08 January 2022

catch up

It was a busy week, especially for Matt their first week back with doctoral students on campus, but we were so thankful to have had good time with Steve in the evenings and with Sarah all week.  All four kids had such a good time with her, but especially Lily and Sofie, staying up late talking about a million Haiti memories and MK-isms they were all three thrilled to finally be with someone who understood and remembers. 

Yesterday was grandpa's first dose of his first round of chemo and everything went well. My sister noted that while she didn't know how this was all going to go, that she saw mom endure chemo faithfully, trusting in the Lord and pointing out His praises, and that she has total confidence that my dad will do the same. It really reminded me what a gift we had--not in perfect parents, but in two parents who loved the Lord and pointed to Him. I am confident there is no better gift we can give our kids than just growing up in a home with Jesus. That realization takes some of the pressure off, doesn't it. We know Dad'll be strong in HIM, and if my kids, in the end, with a failure mama, always remember that the Lord was everything to me...I've surely done the most important thing right?  Thank you for your continual prayers for him. 

Last night was Lily's birthday sleepover with four close friends (one more down for the count sick) and I had such fun taking them all out to pizza and ice cream and watching "Ever After" and listening to that crew of teenage-y girls. This stage is some stage, but the Lord is with us and in us! The Lord has given her some special friends, and I am so so thankful for that (and for Sofie having a best friend to go hang out with :)  

Tomorrow we have church and then the kids are finally having their Christmas present...three days at Disney this week (after the Christmas crowds and before the Spring breakers). It's only a ten hour drive, but Disney or no Disney, I am mostly looking forward to a few days of family time. Stepping away from work and home, cooking and cleaning, work calls (maybe) and errands for a few days will be a gift with this special crew. We have been once for one day, when Lily was four...and they are all so excited!

Our Haiti team is gearing up to start school again Monday, with growing concerns for February...the time when elections for a new president were scheduled before the president's assassination, and lots of questions over how/when Haiti will once again establish a government and who/how that will be. Keep on praying for our brothers and sisters in this time of uncertainty.  My semesterly Feb/March trip that I am chomping at the bit to take is waiting on some of these answers....answers so much depends on for our friends and family and their daily lives.





05 January 2022

classes, weddings, birthdays, family

I would not schedule a big church wedding, a week of intensive, on-campus doctoral classes, Lily's birthday and a visit from Dad and Cindy for the exact same three days again. We never could have done it without Lady Jane next door, who has housed visitors left and right for me...reminds me of Haiti days hostessing crazy overlaps with Emily. 

Nonetheless, I wouldn't have given any of the sweet moments up...having Phil and Emily's son (our favorite Heckman when he's the one with us!) in our lives for a few days was a gift. I don't ever remember having a much potential as a 21 year old as Ethan does today...I'm hoping and praying and trusting that God keeps dolling out his plans for E one step at a time. Having Steve and Sarah here (more dear Haiti friends, and Sarah, badly missed always by Lily) is a gift this week, for sure...I love listening to the three girls stay up late talking and talking and talking, 90% about Haiti. 

The most cherished gift this time, of course, was having Dad and Cindy here for Lily's birthday, just a few days before he starts this chemo...surgery...radiation journey.  We stayed up way too late talking, caught up on lots (seems like when we saw them at Thanksgiving before all this cancer stuff was at least 6 months ago), played with the kids, went to the movies, went out for dinner...had special moments with each of the kids, and most sacred, got to worship with them Sunday and have a holy moment of unexpected family/pastoral prayer together. Lots of tears, but mostly today when they headed out. 

I don't know when we'll see dad healthy and strong again, and letting him go and head straight into that journey today was really heavy. I would have rather he stayed and we not start at all and go back to six weeks ago.

But. I call the shots on very little. 

Mostly, what's for dinner, finding the matching sock and other trivial realms.  

So, we'll keep on talking to the One who does!










(Sarah and the girls 2019, Haiti Thanksgiving) 








31 December 2021

new year forts

 We've spent the last few days rebounding (mostly the house and the laundry and it needed it!) and prepping for the next four crazy weeks.

Tomorrow my dad and Cindy from Ohio and one of our very favorite MKs (missionary kids) Ethan, from New Jersey, are heading to Jackson.  Dad's coming for Lily's thirteenth (13?!?!) birthday on Sunday, and Ethan for Mason and Brooke's wedding also on Sunday.  Sunday, one of our good Haiti missionary friends who is just now starting his doctorate at Wesley Biblical Seminary is coming for a week of on-campus intensives and as soon as we all get back from that wedding, it'll be so good to see Steve. Several people are staying with us and several with Lady Jane next door (who is celebrating her 90th! in a few weeks), and so I'm just getting on menus, meals, beds and finally have down Christmas. 

