60 hours in Haiti.

Gosh, where do I begin? It has been a whirlwind trip once again to my favorite little island nation. I took advantage of a few days away from work to connect with the children and staff in Port au Prince, Haiti. There is soooo much to share…I think I will just let the pictures tell the stories.

Connected with ANA Director Rock Cayo regarding the paperwork for one of our students seeking a student visa…

conferring about gefte's paperwork

Brought Creole Storybook Bibles for the boys. They read and read…and fell asleep with open bibles every night…

Boys and their Bibles

Held a parent meeting with Director Rock and Administrator Roselaure…30+ parents attended!  Each family received a Creole Storybook Bible (thanks to the donation from Celebration Lutheran in Sartell)…

Parent Meeting - Bible Distribution

Observed the water distribution system – thanks to the initiative developed by my niece Avalon to make water more readily available to the students each day…

Water!

Interviewed 13 new students with Administrator Roselaure and Interpreter Stanley (he filled in when Rock needed to make an airport run)…

translator stanley and new students

Savored some sweet moments with these beautiful children…

students

Checked out the division of the rooftop classroom into 2 rooms for grades 4 and 5. While I was up on the roof snapping the pic, neighbor girl and student, Rolande waved to me!  Love to see the children in the neighborhood.

Rooftop Classroom and Neighboring student

Explained what a ringbearer does (thanks to Google Images) to two little dudes that will be bearing the rings at Breelynn and Kyle’s wedding this summer!  (Bree was able to ask them via Facebook Video Chat – sweet huh?)

ringbearers

Enjoyed a quick visit with JP’s Haitian family – Junior and Guerline…

visitors

Taught an English Institute Class and joined in the worship session/English lesson as students practiced their language skills while singing Ten Thousand Reasons…(lighting is dark, because the lyrics were projected on a man-made screen on the wall)…what an awesome experience…

English Institute Worship

Led a three-hour Teacher Seminar – Agenda: vision, student needs, brain research/differentiation, backwards design/planning, news and announcements     *adding a weekly English lesson for our students, planning a spring field trip, the Spektak is scheduled for June 18th…

teacher seminar

Conducted a Finance Meeting with Accountant Edelyne to negotiate the budget – good thing I am taking a finance class in grad school!  I needed to translate Haitian goudes to US dollars and question the # of lbs of rice to purchase…

Finance Meeting

Introduced Flat Stanley to the real Stanley and gave him a quick tour of Haiti…

FlatStanley

Shared some fun conversations with “waiting families” back home…gotta love technology and Facebook Video Chat. Now we just need to get them home!

FB video chat

And best of all…bonded with these buddies of mine…

BOYS

running errands-Haiti bound.

iPhone musicTonight I joined the 21st century…as Bob and I were out running errands this evening, I plugged my phone in to charge using the USB adapter and voilà-my music started to play! How cool is that? A bit of “Beautiful Things” by Gungor to fill my car with inspiration. I know that my techy daughter uses the music from her phone when she is in the car, but this was the first time I discovered it on my own. Yippee.

The to-do list is getting shorter as I prep for a weekend away in Port au Prince, Haiti…travel toiletries purchased, bibles packed, paperwork organized, pictures printed, treasures for the boys have been dropped off…

Now to prepare my heart…there is anticipation and excitement with every visit.  This adventure in Haiti began when I trusted the longing I felt to “do something”…not quite sure what that would be, just knew that I needed to go.  This will be my eighth trip since that first visit in June 2011.  With each one, I have made new connections and friends along the way. Riky and Ecclesiastes have now joined their forever family in Montana, Davinsly and Stanley still wait to come, Jefte moved in and waits for an opportunity to travel on a student visa.  ANA Primary School has expanded and a food program continues to provide a noon meal. Two new teachers have been hired and Miss Roselaure is now the administrator/teacher in charge.   I typically have a wish list of items to accomplish when I arrive, and yet I know that I must trust the journey.  God has plans for me…I just need to listen and be ready.  I will seek His wisdom as I go. Take a peek at the faces in the video clip below to capture a little bit of where my heart and mind are living these days.

living in unity.

