Monday, May 14, 2012

Clucking Today, On the Dinner Plate Tomorrow!

The beet salad was delicious!!!

Do you remember one of my biggest fears before visiting Haiti?  The food was a huge concern on mine --  most especially the thought of eating chicken feet which is considered a delicacy in Haiti!!! 

The first 24 hours there I was determined not to eat anything that was Haitian cooked.  I brought lots and lots of tuna packs and crackers with me, and I even "practiced" eating my own version of my Haitian diet for three weeks prior to boarding the plane for Haiti.  I got to the point of really liking the tuna, especially when a little bit of hot sauce from Taco Bell was added to it.

However, something strange happened to me on the second day of the trip.  When entering the dining hall (which was a small, hot,  humid concrete block room swarming with flies), I saw food laid out on the table for the blanc (white) visitors which happened to include me.  I also saw the women who had been standing up all day preparing the special meal for us.  They, too, were hot, humid, and being swarmed by flies.  They were exhausted from being up since the rooster let out his first cock-a-doodle-doo, and, in spite of the heat, exhaustion, and scarcity of food,  they had worked for hours preparing a feast just for us. 

Something in my heart changed.  I felt so humbled by the grace and love of these women that the food somehow looked different.  It looked delicious.  "Why not?  Why not at least try eating the food?" And, so I did! 

On my plate, I spooned a rice dish with creole sauce (yum!), another scoop of something that looked like fried bananas, and a portion of chicken breast.  Truly, a meal fit for a queen!  And, let's not forget my all-time favorite -- the beet salad!  It absolutely, positively was to die for, and I'm still waiting for someone to send me the recipe so that I can prepare it for my family here in the states.

As the saying goes, "You've come a long way, baby!"  In the morning, I heard the squawking of the chickens followed by feathers flying.  And, in the evening of that same day, I bowed my head in humble thanks for the meal that was so lovingly prepared for Team Squirt!

Talk about some God changes!!!  Just one more opportunity for me to say that God does indeed change our hearts (and our taste buds) when we allow Him!

Love and happy eating,
PS  In case you're wondering, God didn't perform a miracle on me--not just yet, anyway.  No chicken feet entered this mouth of mine!  He isn't finished with me yet!    

Friday, May 11, 2012

Haiti: Weighing In, Small Planes, and No Sleep!

"Weigh the luggage...make every single item count.  Don't even take an extra tuna packet or peanut butter cracker."  I never knew we'd have to concern ourselves with such things when flying to Haiti!  The cost of going on a mission trip isn't just the emotional cost or the cost of staying in the country.  The cost becomes a big concern just trying to get there!  It took three of our team members hours of phone calls, changing flight plans, and packing and repacking just to get the luggage to meet the regulations of the plane!  As you can see, we were busy little beavers weighing every piece of luggage at the airport.  Who knew flying was this complicated?!? 

  Next came the real biggie of the trip --the actual  flying!  Two of our team members had never even been on a plane before, and now they were going to have the "experience" of flying in a mini plane.....the kind that goes bump with every air pocket!  Lots of anit-nausea meds were eaten like candy prior to boarding, and there was an overall, "You've got to be kidding me -- this is the plane that is going to carry us AND the luggage to Haiti" kind of look going on.  In other words "FEAR"!  Okay, Lori...we heard you wimper at one point, "Why am I doing this?  I never wanted to fly.  And, I'm never going to fly again.   Never, ever, ever, ever, ever."

Want to hear one of many embarrassing moments?  Yes, we each had to step up on the luggage scale in full view of everyone and get weighed.  Ugh!  Roni, thanks so much for letting everyone know that Granny has a little work to do on my calorie counting! 

Team Squirt did okay, though!  We were given the green light to board the plane (with no promises of our luggage going with us). 

After spending a sleepless night before leaving for Florida, then another sleepless night on the floor of the airport, who really cared if the luggage arrived?  We, the official Team Squirt of Pennsylvania, were boarding our little plane for Haiti!  We were taking with us a spirit of adventure, a spirit of faith, and most of all a spirit of love.  Our mission was to do all we could to encourage those who were in despair, feed those who were hungry, and bring the message of God to those who longed for hope in seemingly hopeless situations!
And, we didn't need luggage for any of that!

Off and at 'em, Team!  Look out Haiti, here we come.................

PS  Obviously we survived the plane trip because I'm here to write about it.  Our biggest concern while in the air was ....of course you have to know the answer.  "Where's the bathroom?"  You gotta love Team Squirt!  :)
PPS  Lori did just fine.  The meds knocked her out and she never even knew she was on a plane! 

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Haiti: "Only God Knows the Plan and the Heart"

Sometimes we look at people with so many preconceived ideas.  We think we know their hearts, their goals, their ambitions, and their purpose in life.  But, oh how wrong we can be -- especially when God is in the mix!

Such is true for this couple, Steph and Roni.  They have totally different backgrounds, there are several years separating their ages, they had a "long distance" dating relationship, and many people said, "Oh, they'll never make it.  They aren't made for each other. They have so many differences that the odds are stacked against them."

