Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Prepare Your Heart

In our circles we hear terms like, "donor fatigue" and "compassion fatigue". 

Living in Haiti we often encounter terrible situations that take our breath away, and cause moments of, "NO! How can this be true?" 

Fatigue is a thing of course.  It is something to be cognizantly aware of while working and living in this difficult and oftentimes dark world. 

The thoughts and struggle I have with fatigue is this: I am the one who is privileged enough to have the CHOICE of being fatigued.  

If I am sick of seeing the way patients are treated, or the way a husband repeatedly beats or cheats on his wife without remorse or consequence, or the unfathomable living conditions of several thousands .... How much more sick of it or "fatigued" must they be?  

The least I can do is try to keep seeing it and trying my best not to look away or give up on love. 

It is important for all of us that live easier, simpler, calmer lives to keep prepared ahead of time through faith, prayer, mercy, love, and forgiveness so that we can keep our hearts open when hell happens.  Thanks to Richard Rohr for so beautifully stating what is required to have a prepared heart.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

IMMEDIATE POSITION - *Teaching* MKs in Haiti

New FAQ at bottom ...

**The current teachers have recently learned they need to return to the USA in December of this year. This post is updated.**
Meet our school aged kids:
Ages: 8, 9, 11, 13, 14 ~ Grades 2nd, 3rd, 7th, 8th, 8th 

These are some really cool kids that are deeply loved and cherished by their parents - they are totally different from one another. They are: wild, shy, sensitive, funny, artistic, and the good kind of peculiar and complicated.

We know we are biased...So let us reword...Here are normal kids that we love because they are ours. 

In the last ten years the Livesay kids have been home-schooled, gone to charter school in Waco, TX after the Haiti earthquake, and private school in Haiti.  Since August 2011 they have been taught by the same teacher who came for one-year commitment, but loved it here and stayed 4 years. (Now teaching his final semester.) All that history aside, the important thing is, these kids love to learn. They are good students with a desire to work hard (most days).

We need a teacher to begin in January 2016.

Just like other parents we value education and we want the best for our kids. While our situation living outside of the USA does limit our choices, we're certain there are viable solutions that will give our kids a well rounded and fun education experience.

In fact, we're so optimistic we believe our kids will likely graduate and move out some day. Heck, we dare to think that they might even excel as giving, caring, contributing members of society. 

If you have been reading this blog for very long you know that living in Haiti is an interesting and exciting adventure at best - also sad, difficult and draining at worst.  Emotionally most people find themselves all over the board as they sort out what they see and experience here. We learn things every week about ourselves and our faith. This country will generally kick the butt of anyone willing to be introspective and honest about their feelings and attitudes toward the poor, hurting and marginalized.  Those that apply for this position should do so knowing this will be an emotional roller coaster.  Emotionally stable people in good physical health will do best in Haiti.

The DESIRED qualifications:
  • Teaching degree/certificate
  • A love of Jesus 
  • At least one year prior teaching experience  (can consider those without experience too) 
  • Can provide references (personal, professional, spiritual) and demonstrate maturity - submit to a thorough background check
  • Flexibility and a sense of humor to deal with less than ideal circumstances such as: heat, bugs, no hot water or no water at all, no air-conditioning, funky tropical illness, lack of electricity, political instability, limited entertainment options, etc., etc.
  • Must work well living and serving in community 
  • Must be a self-starter
  • Emotionally stable (so important!)
  • Ability to commit to the one semester of January to May 2016 (we will also be looking for candidates that want to apply for the 2016-2017 school year). 
Additional qualifications that are helpful:
  • Hobby/Extracurricular activity that can be shared with the students such as- Piano, Guitar, Dance, Art, Foreign Language, etc.
  • Two teachers that know each other and can teach and live together in one apartment are preferred - but not required
Additional Information:
  1. A salary commenturate with experience will be paid. Depending upon the living arrangements there may be a need to do personal fund-raising above and beyond the salary.  We are able to house one or two teacher(s) in a small apartment/space (rent free) on the same property where school takes place. 
  2. Position (and salary) could begin as early as November 15, 2015 with a target move to Haiti date of January 2016. The semester will begin by the second week of January. 
  3. Best case scenario, the person hired will come spend a week or two with the kids and their current teacher THIS FALL (November) in order to become acquainted with the kids. 
  4. Interviews will mainly take place by email and by Skype - and for final candidates in person.
  5. For the next 45 Days  we will be gathering information and resumes .
  6. Between the five kids there are four grades represented (junior high and gradeschool). Candidates will need to find ways to work with the kids individually and collectively as needed.
  7. Health Insurance not provided.
  8. Teaching must be your number one priority for being in Haiti. Teaching will take 40+ hours per week. Other ministry or work is secondary and would be limited to weekends.
  9. Vehicle not provided. 
  10. Looking for a five month committment - January 5, 2016 to May 30, 2016  - WE will also be looking to hire a teacher for the FALL of 2016. 
To all of you that read and follow along:
We appreciate your help in spreading the word to candidates that don't read our blog but are looking for an exciting (and challenging) teaching adventure abroad.  Please share on Facebook, Twitter, and any other way you see fit.

