Quiet Prophets

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I used to think that to be a prophet one had to do all the yelling. We had to say all the things so loudly that no one could getawordinedgewise. And we had to be passionate and outrageous about the things we were yelling about.

We had to wrestle the spotlight away from someone else that stands in it and we had to get people to listen.

But then I realized that quiet can be more powerful than loud and gifts given are just that: given. They are not the same as gifts taken.

There are some of us who are quiet prophets. Or maybe we’ve just begun this business of quiet propheting because we are just now realizing it. We don’t shout. We don’t argue.

We don’t yell.

We listen and we love; we grace and we invite. We divine the divine sometimes just for ourselves and sometimes for others.  We hear the sacred whispered in willows and we see it scripted on the sea. And then we write the words.

Even Ezekiel layed himself down from time to time.

And I’ll never be Isaiah or Ezekiel. I’ll never be the one who shouts from a roof or climbs to the top of the tower to tell the story that burns in the heart.

I have stories the sear the heart, yes, but I’m quiet. Maybe so are you. 

I’ll whisper the words in modest corners and tell the stories from humble places.  I won’t hike the steps of the pedestal or even the steps of the stage. I’ll let those who want to shout have the single sphere of the spotlight, loud and clear and big.

They can be prophets in that way but I’ll do it this way: with small stories and unpretention. I’ll do this quietly. Because if I’m honest I’m really tired of the socialness of media and I’m tired of the poetry getting splashed across photos of the ocean when all we need to do is stand ankle deep in the waves and hear the poetry splashed across our souls. I’m tired of force-feeding my words when it would be so much better to simply feast on the quiet rhythms of the sacred world.

We can quietly prophesy as we work our desk jobs, our home jobs and our jobs that don’t feel like they fill the soul. But as we put our heads down to do all-the-things that we have to do so that we can do what we want to do we remember that even here, we’ve been given the quiet words to be prophets.

And we speak

Grace.

We speak

Love.

We speak

Invitation to the margins and the left-outs.

And here is where we live: in this business of quiet propheting.  When we are quiet it is then that we can hear the best, things we wouldn’t hear if we were shouting.

Now I know this about prophets: when we are given words to whisper, write or sing, we prophesy. And those of us who hear clearly with uncluttered ears and clear hearts perhaps we are quiet for a reason.

Let us always be a people who are humble in message and peaceful with our words. Let us never wrest the spotlight away from the ones who are better designed to live there.  And let us live with quiet words and hearts, telling our stories to the ones who want to hear.

 

L O V E: The Only Way to Live

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I’ve lived a lot of the last week risking my own heart.

We take a step toward love. We take a step toward the next adventure. We take a step toward people and when we do we take a step toward vulnerability.

When we say “yes” to love we say yes to all that may come as a result. Hurt. Pain. Leaving.

So all loving is a heart-risk but all loving is worth it.

Our children. Our partners. Our friends. Our parents. The people we meet along the way. It’s all risk but it is all a part of the beautiful hard journey of living.

Loving is worth the risk.

My dear friend Lisa stamps L O V E on this brass piece and strings it on a chain. And she sends it to me the day after I get back from all that risk, piled high in a mound of mail.

And so it means something so much more than perhaps it would have before I left.

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She’s giving me a very special discount code to all of my readers. Click here and when you find what you like enter “sunshine” at checkout to get a full 20% off anything in the shop {this code is good until May 3). 

Also, for today only use “momlove” for 25% off.

L O V E.

Let us love with all the risk we can. With all the deep vulnerability we can because I’m finding that is the only way to live.

The Long Road

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There is a long road that no one travels.

Mopeds with three and four people apiece race up and down it as a truck full of something tries desperately to make its way over the pitted surface. The mopeds dodge an occasional goat or a child and drive as quickly as the road allows the long way down the canal.

But no one travels down the road to Drouin unless one needs to. It’s hot and dusty and the water in the narrow canal looks milky-dirty. Stuck in a valley, no breeze blows in Drouin.

Even so we leave the highway near Saint-Marc and turn toward the rice fields. Rice fields that now, seem to teem with growing things, but not so long ago they did not. After the devastation of 2010 this community lost its livelihood as foreign aid poured in to flood the market. Those who grew rice in Drouin could not sell rice when all the rice in Haiti was free.