One thing people often forget to factor in is "God."  When love for God is central in a person's life, the other "stuff" becomes little in comparison to what really matters.

As a mother, I've watched with awe as this couple, Steph and Roni, have grown, blossomed, and become living examples of what love means.  I've seen them sacrifice for others.  I've seen them serve others in ways that I personally have never served.  I've seen their faith in God grow and blossom.  I've seen their love for each other blow me away!  They have a respect for each other that I didn't know could exist in a marriage!

This young couple, against all odds, got married, and their love for each other continues to grow along with their love and dedication to God.

They took on a responsibility that many seasoned Christians would never dream of doing.....they put together a mission team of thirteen people of mixed backgrounds and diverse experiences with mission work and led one of the most powerful mission trips to Haiti ever.  Why?  Because they didn't think about negatives; they concentrated on one thing -- serving in the name of Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior.

One couple, plus a love for God equals immeasurable acts of love and service.
I love this young couple so much!  They are a daily inspiration to me and countless others.  And, they are a living example of what happens to lives when God is at the heart and soul of a person.

Steph and Roni, thank you for stepping out in faith and putting together "Team Squirt"!  We laughed, we served, we cried, and we loved together....all because you had the courage to step out in faith and say, "Let's do it.  Let's go, team!"

I can't wait to see what all happens as God continues to grow in the hearts of this couple.  Two ordinary young kids (as some would say) against all odds accomplished many wonderful things in the name of God our Father. 

May we each learn to be open to the calling of God.  May we step out in faith.  And, may we know the joy of serving!  When in doubt, just look at this picture of Steph and Roni.  They are living examples of what happens when God is first!

Thank you for being my inspiration!  Thank you for showing how serving God is a joy, not a task.  And, thank you for encouraging me to be part of the best team I could ever have joined, "Team Squirt"!

Love forever,

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Haiti: The Unmentioned Members of "Team Squirt"

It hurts so much to say good-bye!

There was a buzz going on for months about our Haiti mission trip!  Exciting plans were being made to help countless people in Haiti.  Every detail possible was thought of, including how much bug repellant to bring, what kind of soap to use, and how many changes of clothes to bring.  Lodging, plane tickets, vaccines, and countless other details were taken care of in preparation for this mission trip.

One thing that wasn't discussed in preparation for the trip, though, was the tremendous sacrifices being made by the wives and children of those who were going on this mission trip.  They stepped aside and gave their full support knowing how difficult this time of separation would be.  They didn't even know if they'd be able to receive a daily text message, let alone a phone call.  And, yet they selflessly said, "Go.  I want you to go and serve those in need."   

For years I was "the preacher's wife"-- the one who got to stay at home.  Maybe that's why I'm especially aware of the pain that those who "don't get to go" feel.  It's such a mixed bag of emotions -- wanting the one you love to serve God in the mission field, yet knowing that you cannot be right there alongside the one you love because of responsibilities at home that must be carried on.  Truthfully, being left behind stinks! 

As I watched Natalie and Eden say their good-byes to Jimmy, my heart ached.  I saw tears streaming down their faces, and I wanted to say, "This isn't fair.  This isn't how it's supposed to be!"  And, yet I knew that this couple, like every other couple that was part of "Team Squirt",  had made extreme sacrifices so that those in need could be served.  Those who were left behind, in my opinon, are our unsung heroes. 

Without those who stayed behind, we would not have had the amazing team that went to Haiti this March!  Without selfless giving, selfless loving, and selfless dedication to God and mankind, all of the wonderful things that were accomplished with the orphans, the homeless, the sick, and those in prison never would have happened.

To those who stayed behind......guess what?  YOU are just as much a part of "Team Squirt" as the ones who set foot in Haiti.  You sacrificed your hearts, and that's the only thing that God wants from any of us!

Love and thanks forever and ever to ALL the team members -- to those who went to Haiti and those who stayed behind!   

Friday, April 6, 2012

Haiti: What Do Sandals Have to do with a Mission Trip?

"Now these are what I call sandals!"

What in the world do sandals have to do with this Haiti mission trip?  Brace yourself, because you're going to learn a lot about the spirit of "Team Squirt" through these sandals.

Two days before leaving for Haiti, I received a call from my daughter, Steph.  "What size sandal does Jimmy wear?"  (Jimmy is her brother who also went on the trip.)  "Uh, I think size 12.  Why?"

"Well, Roni (Steph's husband who also went on the trip) and I were talking last night, and we're buying Jimmy some new sandals." 

"Why? Jimmy has sandals.  You know that."

"Mom, Jimmy is wearing the same pair of beat up Walmart sandals that he's been wearing for the past ten years.  The soles are worn through, and you know that Jimmy will never buy anything for himself.  He gives to everybody else, but never spends a dime on himself!  Roni and I researched and we know just the pair we're going to get him!  Honest, mom, these sandals are so comfortable, and they come with a guarantee.  They really will last Jimmy for the next ten years!"

