Friday, June 27, 2014

a life of deprivation? who is to say?

I walked upstairs yesterday and Lydia said, "Ma - I gotta show you something. Like.Right.Now."  The tone of her voice left no room for stalling or delay.

I followed her down the steps.  She picked up a half sheet of paper and read it to me.

"Mom - it says this - A party for Callie on June 30th. It says we can come at noon and it says bring a swimsuit."

I said, "Oh fun, that's great."

Lydia said, "So we can go? I can bring a suit?"

"Yes, you can go, yes a suit."

Lydia said, "Well I need to write on here- YES, then!"

She ran to find a crayon and wrote yes three times on the invitation and set it on my desk. I don't know how that piece of paper is getting back to the family that invited them, but she seems to trust it will.

At dinnertime she said, "So is it June 30th yet?  WHEN is June 30th? How many days do I have to wait for June 30th?"

She mentioned the party and the paper about the party thirteen more times before she fell asleep.

~          ~            ~

Most of the funny things that our kids don't know, we don't immediately realize. It is a weird thing about living here in this different normal.  Lydia has never been handed an invitation to a birthday party.  She is 6 years old and has certainly been to birthday parties, but a written invitation was a new thing for her. It pretty much made her life yesterday. She didn't know the paper was called an invitation, but she took the information very seriously when she read it to me.

When I was last in the U.S. Paige informed me that we have failed at making her and her siblings capable of buying things alone.  "Mom, Hope is afraid to go order a french-fry at a counter by herself." I figured Paige was just exaggerating to make me feel like dump, the way moms and daughters do that ridiculous thing they do sometimes. I blew it off.

Later that week I saw for myself that Hope is not accustomed to going to ask questions or order things on her own. When I asked her to she hung back, afraid. In Haiti Troy does all the shopping.  The kids and I rarely enter marketplaces here.  We don't have to be assertive because he is assertive for us. It is for sure an epic failure, one we still have time to fix, I hope. Our kids should probably reach 18 with an ability to order food or buy something at a store.

I can easily see the failures and mistakes - the things they miss out on - but allow me for a brief moment to also recognize the unique and cool things that happen BECAUSE they live here.  First of all, they love their teacher(s) so much - like, these are people that will likely sit at their wedding(s) one day.  We are crazy blessed by Jimmy and Becky Burton teaching our kids. We are excited that they will be back for a fourth year this fall.

The week in photo review ...

One day this week the kids were allowed to don little bee-keeping suits (ignore the bare feet). 

They got to get up close to the hives and taste honey straight from the honeycomb.

Lydia said, "That honey was soooooo good. Now I think that bees are awesome instead of horrible."

I asked Noah to give me a synopsis of what he learned. Without exaggeration he talked for 45 minutes straight - barely stopping to breathe. I so wished the expert was here to know how much of Noah's information is accurate. He seems to have recalled everything he was taught. The most interesting thing Noah said, "Mom, get this, bees have photographic memories - they memorize your face and can remember it later if you return without the mask they will sting you later."

(Joseph Bataille is a friend and beekeeper - some of his bees live on Heartline's property right behind the kids' school building. He bought little beekeeper suits a while back and he graciously taught the kids about his work on Wednesday.)

A veterinarian named Kelly Crowdis came to talk to the kids this week, as did her friend Rhoda, an agronomist. Noah said, "One taught us a lot about plants and then for like 40 minutes we were asking questions about the food chain. We learned words like Oviparous and Viviparous. We were asking a lot of questions and especially Isaac did, then we learned about goats and that they have four stomachs and if you put a stethoscope on the goat you can hear some cool sounds of the liquid moving around their stomachs and their heartbeats are way faster than humans."

Then he said, "Ms. Kelly was asked by Isaac if she ever worked with Crocodiles and I was like, Isaac, don't ask that (rolls his eyes) and then of course Ms. Kelly said, no she hasn't but she has worked with snakes. She told us about helping a snake in a mouse trap."