Small mud homes flank the rough dirt road with small “yards” that brandish a goat or two and maybe a chicken. Children run from the cars or they stare as we pass at an impossibly slow speed.

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At the point that I would understand later was only about half-way down the road I wonder if this trip is going to be worth it. What could we find at the end of this road that would be worth the jarring and the banging and the jerking on this horrible road?

It’s a road that nobody chooses. And a road that no one cares about.

But near the end of the road is a school. And a kitchen with a woman who makes rice and beans and fish broth for the students. At the end of the road is a home with a mother who’s life has been changed because of the school. She can feed and house her children because she is employed now. At the end of the road is a classroom full of French and Creole words and joy and singing. At the end of the road a fire of hope has begun to burn brightly in the form of education and school supplies and uniforms and teachers doing what they have been called to do.

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So we stand in the school in Drouin this time last week, the place no one ever goes, and the principal tells the children in his beautiful Creole that we are their “benefactors,” that we are the ones that provide the school books and the food they ate.

And it is too much.

Amber looks wide at me and I can see the tears well up in Erika’s eyes and now we are the ones who are staring. The children, they grin and clap and in turn look back at us with the same wide eyes.

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This. Is. Too. Much.

It isn’t me, I want to tell them. It is someone else. We are merely standing in for the hundreds of families that support this beacon of hope at the end of the road.

So this is a role that I must grow into, I think as I stand there. I must become what they say I am because it is true and right and these people deserve someone to stand for them. This end-of-the-road community deserves someone to remember them daily.

So I leave them that day with a rent-open heart and tears still brimming. What do I do with this weight? What do I do with this little spark of life down a long road?

Home again, I’ve realized something.

This insufferably long road is something we can travel down daily if we choose. We don’t have to wait for the SUV to crash us over the rocky path. We don’t have to wait for the next trip or the next plane flight. We don’t have to wait.

We can make the journey when we write a letter. When we pray. We can make this journey each day when we support the students of Drouin.

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Can you make this journey with me? With them? As a community if we can sponsor just 75 more students in Drouin we can send 250 more students to school for free in a community and a nation where schooling is not free. We can purchase farming equipment for this tiny village. We can pay their teachers.

We are already 25% to our goal. And it won’t take much more. There is joy, hope, and even the future of the nation at the end of the road.


How Six Days Turned into a Decade

13885426695_5a69c14816_z Chad calls me the queen of non-profits.

I work for my father and a Christian student leadership organization here in Orange County and I also work for Help One Now taking people to places like Haiti (link).

When someone asks me what I do for Help One Now I usually say something like this:

I connect authors, bloggers and storytellers with Help One Now for the purpose of activating them for long-term advocacy.

That’s a fancy way of saying I help arrange and plan those trips that allow people to see the boots-on-the ground good work of a good organization and then tell a good story about what they see.

But what happened this last week during my first time to this country was something I was not expecting at all.

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In the van on the way to dinner on our last evening, our friend Mike asked both Amber and I the same question.

“You don’t have to answer now,” he began, “but how (if it has at all) has this trip affected your perspective on anything?”

I looked out the window at the people and the mopeds and all of the colors and sights that make up Port-au-Prince.

“And maybe it hasn’t,” he continued.

Amber, in her Alabama words that I can hear even now as I type this, talked to us about the global church and leadership and all the good things that we’d been learning from the Pastors this week.

She knew and she understood. She got it.

“I don’t know.” I said. “I’ll take you up on telling you later, okay?”

As I lay on the bunk later that night and listened to the fan (and prayed that not too many mosquitos would eat my legs) I thought about my “perspective” on poverty, the orphan crisis, and the global church. I thought about Haiti and about how much I still don’t understand, and maybe never will. 

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I understand how helping can hurt and I get the new models of orphan care and orphan prevention. My perspective didn’t really seem to change much because I felt like I was seeing something I had already thought about deeply.

But then I thought about Sarah and Mike seeing the school at Yahve Shamma for the first time, the same school that was dreamt about on the last trip of storytellers. I thought about the full-circle-ness of it all.

