02 June 2020

messy

Pentacost Sunday, Matt preached...first time since we've been Stateside. The church had red balloons, "tongues of fire" tied around the sanctuary, and worshipping together, praying together, learning together, celebrating two baptisms together, having a huge picnic together afterwards, it was all deeply good. 
I love, I love spending time with broken people who are willing to share their stories, willing and ready to be broken and His. This church has a specific passion for ministry in prisons and abortion clinics, and the brothers and sisters who gather there know Jesus.

Spending time, watching children, listening, learning with broken people who know Jesus is beautiful for my soul.

One stranger heard we were homesick, and made the girls Haitian chicken and rice. One stranger had to leave her 2-year mission field of Niger in a moments notice due to the virus, months before she was supposed to, robbed of all good-byes and closure, and for all the times she cried over chicken salad, I cried, too. There was a bouncy house and Ben's blueberries all over the blanket and the chaos of balloons and children and all kinds of people from all kinds of stories, and it was messy beautiful.

I didn't use to appreciate messy the way I do now. 

But messy people, the Bible says, were His favorite, and messy stories are mine, and hearing what God has done in the broken lives of many renews all the hope and encourages all the strength and humbles all my hurts.

When Matt finished preaching a powerful message on the Holy Spirit, our badly needed Helper (find me a person, lately, who feels no desperate need for The Helper), he started to pray over that sweet body of Christ in Haitian Creole and the Holy Spirit we'd just finished studying just met me in all my heart languages. 

Every get a glimpse of just how deeply He loves those around you? 

How deeply He loves these men and women and children by your side? How deeply and intimately and powerfully He loves the men and women and children in each of our hearts? How mightily He loves the men and women and children of every tribe and tongue and nation on this planet? How sacrificially He loves? How deeply?

That great love--pursuing, comforting, meeting, overcoming, present, transforming, healing, hurting alongside, allowing, disciplining, discipling, pursuing still--If His great love for Haiti and Gues and Granny and Gertha and my students and Michline is THERE with them, ever-present and powerful, then they aren't lacking for anything where I fall short, are they. 

If His great love for my sister and her family, for my grandma all alone, His great love for our lost friends and family and our found, His great love for each and every, each and EVERY...If it is HIS great love that is doing the work, finding the lost, lighting the dark, helping the hopeless, healing the hurting, if His great love is showing up and cannot be diminished, then I am just humbled and honored and along for the ride, with HOPE.

It doesn't depend on me. It cannot be altered by me. It cannot be added by me. It cannot be ruined by me. 

I can just share His. 

He's given us this small place, on N Maple Street in Mississippi, these small places on the street and in offices and church yards and parking lots and corner markets, where we can just share His love.  

As Matt chatted with men and women for hours on Sunday, once incarcerated and now free in many ways, God's love makes them family. They invited him to Friday night Bible study, and suddenly the photo of Matt's beloved Monday night Bible study in Pillatre that is continually prayed over in our bedroom is brought to life...there are men and women every place with heavy pasts whom God's love has given a future. 
He's given me this crookedy house where I can just share His steady, unfailing love with kids who need it, my four and daily, at least six more. Suddenly there are non-Ayars around the dinner table almost every night, and I rejoice to be learning of and sharing His love around this table that's hardly got a mark yet. It can be messy, with imperfect conversation and burnt rolls and a tired toddler and a sticky floor, but His love is felt and seen and shared and so NO one is lacking for anything where I fall short, are they.

Don't hide it under a bushel, friends, don't let the world extinguish it, not for fear of His love through you falling short...nor for fear that it might not be sufficient for all the many problems of the day. 

He is not too small for Haiti and He is not too late for America and He is not too righteous for messy nor will He be limited by me.

Praise the Lord.

30 May 2020

counting blessings

Sometimes finding Him is natural-obvious-easy and sometimes it's intentional-sought-and-dug...but even in the darkest days, He is there, He is in them.

He is, which means that there IS fullness of joy and in all things, thanks to be given.

I've been looking for beautiful things...quiet things. I've been listening for, sometimes straining for, His voice, paying attention to the amens in each day.

And I've been working to offer up a grateful heart--instead of a guilty one--when I find them.

1) The Dishwasher.

Every time people visited us in Haiti and stood in the kitchen with us an hour or more after dinner, chatting and washing and drying, they tried to convince us that not having a dishwasher was no big deal.

They were lying to make us feel better.