Matt also heads to Florida this week for a president's conference of some kind and has a whirlwind week with doctoral students coming in from everywhere...so we're just buckling down and I'm THANKFUL for a few mostly quiet days to catch up and get ahead. 

My bestie Shelley sent us Thai one night, our dear friends took the kiddos one afternoon and had us for dinner that night (mopping and vacuuming is SO much more effective when the kids aren't home :) and time with the McCartney's is always so treasured) and Cindy even sent us pizza tonight...which means New Years Eve at the Ayars is pizza and fort building with the last of the Christmas lights. Lily and Sofie have mighty plans for staying up till midnight, even if mom and dad have opposite plans.  

Today Nora and I made our new "joy jar" for the year...a jar we slip little answered prayers, fun memories and unexpected blessings into throughout the year. Looking through last years this morning really blew the kids and I away with how many prayers He answered this past year, number one of which being finding us a church.  So many of our other answered prayers for friends, outreach and growth have come from that one major prayer we had this time last year.  

This year's prayer theme is dad...so thankful we'll have a few days together this week before he starts chemo. 

Thankful for you each


27 December 2021

Christmas

Glammy and PopPop got on the road today and we had such a nice Christmas with them!  They hung with us through our Foundry Family Christmas Eve dinner and service, for Christmas Day at home, and joined us for church Sunday morning, dinner with Lady Jane and then headed out this morning. It's a LOOONG road and we all enjoyed them being with us so much.  

The kiddos had a great Christmas day...Ben shooting nerf balls at his dinosaur targets, Nora and Sofie working up blisters and bruises on their new gymnastics bar, Sofie designing dresses with her fashion kit, Nora taking a million pictures with her new camera, and Lily working through one craft after another. We were able to facetime with all the cousins on both sides, all the aunts and uncles and Dad and Cindy. 

So thankful for our church family, for our Haiti family (and the family Haiti brought us), for our family, and for these little ones who make life so busy, so stretching, and such a joy.

Dad can't get in to start chemo until January 7th, so his cancelled plans to come for Lily's 13th birthday are back on...January is about to be really busy with Matt traveling a lot, so we're enjoying these last days of having Matt home-ish and being off school. 

23 December 2021

along the way

When we were little, every Christmas my mom would let us help set up her Aunt Norma's nativity scene. Each figure was wrapped in sheets of yellowed newspaper, and once she had the large wooden stable perched on top of the piano, she would let us put each person and animal in their place, complete with an angel at the top and an orange light bulb inside, shining down on baby Jesus. 

 
I don't know where it all went when mom died. 

The wooden stable, the box of sacred ceramic pieces that had meant so much to her. Don't know where it all was all the years we lived in Haiti. Still don't know what happened to most of it. 

But when we unpacked ancient mystery boxes in a blur those first days of Mississippi, I found Aunt Norma's wisemen, the camels, the sheep and the shepherds that I hadn't touched in twenty years. 

I don't know where the Mary and Jospeh are, nor the stable and manger. Don't know where Jesus got to,  or where the angels flew, but the wisemen and shepherds are waiting tonight on top of mom's piano, and I can hear her voice every single time I remind a little finger not to touch Aunt Norma's camels, gathered around the candle...waiting expectantly for Jesus to show.

Five days into our time with Bill, Julie and the boys, my dad called in an attempt to ruin Christmas. 

An itchy spot on his head...routine biopsy...very rare, very aggressive...out of nowhere...cancer.

The last two weeks have been heavy beyond words.

Launched into scans, appointments, biopsies and conversations the past 10 days, today he, Cindy (so thankful he is not doing this on his own) and my mom's sister-nurse, Patty, met with the surgeon, oncologist and radiologist to set up a plan. 

He's back at the Cleveland Clinic, a road we went down countless times in 2003 to visit mom. Her battle with very rare, very aggressive, out of nowhere cancer was all fought and lost at Cleveland Clinic. 

Cancer cells already circulating throughout dad's body, they've decided to do a few rounds of chemo to attack them before a very challenging surgery on his head and skull.

They hope to start next week.  I am ever-thankful for your prayers. 

I never ever ever thought we'd be on this road again. I never thought I would ever be having these same explanations, these same conversations, these same nightmares, these same wordless prayers. 

I don't know how we're on this road again, or how to navigate it with four kids who love their Grumpa and a husband who considers Dad, Dad...how to be so far away from a sister and precious ones who love Grumpa, too...don't know how to be there or how to not be there...or how to protest a road we're suddenly rushing down, regardless. I don't know how to get off the floor most days this Christmas, all so fast.

