Monday, March 22, 2010

This weekend was really good. Incredible women, a view of the ocean, and time in the Word...well, and a few inevitable plastered-smile conversations. :-)

I'm learning to be okay with not being okay. That probably sounds really strange to anyone who hasn't walked through loss, but I'm learning to rest in the tension of my circumstances continuing to suck and my heart still feeling very broken, but trusting that God has purposefully designed my life, He gets it, and He knows what's up ahead.

And, I was utterly delighted this morning to find that Zachary's tree has it's first opening blossoms of spring...spring has arrived. As I watch the rest of the garden come to life, that is my prayer for my own heart...that God would continue to wake me up and make me new.

Friday, March 19, 2010

I'm off to our church's Womens Retreat this weekend.

I'm excited...I'm going with incredible, loving, fun friends who have walked with me through the intensity of the past year and are sensitive to where I'm at.

I'm also nervous. I try to avoid large groups, and especially large groups of women because they typically just talk about their kids. I can't blame's exactly what I would do if my kiddo was here. I just hate sitting there, feeling that fake, plastered smile creep across my face and pretend that hearing them talk about their one-year-old doesn't make my heart ache for mine.

Yesterday, one of my dear friends and mentors left me a message...a reminder to not worry so much about doing the hard work of growing, learning, etc., but just to be this weekend. To let myself let myself be open to the Lord...and let those awkward, plaster-smile conversations hurt. It's okay. It's not intentional, and it makes sense that my heart aches. God knows.

I'm trusting that God will continue to soften my heart as I am honest before Him.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

10 Months

Today is the 17th. It's now been 10 months since Zachary was born...since I held my baby boy for the first and last time.

It's hard to reconcile the fact that we have now been without Zachary longer than the amount of time that he was here with us.

I miss my boy. There's a hole in my heart that doesn't go away...will never go away... as long as I walk this earth. It's so daunting at times.

And, yet, here I am. Without my son, but still going. Still waking up each morning with purpose. I feel more awake than I have in a long time, actually. Yes, there is a huge void in my life, but it is not all-consuming. I still have the capacity to love and to be loved. Praise God for His grace.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

I've been struggling with mercy lately.

Now, I've never claimed to have the spiritual gift of mercy. (Right, Mom and Derek?) :-) My response to whining is usually, "Suck it up, Buttercup." (Great quality for a nurse, huh?) But, for the past couple of weeks it's been particularly difficult for me to respond to people with grace.

I think it's probably because I saw in such tangible ways while in Haiti what need really is. People who literally have nothing, work hard every day with debilitating physical conditions, hold worship services outside in the dark, extend such generous hospitality, and never complain. That's who I want to help. I had a hard time at work this week because people would come in to the clinic, drop a $20 co-pay like it's chump change (more than what over half the world survives on in 2 weeks), whine for ten minutes about having the sniffles (really?), and then gripe incessantly when the doctor walked into the room five minutes late with such a sense of entitlement. I had very little compassion.

Now, I realize that I'm complaining about other people complaining, and that's a little ridiculous. I'm just having a hard time reconciling it all.

I want to have mercy. I want to walk in grace. I want to live with the ever-present realization that for each person who drives me nuts, Christ died. And, I really do believe in my heart that everyone has something to offer. God says in Matthew 5:7, "Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy." I certainly want to receive mercy, but I have struggled to extend it.

I guess if I spent more time considering the grace that's been poured out on me...grace that cost God His perfect Son...grace that offers me forgiveness and the hope of eternity in heaven instead of giving me what I really deserve...maybe I would be more gracious toward others.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

More of Haiti...

I thought I'd write a little bit about the clinic we set up in Haiti before the memories start slipping away (I swear, I've had the worst time with memory loss over this past year...they say that grief does that to you, but it's so annoying!)

So, anyways, my friend Lexie and I were the only medically-trained personnel on our team traveling to Haiti. We're both RN's (we went to nursing school together at SPU and worked on the same unit at Seattle Childrens), and we were under the impression that when we arrived in Haiti, we would be joining up with a doctor.

Well, we got to Haiti and guess what we found? No doctor! But the pastor told us that we were expected to have a clinic that day because the whole community knew we were there. So, we agreed to start seeing patients in the afternoon and to do our best with the understanding that we didn't have the knowledge or supplies necessary to do what should be done for these people.
As we were unpacking our boxes of supplies...gauze, bandages, cold compresses, Tylenol, Tums, etc., the dirty, little two-room building we were working in started to fill with people. The next thing we knew, there were over 20 people waiting to be seen. Lexie and I looked at each other, my stomach felt like it had been twisted into a knot, and my eyes immediately welled up with tears.