Phoebe said, "I liked the listening to the goat heartbeat. I listened to Cookie's heartbeats."
(Lydia says the goats are named - Brownie, Cookie, and Pie. This is evidence of her true commitment to an unrelenting sugar obsession. Isaac disputes this claim and says the goats are named Groveretta, Pizza, and Percy.)

A visit to the Maternity Center when newborns are around is one of Lydia's favorite things. All the kids stop by on occasion, but Lydia really loves it. She stopped in to behold the miraculous little Sophonie today.

So they don't know U.S. currency and they cannot confidently order from a fast-food menu or easily go visit a park or playground.  

I still say, this. is. living.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

a gift for guerda

Storytelling when it is your own story, totally doable.   Storytelling when the story is not yours, but that of a beloved friend, well ... less than totally doable.  
I don't want to over or under tell it.

My sister has let me write about her.  My daughters have allowed me to write about them.  I have not asked Guerda if I can write about her.  My guess is she would smile and give me the "wi wi" routine. (That is "yes", not urine.)

Guerda has longed for a child for many years.  Many.  If I told you how many I would only be telling you one of a few versions of history that have been recorded.  

Guerda is what we lovingly refer to as a "poor historian".   

Surviving the month, the year, the next day ... That is what she and her loved ones focus their energy on. No, I am not suggesting she stands at death's door all the live long day. I am suggesting that life is very challenging and Guerda needs to think about how to make money and to afford shelter and how to get food to eat, hopefully on a daily basis. Keeping track of her long medical and pregnancy history was not first on her agenda or her mind.

Suffice it to say, Guerda has lost many babies. We think seven, but we have also counted eight and nine at different tellings of the stories. We know once it was stillborn twins. We know many pregnancies made it well into the second trimester. It matters we get it right because every life matters.  It sorta doesn't matter because we know enough to know it is very grave and difficult and incredibly sad.

Guerda delivered one of her still-born babies with Heartline midwives (Beth M and Jonna) attending to her in the month of June, the year of the earthquake. Dr. Sizemore of TN helped via phone and internet. That was when we first became intimately involved in her complicated history.  

Not so long after that Guerda began working at Heartline and worked with Andrema (some know Andrema as Cherline) at the Maternity Center doing housekeeping and laundry and sometimes working with the cooks. In early 2013 she had an first trimester miscarriage.

When Guerda told us she thought she was pregnant in December of last year, honestly, we all sort of groaned nervously.  We entered into this pregnancy thinking, "Oh boy, this could end in another heart-break."  Guerda seemed hopeful and we of course couldn't blame her, eventually we all switched gears - and arrived at hopeful and tried not to think about the difficult possibility of another loss.

Early in the pregnancy a midwife/NP from Omaha, NE named Martha came and visited like she sometimes does.  She is hilarious. I love her because she swears. Other people love her because she is blunt and direct and uber smart.   All that to say, we love her. She looked at Guerda's history and gave her educated guess about why Guerda had lost so many babies. After that another visiting midwife from Kansas did tons of research on Martha's (correct) guess and then a midwife in Texas donated the expensive daily injections that Guerda needed. Then as the pregnancy went on and things got more and more complicated the team in Haiti worked with Dr. Jen in Minnesota and we put Guerda on bed rest and gave the baby a little lung boost with steroids and kept asking all of you to pray.  (Side note: One of the posts we shared about Guerda on FaceBook was shared 25 times and seen by 7,500 people.For our little ministry, that was big! If even half of those that saw it prayed; WOW.)

At the 33 week and 5 day mark, Guerda was transferred to PIH Hospital to prepare for a C-section. They did the C-section last Friday morning.

The little miracle babe never needed oxygen, she was born 4 pounds and 2 ounces.  Her Momma could not be shining any brighter right now.  They are back at Heartline and resting and bonding in the postpartum area.  We expect them to stay for several weeks while baby Sophonie puts on some weight and Guerda has her blood pressure monitored closely.

At times we find that we can get buried in the sad situations and challenges of Haiti.  Today we celebrate something beautiful. We always, always want to thank God and those of you that carry this little Maternity Center in your prayers when we see His goodness and provision.

