Category Archives: 2011

Starting a new chapter

As usual, it’s been a little while since I last wrote. I have since left Haiti and moved to the Twin Cities area in Minnesota. Leaving Haiti was no easy thing. I miss it everyday, but I know I am the right spot for me at this moment.

When I made the decision to leave Haiti earlier this year and began processing what that might look like, I knew I had to find a way to keep my roots where they had grown deep. Living in Haiti for five years I had meet many amazing people, from those who came on teams, to my students and of course many many others who called Haiti home. From the desire to stay close to Haiti, Cedar and Cypress Designs was born. Since I left Haiti in June, I have been working on becoming a business owner. I can proudly say that as of July 31st, I officially am!

Cedar and Cypress Designs is an on line retail store where you can purchase all sorts of jewelry and other products for you and your home. All the products are hand made in Haiti. Each of the companies I partner with as suppliers are people I know personally. People who have big hearts for Haiti and understand the importance of socially aware business practices and what a dignified living wage can mean to a person.

As I have relocated back to the United States, I am able to get the products I fell in love with in Haiti out to consumers in the US. I started this new chapter as the new school year in Haiti is also beginning. My heart misses the kids and everything that is in Haiti, but I know that thought Cedar and Cypress Designs, I’ll be visiting home soon. I will continue to blog on this site, but I will also be blogging on the Cedar and Cypress Designs website as well.

Thank you for following my journey, for praying for me, thinking about me and supporting me. I hope you will continue to check in and I will continue to update!

Don’t forget to check us out at www.cedarandcypressdesigns.com

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Hi. I still think about you.

Two post in one day, I know.. .it’s a lot. Especially from the sporadic blogger who goes months with nothing and then, BAM, two in one day.

Tonight is Camp Out here at Quisqueya and being the Student Activities Director, I am sort of in charge/obligated to be here all night. My Student Council has done so much work, an amazing job planning, its going to be a really fun night and I am looking forward to it (except for the pressure of the whole being in charge/responsible-for-everything-that-could-go-wrong-thing). I really wanted to blog about camp out, after camp out, but I was taking a minute and found myself in my lazy chair in my apartment reading this book someone borrowed me. This book that had some hype among our teens, this book that I am either reading at such a perfect time or it was a totally terrible decision to pick it up at all.

I’m reading “The Fault in our Stars” by John Green, which is a quick read and I have to say I am enjoying it. I have heard great reviews. Its about girl with cancer, terminal cancer, who meets boy in cancer remission.

Today is one of those days that crept up on me, one of those days that all the sudden out of no where is here. Every year on March 20th I write some post about Todd. On this day, the anniversary of day he lost his battle with cancer. This day for the last few years has sucked.

But today didn’t suck when I woke up. I am sort of jazzed for the kids and I think its going to be a great Camp Out. Its sort of perfect actually, they have a bon fire planned and so many memories I have of Todd are sitting around a bon fire. I’m finding this year on this 5th anniversary I am not so much sad, I’m more just flooded with memories. Some really good ones and some well Todd ones. As I’m sitting in my chair reading this book about cancer and terminal illness the words resonate with me.

“The thing about dead people,” he said, and the stopped himself. “The thing is you sound like a bastard if you don’t romanticize them, but the truth is…complicated, I guess. Like, you are familiar with the trope of the stoic and determined cancer victim who heroically fights her cancer with inhuman strength and never complains or stops smiling even at the very end, etcetera?”

Please don’t hear me say that Todd was not heroic, he fought a hard battle and lost and it sucked. But he complained, as he should have, cancer sort of gives you that right. I remember the time I saw him cry because it hurt and the time I was there when he  was doing his daily injection of Interferon treatment into his own leg. He was tough and he fought. And he lost. As I remember him and try to honor his memory, I feel a need to remember him as he was. Tough and kind, sort of a grump-a little bit mean even, sly and a big giant baby at times (pre and post cancer), loving and strong. He had this power to make me love and forgive him with just a smile, that smirk I can still see when I close my eyes.

I can still see your face, there are certain smells that stop me in my tracks. You are so missed and so loved by so many. It might be cliche, but I know you’re in heaven smiling down, shining on us all. Today I just want to say Hi. To tell you, I still think about you. This picture is a moment frozen in time. The rest of us don’t look quite the same, we have all traveled down different paths, paths we never could have foreseen since it was taken. But we have all taken you with us. We keep you in our hearts.

Z group

Mission Monday

This past weekend I had some friends come in on a mission trip. Four of them were on a team I led back in 2012 and whenever they come I always try to spend some time with them. This year, two of those people brought a team from their church and THEY led their team! I used a “Mission Day” for work and spent all day Sunday and Monday with them. They came through their church, Servants Heart Fellowship in Peoria, Ill.

