On Haiti and Trusting God in the Fires of Life

A little over a week ago I landed in Haiti prepared for a normal week on the ground with a team comprised of a few Haiti veterans and several newbies. Little did we know what was about to unfold as our plane touched down and we boarded the truck to go to Lifeline.

We landed around 2:30 ET. It typically takes about an hour or more to deplane, go through immigration, gather bags, negotiate our way through customs, and find the truck. This time we waited an extra hour as one of our team members was arriving on a different flight that was landing just as we had loaded and boarded the truck, so we were finally pulling out of the airport parking lot around 4:30 or 4:45.

We headed out on a normal drive to the orphanage compound. Traffic was heavy, but not so heavy it was bottlenecking. People on the streets were going about their normal lives on a Friday afternoon. We were making good time when all of a sudden traffic came to a halt. This isn’t particularly unusual, and I looked ahead and saw things backed up for a bit which usually means we are going to be waiting a while. This time, however, cars were turning around and going back the way they came, and our driver did the same. This was a first and I thought it was strange.

Our driver, who was new to me, headed back the direction that we came, almost all the way back to the airport. I could see the DeliMart we normally shop at on Sundays. We were stopped outside of a police station where an officer was directing traffic. Our driver was conversing with the officer but I could neither hear nor understand him. I was confused as to what was happening and thought the driver must be lost.

I don’t remember the series of events that led us to understand what had begun to unfold around us, but over the next forty-five minutes to an hour we would learn that the government had announced an end to gas subsidies throughout the island nation that would mean a nearly 40% increase in gas prices; painful to us as Americans, devastating in a country where that increase is equal to a day’s wages per gallon. The citizens had been threatening to retaliate if the subsidies were cut, but the government did not listen and the people took to the streets. As we were landing and driving from the airport the masses had started to move, barricading streets with concrete blocks and boulders, lighting tires on fire, and stopping traffic into and out of the city.

In front of the police station we waited to hear if we would be able to make it to Croix-des-Bouquets (just two or three miles from our location) and the orphanage that night or if we would find a hotel or sleep at the police station. As the sun began to set, I became less hopeful that we would make it to Lifeline that evening. The assistant to the mayor of Tabarre attempted to help us find lodging at a hotel so that at least we could have beds and showers, but each of the roads we attempted to go down was blocked by people and burning tires.

Our driver, who had not been lost but trying to figure out what was going on, made the call that we would sleep at the police station. He took our safety seriously and wasn’t going to risk trying a third hotel. So we all got comfortable, found a roll of toilet paper in the team bags, sent two of the Haitian boys out for water for the team, and began to make peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for everyone out of the team food. At this point, it was only about 8:30 in the evening. It was warm, we were all exhausted and dirty from a long day of travel, and the metal bed of an Isuzu truck does not make for the most comfortable resting place. But God gave our team incredible peace and everyone rolled with the change of plans. People were anxious and uncertain, but they chose to trust God and to trust their team leaders to make the best decisions they could.

From every corner on the horizon we could see the black smoke of tires burning. On the other side of the police station wall a fire raged and the smoke blew thick above us. At one point rocks were thrown over the station walls, gunshots were fired, and the police rushed us all into a bus parked near us. It was enclosed (unlike the truck) and blocked on two sides by shipping containers, providing better protection for the team.

Over time, the fire outside the wall died down and the streets quieted. At one point I could hear music where the fire once raged. I couldn’t tell if it was voodoo, or just demonstrators celebrating. Some of us settled in on the bus and attempted sleep with varying degrees of success.  Others made beds on the back of the truck and attempted sleep under the blinding spot light illuminating the parking lot.

I woke up around four am and found our friend and translator Gemima (a last minute add to the team) up talking to the police officers. The streets were silent around us. No one was out. I wanted to see us attempt a move to the orphanage sooner, rather than later, but we needed an escort to do it safely. She attempted to negotiate on our behalf and at first was told we would have to wait on the police chief who wasn’t answering his phone, then some further chatter happened and we were told that our escort was “gearing up”. I confirmed that we were in fact attempting to move the team to Lifeline and proceeded to wake everyone and get them to the truck. We watched as officers put on bullet-proof vests, prepared multiple weapons, donned helmets and masks, and loaded into a pick-up truck. We prayed for God’s protection and pulled out of the parking lot.

