Monday, January 30, 2012

tribulation & joy

Written by Troy-

I want to write in grand, sweeping, graceful terms that are beautiful and artistic. I want to do justice to the stories and the strength of the people we are blessed to live and work with every day. Instead I get frozen and usually can not find words to accurately depict the situations we find ourselves in. That is why I do not write here very often.

The last time I wrote I believe it was the story of a nineteen year old girl suffering with AIDS and seeking testing/treatment for tuberculosis; that was many months ago.

It has been a long and difficult six months for that young woman. The initial test results were negative for TB. She was admitted into a program to receive HIV meds, requiring monthly visits. These visits became increasingly difficult as her body weakened and each trip was painful and taxing. She did not always make it to those appointments, sometimes she was just not willing to face the challenge of fighting for space on public transportation and being ridiculed by fellow passengers. Her condition has deteriorated greatly. Further testing was done with another program in another hospital and it was determined that she does indeed have tuberculosis.

Fortunately...and it is very hard and disturbing to say that this is fortunate...she was sick enough to be admitted into the inpatient TB ward, which is a large dome tent in a gravel yard. This is the best option available. I am thankful for it, and so is she. Prior to the cot she is currently sleeping on, she was laying on a foam pad on the floor of a dark cement block room. It was a cramped interior room of a crumbling building surrounded by crumbing buildings and a few family members that had no idea how to take care of her and little means to do so even if they did.

Her tiny frame is too weak to stand and walk at this point. Coughing racks her body. The few family members and visitors she received when she was first admitted have dwindled and rarely come now. She has slept alone the last two nights.

Here is where the words really start to fail again...trying to find a way to describe the emotions involved in visiting her and sitting next to her bed...seeing her smile...hearing her say "with Jesus I will be well"...wondering if that means here on earth with her faith in Jesus or literally when she sees Him - which seems like it may be any day now. She says her nightly routine is to read some hymns that she is too weak to sing, then read 'her Pslams' 'keep them in her head' for when she falls asleep. I wonder if she does that in case she doesn't wake up. I wonder why I don't do that as well. I wonder what 'her' Psalms are and remind myself to find out and write down the ones that bring her hope in the midst of such suffering. I think about how blessed I am to see such faith and hope and know that surely she will dance in heaven and be fully alive again...and I struggle to decide if living here much longer is the right thing to pray for on her behalf. I want her to heal and be restored, I just don't know if it wouldn't be better to go and do that at home in heaven.

The staff of the hospital say that she can stay as long as needed to heal - this is an unbelievable blessing and rarity in the health care 'system' here. 

Her appetite is coming back slowly, and now she calls almost daily with specific orders for the food she would like that day. I confess to being irritated by her picky requests...and then instantly more irritated and disgusted with myself for thinking that way as I sit in a comfortable house or lay in a real bed or drive in a car with money in my pocket that can ease her suffering at least a little bit. It is an uncomfortable place to be. Not in a million years will it compare to the discomfort she is feeling and handling with such grace. I am a jerk. God is using this girl to get through to me. I feel like a really big jerk for needing a lesson taught in this way.

Twice now thieves have taken money from her bag while she slept. The money was left there for her to buy juice and other food. I am outraged and incredulous;  she tells me with a chuckle "I don't think God will answer the prayers of someone who steals from the sick like that." I try to laugh along with her.

Please pray for K, for those attending to her, that we find someone to stay with her at night, and for all of our hearts to be changed by the joy she has in her tribulation.

James 1:2-8 The Message   

2-4Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides. You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colors. So don't try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it do its work so you become mature and well-developed, not deficient in any way.

 5-8If you don't know what you're doing, pray to the Father. He loves to help. You'll get his help, and won't be condescended to when you ask for it. Ask boldly, believingly, without a second thought. People who "worry their prayers" are like wind-whipped waves. Don't think you're going to get anything from the Master that way, adrift at sea, keeping all your options open.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Linking You

I've read (and can relate to) some insightful and super funny things that have been written recently.  

Links below ... 
Sarah - On the topic of body image and our daughters:
Here are the lies, my dears:
You are only as good as you look.
You are only lovable if you have a rock hard body.
You can conquer your feelings of inadequacy by being skinny.
Nothing tastes as good as skinny feels.
Everyone judges you by how you look and talks about you behind your back.
Beautiful is defined by your culture (and so it is beautiful to be frightfully skinny with bolted-on boobs and an identi-kit face).
You are not worthy of love if you are not beautiful.
Full post by Sarah can be found here.
[I hate that as a very very young single mother to two daughters I failed them and myself with a poor self-image in those years.]