Fast forward to the airport.  We thirteen team members arrived on different planes and met in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida to board our final plane to Cap Haitien.  There was a secret about to unfold and only a few of us were in on the surprise!

Picture this:  Steph and Roni ran up to greet Jimmy in the airport (who was wearing his flippy-floppy worn out sandals)  almost tripping over their own feet while shoving  the box into Jimmy's hands.

"What are you guys doing? How about a hug or something like that?" (They hadn't seen each other since Christmas.)

"Open it, Jimmy!  It's for you!  Hurry up!  Open it!"  (Honestly, this reminded me of Christmas back when the kids were little!)

Standing off to the side watching from a mother's vantage point, you have no idea how much my heart was racing with excitement and overflowing with a sentimental joy.  Not often do I ever hear of adult brothers and sisters doing things like this for each other.  Roni and Steph took some of their hard-earned money that they had been saving and got Jimmy a "supreme pair of sandals" smothered in love.  They wanted the very best for Jimmy, and that's what he got!  They sacrificed big time to see that their brother had decent sandals to trod the soil of Haiti while visiting the orphans, the homeless, and the sick.

In my opinion, the spirit of "Team Squirt" began long before we reached Haitian soil.  This spirit of sacrificially giving, of loving one another, and of sincerely caring for each other began months prior to this trip. I could recount story after story of the 13 team members making tremendous sacrifices to make sure everyone had enough money, supplies, and food to go on the trip.  What a team!!! 

"Just a pair of sandals", you say.  Not hardly!  These sandals represent the sole mission of "Team Squirt" -- to be the very hands, feet and heart of Jesus! 

Stay tuned for more of the "inside" stories of our trip to Haiti.  I promise that you won't be disappointed!

PS  Guess where Jimmy's old sandals went?  In the very first trash recepticle he found in the airport!  And, the new sandals?  A perfect fit, and I'm glad we all liked them because those will be attached to Jimmy for the next 15 years! 

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Haiti: "Team Squirt" - Thirteen Ordinary People on a Mission!

Departure from PA -- on our way to meet the Nashville crew!

On March 16, 2012 a group of ten very ordinary people gathered together in Latrobe, Pennsylvania at a very small airport to say their farewells to family and friends before boarding a plane for Ft. Lauderdale, Florida where they would meet up with three more very ordinary people (not present in this picture because they were flying in from Nashville, Tennessee). 

This group of 13 people would form what would affectionately be named "Team Squirt" (to be explained in another post) or more formally known as the "Haiti Mission Team" sponsored by the Somerset Church of Christ.

The team consisted of two busisnessmen, two nurses, one doctor, one medical transcriptionist, one teacher, one valet manager, one assistant locations manager for the film industry, one preacher, two students, and one granny.  Ordinary people with quite diverse backgrounds. 

I'll be the first to admit that I wondered how this "team" would do being confined in such tight quarters that everybody knew when the other had to use the bathroom.  Would there be arguments when the days were hot and everyone was dusty and sweaty?  Would there be impatience with the lack of "stuff" that we were used to such as hot showers, private space, comfy beds, and daily trips to get some Starbucks coffee? Would we get on each other's nerves?  Would we be able to bond and work well together as a team?   

My mind was full of questions.  My heart was excited, but also filled with fear.  Yet, here I was........boarding the plane, taking off for a world totally unknown to me. 

I sucked in my breath and uttered a prayer as I sat down in my seat on the plane.  "God, please get me through this week and get me back home in one piece!"   

Little did I know what all God had in store for me and "Team Squirt."  I promise that as you follow along with these blog posts you'll laugh, you'll cry, you'll ask questions, and most of all you'll understand how God uses everyday, ordinary people to carry out extraordinary things in His name in order to honor and glorify Him.

Clara (Granny)
PS  Look out team members 'cause I'm telling all!   There will be no secrets in this blog including the many adventures of Mary Ann's Vera Bradley bag! 

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Nine Days 'til Haiti!

It seems like only yesterday that this trip to Haiti was just an idea.  But, here it is only nine days until departure! 

For those who have followed this blog you know I was fearful of so many things:  the frogs, the unsafe water, the mosquitos, no hot water, consuming only rice and beans with occasional chicken feet for daily food, and sleeping under mosquito netting. My biggest fear of all was of the emotional impact this would have.  Visually seeing so much pain and not being able to take it all away is still a concern of mine. 

Until.....I began looking at the photos from past trips to Haiti.  The children are smiling.  The adults are gracious and thankful.  There are beautiful children everywhere!  And, I've been told that God will never be more real to me than when experiencing a worship and praise service while in Haiti!  So many blessings are waiting to touch our lives when we enter that sweet land of Haiti!   