Resumes will be accepted until November 10, 2016. Interested candidates should email Tara Livesay a resume and note of introduction at: 

Thanks for reading! Thanks for passing this along to the adventurous and available teachers in your life.


Yes we will consider a single teacher applicant.  We prefer two but will consider all single applicants.

The reason we think that two friends both taking the job or a married couple is ideal is two-fold.  One, teaching four different grade levels is difficult.  Two, during your evenings and weekends we are concerned that it is possible that a person could feel bored or lonely when they don't have a car to easily get around and perhaps would feel nervous to use public transportation without the necessary Creole language skills.  There are several younger and single expats in the nearby community for those that are good at extroverting. 

Salary will based on experience and credentials.  Salary range is $500 to $1000 per month plus an apartment on a very lovely and secure compound.

Only serious applicants please. 

We cover one one-way ticket to Haiti.
One week Spring Break (paid) off.
Qualified applicants with ability to come train with the current teacher for a few days  prior to Christmas will be given priority.

The personality of the kids ...

Thursday, September 24, 2015

looking back and remembering

Last week Dr. Chris Sizemore came to spend a week in Haiti.  We all think he is the bomb because like Dr. Jen, he doesn't lord his Doctorness over us.  He came to work with us and hang out and teach us a bit. It was a blast.

In 2010 after the earthquake, this young woman showed up with a placenta abruption.  Chris was here working with Heartline doing earthquake relief medical stuff --- and it just so happens that Chris is pretty dang good at a C-Section.  Without much set-up or prep and certainly without a sterile OR, Chris was able to deliver the baby in under four minutes.  He then handed the floppy little guy over to Dr. Jen who did the PPV and got him breathing.   

(We won't discuss the mind-bender of a fact that while thousands died because of the earthquake, this young mom likely lived because of the earthquake.)

Midwives love telling stories. This story is one we tell often.  Since 2010 this Mom also had a VBAC with us at the Maternity Center.

While Chris was here last week we had a birth.  The birth was normal and without drama but it was messier than some and there was a lot of clean up to do.  Chris put on gloves and helped clean blood and amniotic fluid off the floor.  

From now on, I think this is how women should interview and choose their OB doc ... "Will you help midwives clean blood up?"   

If yes, HIRED!  

First male (besides Troy or the Dad of the baby) that was EVER allowed at a birth. 
Thank-you, Sizemore! 

Helping the Helpers

Our funny and fantastic friend April is fighting Breast Cancer.

Please read about her situation and how you can help by going here:

Monday, September 7, 2015

honoring J & R & I on september seven

a couple of years ago we sat with isaac's first family visiting and asking questions about the beginning of his life.  on that day isaac's mom and maternal grandmother enthusiastically told him that he was born on the 7th of september, 2001.

up until that day we had been given september 11 and 18 as his possible dates of birth (differing dates on adoption paperwork). 

adoption is complicated. you have heard me say that a hundred dozen times. for his first family, there is loss and i don't imagine the sting of that *ever* goes away. 

for isaac, i am guessing most of the processing work lies ahead. one new piece of his story was brought into the light when he was given the chance to celebrate his correct birthday. 

while is his passport and everything official reads septmber 18, we learned from isaac that this date his mother and grandmother confirm as the day he was born in wharf jeremie on the cement floor of his small home, is the date that matters to him.  

we are celebrating today, on the correct date, for the second time.

watching isaac grown into his new 5'9" frame, and the distinct change in his voice this year has been quite something. He is still so filled with child-like wonder and joy ... his emotional development lags behind the physical - and none of us want to rush him.  

thankfully, his sheltered little home-school situation with a teacher and classmates that love all his wonderful peculiarities means that nobody is picking on him for being perfectly innocent and in utter awe of all of God's creation.  (teasing on occasion, yes. picking-on him, no.)

today and everyday we are so grateful that isaac's mom carried him, gave him life, still loves him, and knows him. thank you, J, for the gift you have given this world. we remember you today. we have also learned that much of isaac's joyful demeanor and carefree approach to life comes from his dad. R, we celebrate the beautiful qualities you gave your son today. we are all blessed everyday because of those things you passed on to isaac.