A lot of the American dream is over-rated.

NOT the beloved dishwasher.

Hospitality is now taking minutes, not hours, and I'm gaining the time with the people I love.  And the machine I love.

2) Friends.

They don't come easy, but we've learned over the years in Haiti how to make friends as quick and deep as we can before they leave.  The turnover might not be so dramatic here, but the girls are in all-out friend mode, and I'm thankful.  Since getting a table, we've been so thankful to have lots of different people, from new friends to neighbors to new co-workers to visiting family around it, and with coronavirus having so many neighbors home, we've been thankful for the girls having daily playmates....and for all the precious people who have had us to their homes and worked to get to know us!


3) A dryer. 

Just like the dishwasher, you wouldn't believe how much time it takes to hang every item of laundry out on the line, wait three hours, and bring it all back in again. Being able to do laundry at night...in the rain...after noon...and throw it all in the dryer, only to be done an hour later...is fantastic.  Also, the girls, who could never reach the top of the line to hang and remove laundry, can now do their own, start to finish! Again, so much time freed up for being more present!

4) Siblings. 

Maybe this was happening the same before and I was just missing it because I was at work so much (or washing dishes and hanging out laundry and cooking for hours from scratch so much), but I have been so thankful to watch our four kiddos be friends. Teach each other. Help each other. Talk to each other. I LOVE catching all these sweet moments of their friendships developing. Been thankful for opportunities to speak His love and grace and Word into their daily moments. 


5) Cooking

Suddenly, whatever ingredients we need don't need substituted.  Suddenly, there is more than potatoes, onions, carrots, cabbage, and beets.  Suddenly, making a homecooked meal can include store-bought rolls. I love making a pie, without always having to make the crust. I love making a sandwhich, whithout having to make the bread. I love making chilli, without having to always soak dried beans, making pizzas without having to make all the crusts. We're trying all kinds of foods and recipes we've never had access to, and it's FUN. I'm really enjoying my time (albeit, much LESS time) in the kitchen, and baking and cooking with the kids. 





6) Reading.

This probably has nothing to do with having been in Haiti and now being in Mississippi, but with less time doing all the above thing, and having A/C in the house (and the 90+ degree weather staying outside and not zapping our energy the same way), I've been reading every night before bed, and I'm LOVING it. I've never read much--never felt like I've had time--but making a little bit of time right now for it has been beautiful.  

One of the things I've 'abandoned' for a while has been tv/movies, so I know that's helping free up some time to read, too, and I'm pretty sure that except for the rare occasion (I mean, have you seen Little Women?) I won't be going back.  

7) Little signs of home.  I never took any of my mom's things to Haiti because it felt unnecessary and risky in a home with no windows and so much dust and humidity. And while many of our things are still in Haiti, I was sure to grab a few keepsakes that would remind us of home. Between a few things from my childhood that remind me of mom and family, and a few things from Haiti that remind me of family and His faithfulness, I am thankful today for things around me that bring joy.

8) Homeschooling

The last two years have been so busy that I didn't realize how much I was missing of homeschooling, but I WAS.  I am loving learning alongside these four kiddos...setting up our day, listening to them learn and read and grow and question. I love knowing intricately what they are studying and learning and finding creative ways to weave that into our days, to expound upon it. Even the challenging parts--like MATH and reading, I love finding creative ways to work through, and love watching it click and light up in the kids. I also love being able to stop at 10 to take a walk around the neighborhood with handfuls of blueberries, and then jump back in when we get home...reading books while we wait at the dentist...finding out about places I can take them (well, one day when they open again) that will bring what they are learning to life.  



9) Family

As much as we are missing family from home, I am grateful and thankful to have had Nikki, Matt's mom, my dad, and Sharon already come to our turf to help it feel less new, and more like a place our family has been.  It is not easy to travel right now, and NONE of them stayed as long as we wanted them to, but having sweet memories with Dad, Barb, Nikki and Sharon here, introducing them to people here, has made this challenging transition a little easier. 

I am THANKFUL over and over for God at work through His people...how often He shows me Himself, speaks me His truth, through one of His children. How richly He has provided for our family during this time through His children. How intimately He has shown up through His Lights.

10) Medical Care.

In one month, we have received good medical care Sofie's abscessed tooth. My broken one. Had all three girls teeth cleaned and checked. Gotten Ben, Lily and Nora's way behind shot records caught up. Had all the kid's check-ups. Matt's had blood-work and a full check up and has an appointment next week with a GI guy. 