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I realized that I want to see the children of Drouin go to secondary school and I want to see that little forgotten community thrive. I want them to drink clean water and farm their fields well and prosper from them.

I understood that I wanted to witness Ferrier Village ten and fifteen years from now and see those babies turn into adults who rescue more babies. I want to see an orphan care system there that does so well they don’t need outside help any longer.

I want to never have to say goodbye to Widia.

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And I then I got it. (Or I got it as much as is possible in a six day trip).

Six days in Haiti had wrapped me up into my own elevator pitch. Six days in Haiti turned into a decade almost overnight.

I had been planning and planning this trip and I knew that I cared but I didn’t know how much until the very end. It was a place that was altogether more brilliant and intense than I would ever imagined and I had never expected that the long-term advocacy that I was dreaming about for others had actually grabbed me around my heart in the form of little hands and wide smiles.

I’ll never claim to truly understand Haiti, but even so I want to. And I can’t imagine living a life where I never came back. I feel like I am the one who has been “connected.” I am someone who is activated and advocating. I am someone now who wants to see it flourish and grow over the long haul.  I am the one who’s perspective has been changed because now it isn’t simply working for a non-profit, it is getting to watch the future of a nation change little by little.

And it is beautiful.

If you want to be a part of this story, click here.

All photos by the talented Scott Wade

The Struggle of Stewarding a Story

I listened to an NPR story last week about a songwriter who had written a song about a man wrongly accused for murder. He sat in prison for 40 years without having committed a crime.

When he wrote the song and sang it on small stages and big stages and collective venues and all over the country he began to forget who and what the song was about.

He said, “You can’t help but change the story by telling it. You become part of it. It is a big responsibility to steward someone else’s story.”

***

haiti 113859212655_781ca9a299_zI’ve been walking in the dirt of Haiti for the last five days and I’ve been struggling  with how to steward the stories of other people and do them proper justice.

If only 100 children can become sponsored in one of the poorest communities in Haiti then we can send them to school and feed them every day. We will even be able to buy farming equipment for their community and pay their teacher’s salaries. Drouin, the place that no one loves needs love.

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And at Ferrier. Oh Ferrier. Where we piggy-backed the babies and watched their new homes being built. And we listened to their pastor and patron tell their stories about borders and brothels and seven-year-old girls who were rescued from them.

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But how do I tell their stories well? When I am not them and I don’t live in their homes and I do not drink their water how can I steward them?

This holy stewardship is stunning in it’s weight.

I’ve become a part of this story and to extract myself from it is almost impossible. But I don’t want to change a single piece of it.

I don’t want to let their beautiful stories filter through my impossibly English words and change them in any way.  I want them to stay amazingly Haitian and island-bound because even in the midst of all the struggle there is insane beauty.

What a sacred duty this is. To feel the hands of these children on my arms and legs and around my waist and through my hair and hope beyond hope that I do them justice.

But simple justice is what they need and it is the same things we all want for our children.

  • Safety (so many little girls I’ve seen walking alone on the streets of Cap-Haitian and Port-au-Prince and I can’t help but think about my little girls)
  • Full tummies (so many stories about eating only every other day so that the whole family can make it)
  • A good place to live (mud homes and no homes and tin homes everywhere along the road)
  • A future (when grief and despair hold a country hostage the future seems bleak)

It is the same thing I want for my girls. The same.

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So I will work hard these weeks to steward these stories well.  I will feel the weight of this holy responsibility and I know that even as I should do my best to extract myself from this story, I know myself too well. I cannot.

It breathes in me and it hopes in me.

 To follow all our stories, click here.

To sponsor a child in Drouin, click here.

To sign up for a garage sale for orphans to help the Ferrier Village Phase 2, click here.

Oh How He is Faithful

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Last night as I fell asleep I prayed for awe.

I wanted to be in awe of both ends of life. The good and the bad. As much as I can be in awe of a sunset and in awe of how something went terribly terribly wrong.  Amazed by goodness and hope but equally distraught about pain and suffering.

Awe for both.

I prayed that I,that we, could be in awe of the hurt and the pain in this broken country as well as astonished by all that is beautiful.

