Thursday, November 20, 2014

The Intersection Point


Sometimes two loves in our life intersect. When that happens, it is magic. Today I experienced the magic of that when my firm spent the day at Camp Caudle completing energy assessments throughout the camp in the hopes of finding ways to save the non-profit camp money on their utility bills which as you can imagine are expensive. 

It was a great experience. 

What I didn't expect was the frustration I felt when it was over. 

*Sigh*

Certainly a case can be made that after weeks (started 9/30) of running at a breakneck pace with zero time to catch my breath or even do appropriate follow-up from the trips, conferences, new friends met, etc...I am clearly running on fumes. Heart worn and torn.

Life tells you that you are supposed to be glowing and happy with so many great experiences in the books, heart tank full from Haiti, professional wins, and good stuff. 

No one wants to discuss the rest of the story....piles of laundry, bags from some trips still laying piled up unpacked or worse the ones that were unpacked by dumping on the floor so you could fill them up for a different trip, the dust bunnies that have procreated to an extent that they are now bunny villages, the trash (Do. Not. Even.), your bedroom side table that still holds the remains from a two week winter cold that would NOT let go, gifts that remain in piles still needing to be mailed, and this is just a snippet of home. My office is worse. The amount of paperwork is obscene. I swear it multiplies overnight. It all feels like TOO MUCH. 

Because...

It. Is.

I know this should only be a season. A period of eight weeks I planned for and knew was coming, but still it feels...like more than I bargained for...more than I want...more than I need...

Last night as I doped myself on NyQuil and snuggled up under a quilt watching the final three episodes of West Wing on Netflix (one of my all time favorite shows I have been re-watching as I fall asleep for the past few months)...I got to the next to last episode (Season 7, Episode 21) and watched one of the characters wrestle with choices about their life after working in the White House for eight years. She was a single working woman asking the question, "Have I lost my window..." for a regular life that isn't controlled by a cell phone, work demands, etc.? 

I started crying.

I worry all the time if I have lost my window. Of course these days, I look to God begging him to give me another window (different metaphor) than the one I am looking through...but still...point made.

The answer is of course no, but right now it doesn't feel that way. It feels like I am running and striving again and while the goals are better today than in the past...more worthy (dare I say)...it doesn't negate that I continue to wrestle with depleted (or scarce) resources (sleep, energy, time) and the burning question...is this all there is for my life? Am I spending my resources appropriately? Am I running the right race? Should I focus on one of my "loves" instead of a baker's dozen? Mostly....God where are you in THIS? All of this? I am so grateful, but holy cow there is SO much of this! ��

I am reading through Nehemiah...again!...and I continue to be struck by how in the end...he kept asking God to "remember" and "remember me" and after all he did for God and the kingdom he wrestled with "remember" and I share...

Sorry...crying and typing in a full restaurant and had to wipe my eyes as the owner walked up...

I digress.

I share Nehemiah's broken heart to help and do more and feeling inadequate and wonder myself...will I be remembered by God?

How is my life adding to the kingdom or to the betterment of the world? Do I do less in order to do more? Do I do more and stop whining? 

Today the heart rock reminded me that God loves me and sees me and I was where he wanted...in that moment. What about tomorrow? Where does he want me tomorrow?

My calendar is full. Is it full of the right stuff?

I am wrestling tonight. Hard. It feels like my window is closing, and I am afraid I am going to miss it. 

Praying for reassurance tonight. Kneeling at the point of intersection. The cross. ❤️☀️



Wednesday, November 12, 2014

The Lessons In Closing Doors Behind You

Let me tell you just how bad growth sucks...and how eating crow sucks more.

Ugh.

I feel like it is both a sign of how much I have grown that I can so quickly and sincerely apologize to someone, but then on the hundredth time something is brought up...I finally say, You know I am sorry for past sins, but I cannot keep apologizing for something that happened in the past that I have already acknowledged, apologized for, and changed from...I don't want this brought up again between us...I can't keep having this conversation. How do we move forward?

Bam!

Thank you Jesus!

Old Heather could neither have owned the mistake, nor apologized, and/or not allowed myself to be beat up again and again for it into eternity.

Growth. Where have you been all my life?


I remember leaning over the bridge looking at the Arkansas River here in Colorado (on my way back to Arkansas in 2012)  knowing that some things and people would move forward with me...and others I would have to say good-bye too. It was a breathtaking moment.
Here is the side of growth that no one writes about...where someone uses your past sin as a baseball bat to beat you with into infinitum. It is a thing. It is a serious thing for those of us who are easily prey to martyrdom.

Ouch.

Double Ouch.

So let me lay it out there and hopefully someone will learn from my willingness to look the idiot here...

You have made mistakes. Some of those mistakes are critical errors. You have a God who forgives you. You have a God who has an expectation that you will forgive yourself. You have a God who has an expectation that you will forgive others. You cannot control others as it comes to accept forgiveness or offering it.

I had you right up until the last part.

You cannot control who will forgive you. You cannot control who will truly accept your forgiveness. It is just that simple and just that difficult.

I have made some mistakes that when they cross my mind, I shudder. Yeah...that bad. The truth is that whether it is a cross word spoken to murder...when your conscious takes hold and you are convicted about something...it doesn't matter WHAT it is because it ALL matters in your heart with God. Suddenly that little white lie to a viscous argument to whatever is the BIGGEST thing in the world. Guess what...it all matters and yet is also all forgivable to your God, but it doesn't always work that easily to those we have hurt with our sins.