After so many years of these kinds of things being impossible, or follow-up being impossible because we were only in the states for a few weeks, we are just richly grateful for every prick and waiting room (which, with covid, has mostly been the van...another thing I am thankful for.)  

I hope we never take for granted good, clean, reliable, accessible health care, or the medical insurance that helps make it possible. 

11) Matt traveling less.  This will surely pick up again some after Covid, but we are used to Matt being gone for one week or more a month.  Having him home every night and weekend has been a new and rich blessing for us all...especially for his little obsessed shadow.

12) Pets.
While we have tried and tried, to no avail, to find a small dog for Sofie's 9th birthday coming up this week (apparently everyone bought up all the puppies, chest freezers, hair clippers, bleach and yeast before we moved to Mississippi when they heard about the virus coming), we did adopt a kitty from the local animal shelter, and all the girls have just been obsessed. It's a small thing, but having Magnolia, or "Maggie", has helped a lot with how much they have been struggling with leaving our dogs and cat at home and helping with some of the emotions that come with it.

Alright, there are some of my blessings, counted one-by-one.

You're up...what are some of the small, beautiful things in your day-to-day that He's using to bring joy...peace....gratitude....?

How are you seeing Him at work, healing and redeeming this broken time?












27 May 2020

summer

Lots of lovely family have been checking in about summer, and short answer : it is as you'd expect.

Our busy speaking schedule that was to kick off in Pennsylvania the first week of June and go until the last week of July with many churches, friends, and a wedding in between, has slowly been cancelled and rescheduled one by one.

While originally we planned to head North to travel around and see family and friends even in ALL speaking venues did cancel...we're pretty sure that traveling around, staying with new people every other night, and visiting hundreds of people across America is not prudent right now.

(personal note: not being able to see my sister or our nieces is killing me. After everything dear Mayah has been through, it's starting to feel like we are NEVER going to be able to see them again shy of putting their family in a fiberglass box :(

SO, unless you are our beautiful NorthRidge, Sabetha, Kansas family on the July 4th weekend (the only place NOT yet forced to cancel!) or perhaps our Eaton Rapids, Michigan, Camp Meeting family (not yet determined)...we are working with churches and friends and family for a fall "tour" instead.

Meanwhile, our Haiti family is holding firm but cases are suddenly multiplying drastically, daily. The president and prime minister are extending shut-downs for another 2 months...just an incredibly challenging, incredibly challenging time. Keep praying for Emmaus, keep praying for Haiti, down in the valley alongside...

Every Monday we talk to Gertha and Leme and Gues and Jodenel and anyone else who is together at our home, and hearing their voices is so sweet.  I am thankful. Thankful He is there, with them.

Thursday and Friday we're going to talk about some beautiful things we're seeing and experiencing, despite, despite... so start your lists for me.


Several mama's have been asking me what we're reading...If that's you, here's this week!
     
     -Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry - Mildred D. Taylor (this is up for Sofie's fourth grade year, but what an important, dignified book, straight out of Mississippi, for ALL of our children)

     -The Terrible Two, Mac Barnett - This is our fun book of the week...it is hilarious, tons of pictures, all three girls are on the edges of their seats and rolling with laughter and asking to read more

     -All of a Kind Family, Sydney Taylor - Sofie's reading this one to us, perfect for girl families,  ages 8-12

     -Letters to Mrs. Roosevelt, Coco de Young - a great book working through the Great Depression through the story of a tween girl

     -Dinner Table Devotions, Nancy Guthrie (our breakfast devotional this year)

     -The Value of Determination, the Story of Helen Keller (our breakfast "ValueTales series") this year

     -Discipleship in the Home, Matt Friedeman (our catechism devotional this year)










26 May 2020

testimony

Despite once being one of those teenagers myself, I always felt a little irritated in Haiti when a group of wide-eyed youth would say things like, "His shoes were handmade from pieces of tire...and here I am with 20 pairs at home! His joy despite his tattered flip-flops just made me so thankful for ALL my shoes! This trip has been awesome, I'm so thankful for what I have now!"