The streets were completely empty, something we’ve rarely seen in Haiti. The officers drove ahead of us, stopping at the first roadblock where tires were still smoldering. Then, in something out of a Jason Bourne movie, the officers jumped out of the truck and proceeded to clear the area. With assault rifles sighted and ready, they cleared buildings, alleys, doorways, and rooftops. They moved boulders and obstacles so that our truck could pass on the sidewalks. They waited until our truck passed and made sure the path behind us remained clear. Then they jumped on their truck and repeated the same process multiple times until we had made it through the worst of the road blocks. We crossed the bridge into Croix-des-Bouquets. I both breathed a sigh of relief, knowing we were close, but also felt my chest tighten, knowing the streets ahead were narrower and harder to maneuver than the streets we had just been on. The team continued to pray.

The road blocks in Croix-des-Bouquets were much smaller than the ones we had encountered before and within fifteen minutes or so, we had made it safely to the Lifeline compound. The officers escorted us into the compound and made sure we were safe inside before departing. To the best of my knowledge, they had risked their own lives to protect ours with no expectation of payment. They had escorted us three miles (taking almost thirty minutes) and made sure we arrived safely at our destination. We tipped them, of course, but our respect for the Haitian police department grew 1000-fold that night. They were friendly, kind, helpful, and set on keeping us safe, and we as a team were immeasurably grateful.

The officers left and we unloaded bags. We ate breakfast (oatmeal) and had a brief team meeting. Those that were worn out were told to go nap. Those of us running on adrenaline and a few hours of sleep set about assessing things at the compound and the situation outside and attempting to make a plan for the day / week. Our game plan was to take each day on its own, hoping and praying things would die down in the city. Brian and Gemima attempted to go get water and diesel. They were unsuccessful. We knew we weren’t leaving the compound on Saturday because we couldn’t get anywhere, and nothing was open. There was hope that we would be able to go to church on Sunday. That would be our cue to either continue with the team as planned or begin working on an exit strategy.

Some of the events of the first two days run together. I don’t remember if Nicole came to Lifeline on Saturday. I know she didn’t on Sunday. We continued to see black smoke all around the city, floating up over the walls of the compound. We received State department warnings, telling us to “shelter in place”. We heard rumors of diesel and water shortages. On site we had diesel for a day or two, if we used it sparingly. And we had water for about that long, if we rationed our drinking. God was gracious and EDH (Haiti’s state-run electrical utility) was on for most of the day both Saturday and Sunday, allowing us to only run the generator at night (necessary when you have a team member with a CPAP machine). On Saturday afternoon we were down to about eight gallons of water (one five gallon bottle and half of another), so I began to boil water on the stove, spending about an hour to fill up a five gallon bottle.

Saturday night was the one night I went to bed feeling anxious. We had plenty of team food and we could get by without diesel, but the water situation was unsettling. It took forever to boil the water and we had no way to cool it quickly to drink, so we would need to stay several hours ahead of our consumption if we were boiling. I had twelve people in my care, three of them minors who had never traveled to Haiti before, another an adult with a heart condition. Water was our literal lifeline. I gave thanks that this was a small team. The situation would be much more serious if we had a full team, twice what I had in my care. And I went to sleep praying that we would be able to get water in the morning.

On Sunday morning the driver arrived to attempt a water and diesel run. Brian and Gemima left again. The team prayed. A little while later they returned with 14 five gallon bottles of water and 60 gallons of diesel. I may have cried a little. I could finally breathe again. But, we were not able to go to church. Fires were burning in the area and it was unsafe for us and the children to go out. This was our sign that it was time to start planning a way home.

We had a church service at Lifeline, Brian leading us in music and with the sermon he had prepared to preach at church. We updated the team on what we knew of events on the streets and our plans. Here at home, Matt and Emily began to work on our extraction plan. In a very short time, they had us all booked on flights departing on Wednesday. I was sad, the team was relieved. We adjusted plans for no excursions but proceeded to plan for the vocational camp we came to host. We did not know if our teachers (traveling in from the north side of the island) would be able to make it for their conference. We prayed that they would. Our translators were also having a hard time getting to Lifeline (we had two and needed four), so we tried to figure out who would translate for us over the next couple of days. (On Monday morning, all of my translators arrived, and we ended up having more than we needed. Because sometimes God just like to show off like that.)

