Friday, December 23, 2016

Isaac's Update

my sisters and their babies
Texas Trip:

As you may or may not have heard, I am leaving for Texas on December 26th with my Mom. I was told about this trip just the 16th of Decmember, so it was a big surprise. My biggest job for when I arrive will be taking car of my vigorous nephew, Graham.

Anyway, when we fly into Austin my brother in law, Michael, will be there to pick my mom and I up from the airport. We will not be staying at Paige's house at first. We are staying at an AirBnB place that some friends of friends are letting us use to give Paige and Michael some space without company since Michael is not home very much right now and he heads back to work on January 2nd. By this time, Paige will have had her new born baby boy. For the next seven days Mom will be with me helping me take care of things with Graham and the dogs while Paige is very busy with the baby. On the ninth of January my Mom is going to head back to Haiti. A lot of what we did together to help Paige out will be shifted over to me since Paige will be profoundly engrossed to taking care of her new baby. So I'll be hanging out with Graham and taking him to the park and on walks and playing with him. I'll also be in charge of things around the house, like doing the dishes and cleaning and folding some laundry and whatever else Paige says she needs help with.

Over all I am psyched for this trip it will be awesome.

But wait, it doesn't end there.

On January 19th I will fly home to Haiti with my Grandpa and Grandma Porter. A few days later we will start back to school.  I am thankful for the few days I have between the day I get back and the day I start school. It will be good to be with my Grandparents in Haiti. Noah will be leaving with my Grandparents to go to Texas to help Paige out and take a turn too.  It is very fun that we are able to help our sister.

By late February we will be all done with traveling to Texas and we will all be home.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

I See You

I was in a fluffy white robe sipping high-end-fancy-people flavored coffee and looking out over a beautifully decorated and manicured neighborhood in Dallas when Beth M. and KJ texted and said, "There is a dead man in the street in front of the house, he stole something and was stoned  by a crowd of people right outside earlier this morning. The body is just lying there in the street."  

They went on to tell me that they would guard our kids from seeing him and take a long back road to avoid driving right past his body.

In Haiti, crime increases around Christmas. 
Every year it is the same. 
Reports of theft and mayhem rise as the 25th of December approaches.

Perhaps it is the encouragement of active waiting at Advent, but December always feels more difficult.  We are following the directive and actively waiting and purposefully hoping and it seems to magnify the brokenness all around us. 

A man is stoned to death, a pregnant 20 year old with HIV is homeless and hungry and crying in front of us, a 13 year old across the street is due to deliver a baby in a few weeks, a devastated mother who has already lost one child goes into premature labor with her second pregnancy, a large portion of the country sleeps without a roof two and a half months after a hurricane wipes out their homes. 

Existential anguish is not strong enough a descriptor. It doesn't begin to cover the confusion of the season.  The disorder of our world and the incongruity of drinking a $5 beverage while someone is stoned to death for a petty theft of approximately the value of my cup of coffee is more than impossible to reconcile.

Yesterday we (we, the Maternity Center) drove yet another emergency situation the 35 miles over the mountains because in Port au Prince we must ignore 6 hospitals that are closer in order to arrive at a hospital that gives consistent and kind quality care.  Without advocates, most folks don't get the care they need and don't arrive at the hospital far far outside the city.

Bryan A. Stevenson is an American lawyer, social justice activist, founder of the Equal Justice Initiative, and the author of Just Mercy.   Bryan says the broken, materially poor, and marginalized desperately need us to see them and to be hopeful. He says there is a need for us to choose to be in their hopeless places and situations and be a witness.

I wonder if he is right.  I wonder if bearing witness and fighting against hopelessness is of value. Is it acceptable to fake hope until it actually comes again? It must be. 

In South Africa, there is reportedly a Zulu greeting where upon greeting one says,

"I see you."

When you want someone to know you have taken the time to notice them, that you honor their position, presence, and uniqueness in this world ... And you even celebrate it, you say, "I see you."

Jan Richardson says, "This seeing, this recognition, is the stuff that joy is made of. And heartbreak, too, for seeing comes with a cost. But that place of seeing -- that place where we know, where we refuse to be content with appearances, where we resist the impulse to take things for granted: this is where God lives, and where Christ is born anew.

~           ~~          ~           ~~          ~

To those of you that read the stories and keep up with the work of Heartline Ministries  (sometimes filled with hope, other times filled with lament and pain)  - we understand that you see Haiti, that you see Heartline, that you see  -- and your seeing and giving and praying is what sustains the work and propels it forward.  

This update was from Troy yesterday ... 

Monday at Heartline: 
Nadia transported to hospital for pre-term labor, a beautiful baby girl born to Jolina at the Maternity Center, Discipleship class men leading a worship service, sewing and cooking classes overflowing into the yard at the Womens Education Center, thousands of pieces of bread made by the Beltis Bakery, and Mirana picked up from the hospital for continued care at the MC after her C-Section. 

All of this made possible by your love, prayers, and participation in this Kingdom work in Haiti. Thank is a joy to behold and participate.

We are at 60% of our year-end giving goal to sustain this work in 2017, and generous donors have offered to match your gifts through the end of the year!