So many of us have used forgiveness as a weapon in our lives. Well you have to forgive me, or you have to be okay because I asked forgiveness, or I forgave you why are you so weird toward me??? I mean how many of us have spoken or had those spoken to us in our lives.

Yeah...that is what I thought.

I have worked really hard to forgive others and then keep moving forward with no expectation on them or our relationship. True forgiveness comes from asking for or receiving without expectation. That is truly hard, but for your sanity...you have to learn it.

Back to the beginning of the post. I have "repented" again and again about something with someone, but they are just "hung up" on it and can't move forward. At some point, I have to be okay that we might not be able to get back to where we were. That hurts...both sides...but it is our reality and one that we have to be willing to consider for our individual health and well being. No one wants to have a yoke on their shoulder every day trudging through trying to make a relationship okay when it is NOT okay.

I fight...to the end. That is who I am, but what I am learning is that sometimes it is worth the "fight" but not solvable on this side of heaven....no matter what. At this point, I am learning the painful lesson of knowing when, "I can't keep having THIS fight/discussion/etc."

One of my parents gave me a book years ago on Boundaries that was startling if you know my parental history. I am a girl with no boundaries on my heart, and they knew that. That book is good, but it took me a long time before I read it. I have, and I am learning. I was raised and always believed that you should take the hit, trudge through, no matter what. I am learning the fallacy of that. It is not easy or perfect or for everyone, but for this girl...it is a critical point of my growth to be able to say to someone in a soft tone, "I can't keep having this discussion/fight/argument. We may need to make a change." How I say this, as much as the words, has opened up discussions and depth between me and others I would have never known otherwise....on the flip side, it has given both sides permission to close doors...sometimes between each other. 

It is a risk that must be taken...Every. Time. It is also always a last resort for me...but one that I am at least finally willing to consider before it is too late.

This is a hard post for me to write...and one that I really need to be read knowing that I am writing it from and with a heart of compassion...it is simply me sharing the struggle in some of the lessons God is teaching me. I don't necessarily enjoy these lessons...this being one of my least favorites thus far, but it is one that I know I needed...I am either too hard on people or too hard on myself or both....and the truth is that we teach people how to treat us. It has taken me a long time to learn how to treat myself and my own heart...now comes the hard lessons in teaching others who have not always treated me well. It is also challenging for those that I have not treated well to forgive me and move on. Lots of landmines in this lesson. Have I mentioned lately how much #growthsucks??!?!?! :)))

Here is to hoping this helps you consider your own boundaries or lack of them. How are you treating forgiveness of yourself? Forgiveness of others? Are there people in your past, your life that you need to work to restore? Walk away from? And in all of this, ask God...where are you in THIS? What would you have me to do? I don't make decisions these days without asking and waiting on God to direct me? And then to ask the second and third questions? Thank you John Eldredge.

Here is to healthy relationships. May we all work to have more of them...Every. Day.

Sunshine Dreams to You ~ Today and Every Day! :)

Thursday, October 30, 2014

The Gift of Tribe

The C7, Captivating, October 2012 ~ At Our Table :)

When I remember my life pre-2012, I struggle. I tend to get sweaty palms (sometimes I sweat through multiple layers of clothes), there are a lot of accusations (99% of those are directed at myself), my head tends to lower, my voice changes....lets be honest....everything about my state of being in those moment changes.

Even after all of the growth and healing of these past few years (nearly three), it doesn't take much for my mood to shift. The shift happens a lot less often today then yesterday, but it still happens...and when it does, it feels JUST LIKE the hissing whisper of a snake in the garden years ago.

Eve still lives in me. She always will.

The difference between then and now is not simply God, but the warriors he sent to ride next to me into battle. I call them my tribe.

To say I knew God, loved God, and wanted to be "good" for all of those meanings would be an understatement. The problem is prior to 2012, I didn't really trust God so the knowing of God was really more in my mind instead of true actuality. That is hard for me to admit as a card-carrying Christian and church-goer for all of my life, but the truth will set you free...and to know me is to better understand my story, and at the heart of my own personal story is an honest assessment that I didn't trust God as far as I could throw him and because of that....I neither knew him nor myself.

*Sigh*

Of all of the things God has worked through with me, one of the hardest to date is my deep mistrust of both him and others. I simply have not ever believed that anyone really loved me or had my best interest at heart. My story told me that everyone has ulterior motives, and I believed it.

When God sent me to Captivating in October 2012, I was in search of I knew not what, but he did, and as I worked through...well, lets just say,  A LOT on that mountain...I had no idea that the most lasting lesson was being interwoven every day, three times a day, at a simple table next to a window, in the sunshine.

I have often written about how the C7 met all clamoring for the same table in the sunshine at that first meal, and how we each came back again and again. What I haven't spoken a lot about is how we never talked about jobs or titles or what we did back home. We stuck to Jesus, our spiritual life, our spiritual battles, and what we were doing on that mountain. Bless. Us. When we said our good-byes four days later, and I walked up the mountain to my jeep, it hit me like a soft feather...they don't know what I do, have a business card, they don't know me...BUT yet...They. Did.

It would be nearly six months later on a farm in Kentucky before I admitted to the group what that simple not knowing had meant to me standing alone on the mountain that day. Right, wrong, or indifferent...what I knew to be true in my heart was that what I could do for others was not only my strongest quality, but more often than not all I really had to offer.