By Sunday evening, we had settled into a bit of a routine and it started to feel like a normal Lifeline team. Team members were connecting with each other and with the kids. There were basketball games, soccer games, stories, and devotions. My heart was thankful that things felt just a little bit normal for everyone, but I continued to wrestle with the change of plans and that this team would not get to see and experience the Haiti we love.

That night several Oasis students arrived. I had also given up hope that I would see them because of the unrest in the streets. But five of the girls and several of the boys had made it to the compound. I was thrilled.  (Before the week was over, I would be able to meet personally with 18 of the 19 Oasis students. Only one was not able to make it to Lifeline. She lives where the worst of the rioting had occurred. She was safe, but unable to travel.) While I was meeting with the girls, I received word that the teachers had just arrived. I may have cried a little again. God was showing up in so many ways, as He always does in Haiti, and I counted myself privileged to see His hand at work.

The rest of the week continued as normal. We were still receiving State Department updates citing unrest in the streets, but we were receiving real-time reports that things were calmer. There were still billows of black smoke all around the city, but they were less than before. There were some fires just outside the compound, but they were brief and put out quickly. On Tuesday we noticed a significant increase in air traffic, signaling that the airport was up and running as usual again. Those running the vocational camp were able to teach students about carpentry and even build several beds, teach others about photography and take some amazing photos that will be used as a fundraiser for Lifeline later this fall, play games with the children, and instruct a school of teachers how to better engage and connect with their students.

As a team, our eyes were opened to a world larger than what we often see here in the US. We experienced how precious clean water is and what a privilege it is to have readily available electricity 24/7. We saw how broken things are in Haiti but also recognized how broken things are in the US and in each of us. Most of all, we watched God show up again and again and again. He was with us on the truck as we drove in and all night at that police station. He was with us and before us and behind us as we were escorted on Saturday morning. He gave us more city electricity in two days than we have had on a team in a few years (it only came on one more time after we got diesel) and He provided water and diesel just in time. He allowed us all to be able to leave on the same flight on Wednesday, even though so many people were trying to evacuate as well. He prompted Gemima to join our team at the last minute, providing so much help and support and peace to our team with her ability to communicate on our behalf. He allowed us to experience a mostly normal week in Haiti, in spite of the literal fires burning around us. He allowed our team to leave the country with positive feelings about these beautiful people, with the events of our first night not being their primary memory, but rather the faces of the children, their laughter, and their joy being what they carried home when we left.

I love to go to Haiti. I love to watch God show up in big and small ways that we have to look much harder for here. I love the people, the sounds, the smells, the food, and the absolute unconventional quirkiness of it all. My heart breaks for how the Haitian people are oppressed by their own government and governments around the world. I pray for justice to be served and things to be made right. Only God and Haitians can do that, though. Until then, I will continue to go back. I will continue to spend money there and help provide jobs for those in need. I will continue to build relationships and network and make connections so that the children of Lifeline and Oasis can have a better future. And I will not be afraid to go to a place that is uncertain and unknown because God is real and He meets me there every single time.

For His Glory ~

Sara

A letter from a younger me

Dear Sara,

Someday you will be 40 and only weeks away from graduating that curly-haired girl you call your oldest; that girl who was just in grade school yesterday. Life is going to change a lot between now and then. You will move. You will travel. Some friendships will come to an end. New ones will begin. There will be a death to some dreams and the birth of new ones, and in between there will be a sense of loss. The isolation of homeschooling won’t be forever and you will find yourself again.

One day, though, you will be forty, and you will be filled with regret and doubt and mama-guilt, even though right now you don’t believe in any of those things. You will wonder if you made the right choices, did the right things, spent those fleeting years wisely. You will question every parenting decision you ever made and you will doubt yourself to no end.

I want to remind forty-year-old you that you did the best you could in those years. It’s easy for you to look back now and see all the things you could have done differently and better. You are older and wiser, with more tools and more resources for handling life. You are not the same person you were when they were little. When they were little you did what you could to make it through each day. Some days were better than others, but you were there. You were present. You loved them the best you could. And you learned. You did not stay the same. You grew and changed and so did they. You leaned hard on Christ and you confessed to them when you were wrong, and they saw that we all need Jesus.