I'll close out today's thoughts with this.  One of our team members has never flown and she was very anxious.  Another expressed his fear of flying on a small, crowded plane.  Yet another spoke of his anxiety knowing we will be embarking on a journey with so many unknowns.  Then, a teenager on the team spoke to his mom and asked a simple question of faith.  "Do you know where you are going when you die?"  "Of course!  I'm going to heaven!"  Then, came the words we all needed to hear.

"This trip is a win-win.  If all goes as planned, countless people will be blessed by this trip.  And, if the worst fear comes true -- if death should occur -- you've reached the goal.  You've won the prize.  You will enter into the gates of heaven!" 

"Fear not, for I am with you."  Isaiah 41:10 

Haiti, we are almost there....and we're all wearing smiling faces because we know with complete assurance that "all is well."



Monday, February 27, 2012

God is NOT Invisible!

For most of my life I believed that God was invisible.  I truly believed that it was impossible for us to see Him while living on this earth.  But, I was wrong.  So, very wrong. 

I have seen God in a rainbow following the death of my baby boy.  God's love was shining brightly, and He delivered me hope.

I saw God the day my sister died.  His love was so strong that He held me up knowing that I didn't have the strength to stand on my own.  He was dressed in a black dress with a hat and had tears streaming from the corners of sorrow-filled eyes.

I saw God and His love each and every time a child of mine was born.  His skin was soft and smoothe and His hair was fuzzy.  He was warm to touch and His breathing beat in sync with mine.  

I saw God feeding the poor as He tenderly looked into the eyes of each one.  I saw God handing out blankets to those who were without clothes giving them shelter from the cold and stormy night.  I saw God holding the hand of the dying person whose body was riddled in pain and whose heart was full of shame.  I saw God blooming in flowers as they were delivered to the lonely person in the nursing home.

I saw God reaaching out and holding the children who were orphaned and alone showering them with love and helping them feel warm and secure.

I saw God in every color, shape and size.  I saw God living in the skin of a servant filled with mercy and love.

And, in just 19 days, I will get to experience seeing God again as He tends to the needs of the sick, the lonely, the orphaned, the starving, and those dying without any hope.  I will see God again and again, and I am so thankful for that privilege of walking beside such servants of love!


Monday, February 13, 2012

Don't Pass Up the Chance to Visit this Mansion!

How I love to look through magazines and check out all of the photos online of gorgeous, breathtaking homes!  I love to see the floor plans, the vast assortment of tile designs, wood finishes, and intricate brick work.  And, the windows!  Oh, I love to see lots of windows that face the morning sunrise.  I could spend days on end looking at photos and daydreaming about what it would be like to live in my dream house by the sea.

As the days draw closer for me to spend some time in Haiti, I've been researching what the homes look like in the land where I will be staying.  I didn't find my preconceived dream home in any of the photos.  In fact, my heart began to fill with sorrow as I saw pictures of falling down structures put together with mud, rotted wood, and tin roofs.  There is no tile on the floors.  There is nothing even remotely close to indoor plumbing that boasts imported fixtures from Italy, let alone marble counter tops, and French doors leading to the libary and family room. 

Rather, I saw photos of decay, clutter, debris, and ruin.  BUT, I also saw photo after photo of smiling faces amid the poverty and rubble.  There were no signs of smug, self-seeking people who have a deeply imbedded love of things.  Instead, I saw beauty in the eyes of people who seemed to say, "Welcome.  Welcome, my friend.  Please step inside the doorway to my home, my mansion, and I will share with you what I have for the day.  What I have is yours. Please, come stay for a while with me."

I'm certain I will not find my "dream house" in Haiti, but....there's a real good chance I might find my "dream home" while there!  In fact, I just might find the next best thing to that mansion prepared for me in heaven.  (John 14:2)  I just might be blessed enough to find a house overflowing with the glory and majesty and wonder of His precious love!

Only thirty two days 'til take off........


Thursday, February 9, 2012

Are There Flowers in Hell?

Beautiful flowers blooming in the midst of tremendous pain!

Sometimes people can ask some really strange questions!  Here's one that I got asked a while ago.  "Are there flowers in hell?"  Now, what kind of question is that?!?!? 

After thinking a minute or two, I said that I doubted there would be flowers blooming in hell -- not according to the description of hell in the Bible.

BUT, I do know that flowers can bloom in the midst of agony and pain.  And, I think part of the purpose of gorgeous flowers that bloom in spite of brokenness and pain is to give us something beautiful to focus on and to give us HOPE of a better day.  Maybe that's why I'm such a flower nut!  I love, love, love flowers!!! And, I sure do love hope!!! 

Last year when my daughter spent time in Haiti, she saw all kinds of things that broke her heart.  Extreme poverty.  Severe damage due to storms.  Orphaned children.  Elderly living in blindness and fear.  Starvation.  Illness with not even a Tylenol to reduce pain and fever.  Nakedness.  Homelessness.  So much pain and suffering!

BUT, Stephanie took a picture just for me.  "Here's a picture of some flowers for you, Mom!"  Steph has no idea how many times I've looked at that photo in this past year.  In every petal I see hope.  I see God's love within each bloom.  I see His hand stretching out to those who are in daily pain saying, "I've sent you these flowers to show you that nothing -- absolutely nothing -- can keep my love from reaching you!"

