Thursday, June 30, 2011


You know what happens on vacation? You get to rest. Everything in life has the opportunity to stop or slow down and you can for the first time in a long…relax.

When your body relaxes and you have the time to slow down, you start to see your life for all that it is. It’s crazy schedule, projects, expectations, difficulties, etc. It all has a chance to sink in.

All my crazy is sinking in, and what I realized is how tired I am. I am over emotional and over tired. I am dry to the bones in patience, kindness, energy, and spiritual encouragement.

I’m tired.

I realize that people live lives that are far more difficult than mine. I don’t want to be a complainer nor do I look for sympathy. What I would like to communicate is honesty. My current reality feels overwhelming.

I am overwhelmed by current and distant friends generosity to my family.

I am overwhelmed by seeing the body of Christ as he has meant it to be, loving each other and those we don’t know well in their time of need.

I am overwhelmed by the hearts of my parents in the way they care for me and my children.

I am overwhelmed by the work, phone calls, receipts, tiles, shingles, paint colors we have to deal with to fix our house.

I am overwhelmed by the wonder and difference of my neighborhood every time I see it.

I am overwhelmed by the statement, “A tornado hit our house.”

I am overwhelmed by Gluten Free.

I am overwhelmed by Soy Free.

I am overwhelmed by Dairy Free.

I am overwhelmed by Sugar Free.

I am overwhelmed by High Fructose Corn Syrup Free.

I am overwhelmed by Artificial Food Coloring Free.

I am overwhelmed by Pork/White potato Free.

(They each get their own line because each comes with their own issues, and each is equally overwhelming, let alone all together.)

I am overwhelmed by being the “No mom”. No, you can’t eat that, No you can’t drink that, No we can’t eat there, No we can’t buy that, No mom can’t make you that. Etc.

I am overwhelmed by two boys who truly do love each other, yet can’t seem to get through a day without fighting every 10 minutes.

I am overwhelmed by a daughter who is stronger willed than my other two strong willed boys put together.

I am overwhelmed by our budget and money.

I am overwhelmed by the lack of attention my speaking business has received the last couple months.

I am overwhelmed by all the thoughts in my head that want to become blogs or books or talks.

I am overwhelmed with guilt that I haven’t taken any serious time to read scripture or pray for strength.

I am tired.

I admit to these things publicly not to receive sympathy or judgment (maybe you think I shouldn’t feel overwhelmed, and to that I say good for you, you are a stronger person than I am and don’t come to my house cause I’ll be angry with jealously for you). I say these things to be honest about where I am.

I used to be a person who thought I had it all together, or pretended enough to try to fool others and myself. Not anymore. This is my day of freedom. I am done trying to impress people. I am done trying to look or sound or act or fool myself into believing that I have this thing called life figured out.

I am having not just having a hard day, but a hard couple of months. This is my reality. In being honest about it, I don’t wish to be a complainer or not look for joy in my situation. Admitting it, frees me to be honest, and take down my false expectations. In being honest, I don’t have to waste time trying to impress anyone anymore. Now I can truly just be me, and try to find the light in every day even when I feel overwhelmed.

Today my daughter hugged me tight and giggled when she saw me. A light.

Today my son told me his life was better because I was in it. A light.

Today my parents kissed me goodnight and encouraged me to go to bed at 8pm and take the night for myself. A light.

Tonight I get to read a book for pleasure. A light.

Tonight I pray. A light.

Sunday, June 26, 2011


For all the sunrises that I have seen in my life, I measure them all by one I experienced a few years back in Haiti. I woke up earlier than expected and noticed that it was starting to get light outside. I thought a sunrise would be a perfect morning quiet time. I remember sitting up on the roof of the guesthouse for over an hour waiting for the sun to come up. Dawn really is a truly beautiful process. Watching the world come to life, the sky, the earth and everything in it left me quiet and content and full of peace.

This morning I started out at 330am with my three kids to drive 12hours to my parents house just outside of Detroit. I knew the sun rose at about 530, so I was hoping against all hope that if we started in the dark, they would go back to sleep. I had them in the car at 3am. Then before we even left house, one had an accident and we had to get out, clean up and get changed. Then as we pulled away from the house, I dropped my cell phone and bent down to pick it up. While I wasn't looking, I ran into a parked car on my block. Just a bump, and no damage done, but not the thing you want to happen in front of your kids.

We were off to a great start wouldn't you say?

The kids were full of wonder and awe as drove away in the middle of the night and they watch the city lights. It's the best way to start an adventure.

We were half an hour into our drive and 37 questions later at around 4am, dawn started to break. I couldn't believe it. Just the very smallest crack of light changes that section of the sky.

The kids quickly fell asleep almost right after that and I had the incredible opportunity to drive, watch, reflect and listen to soulful music.

Its amazing to me how scripture says we are to be the reflection of Christ/God himself. That we are to point to the one to come. That our life is a smaller light to the real light that will cast out all darkness.

