Leave Me Out!

Fanatic Christians who set afire abortion clinics and murder their doctors all in the name of Christian values.

Please don’t associate me with them.

Anti-government militia groups who bomb government buildings, calling for more freedom based on our Christian founders.

Please don’t lump me into that same category.

Southern Conservative Christians who drag black boys down dusty, backwood roads.

Please don’t include me in their antics.

Each of these groups call themselves “Christian”.  Often, they carry out their heinous acts in the name of God and “Christian” principles.  They’ll even quote scripture to support their causes.

I, too, call myself a Christian and use scripture to guide my life.  But, it does not mean that I am part of the extreme groups listed above.  I may be pro-life, but I do not condone violence or hate of any kind.  I am not racist or bigoted.  And, although I do not always agree with the decisions of our governmental leaders, I do believe that we are to support (and pray for) those whom God has allowed to be in power.

When it comes to the groups above, I want NO association with them at all.  But, there are many non-Christians who automatically include me with those groups based on the word “Christian”.

Generalizing – to infer or form a general principle, opinion, conclusion, etc. from only a few facts, examples, or the like.

No one likes to have preconceived notions of beliefs, ideologies, motives, or behaviors pushed upon them. Yet, “Christians”, who are commanded by Christ to unconditionally love our ‘enemies’ and not to judge unfairly, continue to generalize and spread bigoted trash across Facebook and email forwards.

Generalizations that say ALL Muslims are Islamic terrorists, and therefore should not have religious freedom, even though they may be American citizens and should enjoy the same freedoms you and I have.

Generalizations that say say our President belongs in that same Islamic terrorist category.

Generalizations that all homosexual people prey upon our young boys.

Anti-Muslim.  Anti-Obama.  Pro-America.  Pro-tough-love.

Call it what you want…I call it judgmental, bigoted, hateful, unintelligent, uninformed, and disgusting.

Pics: Orphanage at Tamazeau

I wrote about our orphanage experience in Haiti, but wasn’t able to post pictures.  (You can read the story by clicking HERE).    The pictures are now posted below.  Click the picture to get a larger view and more description.

The Long and Winding Road

I’ve decided to add an additional page to my blog dedicated solely to (in)fertility and our journey to parenthood.   I get tired of  searching through my archives to find all the posts I’ve written on our fertility issues.  The new page will be a place I keep them all in order so that I can easily look back over the things we’ve experienced and remember how God has guided us through each step.

This road we travel is a long one and full of unforeseen turns and detours.  Often, our journey is smooth, without so much a bump or turn.  We speed through our daily lives, waiting for the next obstacle or sign for what’s ahead.  Other times, we have to slow down and process all that we face.  It’s during those rough patches that we have to fully hold on to God’s grace, strength, and peace.

Today, we are on some of the smoother roads.  Yesterday, I mentioned the good news that our first procedure worked, and that today I would be meeting with my doctor to discuss the next steps in our pursuit of parenthood.  Well…here’s what was determined:

Warning!!:  The following will include very personal information about myself in regards to women’s issues.  If you don’t want to know these things about me…then skip over.  IF you choose to read on, I warned you! :)  I share this personal information b/c I know many women (and their spouses) currently going through infertility issues.  Infertility is a medical condition that NEEDS to be discussed.  I KNOW that my transparency in this journey has helped many of these women, and I also know that talking openly about it has helped ME cope as well.

Apparently, I don’t ovulate.  In simpler terms, my body does not release the egg needed for conception.  Why? I have no idea…but we won’t do any of the expensive, painful tests to find out.  Instead, my doc is starting with a more simpler solution, found in small, round pills called Clomid (or Clomiphene).  This ovulatory stimulant will (hopefully) kick my ovaries into gear and make them work the way they’re supposed to work.

I’ve done some research on this medicine and I have mixed feelings.  For many women, Clomid works…but often not until several rounds of treatment have occurred.  The side effects vary with each woman, but can include (but are not limited to) hot flashes, upset stomach, vomiting, weight gain, vision problems, breast discomfort, and increased risks of Ovarian Cancer.  Many women also say they get really moody and emotional.  None of that sounds fun…and I really hope not to experience them over and over again.  Additionally, I already have GI issues, so I pray that the medicine doesn’t wreak havoc on my stomach and reverse the many months of treatment that I’ve had with my GI doc.  Oh…and I really don’t want to vomit or emotionally break down while serving my seafood entrees at work!  That would be horrible. (although, it might get me some pity and extra tips!)