Jen - On the topic of fear/parenting:
She said something like this, “I don’t believe in making choices based on fear. Ever. If God isn’t the author of fear, then when I listen to my fears I know I’m not listening to the voice of God.”
It was simple. Grace-filled. Not harsh or corrective or instructive. Just right.
I don’t believe in making choices based on fear. Ever.
She can’t know how many times I’ve played that sentence in my head this past year. How I’ve grasped at that idea as it slips in and out of my hands, wanting to make it my personal philosophy as well but struggling to change a lifetime habit of doing the opposite.
I don’t believe in making choices based on fear. Ever.
My confession is this: I do listen to fear. I think I always have. I’m pretty sure sometimes I give it an equal voice with the Holy Spirit who should have the loudest voice in my spirit – leading me in the way I should go. Now I don’t call it fear. I’m way too smart for that. I call it “discernment” or “wisdom” or I say I have a “check.” I can ‘church it up’ in the most expert ways. But I know - in my heart - that it's fear.
Full post by Jen can be found here. 

Keight (who is hilarious and self-depreciating) - On running a Half-Marathon:
i headed way, way way, back in the throng of people to my corral. i spotted my pace team leader hold his sign. i had looked him up online a few days prior by putting in my desired finish time (under 3 hours) and was pleased to find a group for we the turtles.
his bio listed him at 63 (whatEVER!!!) and when asked why someone should run in his pace group, his answer was, "to experience the fun of racewalking!"
what in the HAY-UHL!?!?!? my pace leader is a geriatric walker!!! and i am going the same speed at my fastest run. i dropped a few pounds in ego weight at that point which i figured would make me more aerodynamic.
Full post by Keight can be found here.
[Keight makes me snort laugh with much of what she writes.]
Kristen - On being naturally nocturnal while trying to be a mom:
I’ve spent the last year doing this, with varying levels of shame and frustration at my lack of self-control about going to bed.  Gee, what was I just telling my students the other night about the definition of addiction?  ENGAGING IN REPETITIVE BEHAVIOR DESPITE NEGATIVE CONSEQUENCES.  That would be me . . . every night. Hi, my name is Kristen and I’m addicted to staying up late.

Full post by Kristen can be found here.
[I have this problem. Poor planning for bedtime is killer when the phone rings at 4am.]

Megan - On her C-section birth:

Thank you, pink scar, for saving me from myself, from smug and flippant responses that fake smile at the hard-fought choice of others. Thank you for reminding me every single day that every single one has a story, and so often those stories are tear-stained, regret-filled, fallen-short. If you merely scratch the surface, it's never as simple as it seems. Thank you for bearing witness to time and healing and happy endings.Most of all, thank you for reminding me that advocacy without humility is not advocacy; it is only emotional blackmail and it strangles the life out of a cause.

Full post by Megan can be found here.
[This post is so interesting to me for many reasons. Midwives by nature are all about natural birth. Being new to the field I am developing opinions based on what I am learning and I'm also affected by my own experiences. I am all for less medical intervention and while I am far from an earthy "all natural" type person I do believe in advocating for women to be given choices over the birth of their child and not be forced to have epidurals or other intervention. I think it is great for every woman to choose what she is comfortable with, recognizing that we're all coming at it from a different angle and with different fears and history. I think as a general rule that American culture pushes for quick births and controlled planning of a birth - therefore the c-section rate is too high. I don't like when  people paint c-sections as failure. Sometimes, as Megan points out, they are a life-saving intervention. Having given birth four times (two of the four were c-sections) in four VERY different circumstances - I do get agitated with people that see the whole thing as a totally black and white issue. My experience says there is much gray area. The best quote in the entire post: "Most of all, thank you for reminding me that advocacy without humility is not advocacy; it is only emotional blackmail and it strangles the life out of a cause." So very true, no matter what we're advocating for ... when we do it without humility it is pretty icky.]


Bunmi Laditan - "How to Breastfeed Appropriately: A Stern Guide:
In conclusion, breastfeeding is for lazy, exhibitionist, thrill-seeking mothers who have nothing better to do than to make the rest of us shrivel in disgust. Your behavior is ruining our country so if you can’t sufficiently hide it to the point that we have no idea it’s even happening, don’t do it. A grandmother somewhere said that she nursed all eight of her babies without anyone knowing and if someone did something, it means you should to. Because if there’s one thing we all know, people did things better and were far more moral in the past.
Offending people is a crime and very wrong.
This land is your land. This land is my land. From California to the New York island. From the redwood forest, to the gulf stream waters, this land was made for you and me. And as partial owner, you’re freaking me out.
Full sarcastic post wherein Bunmi makes her point can be found here.
[I love that in Haiti boobs are not a big deal. I love that women nurse their kids whenever and wherever they want without ever feeling the slightest bit self-conscious. (These particular) Americans are ridiculous to make breastfeeding an issue while not taking issue with the pornographic advertising on TV and signs hanging in the mall and along the freeway. How can you not be troubled by the way the media and advertising objectifies women yet have a problem (to the point of being offended) with a Mom nursing her baby in public? That is beyond jacked up.]

babies setting records

Stephanie, Beatrice, and Alline (in that order) gave birth to sons on Friday.  Their coordinated efforts to deliver on the same day made for an exciting time.  Add in Yveline's little girl born six minutes after she arrived early in the morning on Thursday and we set the following Heartline Maternity Center records:

  • 4 births in 36 hours  (36 hours and five minutes if you want to get technical)
  • 3 births in 12 hours
  • 2 births in one hour (Beatrice at 3:30p and Alline at 4:30p)
  • So in the first 27 days of 2012 there were 12 babies born at Heartline (8 boys and 4 girls) - We don't have good records from the days following the earthquake but we think 12 births in 27 days is also a new record
  • Thanks for all that prayed for these moms and the team delivering these babies - and most of all - Mesi Jezi ! 