Please consider joining and supporting the Heartline Family with a gift and double your impact in Haiti. 

Monday, December 19, 2016

let us find our rest in thee

Come, Thou long expected Jesus 
Born to set Thy people free;
From our fears and sins release us, 
Let us find our rest in Thee. 
Israel’s Strength and Consolation, 
Hope of all the earth Thou art; 
Dear Desire of every nation, 
Joy of every longing heart. 
Born Thy people to deliver, 
Born a child and yet a King, 
Born to reign in us forever, 
Now Thy gracious kingdom bring. 
By Thine own eternal Spirit Rule in all our hearts alone; 
By Thine all sufficient merit, 
Raise us to Thy glorious throne.

Saturday, December 17, 2016

December Anxiety Report - Part I

The tree lights are on, several candles are lit. The city power just came back on, meaning automatic and instantaneous joy - BECAUSE - Electricity is life, people! The kids have all gone to pizza with Troy.

Because my head is filled with so.much.snot and aching - and - the last four days 100% kicked my butt, I opted out of pizza or socializing.   I am supposedly attempting to "process" and "integrate" the insanity of the last week. I am attempting "quiet" and "solitude".

I am alone on the front porch with the next door neighbor's music blaring,  in Kreyol the singer says, "This country is sick, Haiti, what is going on? Haiti, Haiti how do you feel?" - That along with Sarah Mclachlan singing "Silent Night, Holy Night, all is calm, all is bright",  on the speaker next to me...  It's really quite something.  Appropriate incongruity. You should be here to experience it with me.

I got back from a 9 day trip to Texas on Tuesday. I arrived in Haiti with a GoldenDoodle puppy and I am VERY famous with my kids and well loved because of it.

I shared this on Instagram  - but the short version if you missed it is this: After Peanut died I was sad and acting like a weirdo and I started begging Troy to get another little dog.  (Big dogs are SO SO expensive to feed  - even when weird and emotional, I am frugal.)  Troy thought I was emotional and dumb (because true) and he said no to another little Chestnut type dog.  (Our 6 pound ShihTzu is Chestnut.)  Troy said he liked Golden Retrievers or  medium dogs.  I quickly wrote my friend in Missouri about her GoldenDoodle to ask about the breeder she used and in like six minutes she was informing us that she was going to buy us a GoldenDoodle.  She took care of our new puppy for us for two weeks and I flew from Austin to St.Louis and picked up our new dog on the first day I was back in the USA. It was a lot of crazy making and fun.  People in airports love Goldendoodles. He was very popular. One lady took a selfie with him.

My trip to TX had been booked months and months ago when Britt told me she would be due to have a baby and ALSO be graduating from UT Southwestern - all at the same time in early December.  

Britt and Chris lost that first baby in May.  It was rough.  Mercifully a lot of grief and pain turned into joy in July when they learned they were pregnant again.

I decided not to cancel my trip because I wanted to see her tummy and I wanted to see her graduate after so SO much hard work. (She is a PA-C now!)

While in TX I managed to get my CPR and NRP stuff updated (required for Midwifery licensing) and it was a trip filled with much joy.  The new puppy, the graduation, the time with my family and with Britt's Dad's family was all so wonderful.  Troy came  to TX for three nights. We got to see Graham and Paige too.  It was so beautiful and encouraging and fun.

The dog needed paperwork to be able to fly to Haiti. (Or SO THE PEOPLE SAID.) Britt and I pretended to be totally fluent in French  -- and pulled it off  -- at the Vet office. We were laughing our buns off at the rules and just decided that we would prefer to claim French fluency over paying someone to translate the dog paperwork.  We were given the Vet Office computer and some time and we translated a French document into English like total bosses.

Stupid and totally predictable thing????  No human person ever ever ever ever asked to see any of the paperwork we paid for to "legally" import the dang dog.  Not JetBlue - not anyone in Haiti. Flushing money down the toilet is our new hobby.

After we left Texas Britt got in a car accident.  That is something my pregnant daughter girls seem to do.  It's a thing I guess.  Thankfully she and baby boy are okay.

Paige is super duper pregnant.  She needs to wait to deliver until December 22 if she wants Michael there and December 27 if she wants me (Tara) there.  I have high high high anxiety over the thought of missing this event, but it is pretty likely I will, in fact, miss the event.  If it seems appropriate, I will film the nervous break-down when it happens.

I have a billion more things to write that are spinning in my head. It needs to wait until my spaz level calms a bit.

Tomorrow is our Maternity Center Staff Christmas party.  It is so so much fun every year and while I tend to be annoyed at the long Christmas parties we have for the ladies in the programs, I truly LOVE the staff Christmas party.  More when sanity levels allow.

Three nuts and their five humans.

Friday, December 16, 2016

Hear the Angels Sing

I don't even need to wonder. I know that lots and lots of us need this word this Advent Season.  

It seems to me that many are at a dark intersection... Like most of the entire planet.

Enjoy our annual posting of Hear the Angels Sing ...

By Rick Porter (Uncle Rick)

Perhaps it’s just the Ebenezer Scrooge in me, but I’m not much of a caroler. When pressed into participation I sing, but rarely with the gusto of those around me. And too often I sing in a rote way, not giving full attention to the words. There is however, one line of one verse of one carol that always captures my attention.