In the days after Captivating when the group text messages started, e-mails, writings....the shock and awe for me turned to an openness with others I had rarely experienced. These women knew my fears nearly as quickly as I did...they prayed for me....they listened...they encouraged....and all without judgment. I was in a GREAT battle for my heart that even they did not know, and frankly I was too beaten down emotionally at that point to realize there was a battle...I already felt it had been lost.

There have been hundreds of text messages since then, and I do mean hundreds...I can walk out of a meeting and have 32 (In. 30. Minutes.). There have been visits, phone calls, e-mails, private blogging back and forth, dinners, trips, etc., but mainly there has been the knowledge that they are there...Every. Minute. Every. Day. They for me and me for them. It is a safety net for my heart that I note as, "Oh my C7," but the truth is I should state it more as, "Thank God for my C7!" because I do thank God for them...Every. Single. Day.

One of the C7 went to Haiti with me this past month. An act of faith and trust in both me and God that I admire more than she knows. She loved on Haiti....Like. A. Boss., and Haiti loved her right back. On the final night of reflections, I gave her a risk bead for stepping out of her comfort zone and taking the journey. I  then lost my mind and my heart and thanked her, on behalf of the entire C7, for saving me on that mountain two years ago. As I type this, I am weeping (in a restaurant no less...thank goodness everyone is watching some game) both at the memory and the truth of that moment that rings today in my heart. The truth is that God sent them to me...covertly...to save me, and they were already doing it before I even had the sense to catch on. #bless

That. That, is my God. That is how my God works.

Maybe because I am a tough nut. Maybe because he is just that good.

This past weekend I was asked a lot about the how of living from your heart...living differently. Every time. Every. Single. Time. I explained tribe to them. I simply don't know that one can live this life well without one. I think you can survive and even have a good life, but for some of us...

Allow a digression....

For some of us that weren't raised with solid families, stability, etc. For those, tribe means so much more than I can explain. A lot of people learn how to do life with others in their families growing up. I was not one of those. Clearly. It took a tribe, my God-given tribe, to teach me that, and frankly, the lessons continue.

So....tribe is important, and for some of us, it is EVERYTHING.

There are hard days ahead for me. God is calling me deeper into hard things, hard decisions, scary stuff. I have been resisting a lot of it...okay, most of it, but this past weekend reminded me to both whom I belong and who he sent to be my wing women. It was pretty epic. I was pretty humbled by the whole string of moments he had orchestrated for me. Have I mentioned I am a bit stubborn? ;) :)))

Who are you? What breaks your heart? Who is standing next to you...pushing you deeper into God's will for your life? Who is pushing you toward God not away from him? Who is asking you the hard questions, not agreeing with you when you whine that life is hard? Who is pulling out your best, versus catering to your worst?

These are hard questions. The answers often suck. Some of this hurts. Diving in and finding, saving, restoring, and growing your BEST self is hard work. Read that as #growth sucks because it does...it really, really does...right up until it doesn't. I saw a glimpse of when it doesn't this past weekend when one of the C7 not only sent me scripture and prayers, but heard me/restored me/lifted me with a couple of sentences in a text and then he sent confirmation via another C7 who happen to be in the audience. I nearly emotionally crumbled under the awe of recognizing the beauty of the moment.

I have spent a lifetime running from my heart, crafting my life to what I thought was wanted by others, and working to please and fill a hole inside of me that was always too vast to be filled by anything of this earth. Only through hard work, a tribe, and a God who offered me grace and restoration...In. The. Same. Breath. have I learned differently. I am not done yet, the growth continues, but it is time to more actively help others, newbies in my tribe, to find the same hope that I did...two years ago on a mountain in Colorado.

You can't do this life alone. If you hear nothing else, hear that. The good news is that God never expected us to go this alone...that was always the lie. Always. Don't believe it.

Ask God to show you your tribe, and then hold on to them, fight for them, love them, and pray for them every day...as they do you.

This post...albeit incomplete this side of heaven...is dedicated to my C7, my original tribe. I tell you I love you nearly every day, but in case you ever forget, let this post be a love letter from my heart to yours. I couldn't have made it to this point without each of you, and I cannot imagine the remaining days of my life without you in them. Each of you is a warrior, a priest, a preacher, a beauty, a mother, and my heart. I love you.

Sunshine Dreams to You ~ Today and Every Day! :) 

Monday, October 27, 2014

The Foot of The Cross

 
Ozark Conference Center, Solgohachia, Arkansas

...and I thought re-entry from Haiti was bad...

A dear friend of mine hosted/put together/organized/spearheaded/launched the first ever Captivating Arkansas event this past weekend at the Ozark Conference Center in Solgohachia, Arkansas. She is AMAZING! It was EPIC!

I think for me the big surprise was when she asked me to teach a couple of sessions. Really?!?!?! I wanted to explain how I was in this weird spot of trying to figure out my gifts, purpose, and calling among a litany of other excuses...of which I had ample supply of worthy ones (Come. On.), but I agreed...without pause.

Say What????

*Deep Breath*

My to do list is pretty full on the easy days, and I haven't seen an easy day....well, it has been awhile...plus, I am SERIOUSLY in this weird place of questioning with God. Think "Walking With God" by John Eldredge without the fancy chapters and grammer.
 