Friday, January 27, 2012

up to speed ...

Things are nutty here.
To review:
  • Yveline delivered a boy at 4:25 am (Thursday) 
  • Thursday was regular prenatal day with lots of heavy situations and prayer needs. See this post.
  • Stephanie delivered a 7lb boy at 4:30 am (this morning, Friday)
  • Alline is here in active labor.  This is her second child. Her water broke last night. She's 4cm right now and doing okay with labor. 
  • First time mom, Beatrice, is in very early labor and arrived here at 6am. She is the lady we tested and found had Malaria at her prenatal visit Thursday/yesterday.

We are a tired out crew here, we have the regular Friday clinic today too. Please be praying for all four moms above as well as the Heartline delivery team.

Alline in labor too ...

Thursday, January 26, 2012


Laboring now .... please pray for Stephanie
and tonight's team delivering her (Beth, Jen Tara)

Briefly, sans great detail, some other facts and prayer needs tonight:

  • one of the pregnant ladies today had bruises all over her stomach from being beaten 
  • one of the pregnant women is 16 and sleeps on the ground - we hope/think she will move to the Harbor House at least for a time
  • one of the ladies is carrying twins - they both appear to be boys :)
  • one of the ladies tested positive for Malaria today and is due in two weeks
  • two new women joined the program today - last week Thursday five new ladies joined
On the home front ...
  • there is malaria at our house, three down and being treated now  - fevers and headaches and tears and sore bodies be gone!
 <heavy sigh>

These (and other) situations are a bit weighty right now to say the least.  We always always always  (I mean ALWAYS) appreciate and feel the power of people standing (sitting kneeling) together in prayer over these things. 

Lord, Your justice here and now ... to the least of these. 

speedy delivery

3:56am - Yveline called us to say she was having horrible pain
4:00am - Once I was coherent I called Yveline back to confirm she was on her way in
4:19am -Yveline arrived at Maternity Center
4:25am - baby girl born - Melissa caught
5:00 am - baby nursing, all is well!

Yveline has two sons already, this is her first girl and as she said this morning "her last child".

Ready for a full Thursday of prenatal visits!

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Haitian Proverb

~ou ka di konbyen ou genyen  men ou pa ka di konbyen ou rete~ 
~you can say how old you are, but you can't say how long you will live~

friendships born of creamy Jalapeño & song

Beautiful babes X3 - Beth, Liz, & Fifi's daughter now named Elizabeth

Robbie and Troy and their matching outfits

Three weeks after the EQ we arrived in central Texas totally frazzled, more than half crazy, and quite a bit thinner to try to figure out how to :

1. Process the tragedy
2. Reconcile our faith to said tragedy
3. Reconnect with kids that had been traumatized and without us for 3 weeks
4. 'Enjoy' a break while wanting so badly to not take one

A few days later a note came from some guy named Robbie.  He said he wanted to treat us to dinner at Chuy's  (a peculiar name that we'd never heard of) and that he hoped we'd enjoy a meal on him.  He said his wife told him he needed to make contact with us. I remember saying to Troy, "Does he mean he is coming to take us to dinner or that he is buying when we go to dinner?"

We felt like insane aliens on a new planet and I wasn't signing up to go talk about Haiti with anyone quite that soon. Within a day or two we figured out that Robbie was giving us a gift card to Chuy's and we were free to go stare at each other glassy-eyed over Tex-Mex and not interact with this Robbie person.

A new friendship was born.  Any person that knew enough not to expect us to be coherent and/or social -  but was still willing to fund and introduce us to one of the. greatest. substances. on. earth. (Chuy's Creamy Jalapeño sauce) - had to be an inherently good person. 

Later on when we were less freak-showish we actually got to meet and Robbie and Liz and other Seays and attend their church. We figured out that Robbie and his band produced a lot of moving music that stirred us and spoke to us in places of deep pain.  

His records became the soundtrack of our healing in Waco, TX in  2010.    

(Well - except for the time that it became the sound track of a badly sprained ankle and a string of curse words- but that's another story. Suffice it to say that running as fast as you can with your eyes closed while listening to the RobbieSeayBand isn't advised. Just ask Troy. ) 
Songs like these:


The music above is from older albums, the lyrics often have a prayerful tone. In our opinion the trademark raspy voice cannot be duplicated. We think we know this because Noah tries and tries to sound like that - to no avail.

The Robbie Seay Band just released a new album called - "Rich & Poor" - you can check it out here.

It is fun to have the Seays here for a couple of days. They are off visiting a Compassion project and Cazale today. You'll recall that our song of the New Year -  'Slow me down'  - is sung by Robbie. He isn't yet aware of this, but he will be required to sing the entire family to sleep with the 2012 theme song on his last night here ... unless of course he prefers to walk to the airport.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Annual Recognition of Our Fave Dokte

Jen grumbles when we do this every January.   Happy Jen Halverson Day!  This year we are celebrating on January 24th.  She is out in Cazale today and won't be able to grumble at us to our faces.