When I set foot on Haitian soil, I will also experience walking among pain and poverty and illness such as I've never seen before.  But, you know what?  I'm going to be looking for those flowers!  The yellow flowers that bloom so brightly!  Why?  Because those flowers will quiet my broken heart and remind me that God is near to the brokenhearted.  He is with us in our pain.  He has not forgotten us or forsaken us.

Are there flowers in hell?  I doubt it.  But, I know there are flowers in our suffering and pain, and I'm so thankful for that precious reminder of hope!

Only thirty six more days until take off.....


Tuesday, February 7, 2012

The Unforgettable Band Aids

I want to be a Band Aid like this, too! 

I can now say that I am personally attached to an unforgettable Band Aid, and her name is Stephanie.  And,  she's married to a Band Aid named Roni.  And, I know lots more Band Aids named Bill and Mary Ann, and Jimmy, and Chris, and Tim, and DP, and Joe, and ........ Oh, I could go on and on and on!  I love these Band Aids, and I want to be one, too! 

I never thought I'd hear from nay sayers about my trip to Haiti, but it has begun.  Several people have said to me, "It's ridiculous of you to go on this trip.  What's the purpose?  Do you really think you can help anything?  You're nothing more than a Band Aid!  As soon as you leave, the poverty and hunger and pain will still be there, and you've accomplished nothing."

You know what?  I disagree!!!!  I'm going on this trip because "I want to be a Band Aid", and I'm so thankful for every Band Aid I know!  Thank God that Band Aids have come into my life during moments of pain and have placed that arm of love around me, helped me with a bag of groceries, paid a utility bill, given me parts for my car, called me with encouragement, and directed me to God's word for Spiritual strength during my times of need (and there have been many of those times!).  If the Band Aids had not reached out to me, I have no idea where I would be today!

My prayer this day is a simple one.  "Lord, make me a Band Aid who represents You in all that I do."

Only thirty eight more days until take off......

PS  If you weren't mentioned by name as one of my Band Aids, please know that my heart recognizes and loves every one of you.  My Band Aids are too many to mention here, and I thank God daily for that.  Now it's time for me to pay it forward! 
PPS  Just letting you know that this Band Aid is still not eating chicken feet!   

Monday, February 6, 2012

Dinnerware: The Top Ten Things to Consider Before You Buy

There's so much research to be done before buying dinnerware!  Among the top ten considerations is whether or not the dishes are microwaveable and dishwasher safe.  After that, there are other things to be concerned about.  Does Porcelain best fit my needs?  Or do I want Soft-Paste?  Bone China?  Stoneware?  Earthenware?  Melamine? The list goes on endlessly. 

Of course another biggie is the color and pattern of the dinnerware.  It has to match the dining room table and the glass hutch.  Plus, the dinnerware cannot clash with the color of the paint on the walls and the lighting must be just right so as not to cast any unwanted glare on the dinnerware.

Yep!  We really do fret and fuss over things like this.  We spend countless hours looking online, window shopping in department stores, and picking out our favorites on Pinterest. 
 I lay in bed and daydream about things like this every single night! 

However, when I visit Haiti I don't think any of these things will be items of concern.  Not at all! The real worry of the day will be searching for enough beans and rice for the daily meal. 

High blood pressure due to stress runs in my family.  For me, one of the biggest stressors is worrying if I'll have enough money to pay the bills.  You know what?  I think there will be some major changes in my budgeting when I return from Haiti.  Already I am doing some massive house de-cluttering and I have a strong feeling that I will no longer be borderline "hoarder" on my return from Haiti. In fact, I doubt I'll ever worry about what color dinner plate I place on the table again!  

My eyes are being opened to a whole new world every day when I learn more about this place called Haiti that I will be visiting.  Maybe, just maybe, this trip's agenda was planned by God after all.  I think He just might have some changes in store for this old granny!

Only thirty nine more days until take-off!

PS  Does anyone want to come help me do some house purging?  If so, you better bring along a tractor trailer truck! 

Sunday, February 5, 2012

There Are Hundreds of Chicken Recipes, but......

I love the taste of fresh chicken and have had it prepared in more ways than you can count!  However, I have never eaten chicken feet cooked with beans.  Nor, have I watched someone slaughter a chicken in front of me and reach for the feet declaring this is a delicacy and most favored food!   

Total honesty, here.  I don't know if I can do it.  I don't know if I'll be able to eat chicken feet and beans.  I feel guilty, embarrassed, ashamed, and most of all queasy in the stomach.  I really and truly don't know if I can eat this particular dish that most assuredly will be offered to me while in Haiti.

I'm grieving over what to do.  My daughter who has visited Haiti several times now has assured me with delight that I will "love this food"! She said it's the most delicious chicken she has eaten.  Well, what does she know?  She eats goats and all kinds of other strange things.  Truthfully, I think I'm pretty much going on a liquid diet while there.  Okay, I'll eat the beans.  But, chicken feet?  I can't...I really, really cannot do that, Lord. 