He sent them JUST when I needed them.

These are hard days for my heart.

No. Excuses.

I headed up to the mountain after work Thursday with a packed car (mostly dirty clothes...read my last post), a heart full of words, and a lot of peace. This was my friend's show. I was a small bit player in a sea of talent for Jesus. No pressure. I was going to be an encourager and wallflower.

What. A. Douche. I. Am.

I was taken aback by how easily I cruised into the camp. Caterers were late so I was on time. My friend blew it out of the water the first night. My teaching lesson came to me on the drive up (I am thanking God for not waiting until the last minute to give it to me), and I am organizing it in under an hour after the Thursday night session ended. I go to bed (early considering I expected an all-nighter), and I am sleeping like a log. I wake up early...before the sunrise...make coffee, snuggle up on the back porch in my quilt, and feel utterly peaceful considering I teach at 9 a.m. An hour or so later, I take a shower, more coffee, a bit of fruit, get dressed, have my favorite outfit and jewelry on (think cargos, t-shirt, sweater, and Haiti jewelry), and I am relaxed and at ease back on the back porch rocking in a rocking chair at 20 till 9. Then 7 mins till 9 happens. My business partner calls my cell (I am thinking he has called to pray over me as I reminded as I leaved the day before...speaking at 9 a.m....say a prayer), and I am thinking he remembered and is being extra sweet. Nope. Long story short. Very bad news at the office. He is losing his noodle. Everyone is losing their noodle and after 2 mins of listening to the noodle-losing, I lose my own. The enemy pulled the trigger and the bullet hit its target. Damn.

The story doesn't end there though because quickly I regained my noodle reminding him where I was and what I was about to do...my other partner, sensing the moment, prayed for me. Simultaneously one of the men who was with us had seen/heard through the wall...and was headed for me to do the same.

I don't know how, other than God, that I pulled my head out and taught that session, but I did...solely because of God. It was such a stark reminder of the battle I am in...Every. Day. for my very heart. It is SO very easy for me to be pulled in....scratch that...SUCKED IN to the cray-cray (Sorry Sydney) of the day...heck of the moment. I can go from perfect calm and peace of Mother Teresa to Jesus throwing a fit in the temple so fast that it even scares me. Where. Does. That. Come. From.???

The enemy.

Fast forward...still reeling from Friday morning (and multiple calls with the office Friday afternoon did not help, but before you judge, I am an owner in the firm, and it isn't just saying no), I cruise into Saturday morning in a daze. I have nothing to teach Saturday, so it feels like a day to just be in the moment. There are breaks (3 hours) in between lunch and the first early evening session. I felt compelled to head out to the edge of the mountain where there are three crosses, some wooden pews, some rocks, and a view that takes your breath. I laid out a blanket, my Bible, books, notebooks, pens, and my cell phone planning to take some time...my cell phone was dead...God said, "You can't hear me with that music playing."

*Crap*


My spot for three hours Saturday

For the next three hours, I laid there and prayed, slept, prayed, listened, listened some more, read my Bible, took notes, and BREATHED. Somewhere in the middle of it, I knew it was one of those "special days" and I tried to make it last....but eventually I had to pack up for the next session.
 
I love Isaiah 62 where he promises a new name.

But...not before God gave me a new name, 'splained a few things to me, and reminded me powerfully...and then gently....who I was to HIM.



Standing on a rock, on a mountain, wondering where he is going to take these feet of mine next.

I don't spend enough time LISTENING to God. I spend too much time reading about him, talking to him, running (I do a lot of running), and zoning out (whenever I can find some free moments). He and I need more time together, and I can't go where he is calling me unless we do. I think I have been avoiding the quiet with him because I am scared of what he is going to tell me. I didn't feel ready. He reminded me that he was already taking me there, ready or not, and I was so busy being afraid of it...I hadn't realized I was already DOING it.

*Sigh*

A lot of people let my heart down on Friday. That day was BRUTAL to my heart.

*Sigh*

In the end, it was just me and God.



Peggy took this photo of me praying Saturday; I will treasure it always.
The clock struck 9 a.m., and I walked into a room of women and opened my mouth...and God came out. Truly God. It was beautiful. I have spoken a lot but not like that...it was different...peaceful...full of community (if that makes any sense)...I am crying just remembering and typing this out. I. Was. In. Love. With God, with those women, and with the story God was weaving in my words. I didn't want it to end.

...and the HUGS. These women HUGGED me like I was a life raft. I felt more loved and needed by those women. If only they had known how they were healing me, restoring me, and reminding me...of who I am.

Life is surprising.

I don't know where I go from here.

What I do know is that I more excited than ever for the Girls Weekend I am doing in a few weeks. A whole bunch of 13-20 year olds who want to spend a weekend with me so we can all discuss Jesus and the hard stuff. God that is so good. Because Jesus is easy, but the rest of it...the rest of this life, in this world...is HARD.

I told those women this weekend that I wouldn't lie to them about how radically obeying God was easy and awesome. How once you make that decision, everything falls into place. How the questions are suddenly all answered. I told them of all of my sins, lying wasn't one of them, and that I would be the one (maybe the only one) to tell them straight up ~ #growthsucks ~ because it does, but...BUT it is worth it. 


