Monday, January 31, 2011

Preparing for Haiti: Part 2

Tonight as I was sending confirmation emails to my babysitters and writing instructions and information on caring for my children, it hit me. I'm going to Haiti in two days. I think I'm really going this time. And then my heart started to beat faster. If I really expect to go, will that jinx my trip and something will happen? (I don't really believe that, but I also don't want to take any chances.)

Here's the deal. This trip is a really big deal to me. I haven't been back to Haiti in two years. Two very long years. I didn't want to go with a team, because when you lead a team, you want and need to be available to them and what they need to process their experience. I don't have that to give right now, I'm trying to process my own issues with my ministry in Haiti, I can't help anyone else right now.

Loving Haiti the way I do is difficult for me because my daily life doesn't allow for the dedication, attention, and time I want to give it. I don't have a lot of space or time to keep connected to the latest news. Any parent can tell you that getting on the phone sends a secret signal to your children. They need you right now, they are fighting, they need help in the bathroom, they're hungry, they fall down and are screaming. Phone calls are hard in my house. Try it sometime and give me a ring. See how long it lasts. So doing ministry during the day can be an issue. Taking three kids out to the store to research needs and donations is almost like an Olympic event. My children's pictures live on our computer. Its true. My oldest is five and our first family photo went up this year. I am really bad at printing and posting, and framing pictures, so all my Haiti pictures live next to my children's on the computer. On a daily level, there is not much evidence of my love for Haiti unless you can see into my heart and hear our family's prayers. But that doesn't mean that it isn't one of the greatest loves of my life.

I have the honor of serving on a board of incredible people who also love Haiti. At times I watch how their commitment to this place and these people and their daily interaction far exceeds mine and I feel lost. Left behind per say. Having a husband and three children keeps me busy in a different way. The board of the HMP is filled with go getter's. We are crazy busy, but mine has a different rhythm, and that makes me feel alone. With that being said, it has left me in the last couple years trying to find my ground. Trying to figure out what my role is in all of this. To serve with friends who can do far more than I can. To love a country and a people that I feel I neglect in more ways than one is hard to live in.

So that brings me back to, I get to go to Haiti in two days. People ask what I'm going for, and my honest answer is, I don't know. I just know I need to be there. I have some great things lined up, but I don't have a big mission that I need to accomplish. All I really know is that a country I have been in love with for years has experienced some truly horrific things in the past year and I just need to be there. It was torture to cancel our trip last Jan. Even worse to be pregnant and know that I couldn't help in anyway possible. It was the worse feeling I've ever had. I need to go. I need to see my friends. I need to see Haiti. I need to feel Haiti. I need to breathe Haiti. I need to rediscover Haiti. My country has changed, and I want to meet her again. To get to know the new Haiti.

So how am I preparing? I'm not really sure. I am afraid of having expectations that won't be met. How do you get rid of expectations if you don't even know you have them? I'm pretty sure I'm guarding my heart because I don't know what to expect. I do know I am afraid of feeling more lost when I leave Haiti then when I show up. What can I do to help? How do I live my role in life and love Haiti? What I can count on is that God is already there.

I remember two years ago waking up at dawn in Haiti. The very first light of dawn was breaking, and I thought, I want to see the sun rise. I went up on the roof wrapped in my sheet and sat down. I didn't do a lot of praying, I just sat there soaking in what God does when he awakens a new day. Did you know that from the first light of dawn till the sun actually comes up it takes over an hour? Truly that long. I couldn't believe how long it took, but it was breathtaking. On one of my road trips last year to Ohio I was driving with my kids in the car and we started our trip at 4am. Driving east, I watched the sun come up on a very clear day. It was incredible to experience the same sun. The same hour of waiting from dusk till daybreak. It was the same incredible sun. The same God who controls it. He is there and he is here.

Going to Haiti feels like going home. I've been gone from home for a very long time. I am excited, nervous, anxious, and more than anything so peaceful. I get to go home.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Confessions of a control freak

I don't know how to be a parent.

I would think the more honest folks who have children would say the same. There is no one way, right way, only way to do it. Each child, parent and situation is different, and therefore the approach is different. I get that. Then there is the nature vs. nurture argument. Don't even get me started on that one. Let's just agree its a combination of both. If we sway to far to either side we are either convicted of laziness or pride.

One of my issues with being parent is how much it reveals my sin, weakness, doubt, worth and fear in who I am and what I believe about God. While parenting reveals this to me, it doesn't leave me much time to process or work through these issues. I'm just faced with them and the reality that if I can't work through them, I will pass them along to my children. Great! Who signed up for this right?