Please join us in welcoming Sophonie Estives to the world!
Congratulations to Guerda and Wilton!!!

Post Script -
I asked Guerda today before I hit publish.  She said, "Share the miracle on the internet".

When and if there is more news to share about this beautiful family, we will!

with nurses, Wini and Nirva

with midwife, Beth M.

with midwife, Beth J.

Via Beth McHoul - "I woke up feeling so amazed at the goodness of God. Seeing Guerda holding her sweet baby after so many heart wrenching losses is like a dream. Her mothering skills are just perfect and baby knows just what to do. Guerda is a local celebrity with people popping in to visit her. People know a miracle when they see one. Thank you Guerda for holding on and believing what God could do. In this land of so many crushing set backs and disappointments this victory, this baby, this miracle tells us to keep on keeping on!"

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

can we unravel the will of God? a dumbed down guess

Theologians say stuff and think stuff that I am incapable of conceiving. I am glad they have one another to debate and I see that good can come from healthy discourse, even if and when I don't flippin get what they mean a good portion of the time. I tend to like a dumbed down explanation. 

A bunch of us less theological types wonder at times how we can possibly know how, where, when or whom to "serve" - Or - how to "be in God's will".

We lament and groan about "wanting to use our gifts - I mean REALLY USE THEMMMMM".

It is not uncommon to hear friends bemoan how difficult it is to know "where God wants them" or "what He wants them to do".  They are just waiting for the top secret intel to arrive.  When it does, off they will go to their incredibly detailed and well planned out God thing.

I am included in some and eavesdrop on others of these discussions and find that people seem to think they are going to get super explicit instructions from God about His will for them. There is a lot of time spent waiting for that clear direction to come. We pray, "Show us your will" and then we wait for the show part. The vernacular can cause me to squirm a little bit. I don't know for sure for sure what "God's will" is for me, let alone these friends that so desperately await the big reveal in their own lives. 

    ~           ~            ~

Then the letter comes ...

Dear _____, child of Me, the Most High,

Go to _______ and do exactly ____and ___ and ___. Go on the ___ of next month and leave home at exactly_____O'clock.  Eat ____, pack _____, sell ____ and ____ and ____ before you go.  Oh, have $____ in reserve in a bank account for the huge unknowable emergencies that are sure to come.
Love and Direction,

No. Not really.  God hates writing letters.

Because God won't write a letter like that, we search the Bible, wring our hands,  and visit the local Christian book-seller to see what the famous people say we should do. Depending on the time, the books will give different instructions. Some years you have to "Embark on a journey of discovery" as you enjoy 40 days of purpose before you answer life's most fundamental question, "What on earth am I here for?". Other years you must kiss your family goodbye and be "Radical". Then, there are years you just have to "Live your best life now".  It gets pretty confusing to say the least.

Here is the thing.  I don't really like the Bible.  It frustrates me.  It contradicts itself and it doesn't make sense to me a lot of the time.  Those books? They also frustrate me. Being radical and living with purpose is so much pressure. That all feels driven by people pleasing to me. Purpose according to whom? All the journeys of discovery I have ever embarked upon seem to end early, and certainly long before the discovery.

Even with all my hangups and Biblical confusion, I like what Jesus said a lot and what He did while he was here makes more sense to me.  Jesus said, "love one another".  Maybe for the sake of technicality and to avoid compulsive correctors that roam the Internets looking to shame and correct and hate on the bloggers, I need to say, Love God. Love others. (Matthew 22:36-39) But for sure, love. 

    ~            ~            ~

When I read and try to figure out anything about God's will, I get diarrhea. It can get super awkward. So much of it feels far too abstract and unreachable. And there I am, running to the dang toilet again. But(t) - when I read this, I felt like I was reading something pretty true - 

"Jesus sets the boundaries of God's will. If it doesn't look like Christ, then it's outside the will of God. Jesus IS the will of God for us.”  ― David D. Flowers

Okay.  Jesus. Let us think about that. 

