Sunday, July 7, 2013

Sweep Your Floors!

Let me just say, I HATE cleaning floors.  I love a tidy house and work pretty diligently to maintain a sense of order in our house despite the elements of Haiti, my children and my husband.  When my environment is chaotic I feel it.  I find I walk in peace much easier if my home is squared away.  That being said, I still hate cleaning floors.  When we lived in the U.S.A.  I could easily get by with a weekly sweep but usually just ran the vacuum despite the fact  that we had all wood floors (or I let the kiddos do it...they thought it was a treat).  I will admit that I RARELY mopped.  And when I say rarely...I mean really rarely.  I even had one of those Swiffer mops with the throw away pads.  I know all you green people out there are choking but it will make you feel better to know that I hardly used it!  Messes were spot cleaned and I called it good.  It is just so much work!  And trying to keep little boys and their dog off wet floors is near impossible so I just didn't do it much.

Of course, we are now living in Haiti.  There are many beautiful things to Haiti (that calls for another post) but it is also an impossibly dirty place.  And our home is located in a rather trashy area so the challenge is to keep a clean(ish) floor while living in a pile of dirt covered by a trash dump. 

This is THE perfect environment for critters.  They are in critter heaven...I am in critter hell.  I (the floor cleaning hater) sweep my floors 3-5 times everyday out of necessity.  Every time my boys eat, there WILL to be crumbs or spills or worse.  I have found that if it isn't cleaned up within 30 minutes we will be swarmed with ants.  They come from out of the walls, they come up from the floors and they march their tiny warrior selves right in my front door...and they attack by the 1,000's whatever tiny morsel or drip of leftover goodness they can find. 

So, my only defense is to sweep my floors. 

Today, after lunch as I was sweeping, Jody was encouraging me that I was on the front lines of the battle (meaning the spiritual battle).  I laughingly responded, "Yeah, I'm on the front lines of the battle against ants".  I was just being my goofy self, but this got me thinking about sweeping floors in the spiritual sense.

As Christ followers, we need to be sweeping our floors regularly!  We can't let little crumbs of sin sit unchecked or unnoticed or we will end up with this:

Ants.  The Enemy.  He will jump on the tiniest thing we let slide and attack. 
I can let a quick sarcastic word to my husband pass my lips and fall to the ground.  One tiny crumb.  Big deal.  I AM tired after all.  No real need to apologize for such a minor thing.

Then, a burst of anger towards my children that I try to justify because they WERE disobeying.  I TOLD them 10 times already not to do so and so.  Why should I apologize when they are already off playing and seem content.  Just a tiny morsel of sin, really.  Again, no big deal.  Right? 

It may seem so..until I suddenly realize I have a huge trail of swarming angry ants that are feasting on my sin crumbles!  The enemy is eating my lunch!  I have allowed my spiritual house to go unswept and I'm over run with pests. 
It is imperative that we sweep our floors and take care of even the smallest mess ASAP.  This is the ONLY real way to prevent an infestation of the enemy into our homes.  It may seem minor to let your thoughts wander, to snap at our kids, grump at our spouse...they generally don't seem to mind too much.  But if we aren't quick to repent, to apologize and sweep up any messes we make then we will be sorry later.  It is much easier to sweep up a few crumbs throughout the day than to have to battle the infestation.  Because let me tell you from experience, the enemy doesn't go without a fight!  Those ants can sting.

Keep those floors clean!

Thursday, June 6, 2013

I Fall to Pieces.

In the early pages of my baby book you can find a church bulletin.  It was saved by my mom from the first church service I ever attended.  I was a Baptist Brat.  Growing up in a Christian home has many blessings.  I chose Jesus to be my Savior as a wee child of 5 years.  I saw my parents fight for more of Jesus in our family.  It didn't always come easy.  Sometimes there was more fight than there was Jesus in our home.  But we always were part of the Church body.  Every Sunday and many days in between.  Sometimes those fights happened on the way to church but sure enough the Johnson's would be there with smiles on our faces (even if it was fake smile).  I grew up knowing about Jesus and genuinely loving Him but I had only a mild awareness of my NEED for him.  Like I NEED His salvation to keep me from Hell (that's a scary place for anyone...especially a kid!) and I NEED His laws to help me be a good person.

But honestly, by high school I thought I pretty much had it together.  This whole Christianity thing seem simple enough and I was cruising along.  Self motivated.  Strong work ethic.  Things came fairly easy for me.  I was enjoying the good life.  I had good friends and excelled at most things I set my hand to.  I was pretty sure that life would continue on this path of ease.