While I have much to say about all of these things in my life, the one I want to focus on today is my tendency, or compulsion, to control things. (everything) The hard thing is that when you start out as a parent, you have to control A LOT of things. Feedings, diapers, bedtimes, baths, nook or no nook, what to touch, what not to touch, what to say, what we don't say, TV time, computer time, what toys are appropriate and allowed in the house, who are they friends with, what will they do with their time, what food can they eat and not eat, etc. There is a lot we control as parents, but that somehow it starts to speak a lie into our lives that we actually can control more than we should in regards to our kids.

My oldest son is five. He will start Kindergarten in the fall. For the past year and half I have struggled with what to do with him regarding school. (struggle seems like a very tame word for what I have gone through emotionally.) I have cried, OK weep is more like it, been very confused, read a ton of material, visited countless schools, talked to parents of all different walks, but mostly just really been frustrated that God hasn't given us an answer. This is a really big freaking deal. My son will now be in the hands of someone else for 7-8 hours of every day. He will spend more time somewhere else than he will with us at home. At home where we talk about Jesus all the time. Where we pray, and fight and ask for forgiveness. A place where I can make sure he eats his vegetables and will receive discipline for wrong behavior. A place where I can encourage his learning and growth, we play, we dress up, we cook, we talk, we laugh and have dance parties. I love my children.

Side note: I get that as parents, we aren't their best friends. We aren't even supposed to be friends. We are their parents first and foremost. This is not to say that we can't have of fun together and play and love one another, but I'm not their friend. That is a boundary and title for other people. I teach, train, instruct, and love beyond any mistake. I am their mother. That's a different role with different boundaries. However, its really hard to not be friends with my kids when I enjoy hanging out with them so much. I spend more time with them than the man I said I would share my life with. I love spending time with them. Why would I want that to end? In essence, one of my closest friends will be leaving me. That's a sad day.

As you read that, you will see that all those comments are about me. What I want, what I like, what I need, etc. It's hard to be faced with that truth. Its also really hard to let my kid go. To let go of control. Man I hate that word. See, I know I was never really in control. I know that. But choosing where to send my kid to school challenges me to the very core of that belief. So much so that I really wrestled for over a year about Homeschooling my children.

This post is not about Homeschooling vs. traditional schooling. I support both. Both have good and bad going for them. This post is about my journey and struggle with my children. And FYI, God is in both places.

In my prayer time with God about our children and school, I started to journal. When I journal, lots of crazy thoughts are brought to light, and then I can really start to see the root issue of why I think or feel the way I do. Here is what I discovered. I am putting this out there, so you can judge if you want, I realize its crazy, but I have surrendered it to God.

I loved the idea of homeschooling my kids. It kept us together. I could protect them from all sorts of evil and influence. I could reinforce God as the creator of all things in all their education. There is a great network for homeschooling. I could control almost everything in my kids life because they were with me. They could spend more time playing and being creative instead of always sitting in school and doing homework. We could created a stronger family base because of the time we would have together. And then in the end it came to...I could guarantee my child's salvation if he stayed home away from all temptation.

A few issues with this.

First, this is my deepest fear for my children. It is my greatest fear because I grew up in a home that talked about Jesus but came very, very dangerously close to throwing it away. I am paralyzed in my fear of my children falling away from Christ because I can't control that. Being so tempted by dangerous things that they will damage a large part of their life. (I believe that God loves the damaged, heals the damage, and restores us to full life. I believe that Good comes from bad, but I also know that real life consequences make enjoying the fullness of God's life harder.) I can not guarantee my child's salvation. I hate that. It makes me cry.

Second, if you continue down that line of thinking, it reveals that somewhere I believe that Jesus doesn't exist in public school, or that he isn't strong enough to keep my child from falling away. So many things are wrong with this statement, I don't even know where to begin, but it all comes down to my fear of loosing control. I can't control all the things that go on in my son's day now. The kids that will hurt him. Make fun of him. Teach him how to curse and lie, or steal. The kids that will show him how to be mean, make fun of other kids, gossip, tease, and disrespect others. The list goes on and on.

But here is the truth. My child already knows how to do most of those things. Because the third thing is, Sin doesn't just exist "out there". It exists in our very soul. We are born with it. It lives with us and will stay with us till the day we die. What sending my child to school will do, is show him how to live in a world where all people don't believe in Jesus. It will force me to parent even more. To show my kid I am here no matter what. To talk with him about all the things he is learning, both good and bad. It will most definitely teach me to lift my son up in prayer every single day into the hands of the one who loves him more than me. The one who is powerful enough to help him when I can not. The one who will love him into eternity. The one who will be with him when he is away from me and being tempted. He has the true power to help him choose.

Whew. I really don't have any control. I don't have control, nor am I supposed to control my kids. My job is to love them. Help them. Teach and train when I can. But in the end, love them. Isn't that what its all about?