I don't know where Jesus is, or where the angels went.  I've just got shepherds on the piano, staring upwards.  

If we're on this road again, I guess that He is, too.

We'll have to find Him along the way. 


20 December 2021

say something, do something

There are a lot of people just really hurting right now, aren't there.

Losses from the past 12 months all catch up hard at Christmas. Fearful things are pending for many in a time when the future feels so uncertain and bleak.  Our neighbor who lost his wife in March was feeling it extra at Christmas dinner last night. Our college friend who is a thread away from losing her husband is wrestling with a totally different kind of Christmas. Long-awaited and prayed for babies lost, never-expected cancer turning the world upside-down, unending painful patterns twisting deep in places like Haiti, in people like so many we know. 

Everyone says to be kind, and I think we're all trying.

But also.

Say something, do something.

Doesn't have to be the perfect thing. 

Think for two seconds about what you'd want someone to say or do for YOU in that kind of trainwreck, and do that. 

Awkward is ok. Choked up is ok. Not perfect is ok. No answers is ok. Not fixing, that's alright.

But the worst thing is to be utterly alone in it, and nothing feels more alone than silence. 

Get out there this Christmas with your family and think of three people you know are having trouble getting off the floor, and tell them you love them and are praying. Give them, bake them, take them, pass them anything, write them a psalm or a prayer (I strongly recommend any excerpt from Douglas McKelveys, Death, Grief and Hope.) Take their kids to the park for an hour or two, show up to quietly clean and fold laundry, order dinner, cut their grass, rake their leaves, have your kids make cards, text them from the store and ask what you can pick up. Be lovingly and humbly invasive. Join someone in a broken space where nothing is expected. 

Tell them you're hurting because they are hurting and that you won't stop praying for and with them...and remind them next week and the next that you haven't left them.

It will remind them that He hasn't, either. What a gift to give this Christmas.





16 December 2021

paths

There was a very dark time, you could see it in the bags under Julie's eyes. Cholera had come to Haiti, not that long after the Great Earthquake, and it was horrifying, terrifying.  People were getting sick in the morning and dead by dinner, children were dead before they could be taken to the hospital for help...the elderly didn't stand a chance. With over 10,000 deaths before it all was over, I remember eyeing every banana, every head of lettuce, every egg with such caution, such concern. I remember Julie and Hannah and the doctors and nurses at the clinic working almost 24-7, the odd smell of cholera and death clinging to them, all of us, living and breathing urgent prayers and mourning many.

That was 2010, and we never once, any of us, spoke of leaving. It was the time to STAY, the time to do all you could, the time to sit and listen and visit and pray. 

For 48 hours at Christmas, Matt, baby Lily, Hannah, Julie and I loaded into the truck and drove to the Dominican...48 hours escape. I remember Julie and Hannah mostly sleeping at the 'resort', remember trying to pretend for 2 days that this huge imminent ugly thing didn't exist. I remember pleading for our people.


So many missionaries, come and go. The Great Earthquake, political upheaval, so much in between...swinging our babies under the trees in the breeze of the afternoon, talking about the news from town and wondering how long we'd all be able to last with no fuel...with more and more traka, more and more trouble. 

I never would of dreamed then that Julie and I would be sitting around a fire yesterday night with our bundles of giggling children. She left for a bit to marry Bill, but then they were back. They left for babies and brought them back again to grow up with our babies and Lily at the helm.  We begged Bill to help us, role after role, at Emmaus, and never dreamed, again, that they'd still be at Emmaus after we'd gone, or that they'd be leaving Emmaus for good this month and heading here.

The capstone of all the many emotions of 10 days was Ben, saying goodbye yesterday morning to his buddy Jacob.  Three and four, Ben intensely grabbed him and said, "Jakey, we are COMING to Haiti SHOON to see you. We'll play at our Haiti house."

Jacob agreed and off they parted and nobody was correcting anyones sentiments or emotions these past 10 days. 

I never dreamed God had us on a path with the Elders...not the one He had us on, not with a girl from Northern Ireland and some man she met in Indiana from the frozen tundras of Canada.  I never dreamed it would run so long, that path, and even as factual Sam informed each of us, "Girls, I will NEVER see you again, so be ready" I am full-aware that our path with the Elders will never be broken. 

I love that families like theirs are also going out in the world alongside us to live and love and stand like Jesus. We may never live together again, which gets me all kinds of choked up, but we'll never stop working together for the Gospel, and I am misty eyed and THANKFUL sending them off...and grateful for the gift of 10 whole days with our now 11 whole people in the middle of the chaos of their current lives.

