Welcome to Living from My Abundance

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We all have an abundance of something, and sometimes we see our own abundance better through the eyes of someone else. We were put on this earth to share, to love, to give and to grow. Let’s live from our abundance together. And leave the legacy we are called to leave. Keep reading for tips, ramblings, recipes and more.

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Lessons from Haiti

Since my return from Haiti three days ago, my mind has been continually processing my experiences there.  I knew those 7 days would greatly affect my life, and yet I am still amazed by their impact.

I learned (or was reminded of) so many things, and these are the things upon which my thoughts continue to dwell.  (Click on the photos for additional comments.)

  1.  The Haitians are a beautiful and generous people.
    We stayed in the home of a Haitian family, and their service to and sacrifice for us was humbling.  There were 26 of us on the team, and we all stayed in this one mission house.  The family lived downstairs and we lived upstairs.  We had plenty of space, but we truly took over that place.  They prepared a hot breakfast for us every morning (usually between 6:00 and 6:30) and they had a hot supper ready for us every evening.  They cleaned our bathrooms, answered our endless questions, put up with our (extreme!) loudness and even washed our sheets mid-week.  Almost every time I thanked Anna, the lovely woman of the house, she smiled and said, “You deserve it”.  I don’t know what I did to deserve that kind of hospitality, but the experience has made me want to be a kinder, gentler and more gracious hostess to my guests.  I hope that I can one day return the favor by hosting this family at our little farm some day and pouring love out all over them!
  2. Hot, running water is perhaps my favorite luxury.
    Let’s just say that significant amounts of sweat + clouds of dust from travel + sunscreen + insect repellent + being petted by dozens (hundreds?) of children = its own kind of gritty stanky-ness which is not easily removed by cold water.  Even after having steeped myself like a teabag in hot American H2O, I am still discovering particles of Haiti in my ears.

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    Rachel and Reba on dish duty…with cold water. I wish I would’ve taken a photo of the piles of dirty dishes.

  3. Toilet paper is a beautiful thing.
    I think that’s all I need to say about that.
  4. The need in Haiti is tremendous.
    Anyone who dedicates their lives to serving God in Haiti has received a noble calling.  So many children need a family.  They need education.  They need medical attention.  They need skilled training.  They need food.  They need Jesus.  In spite of their obvious need, though, they remain thankful for what they have been given.
    Our host, Pastor Maxeo, shared a little bit of his story with us; this is what I understood (hopefully correctly) of it:  His dad died when he was 9 years old.  Although he still had his mother, she struggled to provide for her family.  A Baptist Mission came alongside this family and offered Maxeo (and his brother, I think) the opportunity for academic and spiritual education.  Pastor Maxeo thrived in this environment and gave his life to the Lord at age eleven.  Since then, he has been faithful in making sure to do for the “least of these” what others had done for him.  If you ever want an opportunity to made an impact in Haiti, I know a guy who will hook you up with as many opportunities as you want.
  5. Most Americans who attempted to drive through Port-au-Prince would never make it out alive.
    Stop signs are merely suggestions.  Two-lane roads routinely pack cars in four across.  Peddlers and beggars flock around the vehicles if white people are inside.  Curbs and sidewalks may be used as roadways when deemed necessary.  Pedestrians do not–I repeat, do not–have the right of way.
  6. I loved Haitian food!
    I was pretty sure I wouldn’t have any trouble with eating Haitian food.  I was surprised, though, by how very, very much I enjoyed it.  I don’t know if all Haitian food is as tasty as Anna’s cooking was or not, but I am going to try to duplicate a few of her recipes.  I had the best fried okra of my life, a fantastic vegetable casserole that reminded me of a very thick stew, several yummy soups and a delightful savory bean sauce to serve over rice.  We also enjoyed platters heaped with fresh avocado, pineapple and mango.
  7. My kids are pretty awesome.
    My oldest daughter, Rachel, was her normal helpful, pleasant, relaxed self while we were in Haiti.  When my husband asked how she did, I responded with, “She was a trooper.  It was like going on a mission trip with you”.  She did what she needed to do (even though some of it was really hard), she never complained (in spite of being physically ill one afternoon/evening), she created no drama, she was kind to everyone, she tried one new thing after another and loved on every child that God set in her path.  I am super proud of her.
    My other two kids went above and beyond while we were gone.  They took care of all of our animals, prepared all of the meals, did more than their share of garden work (even putting up over 200 ears of corn while Dave was at work) and kept the house tidy (or at least had it tidy by the time I got home!).  They even watered my flowers and fed the hummingbirds while I was gone!  I haven’t heard a single complaint from them, either.  So proud!
  8. Haitians are resourceful people.
    I don’t have much in the way of photos to prove this, because the last thing I wanted to do was to make anyone feel self-conscious.  With the language barrier, I’m not sure that I could have adequately conveyed my intentions when asking permission to take a picture.  There were many examples, though, of the ingenuity of the Haitian people.
    On one occasion, I saw a Haitian man sitting on top of a pile of rocks.  He had a makeshift beach umbrella (improvised out of a pole and a tarp) planted in the top of the pile, and he was sitting under it with a standard heavy-duty hammer.  Clank, clank, clank went his hammer as he broke the large rocks (think of a junior-sized football) into pieces of gravel that you find in an American driveway.  This pile of rock had been dug out of the ground during an excavating project and left in a mound roughly equivalent to a heaping pick-up truck load.  Clank, clank, clank.  One rock at a time, this useless pile was being transformed into a commodity.  Impressive.
    Another example (and I know that this will stress some of you out, but remember that Haiti is a Third World country) of this resourcefulness is that, in the massive city of Port-au-Prince, animals were often seen “grazing” the city dumps.  Dogs, chickens, pigs, goats and even cattle were seen rooting through the garbage for food.  (Often the goats and cows were intentionally staked on a long rope and moved daily.)  On two occasions, I saw children sorting through the trash to find something worth selling or keeping.  These were sobering moments for me.  Lord, please provide for these children.