And in these teenage years, you all continue to grow and change, and one day you will be fifty and the last one will be out of the house and you will still likely question everything because that is what mamas do. At forty, with five girls in the house, there are hormones and feelings and opinions; they are legion and they are strong. But you will survive. And you will all be stronger for the process.

Vincents (24 of 29)

Persist, dear mama, never give up. Hang on by your fingernails if necessary. Fight for those girls and fight for your marriage. Fight for the life God has called you to. He is good and He is faithful. And He is more than enough, even when you feel less than enough. Especially then, in fact.

For His Glory ~

~ Sara

Christmas and Life – 2017 Edition

Vincents (2 of 29) (1)

To all our Family and Friends,

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to all of you! The past couple of years since our last card have been a wild ride. We love hearing from family and friends near and far, and look forward to your cards every year!

Grace is in her senior year of high school here at home and looking ahead to what she will do after graduation. She has worked at Bobo’s Drive-In as a carhop for over a year and also interned at both Golden Rule and Haiti Lifeline this past summer. Grace loves hammocking and Trader Joe’s Chai Lattes.

Emma is a sophomore at the Vincent Academy for Girls. She has been a faithful part of the Golden Rule office staff for over a year and is also thinking ahead to what she wants to do after high school. Emma loves traveling and the show Stranger Things.

Chandler is a freshman at CPLS – that’s three high schoolers! Enrolling the younger three in school has been a good change for all of us and they are all growing in their new environment. Chandler traveled on her first team to Haiti this past October and fell in love with the little island that has captured all of our hearts. Chandler loves acting and spending time with her friends.

Ellie is a 7th grader at CPLS. Ellie tried her hand at sports for the first time this year, participating in the school’s junior high volleyball program. Watching her challenge herself and grow in something that doesn’t come naturally was fun to watch. Ellie loves Harry Potter and art projects.

Amania is in 5th grade at CPLS. She continues to be a natural on the soccer field and has decided to try her hand at basketball this winter. Like Ellie, it’s fun to watch her be challenged and learn some different skills. Her persistently positive outlook on life is a gift to our family. Amania loves school and her family.

We have also had the privilege of hosting Gemima Joseph in our home part-time for the past fifteen months. Gemima is a friend from Haiti, here to attend Johnson County Community College and eventually Washburn. We have learned a lot in our time with Gemima and are thankful she is here. Gemima loves warm weather and Reeses Pieces.

Vincents (24 of 29)

Matt celebrated his 15th year in business this past February. We continue to look back in amazement at how God has blessed our little company and we are thankful to work with the best group of people around. The company has grown significantly in the past few years and we are excited to see what the future holds. Matt loves Starbucks coffee and scaring his office-mates.

I graduated from Washburn with my Bachelor of Social Work in May. Not everyone can spend twenty years completing a four-year degree, but I managed to make it happen. The past two years have brought some big changes as I transitioned from being at home full-time to working part time in two environments that I love – as support staff at the girls’ school and as the director of the Oasis Project with Haiti Lifeline. I’m so thankful to Matt and the girls for their flexibility and support as we all navigate new roles and expectations at home. I still love writing and the beach.

We hope that your holiday season is full of joy and laughter, and if it’s not, we pray you know God’s presence in the midst of it all. He is faithful, even when we are not, and He is good, even when life is hard. May you know the fullness of His love for you this coming year.

For His Glory ~

Sara, for the Vincent Seven

Vincents (29 of 29) copy

Strings

Adoption comes with strings. And those strings are often a tangled ball of yarn. Or maybe it’s more like fishing line. Strands wrapped together and around each other so tightly you cannot tell where to begin to untangle the knot.

When we picked up Amania to bring her home, the orphanage director brought her birth parents to Lifeline to meet us and to tell her goodbye. This was a hard, beautiful, terrible, wonderful gift, and we have always been thankful. And my heart stopped when I saw them.

Our girl’s mama was great with child that day.

There are no words for what I felt when I saw her.