It always rubs me a bit because the "he" who just made everyone feel so good about their Nikes is actually Gaba, the serious little boy who would never forget to thank me when he got out of our truck at school, then the shy 12 year old who always came to our house to play with little John Kennedy on his back, then the hard-working 14 year old who always managed to help Lily fix her bike.
Maybe Gaba's bare feet help make us thankful for our well-clad toes, but how did team after team after team of shiny-shoed foreigners make Gaba feel? Were the lessons mutual? Was he blessed and convicted by what he saw? Do the impoverished of the world break and change our hearts and lives as we become family? Or do our observations of the impoverished simply thank the Lord that we are "blessed" and move us on?

I never knew what to do with all that. I still don't. 

What I do know...

These last 2 days, I've been honored to witness unspeakable-difficult situations lived with deep joy and genuine trust.

And I am humbled. 

I have struggled and cried out and dealt with bitterness and questions and darkness and doubt--and then spent precious time with several people last night and several other people again today who are all facing different kinds of heart-wrenching, gut-wrenching cancer, cancer and chemo and surgeries and radiation and all the awful things that come with it--from places of genuine sweetness, trust and gratitude. 

We talked and ate and questioned and listened and asked and wondered and compared and prayed...and I never heard a bitter word, not from either family. Such trust emerged, again and again, that though they are walking through valleys of shadows unlike anything I've known, He is close, He loves, and He is to be trusted.

As they walk by faith through this intimately painful and helpless journey, I watch in my clean shoes.

But I will be no temporarily-phased onlooker.  

As we become family with all this family of strangers, my heart breaks and is changed.

Where there is much that could be bitter, they are sweet. Where there is much that has been broken, they are trusting with the pieces. Where there is much that has been taken, much lost, much unknown, much unfair...they spoke only of the Lord's goodness, again and again. 

Lily asked tonight if I was sad remembering the death of my mama, 17 years ago today, and as I looked down, all I found on my feet was genuine gratitude, my mother healed and free and His, forever.

Death, where is your sting? 

As we prayed the girls to sleep, we all praised the Lord.  Not for good health, not this time, but for the POWERFUL testimony these brothers and sisters around us are radiating in a time when many eyes are upon them. I praise the Lord for these testimonies for my children, testimonies of hearts grateful in any circumstance, of families relying fully upon the Lord in dark times, of men and and women and children choosing to trust Him instead of abandon Him, instead of blame Him, instead of despairing. 

I praised the LORD for this exact thing many times Haiti, and I did again, tonight.

What did we just say yesterday? It takes faith to stay full of courage when the storm is raging. It takes faith to stay sweet when everything has gone so sour. It takes faith to stay expectant when we've been so disappointed.

My heart.  

It's been challenged and changed and charged a bit today by the testimony of FAITH of several suffering stranger-friends around me.  

May we not be grateful for our shoes, but take them off.

May we not be swayed by the broken, but may we be altered.

May we surrender our precious places to love well the hurting.

May we not observe broken at six feet, but BE broken too, alongside

May we not gain our mountain top experiences at the expense of others, but testify instead from the valley of the shadow of death of His goodness.


May the powerful testimonies 
of mighty-mustard seed faith 
we are changed by today
be mutual.









24 May 2020

abandon

As I bawled my way home from the airport yesterday, two days in a row with Nikki and then Sharon, the Lord gave me a word I've been giving myself a lot lately.

Abandon.

Abandon is what we did.

Abandoned our friends at the airport when they were at rock bottom.

Abandoned our friends and family throughout Haiti without so much as a good-bye, without warning, after we had just days earlier stood in front of a chapel full of family and promised, "don't worry, we will be here through the end of May and make sure this transition goes well and smoothly!"   Abandoned Gues to have the baby I promised I'd hold, abandoned employees in a time of unprecedented unemployment, abandoned our churches without even having been able to make the announcement, left Gertha after years and years of her faithfully coming, abandoned Haiti in the middle of a long, deep stretch of need and crisis.

I have been plagued by the word almost every moment, so it caught my attention sharply when He whispered it...too loud and heavy and clear to miss...Abandon.

For the first time, a dozen Biblical versions of the Word rushed in, strong like tears have been so quick to rush in these days.

Abandon the cares of this world.  
Mark 4:19

Abandon the worries of today.
Matthew 6:25

Never Abandon His teaching.
Proverbs 4:1

Abandon your safe spaces, your comfort places, even your father and mother.
Luke 14:25

God does not Abandon those who search for Him.
Psalm 9:10

Do not Abandon the Lord.
1 Kings 9

We are hunted down, but never Abandoned by God.
2 Corinthians 4:9-11

Even if your mother and father Abandon you, I will not.
Psalm 27:10 

The Lord will neither fail nor Abandon you.
Deuteronomy 31:8

God does not stand at a distance.
Acts 17:27

Abandon your ways.
Isaiah 55:8 

Do not abandon your faith.
John 16:1

I may have done all kinds of abandoning.