It truly reminds me of the dawn and sunrise. Our lives are the dawn before the sunrise. Our Christ like examples in how we live, speak and love one another is a taste of what is to come. It casts out fear, doubt, hatred, judgements, anger, and all things that take life away from us. We can be that light. We can be that foretaste.


nothing compares to the sunrise.

I remember sitting on that roof in Haiti and even this morning on my drive. It was light outside. There were no shadows, you could see everything, but then the sun came, and everything lit up. The trees reflected light. The water glittered. There was radiance around everything, and the sky changed. The light that seemed perfectly acceptable before was all of sudden less.

Twice a day the sky is different. It's pink, red, mauve, lavender, teal, orange, cream, tangerine as big would say. It's stunning. Of all the colors the sky can become, it is only at sunrise and sunset that these colors appear. The reminder that no matter what happens in life, you can count on the sun to rise and to set. It has never disappointed. It has always been faithful. It has always shown up. It has kept its promise to be there, even amidst clouds, it shines above. The Son shows up and brings radiance.




Breathtaking faithfulness.

No matter the beauty of the dawn, and dawn is critical to wiping out darkness, nothing compares to the Son.

After my pondering's, my peacefulness, and my hour of worship, the kids woke up.

We sang along to musical's, had diarrhea on the side of the road, made five potty stops, clogged a toilet and watched it spill over all over the bathroom, listened to books on CD, ate yummy food, told jokes, got stuck in crazy traffic, I drank two sodas (which is a lot for me), one large coffee and had more plantains that I care to recount to stay awake and finally made it my parents house.

The rest of my day was loud and filled with joy and life. I didn't see the sun set, but I know it did because its dark outside. I can count on the sun. I know that after the dark of midnight, the dawn will come and so will the sunrise.

Be the dawn.

Point to the Son.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

A fun distraction

I currently have a thousand things to do. Truly. We have contractors we are setting up, we are getting a new boiler, new windows and trying to plant before we leave for a month of travel. The kids and I will be leaving on Sunday to visit my folks in Detroit. My in-laws surprised us yesterday by coming and visiting for a couple days. Its been crazy and good.

Instead of doing anything I should do, I made some new napkins!

I received an early birthday present today. My in-laws bought me a new sewing machine. I had been using Paul's grandmother's machine to get me started, but since it has been decided that I enjoy and will be sewing clothes soon, we upgraded! To test my skills, I wanted to start something small and simple. Cloth napkins seemed perfect!

So tonight instead of cleaning or cooking or organizing, or even better, SLEEPING! I made 12 napkins! Here they are.

There are three different patterns and four napkins of each pattern. They are a smaller Tea time size and perfect for us!

We use the dishes my husband grew up with. They are white with little blue flowers. I thought these napkins would fit perfect.

And yes, because they were so fun and easy to do, you can expect a similar pairing for a Christmas present from me. I am currently in love with my new sewing machine and I have gained confidence in my ability to sew straight lines. I have a shower curtain waiting for my attention, but I'm not brave enough yet.

I think I will find the ability and time later this summer and I can't wait. Doing something creative with my hands really helps give me perspective and makes me feel energized. It feels good to be crafty.

Thank you Mom and Dad for supporting my creative habits! I love you both.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

The grind of daily life

I have often wondered what the point of my blog is. If I knew, than it would be easier to figure out what to share with you all. Most of the time, its to remind myself to see God in all things and have hope that I am not alone. I believe that by sharing life we encourage one another and support each other in making through each day.

Lately, some of my energy has returned and it has felt like there just really aren't enough hours in the day to get everything done. My children have been extra needy, little has been sick for over a week, and not only is my house messy and dirty, its highly unorganized. Its the trfecta of chaos. I don't need a really clean home, I truly don't, but when half my windows are boarded up, there is still glass in my yard and tarps on the roof, I need something cleaned. Give me at least one room, or part of a room. I'll take even that. So the past week has just been staying up late, cleaning, organizing, and just more cleaning. I haven't slept much and haven't once opened my Bible for encouragement.

I am running on empty.

You know what happens when I run on empty? I become the leader of cranky. I become the worst version of myself. The version of myself that I try to never admit to anyone that she really exists. I want to pretend that she never shows up, but frankly, she has taken up camp in my house. Every time I open my mouth, I'm not proud of what comes out. When I'm running on empty, every spill is a tragedy, every disagreement is the end of the world, every nag for a snack sounds like a shouting match. When I'm running on empty, there is no peace in my house.

Yesterday was probably one of the worst days I've had in a while, and that's really saying something considering how overwhelmed I've felt as of late. I couldn't believe who I had become. I think I apologized for my behavior every half hour.

Then family snuggle time happened.

A few times a week the whole family piles into mine and Paul's bed. We turn the soft lamp on and some gentle music, then we just hang out. We bring a book in, we read, we giggle, we tickle, we snuggle. We pray over the kids, and talk about our day. We ask for forgiveness and whatever happened that day just sort of washes away. Family snuggle time grounds us. It cleans us. It strengthens us. It reconnects us. No matter what feels overwhelming in life, this cherished time in bed is protected.