They are far more concerned with being used by Him, His way, than they are with getting what they want from this life, and they will always be our family.

Thank you for letting me remember and letting me process, always.













12 December 2021

it came early

 This week has been rich in two ways...

It's been rich with the Elders...exploring, playing, chatting, listening to the kiddos, catching up on so much life and talking about the future, doing some things we couldn't do in Haiti, listening to the kids share lots of their lives from Haiti.  Remembering lots that has been, mourning lots that's been lost, better knowing how to pray...so much of all our hearts, of all our children, wrapped up in Haiti and always will. It's been GOOD.

I don't know what to do with the last 13 years. I don't know what to do with the Elders life, or with our own, or the lives of many others poured out, or with our friends and family in Haiti. I don't know what to do with ANY of it but TRUST Him with it. Trust Him to water what needs watered, to keep planting through our brothers and sister what needs planted, to keep BEING at work, to keep guiding, to keep being on the move, to keep doing what only He can do (which, is pretty much ALL of it.)










The second rich element has been the realization of how rich our community here has become, even if this wasn't a place we ever imagined ourselves having community.

I asked seven women for help, and they have above and beyond come through...in feasts and toys and clothes and moreso...in unexpectedly sacrificial friendship and giving. But I've also been blessed and humbled by the people we NEVER approached who have just heard or noticed and gone out of their busy way to help as well. A coworker at Wesley who sent home beef brisket and potato salad because he knew the house was full, and another who brought it. A neighbor we haven't seen or heard from in a while who somehow heard and dropped off a Costco delivery. A dear friend from church who reached out to send a roast for Sunday dinner, and then happened to throw in breakfast muffins and sandwiches for lunch and yogurt sticks and a big bag of apples.  A dear friend making Irish Sticky Toffee Pudding for dessert tonight.

I mean, I have been astounded and overwhelmed by unmerited grace and love, for us and for our total strangers, during this time.  I have spent every afternoon playing with kiddos and chatting with Julie, not cooking and running to the store yet again. We have had a friend or neighbor touch base every day with a meal and a hug and kindness, and man alive, I'll just never forget this Christmas.  

Things in America are NOT supposed to be like this, and they ARE.  Unmerited, overwhelming community is not what the US is supposed to be known for, but man, have I experienced it this last week. Men and women from different churches and from not churches and from lots of different places all helping us, many unasked, just because.

Matt was sharing at Tuesday night Bible study about how sometimes Christmas is over, and you can't help but feel disappointed...like you had all this expectation, and now it's over and you missed it. 

But instead of missing it this Christmas, I found it EARLY...unexpected hope, unexpected help, unexpected, unmerited, Jesus COME.  

So grateful for that in the Elders, so grateful for that in this corner of the world, so thankful for Christ, come truly for us EACH.

09 December 2021

if they aren't

It's been a lovely first few days with the Edlers...so rich to be with people who have been your people for a long time and through an awful lot...especially good to see the kids never miss a beat and go right back to brother and sistering.  They're having such a good time together, and play together so well...always someone to entertain!  

Matt and Bill spent the day at the office as Bill tries to finish marking for the semester that Emmaus finished WELL despite not seeing how that could be possible, and we took the kids to an indoor play-place and they ran wild for hours with each other. Tonight the men are off at a sci-fi movie and the kids are all as wiped as the moms.  

Each day someone has helped me...dropped warm dinner on our porch, stopped by with some coloring books or warm clothing for the kids, sent a note and some muffins. As these worlds all meet, I'm just so thankful for friends and His help.

Being with the Edlers makes me wish so many things were different. But if things aren't...I'm thankful to be with this dear family these sweet days, and laughing and crying and remembering and praying, together.   








04 December 2021

vision

Alright, friends, this one probably means nothing to you (feel free to skip), but sure means an awful lot to me. 

I fell asleep last night praying for the Edlers, today their very last day in Haiti...praying with all my own memories, praying for all the goodbyes, all the hearts, all the gaps, all the kids, all the broken.

Nora and Joel had good reason to think they were siblings

And I woke up with a vision this morning. 

I say vision, not dream, because it wasn't distorted or unclear, foggy or unrealistic...it was just a strong, long-forgotten memory, clear as day, and I woke up from it with a clear interpretation/meaning in my heart and mind that was absolutely full of peace and clarity and resounded as His Truth (and backed up by Matt). 