Happy 14th Birthday, Isaac. We hope you never lose your enthusiasm for life, your joy and wonder, your love of peace and harmony. 
The world needs you, buddy.
We need you.
xoxo - mom&dad and mom&dad

Monday, August 31, 2015

Sunrise Sunset Sunrise Sunset

I walked in early this morning after a night-shift at the Maternity Center. Immediately upon slamming the big gate and entering the front yard - I wondered, "WHAT is that smell?!"

But then it hit me, my keen senses and time&experience-perfected, BadA-detective-mom-skills led me to the obvious conclusion.  

The smell of 8th grader. 

Whenever you can announce your presence in a building or home, from a great distance, that is winning.  When the announcement is made with the scent of manly musk rather than sweaty-armpit-stench, that is winning BIG.

**          **

All seven have begun the new school year, Britt and Paige (plus bonus student) began last Monday.  

The fab-five start today!


(UT Southwestern PA Program)

(Two for the price of one!)

(hormones galore!)
("The babies")

With their teacher, Mr. Jimmy - his 5th year teaching them
All over the world mothers and fathers are doing the too-many-feelings-combo-dance.  

We jump for joy that they are once again fully occupied (not staring at electronic devices) and moving forward in their education. We weep in sorrow, knowing the days are long - but the years are short. 

We all want to raise them with love, mercy, grace, and the right amount of discipline. None of us want to screw it all up. Before we feel finished with them, they'll be gone.

To all of you sending your small people off into the world today, take time to flail on the ground and scream, maybe cry a bit in the shower ... But then, go treat yourself to a delicious caffeinated beverage and ask someone in the coffee shop to pat you on the back in a congratulatory manner.  

This parenting gig is nothing to kid around about. See us pressing on?

We are champions, let us celebrate as such. 

Thursday, August 27, 2015

drink something

It is Thursday.

Hurricane-oppressive-humidity has arrived in the Caribbean.

I am sitting at my purple desk, watching the pee cups roll in. Most women seem to have taken a quick bath in the sink after peeing in their cup. Most everyone arrives to the purple desk with water dripping off their faces.

As happens every week, pregnant women are peeing in cups and the cups are being brought to the desk to be checked for leukocytes, nitrate, protein, blood, and ketones. 

It is hot in Port au Prince right now. The kind of hot that forces behavior (read: Troy) like this around 4pm


Everything is chafing and our skin is slick with a layer of slimy sweat.

Clean water is not all that easy to come by in much of Haiti. In order to have it, most folks have to buy it.  It's not pouring freely from indoor plumbing for the vast majority.

If a budget is tight, drinking less is the typical answer.

Drinking less when pregnant - bad idea.

Drinking less when it is ├╝ber hot - very bad idea.

Most people will tell you they have a headache.  No mystery to solve there.

The most uttered words at the Heartline Maternity Center "bwe plis dlo" - drink more water.  There is nothing we force on women as much as this, there is nothing we have to work harder for in order to gain compliance.

Today Madame John will teach about all the things dehydration causes in pregnancy. She will show what dehydrated urine looks like, she will show what the urine of a well hydrated person looks like. She will sing, she will dance, she will beg and plead and demand that everyone drink 10-12 large glasses of water per day.  The women will nervously glance at each other and exchange "she crazy" looks.

As the urine shows up, I can see who got the sternest lectures last Thursday. They are producing some clear urine.  I can also tell who just started the program and hasn't yet heard that pee is not supposed to look like a Brown Ale or a Stout Beer.

"Pee-pee pa manti", Beth will tell them. (Pee doesn't lie.)

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Written earlier for the website 'A Life Overseas' ...