For over a year, Matt and I would travel back and forth to Haiti on teams, fully expecting that each one would be the team when we would see Amania’s baby brother or sister at Lifeline. But s/he never arrived and we sort of moved on mentally and hoped that one day we would be able to visit her home village and meet her family and ask the questions we didn’t have the wherewithal to ask that spring day in 2013.

**********************

And then June came. I was there with our two oldest, leading a vocational team. Out on the front porch sat a man with a small child – not an unusual sight at Lifeline. But when I stopped and took a closer look, I knew that man. And the face of that child was like my own daughter’s face staring back at me.

There are no words for what I felt when I saw them.

Amania’s father was there to drop off this, their youngest daughter – the child mama was pregnant with when we picked Amania up four years ago – into the care of Lifeline. My knees buckled and my heart gave way.

My girls and I grieved our way through that week and Matt and I talked when I got home. Haiti’s adoption policies have changed drastically from 2011 and our hands felt (and still feel) tied. We shelved the conversation and went on with life, not sure what else we could do.

*************************

And then came today. On Facebook we saw pictures from the orphanage director of little sister at the orphanage and my heart gave way again. We talked to all the girls – Amania first and privately – about the little one. And Amania handled it with strength and grace and I marvel at how God has empowered her to so confidently roll with every wild curve life has thrown at her. She amazes me, and I’m so glad I get the privilege of raising her.

But I find myself still reeling, the wind knocked out of me. The anger, the sadness, the helplessness I feel – they all seem too big to be contained. I don’t know where we go from here, and it’s hard to see God in this.

We will travel in a few weeks. I will see her and I will hold her and I will undoubtedly cry. I will pray for her and I will pray for God to show us clearly the next right thing that we need to do. There are no easy answers: there rarely are in life, there never are in Haiti.

I will pray – as I always do when traveling to Haiti – that God will reveal Himself; that He will show Himself faithful and present in Haiti.  And I will grieve. I will grieve for this sweet girl – a poverty orphan, victim of a broken world. I will give thanks that she is at least in a place where I know she will be cared for and we can see her regularly. But I will shamelessly grieve that another child is without a family tonight because her family cannot afford to feed her.

And I resolve to continue to fight to change that in the next generation. We cannot and will not ever fix Haiti. Only God and Haitians can fix Haiti. But we can make an impact, we can change the future for at least a few. We can empower them with tools and skills and resources to care for themselves and their future families. So that maybe, one day, there won’t be poverty orphans in Haiti. Instead, boys and girls will grow up in families that love them and can provide for their daily needs and the cycle of abandonment will begin to be broken and redemption and restoration will be written all across their land. Because God is in this.

But even if the cycle of poverty never changes, even if the number of orphans never declines, He is still God and He is still good. Not because I’m sitting safe and comfortable in my home in the United States, but because He is sitting next to me tonight in my grief and He is sitting next to that little girl at Lifeline in her confusion and sorrow, and He sits every day next to each and every Haitian as they face the daily struggle that is their life. He is with us all, even when it doesn’t seem possible.

There are not enough words for His goodness.

For His Glory ~

~ Sara

 

Coming Home Again

Gosh I’ve missed this space. Coming back here feels like walking into a former home, like a going back in time. I am not the same person today that I was when I was last here.

The past few years have been hard. There has been pain. And I had to go away for a while to process it all. This year has been a year of restoring, of growth, of finding our way again.

I started a new blog, thinking that was the answer to finding my words again. I posted there once. Turns out this space is still my heart, but my heart wasn’t yet ready to open up again.

It’s strange, this season of life we are in. Our kids are no longer little and the stories and the struggles aren’t always as benign and innocent anymore, so we don’t share them as publicly, to protect and honor our daughters’ personal stories that are theirs alone to tell. It’s a good and beautiful season, but it’s often a very lonely season as we try to navigate a path that is constantly changing.

And our lives are no longer as isolated and individual. I used to feel a sense of security sometimes telling a story here or there, because by the time some random reader saw one of us in real life, most likely the rawness of the moment had passed and we could talk freely about this or that. But now we are out and about with real people every day and the processing has to be done before the story is set free and that’s much harder because so much of that processing honestly happened in this space.

So it’s been a year or two of relearning.