A story is told of a man seasonally employed to bring the presence of Santa to Christmas gatherings for businesses and schools. He was on his way to a gig, an office party, but had been asked to stop by the nursing home to make a quick visit to the residents. This was pro bono work, but if Santa won’t do it who will?

He quickly made his rounds with a “ho, ho, ho” to each room. Just before departing, he peeked into a darkened cubicle where an elderly man lay apparently asleep, curled on his bony side. Santa prepared to leave in a flash. But the man made a feeble beckoning gesture visible in the dim light of a tiny Christmas tree. The volunteer Santa approached. The man whispered something so faintly as to be inaudible. Santa moved his jolly old ear very close to the man’s dry mouth. “Forms are bending low,” the man said. Santa did not connect the phrase, assumed confusion, gave a patronizing pat, and hurried off to his paying job.

As he arrived at the office party, holiday music was filling the room. The words of an old carol floated from the ceiling speakers:

O ye beneath life's crushing load,
Whose forms are bending low,
Who toil along the climbing way
With painful steps and slow;
Look now, for glad and golden hours
Come swiftly on the wing;
Oh rest beside the weary road
And hear the angels sing.

The song was “It Came Upon A Midnight Clear” written as a poem in 1849 and put to music 10 years later. The essence of the song is that angels did not just appear and sing at the birth of Christ. They show up and serenade regularly and often. 

Just when we are so burdened as to not hear, at the most difficult of times, when life’s loads crush and our forms bend, they minister most. Immanuel, meaning “God-with-us,” attends us as His invisible person, the Holy Spirit, and He is attended by angels. The heart of God is to meet us at life’s darkest intersections with comfort, encouragement, a touch of heaven, and a breath of hope. The old man in the nursing home wasn’t just complaining to Santa about his lot in life. He was acknowledging that in Santa’s visit, no matter how hurried, there was an angelic grace.

Whether or not you sing the carols this year, be encouraged to live the carols. For you, this season may not be one of happiness, good memories, or togetherness. You may be grieving, regretful, or lonely. Life’s road seems crushing and your form is bending low. That does not disqualify you from the true Christmas message. While others scurry in apparent happiness, the invitation to the crushed and the bent still stands:

Oh rest beside the weary road
And hear the angels sing.

Saturday, December 03, 2016

Midwives of another world ...

Advent, which means “the coming,” is the season before Christmas when we wait expectantly. Christians began to celebrate it during the fourth and fifth centuries. Like Mary, we celebrate the coming of the Christ child, what God has already done. And we wait in expectation of the full coming of God’s reign on earth and for the return of Christ, what God will yet do.

But this waiting is not a passive waiting. It is an active waiting. As any expectant mother knows, this waiting also involves preparation, exercise, nutrition, care, prayer, work; and birth involves pain, blood, tears, joy, release, community. It is called labor for a reason. Likewise, we are in a world pregnant with hope, and we live in the expectation of the coming of God’s kingdom on earth. As we wait, we also work, cry, pray, ache; we are the midwives of another world. 
-Shane Claiborne

Link to 2016 Birth Story - Jesus Born under the watchful eye of Midwives.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Bethlehem Birth

(Suggested reading, after watching.)

A WATCHING GUIDE for Tenth Annual Christmas Extravaganza: 

  • The Bethlehem Birth Center - Perhaps you've not heard of it? History is a bit sketchy due to poor record keeping & storage methods, but most trustworthy sources and historians list it as an established birth center sometime between 7 BC. and 3 BC -  right next door to a stable and an Inn (sold out).
  • Mary and her Midwives knew the importance of laboring in several positions.
  • SROM = Spontaneous Rupture of Membranes - A fluid-filled bag called the amniotic sac surrounds and protects the fetus. When a hole or tear forms in the sac, it's called a rupture of the membranes. Most women describe this by saying their "water broke."  Membranes can break by themselves. This is called a spontaneous rupture of the membranes - as declared by Midwife, Lydia. It most often happens after active labor has started.
  • Delayed Cord Clamping was requested because Mary did her research and knew it improved neonatal outcomes; Mary did not want Jesus dealing with iron deficiency anemia in his early months/years of life.
  • Baby Jesus was expertly played by Jamesly Bellevue, born 11/12/16 at the Heartline Maternity Center in Port au Prince, Haiti  - In an effort to keep things authentic, he pooped all over Hope during the filming of his (second/fake) birth.
  • Song written by Amy Grant & Chris Eaton, 1992 - Sung by Hope Livesay
  • (Unpaid) animal guest appearances by donkeys, Yolanda and Ella & and some sheep. Our thanks for your uncooperative participation. 
  • To watch this on YouTube:

We thank each of you that read, support, pray, give, and/or follow along with the daily work happening at Heartline Ministries in Haiti. Please receive our humble gratitude and love this holiday season.

T & T
Isaac, Hope, Noah, Phoebe, Lydia

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Culture Trumps All

The longer we are in a place that is a second/alternate culture to us, the more we recognize the power of culture. 