Social Media, Volunteers, and Communication

by TARA LIVESAY originally posted on APRIL 6, 2015
The world has grown more and more connected due to technology and open communication across the world-wide web.
Thirty years ago you didn’t know what was happening with a particular friend or acquaintance serving across the world unless you got a newsletter that arrived to your mail box four to six weeks after it had been written.
Thanks to the magic of social media we now know when there has been a tragedy at any school across the globe, or a baby is being born in Haiti,  or when a child is admitted to a hospital in Madagascar, or when Ebola is ravaging Liberia.
Thanks to the Internet, our Moms know when we have a terrible tropical illness and can worry (er, I mean pray) right away rather than hear about it once the illness is all cleared up and better.
Within minutes of putting our feet on the floor each morning, if  we choose to, we can know more news than folks could gather over several weeks time 50 years ago.
Maybe that is good.  Maybe it is not.
Certainly this vastly increased connectedness has changed and influenced how we “do missions” and how we communicate with donors and family and friends “back home”.  The days of snail mailed newsletters with six-week old news are long gone. Most ministries and non-profits have a Facebook page, a Twitter account and an Instagram account. If you want the news from your favorite non-profit, you should be able to find it in a nano-second.
The ways in which social media has changed things are probably too numerous to count.  Today, I’m examining just one of those ways.
Social media, frequent updates, and the connectedness results in an increased desire and demand for visits and requests for volunteer opportunities. People see (in real-time) the exciting updates and they want to be a part of what they see.
Most of us realize that we cannot discourage or disallow potential donors from seeing the work first hand, after all most people would find it pretty sketchy if we said visitors are not allowed.  When legitimate work is happening, we want to prove that to donors as best we can. It makes sense for them to SEE it.
The question becomes, how can we communicate the nuances of our individual organization’s needs without offending or upsetting those that want to help? Sometimes not needing help can feel hurtful to an interested friend or financial partner. How can we communicate those things really well?  How can we say “We have a full-time, year-round staff. We don’t really have any work for volunteers”, without sounding ungrateful, dismissive or unwelcoming?
Where I work, we often get requests from visitors to come see a birth.  Social media and sharing the news of babies born at our Maternity Center equals a sweet level of support and much curiosity. The easiest way for me to answer those inquiries is to ask how well it would work for strangers to walk into a birth and observe it in the developed world. (However, I recognize that sounds rude, so I don’t ask anything quite like that.) 
Do any of us want to invite strangers into intimate and private moments such as the birth of a child?   Can you imagine if your OB or Midwife said, “Oh, this is So-and-so and her team. She is visiting your town this week and she/they wanted to see a baby be born in this town, so I invited her to your birth. Hope that’s okay. Ready to push?”
(Maybe materially poor people are not automatically seen as needing equal privacy or respect by those of us that are materially wealthy.  I hope that can change somehow.)
It is not uncommon for many of us working in poor countries to receive a note saying something similar to this, “What can we do, we will paint walls, build things, or do anything you want.”  How can we kindly explain that all around us there are men and women in need of work, and if at all possible we prefer to offer a chance at employment for folks hoping to feed their children in our area.  It is not that we don’t want these interested friends to see the countries we are working in; it is that we want to be cognizant of what each country needs.
Another thing I have noticed over the years, whenever we have several visitors on a clinic/program day, we communicate less with the Haitian women we serve.  Try as we might to stay on task and allow our visitors to just hang out and observe the days activities, we always end up spending much of the day speaking English and sharing information with the guests. Suddenly, several hours in, I will realize that I have not engaged with the new mother and baby in front of me in her own language because I’m being polite and chatting with the American in the room. That is my fault, not the fault of the visitor. Finding the balance is tricky.
Social Media tends to show the exciting part of our lives abroad. (Social Media doesn't communicate sleep deprivation to the point of delirium.) The snapshots we share produce an interest without giving the full picture of what is needed. This leaves us to figure out how to communicate in a way that does not turn donors away. 
The easiest way for any of us to successfully consider things from another perspective or point of view is when it is very gently and carefully explained.  Sometimes writing doesn’t allow for the very best communication to happen, a lack of tone can cause defensiveness or offense.  (We learned this the hard way. We frequently hear, “Oh, they are anti teams” based on this post I wrote several years ago – but I am not anti short-term-missions, I just think it can be done differently, more respectfully, and better.)
Over the years, as I have learned the culture of my host country and grown to love my new home, it has become increasingly more important to me to protect, love, and respect the people we work with just as we desire to be loved and protected. I’ve realized that there is an imbalance of power that allows us to do things that take advantage of our inherent power. At times it seems more loving (to Haitians) to say “no thank you” to some offers for help. Without a doubt, that has meant a loss of potential ministry partners and donors.
What about you?
As you work in your respective fields, how have you allowed visitors and short-term teams to come see your work without compromising the privacy,dignity, or needs of those you live and work with abroad?  
Do you find it difficult to communicate well without causing offense?
Is it possible to put the people you are serving first, or does a need for funding require a compromise in that area?
Do you feel like social media positively impacts your work?  Are there any drawbacks? 

Sunday, August 23, 2015

all the questions

A drunk driver slams into the back of the patrol car our son-in-law is sitting in, he walks away, unharmed.  Those that love him are reminded that everything can (does) change in an instant. The relief at seeing a photo of his chubby-cheeked smile as he holds his infant son brings gratitude (and fears too) in a flood of tears.

A diagnosis changes the path forward. Our friends have come, packed their things, said their rushed goodbyes, and left.  Our cousin has begun his treatment, too young for metastatic Cancer - his relative youth doesn't change his test results. Cancer cuts a path of destruction, those that pray and love the patient(s) refuse to stop hoping and asking for miraculous healing.

