Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Kid Vision


Hayden ran in the house breathless.  Hair a mess.  His hands clutching a book.  Wild with excitement.  "Mom.  Aunt Lynsey said this book is about some kids who make their own city! Their own city!  She said I could borrow it!"

"Aunt Lynsey knew you'd be all about that, didn't she."  He flashed that sweet smile and then threw himself down on the couch and started eagerly turning pages...looking at the pictures.  "They have their own money!  And stores!  And..."

"Hayden.  Why don't you take a second and breathe...and then read it.  You know...not just look at the pictures."

He read each page slowly, concentrating on the artwork.  When he finished he set the book aside.  It was obvious.  This thin, beautifully written and illustrated book had deeply inspired him.  There would be no rest for anyone until Hayden had created his own Roxaboxen town.


Some days it's fun having a way-way out there child in this house.  His way of looking at the world and the people in it stop us dead in our tracks some days.  His way of refusing to live in this world or notice people right in front of him some days also causes us to take pause.  Either way, we learn a great deal from this kid.  Most days I look at his insanely messy room, school basket, back pack, seat at the table, his clothes that are always a mess or ruined...and I end up frustrated.  Books and bloggers really talk up raising creative kids.  It's all the rage these days.  What people fail to mention is that if you succeed at creating a creative child or if you're like a lot of people (us) and end up with one even though you put zero effort into the process the fact remains:  Your house will be a mess.  You'll have a grand total of three spoons in your silverware drawer, you'll find a fresh batch of totally weird and random items sitting around your house every single day, and you'll kick yourself for not buying stock in Crayola.  It's not uncommon for me to fall asleep while having this conversation in my mind:  "Am I stifling his creativity?  I want him to be himself.  I want him to be creative.  I want home to be a safe place for him to create and to feel understood.  But for the love.  His crap is all over this house.  He's a walking disaster.  I have to attempt to help him learn to be responsible and at least claim temporary residence on Earth.  Right? His wife will probably thank me one day for discouraging the hoarding of bizarre, tiny items.  Right?  Right?  I'm probably cramping his style and ruining him.  Ruining him!  Snore.  Rinse and repeat a few nights later.

His eyes crazy with the Roxaboxen bug, I went ahead and laid down some ground rules.  "Hayden.  If you take something out of the house for Roxaboxen, you have to clear it with me first.  Okay.  No exceptions.  He nodded.  I'm pretty positive he caught zero percent of what I said.



The kids got busy.  Gathering rocks for their "territories."  Finding tiny, shiny stones for their "money."



Kids are magical.  Are they not?  


Bakery


Pet Store  


I'm guessing that the first "structures" you build in your town are probably what you think are fundamental elements of a legit society.

If this is the case, then our sons are building their city on the pillars of carbs and earthworms.

Standing out there today watching them work and listening to them plan their city I was very aware that my eyes were not seeing what their eyes were seeing.  I'd pay a lot of shiny stones to have a few hours of kid-vision.  Wouldn't you?

This just in:  The girl cousins have opened up a flower shop in the town of Roxaboxen today.  Classy, no?

Other Roxaboxen Posts:

Not One of Them Ever Forgot

Moving on Down the Road

Monday, January 30, 2012

Grace and Flan


Many of you have emailed us recently to ask how things are going.  Your prayers and words of encouragement have been the sweetest of gifts in this odd spot where we find ourselves reaching for what is next.

I have been trying to be quiet, to listen, to invest in real-life relationships around me that are in need of repair.  I have walked that rocky road the past few weeks of opening up my heart, being honest with the Lord in an attempt to personally learn and grow...while also not wanting to wallow around in fruitless despair. Fact:  Soul searching is healthy and helpful.  Another Fact:  Soul searching removed from the truths of the gospel is dangerous and can be destructive and counter-productive. Seeing my failures and the failings of others through heaven's grace completely changes the landscape.  In each situation that needs addressing, I'm slowly learning to pull out an extra chair and invite grace to sit with me as I think and respond.  Her contributions to each conversation are consistently jaw-dropping.

I'm aware every morning that this time to sit and think...to process...to learn from mistakes...to stop and heal, accept forgiveness and extend it are privileges enjoyed by very few in our world.  Our time in Haiti has brought a lot of sobriety to our definition of suffering, a "hard time," or a "bad day."  While there are many lessons to learn during this time, ultimately we know...we are fine.  We will be fine.

{{KIDS}}

The kids are adjusting.  Hudson had the hardest time processing the sudden move. Thankfully he is doing much better.  Each of the older kids have had multiple melt-downs and times of intense sadness about leaving their friends in Haiti.  We hold them and cry along with them.  The tears are coming less and less.  They are enrolled in a local Classical Conversations campus with many of their old friends.  Not much about our life back here resembles our life in Haiti.  As parents, we're grateful for this one element of "sameness."  School feels normal.  Living across the driveway from their four, favorite, female cousins has helped tremendously.

Aaron recently returned to Haiti to sell most of our belongings.  He returned to Texas without Artemis.  We were unable to bring her back.  Unfortunately there are a lot of restrictions about flying with a dog that size.  She went to a great family in Haiti.  Yet another reason to sit in a pile as a family and cry with our boys.  And promise them a new dog.  This is the part I hate the most.  We're tired of our kids crying, and we're really tired of being the reason for those tears.

{{JOBS}}

Aaron has had two very promising job interviews.  He also has several job applications sitting in various stages of the hiring process within the Texas A&M system.  It's likely we'll find out this week whether or not he has a job.  We continue to pray.  Every morning I wake up and think, "We could be days away from a life that is our normal level of weird."  My heart skips a beat.

Mostly we are moving forward.  There are some days when I wish I could stay in bed until all this dissonance  morphs into a lovely melody and we have a life that makes sense again.  Instead, I make myself get up and watch the sun rise, tell all the ugly truth to Jesus, and read of His insane love for people like us who rarely seem to have it together.  Grace gently nudges me to find the beauty that is near...to seek out the pictures of redemption in my day...and to live out the good works God created for me to do during this block of 24 hours.

I'm tempted to think that nothing real or worth anything can happen until the chaos is quieted.  Until all is still again.  How strange to feel God whispering to my soul that He's here in all that is spinning.   Even this chaos is a gift?  Perhaps "chaotic" and "confusing" are not the words God would use to describe this past month.  Maybe "ordered" and "planned."  Could it really be true...that long ago He planned good works for me to do today.  He has life and beauty waiting for us today.  While I'd prefer to shoo this day away...to grit my teeth...close my eyes...simply sit here in the silence and wait for a better day to surface...grace is teaching my soul to focus in the midst of what feels like a free fall. I'm struggling to trust that there are concrete lessons to learn even when life feels as unstable and unidentifiable as a plate of flan.

