Tag Archive | Haiti

Enjoying the Moment

I started making a power point of all of the highlights from this year. I know, I know, this is super Type A. But that’s what happens when you’re type A and come home every night with energy to spare. What can I say, I always need a project. Every year at the end of the year I do a blog post summarizing my life and what I learned from Jesus and Jesus’ hand on my life. This time I wanted to do something a little extra b/c I felt ridiculously overly blessed by all these experiences. I love love love to keep a record of life. Whether it’s through writing or taking pictures. There is something in me that wants to capture the moment. I am all too aware of how quickly life ends and therefore I want there to be some way to capture it. I also want to leave some type of legacy for those who will come behind me, whether its family or strangers. If in case they ask the questions, “What was important to Nicole or what was her purpose and what did she live for?” I want there to be something here, this side of eternity, that explains the answer.  The great thing about keeping a record is that you can relive those experiences over and over again. I simply pop open the photo album I made of my pics from Haiti and instantly I feel like I’m there all over again. 

  
 
 Haiti is forever in my heart.

Now, I have my little power point (half finished) that I’ll probably share with close loved ones sometime in December. And every time I play it I am there, living out those happy times with loved ones. Social media is great for keeping a record too. Facebook has these Facebook memories that I sometimes look at. Sometimes I don’t b/c there are some memories I would rather not remember. But in the case that there are those that I would, it’s there.  

I guess that’s the downside of capturing memories. Sometimes there are pictures that remind you of a different time and a different life that is now no longer. But even then, I’m learning as I get older, that is just a part of life. There is loss. And there is gain. And God is in the midst of it all.

I love music too. And I love that music can mark a time frame, like 90’s r&b. I listen to songs almost daily and it totally takes me back to my childhood. Music can capture a period of time and then remind you of that period years later. I’ll be incorporating music in my power point as well.

Life is a gift. There have been times that has not been my view and I’m sure there will be other times ahead where I’ll struggle with that view. But for now, I understand, there are times and seasons and like a wise man once said, there is a season for everything. And everything is for its season.  

To you my reader I say, find joy in this season. Find joy in this gift.  

Or at least in the Giver of gifts.  

Please check out my latest guest post at Abundantly You!

SHALOM

Advertisements

Purpose in the Cube

There is one word on my heart today. It is “purpose”. I walk down the same aisles in the same building I have walked down for 8 years. I sit in the same cubicle, turn on the same screen, and follow my same routine. “Purpose”. What is my purpose? How do I find purpose in the routine? In the mundane? In the cubicle? I know I am challenged by the Creator to do this as He is clearly the one ordering my steps.
I read an amazing article last night, hidden in the pages of my latest issue of Vogue magazine. While I fully expected to be lost in high fashion, stealing ideas of fall trends, instead I was touched and educated by the story of one woman. This woman was only 30-years-old and yet had traveled to a variety of countries to tend to those in need in her short adult life. The organization she is a part of is a relief organization and her skills at being a nurse were used daily. She shares about being in Haiti in 2010 and rocking a premature baby in her arms as the child takes its last breath. Her life is filled with stories like these. She has LIVED. I’m not sure that woman knows God, but she is surely walking in purpose.

I read a blog post today about another world traveler. She beautifully captured the tension of needing to stay but wanting to leave. It is true, we simply cannot have the best of both worlds. We cannot have the appetite for excitement and travel fulfilled and the safety and security the cubicle offers. But still, we yearn.

Ten years ago I had great dreams of traveling. I had great desires to be on the go much like that 30-year old-woman, losing myself in meeting the needs of others. That was how I thought I could best please my Maker. Instead, He asked me to stay.

Staying is brave. Responsibility and dependability can be brave.

Boring. But brave.

You know what’s funny? At one point in life I really wanted this cubicle. My heart yearned for it. Now it takes everything in me to keep from tears when I realize that though the season is shifting it is not really changing. I am called to continue in the staying.