How good and pleasant it is when God’s sisters live together in unity!

psalm 133:1

And that is the truth.

Raking a Difference

I had the great pleasure to spend the past 20 hours with a few of our small group girls and fellow leader Amy [missed you Ann, Anna, Maggie, Libby, Sarah, Micaela, Lexi and Maggie!]  Last night began with a little rock, paper, scissors challenge, worship, and a message…followed by late night conversations, a bowl of buttery parmesan popcorn, juice boxes and a sleepover…a morning of “Raking a Difference” for an organization doing great things for girls in need…lunch at my fav taqueria…quiet time at a local ball field…a competitive “Amazing Race” against the other small groups….and coffee from our sister barista Libby!

Small Group Retreat

Great fun.  Many giggles. Memories created that will unite us!

Life can be crazy hard at times…stressful, complicated and filled with expectations from so many places.  These girls are achievers…do-good kinda chicks that have very full lives with school, sports, social lives, church…online schooling for one because she will be returning to Africa in a few months…and another is balancing homework in English when all of her previous instruction was in Hebrew. There is peer pressure and self-inflicted pressure.  Being a teen ain’t all it’s cracked up to be. And yet…these are great years – full of new and exciting adventures. So…they are choosing to surround themselves with friends that will hold them up when the going get’s tough…laugh with them about the sweet, silly things (for example facebook cat statuses)…and share the big and small moments in this journey.  I feel privileged to have the opportunity to share a just a small slice of life with these fabulous young ladies. xoxo

sweet moments.

My weekdays and eves are filled with work, class, meetings and all of the duties expected of a middle age working gal!

Then the weekend comes and I disconnect and recharge.

The past couple of Saturdays, there have been kitchen extravaganzas-complete with raspberry jam, chocolate cake, zucchini bread, apple crisp…

Just me and some Norah Jones and a few pots and pans. Awwww…serenity now.

Tonight I got to share that baked apple crisp with my parent-in-laws…and my sweet niece/college girl who joined us for dinner!

college niece

This week’s reminder…work hard at work and the business of being a responsible adult….AND be certain to make time for the sweet things in life…

…dinners with family and friends…cooking adventures…reading something that makes me think (enjoying Jen Hatmaker’s Interrupted at the moment)…surfing mindlessly on Pinterest…coffee/pumpkin spice latte dates….browsing TJ Maxx…TV movies and a bowl of popcorn…

OH so many options of the things I enjoy.  Hoping you are finding the balance of sweet moments in your weeks!

transitions.

I wish I were one of those bold, courageous, adventurer types that loved change…that embraced new experiences with vim and vigor (well…what is vim and vigor? hmmm.) you get the point…with excitement and oodles of positive energy.

But I am not.

I like routines.  I like things fairly predictable.  Hence the Friday night pizza and wings each week…at the same spot…nearly EVERY Friday.

And yet, transitions occur.  With or without me. So I often need to “fake it til I make it.” Shifting responsibilities at work this fall force me into new situations and new relationships most days. I am thrilled with the opportunities…yet on the inside I long for the familiarity and safety of my previous duties.  I am taking one of my grad classes across the metro with the Hopkins cohort…Again, new people, new expectations – a course on finance? yikes. not my favorite.

My niece and my sis are adjusting to the newness of college life and one less family member at the dinner table each night.  New, exciting, and a bit sad and scary.  Avalon and I had a sweet chat tonight about these transitions.  And how difficult they can be.  At any age, change can be tough.

Or not…

September 2010 brought me and my hubby to empty nesting – read about that here. September 2014 brings that sweet girlie home to live with us once again as she completes her internship in Social Work this fall. For me, THIS transition is sweet…I now have her here for coffee dates…cuddles…conversations and family dinners…

coffee pals

For those NOT SO FUN transitions, hang in there.  Take a deep breath.  Keep moving.  Remember that this too shall pass. (At least that is what I will be doing.)