Thanks for praying for us...and checking in.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Saturday





We started watching Parenthood today.  I cried four times in one hour.  Okay.  Five.  I teared up when Lorelai started talking.  Does that count?  It wasn't what Lorelai said.  It was simply that it was her. Apparently I have an unhealthy attachment to the Gilmore Girl Goddess.  It's like she's been resurrected.  Sure. Her name is different, she has two kids, and neither of them are Rory.  But I know it's Lorelai.  She's in there.  I've missed her.  It's like getting an old friend back.  Thanks for listening.

In other news...

Hudson pooed in the yard this weekend.  After this stunt, he immediately decided it was not his best idea of 2012.  He started screaming bloody-dang murder.  I ran out of the house in the direction of the screaming expecting to find him near death.  Instead I found a panic-faced, pantsless kid.  I could not even discipline him.  His wide eyes said it all.  This poo plan was half-baked.  He hadn't really thought it through.

I've had some half-baked ideas in my life.  Haven't you?  The results have caught me just as wide-eyed and off guard.

Here's something they never mention in the parenting books:  Most kids are going to poo in the yard a time or two.  Especially if they are boys. Why do they insist on leaving all the important stuff out of the books?  Why oh why oh why?  If you write a parenting book an entire chapter should be set aside for this exact topic.  The poo in the yard chapter should come right after the chapter on Sharpie markers.

On the trek back to the house Hudson filled me in on how "gross and be-sgusting" his behavior was.  I only added a couple thoughts to the conversation.  1.  That dogs make it look a lot more effortless than it really is and 2.  I went ahead and talked back up the potty.  You know.  Just in case.

Hoping your weekend is the perfect mix of strange and beautiful.  Those are still the best kind of Saturdays, are they not?

Long-live Saturdays.  And Lorelai.  And toilets.  Especially toilets.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Planting













Longing is like the Seed
That wrestles in the Ground,
Believing if it intercede
It shall at length be found.

The Hour, and the Clime --
Each Circumstance unknown,
What Constancy must be achieved
Before it see the Sun!


Emily Dickinson

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Preparing for Lent:: A Place at the Table



When Aaron handed me this book and I began reading through the introductory chapters, I was moved.  Being back home, in the midst of transition, repairing relationships, and yearning for something stable, one of our overwhelming emotions and thoughts has been this one..."How do we live out our convictions towards the poor now that we're home?  Given this clean slate, where everything feels wide open...how do we set up our new life here, leaving the right amount of space and resources available so we can continue to learn how to pour our life out for the hurting and destitute?"

Chris Seay's book seems like a timely gift.

"Can we embrace the truths of Christ if we do not embrace His posture?  His hands were exposed to disease and leprosy as He touched the sick.  His knee bent to the ground to wash the sullied feet of His friends.  His eyes lifted in prayer to the Father.  His body bowed and was broken to death.  As we learn to march in step with our Savior, we find that our swagger gives way to a lowly and humble way of walking." -- Chris Seay



A Place at the Table - Promo from Chris Seay on Vimeo.


It is with eager anticipation that we look forward to the season of lent, and specifically how this 40 days of focusing on poverty related issues will inspire change.  It's sobering to realize the plight of the poor and the condition of our souls are not two separate issues.  They are linked and deeply interwoven.  The fact that stifling poverty exists for so many around the world says a great deal about my own poverty.  We walk into this season of lent asking God to lead, comfort, satisfy, and heal the poor knowing we fall into that category.

Lent begins on Wednesday, February 22.

We'll share more excerpts from Seay's book between now and then in case you may want to purchase it.  The book is broken into 40 short readings to be used every day during Lent.  Each day's reading also contains a small section focusing on a country and person who needs prayer.  In addition, you can find a daily video that corresponds with each reading.

To buy the book:  A Place at the Table:  40 days of Solidarity with the Poor

To view the daily videos:  here's the link.

Growing up, I thought Lent was something reserved for my Catholic friends.  In my religious superiority, I never stopped to find out what my Catholic friends were actually celebrating.  When God graciously opened my mind a tiny bit, and I started asking questions instead of judging, I found that Lent is a time of preparation leading up to Easter.  It's a beautiful, focused season when believers can savor the story of the gospel, the meaning of the cross, and the hope of the resurrection. What a perfect time to ask God how these truths can bring about actual, tangible change in our lives and ultimately in this world.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Seeds


Here's clue number 432 that we are back in Texas...

During some of my first interactions with family and friends, I heard many of them say something like...

"I'm so sad you had to leave Haiti...you had just planted your garden."

Texas is a peculiar place, is it not?  I guess Texans don't let go of a garden very easily.

Ours has been a relentless pursuit to figure this "grow your own food" thing out, and all we have to show for it so far is a big pile of failure.  Yet we're determined.  We will grow food.  We will.  By golly one day, with a full belly of squash and green beans that we harvested right outside our back door, we will mercilessly kick it to the "man."

If we had to live off of any of our past gardens, the entire Hendrick family would have starved to death a decade ago.  Our gardens have been unable to sustain even one human being. Or a yard gnome. Instead of the buckets of produce I lustfully dream about while we're planting seeds in the ground in the spring, what we actually get is a child running in the house mid-summer with a lone cherry tomato, holding it in the air, as though they found a diamond..or a gameboy game in the back yard.

Oddly, this astonishing record of failure does not cause us to waiver.  Getting the garden ready.  Tilling up the soil.  Working outside in the sun.  Picking out the seeds.  Coming in filthy dirty.  Going to free gardening classes at the feed store on Saturday mornings.  The boys running outside sleepy-headed as soon as they wake up to "check the garden" only to return with a shrug.  I guess the work and disappointment is worth it to us even if our only payment is a handful of pitiful lettuce.

We're gearing up for what must be our 8th annual garden fail.  I signed up for Sprout Robot..  Have you seen this site?  It's an online reminder that tells you what to plant and when to plant it according to your zip code.  Plants and robots.  My boys are in love.  I think this makes us a little bit like the Jetsons.  Surely the Jetsons had a successful garden, since they also had a machine that puts your pants on for you.

When I eagerly announced to the kids this morning that we are starting our spring garden in the next few days,  our most sarcastic and perceptive son stated the obvious. "Uh...where are you planting it?  We don't even have our own house yet or know where we're going to live."  I don't know where he gets his sassy mouth.

So I sassed right back.

"And?

So.  What.

Small setback."

Maybe I do know where he gets his mouth.