I suddenly wanted to be transported home. I knew we weren't going to be able to do what we had ideally come to Haiti to do. It was a sobering moment.

But, there were people waiting to be cared for, so we started getting people in order and figuring out who was going to translate for us. And, one by one, people told us of their ails. Some just needed a wound cleaned and dressed. Others needed much, much more...visible hernias that needed repair, diabetes that needed to be medicated and followed, probable ulcers, parasites, etc. Our efforts felt so futile at times. We would encourage those who needed further medical attention to go see a doctor, but with the knowledge that a visit to the doctor (which is $2) probably wouldn't happen at the cost of an entire day's wages.

But, for the most part, people just wanted to be listened feel like someone had the time of day to hear about their pain...and we were privileged to pray for many. One woman who we prayed over had come from Port au Prince. During the earthquake, her 23-year-old daughter was working as a nurse and had been crushed when the hospital collapsed. This woman had come to Dessalines to stay with family. Being a 23-year-old nurse, that one hit pretty close to home.

Here are a few pictures from our clinic days:

This is the building we used as our clinic...

Just workin'...

I'm cleaning out a wound on a guy's foot's hard to tell...

This little boy had quarter-sized boils covering his body. He was one of many with skin infections.

This little girl was brought in by her father who said that she had been suffering with severe diarrhea for days. My jaw almost hit the ground when he told me that she was 6-years-old. She was so dehydrated, so malnourished. My eyes tear up just looking at these pictures.

And, this sweet baby had been unable to eat or drink for days because of the infection that had ravaged her lower jaw. We took her to the hospital in Dessalines to get the antibiotics and treatment she needed.

I feel like the work has just begun. We have such a clear picture of how we want to contribute to the health of the community of Dessalines in the future...hopefully soon.

Monday, March 8, 2010

A Few Pictures...

The beautiful landscape in Dessalines, wide open fields divided into plots of land for farmers.

A few sweet faces...

A good game of duck-duck-goose and our tents in the background.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

So, I know I promised more stories about my experience in Haiti, but today I'm just having a hard time being home. My heart was so free in Haiti, and I'm kind of wishing someone would just ship me back there. I did well adjusting to 'normal' life all week long, but tonight I'm bummed out. I don't want to deal with 'normal' life...

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Like I've mentioned before, I expected God to do some awesome work in my life while I was in Haiti, but what surprised me was the healing that took place in my heart.

When we first got to Haiti, the kids were so excited to see us. They would literally jump on me, hug me around the neck, crawl into my lap the moment I sat down or slip their little hands into mine. The first day we were in Dessalines, I hung back. It's been so hard for me to be around children, especially babies and toddlers, since Zachary died. During that first 24 hours in Haiti, I had to constantly come before God in prayer and ask Him...beg open my heart and release me to love the children around me. It was grueling at times, but over the course of the week, He did. By Friday, I had no hesitation in scooping a child up in my arms and kissing them. As a matter of fact, I'm missing those kiddos terribly right now.

This probably doesn't seem significant to some, but it was tangible evidence to me that God is healing my heart. At a stage when it seems that everyone is pregnant and having healthy babies around us, it's easy for me to shut down. And not that it's all that much easier to handle, but it was good to know that it's possible for my heart to risk loving a child again.

Anyways, I just wanted to put that in writing so I remember it later.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

I thought I'd share a little bit about what it was like to live in Haiti for a week:

We stayed in Dessalines, which is about 90 miles north of Port au Prince. Originally we thought that we would be sleeping on the floor of the church or at the pastor's home, but when we arrived, we found five tents set up for us! Surprise! :-) The pastor we were working with brought us mattresses to sleep on, and the three of us girls on the trip with all of our belongings shared a 4-man tent for the week. It was cramped and dusty, but humorous. :-)

No running water, so every night we would take cold bucket showers...I had never been so dirty in my life!

To get to Dessalines, all ten of us plus the pastor and our driver, piled into an old, barely-running 1990's minivan. It would have been tight with 12 of us in a minivan anyways, but we had half a dozen boxes of supplies to bring with us and all of our luggage. So, the guys tied all of our backpacks onto the top of the van with rope and all of the boxes went where the back seat would have been. That left two seats in the front (including the driver's seat), one row of seats in the middle, and a wooden bench facing the middle seat for all of us to sit on. It was crazy!! We occassionally rotated seats and planned where to place our legs like a puzzle...lets just say that the three flat tires we got on the way up were welcome stretch breaks! I'll have to post a picture. And, although Dessalines is only 90 miles away, the roads are mostly unpaved with gigantic potholes, so it took us over five hours to get there. But, I have to be honest, there's no way you can go through an experience like that without bonding with the people who are suffering with you, so it was bonding to say the least, and our drives ended us being some of the highlights of the trip for me!