But He promises never to, and instead He promises to dwell in the broken and contrite heart.

That.

That I have.


Where we end up, friends, is not determined by what we go through.

It is determined by who we listen to...and our God is not silent.

When He spoke "Abandon" to me yesterday, I knew that what O Chambers says is true : He always presses the point until we learn to make Him our first consideration. 

This storm was one I couldn't circumvent, one I couldn't control, not in the least. I couldn't plan for it, wasn't prepared for it, and couldn't find a way around it.

Perhaps you are in a similar storm today, in this season of uncontrollable struggles and helpless losses.

The storm may be out of my control, but I have been weathering it badly. We cannot run to places in storms that are more dangerous than the storm itself.

It takes faith to stay full of courage when the storm is raging. It takes faith to stay sweet when everything has gone so sour. It takes faith to stay focused, to stay expectant, when we've been so disappointed.

Haiti took a lot of faith.

But do I have a mustard seed of it now? Just enough to do what He's asking?

Abandon, My way, not yours.


Do we have the faith, friends, to abandon? 

All that we have been clinging to?

All that we have been focused on?

All the voices and distractions we listen to?

All that we had wanted?

All whom we love so dearly?

All the safe places, all the guilt, all the feelings?

All that was done and left undone?

All the hurt?

All the pieces?


This season, NOW, may we give up all the places we thought we'd be.  May we raise up all the dreams we thought we'd realize. May we let go all the events we thought we'd cherish. May we release all the people we thought were ours, or would be. May we surrender all the debts we thought we needed paid, may we abandon all the hurts we thought we'd somehow miss, may we surrender all the broken and all the beautiful, too...

May we give up all the places we thought we'd be, and keep our peace, ministering where we are.

This. This is what painful pruning looks like.

I've got some major abandoning to do these next days, and I'm so thankful that no matter where I am, you're here walking with me all the same.

What now? I have asked so many times, branches and blossoms and roots ripped up all around me, abandoned.  What now?

Now we look to Jesus.

Now we look to Jesus.

23 May 2020

Well, we haven't been able to take her anywhere, but we sure have enjoyed our few days with Aunt Sharon all the same...arts and crafts, cooking, hiking and lots and lots of books.

Nikki headed back North today and Sharon, back to Kansas tomorrow.  Lots of all the feelings :(.  

We'll catch up tomorrow, but I wanted you to know we're here and hanging in there...just keeping our heads above water and enjoying some sweet time with these two loved ones.

Haiti beans and rice night

Sharon's bday party




19 May 2020

the Nikki story

Today our Nikki turns 25. And Friday, she heads to her DE home...starting a new summer job June 1st. 

WAAAAAA.

Someone asked me to please explain how Nikki became and Ayars, and as I've been thinking about her lots these days preparing for another major transition, I'm realizing how active God's hand has been in the Nikki story.

The most common question we get is, "Nikki fits in here... HOW exactly? She's your sister/cousin/daughter what?"

The best answer is that she may not be our family exactly, but she is one of our people...and always will be.
church on Sunday, our last Sabbath with Kiki :(
Teaching and working so many hours each day at Emmaus Monday-Friday...and adding a new baby every few years...I've needed HELP in Haiti the last many years keeping on top of the girls' schooling.  We were always behind, I was always behind, and we didn't just need someone to watch over them-- as Gertha always has done so well--but someone educated and able to teach them WELL. 

For years I shared with ones close to us that we needed help (or they observed that we needed help :), but I just knew that we would never find a certified teacher who was ready and willing to move to Haiti, basically living and eating and teaching with our family 24/7. 

I also really needed help with all our English students, having long desired to add a conversational practice element to all our classes, but not having an extra 4-5 hours a week to do so! 

Finally, someone (I don't even remember who, probably Sharon when we became pregnant with Ben!) convinced me to just ASK on our blog, just to make the needs known, though I continued to be confident that we would never find someone. 

I shared on the blog out of that doubt, didn't hear anything, as expected, and after a good little time passed, I got an email from a friend in DE, saying that there was a young woman in her church who had recently graduated with an education degree and was looking for a unique, well-suited placement, and might be interested... (Thank you, Marlene, ALWAYS!)

