Sunday, May 5, 2013

the necessary tensions.

A sober moment was at Pastor St. Cyr's church, which is at the edge of tent city in Petionville.  I looked out from the windows of the church at a place where some have been living under tarps since the earthquake in January 2010.  I wanted to look because I don't want to forget it.  I don't want to forget the tension I feel in my gut due to the vast inequalities happening on this earth.

I felt tension when people looked back at me from their homes under the tarps.  It is not a zoo where people are to be on display like animals.  I want the image of tent city, just down the hill from a huge house overlooking the area, to be tattooed to the back of my eyelids as a reminder.  I want it to be a reminder to me that I'm supposed to be uncomfortable that this is happening anywhere on earth.  As a part of the church, we should be uncomfortable with inequality.

I don't want to conveniently avoid the knowledge that millions of the unborn are aborted every year, that a huge portion of the people on earth do not have access to clean water, that millions of young people cannot go to school, that vulnerable people in desperate situations are exploited...the list could go on and on.

I also don't want to conveniently ignore systemic injustices in my own backyard or those experiencing grief, loneliness, illness, or depression who are in my immediate circles. It's definitely sexier to take a trip to Haiti than it is to walk next door to visit my elderly neighbor.

I read Sarah Bessey's posts from the blogger trip back in October, and cried with her all over again.
Can I just say this, too? I need to say it: I’m so proud of the Church. So proud of the people of God, of the people of the Gospel. You know how I have gone, in the last few years, from being ashamed to call myself a Christian, eschewing even the title, to feeling like I am part of something beautiful, and holy, and communal. But The Bride of Christ has never looked lovelier to me than she did today, from my spot on the stones, sitting in Richard’s home, because the Gospel is at this intersection of it all this truth and reality and hope and grief, it’s social and it’s spiritual and it’s physical.
Amen, sister.  God is so evidently present there. There is so much good happening there.

Finally, I would point you here to this article, by Kent Annan.  Reading this article lead me to read one of his books  (Following Jesus through the Eye of a Needle) before I went on the trip, which helped me to gain a realistic perspective of what it is to live in a developing country.  I definitely recommend it.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

[non-exhaustive] list of favorites from Haiti

This might be one of my most and least favorite take-away's from the week long trip.  The trip was a huge blessing, and yet I find myself stuttering to say now what is my responsibility after all I've seen and heard.

Abby asked me last night, "How has the trip changed you?" to which I responded, "ask me the same thing in a month."

I can tell you some of my favorites from the trip:

-Getting to know the translators. They were all so smart, funny, handsome, and they love Jesus.

-A moment I will never forget was the last day at Yaveh Shamma, the orphanage run by Pastor Gaetan. Our team was without translators for a little while, so we got by on my broken french to communicate with the kids.  The girls began braiding my hair, and Dale busted out his guitar.  We all began singing worship songs in both English and Kreol.   The kingdom of God became a little clearer to me in that moment.     (Thanks to Jay Allred for shooting this video!)

-All the kids were so loving and kind. At the same time, they were not needy or desperate.  These kids are well loved at Yaveh Shamma. There was such kindness in the face of Pastor Gaetan, the man who calls himself the Shepherd charged with a precious flock.

-The leaders we met there- Pastor Jean Alix Paul (dreams big), Pastor Gaetan Alcegaire (biggest smile in Haiti), and Pastor Jean St. Cyr  (man of God who tricked me into coming up on stage during church).

-Prestige Lager. yes.

-Hearing the stories of Haiti's history.

Here's a link to the HelpOneNow site where you can sponsor a vulnerable child living in Drouin, Haiti, a small rice farming community 45 miles east of Port-au-Prince.  The local economy was devastated due to shipments of rice from USAID after the earthquake.

More stories to come....

Saturday, April 6, 2013

taking a trip to Haiti

First, head over here and watch this video.

Friends, I am visiting Haiti in less than two weeks.  I can't believe it's so close.  What started with a post from Sarah Bessey which resonated deep within, has materialized into a plane ticket, malaria meds, and a trip itinerary.

I am going with HelpOneNow:
Help One Now is a collective group of churches, businesses, communities and individuals from around the world. These people are dedicated to using their gifts, talents and resources to help end extreme poverty, care for orphans, rescue slaves and see communities transformed by serving our international partners through Help One Now. They sponsor kids, host garage sales, donate funds, take trips, advocate on our behalf, and much more.
The marathon and the fundraising for She's the First was a game-changer.  This is going to be another one of those, I feel.  I don't have any expectations of going to Haiti to 'save' anyone but really just to learn.  I want to see what God is up to in Haiti. I want to avoid paternalism in all its subtle forms.  I want to see God clearer. I want to escape from the screens for a little while. I want to meet some giants of faith.

I don't want to be anyone's hero. During the marathon training, Erin-Leigh and  I needed those girls probably more than they need(ed) us.