Everywhere else, we walked...we probably walked an average of 6-10 miles each day, which really was great!

Haiti is the poorest country on the face of the earth. Food is scarce. And since the earthquake, the cost of food has almost doubled. People are literally starving to death every day. But Haitians are also incredibly generous, and every afternoon around 1pm, the pastor's wife would cook us a big meal.

On the side of the roads in Haiti are women selling produce that they and their husbands farm from their gardens - lots of okra, tomatoes, carrots, sweet potatoes, onions, bananas, plantains, etc. However, meat is a rare commodity. Every Wednesday, market goes on in the center of town and that's the only opportunity to purchase meat unless you have your own livestock that you can butcher. So, if you're eating meat on Monday, it was purchased on the previous Wednesday and no one has refrigerators or ice, so it's been sitting out in 90+ degree weather for multiple days. Lucky for me, I was informed of this half-way through the week!

But the food really did taste delicious! We had rice and beans at almost every meal with some type of meat (chicken, goat, mystery meat?) that had been simmering with spicy sauce and vegetables all morning. Usually there was a plate of raw vegetables (onions, peppers, and tomatoes) and fried plantains. We also had a dish for dessert one night that was hot, sweet pudding, and it was SO good!

At night, if we were hungry, we, as a team, would boil water to make MRE's (meals ready to eat) like they do in the military. They weren't too bad.

Clean water is non-existent once you get out of the capital city, so every night we had to pump water from the well and then filter it ourselves and add iodine of water purification drops. Unless you added some zip-fizz or gatorade, you were stuck drinking warm water that tasted like a swimming pool. One of the first things I had last night when I got home? Cold, clean water out of the tap with ice and a slur-pee! :-)

The time in Haiti is three hours ahead of Seattle, so it wasn't difficult to adjust our schedules. We woke up every morning around 6am (that is, if we slept...the roosters in Haiti are terribly confused creatures, and they started crowing every night around 11pm and kept going all through the night!). Tuesday through Friday of the week, my friend Lexie and I ran a clinic out of a building next to the church while the guys did construction (really, really hard manual labor without a lot of basic tools). At 1pm we would break for our meal, and then finish up our projects and play with the kids for much of the afternoon. Every night the church would have service outside in Creole - it was awesome! Haitians certainly know how to worship! And, after a cold bucket shower, an MRE, an hour around the water pump filtering and a team meeting, we would settle into our tents for the night.

The temperature was in the 90's, but rainy season is coming up, so the air is thick with humidity. I started sweating the moment we landed in Haiti and, with the exception of my 10-minute bucket shower every night, I didn't stop sweating until we arrived back in Miami again. (And for those of you who know me well know how miserable I am in anything over 80 degrees! It was rough!) There were a couple of nights with no breeze, and I would fall asleep in a puddle of gross. Twice while we were there it rained, and while every Haitian person would run inside, our team would run OUTside and yell, "Alleluia!"...we were quite the spectacle...10 white people (or 'blancs' in Creole) dancing outside in the rain!

My legs are covered in mosquito bites.

I never once got sick.

And, even with the heat, swimming pool water to drink and 6-day-old meat, I can't wait to return...

More to come later! I can't wait to tell you about the clinic and how God led us while caring for the sick and injured!

Monday, March 1, 2010

I'm home! Safe, sound, grimy, and so thankful to hug my husband again. What an incredible week. I'm still processing so much and in desperate need of sleep, but there's no question in my mind that the past 9 days have changed my life.

The day we arrived in Haiti, I had this strange moment riding in the back of a truck away from the airport...I thought to myself, 'Why am I here? Why now? Am I just trying to be a hero? Did I come with the ridiculous notion that God's going to be impressed with my willingness to serve Him and bless me?' I knew that God had opened the door for me to go, but I wasn't really sure why. And intermittently throughout the week, even though I was working my behind off and had tangible evidence that I was in Haiti for a reason, I still caught myself asking the same questions.

I'll fill in many stories and lessons learned from the week later when my brain is awake, but I just have to share that yesterday we had church together (in English!) before we left Port au Prince, and I was asked to summarize what God had done in my heart in the previous 9 days. During the course of my time in Haiti, as I sat on the dirty floor and bandaged wounds, played duck-duck-goose with children, laughed until I cried with our team and served in whatever capacity I could, God reached down into one more layer of my heart and did some incredible healing. Another work of grace...terribly unpleasant at times and truly unexpected...but healing all the same.

I can't wait to share more later, but right now I need to go eat...a giant piece of chicken...I haven't had meat in over a week! :-)

Thank you SO, SO much for your prayers and support. God kept us all safe and healthy and did some awesome work in our lives.