Today we visited a Chinese Immersion school for Noah. In Feb. we will know if he was selected in their lottery. Once we know what our options are, then we pray even harder. I am confident God will let his voice be heard. And if I can't hear beyond the fear, I am confident that God exists beyond that. Either way, God will go wherever Noah does. Thank you Jesus for that.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Preparing for Haiti: Part 1

If you know me at all, you know how important Haiti is to me. You should also know its been two years since I've been able to go. An earthquake, having a baby, sickness, work and lack of babysitters has kept me from being able to go. But, now I leave in less than week! (Thank you so much to all of you have supported me financially and with taking care of my children so I can go. I know I owe it all to you.)

There are lots of things that need to happen to prepare for a trip to leave. (passport, shots, money, tickets, donations, etc.) I'm used to this, because I also travel for work. Being the parent who is primarily home, there are many family related needs to be met and prepare on top of trip things. This next week will be all about preparing to leave.

Today I made four dinners to put in the freezer for my family to eat while I'm gone. I will also make sure there is a batch of Hard Boiled eggs, whole wheat pancakes in the freezer, cereal, and fruit available for breakfast. I want to make sure that Elle has enough diapers, formula, medicine, wipes, clean clothes, bibs, and snacks. I want my kids to have had baths, clean sheets, clothes, snacks, and activities planned. There will be extra toliet paper, garbage bags, paper towels, crayons, coloring books, food, bottled water, and laundry soap. Did I miss anything? I'm sure I did. I will have all baby sitters phone numbers listed, my contact info, Paul's and other important people who know my kids listed. I will have lists upon lists upon lists for the wonderful people who are supporting my ministry by watching my kids. I'll even make sure I have back up sitters. I will also need to walk through the house and pull out into the open all the things that we generally need during a week. (I am often rearranging our things, so it makes it difficult on my poor husband who can never find anything. It changes almost weekly, so its hard for him to keep up if I keep moving our crap.)

If you read this, you may think that is bit on the crazy side of things. My husband used to think it communicated I thought he couldn't do it. That I didn't think he was capable of taking care of the kids. (we've talked through this though.) That isn't why I plan the way I do.

Something always goes wrong. Its a truth in life. If we can accept that, than we won't be disappointed. A truth in our life, is something always goes wrong with the sitter, usually. You can also count on Paul being swamped at work, but he can't stay late, because he needs to relieve a babysitter. Then when he comes home he has three kids to play with, take care of, dinner to serve and clean up after. Then after everyone is in bed, he pulls out his computer and works some more till about midnight or later. In the morning he will need to get ready himself, make lunch, feed the kids, get them dressed, and clean up from breakfast while getting ready for the sitter to show up. It's a lot. By preparing the way I do, I try to free up a little of his time to deal with those things, instead of EVERYTHING!.

When I leave I realize I throw a wrench in our life. I throw us off balance. I get that. Now, I fully believe in what I'm doing when I leave. Traveling as a speaker is something I know God has called me to. Traveling to Haiti and having that be apart of our life is something I believe God has called my family to. But it is also a big sacrafice on the ones I leave behind.

I love my family. I love my husband very much, and doing all the prep is my way of saying "Thank you". Thank you for supporting me and never holding me back. Thank you for being a single parent for awhile so I can do what I do. I make dinners for you so you can come and be with the kids. I have already taken one parent away from them for a few days, I want their dad to be there with them, not cooking in the kitchen. To have the house the stocked up with all the things we might need, allows my husband to get done as much as he possibly can at work and not be late for the sitter because he has to stop at the store. There are a million things to do as a parent. The more I can do for my husband allows him to be present with our children. To play with them. Have patience with them. Teach them and instruct them.

Sometimes we judge others in their relationships and how they work and function. Some would have said that I find my husband incapable because you didn't know the reason for my actions. But now you know that I find my husband very capable. I just know what it means to take care of three kids all day long alone. I would take help everyday if I could get it. But in this way, I can help and still be present, even when I'm away.

I will be leaving on Thursday morning for Haiti and I will be gone for five days. For me its a short trip, but worth every moment of getting ready. Today my friend Joanna will drop off my two large bags of donations for me to take along. The preparations have begun!

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

All the single ladies!

This is a song my husband would sing to our daughter when she was 4months old. He would sing, "All the single babies, all the single babies..." It was a bit ridiculous, but completely entertaining. This has now proven to be her favorite song and she starts dancing and bouncing every time her brothers sing it to her. Huge smile on her face.

This also describes a lot of my really close friends. When I take inventory, I'm pretty surprised to know how many amazing single women I know. (and men, but this isn't about them) Isn't it usually the other way around? Everyone knows only married people? Well, not for me. I think to myself, I have incredible women in my life and they are all single. Until recently.

Its been fun to hear the excitement in their voices about a boy. A really cute boy. A boy that likes and in some cases, loves them back. A boy that sees the beauty, intelligence, kindness, soul and spirit of these gals.