These are the thoughts that are circulating through my mind every day as I prepare for this trip.  To some this may seem silly, but to me this is major, life-changing stuff for me.   

My prayer for today:  "Dear God, I thank you for the bounty of food you have provided me all of my life.  May I feel the pain of others who are hungry so that I might know how to help.  May I be humbled as I sit among orphans and elderly and those in prison and learn to understand more of your love and purpose for my life while on this earth.  And, God, help me to be thankful for everything -- even chicken feet.  Very humbly I pray, Amen."

Only forty days until time to leave....  


Friday, February 3, 2012

Why Are You Going There?

In all honesty, I wasn't prepared for so many "why" questions.  I cannot tell you how many people have asked me, "Why are you going to Haiti?"  "That's no vacation!"  Why put yourself through so much to go there?" 

Once again, I've had to do a lot of introspection, and that's not a bad thing.  I'll bet I've asked myself that same "why" question at least a thousand times already.  "Why am I going to Haiti?"  I've gone around and around with this question, and if you've been reading along on this blog, you already know some of my fears. 

In the end, it all boils down to this.  Why am I going to Haiti?  I'm going because I love God.  Period.  God has asked each of us to love others as we love ourselves.  That's no easy task -- at least it's not an easy one for me!  I love children.  I love moms and dads.  I love teenagers.  I love old people.  (I'd better love old people, because that includes me!)  But, I can't say that I love others as I love myself.  I'm selfish and self-centered about so much in life.  And, the more I prepare for this trip to Haiti, the more I'm beginning to understand "me" and my relationship with God. 

Why am I going to Haiti?  I'll say it again.  I'm going because I love God.  He spoke to me in so many different ways about this trip, and I fought Him.  I'm still not jumping for joy over this "opportunity", but I'm going. 

I'm going because I love God.  And, I know that God loves everyone -- including every man, woman, and child living in Haiti.  In my search for more of God and less of me, I'm going to Haiti, and I know with full confidence that I will find a lot more of God and my life will be centered around a lot less of me.

Only forty two more days..........

PS  A very special thanks to all who are in prayer about this trip.  Guess what?  Your prayers are working!

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Frogs in the Shower!

At first glance I thought this was some sort of dog!
Today was one of those days when I felt the need for a long, hot shower.  You know the kind when the water feels so good as it pulsates against your skin.  You lather up with the best smelling body soap from Bath and Body Works and you soon look and feel so fresh and clean all over!

As I was finishing up my shower, an image came to mind and I immediately had a panic feeling.  I remembered the frogs in the shower!!  Stephanie, my daughter, told me that on her last trip to Haiti, it wasn't unusual to see a big tree frog clinging to the wall while taking your 2 to 3 minute cold shower.  I shuddered at the thought!  A frog sharing my shower?!?  That can't happen -- not to me!  Please, Lord, if I'm going to have to shower with cold water, don't make me share the little concrete cubicle with a frog!

Isn't it amazing how much we cling to comfort?  We live in a land of so much bounty here in the states that we don't ever have to concern ourselves with sharing our homes with critters of the wild.  And, now, I will learn yet another life lesson as I get to shower with the frogs.  Already I can tell you that the story of Moses and the ten plagues is coming to life for me!

Forty three more days and guess what's on my mind?  Well, you'll just have to wait until tomorrow.  Right now I'm going to check my shower for frogs just in case....


Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Love Will Always Be the Universal Language

Today was spent teaching classes almost the entire day.  In between breaks, I did my usual "Haiti thinking" and today's thoughts were centered around communication. 

Okay, I know we'll have a translator with us at all times, but what about those times when I would like to say something personally to a child?  How will that child understand what I'm trying to communicate?  Should I try to use some kind of made-up sign language?  Should I buy a book on "How to speak like a Haitian"? 

To you it might sound silly, but to me this is a big thing.  I want the kids to understand me.  I want the adults in the nursing home to know how much I care.  I want the families who are getting food relief to know that my heart will always be with them, and that I will continue to pray and care.

Well, you guessed it.  My answer came from God.  He spoke to me by way of my daughter Stephanie's pictures.  I looked at her face in picture after picture.  Sometimes she was smiling.  Other times she was crying.  Still other times she was looking into the eyes of a child she was holding close to her heart.  And, as the saying goes, "A picture is worth a thousand words."  In each and every picture I can "see" what Stephanie is saying.  She's saying, "I love you.  I care for you.  I'm here to help you.  I want you to be happy.  I want you to be fed. I want you to feel safe. I want you to go to sleep and be peaceful tonight."

How will I speak and be understood while in Haiti?  The same way everyone else will.  I will speak with my heart.  My heart will transform my outer being into the language of universal love.  That's just what Jesus does!

And, so it now is only forty four more days until departure.  The excitement is growing! 