I like to be honest about my life. I want to communicate the reality of who I am and what life can be like, but I don't just want to complain when things are hard.

I feel beyond blessed to have a family that forgives me when I am at my worst. I am so thankful for friends who remind me that life is overwhelming right now. That it's OK to mourn all the things lost in the last month and thankful for friends who send loving emails and cards in the mail. I am indebted to my mother who listens to me everyday and lifts me up in prayer.

Even at my worst, I have so much to be thankful for. When God feels distant or my relationship with him is stale, I am encouraged to know that he meets with me through the friends and family in my life.

The only thing I have read in scripture in that two weeks in my children's Bible stories, and yet, even that is enough to remind me that God is and will be my strength. That I am not left alone to my own devise.

I should go to bed now so I can get up and spend time with the Lord in the morning, or I could just do it now.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Morning breakfast conversation

This made my day. Enjoy.

This morning at breakfast while we delighting in kale/onion/garlic egg scramble with cucumbers and grapes on the side, the boys wanted to know about chicken eggs. How come they weren't babies? I told them it was because the eggs weren't fertilized.

Big (Noah) - "What does fertilized mean?"

me - "The eggs need seed to form a baby chicken."

Middle (Caleb) - "Where does the seed come from?"

me - "From the rooster. The boy has the seed and the girl has the egg. This is the way it works for all boys and girls in animals and in humans." (in my head, I was worried about where this was headed.)

They didn't miss a beat.

Middle - "you have eggs in your tummy? WHaaaT?"

me - "All girls have eggs in their bodies. Remember how I told you that God took a piece of me and a piece of daddy and created a baby? I have the egg, and daddy has the seed. (please don't ask where they come from!!!) When the egg doesn't get the seed, it just washes out of mommy's body. It doesn't become a baby."

Big - "So God goes into your body to make a baby?"

Middle - "No he's already in there remember Noah, he's in your heart, so he travels through your body from your heart to your tummy to make the baby. Right mama?"

me - "well..."

Middle - "But what about the fire?"

me - "what fire? when did we get fire?"

Big - "Ohhhh, remember mama the Holy Spirit came and there was fire on their heads? The disciples got the Holy Spirit after Jesus left, and that's whose with us. Is that in your body?"

Middle - "Noooo, not that fire. God sent down fire remember Noah. They built the rocks and poured water on it and than God shot down fire with his hands, (make explosion noises here).

Big - "Ohhhh, you mean Ahab! Yea he was worshipping Baal and then Elijah threw down a challenge and God sent fire on his alter."

Little just sat there looking at her big brothers like it was a ping pong match stuffing her face with a banana.

I'm not sure how the conversation happened, and for some reason beyond me we started talking about where babies come from and ended up discussing the Holy Spirit and old ancient Biblical kings.

I giggled at the end. At least I didn't have to explain sex. Dodged a bullet there.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Trust is hard

I'd be hard pressed to find a word to describe this past month. Overwhelming doesn't cover it. Paralyzing is better. Almost everything has changed here and it feels like all at once. I haven't had much energy to do anything. If I've cooked anything, it's because all the food that my kids can grab on their own is gone. They need me then to feed them. Most of the time I just go to the store to buy them more fruit and carrot sticks they can feed themselves. I've just been really tired.

I can admit that this last month has broken me. I have had no choice but to rest in God's goodness to take care of us. But this morning I realize that trust can be two different things.

I got to go for a run this morning. It's the first time in over a month and it was glorious. Running while the sun comes up in the morning is hands down my favorite thing in the whole world. It clears my mind, my body is moving, and the world is quiet around me. I can think or not think and nobody is asking anything from me. It's my perfect moment.

This morning on my run, I was reminded of running at my parents house last summer. We are headed to their house in a couple weeks, so my mind is starting to prepare for that adventure.

Last summer on one run particular, God revealed to me how little I actually trust him. I'm a pretty capable person, so I often live in a false security thinking I can do it on my own. The words, "Trust me" just kept ringing over and over in my prayer. It was very humbling to have God speak to me and realize that I'm missing out on a part of our relationship and a deeper part of life by not trusting him more.

So this morning on my run, it felt like that again, but somehow different. This last month the only thing I've been able to do is trust that God is enough. I have been the weakest version of myself and therefore can only trust that God will be enough. Enough to get us through. Enough to cover my lack of parenting. Enough to help my children. Just to let God be enough. I have only had energy to fall in the hands of God and let him take care of the rest.

That's when I realized that trusting God because I have no where else to turn, is different than choosing to trust him even when I feel capable of doing it on my own.

Yes I have trusted God more in the last month than I do on a daily basis. It has been amazing and humbling and overwhelming to watch Him provide, care and love our family. He is the only thing that has gotten us through, and I have trusted that He could.


In the last few days my energy is slowly returning. Things need to be tended to, and I have started to take over my life once again.