We ignore her relative discomfort in order to thank God each January and remember (because remembering what God did helps us remember He is with us now too) the way that God used Jen to spare Lydia's life in January of 2008.

 THIS post is from the first annual Jen Halverson Day celebration, it has links to the story and details about how God provided in a very dangerous and scary situation.

There is a Haitian proverb that says:

"Yon bon zanmi pi bon pase fre"  - A good friend is better than a brother.

Se vre.

Our slightly amended Haitian proverb says "Yon bon zanmi ki fini med lekòl epi trè entelijan se pi bon pase yon frè".  

If there is a proverb that says "Friends that spent an eternity in med-school are the best kind of friends"  - well, that one applies here as well.

Thank you Jen for your friendship and life-saving skills. More than that, thank you for being willing and available to be used by God to help many, many people in Haiti.

with all our love, gratitude, and admiration,


Monday, January 23, 2012

no plan - still subject to change

Lately I've been writing a lot of emails that include this sentence:  "We're not sure if we can do that. Can we wait and see once the date is MUCH closer?"  

Day to day life here is too unpredictable to confidently make plans more than a day or two in advance. Even then, the plan you go to bed with for the coming day is rarely the way the coming day ends up looking. 

Back in the day I used to spend much more time doing longer-range planning and making commitments into the distant future.

We've learned slowly during our time here that long range planning and scheming isn't a healthy thing for us. (Read: Haiti beat us over the head and forced that teaching against our will.)

We have found we're most effective and most content when we live in today and think a little bit about tomorrow and even less about next week.  We've almost completely stopped worrying about our long range plans.  Other than knowing that if we can swing it we hope to help Paige settle into college and be nearby and available to her for a few months, we have zero in the way of "long range" plans.

The earthquake taught us a lot.  First of all, it taught us what is a really horrible situation and what is not.  It gave us a brand new perspective on many things. It taught us that we truly don't know jack about tomorrow  - so getting all puffed up about our big plans might be a bit of folly.

Things can change fast, and they do.  I don't like that truth, but it didn't call and ask my permission to be so.

We're not here to say "do it this way, our way is better" - not at all. We barely know what we're doing. We are experts of exactly nothing.  

It just has us thinking.... Our home culture teaches us to be incredibly schedule and time and future-plan aware. If you walk into an interview without your five year plan memorized and ready to recite passionately you'll likely walk out without a job offer. I mean everybody has a five year plan, right?

There probably isn't anything wrong with that, I only think that sometimes it gives a false sense of control and it makes it harder to fully be in the here and now. 

(Or we have major personality flaws and only we experience a false sense of control. That also seems quite probable.)

Ultimately none of us know what could shake (quite literally) our lives tomorrow completely changing our course. We don't know if we're going to be waking up and sucking air tomorrow.

I'm finding - The less attached to my plans I am, the more flexible and accepting I can be of whatever good or bad comes my way. There is some wacked-out paradox wherein the more I live in this moment, the  more I live in this day, the more I trust God with the next.

When asked how long we plan to be in Haiti, we shrug and throw our hands in the air. We don't claim to know. Some folks find that a flaky and odd response.
Living mostly uncertain of our plans for the future allows us to live in this moment fully.  It works for us.  If we don't know what tomorrow holds, how can we possibly know about 2014?  

We are certain of the one thing that matters.  God walks with us each step of the way.

I get the sense that careful planning is more a part of culture than anything else. Do you feel that excessive long range planning creates a problem with control in your life or is that only something fools (like us) struggle with? 

Matthew 6:34

New King James Version (NKJV)
34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.

Marie Geronne

We feel fiercely protective of this woman.

She is our friend and one of the most trusted people in our lives.

Too old to be my daughter,  too young to be motherly ...  Our relationship is totally unconventional and due to the cultures we're trying to bridge to understand one another, it is even awkward at times  -  but it is a deeply treasured relationship.

We take care of each other. We work together to make things click at our house. She does so much for the Livesay family  - we'd flounder without her steady and reliable presence in our lives.

Today I asked her what the heck she was doing working when I knew darn well she felt like a pile of dump.  She burst into tears.  I quickly texted the good Doctor (Jen) to ask her to bring the stuff to test Geronne for Malaria.  We drew her blood at the kitchen table  - like you do - and upon seeing a strong positive result Jen and I ordered her to lie down and rest and take medicine and drink. We're forcing liquids on her now and forbidding her to help with anything.

We're praying Geronne feels well again soon.  Right now she is very miserable and sad.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

ti fi

A seven pound, fifteen ounce little girl (ti fi) for Michelene today.  Prayers for healing and protection are appreciated as Michelene lost a considerable amount of blood and will take a little longer to recover.  Thank you for loving the women of Haiti and for supporting them with your thoughts and prayers.

with a heart of gratitude,

Saturday, January 21, 2012

babbling boys

In our household the chatty Cathys are the boys in the family.