The worst part of the treatment is that, due to the other issues Josh and I have had in regards to fertility, there is still only a 1 in 4 chance that we’ll conceive, even if the Clomid works perfectly.  Those don’t seem like very good odds to me…but I’m leaving it all in God’s hands, “He who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine!” (Ephesians 3:20)

New Beginnings

Tomorrow, I will begin several new chapters of my life:

Chapter: Baby Steps Toward Baby Steps

Over the last year I have written openly about the infertility struggles that Josh and I have faced.  In January, we had our first medical procedure and have had follow-ups with the doctor every 3 months.  Last week, we received the results of our 6 month post-surgery tests…(drum roll, please)…the procedure worked and we are now cleared to pursue the next stage in fertility treatment!! I go to the doctor tomorrow to discuss in more detail what exactly our next steps will be.  Prayerfully, we hope to have a baby by this time next year.

Chapter:  Sabbath Year

Since high school, I have been involved in some type of ministry leadership role.  Whether leading bible studies, youth small groups, or doing mission work, I have kept my schedule completely full without much of a break.

I love doing ministry -  the relationships I make, the accountability aspect, the joy in seeing lives changed  – it’s a passion of mine.

But over the last year or so, I’ve felt God telling me to stop it all.  To just lay down my busyness and my need to be “doing”, and just rest in Him.  It’s time for me to reconnect with God, get re-focused, and rediscover the calling HE has for me.  There are several areas of my life that I feel I need to focus on during this year of rest; I’ll share those with you later on.

But, as of today, I no longer have any ministry leadership responsibilities.  NONE. ZIP. ZILCH.  Of course, I’ll still be involved in church and ministry, but only as a participant, not as a leader.

Speaking of church…

Chapter: Looking for a New Home

Today was my last day with the church I’ve been serving with since returning from Ukraine 2 years ago.

Most of the people at the church do not yet know that Josh and I have left (until just now, when they read this post…for my friends who are just learning this, I’m sorry you are hearing it this way.  But know that Josh and I love you, and just because we are leaving the church does not mean that we are leaving behind our friendships).

I cannot and will not go into the details surrounding why we left, but, for personal reasons, Josh and I, together, decided it’s time for us to go.  It’s been a very difficult week of talking to my Bible study women, my mission team, and some of the very close friends I’ve made at the church.  I know our leaving will be met with confusion and questions, and that saddens me…but, above all, I know that God has us all in His hands.

Home Again Home Again, Jiggity Jig

The internet at the guest house in Haiti was in a bad mood the last few days, so I was unable to post any updates.

I’m now home, as is all of my Dallas team.  Everyone else is either home or on their way home.

THANK YOU for keeping us in your prayers and for visiting the blog for updates.  Many of you do not even know me or my group, but your words and support have been a great encouragement.

There are so many stories left unshared, so I encourage you to continue checking in with me as I continue to post some of our experiences.  I’ll also be uploading some pictures for your viewing pleasure (or displeasure, in some cases).

Thanks Again!

You’ve heard of Mayberry…

Now you’re going to hear about Ganthier, the complete opposite of Mayberry.  In fact, if you can’t pronounce “Ganthier” just call it “Mayhem”.

It’s important to understand that not every ministry experience that a missionary participates in is all fun and games (just ask any full-time missionary…they’ve got all kinds of horror stories).  We don’t always leave an outreach site with smiles and positive, life-changing thoughts.  Some days can be downright frustrating, exhausting, and a temptation to pack up early and get the heck out of dodge.  Today was one of those type of days for me and most of our team.

The townspeople of Ganthier greeted us with outstretched arms as we parked the bus.  We still had a small 5 – 10 minute trek to the wood and tin church where we would set up our last clinic.  Several women and children helped carry our boxes and supplies, while the rest of the crowd gathered around and paraded down the road alongside us.

