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! :) 

Sunday, October 5, 2014

The Ongoing Journey ~ Am I Enough?

 
I just spent three days in Atlanta at my first Catalyst event. My mind/body/soul are somewhere between physically spent, soul on fire, and mind blown...and not necessarily in that order. It is all blurry now what I saw on Catalyst that made me click on their website, but I said yes. The truth is that I couldn't figure out why in the world that God would want me to go to Catalyst. I say God because I don't make big decisions without God these days, and I always give him the credit when they cross my blind path (as this one had). I am working on looking to him for the small ones too, but that is another blog post....probably.

The truth is that if you look at my calendar NOW for the next eight weeks...the why that God would want me to attend a conference like this is glaringly obvious. What I am reminded of today is that none of this was on my calendar when I said yes back in May/June. None. Of. It. Not co-leading a Haiti trip, not speaking at Captivating Arkansas, not leading a young women's retreat...None. Of. It.

The lesson...and the reminder...God. Knew.

I heard God urge me to ask my friend Sherri (#C7) to go with me. I had no idea if she could, would, if he were calling her too...but I asked, she prayed, and she heard go too. Wow!

Sherri was the perfect, and I do mean perfect...partner for this journey which found me with audible gasps, tears, pulling my hair, rejoicing, praising, singing, skipping, introducing myself to those I admire, watching her do the same, and filling up yet another Moleskine with pages and pages of words I needed to hear...and that I need to share. It was a three day adventure for our souls. It was perfect.

I am sitting here in the Atlanta airport waiting on my flight...delayed, and I am struck by the humanity all around me. The man I ended up at a table with while I grabbed some dinner. He sells refrigeration equipment and solar panels all over Central America including Haiti. We had a fascinating conversation about energy and kwh and nerdy stuff that some days I wish I could forget, but it is all up there now...and it matters. Haitians pay on average over 36 cents/kwh for electricity. By comparison take a look at your electric bill...you pay 6-12 cents/kwh on average. Think. About. It. He was telling me of some other neighboring countries that pay over 40 cents/kwh. I felt ill. He has only been to Haiti once...he sends others on his team....once was enough. My jaw on the table...once! Go back! They need you! I actually said a little of that out loud, but hopefully not with the pleading and urgency that resonated in my heart. I love Haiti. I can't imagine my life not full of going back again and again.

I digress....

One of the final questions asked of the attendees of Catalyst was one they wanted us to ask God, "What do I need to change/give up/do/release in my life in order to be a change agent in my life..in my community?" {No sweat there huh?!?! *Sigh*}

I am sitting here thinking of all I have had taken away from me, given away, walked away from, run away from, changed, corrected, asked for forgiveness for, repented of, lost, changed, done...and yet I sit here knowing it is not enough...it is NOT even the tip of the iceberg of what is going to be asked of me. What is being asked of me. I hear him. I hear HIM. I simply have been ignoring some of the urgings. I was afraid. I am afraid.

What would you do if you were not afraid?
  • Just 15 months ago I would have said no to Haiti, and now Haiti is one of the richest aspects of my life.
  • Speak to a group of girls/women about my three year journey; now I am about to do that for the third and fourth time this calendar year....WHAT?!?!
  • Start a business/be an entrepreneur; now I am about to enter year three and I need stronger seat belts for the rollercoaster.
  • Lead a small group; now I am way beyond that, and it is still terrifying, but one of the best parts of my week...EVERY week.
  • Blog about the journey...here...for anyone to see and read. Yup. *Sigh*
When I write just those out, I am humbled and in tears....partly because each of those listed still scary me nearly Every. Day. I still fight the feelings of inadequacy, skill, knowledge, etc. Am I enough? Am. I. Enough.?

Can I help make the world better? Change the world?

Can I help lead others through some of the same mistakes, failings, pitfalls, sin that I found myself falling prey too and in some case marching into boldly because I was too broken to have the sense God gave a goat? Can I be brave and share those journeys?


Stasi Eldredge posted this photo after I wrote all of the above...and I thought back to two years ago and Captivating in Colorado that first time. Has it really been just two years? It feels like ten. The broken, hot mess, that sped to that mountain top two years ago....I don't even know her anymore....at least not most of her. Thank you Jesus for that.  If someone had told me then that I would someday go to Haiti, or Catalyst, or lead a small group, or downsize my career, my life, or any of the big and small things that God has done in my small life in two years...I would have laughed...OUT. LOUD.
 
Tonight my IF:Local group spoke a whole lot of truth into me that I am struggling both to believe and digest. Somewhere on the back roads of Haiti later this week...their words are going to fully sink in...that I know now.
 
What if what breaks my heart is part of a divine design?
 
What scares me to death? I used to say my life not mattering...now what scares me is going through life knowing that my life ABSOLUTELY DOES MATTER and not doing anything with it. My heart is burdened, yet what am I doing about it? What are any of us doing about the things that break our heart?
 
In Nehemiah, he said, "I am just a cup bearer to a king." Ahhh..."just"....
 