This morning while sleeping, I saw that we were just walking out of Wednesday prayer meeting, some six or seven years ago, at the Edler's house. I headed out the door to round up our kiddos after the weekly meeting, and looked up to see Sam (Edler) in the treehouse. I looked right at him and he was surrounded by kids...the Heckmans, the Bundys, Sofie was there, the Grosses...dozens of kids running all over the yard and Sam in the middle playing hard.  


We stood out in the yard as the sun began to sink over the palm trees, as we always did, chatting with one another fellow missionaries, final little catch-ups and prayers as car after car full of families pulled out one by one, heading home after dark, no problem, no worries, calling out for next Wednesday, carry on!

We were an imperfect bunch, always, but loved and supported each other so that we could all love and support the Haitian men and women God had led us each to Haiti to serve. We came and went freely. We always had fuel. We could always come and go. Wherever He was leading, we could go. However we could love and support our Haitian brothers and sisters, we could GO and DO and DID.  We had all come to Haiti to GO, and did...and meanwhile we all held one another's ropes and prayed and shared every Wednesday and argued about little things like dress code and remnants of asbestos in the roofs, every house on both campuses full, about which day we should celebrate Thanksgiving and trading recipes for what to do with baskets full of mangoes.

I woke up, so suddenly, and immediately saw Sam again, same treehouse, same place, same house, TODAY...alone. 

A few years ago, things in Haiti started getting harder and more unstable, and one family at a time, lots of different reasons, lots of different ways, said good-byes at one last Wednesday prayer meeting. 


Our last two years in Haiti, there were more and more Wednesdays we couldn't meet. You don't really realize that things are changing, but they were.  Many weeks there was no fuel to come or go, many Wednesdays the roads were too dangerous. We moved our meeting earlier and earlier for daylight travel, cutting into the day but committed to praying for one another and for our dear country. The family grew smaller and smaller...meeting was harder and harder, supporting our Haitian brothers and sisters wherever they were got harder and harder...sometimes we would all spend weeks...months...seasons, locked down on our fields of ministry--waiting for heated times to pass, texted our requests, holding each other up from down the uncertain raods.

We (OMS in Haiti) had had more partners than the houses could hold, so many children running the yard that it looked like a school, and today, Julie and Bill are the very. last. ones, and tomorrow they are leaving. It has been a year, almost two of no prayer meetings...no leaving villages...no beach trips...no fuel...no missions trips...no travel...no friends over. One by one, the few remaining missionaries in the have gone...some hoping to return, some tired of evacuating and lock-downs and leaving for the last time, some accountable to missions agencies calling the hard shots.

Julie and Bill have been trying to stay...and suddenly they've been trying to leave well, if they must leave...which has felt as utterly impossible as it did when we were desperately trying to do the same (leave WELL) suddenly almost 2 years ago. 

I have felt the guilt of leaving ever since...life so hard, so much to do, so many to love well. So much more work!

But when I woke up with this all this morning for the Edlers, I deeply realized genuine release for them. They had support and partners so that they could support and partner. They could come and go freely so they could go wherever He sent. 


Now they don't. 
Now they can't. 

The Lord is at WORK in Haiti, as much as He has ever been...and every ounce of the work and sweat and blood and tears for His glory by the Edlers....by so many...mattered, matters and remains IN there, in lives changed. But that era, at least for OMS in Haiti...at least for Emmaus...has shifted.

Julie, Matt and I served in Haiti together before LILY...through cholera...through earthquakes...through so many come and go...through crisis after crisis, through babies and adoptions and presidents. 

And the release I've NEVER felt for myself I saw so clearly this morning for my sister, for Julie. 

She can leave tomorrow, not by choice, not by plan, not as she had hoped, but WELL, with her chin up. The era I had forgotten and saw so clearly has changed...what He could do through foreigners I can see He is making another way...and that He's ever as good, and Faithful, and FOR Haiti. 

The Edlers have been so anxious to be faithful...not to Haiti...not to friends...not to the men and women and work they love, but to Him. 

And the eras come and go...yet nothing changes that He will be faithful to their family and faithful to those they love in Haiti. 

They go well, with Him, and faithful.

I don't know why He showed me that this morning, for someone else, who will have to wrestle her own peace with Him...and will. 

But I'm thankful for the vision I couldn't have given myself, and the confidence I haven't really had until today for Julie and Bill that following Him a direction you didn't choose isn't the same as abandoning His work or His people, for all the times and worlds that change...He never will.


The day we were all evacuated within 24 hours notice in March 2020 due to Covid concerns...and the last time we've been together.






Julie and Bill, (with Lily in arms) before they were Julie and Bill, standing in the yard our families shared.