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And oh how He is faithful. Because awe, you know, it comes in waves rushing and heaving over us when we don’t really want it maybe in tears and in laughter. It comes in the form of seeing the child who is newly (oh so newly) orphaned but has found a loving home with sisters and brothers and aunties who love him.

It comes in the form of watching an artist take a brush and paint the beauty he sees in his own nation, a nation that has fought so hard to be whole.

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It is awe for a God who has NOT left a place or a people but is alive and breathing and giving life. Awe for a pastor who rescues children. Awe for another pastor who spends his life training leaders.

And wonder for the deep hardness of a place that has seen centuries of disadvantage and destitution. For the lost babies and lost brothers, for the mothers who have died.

But deep awe for the grace.

And the hope.

And the hills and coffee trees and new life sitting in the pew in front of me on Sunday morning.

And oh how he is faithful.

 

With Help One Now, we want to see 100 children sponsored in Drouin and build more homes for vulnerable children in Ferrier through Garage Sale for Orphans

You can also find us here on Instagram and Twitter under #HONbloggers. We are telling the story both with our words as well our photos. Besides myself, we’ve got Amber Haines, Sarah Bessey, Laura Tremaine, Erika Morrison, and Krista Smith with us. Each of them are beautiful sisters and warriors in this fight.

Being Here

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Apparently the drive from the airport to the hotel was not as long as it could have been, meaning we only had to wait for 10 minutes behind a delivery truck rather than 30.

Amber, Erika and I chatted in the backseat of a truck while Pastor Gaetan drove and Scott sat in the front seat.

One of the girls asked a question and then said, “Maybe I should know that about Haiti but I don’t.”

In the age where we can Google anything, I wanted to know the answer too.  The only book I brought on this trip was a big book about Haiti and I had it in my backpack on my lap. But I resisted taking it out. We were driving slowly through the streets and I had the sights and sounds of the country at my fingertips already.

How sad would it have been for me to stop experiencing to start reading about it?

I kept my backpack zipped up.

Be present.

It’s what Chris keeps telling us. Be Present.

But as a writer, I think I’

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m always working how to tell the right story, the best story, and that’s why we are here. Maybe sometimes I let the words fly through my head when I really should just let myself take it all in.

Be present and be emptied.

So we sat and we bumped across pits in the road and I was present. So. much. to.

see. The book can wait.  And maybe once I finish it it will mean more because I won’t be just reading about a place, I will be reading about a place where I have smelled and saw and touched and loved.

To read more about this trip click here.

What is Possible

Some people look at the world and think: What is not possible. Some people see the same world or set of circumstances and see what IS possible.

I have to confess. I’m great at finding the problems in things.

Maybe it’s me being a critic or a cynic. Or maybe it’s a gift. I can see the logistical issues, the why-it-can’t-work and I’m the one who asks the hard questions.

How will you implement this? What is your plan, I ask.

I’ve been accused of being not looking at the macro but focusing on the micro. But the way I see it, at least in relationships and for homework and cooking dinner and delegating chores, focusing on the micro ensures the macro will work.

Haiti-Ferrrier-Village-Lg-001-7865Haiti-Ferrrier-Village-Lg-001-7865And yes, on a bad day, it may be a little dream-dashing. When I ask the hard questions, dreamers like my husband are forced to come face to face with reality.

Sigh.

I know I’m not alone and I’m not sure it is as simple as optimism and pessimism, though. I could take this and put myself in a pessimist camp. But I’m not a pessimist. I’m a big believer in grace and in big impossible things.

But as a daily liver of life, sometimes the details seem bigger than they are.I think I’ve lived a long time looking at the world and seeing what is NOT possible.

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I’d rather look at the world and notice what is possible

So how do we, do I, move from a what is NOT possible to what IS possible type of thinking? How do I zoom out and see the macro?

When life has been lived and real dreams and relationships do get broken by life sometimes, and when I see my daughters struggle at school, and I see my husband struggle at work and I see my own struggles. It’s hard to not see the details. The details are the dailies, they are the dishes in the sink and the dirty towels on the floor of the bathroom. The details are my world.

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I don’t have an answer.

In just nine days I’m going to board a plane with 5 other friends headed to Port Au Prince, Haiti.

And I have to confess that I’m a little interested in what I’m going to do with Haiti.

Everyone has told me that the problems are  [Read more...]