So much has happened since I was last here consistently. Our girls have grown and changed and it’s been hard and beautiful and often surreal. Three kids are in private school. I now work outside the home. We started a new branch of the non-profit we are involved in. We bought an investment property on a nearby lake. I travel to Haiti multiple times a year. Our business has grown exponentially.

Normally these types of things happen slowly. You go along each day in life until you pause and look back and see how much things have changed. But these things all seemed to happen in a Big Bang type explosion. One day life felt normal and then the next it had been completely upended and we had to find our way again.

And sometimes we could see God there with us. And sometimes it felt like we had imagined Him because how could he be there in all that pain? But now we have enough distance to be able to look and see that He was there all along.

We have a joke we send back and forth sometimes when life seems too ridiculous: “They say God gives you only what you can handle. Apparently God thinks I’m a bad-ass.”

And sometimes it feels like that as one thing after another comes our way. But we know deep down that God keeps sending us these trials and temptations and utter ridiculousness not because He thinks we are bad-asses, but because He wants us to be daily reminded that ultimately He’s the only one who is. We can do nothing of our own strength but we sure try, so He stretches us to the end of ourselves until we have no choice but to cling to Him and let Him do the work in us and through us and for us.

Ultimately that’s what these past few years have been – God continually reminding us that we aren’t as capable as we often think we are. That we need Him daily for every breath, for every step on the path. That just when we think we’ve got life under control, He’s still the one ultimately in control, and our safest place is resting fully in Him.

So we continually to do all these things He has called us to….

because it’s all For His Glory ~

~ Sara

Uncertainty

The scary part about exploring the dark places of the soul and taking lids off of boxes long shelved is never being sure what will be found inside. We have walked some shadowy places in recent years and we have doubted everything we’ve ever believed. Is God real? And if He’s real….is He good? (Which is a far scarier question in my mind.) Is there truth? Is there black and white? Or is it all varying shades of grey? What are the absolutes and how can we be sure? Everything feels entirely upended and out of sorts.

It’s been almost two years since the winter that undid us. I don’t really remember what our marriage was like before that. I’m sure I don’t remember it correctly. We are remaking us – as individuals and as a couple. And it’s hard. It’s messy. And it’s terribly unknown.

It’s uncomfortable living in all the uncertainty. Being take-charge people who like to have a plan, a direction, these years in shadowy places – wandering, wandering, endlessly, aimlessly wandering – they make me anxious. My skin starts to feel too small and my breathing becomes rushed.

I still have no answers. We still sit in the shadows. But one thing I know – most things are only frightening in the dark. Bring them to the light and our fears become smaller. And we find we are not alone.

So that’s what I’m doing today. I’m telling you that we desperately love Jesus, but we struggle with our faith in the goodness and trustworthiness of God sometimes. And we love each other, but marriage is hard and we want to quit sometimes. And we don’t need to be preached at, but we would love to be walked with. In honesty and grace. Because I know we are not alone. There are others who wrestle with the questions every day and sleep with doubt every night.

When Matt turned thirty, his mom took him out for lunch and told him to be aware, because this was the decade when our friends would start getting divorced. And almost ten years ago, I think we found that interesting and maybe possible, but a little hard to believe. But now, at the other end of that decade, we see it. And we know the struggle and the temptation and how hard you have to fight for and work on marriage. Daily.

Something similar is true with faith. It doesn’t grow in a vacuum. It must be fed and nurtured. But God is big enough for our doubts, so we bring them freely.

The internet is a much scarier place to bring those doubts, but you all know that’s how I roll. So I bring them, and I invite you to bring yours. Let’s create a safe place to wrestle with these mid-life questions and walk in the uncertainty together.

These Disconnected Interwoven Things

She has this box she keeps locked in a closet in her heart. In it are all the hurts and pains and losses of the past thirty-something years. She used to carry them with her, as a part of herself, in a way that was healthier, more whole. Until the hurts became too heavy and she couldn’t bear up under the weight anymore. So she tucked them all haphazardly into a box and put the lid on tight. And she pushed the box into a dark corner of the closet floor, behind happier memories and lighter times.

Every once in a while the lid threatens to come off the box. A comment is made, a memory is triggered, and the lid gets tipped. But she reaches in fast and puts the lid back on. Because the risk of that lid coming off is too great. The pain stuffed inside is too deep and seems endless and she doesn’t know if she could ever find a proper home in her heart for all of it.