I've learned in the past few months that humans are not as different from one another as we may lead ourselves to believe. We are all broken and we need fixing.   I feel the best thing I can do for another human is to affirm their personhood, that they are made in the image of God who loves them dearly.  

I am pretty terrified of material poverty.  I am ashamed of my own materialism in the face of it, so it's usually easiest for me to just ignore it most of the time.  But, ignoring it doesn't make it go away (this also applies to the ever-growing stack of junk mail on the floor of my bedroom).   But material poverty has faces, people, stories.  I want to listen.  I want to break bread with my Hatian brothers and sisters.

So, if you are the praying type, please pray for safety and health and good rest. Please pray for humility.  Please pray for our team (as I am going to a team of 9 strangers), that friendships would form.  Pray for the pastors with whom we will work: Pastor Gaetan, Pastor St. Cyr, and Pastor Jean Alix.

The trip is April 17-24.

Thanks for praying, friends!!

Saturday, March 30, 2013

marathon musings

I've never been so disciplined about anything in my whole life as marathon training.   In the month of February, I logged over 125 miles ... and way more than I'm willing to admit were done on the treadmill.

 I owe a humble thanks to the treadmill, which I will do now.

Dear treadmills,
 I've always hated you, calling you the dreadmill and other dirty names. I still don't like you, but without you, I might have had to run out in the cold dark all alone. So thanks for being my friend when I didn't want to be yours.

Ok.  That's out of the way.  Y'all, the marathon was actually...FUN! The fun started thursday night and went all the way through monday.

I am overwhelmed by the generosity of our friends and families.  We raised nearly $9000 to send 26 Nepali girls to school for one year.  Anything over our original goal of $7800 will go to sponsoring the girls for additional years of schooling.  Seriously, friends, THANK YOU. 

Erin Leigh and I also grew much closer during the whole process of fundraising and training.   She has helped me see the value of dreaming big and reaching for the impossible.  We had an amazing time together, both running and goofing off (read: quoting SNL to each other).

In February, I started referring to the marathon as our baby, due on March 17.  Erin-Leigh (EL) was the dad, because she talked me into it.  The analogy worked perfectly.  One big reason for that is women have multiple children because they don't remember the pain of childbirth, but only the joy the experience.  The same with marathons.  My guess is that people run multiple marathons because they only remember the best parts.  Also, my labor only lasted less than 5 hours.  Not bad, eh?

The race itself was fantastic.  The weather was perfect. My dad and his girl friend Andrea came to see me at 6 places on the course (miles 1, 4, 8, 12, 18, and 25)!  My friends Angela, Jill, Zoe, and Kyle were at other places on the course cheering me on too!  Also, 1027church worked a water station right after mile 19.  They cheered  loud and proud for me, which obviously caused me to burst into tears.  I nearly to forgot to get water from them.  I was so thankful.

Here are things I ate during the marathon: jelly beans, clif bar energy gels (black cherry flavor), oranges, 1 GU energy shot, gummy bears, oreos, and m&m's (see EL's instagram about the m&m's).

The hills were a-plenty on the course.  Two of the biggest were on East Lake Drive and Lullwater Road. They were pretty merciless.  However, a few nights before the race, I learned a great mental trick from my new friend Shara.  When I come to the bottom of a hill, I say to myself, 'self, this is a 200 second hill....200, 199, 198..."  I count backwards all the way down, keeping my brain occupied, hoping that by the time I reach zero, I will have reached the top.  This worked wonders during the race.  I only stopped to walk during the water stations and once for like 25 yards around mile 23.

By the time I made it to un-chartered territory (mileage wise, I had only gone to 21 in my training), I was feeling ok.  I was the most tired in peidmont park.  My feet hurt pretty badly, and the downhills hurt just as much as the uphills.  But I knew I had only about 4 miles to go, which I can do in my sleep.  Also...I knew those m&m's were at mile 25.     By mile 25, I felt much better and knew I could finish.  I just wanted to keep running the entire time.

My friends Tabi and Tammy were at the finish line cheering for me at the finish, Tabi holding an amazing sign which she had made (like, with her bare hands...she made it. See below).   I crossed the finish line.  In 4:56:58.  (I used the restroom 2x during the we might say that it was in the neighborhood of 4:50).  My aunt and two cousins also came to meet me at the finish line!!  I was so thankful for the outpouring of love and support during this whole journey!

I walked back on the course to a few blocks before the finish line to wait for Erin Leigh, so I could finish alongside her.  This was one of the moments in life I hope to never forget.

Never say never, y'all.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

in the image of God, He created them...

(Genesis 1:27).

Now, I am not presuming to know how that happened.

I only want to point out some of the beauty in that statement.  Sometimes, when I hear love songs, it makes me pine away for a love of my own.  Then, yesterday, working in the lab (because God so often meets me there), it struck me.