We have seed packets, and dirt, and cups.  We'll get earth under our fingernails, hold tiny seeds in our hands, and think of all the hope they bring...of the promises and life they contain.  We'll be reminded that while the world is cold and gray, something new is breaking forth in the dark...hidden from our view.  New life is coming!  Just because we can't see it, doesn't mean it's not growing.  With expectancy, we'll care for these tiny seed promises during this time of uncertainty. When we transplant them into our new yard, we'll rejoice at the message one tiny seed can teach a family of souls.

And then let's face it.  We'll probably kill all those sweet plants because we can't grow a garden to save our lives.

But. So. What.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Morning Message

Still.  Gray.  Heavy.

Words to describe a cold winter's day, and yet words that I've used this week to describe my soul.  Hope is rising.  I can see hints of it on the horizon.  I know it's coming.  It's just for now, the world that's mine seems still and dark.  Like the moment before the first rays of morning light stretch out in a yawn across the sky.

Every morning I wake up before the sun comes up.  Coffee in hand, wrapped in a blanket, hair a tangled, unruly mess I sit down on the couch in the dark. Waiting.  Watching.  I have been given an extravagant gift.  The french doors in front of me frame the sun rising over acres and acres of Texas land.

For the first week I didn't come to the couch to wait on the sun.  I came to sit down.  To be alone.  To think. To read my Bible.  To lay a lot of pain and confusion bare before the Lord and ask Him to heal it, to make me teachable, to soften the parts that are hard.

It wasn't until a few days ago that I realized this morning ritual of sitting in the dark watching the sun come up may not be the background for the work God is creating, but perhaps it is the main message I need to absorb before I can fully embrace the rest of what God is teaching.  This daily date with the sunrise is no accident.

It is dark.  I can't see.  All feels heavy and hopeless at times.  I can barely make out the shapes in front of me.  And yet every morning, without fail what once was completely dark, hidden, and shapeless transforms into something altogether different.  Magnificently different.

Every morning I sit on that couch without one sliver of light in the room.  Before the sun rises, in that dark, still moment, I find myself marveling that my surroundings will be changed in a matter of minutes.  All is quiet.  All is black.  All is concealed and hidden.  All is motionless.  It begins.  The silhouette of the tree close to the house becomes visible.  I can make out the branches.  The roof of the swing set.  Each picket on the fence.  The light steadily grows in strength and power.  It marches on.  Nothing can stop this light that is gently growing.  Yet nothing can rush it.

Hair a mess, coffee almost gone, I sit on that couch before the sun comes up.  It's difficult to believe that so much beauty and change is about to break forth.  It's hard to believe, but I never doubt it; the sun is about to make its debut.  There's never been a day when it hasn't.

In moments the room where I sit and the entire landscape is changed dramatically.  

And so is my heart.  Over the past few weeks that sun rising, has brought with it a sweet companion...hope.

Maybe the sun comes up every day because God knows that's about how often we are tempted to doubt His faithfulness and power?

I'm not sure what has comforted and taught me more the past few weeks.  The Bible sitting in my lap or the messages it contains vibrantly coming alive in the sky.  

Friday, January 20, 2012

It's a Girl



From the It's a Girl website:

"The film tells the stories of abandoned and trafficked girls, of women who suffer extreme dowry-related violence, of brave mothers fighting to save their daughters' lives, and of other mothers who would kill for a son.  Global experts and grassroots activists put the stories in context and advocate different paths towards change, while collectively lamenting the lack of any truly effective action against this injustice.

Currently in post-production, It's a Girl! is scheduled for a 2012 release.  Stay connected with the project through their email updates or by connecting with them on Facebook."

________________________________________________

A few years ago a documentary called, "No Impact Man" was released.  We decided to find a location to show the film, invite friends, watch, and then discuss.  We ended up with a really cool mix of people who attended, and I learned a lot from the movie and the conversations that followed.  When "It's a Girl!" is released, maybe some of us could host our own gatherings, invite friends, neighbors, watch, discuss, and see how we can be involved in some way?

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Thank You

Thank you for giving and spreading the word about the work Mercy Project is doing to free child-slaves in Ghana, Africa.  With your help, we were able to raise $1,140 yesterday.  Isn't that exciting?

"As long as there is poverty in the world I can never be rich, even if I have a million dollars.  As long as diseases are rampant and millions of people in this world cannot expect to live more than twenty-eight or thirty years, I can never be totally healthy even if I just got a good checkup at Mayo Clinic.  I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be."  -- Martin Luther King, Jr. in The Measure of a Man

One way to keep informed about all that Mercy Project is accomplishing in Ghana is to  "like" them on facebook.

There were many touching articles and posts written yesterday about Martin Luther King, Jr. and race-related issues.  My favorite posts were found on Kristen Howerton's blog.  Did you read them?

How to Talk to Kids about Race and Racism
This is a helpful post with a terrific list of age-appropriate books to open up the conversation of race with children.

Black was Once a Color to Me:  
Reflections of a White Father of Black Children on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.
This post is beautiful.  I recommend it for any trans-racial family, not just families that are made up of white parents and black children.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Dissatisfied Until that Day::Celebrating King's Life::A Call to Action



We will watch Dr. King's famous speech today.  With teary eyes, I'll hold our babies close and explain to them the significance of King's words.  I will find myself wishing that King could see the fruit of his life's work lived out in the trans-racial families we know, our current President, and the horror and disgust on our children's faces when they try to imagine racial discrimination.

Yet King's dream is not fully realized.  Slavery still exists, which means part of my job as a mother today will be to encourage our children to keep on dreaming of a world where there is no racial discrimination...a world where no person owns another person...where every soul knows its worth...a world that's truly free.


"Right now, on Lake Volta in Ghana, there are an estimated 7,000 children who are in captivity. They are modern day slaves. Many of these children are as young as five and six years old. Some of them have been sold for as little as $20. 

These children work fourteen hours a day, seven days a week fishing for their masters. They paddle, mend broken nets, and scoop water out of leaky boats. They usually eat one meal a day and sleep on the dirt floor of a hut filled with other slave children.

They do not smile, and they rarely laugh. Their childhoods have been stolen."  -- The Mercy Project

We are very careful on this blog to only point you to ministries and organizations that we know and trust.  We think it's a great privilege that you sit here with us year after year.  We are thankful for you and how God has woven our stories together, and for how He is growing our hearts for justice and mercy right here in this little online community.  We are personally connected with Chris Fields who runs Mercy Project.  We've heard his heart.  We deeply believe in what he is doing to free child-slaves in Ghana.

We would be grateful if you spent some time on Mercy Project's website.  We believe you will be inspired.

To honor Martin Luther King's Jr.'s life and his dream, we are excited to financially support Mercy Project and want to give you the opportunity today to continue King's fight against injustice by giving as well.