Jen has always accused Troy of being one of the chattier guys she has ever known.  It seems that Isaac and Noah are following in his footsteps.

Yesterday Troy picked me up after I was finished at Women's Program and we headed up the hill with Noah, Isaac, and Lydia for a dentist appointment. We took three kids to the dentist yesterday, three will go next week.

In the morning Noah asked Isaac "Why are we supposed to bring our toothbrush and toothpaste to school?"   Isaac replied with authority, "Your job is not to ask those things. Does a baby Kangaroo question why it bounces?" 

None of us knew the answer to that.

On the way to the dentist Beth texted me to say "Baby born in street outside of Harbor House. Jen running backward with baby. Needed a camera!"

I immediately called Beth to hear the full story.  I repeated enough and asked enough questions that when I hung up Isaac said. "Ma, what is a placenta?"

I launched into the full explanation of placenta, uterus, umbilical cord, and the functions of all of three. I explained and explained and explained some more to my captive audience.  After-all, I am not raising cavemen.  These boys will appreciate the miraculous female body for far more than the average fool.  One day they will look at a woman and see more than just lovely curves. They'll see God-given glorious reproductive abilities!

At the end of my long explanation I sat back to wait for their amazement at the creative and BRILLIANT way God created woman. I expected ooohs and aaahs.

Noah said, "Okay.  But what if there is a hotdog in the baby's bellybutton that blocks the placenta? Then how can the baby get food and air?"


Once we got to the dentist our friend Lindsay got to work cleaning teeth.  Isaac wanted to talk and ask Lindsay all about how long she'd been a hygienist and how all the tools work.  I finally had to tell him to hold his questions and open his mouth so she could do her job.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Linking you

If you would, please take a moment to go to this link and read the gentle words of a friend regarding 'in-kind' donations.  Mesi ! 

controversy & consequence

All parents of small children understand how totally annoying and utterly stupid the bickering that goes on between siblings can be. For the most part the things children choose to fight about are moronic and inconsequential.  "She looked at me." "No! She looked at me first!" can divide sisters for an entire day.

Sadly, I think grown-ups, even the kind wearing big-people-pants, tend to engage in similar battles on the interweb.

Sometimes the internet is such a crappy place. I get disgusted at how rude people are to each other  on-line  ...  Right up until I remember that I've been one of those rude people too. Doh! 

The disagreements and battles that we engage in over the internet are not things we'd likely say to one another if we were standing face to face. We are all so much more polite in person.

A long while back one of our most consistent encouragers wrote to tell me that she vehemently disagreed with me on something I'd said. She explained why. She told me I had an obligation to use my internet voice responsibly.  (She maybe meant that I had a responsibility to agree with her internet voice.)

I really like and appreciate this lady so I simply suggested that maybe on that one topic we could agree to disagree. That is the very last time she ever interacted with me. She went from very frequently commenting and encouraging to zero communication of any kind over one small thing. We'd never met in real life, maybe that means we weren't actually friends, I'm not certain how the rules of friendship are applied on the web.  I only know that stuff like that happens on the internet a gajillion times a day.

In my opinion we divide over things of little consequence. We treat each other like dump over things that shouldn't matter so much. We insult each other and even make it personal when we could have chosen to just remain silent.

That incident with my "friend" from the past has me paying even more attention to how I treat people I disagree with and using caution when deciding how and when I use my voice. I'm not obligated to share what I think on every controversial or lame topic - who knew!?!?  Besides the fact that there isn't a need to enter into most debates, the fact remains that good and even reasonable people can (and do) disagree. That is not only a cliche, it also seems to actually be true.

Not related specifically to internet controversy, but applicable none the less ....
In his post called "I am the Pharisse: Pondering Past Hurts and Current Controversies" Zach Nielsen said:

We have all been burned. We have all been subjected to situations where we wish things had been different. Different words, different tones, different lines of reasoning, and different levels of respect. We have all been subjected to other people's sin issues and weaknesses. This is just part of being human. Maybe it was a boss at work. Maybe it was a friend. Maybe it was a parent. This creates hurt in our lives.