Team

The SHF team at lunch on Sunday!

I was nice to catch up and spend time serving along side old friends. We went out to the orphanage that was previously supported by an organization I worked for, but I fear no longer has any support aside of Servants Heart Fellowship (SHF). I am impressed with their dedication and resilience. It can be difficult to work with Orphanages and different organizations in Haiti, but if you are willing to take the time to pour into relationships, then you might run the risk of actually making a difference.

SHF pours into relationships. They pour into the brother/sister team who started the orphanage. A father who lost his wife and didn’t know how to care for his children. The sister who lives in the states and is doing her best to help our this father and  so many other fathers and mothers who find themselves alone. The pour into the hearts of children and teachers. The goal is not adoption, some times the goal is surviving. This “orphanage” is more of a school, a boarding school if you will. SHF is in it for the long hall. They are committed to relationships and partnering with a family who are making the most to survive-at best.

I had a great Mission Day and enjoyed loving on the kids with the rest of the team. It was nice to be a part of what they are doing. The men on the team made desks and the women did some really fun crafts and a vacation bible study during the week. I even got to step in use some of my super-power-teaching-skills (Because I happen to admire all teachers everywhere and think it’s sort of a super power to impact lives in a way teachers do) the day I was there. I also got a beauty treatment, some people color their hair, I prefer to have a team of specialists pluck the greys from my skull.

Beauty challenge

Beauty challenge

Thanks for letting me spend the day with you SHF! Missing you guys already!

Disclaimer: I know there are many books and opinions of how orphanages can and should be run. There are books and opinions on how missions can and should be run. Heck, there is a big book that tells us how life should be, but the truth is, sometimes we get it wrong. Sometimes we have days when we get it right and some times not so much. Opinions and views differ and although I appreciate those differences, I’m asking you….don’t rain on my parade! GREAT job SHF!!!

Snap out of it!!!

I ended up not having much of a Thanksgiving and I started feeling sorry for myself last Thursday. My family was together in NY and my sister in law was sending me pictures, I was missing home more than ever before.

This longing for home made me start second guessing myself and my future choices!!! I am in a major decision making time in my life right now and smack in the middle of it I start thinking to myself ‘well I miss home and family and friends, I guess it’s time to go back??’ WHAT?!??  SERIOUSLY?!?!

So I miss some peeps that I saw a month ago and will see soon for Christmas, and that means I have to feel sorry for myself. Snap out of it!

I sort of feel like a hypocrite, I have so much to be thankful for and because I wasn’t able to have a traditional Thanksgiving means I forget about all that?! Come on!!! Snap out of it!

Thanksgiving day/weekend is a great time to spend with family, and I am sorry I missed out on that. BUT, I have a lot more to be thankful for and I need to remember that! The entirety of my life has basically been one series of fortunes and blessings after another. Not to say I have not had struggles and hardships, but even those times I must remember to be thankful-for if it was not for our difficulties we would not be strengthened.

Here I am, less than a week after thanksgiving reminding myself to be thankful. I am out of my slump and back to the reality of the decisions I have to make. Thankful for the doors open in front of me and the opportunities that lie ahead…

Thankful I snapped out of it!

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Welcome to the world baby Nora!!

Around the corner from where I currently live is a pretty amazing family (click for their blog). I was hanging out one evening for some fellowship and laughter when, Tara (the other Tara, I know-WHAT?!!? two Tara’s!) got a call that a woman was in Labor.

Troy and Tara Livesay work for Heartline Ministries, an amazing mission here in Haiti with a focus on women. Heartline has many women’s programs ranging from a cooking and a sewing school, to a teen mom house and maternity center. One of my favorite things to do in Haiti is network and partner, for anyone hoping to do the same, volunteer in Haiti or just looking for an honest mission to donate toward-Heartline is on the top of my list!

After Tara got the call she asked if I wanted to join her to see a birth…umm let me think…YEAH! Tara, her daughter Paige and I drove a mile up the road to the Heartline Maternity Center. We got there a little after 7PM, momma to be (Astrid) was walking around trying to speed up the process and poppa to be was patiently waiting out front.

Around two hours and three chocolate bars later we were still waiting. I was impressed by many things during this experience, but mostly the willingness and trust of Astrid with the Heartline staff. The three midwives from Heartline were too amazing, from their Kreole skills to their gentle ability to walk Astrid through what she needed to do in order to ease her pain.