Some mornings, days, or evenings sitting here in a sushi bar typing up a blog post while listening to men lose their noodle over a football game...I wonder where on earth God is taking me, but then I think of how far he has brought me from that heartbroken, broken-spirited woman back in 2012 to today, and I shrug my shoulders and say, "Whatever." because I trust him.

I completely trust God.

I love the women from this weekend, but God gets ALL the credit for how AMAZING it all was...I hope they realize the teachers were being taught too...by God...and by them.

It. Was. Beautiful. ❤️☀️

I love this shot captured by accident Saturday.

***So much more to write, but my heart is processing this SO slowly...need a little time. Special thinks to my new #tribe members, but extra special thank yous to my #C7 tribe who propped me up with and in prayer throughout the weekend and sent me words of encouragement. I could not have made it through what God was leading me through this weekend without each of you...your actions, your heart made ALL the difference. Thank you from the deepest parts of my heart.

Sunshine Dreams to You ~ Today and Every Day! :) 

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

The Struggle Is Real ~ So Are The Lessons


I am a hashtag addict, and I admit it.

A few months back I saw a hashtag #thestruggleisreal, and I laughed out loud. Isn't that the truth I thought...

My Back. I am sitting in bed for the fifth night in a row as I struggle to be still/limit my motion/etc. to give my back some time to heal from a nasty wrenching in Haiti a week ago this past Sunday. I am actually being forced to ask people for help...lift stuff, etc. #thestruggleisreal

Captivating Arkansas/Adventures In Teaching. I am working through material for this upcoming weekend when I am set to teach two sessions at Captivating Arkansas. I know two things, no matter how much I prepare, God is going to give me the words on his schedule not mine (lest I remind myself of the 1:47 a.m. timing this past summer God had for a lesson I was scheduled to give less than 8 hours later at 9 a.m.). Good. Grief. #thestruggleisreal

Haiti. I got more than a few calls and text messages yesterday and today all centered around Haiti...questions, concerns, and I am worn out. I love people. I love the dialogue, but it is hard sometimes for people to realize that I am working through my own thoughts (so close to getting back). I don't have all of the answers (not by a long shot), and I am struggling with my own heart...decisions on what to do next..where I am needed....some/most want quick, concise responses (you have to wonder if they even know me...LOL...I can barely spell concise much less be concise...especially on any topic I am passionate about...LOL). Haiti is not black and white...it is multiple shades of gray...an enigma wrapped with a bow of complexity...it is beautiful and raw and nothing like you expect. Haiti surprises you...Every. Time. Every. Single. Time. I feel no allegiance except to God and where he directs me, and though it is difficult for me...I am trying very hard to be patient and move at the pace and in the direction that he nudges me. It is the only way I know I will do the right thing. Radical obedience; toughest thing I have ever done. #thestruggleisreal

Business Partners. Awww....the joy and the curse. Having never been married, sometimes I am convinced that God sent my business partner to teach me all of the beautiful lessons of having a partner since I have never had that professionally...and am a walking disaster at it personally. My business partner has a strong walk and faith, and because of that...God is healing me of many old wounds. That said, no partner, business or otherwise, is perfect. Having a healthy relationship only means when the wounds show themselves, you take the time to clean them out and invite God in to heal them. That takes time and patience. I have neither. So...you can imagine the struggle, but my God has the patience I lack...and He waits. #thestruggleisreal

Laundry. Don't even. I have been out of town 13 of the last 22 days. I leave Thursday for another four days. I can't begin to explain what is happening with my laundry or my loft in general. It looks like a boys college dormitory exploded in my home. One of the funniest things I have heard recently is one of my #iflocaltribe expressed Sunday how much she loved my home this way...it made her feel homey or happy. Not sure which. Oh. My. I thought. If you can imagine, I arrive home long enough, to dump one suitcase out and re-pack another because the trips differ so much that even my luggage is changing nearly every time. I stole coffee and toilet paper from my own office (good thing I am an owner) tonight because I don't have time to get to the store. I am hand washing some clothing items. I am too embarrassed to continue this...It is bad. #thestruggleisreal

Tribe. I have the best. I don't want to blubber so I am going to leave it at that. If there is a way and place where the enemy works to thwart my life or my heart it is with my tribe, but I find myself fighting like a warrior for them and for us, as doing this life with each of them is the joy of my days. In return, they fight for me. It is a dynamic and a depth of connection and relationship I have never had and continue to work to understand. More than anything it is simply a gift I work to honor every day as they teach me to be a better person, a better friend, a better business partner, a better boss, a better sister, a better aunt, and a better member of the human race. Better. #thestruggleisreal

Books. I have purchased no less than 30 books since 9/30/2014. 30!!! I read/finished two in Haiti which means I have finished about 5 in October. I miss lazy Saturdays full of reading, a quilt, and hot tea. I am not complaining because the slowness of my calendar (travel-wise) in December will soon be here...and I will have just that, but I do miss it. I know I will appreciate it and have plenty of reading material piled up to savor. #thestruggleisreal

Sis/Aunt. I have missed more football games this fall than planned due to flight delays and thrown backs, but my nephews still love me, and I eagerly await a long weekend with them soon. I miss them more than they know. It was a thrill having my Sis and niece in Haiti, but it will be sweeter still to have all of them (my little chicks as Sis would say) together under one roof. I like when I can see them all in one space. They are my heart. #thestruggleisreal

I could go on, but the tears are coming, and I have a pile of reading to finish before bedtime which will be on time with an early wake-up call and hitting the road for Mississippi at dawn. I think I needed to write all of this out so that I could laugh at myself. I knew that the seven weeks starting 9/30 were going to be brutal but pure BLISS, and they are every bit of both...I needed a reminder that #thestruggleisreal, and my life, while crazy, is full...just the way I love it to be. I need to get on the river and row, take a nap, do some laundry, remember to breathe, but all of that will come around again...in due time. Right now...it is this moment, these moments, and I will not feel guilty (that is the old Heather) but only grateful that I am given more than I deserve...Every. Day.