I am called to continue being still. Psalm 46:10…

I think about my ancestors. The ones oppressed by slavery. I think about how they sang in the fields to get through the day. I think about how they acquired faith b/c the present was so horrendous they needed to believe that one day their suffering would end and they would have a better life. I think about how they sang songs and gave each other hope even in their oppression b/c they needed purpose. We all need purpose. Even those in the sex trade. Even children being used for child labor. Even Haitians who suffer from a 90% unemployment rate.

Maybe one day my staying will be used for something greater like the 30-year-old woman in Vogue. Even now, maybe it is cultivating empathy in me to identify with those less fortunate.

Only the Maker knows. But one day, I will know too.

I will finally know why He asked me to stay.

Hope for Haiti

I arrive after my 3rd and final flight. I’m here. I was emotional crossing the Atlantic as this was my first real trip out of the country. But I made it. I successfully make my way through customs, even dodging the $10 fee as I was mistaken for a Haitian. That would be the first time of many during my visit. It’s not until I make my way to baggage claim that I realize my bag more than likely is not there. I had only received 2 flight tickets during my travels and had to ask for the 3rd at the 2nd stop. That meant, my bag had only made it to the 2nd location. I am on the phone with my friend who I came to visit explaining all of this, panicking and freaking out. Then all of a sudden she is there in person and my frustration and anxiety are mixed with elation. But there is little time for a sweet reunion as we are now on a mission to find my bag. Lucky for me my friend speaks fluent Creole and is able to assist a lady at the service desk in locating my bag and scheduling it to be delivered the next day. I feel God’s presence and pray fervently that my bag and all of its contents will make it. My friend and I make our way through the crowd of people standing outside the airport and I follow her to the vehicle of choice. We then ride around with our driver and make our way into this new world I’ve never explored before. We drop off my carryon and I know this is the perfect time for a proper reunion which can only be completed with a picture.    
The first of over 600.  

I’m introduced to my friend’s friends as we make our way from one place to the next, finally settling down at a local restaurant. There was no electricity at this particular site and I was advised not to use the bathroom there. Or in many places for that matter. We wait over an hour for food and I am told that is normal. We make conversation as I sample the local beer called Prestige. I would have several Prestiges during my trip. The food arrives and we eat by the light of our iPhone apps. We solidify the evening with another picture.    

That evening we attend a Haitian night club and I learn what sensual people Haitians are. I also learn to not go into a dark room with a good looking man unless I’m ready for what comes with that. Always learning. My friend and I stay at a really nice hotel that night and I’m blessed they serve coffee in the morning. It’s a coffee unlike any in the States and I soon become addicted during my stay. The German owner of the hotel who personally delivered the coffee shares a little bit of his story and his heart for Haiti. “If we as believers are called to move mountains, than what is a country?” I am moved b/c I hear Holy Spirit in his words and I meet the revelation of the eternals in his eyes.  

God is here.  

We make our way to the airport to pick up my bag. We then meet with another friend of a friend and are served lunch at his house. We go sight-seeing, hangout and take more pictures. I also pick up some souvenirs. Each day I spend in Haiti is surreal. So many moments of bliss. There is poverty, but I am not as affected as I thought I would be. I look out the window of our vehicle at the streets through eyes not of a prideful American, but a lowly Haitian. Eyes I would have been given had I been born in Haiti. We cannot choose where we are born or the family we are born to. For that reason, I realize I could easily have been born into poverty and therefore what seems abnormal to me as an American would be my normal. I think I am also able to make this connection b/c on the outside I look Haitian and am often received as a Haitian. We stay in resort type places where they serve you fresh seafood in chairs overlooking the ocean. I am met with peace and quiet and catch my breath when I walk outside each morning b/c of the beauty that surrounds me. It is stuff I’ve only seen it movies. It is paradise. My friend knows it and that’s why she brings me here. I can’t get over how quiet it is. It is quiet b/c tourism is low and not many locals can afford these premises. We visit the beach where we negotiate a fair price for souvenirs. Negotiation is vital and my friend is stellar at it. We lounge and relax, drinking water from a coconut and I am on vacation. 