Active trust is different that desperate surrender trust. Both are needed, both are critical, but when things start going our way again, can we actively choose to trust Him, when we falsely believe we don't desperately need him anymore?

Monday, June 13, 2011

Not to walk alone

I don't really believe in dieting. I just want to eat healthy. I don't want to have guilt when I eat something delicious that maybe isn't healthy for me. It's OK every now and then right?

Its been six weeks since I've had gluten or dairy, (OK I did test some gluten today just to find out if it will put my system into whack.) This is huge for me. I've cheated on every goal of loosing weight I've ever created for myself. Even when my husband and I ventured into P90X, I cheated after the first month.

Food often times to me is my reward for a long day, a bad day, a bad moment, stress, tiredness, being emotionally drained, taxed, overwrought, you name it. For all the things that I'm "supposed to do, need to do, am told to do", food I can control. I eat what I want. This gets me in trouble when I am trying to eat healthier. Emotional eating doesn't leave a lot of room for self discipline.

So six weeks of living a new lifestyle in regards to food is monumental for me. I've even lost five pounds! Oh, yeah I fit in my jeans again.

I understand that going gluten free/dairy free is for my son. He is the one who truly needs it. (Which by the way, we have just recently discovered that we will also be going soy free/high fructose corn syrup/sugar/ and pork free. That's another post.)

We have all decided to enter into this process with him for a few reasons:
1. We want him to feel loved.
2. I have never supported making two different meals. Way too much work.
3. We want to support him.
4. It's too hard having food in the house that he can't eat. That seems a bit cruel in the beginning of detox. So its all gone.

Now, Paul is probably the least GDSS free person in the house. He has lunch outside the house and we can't tackle that battle yet. With Lu and Caleb, we haven't really made the choice to make them allergy free. (All their meals are GFDFSF, but their snacks aren't always.) We discuss the pros and cons every day and are just trying to do the best by all our kids. We are using up our other food on those three. Also, because we aren't sure of them going completely dairy free, they have had a little dairy every day to make sure they can still process it till we make our decision. That leaves me.

When I was in St. Louis for my dear friends wedding, someone asked me if I wanted a bagel. I declined and they asked why I wasn't eating gluten. They wondered since Noah wasn't around then why did I need to adhere to the diet?

I just kept thinking, if he can't have it, I shouldn't have it. It felt like cheating to eat behind his back. Going through this process with Noah I want to know fully what it is that I am asking of him. If I said he can't eat any of these things ever, than I want to know the depth of the frustration of what that means. He won't always be with me, and I still need him to adhere to the diet, so I want to do the same. I want to honor him that way.

He is five years old, and his whole little world has changed. He is constantly bombarded with food he can't eat that others are enjoying. I want someone in his corner. I want someone to walk with him, hand in hand and by his side, to say you are not alone. He needs a friend, a companion. Isn't that we all want? Not to be alone in our journey? I am a believer that we aren't ever alone thanks to the love of Christ, but let's be honest, its nice to have a physical person in your corner. One who understands your journey, your joy, your hurt, your struggle. One to be with you when you feel alone. And I believe God uses people to be that love in person for him. I want to be that for my little man. I want to understand as much as possible what his life will look like being allergen free. I want to know what it means to have others eating ice cream and not have any. (It means we stash coconut milk ice cream just for him in the freezer.) I want to know what it means to crave a sweet and fill my craving with strawberries. I want to know the weight of his cross that he will bear. I don't want him to be alone carrying it. (I fully recognize that I can't carry this for him. That this will ultimately be his choice, but you can guarantee I will do everything in my power to help him. That's what mom's do.)

So, no matter what else happens with the other three, I am allergen free. I've lost five pounds and I feel great. I feel overwhelmed with the need to cook everything from scratch, but I hear that will pass. I don't know how our budget will do this, but God is faithful and will provide. What I do find beautiful is that nothing else could keep me eating healthy. Nothing, but my son. I guess we all need a greater reason other than ourselves sometimes to change our habits that hurt us.

There a dozen spiritual parallels in this story that warm my heart. I am again reminded of how God uses our lives, our stories, and the people within them to teach us and remind us of how great his love for us is.

I could continue, but honestly, I'm just trying to hold it all together and I've impressed myself that I got this far with a blog. There are so many thoughts and things rolling around in my mind, this is just the one that slipped out today.

Thank you for walking this journey with us.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

to bless others

Today we had an issue with a water bottle.

We left all of our family's water bottles down in St. Louis a couple weeks ago. The one water bottle left in the house is my son's Noah. It's his special water bottle from his T-ball team.

Today we were planning on being out all morning and I grabbed the one water bottle and filled it planning and anticipating that we all would be able to share.

We are big on sharing in this house. Sharing with each other and sharing with others. We try to limit our belongings for this reason and truth be told, all three kids sleep in the same room. They are used to sharing.

I have recognized the need for the kids to have their own special things. So each child has a box where they can keep their own personal special things. These things do not need to be shared. It is a child's seceret treasure box. I support that.