We are all called to do things in our life....change something....in some cases a lot of somethings. I spent a lot of years like a caged animal imprisoned behind walls I helped build to keep everyone at a safe distance from anything going on even a millimeter beneath the surface. I was lonely, unsure, angry, and terrified. What can God do with all of that mess? A. Lot. This afternoon I was reminded that he can do A LOT with all that He has healed, restored, and that he continues to work with me to heal. I am not where I was two/three years ago, but there is still work to do. There will always be work to do.
 
Yesterday I had an encounter with a homeless man...and when I say homeless man, I mean Jesus. He walked up to my rolled-down window stating he did not mean to hurt me that he was hungry. I was never scared or nervous and grateful that I had cash (which I never do) in my coin purse from Catalyst trip. I handed him a twenty. He seemed genuinely stunned, reached in, grabbed both of my dimpled-cheeks in his hands and said, "I love you SO much." eyes twinkling and then walked away. I was sitting in the drive-thru lane at Popeye's mouth wide open.
 
Christine Caine spoke at Catalyst (and by spoke, I mean #killedit) and said sometimes our hearts are right, but our soul is damaged; we lock God out of the places He needs to go in us - the dark, infected places. We have to be willing to embrace the pain of recovery.
 
I have spent the better part of my life with clinched fists. I am done with that. My hands are open, palms up...ready to give and ready to receive...no matter the pain...no matter the risk...no matter the cost. My heart was shattered many times over many years. God has healed me; God heals me still. My soul was wadded up and tossed aside on the side of my life right where I had left it over so many years. God has restored it; God restores it still. What I helped to destroy, God is making whole. No one is more blown away by this than I am, and no one is more grateful.
 
My life has not been picture-perfect. I have not always made good decisions. I have lost more than most in human capital, and most of that I will never be able to recover. I am not meant to go back and re-claim Egypt. The promise land is ahead of me, not behind. It is time for me to face that....there will be no recovering former lands for this girl.
 
Catalyst slayed me, but it was only a precursor for what God is planning for me in just a few days. Haiti always holds fresh lessons and deeper restoration. He has something special planned this time, and I await with hands wide open. I am just a cup bearer...for the King.
 
Tacura & Me, January 2014 {I can't wait to see him!}
...take me deeper than my feet could ever wander...my faith made stronger...in the presence of my Savior. {Oceans by Hillsong United}
 
Sunshine Dreams to You ~ Today and Every Day! :) 

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Choices: Who Am I? What Breaks My Heart?

I have just spent three and a half days with my friend Sherri (#C7) at Catalyst in Atlanta and an amazing group of change makers including men and women I know in my every day life...and a lot of men and women I admire from afar. #mindblown


I think the most amazing part were the other people there...the amazing number of men and women who are looking for ways to impact others in their every day life. Let me say to the thousands upon thousands of men, women, and children being led by these people. You. Are. So. Lucky.

The church is in good hands.

Scratch that.

The church is in GREAT hands.

It is difficult to continue to be fearful of your future, or bitter over the disappointments in your past, when you have Ann Voskamp, Jen Hatmaker, Jennie Allen, Christine Caine, Andy Stanley, Matt Chandler, and a host of others expressing their own fears, setbacks, challenges, etc.

I went to Catalyst not knowing quite what to expect. It was my first time...I had never even heard of it before a few months ago...and qualified??...I was wondering what someone like me was going to an event full of church leaders and social entrepreneurs. Yikes!!!!

Then my calendar for October and November started filling up with various events and trips....and then I arrived at Catalyst, listened, observed, and took it all in...

Now I am wondering if God is really calling me to more..am I finally ready to accept the baton???

Last night in the airport in Atlanta, I wrote and wrote and wrote (not posted yet) not because I wanted to, but because I was compelled to by a full heart and itchy fingers. I sat there in a mass of humanity and wondered out loud on a keyboard how my small life could impact...well, anybody...

The church needs me. The church needs you. The church needs us.

I thought of the dozens of stories I had written about Haiti (some posted and some kept private). I thought of the children who are growing up learning about Jesus in orphanages all over the world. I then thought about the little boy who cracked through steel walls and broke my heart for the least of these.

Who am I? What breaks my heart?

Good. Grief.

Andy Stanley asked us those two questions in Session 1 of Day 1 (though that was on the heels of my day one of Catalyst Labs the previous day). Seriously?!?!

Who am I? What breaks my heart?

I challenge you to sit down with those two questions and see what you come up with....

I am wrestling with my own answers today...and let me say with only five days until I am back in Haiti....the wrestling is BRUTAL.

Right now I am having a pretty intense love/hate battle with God over my answers. I both love and loathe where He is taking me....the loathing comes from INTENSE fear...but no excuse. I am terrified.

Who are you? What breaks your heart?

In the sea of responsibilities, to do lists, and demands....those two questions may set you on a new course in unchartered water......look for me....I will be the one doggie-paddling. ;) :)))

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