A four year old in Texas drowns. The end of a young life cut way too short yields sorrow and grief and questions that extend far beyond Texas. Those that love his family refuse to stop hoping, praying for the grief to be bearable and the healing to begin.  

A woman in Haiti spends the night searching for help for her sick child, only to be turned away again and again.  Her baby dies in her arms between hospitals.

It has been several years since my boxed-up with a bow theology was destroyed. It was bound to happen at some point. To this day it remains a messy and uncomfortable thing - for which I am grateful. Boxed up is false.  All the answers is a way to create comfort. It lacks honesty. All the answers were never meant to be ours. Early 2008 our infant daughter fought Pneumococcal Meningitis in Haiti and lived. That same week, another family in Colorado, with the same diagnosis, suffered the loss of their child. I cannot explain what broke, but I knew I did not understand the questions, let alone the answers. 

"Suffering often has a way of stirring up our need for theology. 
We are beings wired for logic, we want the dots to connect. How can we exalt a God our hearts adore, without questioning the evil our eyes behold?
Don't ask me to rectify tragedy with theology. Frankly, I don't know how to. My lips will spill plenty of "I don't know's" and my answers for you will come in tight hugs, a hot meal, and shared tears.
But, here's the thing. I believe we are given all we need (2 Pet. 1:3). So I can't help but think that if healing were to be found in the answers, we would have them. 
I can't help but wonder if by some miracle we were given all theological understanding, that we would find ourselves...lacking.
What I'm learning is that Jesus is perfect theology. 
What I'm remembering is that there are two realities at war here. 
What I am sure of is His character. And when I can't seem to rectify that character to my circumstances, then I will choose to step in to what I know instead of what I don't know.
What I know is that He is a good, good Father. 
What I know is that the enemy steals life, and Jesus gives life. 
What I know is that there is this Great Story, in which all redemption comes to pass, where mercy overcomes with finality, and this need for answers falls away under the weight of glory. 
What I know is that everything He touches is redeemed. 
What I know is that His pursuit is relentless.
His peace is overwhelming.
His comfort is steadfast. 
He weeps. I believe he weeps.
So, there's so much I don't know. There's so much I question. 
In this moment, we choose to step into the reality of heaven. This reality that we pray will pour over our friends like a wave of cool water upon burning skin. This reality that will sustain them through indescribable grief. This God, this Rescuer, to be the stability of their times (Is 33:6). Our Perfect Theology who offers all we need for healing. We step into that. And so our lips will spill plenty of hallelujahs and our arms will lift in praise. 

Our answers will come not in what is explained but in what is received. 
He is mercy. 
That I know."

-Keri Duckett
(Pronoun edits and emphasis made with permission of author)

Friday, August 14, 2015

Baby Book Entry 8: Summer 2015 Edition

It's your Mother.  Trying to record history.

Let it quickly be said, I don't remember things well anymore. 

If I think, "Oh, I want to write that down so I won't forget it" - I have exactly 17 seconds to do it, or it is gone. Not only is my short term memory terrible, but so is my short-term memory. Sometimes, at night, your Dad and I will lie in the darkness talking about you guys and say things like, "What was it that Lydie said that was so funny at dinner?" or, "That question Isaac asked, do you remember it?" 

This is what middle age will be like for you too. 

Enjoy having your wits about you. It won't always be so. 

"Baby book" Entry No. 7 was fully two years ago. 27 months to be exact. That entry was written as Paige was leaving Haiti to move to America.  Isn't it awesome how I am alllllmost doing these entries "three times a year" as originally planned and promised? ! ?  Apparently I am not good at calendars, adulting, or keeping my word. I blame you. You make life so stinkin fun and busy and entertaining that two years fly by in a blur.

Since I last wrote specifically to you and about you, a lot has changed. You are all big kids. Britt and Paige used to be labeled "the big kids" - but now, that is all we have. There are no babies here.  (hashtag thank you God for bringing us through)

We have a schedule and you take turns making lunch to take to school. You do dishes when pushed. You fold laundry. You feed the dogs and pick up their ka-ka from the yard.  You are compact size human beings producing a little bit of work.  It is truly a sight to behold. 

It is so weird to me to think about all the years of doing everything for you.  If you figure that everyone of you had about five years of complimentary butt-wiping services offered, it means I gave a total of 35 years of gratis service. The fact that some of the service was in tandem is not relevant to the math I am making up in order to congratulate myself right now.  35 years of wiping you, added to my own decades of self-service, I am accomplished in this area. 

All of that to say, I like that you are all 7 years of age and older and I like how well you take care of your bathroom business without me.  