For 24 hours, we will have a chip-in meter right here at Sit a Spell.  Our goal is to raise $1,000 today for Mercy Project.  Can we do that?  The money you give goes directly to Mercy Project.  It is linked to their Paypal account.    


"So, I conclude by saying again today that we have a task and let us go out with a "divine dissatisfaction." Let us be dissatisfied until America will no longer have a high blood pressure of creeds and an anemia of deeds. 

Let us be dissatisfied until the tragic walls that separate the outer city of wealth and comfort and the inner city of poverty and despair shall be crushed by the battering rams of the forces of justice. [,et us be dissatisfied until those that live on the outskirts of hope are brought into the metropolis of daily security. 

Let us be dissatisfied until slums are cast into the junk heaps of history, and every family is living in a decent sanitary home. Let us be dissatisfied until the dark yesterdays of segregated schools will be transformed into bright tomorrows of quality, integrated education. 

Let us be dissatisfied until integration is not seen as a problem but as an opportunity to participate in the beauty of diversity. 

Let us be dissatisfied until men and women, however black they may be, will be judged on the basis of the content of their character and not on the basis of the color of their skin. Let us be dissatisfied. 

Let us be dissatisfied until every state capitol houses a governor who will do justly, who will love mercy and who will walk humbly with his God. 

Let us be dissatisfied until from every city hall, justice will roll down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream. 

Let us be dissatisfied until that day when the lion and the lamb shall lie down together and every man will sit under his own vine and fig tree and none shall be afraid. Let us be dissatisfied. And men will recognize that out of one blood God made all men to dwell upon the face of the earth."  

-- Martin Luther King Jr., Southern Christian Leadership Conference, Georgia 1967.

We pray our dissatisfaction leads us to action.  Please consider giving to Mercy Project today.  How much money can we raise in the next 24 hours to fight modern-day child slavery?

Related Links:


Saturday, January 14, 2012

The Best Kind of Saturday







Perfect Saturdays happen rarely, but when they do I consider them one of the most priceless, precious gifts a girl could ever receive.  Next to bacon.

This farm has always welcomed us home and hugged us tight during times of transition.  Since being back we have made a point to walk every inch of this place.  The weather has been down-right cooperative and allowed us many hours spent walking, running, and hopping from gopher hole to gopher hole.  Wide open pastures.  Hills.  Sticks.  Climbing trees.  We want to savor every step, every discovery, and every moment with the people here that we love.

In other news...

I plunged deep into the Hunger Games Series yesterday.  Why didn't anyone warn me that this would mean motherhood suicide?  I completely ignored my children.  I could barely remember their names.  They were forced to scavenge for food.  Hudson kept saying, "Look at my face.  Mom.  Look at my face."  Katniss.  You have turned me into a mother who tucks her kids into bed and says, "If you get up, I'm cutting your feet off.  I want to read my book, and I want you all to stay in your beds. Got it?"  Anson has read the entire series.  This worked in my favor.  He ran interference.  "Leave mom alone.  Those books are so good."  Anson kept Hudson alive yesterday.  That boy and I bond over books.  I stayed up until a ridiculous hour reading last night.  I woke up at a ridiculous hour to finish reading this morning.  After the last page was read, I set the Kindle aside and informed the boys that their mother was back.  "I will feed you proper food again and make eye contact with you. Until I start reading the second book."

In other, other news...

While I was at home devouring The Hunger Games and our kids were eating leftover Christmas candy, Aaron was at a nearby ranch with James Dobson, George Barna, and 148 other evangelical big-wigs.  To explain "what the cheese" Aaron was doing at this meeting would take all day, involve sound system set-ups, and childhood friends.  The lengthy explanation would end with these words, "No matter how hard we try, our life insists on being bizarre."

Representatives from places like The New York Times and CBS were right outside the ranch's gate waiting for the evangelicals to give a statement about which Republican presidential candidate they are going to support in the 2012 election.  When this article says, "a ranch outside of Houston" they also mean "a ranch right down the road from us."  We insist on keeping it weird around here.

Santorum wins support of evangelical leaders at Texas meeting.      

Happy Saturday.  I hope yours was the perfect combination of wonderful and weird.  Those are the best kind.

Friday, January 13, 2012

This Week: National Human Trafficking Awareness Day

"Established through a Senate resolution three years ago, January 11 is dedicated to raising awareness of and opposition to human trafficking. " -- The Polaris Project


"...The issue of human trafficking is massive in scope and often overwhelming to consider. How can one person possibly impact such an immense, seemingly intractable global problem? You can start by becoming educated about the issue -- including in your own community. Next, be willing to say something. Ask Congress to reauthorize the Trafficking Victims Protection Act. Fight for anti-trafficking legislation in your state. And simply be willing to stand up and use your voice to say that slavery is wrong. If thousands of voices rise up the same way, they will surely be loud enough to end this tragedy in our time."
 -- Huffington Post

I am personally looking forward to attending this year's conference in Houston to become educated and find out how to be involved in my own community.  You can get more information about the Free the Captives Conference in Houston here.  

"The United States currently has between 100,000 and 300,000 prostituted children, with the average age of entry into prostitution for girls being 12-14 years old, and even younger for boys, according to the Polaris Project, which combats human trafficking across the country." -- Huffington Post

The issue of human trafficking is massive in scope and overwhelming to consider.  Oftentimes when something seems too big, I'm tempted to sit back and do nothing.  If our time in a third-world country taught us anything, it's that fighting the good fight rarely means we feel like the task before us is easy or even doable.  Most days, we won't feel like we win at all.  We may not even feel like we stand a chance.  Maybe only a few lives will ever be impacted.  I'm not sure if feeling like we're actually accomplishing something is the main point. 

One of my favorite songs is "When the Saints" by Sara Groves.  She paints a beautiful picture of people who are fighting for freedom.  In the end she simply says, "I want to be one of them." 

Maybe "being one of them" is "what it's all about."  I juxtaposed a Sara Groves song with the Hokey Pokey.  Shameful.  This requires that I repent.

We are given the opportunity to live out, on this earth, towards our fellow man, the very principles that are revered and lived out in heaven.  Does that get your heart pumping?  As people who have been freed, the gospel compels us to be lovers of freedom and modern-day abolitionists.  "I want to be one of them," don't you?

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Remembering Haiti

photo credit: The Boston Globe

Today we remember Haiti, the Haitian people, and so many friends who live there.

Two years ago Aaron and I were glued to the television hurting for a country we had never visited.

The Boston Globe published pictures shortly after the earthquake.  I will never forget them.  They were the images that sat heavy in my mind during the months when we decided to sell our dream home, uproot our family, and move to the country that the beautiful, strong people in those pictures called home. In a strange way those pictures will always be a part of our family's story.