As the word spread of our arrival, the space in front of the church became packed with people wanting to visit the nurses.  As the lines grew, so did impatience, greed, and tempers.  Women flung small children around by their shirt collars, boys shoved each other around, and grown men screamed at anyone nearby.  Anytime any of us walked out of the church with some kind of equipment or supply in our hand (for example, gloves we used as balloons or the papers we used to take names for the clinic), we would be swarmed and pushed in upon.  Out of all the places we’ve been this week, these people were the most aggressive.  The worst was when the pastor of the church and some other men took tree branches and started beating the kids.  One man even took off his leather belt to whip small children who pressed in to get in to see the nurses.

Along with the aggression, there was conniving, disrespect, and lying at a level we had not seen in the previous cities.  Don’t get me wrong, there were definitely instances on the previous days of people lying to get more stuff or trying to sneak (aka steal) things, but they were never disrespectful or mean, nor was it occurring on a large scale.  But today, these people were downright mean and ugly…purposely ignoring our directions, blatantly mocking us, and at one point, throwing rocks onto the church we were in.  One group of 4 – 6 teenage boys kept preying upon the women of our group, encircling them, and even tried to get one of us to follow them away from the area.  However, we’ve got some wise ladies who refused to heed the hoodlums requests and would go and stand by our men for protection.

In our group time tonight, I asked who thought today was frustrating…12 out of 13 of us raised our hands.  In all honesty, it’s very difficult to see the positive in today because we were surrounded by such unGodly behaviors.  But, we KNOW that God was still glorified.  Besides helping medically and nutritionally (we fed them), every member of our team remained focused on the goal – to be the hands and feet of Jesus.  This like-minded purpose enabled us to encourage each other through the difficult moments and kept us persevering, even when we wanted to give up.

As we looked upon the ugliness of the people around us, God taught us a few things:

  • We do not fight against earthly enemies, but there is a spiritual battle going on all the time.  Sometimes that battle is more difficult and more apparent than other times.  Today was definitely a great spiritual battle.
  • God showed us our own ugliness…in our reactions, in our thoughts, in our attitudes, in our motivations.  We all sin and fall short of God’s glory.  We just sin in different ways.  Sometimes, though, we are just like them…angry, greedy, manipulative…
  • God loves them just as much as he loves us.  He does not show favoritism, but his gifts of grace, mercy, and salvation are free to all people who call upon him.  Because of that love He has for all of us, we, too, must love all.  Even when they respond in hate.
  • Even when all we see is Chaos, God is still working.   We may never know the results of our actions today.  Perhaps the young boy who asked Jeff about Jesus will grow into a strong, loving Christian leader who will one day guide his neighbors into a deeper relationship with God.   I don’t know…but I do know that God was still glorified today.

The Orphanage at Tamazo

I’ve visited at least a dozen or so orphanages throughout Europe, Mexico, and S. America.  The one we went to yesterday wins the award as the worst orphanage I’ve ever experienced.

Honestly, I don’t know what I was expecting -  maybe a simple concrete structure with dormitory style rooms, a large meeting room, small kitchen, etc – you know, a basic setup to take care of all the needs of children.  That would have been heaven for these kids.  Instead, they had one strip of a concrete shell divided into rooms, except the rooms had no doors, most had no roofs, and most of the walls were missing chunks of bricks.  If you ever visited old castle or monastery ruins, picture those…except surrounded by trash and green overgrowth, and inhabited by children ages 4 – 15.  No electricity.  No plumbing.  No kitchen (except for an outdoor fire pit with two bowls and a pot).

Right now there are 25 children sharing 2 tiny rooms.  Each room has 5 cots (the size of twin bed mattresses).  Small shirts and pants hang on a single line strung across the wall.  Clorox bleach bottles fill the spaces under the cots.  One room has a microwave stuffed full with papers, a plate, and a spoon.  But the children are proud of their space.  As I walked into the rooms, they would run in with me, smiling ear-to-ear and eager to show me the few things they do possess…a toy made from string and bottle top, a pair of craft Styrofoam glasses made with the last mission group to visit, their dogs that roam about the grounds and sometimes get “trapped” in their rooms (kids are still kids…bringing home strays :)

Next to the bedrooms are two rooms that serve as classrooms during the school year.  Thin, cheap chalkboards lean against the gray walls.  A few wooden chairs sit scattered in the corners.  One room has 2 desks. It’s hard to believe this placed is used as a school.  There’s nothing there.   And the worst part…this is the only school for many many miles.  For some of the people in the mountains, the children travel 6 hours to come to this school.  In Haiti, there is no free education.  All schools, even the government schools, require families to pay for the children to attend…sometimes up to $2,000 U.S. Dollars per year.  I’m not sure how much this “school” charges, but people pay.  Not only do many of the schoolchildren just attend the school, they live there as well.  When school’s in session, there can be up to 150 – 200 children staying on the “orphanage” grounds.  10 cots will not sleep 150 kids…so they sleep wherever they lay down.