Me and Tacura, October 2014 ~ He is teaching me to breathe. :)))

Sunshine Dreams to You ~ Today and Every Day! :) 

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Songe ~ Remember


A lone boat in a pond just outside Marmalade, Haiti
 
The "feel good" portion of the program is now over.
 
These are the words I hear in my heart this morning after scrolling through photos of my latest trip to Haiti and re-reading the words I wrote here the night before I left...Over.

I know instantly what that means. I have made four trips to Haiti in just under 15 months. I have seen, smelled, tasted, listened, felt, questioned....I have learned SO much; I have SO much still to learn. Yet...

Yet.

Caleb asked me some tough questions, via Dodo our translator, as we sat on a table inside the orphanage walls where he lives 24/7. He asked me about marriage, family, children, loneliness, opportunity, why I come to Haiti, and my dreams. I asked him about his own family, dreams, what he wants most, and learning English. It was tough. Caleb and I have grown close over the past visits, and it was if he had saved up the questions for me...anticipating the time and place to ask them. A painful exchange between us the day before that led to a colossal misunderstanding over a gift he tried to give me...and my enlisting Dodo to help me understand Caleb's mood change the next day was the opening Caleb needed....and he took it. What it led to was a very raw and candid conversation between the three of us, because Dodo weighed in beautifully, and I understand more clearly now some of the things rolling around in Caleb's head while he lays on that metal bunk bed at night inside four concrete walls. I also feel like in some way it was God confirming for me things I have wondered about since that very first day in Haiti.

What if he is calling me to more...for more?

Allow me a digression...

I am sitting in the warehouse of our office while a floor crew cleans and waxes the concrete floors in our office. It has been pushed off since we moved in at the end of April, but it can be pushed off no longer. I scheduled it weeks ago...so here I sit with a very tender back (I pulled/wrenched it this past Sunday morning while in Haiti trying to get a great photo, and even after 90+ minutes with Gail last night after work...it is still not 100%), listening to my Haiti Playlist on my iPod, and mulling over a note left for me last night by an employee whose last day was yesterday.

I feel emotionally and physically raw.

I sense that is about to come out here.

Buckle. Up.

So....when I am away from our firm, my business partner doesn't always handle it well. We started this and have grown this together...virtually in lock-step. The truth is neither of us do well apart, but we need to get away from here and find our balance so we work on letting the other step away. This last trip to Haiti was an #epicfail on his part in letting me step away. In fact, I drafted more than a couple ultimatum letters in my head just so I could break the soul ties and move on from my frustration and continue to be "in the moment" in Haiti. It was tough.

I came back into the office Thursday physically wiped, emotionally a mess, and overall frustrated with my partner and my lot in life. What was I doing here??? Friday we had an important energy conference, and I had been asked to speak on a panel discussion about our firm's role in the overall industry...who we are, who we want to be, and our overall observations of our industry....I was nervous. What no one knows is that since Monday (while still in Haiti), I had been praying for God to restore my passion for my company and my industry OR open the door for me to sell my part and walk away. All of this came out of frustration in being sucked back into my job responsibilities while in Haiti, being in Haiti in general, and seeing firsthand some real needs that I believed I could fix...if only I had the time and opportunity. So, back to the panel discussion...I did my thing, and my business partner slips me a note, "Please don't ever leave me." with a heart next to it. So...I guess I nailed it. ;) The day was wonderful. I felt re-engaged and re-energized in my firm, my partnership, and my industry...so what is the problem?

The note.

"....You glow with the grace of God when you speak about Haiti. God put it on your heart for a reason, and I hope you never ignore that..."

Written by a young employee who I have struggled with leading for several months...I mean pull my hair out, don't know what to do with them/me with them kind of thing...

*Deep Sigh*

Then I saw the one written to my business partner...talking about his dream, etc....

I often joke that I serve at the pleasure of the president because our firm is a manifestation of my partner's dream, not mine. Now I did always dream of running my own firm or someone else's...got a twofer out of this one on that, but nonetheless...this is his dream, not mine. I love our firm. I love what we do. I love our purpose, mission, and vision....but....BUT...

But...it is still not my dream.

So what is?

I have built relationships with a lot of these children and adults in Haiti. I am honored by that...and humbled. The children trust me when I say, "I will be back." and give them a specific month. I don't promise, but tell them when I plan to be back...I tell them I am working on this or that...I want them to know I am, but I also don't want to promise what I cannot deliver.

Calling and purpose.

What is mine?

I have had the stupidest questions since returning from Haiti....about Ebola and where in Africa is Haiti...did you wear a mask in the Dallas airport. *Ugh* I read yesterday of a group going to Africa from Arkansas that is being harassed and threatened. Seriously?! Let me tell you...we all have our callings and purposes on this earth. Some are called to the homeless, some to Africa, some to Haiti, some to their office...I mean what if I told my friends in the Peace Corps...come home and help the homeless here. I hope they would say, "Why don't you?" Because first, why don't I? Second, who is to say that is their calling? Me? Good. Grief.