Did I need Jesus?  Being a good Christian girl, I would have said, "Of course!  We all need Jesus".  But I don't know if I really believed it In the truest sense of the word.  I am a true Texan girl and had completely bought into the "pull yourself up by your bootstraps" mentality.  Think smarter and work harder.  I foolishly believed that I was able to make things happen in and of myself.  I had it all together (so it seemed) and I was taking too much credit for it.

Off to college I went.  Sure it would be a movie-like collegiate experience.  But instead a wave of depression hit.  Something I had yet to experience up to that point in life.  I suddenly wasn't enough.  I needed.  And although other things temporarily filled the void, ultimately I came face to face with my NEED for Jesus.  I couldn't control the emotional roller coaster I was on and the more I tried in my own power, the messier it was.  Jesus was there in the pit with me and could handle my darkest thoughts.  I shared my struggles with people which is helpful, but my deepest, darkest thoughts were placed at the feet of Jesus.  The one who bottled my tears during that season of darkness.  And I don't question that he totally understood me and loved me through all the ranting I did.  (All my journals from that time in my life have sense been need reliving THAT mess...or having anyone else reading my must up theology!)  :)

Then Jody Cash happened.  Marriage bliss!  I thought I was a good person.  Well...lets be brutally honest:  I thought I was pretty squared away in the whole "sin department".  Obviously my pride was a pretty thick blindfold.  Marriage brought up all this messiness I had been oblivious to.  Things I wasn't aware of:  selfishness, pride, arrogance.  Oh, Jesus.  I NEED you!  Why was loving someone else so hard?  I couldn't figure this out by thinking smarter and working harder.  My need for Jesus was even greater than ever before.  I didn't just 'need a Savior' in a flippant off hand, churchy kind of way.  I NEEDED a Savior.  I came face to face with my flesh.  My sin.  I wasn't as set apart as I may have religiously thought  before.  I needed more than religion.  I needed Jesus.

First was love, then marriage, then miscarriage.  Wait? What?  That wasn't how it was supposed to go.  Here came the tidal wave of depression again.  A time of questioning and coming to terms with the goodness of God despite the mess this world is.  I NEEDED Jesus again.  To hold my bruised heart and to teach me to trust Him in all circumstances.

Then came babies...babies...babies!  Holy cow!  Life just got real busy, real fast.  And holy cow!  I am just flat mean.  Seriously, I am a mean person.  I am quick to anger, disgustingly selfish, and a major control freak.  I NEEDED Jesus.  To teach me the things I had been hearing about my whole life in church.  Things like: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.  I knew of these things.  15 years ago I would have said I had those things...Check!  Having children was like looking in a VERY clean mirror and seeing my true self for the first time.  I Needed.

And here we are.  Sweating it up in Haiti with limited electricity and no running water.  2 kids in cloth diapers.  A nursing baby.  A wild man toddler.  Trying to homeschool 2 other kids and love my husband.  Am I aware of my need for Jesus?  You betcha!  More than ever before.  Moment by moment. 

I think I had a twisted mentality that the longer I knew Jesus the less I would need him.  Because I would have it more and more together. Or something like that.  It is a bit messed up, I know.  But I was the one trying to drive this ship with religion.

Then I fell to pieces.  And I fall to pieces daily in my own strength.  I am only made whole with the pieces just right when I allow Jesus to be my core.  My central.  The older I get and the more of life I experience the more I am aware of my need for Him.  And that is okay...even good!  Because we were created to need Him.  I do not have to have it all together.  And just can't. I've tried that.  It doesn't matter how hard I tug on those boot straps...I still need him.  My independent self is slowly learning the value of dependence on the one who is greater, wiser and who has it together.

Jesus. Jesus.  Jesus. 
I need you more today than yesterday and even more tomorrow.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Orevwa, Amanda!

Tonight we said, “Goodbye” to our team mate Amanda.  She will be flying out tomorrow to transition back to life in the States.  She has been a key player in keeping things on track for our Haiti Transformed team and has laid down her life in many ways here in Haiti.  I first met Amanda on a relief trip to Haiti shortly after the earthquake in 2010.   Who knew that we would both eventually move here to continue loving these people and serving this nation.  I am thankful beyond words for the ways that Amanda has loved our family as we prepared to move here and since we have been on the ground.  Our boys LOVE her and she has brought joy to us over and over again.  Thank you, Jesus, for allowing our paths to cross and for the past 6 months that we have been blessed to be on a team with Amanda.  Praying for an awesome break and transition to a new team!


Team dinner at Belle Negresse (one of the few restaurants in Leogane)



Classic Haitian meal.


Getting their Grub on.


This is added because she is cute.  Pre-dinner pic.


Jody will be taking over some of Amanda’s responsibilities in addition to coordinating the Economic Development initiative.   This is them in the Haiti Transformed office.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Meet Darlene!