When I think back to our first months and years living in Haiti.  I always want a do-over with *THIS* experience level and THIS slightly better understanding of cultural norms and language.  Oh my word, the heartache we could have saved had we known what you cannot know until you sort of kind of know it.

My paradigm is different than the paradigm of the women we are working with at the maternity center. The communication required to hopefully end up understanding one another is always "challenging" and oftentimes frustrating.

Just when I think I kind of sort of get it, it becomes apparent that NOPE, I don't.

*  *  *

A few months back a teen named Nadege delivered her son and because of the extra support she needed she stayed in our postpartum room for a week or more. When it was time to bring her home I asked if she could commit to come for visits each Tuesday to be sure her son continued to gain weight. She told me she wanted to come every Tuesday but her aunt wasn't going to allow her to stay any longer at her house.

When we dropped Nadege off we asked Nadege's Aunt if there was any way at all that Nadege could stay with her until the baby was about three months old. We explained wanting to be sure they established solid breastfeeding habits and that the help to a teen mother would be invaluable. The Aunt convincingly assured us that it would be no problem to allow Nadege the three months before asking her to go live elsewhere outside the city. 

Four days later, on a Saturday, there was a knock at the Maternity Center gate. Nadege  was stopping by to say goodbye before heading into the countryside to live with other family. She said her aunt agreed to keep her to get us to leave but that her aunt immediately asked her to make her plans to leave after we were gone.  My preference is always truthful communication, I would have dealt with the real answer had it been offered. We have no word from Nadege and hope she and Emmanuel are doing well.

*  *  *

Recently we announced a requirement for staff at the M.C.  If horrid traffic or any host of things will cause an employee to arrive more than five minutes late for their scheduled shift, they are required to call and let us know so that one of us living nearby can run over and cover for them until they arrive. (Being late is allowed - because Haiti. But, please, just call.) Everyone nodded in agreement that calling when late was a fair request. Three days later a nurse was 30 minutes late to her shift and that evening another nurse was 20 minutes late. Neither of them called. They were presented with written warning and another explanation that not calling when late is not acceptable and could lead to loss of wages or termination. 

It caused defensiveness and upset but we managed to deal with it and clarify that the rule of calling when late was actually going to be enforced. (Rules without enforcement are pretty much the way of the world in these parts, so human nature says - TEST IT.)  After the little bump in the road, life went on and everybody seemed good. 

Last week (a month after the incident) one of the two nurses asked to talk about that day of being written up. She said that she felt it was unfair and not right that I did not make it clear what would happen if the call was not made. She said, yes, I asked for a call but I did not clarify what would happen if the call was not made.  I was so confused. I said, "Ok, well... Now you know what will happen."  

She shook her head and said, "No, you don't understand. I should have known what consequence would happen prior to it happening."  We went round and round discussing my American way of being and her Haitian way of being and that we would likely see things differently quite frequently.  

In the end I agreed that if some rule is put into place in the future it will also be made clear what happens if the rule is ignored.  SIGH. 

*  *  *

One Thursday earlier this year, I walked  in and was immediately greeted by Marilene and her Mom.  Marilene was a very memorable expecting Mom.  We tend to quickly know the young women with a strong Mom or Aunt in the picture.  I greeted Marilene's Mom and she told me she came along with her daughter to ask why she had not delivered the baby yet.  I said, "Because she is only 28 weeks pregnant." She immediately disagreed and I asked if we could please wait and talk after class.  

Nirva is the most experienced nurse on staff, I asked her to meet with Marilene and her Mom to hear them out and then help explain how long pregnancy lasts and why we believed Marilene was 28 weeks.  Because Marilene had been spitting, (spitting is the sign of pregnancy in Haiti) Mom believed she was much further along than 28 weeks. Nirva couldn't get anywhere and brought them to KJ.

For thirty minutes every staff member tried to share facts and ultrasound results and measurements and information but Mom said she saw the signs of pregnancy longer ago and that the baby should be coming at any moment. Nirva (nurse standing in the doorway with white skirt) laughed and said, "Uh-oh - KJ nan GWO match" (KJ is up against a tough opponent.) 

Education is everything but beliefs (mine too - yours too) are held tightly and it's difficult to trust others. It appears to be difficult to listen too. This can become a problem if Mom decides to go find (and pay) a country doctor or midwife to induce labor based on bad information. Premature babies don't do so well.

One of the challenges of providing care in a materially poor country where folks don't and haven't had access to excellent care and excellent education is convincing said folks that what we are sharing is true.

*  *  *
In November we have had a bit of a butt-kicking.  Several difficult cases have arrived in just a short time.  One of those cases is a 37 week - 16 year old with text-book Pre-Ecclampsia.  The "mother-in-law" (they are teens, not actually married, but she gets this title) has the power in the family and seems not to believe that her son's girlfriend is in need of bedrest. The last two weeks have been spent begging two area hospitals to take this case. Using the expert advice of the two OB/GYNs that consult with us on difficult cases, we attempted an induction, but if failed to produce contractions. The hospitals have protocols and criteria that they don't follow when they are overworked and too busy. It  then becomes a game of chess deciding what move to make next.  The only problem is, the game is not fun and the game involves the life of a baby and a young mother.  The game suck and we don't enjoy playing it.  GRACIOUSLY, last night, on try number THREE, one of the hospitals that had previously turned us away, took the young girl into care.  We are hoping and praying for a phone call today with news of a good outcome for her after many many days with classic Pre-E blood pressures.   Hope and pray with us, please.