  9. I don’t belong in a paddy wagon.
    Several years ago, our family traveled to the West Coast and back on vacation.  Part of our route traced the Oregon Trail, and I remember marveling at the fact that people like me endured that terrain in a covered wagon.  Those folks were made of some stout stuff!
    Well, our sole source of transportation while in Haiti was a vehicle that I affectionately dubbed “the paddy wagon”.  It was basically a heavy-duty cage on wheels, and we typically bounced and jounced for 2-3 hours on the way to the day’s work site…and then bounced and jounced 2-3 hours on the way back to the mission house.  I could not help but think of those folks on the Oregon Trail.  While the roads in Port-au-Prince were fairly smooth, the constant…ummm…assertive acceleration combined with the thorough application of the brakes could throw us around like rag dolls if we weren’t properly planted.  When we got off the main roads, our means of travel really took their toll as we traversed ground that was more like an excavation site than a roadway.  I was pleased (and mildly shocked) to discover that my back only needed a few minor adjustments when I saw the chiropractor this morning.
  10. I’d rather garden in Indiana than in Haiti.
    I sure felt bad for the growers I saw hoeing around the rocks on the mountainsides.  And, truth be told, I felt bad for the spindly little plants I saw trying to struggle along to harvest.
  11. Kids are kids all over the world.
    Between the girls’ orphanage, a transition home for girls just turned 18, a church in Petionville, the pastor’s four kiddos and a school/church in Gallette Chambon , we saw a lot of children.  Some were sweet; some were sour.  Most were thrilled to receive whatever we could give them.  The older ones were sometimes reserved.  The younger ones sometimes clung to us.  Sometimes they got so excited they needed reined in; sometimes we had to coax them into participation.  Either way, they were precious.  Absolutely, completely and totally precious.
    My favorite story was of a young girl (maybe 12 or 13) getting handfuls of candy and stuffing it in the little ones’ pockets so that the older boys wouldn’t snatch it from their hands.
    Another sweet moment was when a girl, probably around 9 or 10, came to me with a piece of the construction paper we gave her.  She held it up to my face and I saw that she had carefully printed “Love” on it.  In halting English, she told me that she loved me and wanted me to have that paper.  That paper is now on my fridge, a tangible reminder of a little girl in Haiti who was willing to show love to a complete stranger.  I will pray for her when I look at that orange piece of construction paper.
    One more story:  On our last day at the mission house, our hosts made arrangements to gift us with a day at a private beach on the Caribbean.  (Rough life, I know!)  The private property was owned by missionaries that used the house as a home for Haitian employees of the mission as well as a base for community outreach.  While we were there, we played in the warm, clear water, picked up sea urchins, swam to a coral reef, studied snails and crabs and just enjoyed a break.  We even got to hear a Christian Haitian band perform a few songs!  Toward the end of our time there, I noticed a group of four Haitian boys standing off to the side.  As soon as I made eye contact with them, the oldest one walked toward me with a bunch of handmade bracelets.  He wanted to sell them to our group.  I asked if he had made them, and he replied that his sister had. I then asked the price, which dropped very quickly from $5.00 each down to $1.00 each.  I then let the rest of my team know of their availability.  As a few of my team members were looking over their options, a young Haitian girl (probably early teens) approached the boys.  After a heated discussion in Creole, I correctly guessed that this was the older sister…and she was not happy about the steep decline in price.  From that point on, any time the boy said, “$1.00”, she said, “$2.00!!”.  It was entertaining to watch.  After everyone walked away with their purchases, the group stood off to the side and waited.  I walked back over and asked how many they had left; he counted six bracelets.  I bought the rest of them, and even the big sister smiled at the price I offered.  I told them that I was glad to meet them, that the bracelets were pretty and that I was proud of their hard work.  I then encouraged them to be good.  The boy shook my hand and asked, “Can I come back to bring more tomorrow?”  Lord, please provide them with opportunities for honest work among safe people who will lead them to You.