Yet she knows that box cannot stay there forever. Pain like that has a way of demanding to be dealt with; forcing its way into the light. But she doesn’t know where to begin. There isn’t time in each day to properly work through the pain, to walk through the memories and find a place for each of them to live in their own broken freedom. She has seen the damage hiding can do, but she sees no alternative. Showing her brokenness could break them all.

 

**********************************

 

 

Waiting.

I’m nearly forty now, neither young nor old, but I know this: I could spend my whole life obsessing over THAT THING I’m currently waiting for. Because the waiting? The searching? The wondering?

It never ends. There’s always something OUT THERE. There’s always something just beyond my grasp. Maybe this is what it means to be alive: longing. There’s always something I’m looking for, and sometimes I find it. But often I don’t.

And so I think it is with you;
your ideas mature gradually—let them grow,
let them shape themselves, without undue haste.
Don’t try to force them on,
as though you could be today what time
(that is to say, grace and circumstances
acting on your own good will)
will make of you tomorrow.

~ Shawn Smucker, via emilyfreeman.com

**********************************

I read Shawn’s post on waiting this morning and it resonated. And I find myself waiting to write again. Waiting for a happy ending to come out of that dark season. Waiting to be able to tell the full story. Waiting for full redemption. Waiting for all the pieces to come together.

But what if there is still a story to be told now? A story written in the waiting? The story of learning to laugh again. The story of watching God rebuild and restore my family. The story of fighting for my children and my marriage and my ministry. The story of wanting to throw in the towel but never backing down. The story of surrender and staying soft.

There is a story there. And it requires taking the lid off the box. The risk is great. But maybe the time is now.

For His Glory ~

Sara

When You Want to Go Back in Time

A friend sent me these pictures yesterday. Five years ago, when all our babies were still babies, and each of us had one more child yet to join our families.

And I had the urge to give in to the ugly cry, but I was about to walk out the door, so I had to hold myself together.

So often lately I have had an intense longing to go back. To rewind time to a simpler season. I’ve been longing for our old homes and old places in life. Our family has done some hard growing up this year and we’ve entered a new, inevitable season. It’s one we’ve been working toward and that is ultimately good, but it hasn’t come without a cost. And I think that has opened up a window in my soul that longs for the past. And even though memories can be good, an unhealthy longing for those days is not productive because the past is not where we live.

Those earlier years, five years ago, and even before, they were simpler times. Not easier. Not by a mile. Those days were hard. And, mamas, don’t ever let someone tell you otherwise. But there is a simplicity to the days of feedings and naps and early bedtimes. There is a simplicity to grade school and third grade math and schedules that can be contained. And ten years from now, I’m sure I will see that this season is its own sort of simpler time too.

I have a woman I look up to who told me once something along the lines of, “First you have babies and toddlers and it’s hard, but it’s the best thing ever. Then they get older and you have teens and it’s hard, but it’s the best thing ever. Then they grow up and go to college and get married. And they move away and you have grandbabies and it’s just you and your husband again. And it’s hard but it’s the best thing ever.”

Every stage of parenting is hard and exhausting. There’s no getting around that. Every stage also comes with abundant joys and rewards. Sometimes we just have to look a little harder for them. Life is about change; nothing stays the same. For those of us that don’t love change, that can be hard. But if we can learn to weather the storms and enjoy the beauty of each season, we just might find that change often brings the best things ever.

For His Glory ~

Signature

When Grace Shines Through

Barely old enough to buy the champagne we toasted with, we took vows and we promised forever and I felt safe and you had hope and we walked back down that aisle with grand plans but no idea what the future held.  And a decade and a half later we woke up in the middle of our hurried thirties with five kids and a business and a million responsibilities, next to a person we thought we knew too well but maybe didn’t know at all.

And we both broke vows and we broke each other’s hearts and you lost hope and I built walls to keep myself safe.  And we almost lost it all.

But hope holds on and safety can be found when we refuse to let go.  And for a year now we have fought, often with each other, but also for each other.  And we have learned that it’s possible to fall in love with the same person over and over and over again.  We’ve learned that forgiveness comes at a cost but it is worth the price because redemption is our reward.