*  *  *  

The RE-DO Haiti election was held Sunday. How it went, depends upon whom you ask. We await official news  -- and unofficial news.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Excited Beyond the Acceptable Level (Pa Cool)

Lately all of our Kreyol speaking Haitian friends are using the English word "cool" semi-regularly -- it makes us very happy.  Kreyol with an English word thrown in is our fave. 

'PA COOL' is NOT COOL - and that is what we are right now.  

But we don't care.

We are so excited about our Christmas Production this year...  
An UNCOOL  / PA COOL level of excited.

Hope recorded the song today.  It is so UH-MAZING to me that she can walk in and sing a song perfectly without practicing.  I feel like I need to be figuring out how to help this child get connected to the right places to use her gifts. If anyone knows how to go about that - while in Haiti -please tell me. 

Last year we were very late to release the final product.  

This year, for our TENTH ANNUAL PRODUCTION, we are ready early.  

We are excited to share it with you on Friday, November 25, after Thanksgiving.

This year might be our favorite since 2009 (or 2011).   

*          *           * 

Last Year (9th annual) is here ...

If you want to see other years,  you can go here ( years 1 to 4) and here (years 5 to 8) to find all of the previous ones.  

We don't have fancy real professional video, editing, (like these funny people) and sound people to help us.  The productions each year are just what we have been capable of doing ourselves.  

(Fast fact: 7 years have been filmed in Haiti, 3 in the USA. One in MN, one in TX, one in TN.) 

Happy Thanksgiving week from Port au Prince, Haiti!

Until Friday ...
ALL our PA COOL excited love,

T&T and Tribe

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

(Sometimes Quiet) Persistent Work Changes History

Growing up in the ’70s, I had brown corduroy pants, a black-and-white TV, feathered hair, and a Trapper Keeper notebook. The widespread cultural turmoil of the civil rights era had largely subsided, and—other than the occasional school bully and a vague concern that nuclear annihilation might come any day—the cultural space I inhabited felt fairly calm and predictable. 
I was born three weeks to the day after Martin Luther King Jr. was killed. By the time I entered middle school, it had been a generation since Rosa Parks’s famous arrest in 1955. Her story had aged enough to feel safe for textbooks. Parks was held up as a hero, a seemingly powerless little, old African American lady who had made a spontaneous decision not to give up her seat to a white man on a Montgomery bus and literally changed the world with her courage. So the story went.
I was inspired by that story, as I still am, but what I didn’t know as a young student is that the version I was being taught omitted much of the truth. What I wasn’t taught changes everything.
No one told me, for instance, that Rosa Parks had been the secretary for the Montgomery chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People for 12 years by the time she was arrested or that she had traveled to the Highlander Center in Tennessee for a 10-day training in voter registration and nonviolence shortly before her arrest.
On the day of the arrest, December 1, 1955, she was 42 years old, hardly a “little, old lady,” and her decision, though it wasn’t planned for that particular day, was rooted in years of undramatic daily work for change. 
No one on the bus with Rosa Parks tweeted the news of her arrest; no one reached hurriedly for a cell phone. Fellow passengers instead started making phone calls when they got home, and word quickly reached JoAnn Robinson, head of the Montgomery Women’s Political Council (WPC). For years, the WPC had been pressing the city and the bus company over abuses that “colored” riders (in the language of the day) were subjected to by bus drivers, who were all white.
Robinson made a few calls of her own, and late that night she made the decision to call a
one-day boycott for the following Monday. From midnight until seven, Robinson and two of her students made copies of a flyer and distributed them around the city. 
By the time local pastors arrived for a previously scheduled meeting at 10 on Friday morning, more than 50,000 flyers had blanketed the black neighborhoods of Montgomery. The pastors had little choice but to get on board, as it were.
Don’t miss this: JoAnn Robinson, a college professor and civic leader whom almost no one has heard of, called the Montgomery Bus Boycott, which had been organized and ready to launch for at least 18 months before Rosa Parks’s arrest.JoAnn Robinson did what Rosa Parks also did: she gathered with others who shared her concern, and together they plotted a way forward, undramatically and over time, fitting those efforts into already busy lives in ways that were sustainable. We carve away facts from that story until it fits the lone-hero narrative, but, in truth, it is a movement story.

~~       ~~      ~~

Want to be a person that helps change the world?
For people of faith, "What’s most important?" is the wrong question. Instead, it might be better to ask: What is mine to do? What work is God calling me to in this moment?
Once again, we have to be careful to bring this into scale. We are not discussing your life’s calling. I honestly don’t think you have one. I think you have thousands. Big ones and little ones—a conversation you are called to have tomorrow morning, a smile you are called to offer in a particularly difficult moment. These can change, well, everything. 

Instead of asking, What should I do with my life?  ASK - What should I do next? 