It was emotional today for me to look through the photos The Globe published yesterday.  The photos are more recent, and just as moving as the original photos they posted two year ago, yet they seem to tell one side of the story.  The sad side.  One of the constant themes of our time in Haiti was that beauty and strength spring up in the most unlikely of places and situations.

I wish there were photos of the amputee soccer team that practiced every Saturday at the school where Aaron worked.  I have never seen such determination.  I wish there were photos of the mother who lost her daughter in the earthquake.  She is fighting to raise her tiny granddaughter while also caring for two other handicapped family members.  She does it with a smile on her face.  I wish there were photos of the mother who lost two of her young children on the day the earth shook.  The child that lived was badly injured.  A year and a half later she delivered a healthy baby boy and named him Raphael.  His name means, "healing God."

These are the stories we remember when we think of Haiti.

We grieve today with the Haitian people who have lost much, and yet remain brave, steadfast, resilient, and full of faith. We pray our healing God holds you today as you mourn and remember.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Tales of a Cracked Collar Bone

Ashton broke his collar bone yesterday.  This is the third time he's managed to do this.  Cracking his collar is one of his hidden talents.  This time it involved swings, jumping out of said swings, and a lot of siblings and cousins.


If you're counting, this is the fifth collar bone injury we have had in this house.  Life with boys?


With the injury and all I thought this was a good time to go back and read about Ashton's other collar bone catastrophes.  What I found was a picture of my punkin-head that made me all weird on my insides.  My baby.  Where did he go?  I want to crawl in this picture and hold him tight...except he would scream...because his collar bone was broken.


What's written below was originally posted on October of 2007. 


Ashton, 2007

Last night, we were awakened by a screaming child in the hallway.

Ashton stood there, stiff as a board, head down, arms drawn tightly to his chest…loud shrieks coming from his tiny petrified frame.

He could not move his neck.

He would not stop crying.

Because I had just watched House before going to bed, I was positive he had meningitis.

We did what any reasonable person would do.

We called our doctor in the middle of the night and woke him up to see if Ashton was going to die.

He said no.

Ashton said he did not fall out of his bed.

So maybe these neck cramps were simply the result of sleeping all founky in his bed or something.

We laid him down on the floor in our room.

Every time we touched him he screamed…loudly.  Like a pterodactyl.

He laid there with Aaron until about 3:00 a.m.

I’m not sure any of us actually slept, because Ashton did not stop crying.

Then, Ashton said he wanted in bed with mama.

We put him in bed between us…same scenario.

Lots of crying…lots of dinosaur bird screaming.

At 5:00 a.m. we finally realized that Ashton MUST have fallen out of his bed. This meant, the damage was probably far greater than a crick in his neck.

The only time he moved his arm was to point across the room and say, "I want you to go over there."

This was his way of telling us to stop touching him.

We were sure something was broken.

Aaron loaded him up and off they went to the ER.

They got home at 8 a.m.

Ashton had fractured his collar bone.

They drugged him good, so he slept almost all day.

Now here’s the dilemma we are faced with this wonderful evening.

Of all the apparel someone should choose to break their collar bone in, these pajamas would never be top choice.

Ashton can’t lift his arms.

He can barely move them at all.

These are the ever-popular pajamas made for kids these days…you know the ones that are the size of panty hose?

Without arms inside them, the material where the arms go looks the same size as Barbie socks.

How arms fit in them, I don’t know.

This phenomenon should be studied like Stonehenge.

I also don't know how Barbie sock pajamas keep your kids from bursting into flames.

It's a mystery.

So here we have Ashton….

Broken boned, Ashton.

In pajamas that are not bath conducive.

Yet Ashton unfortunately happens to be VERY sweaty and nasty from being at the hospital and in the bed doped up on codeine all day today.

We need these pajamas off.

To make matters worse, these are Ashton’s FAVORITE pajamas.

His absolute favorite.

I knew this was going to be an issue at about 3 this morning.

These pj’s will eventually have to come off…but how?

Aaron and I had a little pow wow about how to get our boy naked.

We could get the pajamas off two ways...

1. Remove them the normal way, moving his arm, causing him incredible pain.  Cue loud screaming.

2. Cut them off with scissors.

We decided this was one of the best examples of a lose lose situation, if we ever saw one.

Ashton would react to both choices with hysterics.

Either way…major screaming and sadness.

We broke huddle, confronted the boy and tested our theory.

I said, “Ashton, do you want me to take your pajamas off the regular way…and hurt your arm while I’m doing it…or do you want me to cut your shirt off your body with scissors, but not hurt your arm at all.”

He looked at us like we asked him if he thought it would be ok to chop his legs off.

He simply said, wide eyed, “I don’t like this.”

Aaron’s idea was different.

He says to Ashton, “Do you want to take a bath with your pajamas on?”

We had not discussed this option in our meeting. Aaron was flying solo on this one...thinking on his toes.

Now both Ashton and Ashton’s mom stared back at Aaron like he had lost his mind.

What?

Aaron defended his plan saying, “He will eventually dry. We could lay him on a towel and keep him warm somehow until he dried out.”

Oh heavens.  We need some parenting classes.

I reminded Aaron that the pajamas would eventually have to come off our baby boy, some time before his arm healed.

We needed to regroup.

Then my brilliant husband came up with plan C.

Aaron says to our sad son, “What if I get you some new pajamas?”

Ashton liked this.

However, since I have been given the gift of telepathy…a rare ability only mothers have to listen to their children think…I sat there, staring at Aaron, anticipating Ashton’s response.

Sure Ashton thought getting him new pajamas was a good idea.

It WAS a good idea.

However, I knew our smart little son would never agree to these terms until the goods were already delivered.

He’s just too brilliant for that.

He looked at his daddy, who had just gotten out of the shower and was only wearing shorts and said, in his sweet Ashton voice…

“I want you to get dressed.”

This means…”Go get the pajamas…now…and let me see them…and then we’ll talk.”

Aaron sat there staring at his clever boy and said, “Ok. I’ll go. All crippled children should get what they want.”

That’s why Aaron is the best dad ever.

He’s at the store right now buying a bed rail and racecar pajamas.

We’ll let you know tonight, how the bath time saga staring a boy and his broken bone turns out.

In moments, we’ll be cutting up pajamas.

Ashton got us to agree to cut out the motorcycle so he could keep it forever.

This was after Aaron suggested that we cut his favorite pajama shirt right up the middle and make it into a jacket....or a vest.

Ashton was not impressed.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Back in the School Saddle



  

With all that has changed, I'm thankful some things can stay the same.