Well, today, Caleb grabbed the water bottle, the only one to be seen, and not being stored in the special box so it was fair game.

You know the saying "heaven on earth". This was the complete opposite. I didn't realize one could get so upset about sharing his water bottle. Honestly, I was just really disappointed in my kid for not having a heart to see the needs of others. I can own that I have extremely high expectations for my five year old. I'm working on it. But in the same breath, we need to learn from the beginning about seeing the needs of others, especially those we live with and see everyday. Ironically, the needs of the people we live often times become invisible.

So we had a couple chats about the water bottle during the day. Then tonight during prayer time, I asked Noah if he had anything to confess to God. He said he had a good day, and he couldn't think of anything.

I brought up the water bottle. (I'm totally that mom that can't let issues dropped until I know my point has been received.) He looked at me with sad eyes, and said, "But mom, its my special water bottle. Its mine and I should be in charge of my things. I make the rules for my stuff."

I stood there. I get his point, I really do. But the idea of STUFF is something I really wrestle with.

We all get really attached to stuff. It becomes apart of us and then we don't know how to live without it. We become obsessive about it and all of a sudden it becomes about the stuff. How do we get more? How do I keep you from touching my stuff and breaking it? How do I protect it? And so and so forth.

Somewhere the words came out of me, and God must have put them there, because I didn't think them before I said them. I replied to my son, "Noah, God gives us stuff to bless others. There is no other reason to have things. The water bottle is yours, but the water in the bottle can bless others. You sharing can bless others. You loving, blesses others."

God uses our stuff to bless others. To give away. To invite over and share a meal on your table with your dishes. To use your pool. Loaning out tools to help those in need. Giving up your bed for a night so that someone else might sleep there. our stuff can bless others, if we have a heart and a mind for it. We have to change the way we see our stuff. It is all tools to further the kingdom of God.

Pretty sure we will fight over the water bottle again tomorrow. But I can guarantee that God spoke truth into my heart today regarding our things. That in turn will hopefully change the way I speak to my kids about their stuff. Instead of demanding my kid shares, I can gently remind him why God has given us stuff.

To build a heart for God, we must speak truth into our little ones daily, but be open to change our own ways so that they have an example to live by.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Happy Anniversary to the man of my dreams!

Nine years ago yesterday I married the man I love. I met him when I was 19. At the time, I was not interested in dating anyone, and truth be told wasn’t sure I ever wanted to get married. When I started to get to know Paul I was scared to death because from the very beginning, I knew he was special. I knew you didn’t walk away from a man like him.

Last night my husband and I got to go for a walk down this beautiful stone path up to the stone arch bridge, over the Mississippi and into downtown. We strolled arm in arm casually talking and walking discussing life and our dreams and our future. Walking with my husband is hands down one of my favorite things. Something we don’t get to do often with the little children needing pushed in strollers and demanding our attention.

For all the reasons that I know I love my husband on a daily basis, I was reminded last night why he is the perfect partner for me.

When we were married, I was 22. I hadn’t done much in being completely self aware and mature. I still had some growing up to do, which I think many young 20somethings do. I remember my husband saying to me one time, “If you never change, I love you just the way you are. But I see such potential in you. You are the kind of the person who can be anything you want to be. I want to be along for that journey.”

My husband knows me better than anyone, truly sometimes even more than I know myself. He saw me before I had found myself. He has walked through life with me as I have grown up and become the woman I am. In the truest way, we have grown up together. He challenges me when I am less than I can be, and loves me when I am a wretched mess. He knows how to show me love, and most often forgiveness. I have never known, aside from my parents, someone who embodies Christlike grace and mercy, much like him.

When I get into a funk, which I can easily do, and wish for another kind of life, it’s never without him and the kids. (OK, in full disclosure, sometimes without the kids, but never without him.) Last night when we were walking we were discussing being content with life and yet striving for more. Trying to live individually and as a couple/family up to our God given potential. Trying to figure out how to be content in the moment and see God in everything we are, but, believing that God has put dreams in our heart that we want to make happen.

I love talking to him about these things because he is my equal and partner in how we approach life, deal with life, and love each other. We can share our dreams with each other, and its always received by the other in most intentional way of supporting each other. I want more than anything to see Paul become the man God has destined him to be. I want to support it, to pray over it, to love him through the process. He desires the same for me. And so we dreamed together last night of who can become together and as a family. And when it was over, and we drove back to the ghetto, which truly looks like one now, we were still content because we have each other.

To my amazing husband, best friend and partner. I love you with a commitment that will never die. Every morning I know I would pick you again in a heart beat. You know me at my worst, and choose me anyway. You are not without your faults, but you are perfect for me. Thank you for nine years of laughs, inside jokes, struggles, pain, forgiveness, love, mercy, chore sharing, and fun. I love doing life with you.

I heard a quote one time that said, “We don’t choose marriage partners to have someone to share the chores with. We choose to get married because we have hope.” We have hope to be loved forever. We have hope that we can be accepted as we are. We have hope that we are lovable. We have hope for joy, passion, commitment, and acceptance.