In addition to hurt from our past, we are constantly processing and assessing different situations, personalities, and controversies. He said, she said. That leader did what? Did you hear about so and so? We live with the front page news staring us in the face.
As I attempt to diagnose my own heart, these two scenarios form one of the great battlegrounds of pride. As I consider those who have hurt me in the past or situations today where someone "just doesn't seem to get it," my assessment can quickly default into the Pharisaical position of smug superiority. I have practically memorized the parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector, and yet I still find myself, over and over again, in the position of the Pharisee.
I default into a man who smugly stands afar with his arms crossed and internally says, "This idiot over here doesn't have it together like me." Usually this is in the name of "what I am learning" or "standing up for the truth," but often I glean a keen sense of subtle superiority from gossipy conversations with others about others.
There is certainly a time to stand up for the truth, to dissect sin issues of others, to assault heresy, talk about a foolish public figure, and/or process a painful past. In a fallen world, it has to be this way and always will be until the coming day when Jesus makes all things right. But the greater question concerns our posture. What emotions do we carry? What conversations do we have with others? What is the tone and content of those conversations? Do we have a "I sure am glad I'm not like that idiot" attitude? Or, "How in the world could he screw that one up so badly?!?!?" As if people have never wondered those same questions about me.  
Controversy is always going to swirl around us, especially in the information age. Jesus' teaching about the plank and the speck remains timelessly simple yet painfully difficult to apply in daily living. Having a plank in your own eye doesn't dismiss the speck, which must be dealt with. But having a gaping plank of sin in your own eye will probably alter the manner and measure with which you remove your brother/sister's speck.
So as you process the mistakes people made in the past that have deeply affected you, or you look around today and assess different issues, controversies, or personalities, does your default setting lean towards smug superiority or repentance?
Sadly, I know that I am too often the Pharisee. Pharisees need Jesus. Pharisees can be forgiven, too.
God chooses to use us in spite of our weaknesses. It's hard to read the Bible and not see that as a theme through almost every narrative. Moses was a murderer, Noah was a drunk, Abraham was a liar, David was a murderer and an adulterer, and Peter was a loud-mouthed racist. I am so thankful that God chose to use those men in spite of their glaring weaknesses. I pray he uses me too.

{Go here to read the entire post and comments where it was originally posted.}

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

reposting from the summer of '09

We recently met up with a young woman that stayed with us in 2006. She shared how special it was to her as she spent her first week in Haiti with us before moving to the central part of the country for a two year assignment.  It totally surprised us to learn that it meant something to her. It got us thinking about our ability to figure out "healthy boundaries" and how ambiguous that is.  We want to be open to these unique opportunities God gives us to connect with people that are visiting or new in Haiti  ....  All these years later we are still trying to figure that out and not at all certain we have it right yet.  It is definitely a balancing act.  The post below was written in 2009.

'An Explanation'

I have been trying to figure out how to package this post for awhile. I have not figured it out, so I am going to just write it - and let it fly without being well-organized or too careful.

For whatever reason we've been blessed to meet all sorts of people in Haiti ... everyone from the incredibly conservative (running shorts worn WHILE RUNNING are offensive - arms/shoulders must be covered) to the total hippies (bras are offensive - live free or die!) ... and everything in between. We've met cool and unusual people from all over the world.

We've hosted short term groups that come with their MacBooks, piercings and tattoos and short term groups with head coverings, full beards, and matching home-sewn clothing. The very night I moved to Haiti there were thirty formerly Amish people at our house - it sort of said "Welcome to Haiti Tara- your life is going to be very weird from here on out."

In our exchanges with dozens of groups from varying backgrounds and walks of life some things about mission work and people have become a little bit clearer. We've had our feelings hurt. We've watched friends get hurt. We have done the hurting. We've sent people home mad and disappointed with us. At times it has been incredibly frustrating and at times it has been incredibly wonderful.

This is my theory ...

People who live and work here in Haiti (and other places like it) live sort of on the edge emotionally. (Or they live detached from emotion which is maybe not so good. But I am not here to judge that and I digress.)

Let's face it, Haiti is heavy. Situations are beyond overwhelming. Trying to figure out solutions that will last can be exhausting. That whole mountains beyond mountains thing. Often times there are no solutions to be found. Just getting groceries and paying your electricity bill can take an entire day and drive you to drink. Those living and working here can be so tired and irritable from dealing with all that ministry/service/life here throws at them - that by the time their visitors arrive they're not always the perfect hosts. (Guilty as charged.) Living here and visiting here are very, very different experiences.

example a
One night early in our time in Haiti I was feeding 25 people dinner. I put forth my best effort with my incredibly limited domestic skills. It was Shepherd's Pie and Bread and Butter. A man in the group said "Hey - Where are the side dishes?"

He was just thinking out loud. He was not trying to be rude. I went to my room shut the door and cried. I felt criticized. Did he know what a stretch Shepherd's Pie was for me? Does he know just planning a meal for that many people gives me hives?

example b
One night a friend decided pizza would be a really fun treat for her guests. (Pizza is not easy to get in Haiti like in the USA.) She made a special trip to the store and bought incredibly expensive cheese (think $6.50 USD for 8 ounces) and all the other things to make pizza. Her guests only picked at the pizza. Finally one of them said, "Sorry we don't really like pizza".

They had no idea how much it cost to make that meal or that it was a major treat for those who live here. My friend felt unappreciated.

example c
A friend runs a ministry that rescues sick kids. She makes due with the space they have, even though she would like a much larger space. It is open air space, like many buildings in Haiti. Visitors come for a week and say, "Can't you do anything about these flies!?!?"

The visitors were just thinking about how much they hate flies. The friend was hurt because OF COURSE she has tried everything to get rid of the flies, she hates them too. My friend feels judged. She feels like the visitors think she does not care for the kids in her rescue center.

example d
A group of 10 come to Haiti. The host family prepares for their arrival and plans the meals and events for the week. The group comes in excited and wanting to ask lots of questions of their hosts. The hosts answer questions for a long while then excuse themselves after dinner. The visitors wonder why the hosts are upset. Why they did not stay up to talk longer. They want to talk. They wonder if their host does not like them.