When did we all get so damn mean and scared and holier than thou? When did I? I am not perfect...I can be mean, scared, and holier than thou with the best of them. What is wrong with me?

I am not walking in my calling or my purpose. That is what is wrong.

I have been studying Nehemiah back and forth and sideways since mid-summer. It started with a sermon series at my sister's church, then I bought a bible study, and then it got referenced again and again over the course of some books I was reading...and it just sits with me like a grandmother at my bedside while I lay sick. It is quiet and every once in awhile it reaches over to check my temperature and my breathing.

The final chapter has been knawing at me for several weeks prior to Haiti...Chapter 13 references "Remember" four times including the final sentence..."Remember me with favor, O my God." Nehemiah's motive throughout his ministry was to please and to serve his divine Sovereign. The same man that in Nehemiah 1:11 stated, "I was cupbearer top the king."

When I walked into Papillon in Haiti on our first full day of the trip, there hanging on the wall at the entrance was an over the shoulder burlap bag that my eyes caught first. It has letters all the way around it, "Songe." I asked someone what that meant, and it is Haitian Creole for "Remember."

You. Don't. Say.

Front of Burlap Bag from Papillon
Back of Burlap Bag from Papillon
 
In Christine Caine's book "Undaunted" she writes of "the challenge" starting on p. 193. I have p. 195 virtually 100% highlighted and the book has been folded at that page and stuffed into the final chapter of Nehemiah (Ch.13) this past month. I carried and toted my Bible around Haiti like that....and as I sit here today in the warehouse looking around at walls and shelves and inventory and a company I helped build...staring at those pages, a former employees' note, Caleb and Tacura's faces, and hearing "Up to the Mountain" by Patty Griffin....I am reeling. 


Undaunted, page 195, by Christine Caine
"He means for us to walk into the gap where he's thrown down the cross, to walk like him, to walk with him." ~ Christine Caine {Undaunted}

I am not doing that. I. Am. Not. Doing. That.

I come closer to doing it in Haiti than anywhere else in my life, but I am not doing that.

What is my motive? Who am I pleasing? Who am I serving?

I need God to remember me...all the while he is imploring...Remember. Me.

I am worrying (Every. Time.) will the children...will Tacura and Caleb..remember me. Each and every time I worry. All the while, they are looking into every bus for a familiar face, maybe even my face...they are wondering if I will...Remember. Them.

They are asking me...how do they change their destiny.

I can't beg some here to live up to their potential...to clean up a conference room...run a report correctly...answer a phone....

Yet I have stared into the eyes of men and women who need jobs and children growing up way too fast who are five years from having to have a job and are already worrying about how they will find one...what will they do....how will they survive...how will they help support their family...a family that had to give them up and put them in an orphanage because THEY could not afford to keep them.

How do I reconcile that? How. Do. I.??

My work here matters. I know that. I am frustrated at times, but I would be frustrated at times anywhere...even Haiti...even more in Haiti I am sure. What are the lessons though that we can learn from Haiti and implement here? What bigger question(s) is God asking me to consider about my own purpose and calling? Who am I? What breaks my heart? What are my gifts?

I am being called into more....different. I don't know what that means or looks like, but I know that God's expectations for me and my life are changing. He has opened my eyes and heart, but now he expects me to act on what I now know. Unafraid. Unflinching. Unstoppable.

I lost my noodle on our last night in Haiti trying to express how the message of something was being missed. Lost. My. Noodle. I know that these are big issues. Complicated issues. Orphan care. Orphan prevention. Sustainability. Family preservation. I get it. Haiti is the poorest country in the western hemisphere. I have read all of the history books. Reviewed the stats. Seen the film. I. Get. It. That doesn't prevent us from being able to be a force of change....of hope...of love...dream builders. Haiti is a country of strong men and women. Haiti's children are stronger (in backbone and will) than many adults I know...than myself. I am not willing to walk away and give in that the battle is too hard...the wall too tall....and I cannot bear to hear, "...this is the way it has always been..." anymore. I can't bear that in my own firm's industry, and I can't bear it in Haiti. How it has always been is a sure-fire death to the same old same old. We need new ideas, fresh minds, renewed people at the table. We need them at the tables dealing with Haiti just like we need them at the table dealing with energy in Arkansas. We need them at EVERY table.

Remember.

Our motivator cannot be solely profits and statistics, but the individual beating heart of the people impacted by our good and bad decisions. The people who pay ridiculous utility bills in Arkansas and the people who are struggling to find work in Haiti. The common denominator is that these are people. It is time to stop paying Russian Roulette with people's lives....with Caleb and Tacura's future.

Tacura looked me as I peeled myself away from him, and said, "I love you." so simply and quietly that I could not bear it. I can't bear it now. These children...this country...is not asking me to save them...they are asking me to love them, play with them, laugh with them, and give them hope...for a better day.

They give me courage and hope for that better day...Every. Day. 

Photo Bomb ~ Haiti Style, Source de la Grace East, Croix des Bouquets {Note: me, Tacura, and Caleb are all standing in fire ants...right after this shot, the kids started imitating me jumping around on one leg. LOL}

Who gives you courage? Hope?