PS  A very special thank you to Stephanie for giving me permission to use photos from her previous trips to Haiti. 

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Water, Water, and More Water!

Today's diet consisted mostly of water.  Wonderful, fresh, ice cold water.  I drank it for breakfast.  I drank it for lunch.  I drank water with a slice of lemon for my afternoon snack.  And, I just finished another tall glass of water with lots of ice.

I've always been a water drinker -- even as a small kid I can remember going out to the hand pump and cranking out the water.  Oh, it was so cold and seemed to hit the spot perfectly, especially on those muggy, hot days in New Jersey!  Even better was when there was an outside spigot to turn on and stick your head under to cool off and lap up that refreshing, cold water.

Why did I drink only water today?  You guessed it!  Haiti is always on my mind these days.  I've been told that fresh, clean water is something that is not readily available to everyone.  In fact, most of the water where we will be staying is contaminated.  We will have to purchase our water and be ever so careful not to even allow the "regular water" to touch our lips. 

This disturbs me so much!  In this day and age of super technology, the finest machinery and drilling equipment, and advances being made daily in the fields of science, how in the world are there people who still don't have clean drinking water readily available to them?

I don't have the answer to that question, but I do know how much I love and appreciate thirst-quenching, clean, clear, cold water!  And, I know that I am acutely aware of the struggles many people go through just trying to get a little bit of drinking water for their daily hydration.  I also know it pains me to think of living a life without fresh, clean drinking water. 

Forty five days until my feet stand on Haitian soil.  Forty five days until I will be wondering where I will get my daily supply of water.  Forty five days until I will not have any icy, cold water to drink on those steamy, hot days.  Forty five days until I will experience first hand what it truly means to be in need of one of the most basic things in life -- clean drinking water.

Forty five days until I see with my eyes what it's like not to have a pump in the front yard, a spigot on the side of the house, at least 5 or 6 faucets inside of the house pouring out clean, clear water.

Forty five days until my heart will forever be broken.........


Monday, January 30, 2012

It Only Hurts a Little Bit!

It only hurt a little bit!! 

Today was the day that the trip to Haiti began to really feel like it was  going to take place!  An hour long drive to go get my shots gave me lots and lots of time to think.  "So, you're really doing this.  You're going through with the trip.  If you get the shots, you're committed to go. There's no backing out now." 

And, so my conversation went on and on like that through the entire drive to Pittsburgh.  Oh, I wasn't afraid of the shot.  I'm a toughie when it comes to things like that.  My fear is facing the unknown.  Going into a land that is foreign to me is not what I would call an "exiting trip."  It's an adventure, but not a pleasure trip.  I sound terribly selfish, don't I?  Like I said many times before, God has a lot of work to do with me.  I love the comforts of home so much, and I'll be the first to admit it.  I miss my comfy bed and I didn't even leave yet! 

The nurse at Passport Health greeted me with a smile.  "So, you're a little nervous about this trip?"  How in the world did she know?  "Your face looks pale.  Here...have some water.  Let's get you good and hydrated before you get your shots." 

This sounded like a plot of some sort.  I was in deep trouble.  Out came the notebook she had prepared for the trip.  It even had my name on it!  Yikes!  Too, too real!!!  The nurse took her time and went over every possible detail of the trip she could think of along with explaining every shot that was needed for this trip to Haiti.

One thing seemed to pop off of the page as we were going through the booklet, and I couldn't seem to get past it.  The entire land of Haiti was colored in brown.  "What's that mean?"  I knew it had to mean something important!  "If you don't take your malaria medication, you most certainly will get malaria." 

It hit me like a ton of bricks.  Here I was fussing and asking a ton of questions trying to avoid as many vaccines and prevention medications as possible.  Why? Because I just didn't want to take the medication.  No other reason.  And, that's when it all hit me.  Those children -- the ones we're going to visit.  Those precious children are hoping upon all hope that we will bring them the vaccines they need to prevent whooping cough, malaria, measles, mumps, worms, meningitis, and flu.  They are praying for the same medications that I was tossing aside simply because I didn't want to take them. 

 "Okay, God.  You've done it again.  You're really digging into my heart, aren't you?"
With tears of shame streaming down my face, I gladly received my shots.  I said prayers of thanks for the availability of the medication.  I thanked God for such a special nurse.  I thanked God for the car that got me to the facility where I could receive the medication.  I thanked God for the financial means to pay for the vaccines. 

I humbly and gratefully thanked God for my many, many blessings.

And, so it is now forty six days until departure for Haiti. Today was a good day......a very good day.   

PS  I might be a toughie when it comes to shots, but I'm not kidding when I tell you that both of my arms are sore!!!  Where, oh where, is that bottle of Tylenol? 

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Those Eyes Are Melting My Heart!

Sitting on my comfortable pew in church today, thoughts of Haiti kept overriding anything the preacher said.  All I kept thinking was, "Only forty six more days until entering a foreign land.  Forty six days to prepare for this life-changing experience!" 