This summer is basically all but finished. Noah and Isaac got to go the the USA for six weeks. You girls were great sports about being the ones that stayed home. We hope to make next summer your turn. We know if we don't, there will be a price to pay.

There are only two weeks left in your summer before you start the next school year.  

This coming year will be your fifth year with Mr.Jimmy teaching you. We have been so blessed to have such continuity in your education. He has invested a lot in you and we are grateful and see the fruit of his efforts. You will enter 8th grade (Hope and Ike)  6th-7th grade (sort of between the two grades - Noah) 3rd grade (Phoebe) and 2nd grade (Lydia).

~   ~   ~

Last Friday four of you had the biggest sibling fight of your lives.  I know this is true because you said, "Mom, we have NEVER had a fight like that."  Based on the facts I gathered, I think you were right. It was a doozie.

Isaac remarked, "I am glad that doesn't happen often."

Me too, Isaac, me too.

At first I felt so terribly sad about your fight.  I could see why it happened and I knew enough about you all to know everyone prefers peace over the yelling and pushing that happened here. I could tell that you were all shaken up by how out of control things got so quickly.  It felt like we tiptoed around for a little bit afterward, afraid of upsetting the forgiveness that had been offered.

When I stopped feeling sad about your fight, I realized something important happened. Something to celebrate.  You all owned the part you played in being mean and making things blow up, you all issued sincere apologies, you all said the words "I forgive you." Even Lydia, who managed to stay out of that particular fight found some things to confess. 

I probably do not even need to write about that fight. It will likely be one of those that you just remember into adulthood. Your auntie Tina and I have a quite a few of those. Right now, while she reads this, she is remembering the last really bad fight we had in 1994. It came to fisticuffs while we were getting ready to go to a birthday party for our Uncle Norm. I remember this, I was right and she was wrong.

Friday night, a few hours after the adrenaline and emotion of the fight and the repentance, we learned that your closest Haiti friends won't be coming back to live here this fall. Their Mom is sick and needs treatment in the USA.  Delivering that news to you was painful. This is not the first time you've lost your friends here in Haiti. We spent the weekend taking turns crying for them and for us. Dad and I know it hurts and we know you wish you could control it all.  We do too.  Since we cannot, we just hope and pray you will remain open to loving and losing ... It is never the wrong choice.

 ~   ~    ~

Okay, some specifics about each of you... In two years, things change, your height being chief among them. The tallness just ooozes out of you.

Isaac, as I write this you are just a month shy of turning 14 years old and you are 5'8" tall with a voice that seems deeper every few weeks.  

The things that we have come to expect from you have not really changed. You like peace.  You like harmony.  Being a teenager has maybe made you slightly less willing to chat up strangers, you seem a bit less extroverted and a little more reserved. That's what teen years do to a person.

Part of the epic fight last week included you trying to break it up - you kept suggesting that "everyone should take a break from one another for a bit". I liked the sly part where you started recording everything that was happening for me to hear for myself.  

Kids used to just fight it out and let the chips fall where they may.  Now we have recordings and evidence. When I was 12, nobody could prove I called Tina the F word at the ice skating rink. It was my word against hers.  You guys can all forget about that. Your lives are under assault of the modern social media and digital age and everything you say and do can and will be recorded and admissible in court. 

Isaac, you are still very random in your curiosity and the questions you ask make us wonder what happens inside your noggin. This is not an exaggerated example, when adult you reads this, I want you to know your parents are infinitely awesome and patient to entertain several questions a day not too far from this one.  "If Jupiter and a wild purple elephant that ate only a diet of syrup and pancakes collided in space and then crashed down to earth in an unpopulated area, do you think the elephant would live do you think that would be cool?"  We sometimes just stare at you, unable to respond.

Hope, you are 13.5 and you don't hate us every day.  As our third daughter going through this thing called 13, we understand the protocol and we don't sweat it- we are ready for anything you need to dish out while your hormones flare. Some days you wish you could disassociate from all of us, (which is totally understood) - but usually, the feeling passes.  We just moved you out of the bedroom you have shared with Phoebe and Lydia for 7 years. We did this for the sake of their livelihood  - as it seemed they were pushing you to end them.  

You just got your braces off your teeth and you are stunning in all the ways. You still love to draw and are very gifted. Your voice is beautiful, but singing isn't as much your thing as art and reading novels is right now. You are a good little second Mom around here. We love watching you come into the biggest sister at home role. We all agree that you are done growing taller. Your 4'11" frame contains all the fierceness of your tall big sisters in Texas. 