(Shared from/ Written by- David LaMotte)

Saturday, November 12, 2016

The Way Forward

This week I am watching from a remote Caribbean location as people pick their candidate and political party over their relationships with humans, even the humans they love and are close with in real life.  It is a lot bit sad. If someone doesn't agree with me, that is okay. It doesn't make them inherently evil. We DO NOT have to force anyone to change their mind. BUT - If people would choose to listen, I mean really listen to the experiences of others, who knows what sort of common ground we might find. (To be clear: I desperately love people that say Trump was the only way they could vote. I desperately love people that think Trump is a very bad man and they felt they could never vote for him.) 
These clowns have nothing to do with this post ~ but don't they look joyful -
peacemakers and bridge builders, that's my hope!

And so - here we are - utter grid lock, Haiti-Traffic-Style. I guess in some ways we are a people that will choose to prove our point and our correctness over choosing relationship.   (That is not my plan. I choose relationship while still trying to be honest about my thoughts.)  (Do you want to be right or do you want to be kind?)

(BTW - I don't like Trump and I do accept the results and respect the process, if the electoral college needs to go away, you cannot expect it to go after an election -- you have four years to ask your government representative to get rid of it if you hate it. I don't think there is any other way but to move forward but in hope and prayer for the President and to be the kind of individuals we so hope he and his team will be.) 

(Be the change.)

I think people are generally unwilling to pretend for a moment to be someone else.  If you have only experienced a middle class life in the suburbs, it might be hard to imagine the life of an (documented or undocumented) immigrant. If you are a person that has been on welfare for five years, you probably have not considered the person working three jobs in order to feed her family and not be on welfare.  Last weekend I read the memoir of a gay Christian man. It helped me so much to pretend to be him for the two days it took to read his memoir.
If you'd like to REALLY TRULY KNOW (different than "know of") a materially poor person, a Muslim, an immigrant family, a gay couple, a blue collar factory worker, a democrat, a republican, a person with a physical disability, a wealthy Christian businessperson, someone of a different race  -- or anyone at all that does not reflect you back to yourself, (think - different than your mirror) - WELL, that takes listening for the purpose of understanding and empathizing. (A lost art. Thank-you Internet for that.)
Always discounting (or never even being willing to hear about) the experiences of others is a way to have no friends that are any different than you. 
Heck, maybe you don't want to have any friends with differing backgrounds and experiences, that's your call. 
Me??? I want to try to see if I can live a little bit like Jesus. (It is hard, I don't like trying but I feel like I need to continue.) I figure Jesus hung out with all sorts of characters (even shady ones) and not just his buddies with exactly the same thoughts and background as him. That is what motivates me to try and have all the awkward and challenging relationships I have in Haiti. 
Just so you understand this, know that I don't sit with someone hungry, poor, homeless, or practicing another religion than I do without feeling the total awkwardness of it all. I do it because I think we are all made in God's image - Imago Dei and all that jazz . My life experiences are pretty limited - so I figure I can learn from the materially poor just as much or more than I can learn from someone that looks, thinks, acts and hangs out at the same places as me.

Knowing many people with varying experiences and backgrounds is important to me - it helps give me a fuller picture of God's Kingdom.

As we go forward with the new President we chose or the new President we didn't choose ---  We are still (always) in charge of how we act and love. Nobody tells us (me) how to respond to the multiple daily one-on-one encounters we (I) have. That's our wheelhouse! Go get it done the way you know best!

With Hope and Love,

Karen Swallow Prior -Professor of English at Liberty University,    “This election was a referendum on the echo chamber, and the echo chamber won. We can choose now to retreat once again into those echo chambers or begin to listen more attentively to one another—to love our neighbors by learning about them and their needs and perspectives whether black, white, Asian, or Latino/a; whether Christian, Muslim, or none; whether upper, middle, or working class; whether voter or one of the nearly half of eligible voters that sat out this election. Following this election, I’m convinced that we don’t know our neighbors well enough to begin to truly love them.”

So as not to cause offense, sharing two view points below. 
(FTR -I have met neither of these people in real life.)  

Meet Guest Writers Erika and Suzy ...  