And, then the adrenalin rush that comes with fear made my body shake.  Tomorrow I will travel to Pittsburgh to get the first series of traveler's shots.  I've never had any of these vaccines before, so that nagging fear kept creeping into my thoughts. "What if you get a bad reaction to the shots?  What if the nurse messes up and gives you too much of the serum?  What if, what if, what if......"  You know how Satan loves to play with your mind.  I thought of every "what if" possible, and then something snapped me back to reality.

As Pastor Ray kept speaking words of assurance from God's word, I realized once again how small my faith really is.  My faith is wee small.  Baby small.  Tiny, squeaky faith.  I was sitting next to my oldest daughter, and I wanted to cry in shame.  She's shown some amazing faith in her life!  And, here's her mom.  Her mom that is supposed to be this strong woman of God.  Instead----baby faith. 

And, then I prayed this prayer, "God, help me to trust you.  I mean really, really trust you.  I know you're trying to dig deep into my life.  I know you're knocking at the door of my heart.  I can hear you.  But, I'm so afraid to let you all the way in." 

True confessions, friends.  I hate change.  I absolutely, positively hate any kind of life changes.  And, I already know that this trip is going to kindle the fires of change within me, and I'm still trying to buck the sytem.  God sure has His work cut out with this ole gal!

When I came home from church, I decided to look at Steph's Haiti pictures again, and one picture seemed to speak to me more than any other today.  This little girl's eyes seemed to be looking right at me.  They dug right into my heart and seemed to say, "What are you afraid of, lady?  You have everything you could ever need or want. Most of all you have Jesus walking right by your side.  Think of me when you're getting those shots tomorrow.  I wish that somebody -- maybe even you -- would bring shots to my orphanage so I wouldn't get sick anymore.  Don't be afraid, lady.  Just think of me and think of how happy you should be because you have Jesus."

And, on day forty six, I'm thinking.  I'm thinking constantly of this little sweet soul in the pink dress with those beautiful, big brown eyes.  Tomorrow when I get my shots, I will cling to this picture, and I won't be afraid.  I know I won't be afraid.  I will think of Jesus and the little girl in Haiti with the pink dress calling out to me.


Saturday, January 28, 2012

God, I'm Running Out of Excuses!

Today I attended the second meeting about the trip to Haiti -- the trip that "I" will be going on this March.  God and I have had many, many conversations about this trip, and so far He seems to be getting His way -- even though I've been trying out every excuse in the book NOT to go!   

My daily conversations with God for the past few months have been blunt and to the point.  "God, I don't want to go.  Send somebody else.  My job is to stay here -- home -- right where I want to be."  I've thought of excuse after excuse as to why I'm not the right person to be going on this trip.  And, I thought my excuses were pretty good, too!   

"God, you know for a fact that I don't have the money."  His reply to this was simple and quick.  "Here you go....a friend has just donated the money for you to go!"  All I could think was, "Why?  Now why did he do that?!?!?  Why did he have to give that money for me?" 

"I'm way too old for this trip and I won't be able to climb up into the truck while traveling to villages or spend long days in the sweltering heat."  My doctor, after examining me said, "You must be doing something right.  Your health checks out better than it has in years. Keep up the great work!"  Another excuse went down the drain.  I can't believe this!  God thinks I can survive the steaming heat while packed together like sardines on a rickety truck in a foreign land.  Are you kidding me?  "God, this is a joke, right?" 

"My kids will miss me and I'm needed right here at home. You know how much they need me, God. Besides, there are birthdays in March and a new grandbaby is due to be born."  Well, God must have laughed at that one!  Five of my kids are going on this trip to Haiti -- that's half of my family.  In fact, they are the ones planning this trip!  And, so God wins out on this one, too.  "Listen to me child.  You're going to be with your family!  This is going to be great!"  I had no answer for God on this one. 

"I'm not in a strong enough place emotionally to see any kind of human suffering."  Oh, God showed me how wrong I was on this excuse, too!  My children have had a year of unbelievable pain.  Never in a million years would I have ever imagined the trials our family would be asked to endure.  And, you guessed it.  God made sure I stayed strong so that I could be "mom" and "gram" to my hurting children. 

"God, I give up!  You win!  I'm going on this trip, but I'm afraid.....I'm afraid you've called on the wrong person." 

It is now forty seven days until a team of thirteen, myself included, will depart for Haiti to spend time with precious souls.  I'm trying to pump myself up for this, but I've got to tell you that I really am afraid.  I'm not even sure of what.  Everything, I guess.  And, so I'm going to write my thoughts each day and have you, my friends, join me for what will no doubt be the most life-changing event of my life! 

I'm feeling pretty wimpy right now, but God seems to think I can do this.  He and I are still debating, and so far He's winning.  Stick with me and let's see what all He has in store for this old granny! 

PS  The picture posted here is my daughter, Stephanie, on one of her trips to Haiti.  She absolutely, positively radiates God's love.  Maybe, just maybe, God wants me to do a little radiating, too!