The host is not upset. The host has email to answer and other work that has been neglected all day and knows that he has to be up at 6am and ready to answer to a lot of people the next day. He excused himself to prepare for the next day before going to bed. He was not trying to be rude, he was trying to have healthy boundaries and do his job well.

I could go on and on and on.

These things happen and sometimes the people living here seem edgy, rude, defensive and uncooperative or disinterested. The people who visit seem demanding, spoiled, and hard to please - they want to feel appreciated for coming.

Neither group is really that way. They just don't operate within the same paradigm. They have trouble communicating well. Everyone ends up frustrated.

We believe it is great for visitors to come experience Haiti. (Or any developing country.) There is value when we experience a different culture, see the world outside our own front door and there is much learning and growth that can happen when we're uncomfortable in a new context.

We want people to fall in love with the work and the vision when they visit so they will care and support our work into the distant future with prayers and finances. We want to offer them a chance to see and do unique things.

Sometimes our defensive sensitivity stops us from doing a great job. Sometimes (many times) we're dealing with a lot of unseen things - things we cannot share. Sometimes we're too tired to joyfully try to meet expectations. Sometimes we seem aloof or withdrawn. (Because sometimes we are.) Sometimes we need a free pass and extra understanding. Sometimes we say no to requests because we know boundaries around our time are important for our kids and our longevity.  It is not personal.

Finding the balance is very difficult. There are not very many lines of work where you both do your work and also host and show, explain, justify, and share your work multiple times a year.

We are trying to find the right balance again. Raising a large family certainly makes us less available to meet the expectations of visitors.  I always want to put my family first and protect us from the burnout we faced hosting large groups so frequently, but I don't want to be so protective that I miss out on the blessing of meeting and getting to know interesting and amazing people.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

variety: spice of life ?

  • Kerline and her baby girl got to go home after almost a week in the postpartum recovery room. 
  • Fifi had a quick easy DAYTIME birth. She has our undying gratitude for showing up ready to roll at 9am on a Monday and getting down to business. The quick births make you realize how much the long ones take out of you. They also make you want to jump up and down for joy.
  • Lourdes Milla decided not to return to the Harbor House after Christmas break. We're sad and happy. Sad to lose our comedian at the house, happy she feels good about moving away from Port au Prince and back with family she'd been separated from for a long time. 
  • Thank you Jeff Gacek for the special gift given to our kids! They are enjoying it every day. See photo evidence.

  • We have a guest with us all week. He arrived last Friday loaded down with many things, including but not limited to bacon and coffee.  Not just any bacon. Butcher shop bacon from California. He brought us the most advanced and superior coffee making tools of all time. Should we ever wish to go into business making coffee, we're fully armed and ready to do so. Grinding coffee to the exact coarseness desired is likely to become one of Troy's hobbies. When we were making plans for his visit we sent him an email explaining that we were looking forward to his visit. We shared that hosting him in our home was not stressful at all but having him see the inner workings of our dinner-routine would be an issue and would in fact create great stress. We asked how he would feel about eating at the guest house where they serve real meals geared for grown-ups. The singular human allowed to know what we eat for dinner and see exactly how pathetic and unvaried the rotation can be is Dr. Jen. She has lived with us long enough to stop judging. Rice with beans - bam - two course meal - rice 1 & beans 2 - full meal, no entree or additional side-dish needed.  Spaghetti with sauce - again - two courses.  Bread with Peanut Butter ...  You get the picture. Occasionally we pull out all the stops and host a party with real food, but our nightly dinner routine and menu isn't something we want a lot of people to be exposed to - especially not early in a relationship. If variety really is the spice of life, we're troubled.  We're certain there must be other less-well publicized spices of life. 

  • The list of "social media" sites that the U.S. Department of Homeland Security monitors was recently leaked. We were a nervous combination of perplexed, flattered, and concerned when we saw that pretty much every other site they monitor makes sense. CBS News, Jihad Watch, Drudge Report, Narcotrafico en Mexico, Huffington Post, and Livesay Haiti Weblog. We've determined that Noah is a threat to national security and an early detection system has identified him as such. It is either that, or they just really, really love pregnant ladies in Haiti.  All that to say,  HI (waving) HI HI monitor person at DHS. Nothin much in the way of threats to national security going on here but still - thanks for checkin in!
danger to society or starving child? you decide
  • We have another guest this coming Saturday night and then friends coming for a few days on Tuesday too.  We're still trying to figure out how to break it to them that they cannot stay during dinner time.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Baby girl for Fifi !

I have a dream today!

..."I am not unmindful that some of you have come here out of great trials and tribulations. Some of you have come fresh from narrow jail cells. And some of you have come from areas where your quest -- quest for freedom left you battered by the storms of persecution and staggered by the winds of police brutality. You have been the veterans of creative suffering. Continue to work with the faith that unearned suffering is redemptive. Go back to Mississippi, go back to Alabama, go back to South Carolina, go back to Georgia, go back to Louisiana, go back to the slums and ghettos of our northern cities, knowing that somehow this situation can and will be changed.

Let us not wallow in the valley of despair, I say to you today, my friends.