For more information on the organizations I am working with in Haiti and how you can help, please check out the following websites:


All of them are all over social medias where you will find additional links to projects they also support or work with, the individual orphanages around the world that The Global Orphan Project works with, etc. I implore you to approach all of this with an open mind knowing that these are individuals in unimaginable situations and sometimes locations working to make a difference. If there is anything I have learned in the past couple of years as I prepared for, made, and now have made multiple trips to Haiti and learned more about orphan care...it is that knowing what to do, how to do it, and with whom to align, is like navigating a field of land mines. It is impossible. You must be willing to fail, correct yourself, change your stance on something, look like an idiot, learn...You. Must. Learn.

I say all of this with the great hope that you will dive into orphan care, your local foster care, homeless, or anyone who is in need (or as Jesus states in Matthew 21:45 "one of the least of these")....knowing that in helping them you are closer to Jesus and his will than at any other moment of your day/walk. It is in helping the #leastofthese in my state and in Haiti, that I have come to recognize the deep void in my own life. They have helped me more than any help I have provided to them. Through them, God has healed many broken places deep inside of me. He continues to heal me still.

I write this with deep love and hugs for whatever journey you are on, and to humbly ask for your prayers as I continue the journey God has started in my own life. We are all called to different walks, but we are all called...Each. And. Every. One. ❤️☀️

Sunshine Dreams to You ~ Today and Every Day! :)

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Haiti ~ The Next Adventure For My Heart

I am getting faster...I was packed for Haiti in an hour this time. Of course, I have a ridiculous number of bags as I am bringing a lot of stuff to leave down there...so actually even more impressive. ;)

I have four people flying out of Little Rock tomorrow with me so they will soon arrive at the loft to crash for a few hours before we leave here at 3:30 a.m. for the airport. Yikes!!!

So...as I sit here alone looking around at the after-effects of packing (think tornado), I am left to dream about Haiti.

Just a few more hours, three flights, and I will be there.

On holy ground. Sacred ground.

As I sit here, I am left thinking of my dear mentor and friend who lost his wife unexpectedly this week. I am reading all of the text messages, private messages, and e-mails that are coming in from excited parents who are sending their children on this trip; friends sending me their thoughts and prayers, and it is humbling. It is also a reminder that I never go to Haiti alone; I always am taking a lot of people's hearts with me. I am reminded that there is loss everywhere. I am reminded that life is fleeting and we must seize the day...every precious moment.

Caleb and Tacura
There is so much I cannot wait to see and experience, but nothing more than getting to check on these two boys and see how they are doing and growing up. It has been far too long since I have seen them. I also wonder if they are okay....will they remember me? They always surprise me.

This trip is extra special because I am co-leading it with my dear friend who got me into this Haiti-love affair- mess to being with...:))) It is an honor to co-lead this trip with him (bless him for training me so someday I can lead trips for The Global Orphan Project on my own). We have a group of 18 going for five days and seven of them coming with me personally; only one has been before. Those stats alone are mind-boggling. I am also going to get to stay an additional two days to help/watch some work The Global Orphan Project's Go Exchange Team is working on. #mindblown

I get to see my niece experience her first mission/overseas trip, and that breaks my heart all at once. I get to experience it with some of my dearest friends who are experiencing it for the first time...one along with her 11 year old daughter who has been persistent since March of this year when she saw a Flipagram of me and a little girl named Emily in Haiti, and she "had to go" to Haiti. Bless that sweet, joyful heart.

This...by the way THIS is Emily...

Isn't she just a MESS?!?! I am sad I won't get to see her this trip, but hopefully next time.

My phone is really blowing up now, and I am so grateful to everyone who takes the time to not only send me love, hugs, and prayers....BUT for our entire team. WOWSA! My heart is full!

There are a lot of people in my life that are watching this trip closely...it actually makes me grin to type that because there have been a lot of "special" words and prayers sent to me and prayed over me. It is funny and lovely to have a #tribe doing life with you, speaking truth into your heart and mind, and be such encouragers for I am headed down to Haiti full of anticipation, arms and heart wide open, and simply expecting God to show up in some BIG and small ways. I love watching Jesus work in Haiti. It is like nothing I have ever seen or experienced before or since.

So I am looking for God to SHOW UP, and there is nothing better than when you let God be God. I like to think, that as I am on the cusp of year three of my journey into radical obedience, that it is easier for me to let go and let God do his thing. LOL *Sigh* What Haiti does is teach me how to do that...more and more....because in Haiti, I have NO other choice than to let go. My Sis says that I look different, sound different, am just DIFFERENT in Haiti. I can breathe there. No one has to remind me. What a blessing that is...just to breathe. *Deep Sigh*

So to The Global Orphan Project and IV for trusting me, encouraging me, and giving my heart space to change and grow...THANK YOU! To our TEAM, this is going to be EPIC. To my family and friends and TRIBE that love me and encourage me and pray for me...There are no words, but a lot of tears, for what you mean to me...to my heart. Thank you.

To my friends in Haiti, and especially the children who keep teaching me lessons only they can...and especially to Tacura whose own personal loss and need cracked open my own...you will always have my heart....I love you, and I cannot wait to hug, laugh, cry, play, sing, dance, write, color, draw, and practice Haitian Creole with you.

Safe travels to our entire team. Prayers asked for and sent up for God's will.

June 2013 - Me and Tacura
Sunshine Dreams to You ~ Today and Every Day! :)