  12. I like cold drinks.
    Unlike my husband, I don’t have to have ice in my drinks, but I was reminded that I find cold water much more refreshing than tepid or warm water.  As a matter of fact, I was so hungry for something cold by Wednesday of last week, that when the team stopped at this Americanized grocery store to use the facilities (which were, sadly, out of order), Rachel and I went on the hunt for some ice cream.  Mission accomplished!

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    Oh, Haagen-Dazs, we love you! (And thank you for making those tiny-sized cups with a spoon built right into the lids!)

  13. Haitians use their heads.
    We saw Haitian men and women carrying all kinds of things on their heads–lumber, 50-lb. bags of rice, huge baskets of produce and dried plantains, dozens of eggs and even half of a concrete block!  Let’s just say that I’ve decided to stick with using my hands when carrying our farm-fresh foods!
  14. America’s young adults need solid, biblical counsel.
    If I remember correctly I was the second-oldest woman on the trip. (Thank you, Robin!)  This was mostly fine with me, because I like young people.  And, fortunately, I have learned that every phase of life has its advantages and disadvantages, so I can usually maintain a healthy perspective regardless of whom I’m with.  This came in very handy last week.  You see, I’ve already been where most of my teammates are.  I’ve struggled through not feeling supported by some of my family.  I’ve graduated from college.  I’ve succeeded and failed in relationships.  I’ve weighed the pros and cons of marriage in general and a husband in particular.  I’ve gone through seasons of letting the devil whisper in my ear, telling me how worthless and hypocritical and completely “not enough” I am.  I’ve struggled with body image.  I’ve been lazy in my faith.  I’ve made mountains out of molehills and held grudges when I should forgive.  I’ve judged other people’s decisions without ever considering their perspective, and I’ve acted on impulse (over and over and over again).  I love those girls I worked alongside last week, and I was honored time and time again when one of them would trust me enough to ask for my counsel.  In that 7 days, we went from learning one another’s names (Churning Butter Caroline, Racing Rachel, Artistic Anissa, Trusting Trista) to covering some tough topics on friendship, discipleship, family issues, sex, faith, self-worth, homeschool and so on.  Some of these girls felt like they had no one they could ask these questions of.  Dear Church, this should not be!  These young people need our support!  The world they are encountering is more difficult than what most of us encountered at their age, and we have some of the skills necessary to help them navigate it.  Wisdom.  Love.  Patience.  Grace.  Truth.  We can keep redirecting them to Jesus and to His Word.  Even if our hearts our willing, we must prove our availability.  We need to go out of our way to invest in this generation of believers.  Some of them might end up married to our own children and grandchildren!  Let’s invest in them as though we know this to be true.
  15. Haiti is a country of stunning beauty.
    For some reason, this surprised me.  I had obviously never taken much time to research this island nation’s topography.  It is beautiful!  The mission house was on Black Mountain, which (I think) is the highest mountain in Haiti.  The view from our little balcony every morning and every evening was so soothing–even during a thunderstorm!

    I know this is a looooong blog.  In spite of that, I have only scratched the surface of my experiences regarding my time in Haiti.

    Thank you so much to those of you who have prayed and given and counseled and encouraged us on this journey.  We are so blessed to have your support!

    So thankful to be back home again in Indiana…with a piece of our hearts left forever in Haiti.

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The Life of a Christian

The following story was written by my son, Isaac, last winter.  He is fourteen, and I think he is pretty stinkin’ amazing–for a number of reasons.  I hope you are as encouraged by his story as I am.  

The cold air bit at my toes as I tried to warm up the bed. It had been a long, hard day. As sleep came I was swept into an unforgettable dream…Two paths split from where I stood. The one to the left appeared easy. Straight and wide, many travelled this way.
But the one to the right of where I stood looked difficult and treacherous. It wound steeply up a mountain and was lost among the rocks and rivers.