You Are Magic

We have a friend who didn’t believe in such a thing as a narwhal.

“Sure there’s such a thing.” I told him, “Here.”

I opened up my laptop and looked up a video of a narwhal, a real life “unicorn” on You Tube and an older National Geographic clip came up. Narwhals. Unicorns, sort of.

And I watched too. It was even a bit surreal to me too, even though I had not been newly introduced to the creatures. Wow.

“Amazing.” It is a little magical, I thought.

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When I treated myself to this little juice glass from Anthropologie I had no idea it would be the favorite. We would all fight over this little glass when we sat down to dinner and breakfast.

You are magic. Accompanied by a whimsical drawing of a narwhal, as if the artist knew that some people might not believe.

What does it take to believe? A photo? A video?

Our friend believed only after he saw the video and I then remembered how strange and awe-inspiring they were. And I might not have believed either.

What does it take to believe that we, each of us, are truly magic?

I can tell my daughters day after day that they are magical, the stuff of awe, but they might still walk through the next years not really understanding it. I can tell myself that God’s gifted me {all of us} in unique, magical, non-explainable ways but I still live my life with anxiety, discouragement and boredom at times.

What will it take to make us believe?

Maybe we can try to live in continual wonderment at this world. We can be amazed. And we can be amazed regularly.

Children are amazed daily at the most regular of things. I’m remembering my toddlers (now in lanky girl bodies) being astonished by dandelions, ocean waves and seashells.

The entire world was magic.

What would it take for us to believe, like the young explorers of this world, that the simple fact of being alive is a magical and beautiful thing?

Let’s tell our children that they are magic so they don’t forget. Let’s tell our spouses and friends that what they add to our lives is irreplaceable. Let us stop, just for a tiny moment today, and be in awe of this earth.

Because it is magic.

The Hardest Battle

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A few weeks ago a good friend of mine asked me, “Where is God at work most in your life?”

Preface this with the notion that we were meeting specifically to talk about goals and plans and futures and dreams, and being the wise, good woman she is, she asked this question.

“I guess, and maybe this isn’t spiritual enough, but I feel God is at work in helping me understand who I am.” I answered her.

She nodded and smiled. “Of course that’s God.”

“I guess my self and my personality is where I feel most settled. And if that’s an indication of where God is working the most, then yes. It’s in who I am.”

It feels almost silly to say this, but that is exactly where God has been working in me in the last year. Finally, at the age I am, I feel like I’m really learning who I am and who I am not. And I have come to find out, I like me.

***

I turned 39 over the holidays, on New Year’s Eve. And I feel like 40 is looming closer and closer and closer.

Every winter-to-spring month that ticks off the calendar just seems one step closer to, I don’t know, the middle of life? I find myself saying things like, “before I turn 40” and “I hope I can do that before I reach 40” as if 40 is some kind of crazy benchmark.

But one thing that I believe I’m doing well in my year-before-forty is making friends with myself.

When we become new friends with someone we spend time together, we laugh, we talk, we discuss, or maybe we simply sit. Getting to know someone is sometimes difficult, sometimes easy, but it always takes time.

On one hand I want to chide myself for not getting to know myself sooner. But on the other hand, I believe I’m right on time. I’m that complex, maybe, that it has taken my almost forty years to figure out who I am. Or maybe that’s how it is intended for all of us — to spend the greater parts of our lives becoming satisfied with how He has made each of us.

 ***

The world tries so hard to make us into something God never intended. The poet e.e. Cummings said, “to be nobody but yourself in a world that’s doing it’s best to make you somebody else is to fight the hardest battle you are ever going to fight. never stop fighting.”

Getting to know yourself is only half the battle, I wonder. The other part is to hang on to ourselves.

Let’s today resolve to do two things, if we can.

First, let us become friends with ourselves. It is more than just getting to know ourselves. It’s more than understanding our gifts, our personalities, our fears and behaviors, and the ways our experiences have shaped us. It’s also being okay with who it is we are.

And secondly, let us fight to be ourselves. Once we have made friends with ourselves, we need to fight, fight, fight to hang on to what we’ve found. Be loudly you, unabashedly, beautifully you. Because it really is important.

Where is God most at work in my life? In me.