I am passionately in love my husband. I am still very attracted to the sexy man whom I live with. I still have hope that our life will be filled with love and adventure and commitment forever.

I pray that others have this story.

I pray that others have hope in their marriage.

I pray that others will wait to have this hope before getting married.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Walk a mile in someone elses shoes

Stick with me on this one. All the pieces will come together at the end…hopefully.

There have been a few times in Haiti where I hear this comment, “Why don’t the Haitians want to do anything about their situation? Why would they just throw their garbage on the ground and add to the problem? Doesn’t anyone want to fix this? Why don’t they want more for themselves?” The questions sometime differ, but the point is the same.

There is a small sense of judgment on the people for the lack of response to the problems that the Haitians face. Not always, but I hear it creep it out every now and then.

My family and I try very hard to live to love others. Mission work and service projects have been apart of my life since I can remember. We would go to local homeless shelters, we would go to other parts of the country, and then we ventured to Haiti. There all different levels of helping others out. We try to be aware of the needs of our immediate neighbors, those living in our city and then thinking globally.

This is the first time in my life where I have lived where the mission exists. The only word that was used for days after the tornado was “war zone”. It was surreal, the whole thing. The streets were black and quiet when night time came. Police shut down our neighborhood to keep people out and to keep those who lived there safe. There were wires and trees down everywhere, no one could see where they were going. The red cross food truck would drive up and down the streets three times a day offering free food to anyone who needed it. Churches were coming down by the bus load to help remove trees and debris. Friends were coming and bringing meals and groceries. Other friends were taking the kids so we could clean. The city brought in 2000 volunteers this last Saturday to help with the final debris and clean streets, alleys and sidewalks.

It was overwhelming. It still is, and we aren’t even one of the houses hit the hardest. We can still live in our home. We can stay. We have insurance to cover our damages and take care of us. My whole family is alive.

I remember sitting on our stoop, my kids playing in the front yard, our windows boarded up, debris still in our yard and the Red Cross truck came. My kids scurried to the truck to get a water and an apple. They were so delighted for the free snack.

The parallel universe hit me then.

For my life before the tornado, I was metaphorically in the truck. The one bringing aid. The one helping. I would see people out sitting in front of their metal tin shacks or half finished homes. They were chatting with neighbors, or doing a chore, their kids playing in the yard. Here we came handing water or treats or clothes to anyone who wanted them. We were happy to share and to give, but also wondered if it did any good.

(This is where comments of infrastructure, economy and what not enter. This is not the point of this conversation. I am all about those things and helping for a lifetime not hurting the long term solution with short term guilt giving. Please stick with me.)

Now I found myself as one of those women. People were coming from all over to help. Emergency food was being delivered, volunteers coming to help clean, it was all so bizarre.

One of my first thoughts was “wow in any culture, if you’re going to hand it out for free, doesn’t matter who you are, you run and go get it.” The next one was a bit more difficult for me. I was wondering if the volunteers had judged me for cleaning my whole yard. Why after two weeks was there still so much debris by our garage and in our backyard? What was I doing that I didn’t want to improve our situation? I was just sitting on my stoop, not helping.

Let’s pause this train of thought real quick for a new one.

What I love about our Almighty God is that he provides opportunities for our world to be turned upside down. For us to loose control of what we think we can control. That he allows to know pain, failure, fatigue, mistakes, bad choices, and just generally crappy life stuff. I believed but am now convinced that it is to open our minds to others and understand their story a bit more. To carve out the judgment in our hearts and replace it with compassion, empathy, and understanding. It allows us to truly just love others, releasing us from understanding their actions, and leaving that to God.

My family went Gluten free/Dairy free two weeks before the tornado. That means we had just gotten past the detox, almost, and we were starting the “I would really like a sandwich now. Where’s the mac and cheese? Why can’t I have a yogurt? phase.” The mountain looked bigger than I anticipated. Then a tornado hit our house. How does one even start to process that?

I’ll be honest, this past year I have said that having a third kid kind of felt like I was sinking. All year I’ve struggled with how to manage to demanding kids and a baby. It’s been hard. Where I was sinking before, the last month has sunk me completely. I was feeling like I was drowning, that I couldn’t breathe and all I wanted was a pizza, or ice cream, or anything I was allowed to have anymore.

I didn’t know what to do first. I didn’t know what to do at all. My house was unsafe for my kids, but I had to clean it to bring them home. Once they were home, I still had to clean the yard, but they want to be with me, and I can’t have them in the grass where glass is still imbedded everywhere. I have to call the insurance guy, the car guy, the window guy, the adjuster guy, the tire guy, the other insurance guy, the contractor guy. I have to pay our bills, return phone calls, discipline my kids, feed my kids, pay attention to my kids, clean up after sick kids, and somehow return over 400 emails.

So I sat on my stoop.