This is Darlene!  She is a lovely Haitian woman with a fabulous smile and a sweet spirit.  In Haiti (as in many impoverished nations around the world), it is customary and expected for a foreigner (who by being foreign is seen as wealthy) to provide a job for someone.  We have hired Darlene to help us around our house.  This was difficult for me at first.  I disliked the feeling of being the “rich, white foreigner” but I am becoming more comfortable with the fact that we are helping Darlene be able to feed her family and she is helping us be able to do other things besides just live. 

Living life in Haiti just takes a really long time…hauling water from the well, washing clothes for 5 (soon to be six) people, cooking meals (many times from scratch), keeping a decently clean house in a very dirty country, etc.  Just doing these things would keep me busy from sun up to sun down.  Having Darlene has made it possible for me to invest in my children’s education and spend time each day learning Haitian Creole (or at least try!). 

Darlene works for us 4 days/week (8:30ish to after lunch but always before 4pm depending on what she is doing).  She hand washes our clothes, linens, and cloth diapers.  She carries water from the well for us (done beautifully and gracefully on her head!)  She usually sweeps and mops once a week and cooks our family a traditional Haitian meal once a week (which we share with her family by sending a generous portion home with her).  She also does other random things around our house that come up. 

She loves our boys already and as my Creole gets better and we are able to communicate more, I see us connecting on a deeper heart level.  She has a sweetness in her eyes and an inner strength that seems to be common for Haitian women.  I love that when we were away at Christmas time, John Ellis would randomly ask, “Where Darlene?”.  He doesn’t always enjoy her holding him but I can see the boys already like when she stops for a moment to sit and play with them or try to teach them a word in Creole.  When she comes to our door in the morning, she is greeter with 3 little boys yelling, “Bonjou, Ms. Darlene!”  I hope she loves this…I think she does from the big smile on her face. 


This is Darlene and her daughter, Erika.  She also has a two year old, Danica, but we haven’t met her yet.



This is what happens when Darlene sees me fighting to keep my hair wadded up and out of my face.  She decided that she needed to braid it for me.  I think there was a bit of annoyance that my hair does not stay braided tightly like she wanted.  Haitians take meticulous care in their appearance and I am sure they think I am a total slob!  =)  This pic was taken after it had mostly fallen out and messed up.  Haitian women are excellent braiders of hair but my slick hair proved a challenge! Oh, well!  I felt loved that she wanted to do my hair. 

Pray for Darlene and her family!  That they would thrive and that our family would be a blessing to her family.  She has already been a blessing to us.  Pray for my Creole to advance quickly.  The more we can talk the easier it is to connect to Darlene and really get to know who she is on the inside.  I want to invest in her life in more ways than just providing an income.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Terrific Twos! Happy Birthday, John Ellis!

We celebrated John Ellis and the 2 years of life that God has given him.  We are thankful to have him as part of our family.  What a blessing!  His strong personality brings us both joy and many opportunities for personal growth.  As the youngest brother, he doesn’t let the big boys push him around!  He can stand his ground and has a resilient  spirit that we are believing God will use to bring His Kingdom in even greater measure to this earth! 

We have been on a Haiti Transformed team retreat so we didn’t celebrate too much as we were travelling home all day on his birthday and didn’t get home until late afternoon.  He is the birthday boy with his breakfast at the retreat.  I did  a bit of handy work on his pancakes!


Last night (Jan 20th, his actual birthday) we looked back with our family at pictures of the night of his birth and told the boys the story of John Ellis’ birth.  John Ellis wasn’t feeling well this past weekend, we had been travelling all day and he was exceptionally tired last night so we called an early night and planned to celebrate tonight instead.

Jody picked up pizza from the lone pizza place in Leogane, Haiti (at least that we know about!).  It is fairly new and fairly decent…I wouldn’t pick it as a place to get pizza in the States, but it is pretty good by our standards in Haiti! =)


The boys trying to teach John Ellis to hold up 2 fingers.


After dinner, we invited our neighbors and team leaders over for cake.  It was our first birthday in Haiti and I was glad to have friends to celebrate with us the sweetness of John Ellis.



Opening his gift and celebrating with our team leaders and their kiddos.


Enjoying some cake!  Such a big boy!  And soon to be a big brother any day!


We love you John Ellis!

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Traditions that Travel.

Jody and I have slowly been building our family holiday traditions over the 7+ years of our marriage.  This is our first Christmas to be out of Texas and here we are in Haiti.  I am thankful that the traditions that matter most to us don’t rely on specific places and stereotypical American holidays.  We have traditions that travel. 

This was a simple Christmas.  Minimal decorations.  Christmas shopping done in a quick 30 minute sprint around a “dollar store” in Haiti.  No fancy meals…but it was a sweet Christmas.