The path to the left lead to a massive pit out of which came the sound of screams and agony. Fire licked the sides of the pit and yet darkness pervaded the area. However, at the end of the difficult path was a kingdom of light. Joy seemed to emanate, shining its light to all around. A man stood before this kingdom “dressed in a robe reaching down to His feet, and with a golden sash around His chest. His head and hair were white like wool, as white as snow, and His eyes were like blazing fire”. (Revelation 1:13-14). He seemed to beckon me from afar.

Then I saw beside me one of my friends. He, too, saw the two paths and the pit and the radiant kingdom with the brilliant man standing before it. Together we started down the right path, seeking to reach the beautiful kingdom. We stumbled on together lifting one another up when the other fell. Our progress was slow and difficult. We pushed on, though, the only thing keeping us going was the reward and each other. Ahead we saw a sign that read The Valley of Humility. The valley looked desolate and dangerous. We could see many men cross over to the path to the left on reaching this place. Those who did were swept along with the crowd, unable to turn back. We then saw three people try to go around the valley. It seemed easy enough, but then, as we watched, they stumbled and fell onto the path of destruction where they were carried off by the crowd.

“See how much easier it looks over there!” I said pointing “Let us travel that path for a while and then come back over here.”

But my friend said “No, if I fall I wish to be found on the path of my Lord, not on the easy path of destruction.”

“Suit yourself, fool,” I said “But as for me, I will go on the easy path, then I will switch when I get close to the end.”

He begged me not to do this but my mind was made up.

I ran back down the path I had worked so hard to climb. Going back is easy, I decided, for most of it was downhill. The farther down the path I got, the easier it was to go. Before long I was flying towards my fate. On arriving at the beginning I quickly turned down the left path. I have not been deceived! thought I. This path is easy to travel indeed. Looking to the right I saw The Valley of Humility. Not much further down I saw my friend toiling down the “path of the peace” (Romans 3:17). Ha! I thought, this path is so much easier!

Not much later I heard the pitter patter of feet coming up behind me. I turned and saw a man running towards me on the path of destruction. I hailed him and asked his name.

“My name,” he said “is Billy. What should I call you?”

“Paul,” I said.

We traveled down the path together for some way. I told him of how I had been traveling the path of peace but had turned aside when I saw how easy this one was. “I plan to turn back when I am almost to my destination” I said.

He told me that he didn’t believe that there was really anything at the end of the paths. He said that it was only an illusion. “And,” said he “why not travel the easy path if there isn’t anything at the end?”

After we were nearly to the end of the path I told him that I was going to turn aside and go to the path of peace.

“Have it how you like it,” he said “But I will stay here on this easy path. For as I said before, there is nothing after death, so why not enjoy life?”

I nodded but then turned to go right. “Ouch!” I exclaimed. It seemed that there was something in the way. I tried again and still I was not able to pass to the other path. It was as if there was an invisible wall in the way. What’s this? I thought why can’t I go to the other path? Then I heard a voice exclaim “you must turn and go back the way you came. Make right the evil that you have wrought. Then, and only then, will you find Me.” I looked and saw that it was the righteous man clothed in white that had said these things. I sat down on the path where I had previously stood so cocky. All the way back? I thought.

“Why have you forsaken me Lord?” I shouted.

“It was not I that forsook you, loved one. Rather it was you that left me.”

What have I done? I thought.

Picking up a burst of strength and determination, I fought my way back up the path. I was moving along, slowly but surely, and I could just barely see the end of the path (Or should I say the beginning?), when all of the sudden, whoosh! I was knocked off my feet by a giant gust of wind. Hot air tore at my body making me cry out in pain. I stumbled back up, then it came again, whoosh! I turned and behold! Flying up behind me was a huge red dragon. It swooped low on the path and came to a landing in front of me, barring the way to the path of peace. The beast snarled and reached its massive head down to look me in the eyes. Hot air rose from its nostrils and choked me. But then it spoke, and its voice was so sweet and convincing I forget about its razor sharp teeth and its spear like claws, its evil eyes and its harsh red scales. It said “Why are you leaving the beautiful path I made for you?”

“This is a path of “ruin and wretchedness”” (Romans 3:16) I said. “I am traveling the path of peace so that I might see the righteous man and His kingdom.”

“But isn’t this path so much better?” the dragon said soothingly.

“The path seems better for sure,” said I “But the path is short so it’s what lies at the end that really matters.”

“Why, you ungrateful wretch!” the dragon snarled, his voice suddenly terrible, “You will pay for that! I shall take you back to my pit where you will be my slave forever!” he then lunged at me, seeking to take me up in his powerful claws and carry me back to his dark abode.