It was a break from the pressure in my head and in my heart. It was my time to breath under the weight of my current life. That’s when the volunteers showed up, and I was off to take my kids to a T-ball game. I was going to leave my house, while someone else cleaned it up. Wow, talk about hard. I felt guilty, ashamed, disappointed in myself.

Then I remembered that my kids need this. We live here, so we are constantly reminded of all that needs to be done. We work a little bit each day to try to make it better. This was our break from our reality. Maybe I was judged for that. Maybe you judge me, but I can’t take that on.

It’s funny. The pastor who we worked with in Haiti always said, “We want you to come. Then you see our life and you can share it with others. You can be our voice.” Even more than that, I think people with an outside perspective can see things that those who feel overwhelmed can’t. I can’t see the forest past trees right now. I live one day a time. Truth be told, I just try to make it to nap time, and then start over again.

But when others came and stepped in and took my kids to swimming lessons so I could stay and get our car fixed. When groceries came, and friends visited, and they listened, and they offered their tools, most of them thought of our needs before I did.

Those in need rely, depend and can’t survive with the generosity of others. The mountain is too big to climb alone. The ocean’s too deep. We need each other to pull ourselves along, without judgment.

I also have a great new found appreciation of the little things that matter. How a meal being provided changes my whole day and frees up mental and physical space in my life. How a friend coming over to just do my dishes lifted my load by tons. Another friend taking my three kids along with her three kids and wouldn’t even accept a Thank you.

Knowing that people are there to help changes my attitude. It makes me want to fight to improve things quicker. To try harder.

I don’t feel alone in my mountain.

Never underestimate the power of helping.

Never underestimate the power of helping in small ways. They are never small to the one who needs it.

Thank you.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Our story

I keep thinking about how we each have a story to share. A story to live, to share, to experience. A story that touches others lives and stories. Stories that cross over and are lived together. We learn from each others stories. Movies and theater and music can inspire stories, tell stories that move us to feel, to know, to move into something sometimes even great than ourselves. Stories change lives. How we live and respond to the things that happen to us, shape our stories.

For all of you out there who have sent prayers, good wishes, donations, and your time, we are humbled by you and you dear friends are apart of our story. But here is how our story began…

It was Sunday afternoon. Lu was sleeping, the boys were finishing up their rest time, and Paul and I were finishing a movie that we both had fallen asleep during the night before. Saturday had proven to be an incredibly stormy day with major thunderstorms passing through every couple hours or so. At almost 2pm, Paul and I noticed the sky going dark. To us, it was just another rain cloud. There was no wind. Just the darkness starting to creep into our house. I looked out and said, “It looks like its gonna rain again. I didn’t realize we were going to have storms again today.” (Paul and I used to be big TV watchers, but in the last year, it doesn’t go on much anymore except for the occasional show we watch or movie on the weekend, so that means we also don’t watch the news or weather. We’re pretty ignorant people with worldly happenings.)

Within moments, literally less than five minutes later, the wind picked up. We heard it. We both looked outside and still it didn’t feel like a tornado. Paul muted the TV because he thought he heard a siren. The siren was ever so faint. It actually sounded like it was coming from the next suburb over.

This is where I like to point out that many people at this point say, “When you heard the siren did you go downstairs?” I don’t about you, but I have never gone downstairs when I hear the siren. That may seem silly, but when I hear a siren, I mostly just look outside. That may change now.

We faintly heard the siren, looked outside, and it still just seemed stormy. The lights flickered. Those three things, lights flickering, wind growing louder, and the siren going off caused Paul to look at me and say, “We should probably take the kids downstairs.” Not more than a minute later, as we were starting to get up, the wind picked up out of nowhere. We knew instantly that we needed to get the kids downstairs right away. It wasn’t an option anymore. I grabbed Lu from her crib where she was peacefully sleeping and Paul gathered the boys who were reading and playing quietly. As we were headed downstairs, I opened the door to our renters space and called up to him. He was already on his way.

Our house is not that big. Truly. You take 10 steps in any direction, and you are in the next room. In most cases it’s only five. Everything I just described took less than a minute.

It was getting louder. The lights were flickering just a little. I made it to the stairs first with Lu, the boys were behind me with Paul and Chad directly behind them. I was halfway down the stairs when the lights went out. That was my first conscious thought of not having a light source with us. With the storm outside, our basement windows were pitch black. We couldn’t see a thing. We are standing on the stairs, in the pitch black, and my kids can’t see where they are going. This is where we were when the tornado went over us.

People ask us if we heard the freight train sound. I’ll be honest, it was loud. The storm was just loud. What I remember is kids screaming, the wind being so loud and windows crashing. I heard Paul and maybe Chad and of course myself, yelling over all of that for the kids to grab a hand and come downstairs. They were too freaked out and kept trying to go back upstairs where they thought there was light because the basement had just become a big black hole and they couldn’t see. Their parents were responsible enough to bring lights, so we were all in a bit of a panic.