Noah, you are 11 and the deep feeling, sensitive comedian of the family. This July you got braces on your teeth.Your funny act is mainly a way to hide your big feelings.  We watch you closely and try to be sure we are giving you space to express all the things and not just pretend to only be the guy that makes people laugh. One of the things I have noticed this year: You are the first person to come toward a crying or hurting person. While others may hang back, unsure of how to respond, you walk toward the hurting ready to hug. Most people that knew me at your age are very very freaked out at how much you look like me when I had braces and freckles and unruly hair. 

Phoebe, you will be 9 in November. You love to read, play dolls, and watch movies. You no longer fear water, instead you are swimming like  fish. I don't know what the other 7 baby book entries say, but your Dad and I find you to be the most mysterious of our children. You're hot and you're cold You're yes then no you're no You're in then you're out You're up then you're down You're wrong when it's right - Katy Perry doesn't know you, but she sings about you. I have noticed that when large groups do an activity or game, you are a late joiner.  I have also noticed you are an early deserter. I don't know what that means, but it makes you unique and I like it. Lately, we pull you out of the mix of kids to be with you alone and that is when we really get to enjoy the real you.  Sometimes this big family thing just BUGS you and we don't blame you for needing to get away and have all of our attention here and there. 

Lydia, you will turn 8 in two months. The baby of the family turning 8 is so.very.whack. I don't understand it at all at all.  You command and demand attention, nothing new there.  Extroverted beyond the rest of us, sugar is still your first love. Similar to Noah, you enjoy being odd on purpose to get a response from your audience. This morning you watched a short video of Daddy arriving in TX to surprise Britt and Paige. You said, "Oh, I love that. They are so happy!"  I said, "Some day Dad can come surprise you girls when you're big girls too."  You said, "Naaah. He won't prolly, because Paige is the most special kid and I am just a random kid." It was so obvious that you knew you were pulling my chain and full of it as you said it. The look on your face gave you away. You are the spunkiest spunk of all - and we need you here for the laughter you provide us. 

I am not supposed to write about the older girls. They've graduated out of this deal. So, just for keeping things straight later, I add these two notes: Britty is in Dallas going to PA school, already half way done.  Paige is in Conroe starting her new married people Mom life and getting ready to go to Sam Houston University.  They both chose such good guys, so we don't really worry about them. 

They grew up very quickly. Too quickly. The holes they left remind Dad and I every day to savor each moment we have with the five of you still here under our roof. 

We love you, we are so glad you are ours. XOXO 

Headed out of the driveway to summer school one July morning ...

One of several songs sung to me at a concert you put on for me the night of my birthday.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

lest we forget to celebrate the good

Human beings have a way of forgetting.

I am a human being.  I think you are too.

I forget, ignore, don't see, and all together miss the good sometimes. Lots of times.

While the challenges of life are many, and things are not usually super smooth or easy, I do want to quickly share a couple of success stories.  

I share them to remind myself first and foremost.   
I also share them to encourage you.

Good things are happening in Port au Prince.

First, this is a photo of 7 of the 10 babies born in the last month at the Heartline Maternity Center. These seven women are all first time Mothers.  They all delivered safely, their babies are alive. They have been nursing their babies and doing the ten billion other things mothers do with newborns, one of which is staying awake non-stop. They are strong women doing an excellent job in less than excellent circumstances. These women range in age from 16 to 30 years old. They live very near us and as far as 35 miles away from the maternity center (failed attempt on "neighborhood" program) they are married and single, poor and middle-class. These seven ladies, their five daughters and two sons are a success story and an inspiration to us.

Below, is Asline. Her little man will turn one month old on Saturday. We shared about her here and here. She is doing so well.  Many of you prayed for her.  Thank-you!

If you want to be a part of keeping Haitian families together, reducing the number of orphans in Haiti, and/or helping support the financial cost of offering prenatal and postnatal services (and/or education at the Women's Education Center) please go to the donation page at Heartline and sign up to be a monthly partner in this work.  


Wednesday, August 12, 2015

it's only a passing thing, this shadow

Every so often, I clean drawers out.  

People that know me and visit my house believe that I am an orderly, neat person. 
That's nice of them. I am okay with them and their beliefs.

Those people don't open drawers at my house. Some of their beliefs about me are built on shifty ground and bad intel.

Almost daily, I shove stuff in drawers to tidy up. Later, I cannot find anything because I don't pay attention to where I shove things. Because of this long standing habit, I own no less than thirteen $5 pairs of sunglasses (and can tell you where two are) and twenty-two toe-nail clippers. 

Monday I was cleaning out drawers in search of a birth certificate and some vaccination records. Finding something like that means dumping out six or seven drawers in a few different rooms and locations. 

If you are in the right head-space for it, this excercise can be fun. It's like a treasure hunt because you don't know what any given search might turn up.