I barely ducked under his claws in time. I then rolled and started running back to the path of peace but it didn’t seem that I would make it. I could again feel the dragon’s massive wings grabbing air and throwing it under his body. I tripped and fell as a scorching blast knocked me off my feet. A huge jet of flame tore into the ground ahead of me, the scorched soil burned my feet as I ran over the top of it.

Ten more feet to go and I would be on the path of peace. Five more feet, three more feet, now I’m on it! I’m running down the path with the dragon in close pursuit. I stumble and fall. Now he’s got me for sure. He’s rearing back his head, ready to bathe me in a torrent of flame. But wait, he hears something. Say, I hear it too. Ten knights rush into sight. They all carry spears or lances and big shields. Plus, they have swords strapped to their waists. They launch their weapons at the dragon and quickly draw their swords. They are dismounting! They move and cut the dragon on one velvety wing, then on its right leg. The knights are all working as a marvelous team, as though one body. The beast twists around and blows flame every which way. The knights are ducking behind their shields as I quickly cower behind a rock. The beast is making one last sweep with its claw then it’s flying away! Back to its terrible abode.

One of the knights walked up to me and removed his helmet. He then said “Welcome back to the path of peace. The Master is overjoyed.”

“But I am just one man,” I stated “How could He be so glad that I have come back? Surely He already has many people in His kingdom.”

“Ah,” said the knight “The Master cares not for the quantity of souls in His kingdom. He cares for each as an individual. It is not the number that matters, rather the sincerity.”

“He must be a truly wonderful king.” I said.

“Aye, that He is.”

The knights all mounted their horses and rode off into the distance.

I stood in the middle of the path for a short while, bewildered.

Nearly an hour later I found myself before the valley with the sign that read The Valley of Humility. I slowly climbed down the crooked path leading to the valley of humility. Off to the left of me I could see a cave out of which came the sound of terrible, haughty laughter.

Out of this cave came a man who was everything I wanted to be, handsome, strong, successful, carefree. He had a cocky smile and it was clear that he had spared no expense on his clothing. He didn’t seem to notice me, or really, anything else, only himself.
“Hello,” I said “Who might you be?”

“Oh dear,” the man said “I am sorry. I guess I just didn’t see you there. My name, of course is Paul, you should know that sir, for I am you.”

‘But how can this be?” I asked “I don’t have money or nice clothes as you do.”

“Well” Paul said “You’re not exactly me “The only difference is the paths we travel. You see, I travel the easy path over there,” he said pointing “But you travel this difficult path. You will be just like me if you travel on the other path.”

“But sir, I have been on that path and I was almost eaten by a dragon!”

“Aye, there is a dragon over there friend.” Paul said “He really is very nice. If there is one thing though that he can’t stand is ingratitude.”

“Sorry sir,” I said “but I shall stay on this path, for the one who made it saved my life.”

“Don’t apologize to me,” Paul said “You are the one who is missing out.”

It took all my will to press on from that dark place but I did. As I arose from the brink of The Valley of Humility I could see ahead of me, only a mile or so, The Righteous Man and His kingdom.

I ran down the path because it was now straight and level. 20 feet or so from the gate of the beautiful kingdom the path turned to solid gold. I threw myself down at the feet of the one with snow white hair. But he laid a loving hand on my shoulder and said “rise”.

I stood and looked Him in His fiery eyes and He said “Well done, good and faithful servant.”

I burst into tears at His words. The times I had doubted, the times I had turned aside and yet He told me “well done” and “good and faithful”.

I entered the radiant kingdom and found my friend, he greeted me with tears and together we explored heaven.

1 Day ’til Haiti

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Petion-ville, Haiti: Next week’s home away from home.

With the exception of a couple more quick checks here and there, I am getting ready to log off the internet for a week.  Rachel and I leave for the airport at 2:30 tomorrow and are scheduled to be back late next Saturday night.  We are taking no means of communication at all, so we’ll be completely unplugged.  While I am looking forward to that from a ministry standpoint, I will miss touching base with Dave and the kids in the worst way.

Please take care of them for me, Jesus.

The gifts and supplies that have covered our pool table for the better part of a week are now tucked carefully into our luggage.  We are still checking (and quintuple checking) our carry-on bags against our packing lists.  Even though I know we will forget something, my prayer is that whatever we forget can be easily done without.

Rachel has been burping garlic all day from the garlic capsules we’re taking to ward off mosquitos.  I told her it will be worth it if we can avoid coming home with malaria and/or chikungunya.  I hope she gets it under control by the time we are cozily seated next to complete strangers on an airplane tomorrow.  Haha!