 
We eat lobster on the beach and take more pictures. At some point we visit my favorite place of all. “Bassin Bleu”. Quite the little hidden jewel. We are guided by locals, leaping over water and carefully walking across slippery rocks. The danger in falling is evident and I trust God is ordering my footsteps. We successfully make it under the waterfall, and my iPhone successfully makes it too (due to much prayer I’m sure!!).    

    
 That evening I witness more of the manifested presence of God as my friend and a pastor pass out gifts to local children. The kids are taught that the larger gift is in fact Jesus and I am touched beyond words at the gospel being shared. Each package was carefully put together by donors all over the country. If only they could see the kids’ faces when they received their gifts!  

Seeing those faces make the heat more bearable as the church has no air conditioning and I am feeling sick at one point b/c of the heat and the long day. My friend and I relax that night and the next day make our way to the mountains where I am touched again by the quiet and beauty. I also end up meeting my friend’s girls. She mentors them once a week and they are precious. They ask me questions in English while I struggle to ask them questions in Creole/French. My friend translates and we take more pictures.   

 The very last night of my stay I am sitting with my friend, her pastor and his wife. They are pouring into us. He is speaking eternal words and I have tears forming b/c I know the Father is letting Himself be known again. I realize that the only way I can possibly fulfill the calling on my life is to walk so closely to the Father that I cannot easily be distracted from purpose. I am told that in order to walk with Him I must agree with Him. I have not been agreeing. But even in my frustration and difficulty, He is still caring for me. He is blatantly showing me on this trip that I am favored and I am His. He is teaching me many things.  

My friend’s pastor shares his heart for his country. He shares that even in the midst of the poverty and the struggle, there is hope. He knows this country is in a season of transformation. I am reminded that I am a prophetic person, and it could be that my trip itself is prophetic. It could be that my exposure to the beauty of this place is just a glimpse of what others will see in the coming season. Even as we were traveling one of our drivers uncharacteristically began sharing his heart about Haiti in Creole. Up until that point he had been so silent, but then his words began pouring out and I could not help but think God was speaking through him. “So many come to this country and they see its beauty but then they go back to their own, and they only speak of the negative things. They only speak of the poverty. They make it seem like Haiti is dangerous and scary”. Even though I needed my friend to translate his words, I still felt his pain at being falsely labeled.  

It’s difficult to summarize my experience in Haiti. My friend made sure I saw all its different parts. The city, the country, the beauty and the poverty. I took it all in, knowing this is a once in a lifetime experience. I learned how much a country forms and shapes ones’ identity. I learned to adjust my expectations that were cultural. I learned how some things are the same no matter where you go. I learned how important having order on the road is and paved streets. I learned that just because someone is different, doesn’t mean they are lesser than. I think that is something Americans have ingrained in them. I think the missionaries that come to Haiti have good intentions, but I don’t know if their tactics are the most effective. I think my friend who has adopted this country and their people and their ways is going to be more effective than a thousand well-intentioned missionaries simply b/c she is not trying to change the people, but help them. A country suffering with a 90% unemployment rate, needs more than a few missionaries visiting and passing out tracks every now and then. I could see that the Haitians are well acquainted with religion and Christianity as exhibited in the references to Jesus and scripture on most public buildings and transportation vehicles. More religion is not going to help this country. I don’t believe religion helps any country. They need people coming alongside them, helping to create sustainable change and opportunity. There are so many who are educated and talented and b/c they do not have opportunity their gifts are wasted. I can’t imagine how purposeless one would feel with no open door to use the God given talents they were given. Religion is not needed. Relationship is needed.

I was in awe of my friend who has traded her middle class, secure, comfortable life for these people. She reminds me of Ruth in the Bible. I can’t imagine loving someone or something so much that you shed your own identity for them/it. It is God to put this mission in her heart and it’s simply amazing. I’m blessed He has given me this opportunity to see His heart for another part of this world and to meet the people who share His heart.     