So wait?  I just love you. And then I just love family, friends, neighbor and others that come into my life and cross my path?  That is the whole thing? I just do that, where I am?

Love one another (the way Jesus did it) sounds too easy or simple or something.  Perhaps we all want it to be more glamorous, more difficult. We are waiting for something that sounds fancier, tangible, and more prestigious ... Something we can put on a business card or a Twitter profile or something.

Global Guru of God's Will Capacity Building
Chief Fixer of All the Sinning Losers in the Greater Metropolis
Development Director of the Universe
Founding Father of Important Things God thinks are Worthy Endeavors

(all currently available)

I don't know. Maybe we all make this much more complicated than was ever intended. 

The big thing we are waiting for clear direction on, simply "love one another" with your own special unique gifting and style (which you posses at all times). Wherever. All over. Like right where you are standing.  Like now. 

Perhaps that is it.  
Like, really, just that. God's will. In a nutshell. 
"See Jesus" stamped over all the will of God questions.

The end, no further instructions. 

Tara Livesay
attempting to love others where I am now
sometimes sucking at it, other times not as much

Wednesday, June 18, 2014


The time has come to write about something other than Chikungunya. The month of May and thus far into June have been consumed by fighting this virus and the feelings of depression that come with it.  I know I am not alone in walking around thinking, "What tha!?!? Can't this place catch a break?" My fist shaking and abhorrent resistance to the reality of the virus has proven to be less than effective, so I'll lower my fist and let someone else take the indignation job today. (They won't be as good at it as me, that needs to be noted.)

~                ~                   ~

For many years I have been meeting Haitian women from varied backgrounds. Some arrive with unique stories, others share grief and trauma and all too similar stories. Most of the women we interact with are sitting in front of us because they are pregnant. Many of those women would say they did not try or want to get pregnant, but they did and they are.

Without reserve I embrace these women. After all, I understand becoming pregnant while not "planning" or "wanting" to and I also understand deciding to have the baby that you didn't plan for or expect.

My life experiences make me naturally empathetic to their stories. It feels right and even holy to sit with someone that feels they have made a mistake and is looking for the hope and the chance at redemption while also feeling defeated, embarrassed or ashamed.  Something about hope is addictive, we grasp it wherever we can find a piece of it.

Occasionally someone will email or comment on a post on the blog making sweeping generalizations that lack cultural context and lamenting the fact that we "encourage women to have babies".  I then get all whipped up and rant to Troy while eating way too many potato chips. I say, "Wait a minute?  So because we will love them while they are experiencing an unplanned pregnancy and will help them deliver in a way that preserves their dignity and possibly their life, we are 'encouraging women to have babies' ?!?!? They were already pregnant before we ever met them!"

Troy will stare back at me and nod with his concerned, 'Oh she's on the broom now' look.

It seems people that have never made THIS particular mistake have applied for and received their license to judge.  Many of them, if they could be so honest, might recall having sex at a young age, and prior to their marriage, but because they didn't get pregnant and caught, they sit in the seat of judgment.

If I am a recovering alcoholic, I don't judge the struggling drunk.  If I am former debt-ridden materialistic over-spender, I feel a little sorry for my neighbor with the insatiable appetite to buy happiness in the form of a new car or vacation they cannot technically afford.  If I am a formerly pregnant and single 17 year old and 22 year old, I probably have no trouble loving on the habitually pregnant young women of Haiti.

The hard lesson for me has been realizing that what I feel empathetic about, is not what everyone feels empathetic about.  Within the last week I had a conversation with a woman that wanted proof that we are sufficiently discouraged or sorry by (about) our family's current unplanned pregnancy. I have not stopped thinking about it or her.

Even with my own built in reasons to empathize, something interesting took place when I learned about my daughter's unplanned pregnancy. Some sort of giant exposing light was shining on us as we walked into the weeks of feeling the feelings and sorting through that news.