I’ve got surprise goody bags ready for the kids I’m leaving behind.  I’ve also made a list of things they need to remember for next week.  Like I told my sister, though, it will all work out.  Even if everything isn’t done exactly the way it needs to be done, it will be fine.  My biggest hope is that everything just stays alive.

So many people have pledged to pray for us, and it gives this momma great comfort.  I don’t know exactly what we will face, so I thank you for every second you spend in prayer on our behalf.  Pray as the Lord leads you.  And, if you’re not sure how to pray, here are a few things that are especially weighing on my heart:

  • Travel–especially hitting our connecting flights on time.  We have lots of layovers in unfamiliar airports.
  • Good health–for all of us.  Rachel and I really want to be able to serve without restraint while we’re in Haiti, so we pray that we are not slowed down by illness (or by my back pain which has been making itself known for the first time since last winter).  I also appreciate your prayers for those of us staying home.  They will have a lot more on their plates than they usually do, and I know that things will be easier for everyone if they can stay strong and healthy enough to do it.
  • Courage.  All of us are going to be experiencing new things, and we want to have the courage to experience them without fear.
  • Ministry.  Please pray that we see the people we encounter through the eyes of Jesus.  No matter how people respond to us, we want to be Christ to them.
  • Peace.  This is the first time I’ve ever taken one of my children to a third-world country.  This is also the first time I’ve ever left any of my children behind while I’ve gone to a third-world country.  It’s messing with my head a little bit.
  • Reunification.  I told God this morning that I really do want to go to be with Him, but that I’d like to finish my job here first.  So, unless He’s done with me here, I’d really like to tie up some loose ends in this world before I move on to the next.
  • Impact.  I honestly don’t know how in the world I could impact the country of Haiti for the Kingdom of Christ in 7 days.  BUT, I serve a God who uses ordinary people to do extraordinary things all the time.  Rachel and I want to be extraordinary for Him next week–even if it’s just for one precious person.

Thank you so much for following along with us and for praying for us.  We know that this next 7 days will go very quickly, and then we will be home to inundate you with photos!  Until then, orevwa!

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2 Days ’til Haiti

I thought the week started off busy, but apparently we were just getting started!  We are doing all of our normal stuff with the canning, freezing and pickling the bushels of produce coming out of our gardens as well as caring for our poultry and livestock.  Our 49 meat birds are growing quickly and able to be out on grass through the day, so we are moving them in and out of the garage.  We hope to have them permanently relocated to their movable outdoor pen in the very near future, which will save us the hassle of hauling them back and forth.

We have also had lots of visitors this week–some more welcome than others.  Friends and family have been the welcome ones; a small herd of wandering cattle…not so much.  Fortunately, we got the cows away from the gardens and fruit trees with minimal damage and into our pasture where Rue and T-Bone will entertain them until their owner returns from Tennessee early next week.

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See all these cows? Only 2 belong to us. The rest were standing in my yard when I went to let the chickens out yesterday morning.

I have been cooking some of the kids’ favorite foods each evening for supper.  I don’t know why exactly, except that I tend to show love through food.  We’ve had Cheesy Chicken Bundles, calzones made with Samantha’s Pizza Crust, chicken parmesan, Zucchini Garden Chowder with Zucchini Cheddar Drop Biscuits, burgers on the grill and Farmgirl Chocolate Chippers.  Maybe I’m trying to make sure my younger kids miss me while I’m gone. I know I’m going to miss them!

It occurred to me on Wednesday evening that I should check with our group leader to see if there was something we could take to give to the missionaries who are hosting us.  I don’t know why I didn’t think of it sooner, but I didn’t.  I’ll be honest:  I was thinking a smallish gift…like in the $20-$30 range.  You know, good chocolates, books, school supplies…something like that.  The leader checked with her contact and said that the husband could really use a “nice watch” and that their youngest daughter (10 months old) could use a “nice, frilly dress” for church.  “Nice watch” and “nice, frilly dress” are not things that I would typically pick out for people I’ve never met…and the two of them together definitely don’t fall into the $20-$30 price range.

I remembered that a friend from college said that I could expect $100 from her in the mail this week, so I texted back to the group leader that I had $100 to spend and asked if that could buy what would qualify as a “nice watch”.  She said that “nice” just meant “new” because this host family rarely gets anything new.  They felt the man needed a reliable watch that was somewhat dressy and that the baby girl could use a pretty dress.  (Most of the various Caribbean peoples really spruce up for church on Sundays.)

I very rarely buy new clothing or accessories for my family or for myself.  We have always been content with secondhand items, and I imagine that we always will.  However, I cannot imagine what it would be like to live in a situation in which my husband went to work every day without a watch because he couldn’t afford one.  Or, imagine the delight of having one new outfit for your baby girl.  I remember my baby girls receiving more beautiful brand new clothes than they could be reasonably expected to wear before they outgrew them.  I really wanted to fill this order for these people I’d never met.