   
There is hope for this generation, no matter where we live b/c God is with us. This trip confirmed that to me more than anything.  

There is hope for Haiti.   

   
SHALOM!

 

A Peculiar People

I was talking to a friend last night and we were discussing the longevity of certain waiting periods we have experienced in our lives. One of them of course, was in regards to relationships. One thing I shared was that I could easily be “doing me” in this season of living at home alone with no accountability. She agreed and said and it would actually be approved of by the culture. Our culture tells us, “You can do what you want simply b/c you are grown”. I am good and grown. It’s actually very odd to my culture I’m not dating around or hooking up or having a “friends with benefits relationship”. To be honest it’s very odd to my flesh. My flesh has kicked and screamed at me in this process of living for something eternal. It has raged and warred against the dying to self in this way. We have needs. We are human beings. How in the world do you go years w/o getting your needs met? The simple answer?
It’s supernatural.  

I think as believers we are eternal beings called to have a human experience, just as Christ did. That is where the friction occurs. Eternal beings do not have earthly needs, but we are in these earthly bodies that are screaming at us daily there are needs that have to be met. But we deny some of those needs in order to please Christ. And we do this for long periods of time.  

I will be visiting my friend tomorrow in Haiti. This is my first international trip and I’m so blessed to finally have this opportunity to be exposed to other cultures. My friend was living the American Dream in a sense. She had an amazing job straight out of college, made good money, and even owned her own home. But one trip to Haiti wrecked her and she ended up returning to the States with only the clothes on her back from that trip. She had given everything away to the Haitians. And now she is in ministry there with no plans to return “home” anytime soon. She is doing something so many in our culture think is strange but to me is so normal b/c I know her and I know the God she serves and I know this is what she was made for.  

Even as my trip is coming closer I have people warning me about my safety and concerned for my welfare, to which I boldly reply to their statements, “There is just as much craziness going on here in the United States as in other parts of the world”. My phone is constantly blowing up with notifications from CNN and local news stations about one tragedy after another. Just the other night I went 2 streets down from my house to pick up a friend and I felt like I was smack dab in the middle of Compton. It was a ROUGH street. I live in a ROUGH neighborhood. Anything could happen to me at any moment. But it doesn’t. Because I’m in God’s will and it’s simply not my time.

People’s mindsets and preferences and ways of functioning are so molded by the culture that they live in. They will not try certain foods or visit certain countries simply b/c their culture feeds them information about how they should feel about those experiences. Culture is so subtle that we do not even question our ideas and beliefs that generate from media, music and government. I know so many think it’s strange I choose to live my life the way I do, or visit places that I visit, but I am reminded that what the culture says is “normal” usually leads people along a path of destruction. And not even just eternal destruction but here in the natural. Most people do date around and sleep around and get married young. But most people experience broken relationships and get divorced. Most people never get exposure to the beauty that is in surplus in underdeveloped countries.

There is a cost to being different. To living your life differently than most. But there is also a reward. I keep being reminded in this season that the greatest reward is my relationship with the Father. Discovering who I am to Him and why He created me is incomparable to anything else in existence. I often take it for granted that I have access to the mind of the Creator of all things (1 Cor 1:16). I take it for granted when I hear His voice so clearly or a promise He gives me has manifested.  

I get to walk with God.  

Just as Adam did in the garden. Just as Enoch. Just as Jesus. That delicate balance of humanity and divinity that Christ expressed while eating fish with his disciples (whom He also called friends) and then walking on top of water are expressed daily in me, whether I realize it or not. Not b/c of who I am. But b/c of who He is in me.

On another note, I had the amazing opportunity to be a guest blogger on a young ladies’ blog who reached out to me. Please check out “Healing & Wholeness in My Natural Hair Journey” and also read her other writings!  

1 Peter 2:9

SHALOM