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Prior to the birth Astrid had attended different maternity classes offered at Heartline. This was Astrid’s fourth birth (all with the same father-sort of a big thing here in Haiti!) so she was pretty prepared, but I am not sure one can ever be 100% prepared with something so unexpected and varying as birth. Everyone present did a phenomenal job and baby Nora was born around 11:30PM on April 27th!

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I can honestly say I have never experienced something like this before; this was the first birth I have been able to witness. It is a beautiful thing and I feel so blessed to be a woman and one day (hopefully) experience the gift of life myself (using a midwife for sure!) I am so thankful to Astrid, Tara and Heartline for allowing me to be there and ask so many questions! It was an experience I will never forget! Welcome to the world baby Nora!!!

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Women’s Self-defense and Empowerment Training with Brookview Church!

I had full intentions of posting this blog before I left to New York for the holidays, but unfortunately that did not happen. I’ll back track a bit and do my best to catch up!

In mid December a group of 10 joined us here at World Wide Village from Brookview Church in Seattle, Washington. This team came prepared to do three separate two day clinics on women’s self defense and empowerment training. Pastor Jason and his wife Jen wove together a great program with a perfect mix of biblical principles while Erin and her husband Jon educated the women about the male and female reproductive system, how STD’s are transferred, and women’s rights. Erin is a police officer in Seattle who also teaches self defense classes to women.

Explaining the female reproductive system.

Brookview really hit the ground running; as soon as they got in we went out to Luly to make bracelets with a few of the ladies. Jen made bracelets with two string colors woven together to make the word ‘selfless’. Pretty quick it appeared the ladies were not understanding how to make them-nether was the team. It was great to see on the first day how they problem solved this challenge as a team; they were flexible and enjoyed their experience even though it did not go as planned.

Selfless bracelet!

The first two days of clinic were spent at La Piste with 30 deaf women. I really enjoyed the opportunity to work with the deaf ladies in this capacity. As the clinic unfolded I watched the ladies faces and saw them understand the different concepts and principles. When it was time to try out some of the self defense techniques the ladies really got into it. La Piste is on the cusp of one of the most dangerous slums in the western hemisphere. For a year after the earthquake 400 deaf Haitians lived in 40 tents in this area. When I got to bed at night, I lock my door; I can’t say the same for them. I feel so blessed to be a part of the empowerment of this group of women. They are all special to me, beautiful – strong women who deserve respect, especially when it comes to the men in their lives.

‘Throw your hips into it!’

 

Even Betha gave it a try!!!

The second two days were spent with a group of ladies in the World Wide Village community of Luly. 30 women from around the community met with Brookview for the self defense and empowerment training. There were clear differences between the ladies at La Piste and the ladies at Luly. The harsh reality of life for Haitians continues to remain outside my imagination. Although I live in Haiti, I live behind safe walls in a safe community. The ladies at La Piste don’t live the way I live. I am fortunate and blessed beyond my comprehension in the life I live. The ladies at Luly are blessed compared to the women living in camps and slums. I am so grateful Brookview decided to do this training and invest in these women.

‘Use all your strength!’

The last two days Brookview did their training in partnership with WeADVANCE (weadvance.org), a women’s clinic in City Soleil. I was not a part of this as I headed home for the holidays, but Ali here at World Wide Village told me it went just as good as the first two sites and was unique to the women who were in attendance. I am sorry I missed it, but hopefully Brookview will return soon to continue their empowerment and education of the Haitian Women!

New Coub Bouton!!!

Each day Brookview wanted to provide the ladies with a snack at noon. At the end of the first day they made prayer bracelets and each Haitian woman got a letter and a picture of a prayer partner who attends Brookview Church. Brookview then took their picture for their partner in the states to have. There was also an exchange of prayer requests and the ladies made bracelets to remind themselves to pray every day for their prayer partner.

Making Prayer Bracelets

At the end of the second day the ladies received a certificate with their name on it from Brookview and World Wide Village as well as a Coub Button to carry with them for added protection in addition to their new skills! The ladies at Brookview really wanted to make sure they knew how special they were by washing and massaging their feet and painting their nails! It was a beautiful way to end the training!!

Painting and washing the ladies feet at La Piste

 

Brookview Church team member painting nails.

Once again my life has been enriched by the amazing people I find myself surrounded by. I am so blessed by the opportunities I have been given. To witness the deaf women at La Piste grow from tents to wooden shelters was a blessing, now I was a part of educating and empowering some of those women. Again I find myself speechless and in awe of the amazing life I am living. Thank you Brookview for your vision, hearts and service; come back to us soon!