So, thanks to the check in the mail from one friend and another friend who was willing to do the shopping for me while I pickled cucumbers, we have a sweet little summer dress for a precious baby girl and a handsome watch for her daddy.  We were hoping to find “Latin American frilly” for this baby, but that just wasn’t what could be found on the rack at Marshall’s yesterday.  That kinda frilly just isn’t en vogue here in the Hoosier State.  Hopefully they like it anyway.  The friend who did the shopping for me added the fuzzy sandals as a gift especially from her.

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Because every little girl needs fluffy pink sandals, right?

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I can only imagine how strange it was for my personal shopper to pick out this watch for a man she’s never met. I think she did a good job, though, and we hope he likes it!

Because of the generosity of another encouraging friend we bumped, the rest of the children in this family will have their choice of a variety of athletic equipment, craft supplies, toys and snacks.  The mom will have some scented soaps and a stockpile of hand-crocheted dish cloths.  Perhaps we will be given insight into other needs while we are there and can meet those needs as well.

Tomorrow, Rachel and I will finish packing.  I also hope to have a much more organized list for the family that will hold down the fort while we’re gone and tie up a few remaining loose ends.  After that, I hope to soak up time with my little family:  homemade ice cream, maybe a movie or some games and just reinforcing over and over and over in a dozen different ways how very blessed I am to be part of their world.

 

 

4 Days ’til Haiti

Rachel and I spent much of today shopping for VBS supplies, donations for the orphanage and last-minute necessities for our trip to Haiti.  We enjoyed our time together, and we found some good deals which stretches our dollars even further than we’d hoped.

One of the things I’d been wanting to get was a passport/document pouch.  It discreetly holds passports, insurance cards, extra cash, etc. and can be worn across the body underneath clothing with very little discomfort/annoyingness.  It is also hands-free and will not prohibit my ability to play frisbee, jump rope or kick the soccer ball with the Haitian children.  I’ve carried one every time I’ve gone out of the country, and I thought I knew where my old one was, but I couldn’t find it.  I’m thinking it went to the thrift store in my last big purge a couple of years ago.  Anyway, I had priced them online, and I just didn’t want to spend the money.  I am very aware that part of what we are spending has been given by other people, and I just want to be a good steward of that.  I pulled up the website one more time yesterday, looked for a little while, and then just decided to skip the pouch for this trip.  I felt peace with the decision.

Guess what I found at the first thrift store we stopped in today?  Not only that, but we also found one at the last store we stopped at today, which was a dollar store!  So, now Rachel and I both have access to a passport pouch for the total investment of $3.50.  Now that’s provision!

Speaking of provision, I have been amazed and humbled by God and His people as we gear up to leave.  We have had friends come to our house just to hug us before we leave(which is a huge gift when you consider that we live in the middle of nowhere!).  We have received encouraging emails, sweet texts, beautiful letters, promises of prayer, wise counsel, craft supplies, ministry donations, checks in the mail, deposits in our PayPal account and cash pressed into our hands.  This is such a lovingly awkward position to be in for me.  Part of me rebels at receiving these gifts.  (Pride, maybe?)  Part of me revels in Jehovah Jireh, our Lord Who provides!

One of the prayers I’ve often prayed as we prepare for this trip is that God enables Rachel and me to be His hands and feet to the people we will encounter while we are gone.  I find it reassuring that we have been so surrounded by Him before our plane even leaves the ground by all of YOU who are being His hands and feet to us right now.

We truly thank you.  We are prepared to pay it forward, and we ask that the Lord multiplies it by His grace.

 

Green Tomato Bread

 

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Yep.  You read that right.  Green. Tomato. Bread.

Several years ago, my friend, Charlene, gave me a recipe for this tasty treat and encouraged me to try selling it at my Farmers Market booth.  I never quite got around to making it for my customers, but I did try the bread and deemed it very good.

Well, because of my not-so-great pruning skills, our tomato plants are a mess this year.  Apparently, Farmer Dave and I have a few communication issues.  To (hopefully) remedy the situation, Dave went through our 60-some plants with a pair of pruners and a heavy hand last week.  I wound up running five wheelbarrow loads of tomato branches to the pasture for the cows.

Yeah…I think I’m fired from that job for good.  (Darn it.)

Being the “waste not, want not” gal that I am, I pulled every green tomato bigger than a golf ball off of those vines and gleaned almost half a bushel of the tart fruit.  The problem is that we don’t really love green tomatoes.