Before we got back into the routine of school in this house, we spent some time talking on Sunday night.

"I'm kind of afraid.  I haven't taught you on my own for a year and a half.  I'm out of practice.  I'm a little nervous it's going to be difficult to get back in the groove of doing school here.  I'm a lot nervous that Hudson is going to set the house on fire or try to flush all our laundry down the toilet while I'm teaching you.  More than anything, I want you to look back at this time with fond memories of learning and getting along with each other and with me.   That's what I want, but that's not always what we get.  I'm already nervous about all the ways I'm going to blow it."

The hardest part of homeschooling is never the spelling, multiplication tables, or reading assignments.

The hardest part of homeschooling is the fact that four wonky children and one sinful mother must somehow manage to learn to relate well with each other.  All day.  Every day.

There's no hiding our flaws from one another.  Here they sit.  Right here.  Mooning us.  Our impatience, insecurities, quirks, bad attitudes, strife between certain sets of siblings, children who butt heads with their mother...all of it just as much a part of our day as what's written on the chalk board.

That's the part that makes my stomach ache.

Relationships.  They are arduous and lovely.

However your family chooses to smart-up your kids, we're hoping your semester is starting off well.  In carpool lines, around kitchen tables, on soccer field side-lines, or in fast food drive-throughs memories are bound to be made over the next few months.  Some will be beautiful moments of growth and deeper connection.  Others will give us a wide open view of our obvious depravity.  Either way, I'm praying love is the loudest lesson we learn this semester even if it's learned through words like, "I'm sorry."

Sunday, January 08, 2012

Phones and Pistols


Aaron has spent the entire weekend pursuing the job opportunities you all sent his way.
Thank you.  I hope we say that often enough.

Aaron was going a little stir crazy today.   He's had one thing on his mind since we landed.  Job.  He takes this husband, dad, provider gig pretty serious.  I have sweet peace a phone call is right around the corner.  Aaron has turned in umpteen job applications and resumes to companies all over the US.  Today I could tell.  This weight.  The stress.  Visible.  I could see him carrying it around.

"What can we do here tonight to lighten the mood?"  We know better than to think magic and fun have to be bought.  It's here already.  Somewhere.  It's here.  It always is.  We just have to find it.

Aaron politely excused himself from his computer screen and his never-ending job search. "I'm going to take the boys out for a little while and let them shoot a gun."

We said we were open to moving outside of Texas for a job if we must, but I've heard rumor that it's not normal in every zip code in America for people to up and decide to go outside and "shoot stuff."  Surely that's just a rumor. I also heard it snows in other states.  I'm hoping that's a myth too.  Like Big Foot.  Or a size 2 with a D cup.



For all of you gun haters, know that I kind of hate them too.
Breathe easy.  The boys shot grass.
Having a gun in sight makes my legs feel like my femurs fell out.
I watched way too much Lifetime television growing up.
I'm convinced.  Guns = tragic, accidental death.
Yet here my babies are shooting one.
Life is mysterious.


This was just the magic Aaron and the boys needed.
Maybe it was the guns.
After a shot is fired, their eyes are wild.
The boys start jumping.
Something inside their chest seems to explode.
Or maybe it was being wrapped up tight in their daddy's arms.
His voice in their ear gently teaching them how to aim.
Reminding them how to hold the gun.
It's hard to tell which did the trick.
Their daddy or the gunpowder.





 This was right before a phone started ringing in my ear.  No one would answer it.  The nerve.
I love to say the word, "Pee-stol" way more than I like shooting one.

Funny story about this pee-stol.  And when I say, "funny" what I actually mean is "terrifying."

Aaron and I were newly married.  Like brand-newly married.  I walked into our bedroom.  Saw a gun on the dresser.  I had never seen it there before.  I picked it up.  In a happy-go-lucky manner I said, "What's this?" Then I casually pulled the trigger while pointing it at Aaron.  This all happened in less than 10 seconds.  I looked at Aaron, waiting for him to answer.  I noticed he was green and not really breathing like a normal person.  He was freaked.  It's one of the few times that easy-going Aaron has raised his voice at me.  "Why did you do that?  I just brought that gun in.  I took the bullets out of that gun maybe two minutes ago and then set it there on the dresser. Why did you just SHOOT a GUN at me?" 

My brilliant response?  "Really?  It looks like a fake gun.  Like a pirate gun.  Or a cowboy gun.  This is a REAL GUN? WHAT?"  I dropped it. Or threw it.  I was terrified.

Then he said some things about not pointing guns at people.  Or shooting guns at people.  Or dropping guns. Or throwing guns.

Aaron was finally starting to look flesh-colored again.  

It took a minute for the gravity of what just happened to hit me.

"I could have totally killed you."  

Then I said I was sorry.  

Which seems like a really lame thing to say after you almost accidentally shoot someone dead, but it's all I could think to say.

Aaron grew up with guns.  He shot things.  He went hunting.  His dad taught him gun safety.  Guns were a normal part of every day life in his home.

I never had seen a gun in a house.  I was raised by a single mom who didn't make a habit of packin' heat.

I'm so glad I didn't kill my brand new husband.  He's such a terrific person, and there is no flippin' way I'm pullin' off the family band without him.

This concludes entry #842 entitled, "We are one, but we were raised two different ways."

We're praying the phone rings this week.  The real phone.  Not the one in my ear.  The one with someone on the other end saying, "By golly, you're all we've ever wanted.  All we could ever hope for.  I'm sitting here hugging your application."  Or a simple "We got your resume and would love for you to come in for an interview" will do too, I guess.

Yours Truly,
Annie Oakley

Friday, January 06, 2012

Wide Open



Depending on how you look at it the wide open possibility of having absolutely no idea where your husband will work next can either turn you into a 10:30 a.m. Moscato drinker or cause you to create elaborate fantasies in your mind about your "next life."

Aaron has been diligently applying for jobs in the community where we have lived most of our married years.  This place feels like home to us, we have friends here that we'd fight to the death for, I only rarely get lost when driving around, and a Chuy's finally opened in said town two weeks after we moved to Haiti.  Rude.  Right?  Rude.  But it's here now, and we're here, so I'd gladly live right next door to Chuy's and see what it's like to eat nothing but tortilla chips and creamy jalapeno dip for the rest of my life.

If Aaron can find a job in the town that feels like home to our family, then that's our obvious preference.

To be an over-achiever in the diligence department, Aaron decided to branch out today.  He took a deep breath and started looking at jobs all over the U. S. of A.