It wasn't until the week Nikki came to Haiti, Ben just a few days old, that it really hit us that the Lord had answered our prayer...and here we are, two years that have been PLAGUED with political instability and huge, unexpected transitions...and I'm STILL realizing how many prayers, spoken and unspoken, the Lord has answered in and through Nikki.

Above and beyond prayers...a dearly loved tutor for our students, dearly. A friend for many on our Haiti missionfield. Ben's best buddy.  The little sister Matt never had.  The big sister Lily always wanted. Patient, consistent, steady, reliable schooling through just a tumultuous year. Another set of hands when another set of hands has been badly needed through moving countries in a time when few could help us due to coronavirus. An added sense of stability when there has been little. A good friend for all of us. 

One time I mentioned to Emily how challenging it must always be to have someone outside her family living with them, and she shrugged, "It's kind of something we've always done. There are always people out there who NEED the Jesus and the love that our family has to offer, and what better discipleship is there than life-on-life?"
I love how our family has grown because of Nikki...how Nikki has grown because of our family, and how the Lord has provided for the seven of us through each other.

I love how He answered prayers we weren't even bold enough to articulate, and how He had EXACTLY Nikki EXACTLY these two years for our family, and for so many others. 

We will all be bawling on Friday.  We've already had our late night tears, Nikki and I. But I will be THANKFUL on Friday, too...because He knew us all better and knew what we all needed and knew what all was coming and what we all would need...and He has been GOOD to give us Himself through one another.  He's got good gifts, friends. Pray boldly!

17 May 2020

space

Here is a good little word, from the book-gift I got in the mail today from I don't know who, for your continued quarantine Sabbath.

This season is a season of loss and space for literally every person I know...for you and I, dear ones, and some of you are in deep.

I don't know much about why God allows what and when.

But I DO know that it is His desire--every time--for our loneliness, our loss, our pain, for our diminishing, to increase our hunger for Him...

...for the voids and spaces and gaps in our lives to draw us closer to Him.

Praying for you today, friends, as we do not take for granted the painful space that has heightened our hunger for Him...may we taste and see that He is good.



I cradled my midnight questions
while mamas cradled their babies
and I let God's psalms tell me
He cradled the answer in Himself. 

I felt forgotten,
but I heard God speak He hadn't left me.

I felt weak, 
but I heard Him promise an overshadowing.

I felt anxious that my constant fumblings would annoy Him,
but I heard Him say He delighted in me.

And I felt hungry.

I wasn't this hungry 
when God was a distant coach,
forcing me to perform.

I wasn't this hungry
when I had a life easily explained,
easily predicted.

I wasn't this hungry
when everyone understood me.

Pain had created space.

Little did I know that I was to see
the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.

Every Bitter Thing Sweet, Sara Hagerty



15 May 2020

today

May 15th.

That's the day we had tickets to leave Haiti.

My list for the time between our evacuation March 25th and today is still in my Bible.

Gertha and Granny were going to teach me once and for all how to make some of the girlies very favorite Haitian food, their way, so that I could make it for the kids once moved to Mississippi...they would relish the tastes of home, and I would relish the precious time in the kitchen with Ger and Gran.

We were all going to hike to church at Coup-a-David, Ben's first trip, my fiftieth, one more time. I was going to visit with families along the way I have gotten to know over time, meet Pastor Enique's precious newborn, and relish the mountain hike I have deeply loved, every single sweaty time.

We were going to go the beach with the Edlers and Pam for Easter, one last big trip...sit in the sand and watch all our precious children deeply enjoy being together, reminiscing all the many times those waves washed the hardships of daily life and ministry away. Spend the night, wake up with the sun and the coffee and so many memories and with dear friends.

We were going to have 2 precious weeks with our Haitian-American Aunt Sharon, doing some of the lasts with her, celebrating all the many times she had come and come and come and become family.

We were each scheduled to preach in chapel one more time, and I had already started working on my last message to that dear family, my chance to share my heart and some of what He's taught me these 13 years with my Haitian brothers and sisters.

The fourth year class had asked me to be the maren, the class godmother, for graduation, and I had happily agreed and picked their gift and planned to celebrate and enjoy that last always-inspiring event.

I was going to finish my classes well and enjoy each one of them...clean out my office, leave lesson plans well for the next classes, enjoy those last classes to the full...There was never a class, not in 13 years, that I didn't truly enjoy. What a gift it was teaching English at Emmaus since the month we moved to Haiti.