Brookview and the ladies at La Piste with their certificates

Luly Garden Project

It’s been two whole week here at World Wide Village. I feel so blessed beyond measure! When I first got to Haiti and working with 410 I always felt very alone. I was the only expat living here-but to be fair it was a new thing for all involved, a learning experience of extreme measure. Over the last year and a half I have learned so much, about myself, Haiti and humanity. I have met some of the most amazing talented caring people in the world, and stumbled upon many organizations doing a lot of great things!

This past week two interns were here at WWV working with Debby, a woman who has been to Haiti through World Wide Village a number of times; this trip she was here working on a garden project WWV has going on in Luly. Luly is a small village about 45 minutes north of Port au Prince along the coast.  WWV supports a school there with over 400 students; the school is a new building donated through the Haitian cell phone company Digicel.

Adjacent to the school is where the garden lies. Over the last two weeks I have watched it go from a field of dry dirt to 26 garden plots with space for two compost piles. Debby is very passionate about composting and gardening, the first thing she did when she got to the WWV house was check to make sure the compost was in working order; of course it wasn’t and we all got a lesson on how to sustain our compost to help make a beautiful garden.

Ali and I in the bambo forest at Wynne Farm

The ladies in the community got a lesson in compost as well! It is a foreign concept to many Haitians, but I think with a bit of reiterating, over time, it will sink in. The week was spent helping to move dirt, laying block to outline plots, moving more dirt-good dirt this time, and planting seed.  It has been exciting for me to see the progress of the garden over the last two weeks, but nowhere near as exciting as it will be to watch as the gardens grow and sustain Haitian families!!!

The ladies in Luly planting their gardens

Mid week we took a break to drive up the mountain to a town called Kenskoff to Wynne Farms. Wynne Farms has been in Haiti for over 20 years! They grow –and teach others how to grow-everything from Bamboo to Strawberries! It was a great change of pace to see another thriving project here in Haiti!!! It sure does breed hope in my eyes! There are so many resources here in Haiti, they just aren’t utilized.  For me it always comes back to education. Many of the things we learned in High School or from our parents, even TV and movies we tend to carry with us- adapt and apply to our lives. That is not the case however for most of the world.

Strawberries growing in recycled water jugs.
Gardens in recycled plastic and recycled tires!

My observation is many common sense and things we learn at an early age is taken for granted like so many other “American” things; 24/7 electricity, clean water, shelter-necessities where I grew up, novelties where I live now. Good touch/bad touch, the law of gravity, the life cycle-all taught at an early age in the US-4th grade 8th grade, we learn it and re learn it. Not here. While a child in the US is learning about earth day and planting trees, a child in Haiti is memorizing words, not learning the definition of words, but memorizing them-without meaning.

I wish composting and gardening was as easy to teach and understand in Haiti as it is in the US. I wish the Haitians had vanities like consistent electricity and clean water. I pray the system will stop failing them. I pray I will be one of the people who works myself out of a job down here-that the Haitians I work with will thrive, and grow into the future of their country like I was told growing up I was the future of America. Everyone deserves greatness, everyone deserves love.

Everyone hard at work on their gardens.

Ali and I in the Luly garden!!

AND my path takes another turn…

I haven’t written about my newest change, because in Haiti you never know what will happen until it’s over. Now that I am here and settling in, I have a new job and a new home! On Monday I started working with World Wide Village (WWV) as the Project Coordinator for the Starkey Hearing Foundation’s work in Haiti via World Wide Village; http://www.worldwidevillage.org.
On Monday I was able to load all of my belongings in boxes and suitcases and make the move. About three weeks ago Dave and I made the purchase of our very own car; it has been such a blessing! It is incredible the difference having a vehicle does to my stress level. I feel like I have a part of myself back, the freedom to drive to the store or to visit friends and family when I need to. It was a bit stressful to take our entire life savings and put it towards one thing such as a car; especially in Haiti with the conditions of the road and the lack of AAA.
If anyone would like to help us out this holiday season with a donation towards our car, we are raising money to cover the expense. I have a PayPal button to the right of this post; OR you can check out Dave’s website to see what he is involved serving at God’s Littlest Angel’s orphanage by going to http://www.nchaiti.org. If you would like to help us on this journey, it would be a huge blessing to us!
As I get settled in and things start rolling for me here at WWV I will update on what my now roles and responsibilities are! I am looking forward to this new venture and what God has planned for me as I take another turn in my path.
Proverbs 3; 5-6
“Trust in the LORD with all your heart
and lean not on your own understanding;
in all your ways acknowledge him,
and he will make your paths straight.”