My only fantasy so far about our "next life" involved our home town, Chuy's, tortilla chips, and liquid happiness.  Now that Aaron is looking at jobs all over the country and submitting his fancy resume my thought life is admittedly out of control.  Coming back to start all over is equal parts heartbreaking, thrilling, and nausea inducing.  I guess it's better to be letting my mind run wild dreaming of the life that is coming instead of sitting here stewing on the circumstances that find us here abruptly trying to piece our life back together.  Very little feels definite right now, but one thing I know for sure:  I down-right refuse to choose the road of bitterness.  I've been there before, have you?  I'm convinced there's not a worse place for a soul to live.  There is a fine, thread-like line between looking back to learn from mistakes and looking back, brooding, eventually being swept away in a deep, drowning current of darkness and despair.  There are times when I think of the gravity of this situation and all that must happen rather quickly for our family to be "okay" and I'm tempted to chew off all my fingernails or put on my running shoes, turn up my inappropriate running music, and run until my anxiety and maybe even my legs fall off right there on the asphalt.  Thankfully those moments of panic have been few and far between so far, and mostly what we feel is gratitude for a God that goes before us and provides a million opportunities every day for us to thank Him, see Him at work, and catch a glimpse of His faithfulness.  Instead of dwelling on what happened, I find myself thankful for our friends and family and every once in awhile I find myself in the middle of a disturbingly detailed daydream of what our life could look like next.

Aaron has an Ag degree from Texas A&M University.  I found myself dreaming the other day that some newly widowed rancher's wife would hire our family to live on her awe-inspiring acreage.  She'd be funny, sweet, and quirky.  A tad bit lonely.  Our herd of a family would move in next door.  While Aaron kept the ranch from going under, we'd fill her life with fun and laughter .  She'd fill our life with banana bread.  We'd introduce her to wii bowling, and she'd teach me how to fold a fitted sheet and can green beans safely so our family could bypass dying of botulism.

Then I realized that the lady in my dreams was the exact lady off Driving Miss Daisy.  Same.  Exact.  Lady.
Same face.  Same voice.  Same lady.

Scratch the dear old lady.

I started dreaming Aaron got that same rancher job, sans Miss Daisy.  This time he worked for a ranching family who liked the idea of having Aaron around.  The fact that we have four boys to help out is an added bonus because this couple's only son grew up to despise ranching and became a lawyer in a high rise building in New York City instead.  Tragic.  The parents were grief stricken, but still hold out hope that their beloved son will one day see the light, leave the big city, and come back to the ranch where he belongs.  I'd homeschool the kids in the middle of nowhere America and blog all about my precious children, our ranching adventures, and our mastiff.  I'd spend my spare time cooking beef and butter loaded meals. I'd snap pictures of our food.  The boys would saddle up early in the morning to go help their dad work cattle.  We'd all wear boots, do chores before the sun comes up, and I'd make bacon every morning for the first week or so and then would stop doing that because let's get real.  Who cooks bacon every morning?  No one.  I couldn't even keep that up in an elaborate fantasy.

Then I realized that this fantasy felt oddly familiar.  It felt real.  Too real.  Hmmm...  Oh.  Wait. A. Minute. Hold the phone.  This is Pioneer Woman's life.  It's official.  I'm hopelessly in love with her.

Aaron also has a background in video production and graphic design.  I wasted no time imagining that his video skills, incredible list of references, and 18 months of life in Haiti had landed him a job with IJM or Compassion International making videos that inspired people to action on behalf of the poor, enslaved, and imprisoned.  We'd move to Nashville because duh...that's where all the artsy people live.  The obvious next step would be for us to become friends with Andrew Peterson's family.  I'd offer to watch their kids any time they needed me to so that A-Piddy could crank out more books for us to read.  Andrew and his lovely wife would eventually introduce me to Sara Groves, and I'd probably lick her.  Because that's how much I love her.  Then I had an imaginary conversation with Sara Groves.  In case you are wondering, there is no recovering once you lick someone.  Try as you may, the conversation afterward will be awkward.

In between fantasies, I keep trying to really talk up the family band.  In the most excited voice I can muster I say things like..."If Dad can't get a job...you know what that means!!!!"  The boys all growl.  "Mom.  No.  We're not being a family band."  Even when I use my infomercial voice and add jazz hands to my family band suggestion they barely even look my way.  I have been pushing the family band idea for about a decade now.  They are over it, I guess.  Whatever, family.  I'm still not giving up on that dream.

When Aaron really wants to rain on my imaginary future plans he reminds me that he could go work for the styrofoam cup factory down the road.  They are hiring, in case you are wondering.  Aaron applied.  The position pays well.  If given the job, Aaron would do "cup checks on seams of formed cups" and run the box taping machine.  We had to read the entire job description three times before believing this was a real job.  It sounds way too Dunder Mifflin.


Crazy future fantasies aside, we're fighting daily over here to remember that God is in this.  We don't want to be worried.  No matter what Aaron does, we'll be proud of him.  He's faithful, hard-working, he can do smarty-pants jobs, and yet he also finds physical labor rewarding.  He's taught school, led worship, and served on church staff for many, many years.  He's been a carpenter.  He can fix just about anything.  His past employers have always been sad to see him go.  I'd put my money on Aaron any day.


If you know of any jobs that would fit, Aaron wants to be open to prayerfully considering anything.  A job is a job, and one thing we've learned over the years is that joy can be found in just about any situation.  No matter where we find ourselves next, we know God will provide, He'll give us ample opportunities to love each other and love our neighbors, and He'll grow deep and lasting friendships along the way.  You may need to remind me of those things in about 10 minutes when I start to forget and my fingernails start to look delicious.


I'm still not ruling out the family band.  No way.  

Wednesday, January 04, 2012

When Our Crap Affects Our Kids


photo credit:  Troy Livesay

There seems to be a really fuzzy line that separates the things we should tell our kids about grown-up life and the things that we shouldn't.  It always seems to me that other parents have a better understanding of where that line is.  We always wonder if we somehow missed the class where you learn what facts to divulge and which ones to withhold.  When did our babies turn into real people with real issues to process right alongside us?  How did they evolve into human beings who are no longer blindly along for the ride, but instead thinking creatures who we must consider as we walk and talk through this crazy thing called life?

Tell children too much and you have kids carrying weights their little souls were never meant to carry and a fifth grader with an ulcer and bleeding cuticles.  Tell too little and you run the risk of your kids feeling resentful, bitter, left out, believing their thoughts and their voice do not matter.  We've been around youth groups and watched enough ABC Family to know these things to be true.  We just don't feel smart enough to always know exactly what to do with these strange, gray pieces of life.

Days before Christmas, as Aaron and I were realizing our world was about to change drastically, we were really wishing there was a reference guide for times like these.  What would the Cosby's do?  Try as I may I could not think of any episodes that applied to our current situation.  All of a sudden running home from school every single day to watch the Cosby Show felt like a fat waste of time.