I was going to walk the campus with the kids every evening, like always, and listen and breath and enjoy. I was going to sit in the yard with the kids and friends and enjoy it. I was going to tell the dumb dog I wasn't going to love that I did. I was going to eat May's many mangoes and enjoy them as thoroughly as always, but knowing.

I had a list of churches I wanted to go to one more time, quietly entertaining Ben in the back and listening to my husband share the word in a language I've come to love, sway with the worship that has become my own, cherish each song and sister and brother.

I was going to host one last sleepover for all the girls school friends, one last crazy night of giggling and popcorn and Swiss Family Robinson (always Swiss Family Robinson and that thrilling snake) and take pictures and paint toes and make spaghetti for breakfast.

I was going to cherish, cherish the last two months of Tuesday staff prayer meeting, just my favorite and most sacred time of the week.

My list had a smaller list of people we were going to have for dinner one last time...Dave and Marilyn, Gues and Leme, Jodenel and Esther, Gertha and Wislin, Granny and the kitchen ladies, Anne-Yolie and her family, Enoch and his, Lucner and his, Guenson and Claudia, potluck with OMS, Yves and Paulcine, Job and Tata and the kids, Nick and Nikki and their dear ones, Steve and Shelley and theirs.

When I made the list, I didn't know how I was going to get through those. But I was going to do it WELL and with joy, and "cherish" must be on my paper 49 times.

I was going to take lots of pictures with the kids, places, people, things, pets, favorite plants and memories. We were going to pack well, give-away well, go well.

My list, titled, "Most Important Things to Do Before We Go," feels stupid in my hands, but each time I go to crumple it...I cannot. 

It's worth nothing but a painful reminder of painful losses, and for the first time, I understand the many people who left Haiti over the past 13 years for one reason or another, most of whom seemed to drop off the face of the earth. Couldn't get ahold of them, stop communicating with everyone....what in the world?

It's because IT HURTS.  

It's because the little proverb about loving Haiti being like having a grain of sand in your shoe is true. 

No one sees it, but you feel it, every step. You never can forget that it is there.

And it's not that you want to. 

It's that constant rub wears you raw.

May 15th we were supposed to leave Haiti well, full and closured and organized, good-byes all said and tears all shed and gifts all given and well-done. I had pictured it, mentally--taking 13 years of my very best unto Him, 13 years of friends and family, being faithful to the very last day--and wrapping them up and giving them back to Him with peace in my heart.

Nothing is ever a neat package, I know. All of those closures would have been difficult, and people, people, we are always messy. It would have still been messy to say and hear and do, I know.

But how I longed to feebly wrap up my messy best and look forward. 

And how stuck I am over what to do, instead, with this worthless piece of paper, and 100 places raw.


14 May 2020

random

The beeping tracker on my keychain that helps me find my continually misplaced keys is now walking around the yard on the shell of Houdini the turtle, who is suddenly not so good at hiding anymore.

Is that considered a first world problem? 

Oh, these kids. 


Short thoughts for tonight...

-This is a great weekly word from Paul David Tripp on happiness. 

-This is a book you need to be reading to your children with me at bedtime...short, powerful, true, inspiring, challenging God-sized stories, five minutes each or less.
or this... 
 or this...

-Our table came yesterday, and it is so, so, so good to have a place so eat and talk and gather together.  Does it match the chairs? No.  Did it come on time? Noooooo.  Was it a quick build?  NO.

Do I care right now? also no.  

Just thankful.  Please come join us anytime. 

-Mississippi is open/opening, and we were finally able to visit Matt at Wesley yesterday for the first time, and to meet some of the team there. So many GOOD things happening there...I need a post on that soon!

-Nikki is in her final days with our family and no, we don't want to talk about it.  She heads to DE to work at a camp this summer on May 22nd. What a gift her friendship, help and stability has been through these many transitions, oh my.

-Aunt Sharon is coming next week, and YES.

-We still have lots of speaking scheduled for this summer, all up in the air...still praying those will happen and that we'll be seeing many of you. God knows! We do not...but will let you know as/when we do!

-Baby Yasha, just to make your day, in one of my favorite Sofie and then Nora dresses in my baby-rocking rocking chair. Oh man. I can't hardly. 

-Finally, a good word from CS Lewis...
Do not let your happiness depend
on something you may lose