It became apparent that it is easier to love, serve, show mercy, grace, and kindness to a stranger than it is to ourselves our those we love most.  The righteous "I cannot believe you would do this" indignation takes hold of us when we have a history and an investment in someone. The temptation is always there to try and be someones conscience, sin-barometer, or judge. Having lived under some of that back in the days of my two unplanned pregnancies, I know that isn't what draws anyone to Jesus.

I sensed right away that I needed to be to my daughter exactly what I am to strangers at the Maternity Center, and WAY more.  I knew right away that staying sad, or hurt for very long would permanently damage our relationship.  Being mad changes nothing except a good relationship.  When you learn something about someone you love that disappoints you, there is a small window in which to choose to forgive - to be love and mercy.

Thank God for the people in my life that taught me forgiveness by offering it freely to me.

Thank God my unplanned daughters are a living testament to God's goodness.

Our unplanned and already cherished grandson is set to arrive in October.

May he grow up knowing kindness, love, and forgiveness just as his old Mojo has.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014


Today I read these words, 

"Fear does not prevent death. It prevents life."  (Naguib Mahfouz)
I don't know why such simple words (obvious words?) spoke (screamed?) so loudly to my heart and soul, but they did.

I have been afraid of a handful of things the last couple of months. Among other stuff, there has been fear of my fast-approaching final test, and fear over our kids and the various things going on in their lives. Lately, much (like way too much) fear energy has been expended on this dang illness in Haiti. I have been holding my breath for weeks hoping and praying that my little ones and the brand new babies at Heartline and the momma on bed rest would somehow be spared. 

When my kids get ill here, there is so much condemnation spinning in my head. I know it is meant to discourage me. The messages and accusations say, "If you didn't bring them here, they wouldn't have this." My rational side knows that car crashes and illness and freak accidents happen to people that never leave the safest house in the safest city in the safest place in the world. 

Troy did enough counseling when we were in the USA to get super duper wicked smart. I have seen him forget some of what he learned on certain days, so don't hear me elevating him to the very highest pinnacle. He is like three steps down from the highest spot. Recently when I was angry at a situation I asked him if he was upset by someone's unkind and disappointing response to him, he said, "I am only responsible for my actions, my words and my responses. She is responsible for hers, and I cannot change that and I shouldn't try." 

Maybe my issue is that I am wanting to control more than just me. By holding onto my fear so tightly, I am taking false control. That would explain the exhaustion of late.

Fear prevents life.

Here is a simple reminder for me (mainly me) and you - if you were looking for a reminder that is: We don't have control over anything but our own responses to the things, situations, people, and stressors around us.  

and ...

Sometimes we are going to want to give up.


(Photo taken by Esther Havens of our friend, Marjorie, who has not given up.) 

Saturday, June 07, 2014

a link, a cruddy illness, and a baby BOY

you MUST read this .... if you want to

My friend, G., wrote about a recent airplane ride.  I loved this story. 

~          ~           ~

When he started back in on non-profits and how they were all money grubbing thieves, I said, You know, I run a group like a non-profit, and we give back 100 percent of what we raise. No overhead. We all work for free.
He raised his eyebrow and didn’t respond for a minute.
He looked out the airplane window. He was remembering something. His tirade stopped. His voice changed a little.
Then he turned back and said, “I haven’t given a penny away for fifteen years. I used to. Every Christmas I used to buy ten turkeys and deliver them to the homeless shelter myself.  But I don’t do that anymore. I don’t give anything away anymore.”
What changed? I said.
He looked out the window again and I thought- HERE we go. HERE we go- here comes the real stuff. Here politics die and the person behind them introduces himself.
Scruffy angry man said, “When my daughter was little, we left a candle burning in our house and the whole house burned down. With all of our things. We had nothing. We lived in our car for seven months with our daughter and no one reached out to help us. Not our neighbors, not our families, friends. Not even our church. No one.”
Read the post in its entirety HERE.

~          ~            ~

The happenings in Haiti are somewhat bleak feeling this week.  