The orphanage is located in one of the mountain regions, on the outskirts of a small village, which also has no running water and sparse electricity.  Although a water well has been built in the town, the land owners on which the well is located, charges villagers to buy the water.  The main water sources are the streams that run from the mountains.  They dig irrigation tunnels to help stream the water.  On our drive in we witnessed a variety of activity at these streams…a group of women bathing, children gathering water for their families, a few families washing clothes, and the animals getting something to drink.  For the orphans, these streams are off-limits.  For whatever reason, the villagers refuse to let the children gather water from these streams, so they must walk 45 minutes into the mountains to get water.  Remember the clorox bottles under the beds?  They serve 2 purposes…when empty, they’re used to carry water.  The remaining bleach is used to treat the water they bring back to make it drinkable.

This place is basically child exploitation and slavery.  The Owners have received thousands upon thousands of dollars in donations (not including the school tuition money) to improve the condition of the orphanage.  Even GCOM sent a couple of thousand of dollars and new shoes just a few weeks ago.  The new shoes were nowhere on the grounds, the children wore old shoes or flipflops.  As for the money… no one knows…but the director took a vacation to America with her husband this week…(not accusing her of stealing the money or the donations…but where is everything that’s been given?  And why are the kids still suffering in horrid conditions when the owners are traveling abroad and building/expanding a lavish house?)

Once over the initial shock and horror at the orphanage conditions, we set up the clinic and treated all the orphans plus over 175 village men, women, and children.  We also were able to feed them and pass out donations of clothes, baby products, and toiletries.  Despite the conditions, I personally thought this was the best day of ministry…but, I have a special reason…

One of the best activities you can do with children on a mission trip or outreach is to make “Salvation Bracelets”.  These simple-to-make bracelets use colored beads to tell the salvation message.  I set up the director’s office as a craft room and held mini-classes for about 6 children at a time.  We talked about the different colored beads and about Jesus.  I asked questions and then answered their questions.  I was so blessed to hear the children’s knowledge of Jesus.  Most of them were already Christians, but not all.  After the class was over, I pulled aside the ones who admitted they were not Christians, and had the opportunity to speak more personally about Jesus with them.  In the end, 2 boys chose to accept Christ as their Savior and Lord!  I asked lots of questions to make sure they understood what they were doing and why.  I told them that this had to be their decision, and if they weren’t ready, they didn’t have to pray….but they thought about it and said that this is what they wanted!

One boy, Bobo (age 11), touched me deeply.  His parents practice Voodoo.  He remembers attending a local Christian church when he was little, but they never go now and his parents don’t talk about Jesus.  As we talked about his family and how they might react if he becomes a Christian, I could see by his facial expressions that he was truly thinking about what he wanted to do.  When I asked him, “Are you sure you want to do this now?” He looked me straight in the eyes and said, “Yes.  I want to ask Jesus into my heart.”  After we prayed, we talked about how it may not be easy for him, but he needs to try to learn as much as he can about Jesus…read the Bible, pray, talk with his christian friends about God, and go to church when he can.  Once again, he turned his big eyes towards mine and asked, “Can you please pray that I can get some church clothes?  I want to go to church, but I don’t have any clothes nice enough for church?”  As sad as that request was, I rejoiced.  It showed me the heart of a young boy who truly has a new heart to serve and grow in his relationship with God.

As with all the days, we all have heartbreaking stories from this experience.  But through it all, we rejoice because God IS working there…He is revealing himself to these children and they have a strong faith in Him.  It’s that faith, when they grow out of their childlike innocence into an adult realization of how horrible their earthly circumstances are, that will sustain them.

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