The guys grabbed the boys, and we moved downstairs. Even at this point I wasn’t really thinking that we were in a tornado. I’ve never been in a tornado. I just knew it was really bad outside, and at that moment, I was convinced our basement windows were going to blow out. Paul felt the pressure in his ears build. We have windows all over our basement, so I was trying to maneuver us to one of our closets. Of course all of those closets are filled with junk and we needed to cram six people in there.

I could hear the storm growing calmer. The kids were still crying and we were standing in the basement in the dark. I was holding Caleb and Lu and looked at Paul and told him I needed to go get a light. I was handing him the kids when he told me not to go upstairs.

This is where Paul likes to tell me he doesn’t like being in emergency situations with me because I don’t listen. He doesn’t think its funny that I have a mind of my own and not very helpful in taking orders when necessary. I knew where the lantern was and the lighter. We had to get light down in the basement so the kids could see and have some sort of comfort. The storm was quieter so I knew the worst was over, but I didn’t know the worst of what.

As I went upstairs, listening to the kids crying in the basement, the first thing I saw was our climbing tree up against our kitchen window. You couldn’t even see outside because the tree was pressed to close to the house. A tree that grew up against our garage on the other side of the yard. I walked through the kitchen to the dining room to grab the lantern. The storm was still going, so I didn’t want to check everything out. My people were waiting in the basement. As I went to grab the gas lantern, all I could see around our house was tree branches, debris, and glass shattered all over the house. I couldn’t step into the dining room because I didn’t have shoes on. I took the lantern downstairs with a lighter, and told Paul and Chad they needed to go upstairs to assess the situation before we brought the kids up.

Its funny, my responses are very natural and real most of the time, but there are times where all I can think of is, “how you react will directly affect your kids and how they handle what’s happened.” This whole day was like that. With the exception of all of our freakout on the stairs, we tried very hard to stay calm, talk gently with the kids and reassure them that God was with us no matter what.

I knew there was glass everywhere and branches in the house. I needed the guys to go upstairs first, knowing that my children would have a hard time seeing their house like this. We sat in the basement and prayed. We encouraged each other, and we were calmer. Paul called us upstairs and told us to stay in the kitchen, so we came. He and Chad cleaned out the kids shoes from glass and debris so that they could walk through the house and come outside. It wasn’t raining anymore and things seemed to have settled down. I remember Noah looking out the kitchen and saying, “what happened to our house?” (How we handle this will directly affect their understanding of emergencies and where God is present in hard times.) This is all I could think. Be wise in how you talk to your children.

We walked outside with the kids, and its so funny, I’m not even then that I knew that a tornado touched down on my neighbors house. It all looked different. Trees were everywhere. I saw garages missing. I say houses without roofs. People everywhere were coming out of their houses and walking down the streets making sure everyone was OK.

What do you do when you don’t know what to do? Our dear friend Jeromy called and asked if were OK. I told him we had some windows out and trees down. He said he was on his way with wood to board up our house. Within an hour, I saw Jeromy chain sawing his way down our street. So many trees were down, he couldn’t get through. So he cut his way through. Then more people brought out their chainsaw’s and started going to work. It was crazy.

That next hour, Chad and I took the kids for a walk just to see what had happened around where we were. It was difficult to navigate with all the trees and wires down. It was still gently raining. I know it might sound crazy that we took the kids for a walk, but truly, there was glass everywhere in our house and outside our house. There was nowhere safe for kids to be. They were going to get hurt no matter where we went.

So that night our friend of ours took the kids for the night so that Paul and I could get some work done in and around the house. By the end of the night, we had our windows boarded up, our tree cut down out back, a tarp over our roof where there was major damage, and the car windows covered with plastic. A friend loaned us his generator to keep our fridge and freezer going. It was amazing!

I know we could have taken up a dozen offers to sleep somewhere else, but we just couldn’t. Its funny, leaving your house kind of feels like leaving a man behind. We were in the dark, our house covered in glass, but we were safe. Our kids were safe. It still didn’t feel real. I had to laugh, because listening to the generator made it feel a bit like Haiti. When Paul and I went to bed that night, we laid there and I said, “A tornado hit our house.” It was the first time I could really say that. “I know” was all Paul said. Not sure that it still has really sunken in.

Its just apart of our life now.

It’s our story.

We’ve always been near or far away from the news story. This time, we were smack in the middle of it. When you drive away from our house, houses and neighborhoods looked untouched. When drive towards our street, you drive right into the middle of it.

Its still surreal.

There are many houses that are worse than ours. There are other towns where hundreds have died because of tornado’s. I don’t belittle their story or have any delusions that we have it rough, I just want to share ours.

I have lots of other thoughts that I plan on sharing, but that is the story of what happened to us last Sunday at 2pm.

A tornado hit our house.

Here are a couple photos.

This is the entry into our alley.

This is in front of our garage on one side. On the other side is a wall from a garage compeletly blocking entrance to the alley.

Our neighbors tree in front of our house.

The corner where we live. Our house is the second one in.

This is our street that was once a canopy of trees.

This is what so many of the streets look like.