Chikungunya is an utter jerk and we flip in and out of fighting it with courage and feeling like it may never end. It is not linear in any way. Starting and finishing is how we like our illnesses, but this seems to be start, finish, start again. Two steps forward, one step back. It is frustrating to say the least. 

Our Noah currently has a worse case of it than his little sisters had earlier in the week. He loves to win, but maybe not at this competition.His fever beats the others, he cannot move, he has been throwing up. It is hard to throw up without moving, but he is even perfecting this. Some (not all) others that had it a week or more ago are facing night fevers and restlessness and sore joints. As if Haiti doesn't make you feel old and tired enough already. 

Yesterday Beth asked for a show of hands of those women that had already had "the fever". 80% of the women gathered raised their hands. Maybe Port au Prince will be saturated and finished with (the first finish of)this nonsense soon?

The Maternity Center had a rough Monday with a baby that aspirated meconium, but the rest of the week went by without huge dramas; we all really needed that.(For those that don't know, meconium is shit. Welcome to the world, you inhaled your own poop.Things can only improve from here.

We have three women due and overdue. We are all hanging out nearby in anticipation of their labors/deliveries. 

My niece, Whitney, is in Haiti. She is preparing for her MCAT and is studying when we are not at work at the Maternity Center. She is supposed to motivate me to study for my next test. That's sort of happening. I cannot even explain how fun it is to have her here. 

Paige is coming to Haiti next week.  There are a handful of folks that are super stressed out by her decision to come.  She and I talked at length in Texas when I went to take my skills test (I passed!) and I assured her that she did not need to come to Haiti this summer.  

Because this is her home, she was unwilling to to cancel and said it is important to her to come. Her boyfriend (Michael) is coming later in the month to do a five week volunteer job as a driver with Heartline Ministries. She so wants him to see her home and learn about her life here. They are starting to talk marriage and this visit is important to her heart.  I don't want her sick of course and realize there is a decent chance she could be ill while she is here.  

Thankfully she is second trimester and at a safe place in her pregnancy. I will be slathering her in bug spray and fumigating her room daily. The biggest danger with Chik V. is in very early pregnancy and right at delivery. 

If you are one that is wrapped up in concern for Paige, I want to say - THANK YOU for loving her.  At its core, your worry is kindness, I know that. Please use your concern to fuel your prayers. She wants to come. 

This Mojo (granny)and Tito (grandpapa) will be doing Paige's prenatal care and enjoying the rare chance to get to spend a bunch of weeks with her and our future son-in-law.  

(If you missed the news of our first grandbaby, you can go back to this post. It is a boy!

Wednesday, June 04, 2014

Short-Term Missions Article (source: Relevant)

By Michelle Perez
We have learned that perhaps how we go might matter more that what we do. Here are a few things you may not have heard about being more effective on short-term mission trips:

You're Not a Hero.

First of all, before you go and when you get there, your team must commit to getting rid of the hero complex. Developing countries do not need short-term heroes. They need long-term partners. And if your group just wants to be a hero for a week, then you may be doing more harm than good.

Poverty Can Look Different Than You Expect.

If at the end of your trip you say, “I am so thankful for what I have, because they have so little.” You have missed the whole point.
You’re poor, too. But maybe you’re hiding behind all your stuff. There is material poverty, physical poverty, spiritual poverty and systemic poverty. We all have to acknowledge our own brokenness and deep need for God before we can expect to serve others.

Read more at:

Tuesday, June 03, 2014

On One-Upping and My Niece

Have you seen the Penelope skit on SNL?  We are all a little bit Penelope at times. But I am more like her than you, sooooooo ...  Read more about it here, my June post at A Life Overseas.

Today our niece comes to Haiti for ten days.  We are giddy to have her to ourselves. For those that love  adoption and a good reunion story, read about her here. 

Chikungunya is probably a word you are incredibly tired of trying to pronounce and read.  We are finding that it is a word that has meant a heaviness hanging over us all. Day after day new women and children are showing up in pain, with high fevers.  We need to find some brightness in all the clouds this virus is bringing to our friends and families.