And on nights when I want to give up and make my own safety behind those walls, on nights when you lose hope and we wonder if we will ever be us again, God reminds me that our surrender is to Him because our trust is in Him, and we must choose to stay soft toward one another and always assume the best.  Because this love is real and true and imperfect and broken, but in all those broken places, His grace shines through.

Sometimes I wake up with the sadness
Other days it feels like madness
Oh…what would I do without you?

When colours turn to shades of grey
With the weight of the world at the end of the day
Oh…what would I do without you?

A decade goes by without a warning
And there’s still a kindness in your eyes
Amidst the questions and the worries
A peace of mind, always takes me by surprise.

I feel like I’m walking with eyes as blind
As a man without a lantern in a coal mine
Oh…what would I do without you?

My imagination gets the best of me
And I’m trying to hide lost at sea
Oh…what would I do without you?

The difference between what I’ve said and done
And you’re still standing by my side
A guilty soul and a worried mind
I will never make it, if I’m on my own

So you’ve got the morning, I’ve got midnight
You are patient, I’m always on time
Oh…what would I do without you?

You’ve got your sunshine, I’ve got rainclouds
You’ve got hope, I’ve got my doubts

Oh…what would I do without you?
Oh…what would I do without you?
Oh…what would I do without you?

~ Drew Holcomb and the Neighbors

For His Glory ~

~ Sara

Rise

I just dropped these two off for a Shadow Day at Cair Paravel.  It was possibly one of the more surreal-feeling moments of my time as a mom.  I’m sure all moms go through this when their sweet ones are five and going off to kindergarten, or sooner for preschool or day care.  I know this is a common feeling, but I also believe it’s maybe a little different, a little unique, after years of home schooling to be looking at doing something different.

A week from tomorrow I head back to Haiti.  My third trip in six months.  There are few things more uncomfortable for me than traveling to Haiti and yet God keeps sending me back.  He has a funny sense of humor.

A lot of changes have been happening in our home, a lot more are to come.  Things have been quiet here because fear has locked up my words, quieted my voice.  God has been taking me deep places; places that needed to be walked through with just Him, but now transparency feels dangerous, even though so much healing has always been found there.  Some changes are still shadowy things that can’t be shared here yet, but big things are happening and will come to light soon enough and hopefully my words will come too.

God grows us if we are willing to let Him.  For years I have written of how He has used the small and unseen things of life to stretch me and make room in my heart for more of Him.  And more recently He has begun to work in the large spaces of our family life to shape us and take us to new places.  And it seems that in each of these seasons, He works in me to make me less, to burn me down, to make something new.

The legendary phoenix is a large, grand bird, much like an eagle or peacock. It is brilliantly colored in reds, purples, and yellows, as it is associated with the rising sun and fire.  Its eyes are blue and shine like sapphires. It builds its own funeral pyre or nest, and ignites it with a single clap of its wings. After death it rises gloriously from the ashes and flies away.*

Each of my tattoos tells a story, permanent reminders of the story God is writing in my life.  At some point I will need to find a new way to write that story, or I’m going to run out of skin, but for now, these are things I want to carry with me always and they each serve as an ebenezer (a stone of help), testifying to what God has done.

hope – an anchor for the soul that gives wings to the heart

vincens – latin for overcomer

because God makes me brave  – “God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.” {2 Timothy 2:7}

After this past season, after being burned down to nothing a year ago, I needed to tell a big story of a big God doing a big thing.  And so I began work on a large piece.

beauty for ashes {the rest will be filled in over the next several weeks; also – it is surprisingly difficult to take a photo of your own arm with your non-dominant hand}

The story of the phoenix resonates deep within me.  Burned down to be raised again, more beautiful each time it is resurrected.  God has used many things to burn me down time and time again.  He is faithful to make me less so that He may be more.  And He is faithful to make me new each time, hopefully always more like Christ than I was before.

And so as I feel the fiery trials burning around us once again, I know that He is giving us beauty for ashes.  He is good and we will rise.

For His Glory ~

Signature

 

*http://www.ancient-origins.net/myths-legends/ancient-symbolism-magical-phoenix-002020#sthash.IzgIVIcR.dpuf