Thanksgiving Bliss

It’s obvious to me I have much to be thankful for this year! I love thanksgiving – it serves as a great reason to get together with family and friends and completely pig out, but it is also a great time to come together with family and friends that you are so thankful for. Some people have different traditions at Thanksgiving, going around the table and saying something they are thankful for is always a favorite. Personally, I like to use thanksgiving as a reminder of the people in my life I am so thankful for!

GLA Christmas Tree!

I am blessed to be surrounded by some of the most amazing people. Of course I am a bit biased being their friend and all, but I was fortunate to spend Thanksgiving with some of the most inspiring, big hearted, beautiful people (inside and out) in the world!

This was the first Thanksgiving I have ever spent away from my family, it is one of my favorite times to get together at my grandmas with all my cousins, aunts-uncles, and the many additions that have married and been born to my family. I missed them all terrible, but I had a great day!!!

Me and the three berry pie I made!

I spent this November 24th at Gods Littlest Angels (GLA) Orphanage. It was perfect from the moment I walked in the door to the sounds of Christmas music and saw the Christmas Tree standing proudly in the corner! The volunteers were happily decorating as the staff started the prep for the glorious dinner spread.

Joyce and I making the stuffing!!!

 

Molly and her dinner role dough!

It was great to be around good friends spending time laughing and giving lots of hugs to so many people I was thankful for. I am so thankful for all my wonderful friends at GLA who have made me part of their family, they are truly amazing people.

From the stuffing to the pecan pie to the people around the dinner table, the day was nothing short of perfect. I hope I will never need a reminder to let the people I love know how thankful I am for them each and every day. I am so thankful for people who are able to show the love of God unconditionally, I am so blessed to have some many of those people in my life – all at one table!!!

‘Family’ around the Thanksgiving table.

Romans 12:12 “Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.”

Luke 10:27 “He answered, ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your sound and with all your strength and with all your mind’ and ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.”

Psalm 107:1 “Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; his love endures forever.”

 

Tuesday’s with Ted!

In a few of my posts I have mentioned Ted Steinhauer; he is a mentor, and friend – a sort of ‘Haitian dad’ for me in Haiti. Over the last week I have been helping him create a blog. Every day he sends out a devotional and has an ever running list of recipients. I put two and two together, it just made sense. This is Teds first blog post, again ‘Tuesday’s with Ted’ just made sense! I hope you enjoy it as much as I do, you can find his blog a:

http://godsradicalcall.blogspot.com

 

This is a trustworthy saying and everyone should accept it: “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners” – and I am the worst of them all (1Tim.1:15)
The first thing all believers believe is that Jesus came to save sinners – that’s a given. But believing that “I’m the worst of them all” isn’t an easy reality. Fact is, very few of us believe it.
Most of us think, “no way I’m the worst! What about murderers, rapists, kidnappers and pedophiles, to name a few? I’m certainly not “bad” like them!
Does it make a difference how much we have sinned?
In Ecclesiastes 7:20 God tells us, “Not a single person on earth is always good and never sins” And Romans 3:23 says “Everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glory.”
Sin is sin! And we’re all guilty. Sinning less or more is a non issue. Fact is we have all sinned and are justly condemned. That’s why “Jesus came into the world to save sinners.”
Jesus provided the way for us to be saved, but we must believe Him – “There is no condemnation for anyone who believes in him. But anyone does not believe in him has been condemned already for not believing in God’s one and only Son. And the condemnation is based on this fact: God’s light came into the world, but people loved the darkness more than the light, for their actions were evil” (Jn.3:18-19)
Ok! I believe and am saved, now what? First we must continue to believe not only that we are saved and now belong to Jesus but also “That anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun” (2Cor.5:17).
Proverbs 23:7 tells us “As a man thinks in his heart, so is he.” In other words, how you think is how you act. We must believe God when He tells us the old life is gone; our life that didn’t believe in God or live by His Word.
In 2Timothy 3:16 God says that, “All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right. God uses it to prepare and equip his people to do every good work.”
So the second thing we must do is believe in and live from God’s Word – it is the foundation of our lives. Without God’s Word we won’t know how to live out the new person we are in Christ. And since we are new people with new consciences we will always be struggling as our new conscience tries to convict us of wrong living and convinces us to trust God’s Word.
1Timothy 1:19 instructs us to “Cling to your faith in Christ, and keep your conscience clear. For some people have deliberately violated their consciences; as a result, their faith has been shipwrecked.” When we compromise and convince ourselves that we can ride the fence between the world’s ways and God’s ways, we shipwreck our faith!
Dear friends, if God took such a radical measure, the sacrificial death of His Son on a cross to save us from eternal condemnation, we need radical faith in Him and radical trust in His Word or we will most certainly violate our consciences and shipwreck our faith!
ALL THINGS DELICIOUS

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