So, I shared some with friends who do love green tomatoes and then I made some piccalilli, which is green tomato relish.  My aunts and uncles on my dad’s side enjoy this kind of thing, and I always like to take them a little something at Christmas.  My mom pledged to taste-test it for me to determine whether or not it’s fit to eat.  She’s a brave soul, my mom.

I still had some green tomatoes left, and I remembered this bread recipe.  I made some into muffins for us for breakfast this morning, and I made one loaf for a friend and one loaf for the freezer.  My son said he was not super thrilled with the muffins, but I noticed that he ate more than one.  The rest of us did, too.  The best way to describe the flavor is a cross between a tart apple bread and zucchini bread.  Feel free to add a cup or so of nuts, raisin, dried cranberries or even chocolate chips.  Enjoy!

2 c. grated green tomatoes, juice and all (use the food processor, if you want)
1 1/2 c. sugar
3/4 c. oil
2 eggs
2 t. vanilla
1 t. salt
3 1/4 c. flour
1 T. cinnamon
2 t. ground cloves
1 t. ground ginger
1 t. baking soda
1/2 t. baking powder

Combine wet ingredients, including green tomatoes.

Add in dry ingredients, stirring until well-mixed.

Pour batter into 2 standard loaf pans (greased) and bake at 350 for 40-45 minutes, or until toothpick comes out clean.

Cool 15 minutes or so and remove from pans.

5 Days ’til Haiti

We are finally getting lots of solid information on where we’ll be staying, the work we’ll be doing and what we should take for the Haitian people.  Rachel and I plan to go shopping tomorrow to buy for our VBS supplies and donations to the ministry as well as to pick up any odds and ends we still need to take with us.  We plan to dedicate at least one of our checked bags to donations.  Ideally, it would be nice to donate the contents of both checked bags–as well as the bags themselves–to the Haitians, which would leave us without any checked luggage on the return trip.  Seems like a win/win to me.

Contrary to earlier information, we will be staying in Petion-Ville, Haiti while we are there. It’s a suburb of Port-au-Prince, and it looks like it’s up in the mountains a bit. This may mean cooler nights, which will be a relief. We will be working with an orphanage, which I know will change us forever. We were told that 1 in 15 Haitian children are enslaved. Very few have active fathers in the home, and many are sold–knowingly or unknowingly–into some form or other of slavery. Heartbreaking. Lord, help us to show these little ones Your hope.

I called the airline yesterday to talk to an actual real person about what we could and could not do.  Things have changed a lot since the last time I flew, which was when Rachel was six months old.  Apparently, even sealed bottled water could be a national security threat, so we will need to buy water at the airport if we want anything to drink on the plane.  I’m sure that works well for them.  The other shocker was that the airline recommends that we arrive 2 1/2 hours before departure.  Our flight is scheduled to leave at 6:21 a.m on Sunday.  While Rachel and I are fairly certain that we’ll be too excited to sleep Saturday night, I’m pretty sure that Dave would have no trouble getting a full night’s rest.  Instead, he will be taking his favorite wife and oldest daughter to the airport in the middle of the night.  Poor guy.  If he snores through church on Sunday, please give the man some grace.

While researching our malaria-prevention options, again and again I have been advised that the single best malaria preventative is to not get bitten by a mosquito.

Huh.  Go figure.

Suggestions for mosquito-bite-avoidance include consuming lots of citrus fruits (especially grapefruit, limes and lemons), eating garlic, dosages of cinnamon, slathering on the insect repellant and wearing long sleeves/skirts/slacks when bearable.  I personally will be doing all of the above.  I was told there was no need to take mosquito nets, but now I’m second-guessing that and wondering if perhaps I should.  I figure that if I’m going to buy them, today would be the day to do it.

One of my goals this week is to can, pickle or freeze something every day in order to leave our basement fridge empty for newly-picked produce next week.  This is not an unusual goal for this season, but it seems more of an undertaking this year due to our trip preparations and the push to get the kids’ school planning well underway.  I must confess that I feel a significant relief in only have two students in my classroom this year!  I have been so focused on kind of grieving Rachel’s graduation/move to adulthood that I am thrilled to find a lovely silver lining!

I have also decided that it would be smart for me to take our next child for her first cross-cultural missions experience before she graduates.  This way we can include certain aspects of her trip on her high school transcript.   Why didn’t I think of that the first time?!  Live and learn, I guess.

As I continue to prepare for this trip, Lord, help me to keep things in perspective.  Any of the concerns I have today are the concerns of a person living in luxury.  Help me to fix my eyes on You and to empty myself of the self-centeredness that tends to take the form of worry.  You have gone before us, and You will follow behind.  I trust You.