I was 14 years old when A Time to Kill came out in theaters. Being that I was red-blooded (obvs), blooming and easily besotted, the movie had me at Matthew McConaughey.
But what held me transfixed and returning for six more viewings wasn’t his pretty face, or his cute, khaki-clad buttcheeks. Rather it was something deeper, something in my chest; a feeling my young mind couldn’t quite unravel enough to comprehend back then.
Quickly and consciously A Time To Kill edged out The Man From Snowy River, gaining the top spot on my favorite movies list.
If you don't know the film I'm talking about, allow me to offer this brief synopsis: a fresh-from-the-bar-exam, full-of-zeal-and-ideals lawyer, Jake Tyler Brigance (Matthew McConaughey), defends a black man, Carl Lee Hailey (Samuel L. Jackson), who gunned down two white men because he knew they would otherwise be acquitted for their crime of viciously raping, beating and disfiguring his 10-year-old daughter.
During one of the following scenes Carl Lee beseeches Jake from behind bars, "If you was on that jury, what would it take to set me free?!"
And the viewer is left hanging from the end of this question until one of the final scenes, a scene starting with Carl Lee’s lawyer asking an all-white jury to shut their eyes before he launches his closing statement.
With all the sweat, blood and fervor he can assemble, Jake Tyler Brigance proceeds to paint a horrifyingly vivid, step-by-step and brutal word picture of this little girl’s abuse.
When the he’s done detailing the entire inhuman atrocity, he pauses and says to their still-shut eyes:
"Now, imagine she's white."
And I’m positive now. A Time To Kill had a more formative effect on me than any other movie I watched as an adolescent, that single scene replaying in my brain like a pull-string doll; repeating itself in a thousand different variations from that first viewing, to years forward.
Over time it became a personal spiritual practice to imaginatively stick my substance inside the skin of other people until I heard. Until I felt. Until I knew even an iota--the tiniest shred--of how it was to walk around inside their bodies.
Even though I’d never actually walked a mile in their life.
It would go like this:
Erika, now imagine you’re . . .
Erika, now imagine you’re . . .
Erika, now imagine you’re . . .
See me sitting in a place long enough with a people in my mind--standing behind my eyes. And see me trying just enough to imagine everything. See me imagining what I would say to them if we were face to face, what I would do with my hands and my one thumping organ I’ve learned to call a heart.
Over years I cultivated this habit and would imagine touching my forehead to a forehead and just absorbing, absorbing the heave of another chest, the sorrow of another story, the texture of another skin. I would try to imagine the irises, the fear, the survivor’s strength; motion and emotions; languages, ways and rhythms.
I now have a strange condition called connection.
So here’s where I’m going with this:
Our next president is Donald Trump. And Donald Trump, by his own words and actions, has permissioned hordes of people to bring out into the open a hate that was somehow still festering within a countrywide wound we had no idea was so deep and rotten.
(If I’m giving DT the benefit of the doubt, I could say that possibly he unintentionally invited what he invited. MAYBE HE’S JUST THAT DUMB?! Maybe I need to get inside his skin, too, but I’m not there yet. Not today. Not when the Klan’s celebrating, and my very own friends are having their homes tagged and lives threatened because of their ethnicity.)
SO. Do I believe that everyone who voted for Donald is racist? NO! Not by a long shot, and not anymore than I believe people who voted for Hillary Clinton condone lying under oath or obstructing justice.
But it’s clear that we live in a world where it's NOT ENOUGH to NOT be something.
And as long as ANYone on our watch is oppressed in the smallest distance or degree, then it's our responsibility to imagine:
Imagine that your sons are black. Do it! Imagine that your sons are black and that one of your house rules is “No Hooded Sweatshirts”.
Imagine that your Hispanic roommate woke you up at 4 in the morning because you could hear her wailing through your bedroom walls.
Imagine that you are a refugee--not at the end of your rope--but with no rope left, being told there’s no room for you at America’s "Whites Only" Inn.
Imagine that one of your dearest friends is Queer, and that his life has been threatened in the streets all over again.
Imagine that your daughter is disabled.
Imagine that you’ve been sexually assaulted.
Imagine. Imagine. Imagine! Day in and day out, never stop imagining the removal of your own skin and the slipping into of someone else’s. If you voted for Trump, but didn’t look in the mirror to see someone other than yourself looking back, you might not have taken enough steps.
Then it’s our responsibility to ACT.
Again, I KNOW the majority of people who voted for Trump aren't against whole human groups, but if we’re going to get through this civil unrest together then we need to take a million steps down the road of unity.
We all have to walk straight into the kind of compassion Frederick Buechner talks about when he says “compassion is the sometimes fatal capacity for feeling what it’s like to live inside someone else’s skin.”
FATAL is the operative word. It is fatal to live inside some people’s skin, not because they face the same risks that every human faces--car accidents, cancer or heart attacks--but because who they are by NATURE is compromised. In fear. Under fire.
This a threat to our national security.
All of which is to say: If you voted for Trump and claim not to sanction what’s happening, then let’s jump out of our skin. Let’s become unhinged. Let’s publically demand that our president-elect stand up somewhere--anywhere--with a loud speaker and a screen and make a statement condemning and rejecting every act of violence that is being done in his honor. I want to hear him say: Not on my watch.

Erika Morrison is a writer and speaker, a visionary and life artist. With an unconventional approach to spirituality, she paints bold, prophetic portraits of Kingdom-come. Erika makes her home and invests her heart in the Yale University town of New Haven, CT along with her husband Austin; their sons Gabe, Seth and Jude; and a female pit bull named Zeppelin.