Aaron and I sat on the floor next to our bed.  Shoulder to shoulder.  Teary eyes.  Door closed.

What do we tell our kids?  When do we tell them?  We want to be strong for them, but can we be honest and admit that even thinking about how they will process that we're most-likely leaving Haiti feels like too much to walk them through since all we can manage to do as grown people is hold each other and cry.  It's days before Christmas.  Can't we just tell them we unexpectedly get to go home and see family for the holidays and then break the news to them after the holidays?

"I don't see our tears ending any time soon.  We need to go home to pray, think, and talk to people way smarter than we are.  We have bags to pack.  We need to know what the boys want to take home...what belongings they would be crushed to leave behind.  We need to ask them what pieces of their life here will help them heal once we're back in Texas.  There is no way around this.  We have to tell them and trust that Jesus will cover the parts we will most certainly jack up as we begin to move forward."

We gathered everyone in the living room.  They all sat close.  Skin to skin.

Isn't it strange how children's minds work?  When we were newly married Aaron and I sat one evening and tried to remember our very first memories of our childhoods.  I loved hearing the stories Aaron told.  We allowed each other to walk through some of our earliest memories as children.  It was an intimate invitation to revisit pieces of our pasts that formed us long before we were formed into husband and wife.  We were surprised that some of our earliest memories revolved around seeing our parents cry.  A million scenes of our pasts can no longer be recalled but the ones that involved our parents and their tears seemed to embed themselves, remaining in our minds forever.

We don't put a lot of stock in singular moments defining us in deep, down lasting ways.  We don't even put a lot of stock in our supreme ability as parents to completely shape our children.  We know how sinful we are, and so looking to God's lavish love for our kids and His sovereignty over their lives is a comfort to us when we think of how often we blow it.  We know that ultimately, no matter how hard we try as parents we excel at messing things up, and yet God is gracious and lovingly seems to spare our children from a lot of our stupidity.

Even though we have great faith in those truths, there seemed to be a tangible whisper in our minds that this moment in our living room was an important one, and there would be many important moments waiting for us on the horizon as we deal with this unexpected news and try to move forward.

While we're thankful their entire futures do not depend on one moment in our living room, God did give us enough grace and clarity in that one tiny frame of this story to know that this was an opportunity to teach them about their value to us, to God, and that no matter how unexpected these events were to our family, that we can trust a good God to only give good to His children.  When it feels like everything is crumbling, and the Unknowns seem to be doing an obnoxious end-zone dance while the Knowns stand there confused and dazed...somewhere in the middle of the madness, God is up to something good.

Aaron began.

"In about 48 hours we're going to get on an airplane and go to Texas.  There is a chance we won't be coming back to Haiti."

The boys fell over into our laps.  We all held each other and cried.

When it was over, peace seemed to tangibly sit with us. Like a person.  In the room.  Among other things spoken, in a moment of absolute weakness and maybe even insanity we vowed on our lives to get their giant mastiff to Texas.  Everyone was crying.  The boys could have asked for a real rocket ship, and I'm sure we would have promised to get one for each of them if it would make them happy.  Before we sat down with the boys, we had great hopes of channeling our inner Cliff and Claire Huxtable so we could calmly explain everything and answer all their questions with Cosby-sized wisdom.  What we got instead was a living room floor filled with crying freaks as we held our kids and squeaked out truths about God's faithfulness.

Aaron will be returning to Haiti soon to sell our belongings and will hopefully return with quite the traveling companion.  In the meantime we've been so thankful for your kind comments, emails, and messages as we take in so many unexpected new things back here in the US.  You guys have always been a constant source of grace to us, so I'm not sure why we would have ever expected anything less.

Tuesday, January 03, 2012

Next


- From Aaron

Honestly, with as bizarre as our lives have been over the years, you'd think nothing would surprise us any more.  

But you would be wrong.

A few days before Christmas we had some hard conversations with the leadership of Heartline and came to the conclusion that the needs and dynamics of our family were not going to allow us to invest the time that Heartline needed from us.  We realized that while we love Heartline and the ministry that they do in Haiti, we were not going to be a long-term fit in the roles they needed us to play.

So, with four children and twelve 50lb bags in tow we tearfully relocated back to Texas.  We are currently staying with family while I look for a job and we find a place to live.

This transition was fast and hard and full of emotions.  However, we can say already that we can see the Lord's hand graciously guiding and providing for our family during this time.  Our intention was to be in Haiti for at least another 18 months, but we're trusting that the Lord's plans are greater than ours.

We have been welcomed back to Texas by a loving family and supportive friends.  Those funding our lives in Haiti have been understanding and encouraging as we filled them in on more details of what has happened in the last couple of weeks.  We've sought out wise counsel here in the states to help us make these decisions and figure out how to move forward.

Although this was unexpected by us, we trust that God is in control.  Everything feels up in the air. Not much feels very stable right now.  We feel like we should be completely overwhelmed.  Yet what we feel is peace.  This equally perplexes and comforts us.

Right now we covet your prayers as we try to make a lot of very big decisions very quickly.  I am looking for jobs which will determine where we live.  Today I put on fancy clothes and handed in a job application.  Heather mocked me, then wished me luck.  We will need to find a new house, get our kids in school, and begin to settle back into the routine of life in this country.  God's words about the poor, the least of these, and specifically our time in Haiti have changed us forever.  We are eager to pour our lives out for the weak, the hurt, and the forgotten even if our address has changed.  We're asking God what that looks like from here.

Heather's words from the blog the other day most accurately express where we find ourselves at this point.  

We find ourselves filled with hope when we consider all the new this year will hold for us and so many of the people we know and love.  We trust all the new to a God who is bent on giving good even to people who rarely deserve it, who says there's really nothing new under the sun, and who wrote the pages of this coming year long before the world began.  We sit here staring at the very first page of the chapter titled "2012" eager to read what God has lovingly penned for each of us.

Coming home we found that many of the people we love are in a season of transition, facing many unknowns this year.  We were met by friends and family members who are asking God for faith of their own, seeking wisdom, and fighting to trust God as they navigate through the unknown.  While our circumstances selfishly seem the most pressing to us, we are reminded that this same story of unexpected events, pain, peace, struggle, the realization that we could have done things differently in retrospect, pushing on, trying to learn from mistakes, extending grace, forgiving, crying, healing, and finding God in all of it - this is the story that belongs to each of us.  This is life, and we're all in this thing together learning how to live it.

We hope you know how thankful we are for each of you who sit here with us year after year.  Heather and I have grieved this decision, are now at peace, and are ready to move on, and embrace this unpredictable life.