Our Christmas begins on December 1st when we start our advent chain.  In years past, I haven’t found any great inspirations online so I have always just created my own.  Each day has a “clue” to the true meaning of Christmas and a scripture reference.  We have always enjoyed this BUT this year we made an advent chain that references the Jesus Storybook Bible.  I am thrilled to have found this!  It takes stories from the Old Testament and weaves Jesus into all of them!  I enjoyed reading the story from our advent chain every night before bed (maybe more than the boys!). 


We decorated a tiny Christmas tree we brought with us (we used it in the boys rooms back in the States!) and set out the manger scene that Jody and I bought our first Christmas together.  We also brought candles for our advent wreath.  Every Sunday night during December Jody leads us in lighting a advent candle and redirecting our hearts back to why we are celebrating Christmas. 


Before Christmas day we traveled from Leogane to the Petionville area of Haiti.  It is up in the mountains and we were blessed to be able to house sit for some new friends of ours while they were out of the country.  We packed up the remained of our advent chain, our stockings and advent wreath and enjoyed a cooler Christmas than we would have in Leogane.  On our way up we stopped and bought 3 gifts for each boy at a store called Handal (think beefed up dollar store with beefed up prices…it is basically imported junk!) =)

We also stopped and went grocery shopping for quick, easy meals that didn’t include rice and beans.  This is fun because it feels like a “normal” grocery store…UNTIL you get to the register and realize that all that imported food is double what we would pay in The States.  Thanks Joel Trimble for taking us shopping!  From this picture, you wouldn’t guess we were in the world’s poorest nation.  Basically only foreigners and wealthy Haitians shop here.


We buy each boy 3 gifts since Jesus himself was given 3 gifts.  It helps to keep things from getting crazy (since I personally really love buying Christmas presents!) and it helps to bring us back to why we are celebrating in the first place. 


We enjoyed chocolate in our stockings, too!  Buying Jody Reese’s candy is a tradition too, I guess!  I don’t think he has had a Christmas without Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups.  Luckily, I was able to buy some at the big American-ish supermarket.


The boys were excited for daddy to see the pen holders they made for his desk at the Acts of Mercy offices here in Haiti.  This was the first Christmas none of the boys actually told Jody what he was getting before Christmas day. =)

We missed going to Antioch Community Church for a Christmas Eve service this year and we didn’t get to eat Chinese food for dinner on the night before Christmas BUT we did still have our traditional birthday party for Jesus.  We baked a cake and it was the ugliest cake ever…but it tasted good and with a house full of boys that is all the matters!




Happy Birthday, Jesus!  We are so glad you came…we are lost without you.


We also made “ginger bread” houses out of graham crackers and icing.  This was lots of fun with LOTS of finger licking.  Almost every picture I took has Josiah with his fingers either going in or going out of his mouth! =)  Lucas preferred wiping his fingers on his shirt.  =)



The finished products:



We hope you all had a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!  We missed celebrating with you but are thankful that God has placed our family in Haiti for this time.  Thanks for praying for us!  Thanks to the Trimble’s for letting us use their home during the holidays.  We are blessed.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Family Update: John Ellis

John Ellis, our youngest, seems to be having the most difficulty in the transition to Haitian life.  I am not entirely sure if it is the changes or just his life stage (quickly approaching 2 in January).  I am pretty sure that it is a combination of the two.  He has been irritable and is super tired but then doesn’t want to stay in bed at naps or at night.  I have been spending lots of time on training with him. 

He is super desired among all the orphan girls.  I don’t know how to explain to him that his “playing hard to get” only makes him more desirable to them.  They love to tease and pick and they think it is SOO funny when they pick him up and he starts yelling, “top it! top it!” or “no, no, no!” 

Here is “cooks it” and was okay with one of the girls cooking with him.  I know that someday he will see this place as completely normal and soon the girls will lose their interest in him as he becomes a normal part of the scenery here at the orphanage.


The one girl at the orphanage that he is okay with touching him is Sephora (below).  She recently turned 2 (a tiny little thing!) and they will hold hands and stare at each other.  I guess she seems less intimidating to him since she is right on his level.  The only problems between them is when she wants to be held and love all over HIS momma.  I’ve caught him telling her, “mine!” while pointing at me.  =)  Yesterday she alternated between wanting to style my hair and then wanting to style his hair!  She is very tactile and seems to love the texture of our hair.


John Ellis is also seeming to be having the most trouble adjusting in the bowel department, too!  TMI, I know but I want you to

Please pray that he would adjust and have a normal digestive system again!  I have changed 6 dirty cloth diapers today and did the same amount yesterday (this is partly a selfish prayer request) but tonight he started getting a nasty rash from all the poo.  Pray for quick healing and regulation of his intestines!  Pray also for him to learn to love the Haitian girls at the orphanage.