Men whose lyrics cause me to swoon and blush were made in the very image of God.  He is a creator God.  He is an artist.  

Where did these men get this ability to compose such refrains?

While they may not profess to be on 'Team Jesus,' as Abby and Christian say, I believe that this ability comes from God, who spun all the cosmos into being.

The Marathon was amazing.  I plan to write about it this weekend. Stay tuned.

Friday, March 8, 2013

repenting of all my small dreams....

...Because people, 26 miles for 26 girls has officially sponsored 26 girls to go to school for one year...

PLUS four more of them have their tuition and fees covered for an additional school year.

I cannot adequately express in words how amazed I am.  Words don't do justice.

God is BIG.  We have raised money to meet our goal above and beyond what I thought was possible.  Two weeks ago, we had 10 girls sponsored.

I downloaded The Circle Maker as an audiobook for listening during my runs.  It's a book about prayer.  It's a book about praying big and praying specific, because when we do, God gets the glory.

Listening to the book, having my whole paradigm shift (see below), combined with 26 miles for 26 girls becoming reality are all playing into one big game change for me.  I've been thinking about how small my hopes and dreams have been.  I've always seen myself as the girl who gets married and has 3 kids by age 32.   While outwardly denying that I would ever want the American dream, I've secretly espoused the idea and longed for it in my heart.

(disclaimer: I'm not saying that there is anything wrong with these things.  I do still desire those things)

What I am saying is that through all these things mentioned above, I feel really set free to dream big about doing really amazing visiting Haiti (this is happening in April.  more deets to come), visiting all the US national parks, running a marathon(yea, I know) along the avenue of the giants (google it).  

Finally, for my paradigm shift.  I think I'm a feminist.  I've never burned my bra, nor do I hate men.  I believe that there was something truly radical in the way that Jesus treated women, as well as the role that women played in his life and the resurrection story.  I love the way that Jesus affirmed the value and personhood of the woman at the well (John 4) and how He restored not only the physical health of the woman who reached for the hem of his garment, but also her status in the community by telling her, "daughter, your faith has made you well. Go in peace."  (Luke 8:48)

A few months ago, on NPR, I caught the tail end of an interview with a woman who answered the question, "As a woman, in what time period or place would you most like to live?"  She stated very simply, "now...I don't think there's ever been a time or place that is as kind to women as right now."   I  agree with her.  Every time I cut the grass in my yard, I find myself thanking God that I have a good job to support myself, without need of a man to do so for me.  And not only that, but it's also completely socially acceptable for me to do so.

My thoughts on feminism, roles of women in the church and in marriage are changing.  I'm unsteady at best in my views on the subject.   Right now, when I say 'feminist,' I mean it in the way that I believe women are no less  valuable or capable than men.  The implications of this are far reaching.

Finally, I'll end on this note.  As a teen and young twenty something, I ate up books like I kissed Dating Goodbye, Boy Meets Girl, and Lady in Waiting.  All these are Christian books, well meaning, but now I believe them to be sadly misguided and damaging in the long term.  Look at the title of that last one, for God's sake.  Lady in Waiting?!  What am I waiting for? There is this not-so-implicit message in the title that somehow, as a single-Jesus-loving lady, I am waiting for my life to start when I get married.  Or that one day, when I get my sh*t together, when I have life and faith figured out, when I am completely satisfied in Jesus, my husband will appear.  Lies. Lies. Lies.

My life is happening now.  I'm not incomplete or less of a person because I'm single.  Also, I'll be figuring out life and faith for the rest of my time here on earth.  There will be no point at which I'll have arrived.

I could go on about how I've gotten here, but I think I'd rather have those conversations in real life, real time.

Here's to drinking coffee, dreaming big, and paradigm shifts.

Monday, February 25, 2013

this weekend. floored.

If I tried to make this post into a narrative, there would be too many words.  Also, I don't feel I could adequately express how amazing this weekend was for marathon training and fundraising for 26 Miles for 26 girls. 

  • It started Friday, when CBS aired our story, along with brief moments from my interview.  The producer of the segment, Kara, did a phenomenal  job at telling this story.  I was blown away.   Here's a link to the video of the segment on CBS's site.  
  • When I woke up Friday morning, we had 10 girls sponsored.  By the time I laid my head down to sleep Friday night, 12 were sponsored.  I prayed for 14 by the end of Saturday.  We had eighteen.   I prayed for 20 by the end of the weekend.  We currently have 22 girls sponsored after this weekend.   I am absolutely blown away!
  • In terms of training, I ran a total of nearly 21 miles on Saturday, mostly on the race course itself. Erin Leigh did her 20 miles in NYC.  The hardest part of training is over.    
  • We are now on a countdown to race day itself (20 days) and the end is in sight!  I [almost] don't want it to end!