name! It COULD be your name!

So spread the word...

Thanks friends!

Sunday, September 4, 2011

thoughts on Jesus

So. Yeah. Just in case anyone was ever curious. RAD is real and it sucks. It sucks for everyone who has to deal with it and it REALLY sucks in a country like Haiti where there are so few resources. (Which is not to say that it's easy to deal with in the states.)

We've been (intentionally) vague about the nature of some of the behavior problems we've been having in our home lately, but... well, it's bad. I can't get into all the specifics but it's related to abuse our kids have suffered in the past. Just know that we need your prayers. More than anything lately I have just been praying for the strength to continue to love all my children well in spite of being really angry about behavior.

Honestly it's hard to want to love a kid you don't currently like very much.
I actually wrote a big long post about this very topic a few weeks ago, but just couldn't bring myself to post it because I was so afraid that it wouldn't be understood in the right context and, therefore, would probably cause more harm than good. There is catharsis in just writing it out, I suppose.

Every day/week we learn more of the picture. We see just such a small speck of what has happened in our kids' lives. They have all of these hurts and fractures deep, deep down. The physical scars they bear on their bodies are just the tip of the iceberg... so much more is under the surface.

And this morning as we were celebrating Fritzie on the the third birthday she's spent with us, I was reflecting on how much I love her. I was reflecting on how much I LIKE her and ENJOY being with her. I was reflecting on how she is sweet (there really is no other word for it), and selfless, and hard-working. She's a GREAT kid... er... young woman. And I love being around her. And then, of course, my brain started down the path, "Why can't ALL the kids be this easy to love?" And then I started in a bit on the self-pity-- "My life is so hard... blah, blah, blah."

And out of the blue, this thought slapped me upside the head... The fact that ALL of my children aren't super difficult and hard to love is GRACE. Really, really bad things have happened in all of my Haitian kids' lives. Really bad things. Some have had parents die, some were forced to work, some (most) were abused, all were in some way abandoned. These are really big, traumatic things. And the fact that they ALL don't act out in wild and crazy ways is just pure GRACE.

We are at the place where we are having to adjust our own expectations of the future and realize that every kid is not going to follow the same path. We are at the point (finally, I think) where we realize that we cannot "heal" these kids or redeem anything. We can try to create a safe, loving environment where God can work in the lives of our children, but we cannot "fix" them. That is not our job. It never was. I could be quoted (often) talking about how we believe in the "redemptive nature of family." I talk about how "when God wanted to save the world he used his family." Guys, I am sorry, but I have been off the mark.

Yes, I do believe that God values family. But when God wanted save the world he sent JESUS. Yes, Jesus was his son. Yes, He used his own family. But the family part wasn't the essential part-- Jesus was. Jesus is.

So I think I have my work cut out for me. I spend a lot of time trying to make good FAMILY experiences, however, often neglecting the spiritual formation of my children. I want them to know the love of a mom and dad and I want them to trust in our love for them but that is a fundamentally flawed system because WE WILL FAIL. We HAVE failed them.

And so it motivates me more and more to press on towards heavenly things-- things that will last beyond this life. Because, yeah, this life sucks sometimes. There are no two ways about it. It is HARD to spin death and abandonment and illness and abuse. But the good news is that we don't have to because we were not created for this life. We were created for eternity. And so as we live lives striving for eternal things, the only firm ground we have in the here and now is Jesus.

On Christ the solid Rock I stand;
All other ground is sinking sand.




Fritzie is 17.


Fritzie when she first came in. (14 years old-- almost 15.)

Fritzie now. 17 years old.

I love this sweet girl. Happy Birthday Fritzie!

Saturday, September 3, 2011

On a moto, episode 5, Taking Out the Trash

Who says you need to borrow a truck to lug your trash to the dump?


Friday, September 2, 2011

turning lazy

WARNING: GRUMPY GRIPE AHEAD...

I have a big fear. My fear is that I am going to become an old lazy fat lady.

I actually have somewhat resigned myself to the fact that I am going to get old. And I have resigned myself to the fact that I will always be, *hem*, "hefty." And I can deal (I think with being old and chubby.) I do not think I can deal with being old and chubby and lazy.

I think a lot of people in this world equate fat people with lazy people. It can be true. I have seen fat people who are lazy. And I have also seen skinny people who are lazy. And I have seen fat people who work their TAILS off. (Figuratively, not literally, or they wouldn't be fat people. Am I right?) I really have seen a lot of fat people who know how to work and are not idle.

There is a pretty simple equation if people want to lose weight. It's really quite elementary. You just need to burn more calories than you take in. But here's where it gets tricky. While a calorie is a measured unit of energy and so can be easily controlled as far as INTAKE is concerned, every body is different. The energy required to burn/use that calorie is going to vary from person to person. Nature and nurture come into play here-- I really believe that. Some people will just never be fat. They might eat junk all day long and just not be fat. Some people eat better and get fatter.

The only time I was ever "thin" (and I am going to put that in quotes) in my adult life, I was on Weight Watchers and working out two hours a day at the gym. I did feel great. I could run (well, sort of). I had good energy. But food and exercise became my life-- my focus... my God in a way. And I still wasn't happy with how I looked. Go figure.

And as my weight crept back up (and up and up), I found other things to make my God. Sometimes God was my God. But more often it was some "cause." I sometimes confuse the means for the ends. Or is it the ends for the means? But my point is this-- At some point, the issue of food and weight, while it always "weighed" (ha ha) on me, didn't become the main thing. There were other, more outwardly focused things to tackle-- hunger and poverty and orphans and earthquake victims... blah, blah, blah.

And I have always been a pretty active person (well, if you count busy as active anyway.) So I never worried that I'd become a lazy fat person.

Until now.

I cannot explain why this is happening but I have ZERO energy. ZERO. Like none. I can't seem to "snap back" from this infection I had. I am sleeping probably 18ish hours per day. (Literally.) I have gone out of the house once since returning to Haiti on Monday and that only ended up being for about an hour because I just got so worn out.

I am trying to drink water. I am taking vitamins and supplements. I am definitely getting enough rest... But I just cannot snap out of this.

And I am afraid I am going to end up so fat I can't walk and have to use one of those Walmart courtesy scooters to get around.

Only I don't think Haiti is a very "mobility scooter-friendly" place.