And so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.

I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal."

I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia, the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.

I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.

I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.
I have a dream today!

I have a dream that one day, down in Alabama, with its vicious racists, with its governor having his lips dripping with the words of "interposition" and "nullification" -- one day right there in Alabama little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.

I have a dream today!

I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, and every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight; "and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed and all flesh shall see it together."2

This is our hope, and this is the faith that I go back to the South with.

With this faith, we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith, we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith, we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day.

And this will be the day -- this will be the day when all of God's children will be able to sing with new meaning:
My country 'tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing.
Land where my fathers died, land of the Pilgrim's pride,
From every mountainside, let freedom ring!
And if America is to be a great nation, this must become true.
And so let freedom ring from the prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire.
Let freedom ring from the mighty mountains of New York.
Let freedom ring from the heightening Alleghenies of Pennsylvania.
Let freedom ring from the snow-capped Rockies of Colorado.
Let freedom ring from the curvaceous slopes of California.
But not only that:
Let freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia.
Let freedom ring from Lookout Mountain of Tennessee.
Let freedom ring from every hill and molehill of Mississippi.
From every mountainside, let freedom ring.
And when this happens, when we allow freedom ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God's children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual:

                Free at last! Free at last!
                Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!"

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ 

Our kids are learning about the civil rights movement. Last week Hope came home and shared the detailed story she had learned about Rosa Parks.  We are in our late thirties, alarmingly close to forty. We've probably heard that story 50 or more times in our lives.  We know the story. We know of Rosa's courage.  We know of Rosa's strength.

Last week the story was different. 

Hearing it come from the lips of our Haitian-American daughter and hearing her explain that skin color shouldn't dictate position on a bus or anywhere else in society was like hearing it with new ears. Her rendition of that well-known story caused slow leakage of tears from our eyes. 

In the country we reside you might be surprised to learn that even today discrimination based on the shade of a man's skin is an ongoing problem. Lighter skinned people are often perceived and seen as better and more beautiful. like MLK we say:  I have a dream that my little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.
I have a dream today!

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Remembering, Two Years Ago Today

No other time in our lives is as vividly ingrained in our memories as the day and the days following the earthquake. 

We saw the very best and the very worst of humanity in those days. We felt the power of Christ in us. We saw that power exhibited in others. We witnessed crushing despair and miraculous provision. 

That one minute on a Tuesday afternoon in January 2010 not only cut many lives short, but it drastically changed day to day life and the entire landscape of Haiti.

It is still incredibly difficult to imagine or accept the volume of suffering that occurred in the hours and days and weeks that followed the earthquake.  

When we speak of that time we're easily moved to tears. When our friends and neighbors speak of that time, they do so somberly and with a measure of disbelief that what happened  - actually took place. It wasn't just a terrible nightmare.

Two years later we continue to cry out for this place and her beautiful people; asking God to move governments and mountains on their behalf. 

(The entire earthquake account from our limited and personal perspective is at this link.)

Earlier this week as Jen and Beth and I labored with Kerline throughout the day we realized that there were many links between Kerline and multiple other women we've known in the various Heartline programs. 

We learned that Kerline is married to the son of 52 year old Lucy. (You can see Lucy's beautiful face in the year-end post. Lucy had her 12th child at age 52 and was in our programs.) We learned that Kerline's sister-in-law was in the prenatal program in 2009. We had fun putting together all the connections.  

 January 9, 2012 ~ Kerline's Mom, Ynosile Victorain Jules
Kerline's mother (Ynosile - 65) was with her daughter offering support and guidance. As we talked throughout the day she shared some of her story.  

She told us that she is a mother to seven children. She shared that she has five girls and two boys, just like Troy and I do. 

She talked about her kids with great affection. She described one son who has Downs Syndrome, she described her husband to me, telling me he looks a lot like former president Preval with a white beard.  

We talked more as Dr. Jen and Beth sewed/repaired Kerline after the birth.  I asked Kerline's mother if she lost anyone she loved in the earthquake? She said, "Yes, I lost my brother and sister-in-law. They were trapped alive in a building and we could hear them calling us but we couldn't get to them."  She later shared that their bodies were never recovered.  

She said "We knew where they were but we couldn't reach them." 

That one story is multiplied by thousands (and thousands).  

A fellow expat and friend put together a list of media links of recent two-year anniversary stories. If you'd like to read a sampling, you can find the list here on Lexi's blog. 

(All 2010 Photos courtesy of Troy Livesay) 

This anniversary is a deeply personal and painful remembrance for all of Haiti and her friends. We pray that God will carry and hold each one in the valley of their grief and suffering and that in His love and care they find serenity and renewed hope.

May you find tranquility in a world you may not always understand. 

May you experience peace that passes your own understanding in the middle of your questions.

May the pain and suffering you have known give you unusual courage to walk through life facing each new situation with strength and grace and a unique ability to help others. 

May a gentle word, a reassuring touch, and a genuine concern be yours each day, and may you give these gifts to others as well as receive them. 

May the heart and love of your Heavenly Father be immeasurably evident to you this day.