Tag Archive | travel

A Family Affair

Some 18 years ago I met some people who would become “forever friends”. I know this because they told me so. Sadly, at the time of, I admit that I wasn’t a believer of the term. At a young age I had already experienced rejection by my peers which caused extreme trust issues that only layered the already abandonment/rejection issues I had accumulated from birth. Still, I went along for the friendship ride and when they used the terms “Bestie”, or “Bestfriend”, or “BFF”, well, I did too. But cautiously, because inside I was holding my breath for when I would get dropped when the honeymoon phase ended. When they discovered I couldn’t possibly be deserving of the lifelong love and loyalty they were offering (oh the lies we believe).

If this were a perfect world, or if I were writing one of the short stories in my new book (shameless plug), I would say that that never happened. That I never got dropped and those girls were right, and I was so happy to have been proven wrong. But the truth of the matter is, I have been dropped. And actually, I have done my share of dropping (insert audible gasp). But that is the reality of life. It is messy as hell. And honestly I’m at the point where I believe that true love has to be tested. If our bonds with others don’t go through the fire, we will never know if they are strong enough to overcome its flames.

When I look back on my very close relationships with women, I can see that there have been some serious fall outs in several of them. But for many of them, most of them in fact, we have found our way back to each other. I think that is because there was something deeper than just a friendship that drew us to one another. Now I can say, it was a real sisterhood. They were no longer just friends. They were family.

One of these women has been one of my greatest teachers of what family looks like when you aren’t blood related. She saw through the baggy clothes and immature attitude and sometimes arrogance that seems to tag along with most (if not all) only children. I think she and I connected on a deeper level because we discovered that we shared a divine connection with our Creator around the same time.

In a sense, we fell in love with God together.

Miami Days!

Over the years we took different paths. She became a wife and mother. I became a roommate before finally getting my first apartment. I attended her showers (both bridal and baby). She bought me my first set of really good cookware (shout out to Calphalon). She obtained her Masters in Theology and I flew to her graduation. I received my MBA, and she made the trip to Cleveland. Even though our lives were becoming drastically different, we still walked with each other through various turns of it. Surprisingly it seemed, we were learning the same life lessons at exactly the same time. In fact, we still are.

At the zoo

People told me that when she got married things would change. That I would have to take a backseat, and maybe in some ways I did, but in other ways, I felt like I was needed even more.

We have beared with each other through a lot. The ups and downs of life are unreal sometimes and there aren’t too many things that stay the same. Yet her being there has.

Regardless of the time apart, or the distance that has separated us, her love has never been separate from me.

Girl’s Night in my kitchen!

My heart was full this week as she and her tribe made the two-day long drive to visit her fam, which included yours truly. At my request, all six of them stuffed themselves into my one bathroom (not even a half bath to offer relief), quaint two-bedroom bungalow (bless their souls). For the first time since I bought this home it was overflowing with life. Two babies, four adults, one pre-teen, and a 6-month-old kitten, filled it’s corners and caressed its edges. We took pictures and videos because we know how fleeting life is and the importance of capturing the moment (we have all experienced our own losses). But we lived in the moments too. I soaked up our one-on-one times while the babies were asleep, or blessfully, being watched by their stellar dad. I snuck in a mini “car-turnup” on our short trip to get our eyebrows done. She finally got to learn my step workouts and cracked me up at her dance moves (which are still on point by the way). We were in our own world even when said world consisted of motherhood and a new marriage partner.

Her visit meant so much to me because in a world with Covid-19, isolation is at its peak. Even for an introvert like me, loneliness is inevitable.

God has been so good to set the singles in families. I’ve given up on that notion that the good things in life should cancel out the negative ones. Instead, I feel that both the highlights and the hard parts can beautifully coexist. In other words, I’m of the mindset now that the good parts of life do not remove the hard parts. For a long time my frustration at not having “my own” family weighed on me like a 20lb dumbbell. Even still, it is an unmet desire that accompanies me on my day to day journey as a single. But what I will say is, part of my pain stemmed from the difficulty with believing that I had people who loved me like family. And now, I realize, my unbelief stemmed from a core belief that I could not possibly be so loved. I simply wasn’t deserving.

For years I wouldn’t allow this love to go too deeply within my heart due to fear of rejection/betrayal/abandonment/loss/etc… I wouldn’t, but that didn’t deter her. She pursued and waited, and loved me anyway.

Through my shortcomings.

Through my weaknesses and stubbornness.

And in the end I think that is all we can ask. To find people who will love us like that.

To find people who will love us like God.

1 Corinthians 13:13 And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love

SHALOM

The Beautiful Challenge

I’m in Arizona right now visiting friends. The same friend I was maid of honor to just last year. The same friend who has relentlessly pursued me in the course of my grief and devastation.

When I learned my mom passed away she flew in from Haiti within days. 1,633 miles. She was on a business trip and instead of returning home to be with her new husband she came to be with me.

I’ve known this woman for several years and knew that her heart was of a rare purity, one that those who have it, also have a promise to see the Father (Matt 5:8).

During a time of recovery and healing my emotions have been everywhere, my thoughts equally as such. Her understanding and loyalty have been a great comfort.

These last few days we lived. We went on a Gondola ride with her hubby. We climbed the bear willow canyon on a fierce Jeep excursion. We laid out by the pool they have in their own back yard.

In addition to that I was treated to deep pools of bubble baths, wine and delicious meals. I have been catered to. And all in the name of my birthday.

E told me a while ago that when he has a difficult day, instead of using the word difficult, he says, “It was beautifully challenging”. I can look at my life and see that same theme. So many unexpected difficult hard parts. So many amazingly beautiful ones.

Yesterday while we made our way up the mountains my breath was taken away with the deep red browns, sharp rich greens and picture perfect blue skies. If I didn’t know it before, I know it now.

God is an Artist.

I knew what I was experiencing was something my mother and grandmother never did and maybe only dreamed of. I knew that my life was touched with beauty and that beauty was connected with the people He had sent to me when I didn’t know that I would need them.

I previously asked a question, “Lord, why did you take away Your presence when I would need it most?” But now I see He provided me people when I didn’t know that I would need them. And that now is when I would need them the most.

The Father places the solitary in families. I remember reading that passage of scripture years ago. I remember back then appreciating it, but still my heart yearned for my own.

It still does.

I’m realizing this life is “both and”. It is both the highs and the lows. It is both the light and the darkness. It is both the cross and the resurrection.

I have been in a season of recovery and therefore am more sensitive than normal (who knew that was possible?). My heart is tender and I need to be handled with care. God is so good at that, handling us with care and putting us around people who get our journey. Even if they don’t understand it, they love us enough to try.

I can look back on my life and see His intent towards me. He made His call clear from day 1. The call was to die. He is intimately acquainted with all of our ways. He knows those things that are near and dear. He knows when we are truly sacrificing.

I haven’t experienced this amount of pain ever, at least not without His presence.

But even that isn’t true.

His presence is everywhere…

I am grateful for these people who call me family. I am grateful to be adopted into the Father’s household of faith.

To have Sunday dinner and eat birthday cake and hear loved ones celebrate me. Like family. That is the care and tenderness of Him.

My heart is still aching every moment of every day. But part of that I know is good. It means I’m feeling when for so long I wasn’t.

It means I’m closer to healing.

My counselor has been so great and my friends have been so great and even though I don’t know when my healing will come I know He is surrounding me with His care.

At 36 my life doesn’t look at all the way I anticipated. Still, there is beauty in the midst of brokenness.

There is love in the midst of pain.

There is hope.

SHALOM

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!