 

guest blogger: it’s all about the people

Today, we have a special guest blogger that would like to share her heart with you…words of insight from my daughter Breelynn- leaving her university town to begin a social work internship in a week.

I grew up, throughout my life, hearing the saying “it takes a village”. My parents always made sure to stress the importance of acknowledging how many people are a part of our lives…making us who we are, investing in us, looking out for us, and ultimately loving on us. It was not until I really came to college that I fully understood the magnitude of that saying, and just how much having “a village” meant to me. As a freshman at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, I soon realized that it was not just my mom and dad that I missed, but it was also my friends, my aunts and cousins, my mom’s best friends, the kids and families I babysat for, my friends’ families…and the list could go on. My heart did not just long for my parents, my sole caretakers…but it longed for my WHOLE family…my village of people.

As “college world” evolved into “home,” a new village of people came into my life…or rather, my previous village just expanded. Being an only child, I have always been confident in hanging with the adults. I was taught at a young age how to sit at the “grown up table” and have “big kid” conversations…how to be polite and be a good listener, as well as be invested and ask questions. And now, at 22 years of age I am STILL refreshed by older adults, and families. When I got my job at Kids Korner (the daycare at the YMCA) I was STOKED because I got to work with MOMS. This may sound silly, but truly having a job where older, wiser women got to pour into me on a daily basis and allowed me to love on their kids was one of the biggest blessings to me over the past four years.

And now, here I am four years later…realizing that as soon as I have kids, and they are old enough to listen, I will be teaching them the importance of having a village, because at the end of the day it really is ALL ABOUT THE PEOPLE. So often we get caught up in the stresses of work or daily life, how much money we are making, how insecure we are, or how dysfunctional our lives are that we forget to slow down and make time for people. I easily could have looked at every shift at the YMCA, every babysitting gig, every wedding I catered, and every family I nannied for as just a paycheck and a job to pay the bills. But I am SO grateful that I took time to actually invest and savor those things. Had I not, I would have missed out on the numerous amounts of families opening up their homes and lives to me that I do now…generously serving me with free laundry, home-cooked meals, extra groceries, baby cuddles, and even prayer time. I love that there are kids in my life begging for headbands of mine so we can be “twins,” and pleading with me to let them come for a play date at my house.

Folks, moral of the story is: slow down. Love people and let yourself be loved. Invest in people, and allow yourself to be vulnerable enough to be invested in. Every person has a story – so take the time to figure it out. When that co-worker or classmate is driving you crazy, remember something in their life may be going on. Dare to be bold and ask people questions. It is because I was both willing to share and listen that I have the dearest Eau Claire village of people I could ever have asked for.

And to those of you reading this that are a part of my constantly growing village: thank you for loving me, investing in me, and truly being my family.

Twinning with S

Fun with E and H

YMCA fam

it’s really just about the people.

Tomorrow begins another school year…early meetings and trainings kick off in the morning…the rest of the staff return next week…then the students arrive following Labor Day.  I could be feeling anxious or stressed with the end of summer and the return to full weeks of work…OR I could be feeling at ease, ready for routine and excited to get back at it.  Well…truth is, I feel a little bit of both. Naturally.  Yet when I really stop and think about it, I am simply happy to have had a little vacation time…and so very grateful for the people in my life that make it all worthwhile!

My final weekend of summer was filled with sweet connections…there were dinners and drinks with friends on a patio in the city…two coffee dates with cousins…a jog/walk around a lake with a pal and her dog…an afternoon matinee with my hubby…breakfast downtown with friends visiting from NoDak…yoga and a glass of wine with my cousin/flowergirl…phone calls and texts with my sis and my girlie.

So many sweet conversations about things in life that really matter.  The work, the meetings, the planning – those things matter too, but REALLY it is just about the people. In all I do, I savor the moments spent with others…sharing life together.

So as another school year begins, I will seek connections…with colleagues, with students.  I will keep working at the balancing act of leaving work at work, so that I can enjoy the time spent with family and friends.

I will listen more…laugh more…love more.

Here’s to another great year ahead!

boys being boys

“Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around.” -Leo Buscaglia