~ ~ ~

As a good Catholic girl, I have a confession to make. I voted for Donald Trump. I’ll pause for all the gag noises. I know, I know. All the things you’re thinking…I know. I have to say right up front that this is very difficult for me to write. I am the very least confrontational person on the planet (like when I return something to Target, I’m afraid the customer service worker is going to be mad at me and I get nervous). I’ve thought a lot about whether or not to write this because I sort of fear the negative commentary. I am very sensitive to harsh, negative criticism. But you know what? I’m pretty mad-sad, so I’m not going to hide. I go out of my way to be kind and respectful with my words when it comes to sensitive matters; politics being THE most sensitive of matters. So I ask that you are also kind and respectful with your words if any of what I say here gets your goat.
I went the entire election cycle without publicly saying a word (well except for that Vanilla Ice meme. That shit was funny. We all could have used the laugh). These last several months of social media campaigning have been bad for my heart. Generally, I don’t believe social media is the right platform for politics. I prefer cute cuddly otters, remember #betheotters? I find that people make their minds up for themselves and no matter how many memes or articles you display, it only creates animosity and divisiveness and is not productive in changing anyone’s vote. So in that vein I find it a little self indulgent. But this post-election vote-shaming is absolutely reprehensible and I will not stand by and let people make a mockery of me. It is insulting and offensive and should not be tolerated. Because, after all, isn’t one of the reasons that the anti-Trumpsters ARE anti-Trumpsters in the first place because they think he is intolerant of certain folks? Do you see the irony here people?
So back to my vote for Donald Trump. I am white. I am a woman. I am a college graduate. I am upper middle class. I am a devout Catholic. I am a conservative. But here’s what I am NOT: I am not a racist. I am not a homophobe. I am not a xenophobe. I am not a sexist. I am not a deplorable human being. You know what else I am not? STUPID. Being a conservative white lady doesn’t make me a moron just because that’s not what the cool kids are into. Politically conservative does not equal unabashed hatred. I am highly insulted that the media is “blaming” me and and all the other conservative white chicks for getting Trump elected. I am also highly insulted that the media, and even some of my more liberal leaning peers and relatives, are insinuating that I am a racist homophobe because I voted for Trump. Hello? Anyone in there?? That vote doesn’t mean that I am Donald Trump, ya’ll. If you know me personally, you know that I am not a racist, sexist, homophobe or xenophobe as he is accused of being. Casting my vote for Trump does not change that about me. Much the same way that casting my vote for Trump doesn’t make my hair cotton candy-ish,  my skin a puzzling orange creamsicle shade and my hands tiny like a baby. I am a flawed person just like everyone else. But I’m not hateful. Therefore, I do not deserve to be lumped in with those kind of people (and I do not deny that they exist). Newsflash: there did not exist a fairy with a magic wand at the polls who sprinkled hate glitter onto people when they voted for Trump. I am not the stereotypical IDEA of whom you think it is who voted for Trump; I am an actual PERSONwith thoughts and feelings and opinions of my own. I wasn’t hateful when I walked in, and I wasn’t hateful when I walked out.
I don’t owe anyone an explanation for why I voted for Donald Trump. It was my constitutional right to do so and I shouldn’t be shamed for it. Because, freedom, love and acceptance and all that jazz, right? But I will say this: Hillary Clinton and I have some fundamental differences in values. THAT is why I didn’t vote for her. Does that mean I am a puppet of Donald Trump and stand for every word that he uttered? The answer to that would be a very loud and high pitched NO. That is all I really care to say about that. But I am highly offended by the implication that because I am a white woman I should be ashamed that I didn’t vote for the white woman just because I share her gender and race. Do you know what that is, my friends? SEXIST AND RACIST. Stop and think about that. Doesn’t that strike you as, I don’t know, just a smidge hypocritical being that so many of these vote-shamers spew their hatred for Donald Trump because they believe him to be a racist and a sexist? This level of hypocrisy is mind boggling. Mind boggling, I say.
So let’s meander back to freedom, love and acceptance. Lean in close and hear me loud and clear: ACCEPTANCE AND LOVE ARE A TWO WAY STREET. We must not forget that. If you demand acceptance and love, you MUST, in turn, accept and love. Because, as I tell my elementary aged children: Jesus commanded very simply that we shall love our neighbor. Well…loving your lovable neighbor, the one you like, the one with whom you laugh, the one with whom you share fundamental beliefs is easy, breezy, lemon-squeezy. But loving your unloving neighbor, the one with whom you disagree, the one with whom you argue, the one you with whom you wouldn’t be caught dead having a beer is freaking HARD, man. THAT is when you know you are doing it right. THAT is when it counts the most. But guys, here’s the kicker: it goes for BOTH sides. We must be kind to one another. It really is that simple. I often remind my children (and shouldn’t have to remind adults) that when people are unkind to you, you should be extra kind to them. They might really be in need of kindness themselves but don’t know how to ask for it. It is hypocritical to preach “love trumps hate” while at the same time harboring a vicious contempt for our president elect and those who voted him into office. It is curious to me that “love trumps hate” is being used as a slogan by a movement that kinda hates our newly elected president. The bottom line is that you don’t get to pick and choose to love and accept only when it falls in line with your agenda. That sort of defeats the acceptance part. Love will only trump hate if we ALL participate. Capisce?
So, in closing, he won people. He won fair and square whether you like it or not. If you are an American citizen, he IS your president. No amount of hashags or tweets can change the constitution so you’re wasting your thumb strength. Redirect your energy to being the change you want to see in this country. I am a patriot. I love my country. I value the gift of freedom and the chance to have my voice heard. But my voice does not deserve to be shamed. That, my friends, is just plain un-American.
Suzy Clark Carlisle is a Gainesville, Florida-based writer, dedicated wife and mother, and proud Catholic.