The search ended with papers strewn everywhere, most of which just needed to be pitched into the trash.  In the last folder, at the bottom of the desk drawer, I almost missed this one, a letter sent to me in 2009.  

The news and happenings of life over the last several weeks have left me off-balance - stuck in the dark - feeling like Sam  ... not really wanting to know the end, because how can the end be happy?

It was good to clean out a drawer and find Phoebe's birth certificate. It was even better to be reminded that in the end, it is only a passing thing, this shadow.  We must all remember to hold on because there is some Good in this world, and it is worth fighting for.

Monday, August 3, 2015

Thoughts from Matthew 11 - Thad Norvell

About eight hours ago I preached about the words of Jesus recorded in the last part of Matthew 11. 

Tonight, stuck between a need to sleep and the restlessness of worrying about three sick kids and one in particular, I came to these words from Frederick Buechner. 

He's right, I think. And this is why I often find myself suspicious of so much of what we know as Christianity, with all of its accommodations to and even brazen pursuit of comfort and affluence - and suspicious of my own Christianity as much as anyone's. 

What if the whole thing is about knowing a kind of need we can't educate or earn or work our way free of, but we spend our whole lives doing all we can to avoid, resist, medicate, and evacuate such need? 

I don't mean to suggest such an error would make us "not God's," but that we might somehow miss so much of the life available to us when we so effectively evade desperation. 

And I suppose I mean to suggest that perhaps Jesus meant it when he said the first will be last and the last first.  

Shared with permission.
Written by Thad Norvell, College Station, TX

Thursday, July 30, 2015

proof of life post with my mantras for the coming year

At age 43:
  • Music teacher William Herschel discovered Uranus.
  • Marie Curie won her second Nobel prize, for the isolation of pure radium.
  • John Fitzgerald Kennedy became the youngest man elected to the United States presidency.
  • Baseball player Nolan Ryan pitched the sixth no-hitter of his career.
  • Annie Taylor, a widowed school teacher, went over the 160-foot-high Horseshoe Falls in a barrel.  
  • Isabel Peron, a former professional dancer, became the first female chief of state in the Americas when she took over as President of Argentina.
  • Tara Livesay joined the 43 game and actively expected her current trend of adulting to continue!      {Not to be totally outdone by all of the aforementioned 43 year olds - She distrusts politics and is unable to be impressed by Presidents, male or female.  She did not win a prize for it, but frequently isolates Lydia in a time out - same-same as isolating pure radium, yes.? Aaaand ... For midwives, discovering Uranus is not a one-time event. So.}
     *              *              * 

I know lots of women really struggle with aging ... I have had my little moments of self-loathing and panic as well - for sure I have ... But let me just say, it isn't that big of a deal.  

Having a birthday and getting old means ALIVE and alive is good, I think. Plus, this Grandma thing makes you feel REalive.  If you get to do it someday, I know you will love it.

-So what if you start to say something and forget what you were saying mid-thought.

-So what if you don't know what the hipsters are up to anymore and their beards and fashions and hashtags confuse you.

-So what if your ankles won't bend right in the morning.

-So what if you call your kids the wrong names.

-So what if the wrinkles around your eyes show even when you're not smiling.

-So what if your drivers license weight is now a 10 pound lie instead of a five pound lie.

-So what if you fall asleep while showering.

In this decade of being 40-something I have felt the weight of 'proving' anything being lifted from my shoulders. It is so FREEING. I want it for all my sisters, young and old alike.

Two things have spoken volumes to my heart and soul in the last several weeks.  When I read them I had that "YES! THIS!" response.  

Here they are, my personal mission statements / mantras for year 43...

The first was this, John Pavlovitz - said:

More and more, I simply live to be the antidote to the things I find hurtful or damaging in the world, rather than arguing with those I believe are being hurtful or damaging. There are certainly times to identify dangers and to call out injustice, but those pale in comparison to the countless moments that simply require personal goodness.

Friends, there will always be those whose medium is vitriol, whose currency is condemnation, whose agenda is provocation, but resist responding in kind because that only conforms you to their image.
If you claim Christ, until you have a Christianity without venom you don’t have one that resembles Jesus quite yet. As a person of faith, this is the only kind of religion I am interested in.
Maybe you are like me. Maybe you’re bloodied and weary of the fight, but finding your second wind and discovering a better path, one less mired in sarcasm and less toxic to touch. 
Maybe you’re intentionally walking away from the war trenches, so that you can move toward the hurting, the unloved, the waiting—and respond.
If so, welcome.
This is the beginning of a holy movement in the world.
The other was this:

Those two things are my older-lady truths. 

We have shit to do and people to love.