I love the beginning of a relationship. Its SO much fun. Completely scary, but SO much fun. Its new. You want to talk to this person all the time. When they say you are beautiful, its like you've never heard that before and you believe for the first time. You get all dolled up to go out and feel special. You care about everything they say. And in almost every case, they only know the good stuff about you. It's like all the stupid stuff you do they don't know yet, so you are the best version of yourself, which is awesome!

I was talking to a friend of mine who is in this situation and I tried to encourage her to just live in this place because it doesn't last. The excitement, the feelings, the nervousness, the giddiness, the feeling of cloud nine. The beginning of a relationship is just that, the beginning. It made me think of what happens in relationships.

I don't want to go back to the beginning. I LOVE my husband. The beginning of our relationship was filled with all these things, and it was so much fun. It was exciting. But I wouldn't go back there. We may not be giddy every time we see each other anymore, though it still does happen. We know quite a lot about each other, definitely all the junk, so there's no hiding from each other. But the depth of love we have for each other, is irreplaceable. To have someone in your life who knows you better than you know yourself. Who knows ALL your junk, weaknesses, bad habits, tendencies, sins of past and present, and looks at you and says, I love you. Every morning. I see you for who you are and I don't want anyone else. You're it. I love you and think you are incredible. To have someone think you are still amazing and know everything about you? That's love. That's depth. I'll take that any day.

But you need the beginning to get to the middle to finish at the end. You need the beginning to lay the foundation for all that will come. I am excited for my friends. I can't wait to watch the joy and the pain of them learning about love. And now we can talk about it together. I love that even more.

Thank you God for seeing me for all that I am. For all the promises broken. For all those I will make and break in the future. For all my failed attempts of loving you and others. Thank you for the depth of your love for me.

Thank you Paul for being God's representative in my life. To see me for who I am. Know me like you do, and still want to be with me. I have tested you and us, and still you remain. You are my every day reminder of Jesus and God's love and forgiveness in my life. I love you, and you are still the cutest guy in the room. Any room.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Genie in a Bottle

My husband and I were stopping at the store, he was running in to grap the few items we needed and I would wait in the car. While waiting, I thought to myself, "Wouldn't it be lovely if he brought me flowers?" I continued down this thought process until I was completely invested and convinced he was going to come out with flowers because he loves me so much. I'm so wonderful, and we are completely in love, why wouldn't he bring me flowers to show me how much he loves me? Of course he would bring me flowers. Then it happened. He came out with guess what? Only the items he went in for. No flowers! Seriously? All I kept thinking was, "why didn't he bring me flowers? That's kind of jerky." I was a little put off when he got back in the car. You can imagine how confused he was. Having a great time with wife, quick stop at store, now she's mad. Great. "So why are you upset?" he proceeds to ask me. Then, still justified in my anger, I say, "You didn't bring me flowers!" After that comment I got an ear full, but this statement stood out to me, challenged me, and leveled me in my pride.
"Its not your job to tell me how to love you. Leave loving you to me. You asked me to love you forever and I will, but that's my job. Let me do it."

Wow. Now all the five love languages stuff and open communication stuff about what I need aside, he had a very valid point. So often I dictate the rules and set up false expectations. I will have full conversations in my mind that never happen. I set people up for faliure without ever even telling them, and then they disappoint me, without knowing it and my attitude changes towards them.

"You asked me to love so let me do that." Huh. There is a very real connection for me to the way I also approach God this way. God I want_________. Fill in the blank. I want my wife to be healed. God you can love me by getting my parents back together. God I need you to take my pain away. The thing is sometimes we say it outloud in prayer and sometimes its a secert deep down that we never dare say outloud, but in both circumstances we know that if God does what we ask, then he loves us. If he doesn't do what I want, he must not love me, otherwise why wouldn't he want to make me happy? And then if he doesn't become my genie in the bottle, granting my every wish, my attitude completely changes towards him. I grow distant (like I did in the car with my husband). I have anger and disappointment filling my soul for the one who created me.

So here's the deal. This is what I learned. God is the one who created the covenant with us. He makes the rules. Period. He is all powerful and frankly, he's God so he can do that. We are the created, we don't get to make the rules, sorry about that. I know my pride takes a big hit on that one. But He also knows how to love us best. He created us and knows us better than we know ourselves. He sees from the past to the ever future. He sees all and knows all. He knows how to love us best, so maybe we should just let him. We could try to control things less, which would be a great idea. We would be disappointed less, because we would trust him more. We could love others more because we would see the ways God does loves us more.

We also have to remember that we invited sin into this place. That was our fault and God said, I will love you anyway. I will love you still. "In this world you will have trouble, but take heart, I have overcome the world!" (Evil, sin, temptation, weakness, humanity, satan) John 16:33 It won't always be this way.

Let Him love you. (me) Trust Him.