CommUNITY in Neply

It has come to my attention that I have not written a blog entry in a very long time. I quite honestly had forgotten about my website until I was reminded of it about a week ago while I was in Haiti. I went to Neply, Haiti and interned at an organization called myLIFEspeaks for my Winterim 2016. Last Wednesday, I was asked to give a devotional to a group of elderly Haitians about the cross. I only had an hour to prepare it so I found a post I wrote on here a couple years ago and tweaked it a bit. I was nervous to say the least to give it especially since I am not the biggest public speaker. However, I think God planned for me to to remind me of The Blessing Jar.

Spending those two weeks in Neply were the best thing possible for me at this time of my life. Before the trip, I was struggling with what my purpose was in life. I was ready for change and clarity. I didn’t know where I was going to end up next year for school or what I even would want to study at college. I was bored with my life. My time in Haiti changed everything.

myLIFEspeaks is a non-profit organization started by a family from Franklin, Tennessee four years ago. They’ve decided to call the village of Neply, Haiti their permanent home. myLIFEspeaks focuses on orphan care and prevention, public health, and education in the village of Neply. They are a Christian based organization and have seriously caused Neply to thrive over these past four years. It is impossible to explain to you what exactly what goes on at myLIFEspeaks because there is so much. What I can tell you is that the people of Neply suffer from starvation and poverty; however, they are filthy rich in love and happiness. Most children get one meal a day, yet they still laugh uncontrollably. Their smiles are so contagious that my cheeks would burn at the end of the day because I found myself smiling so much. I have never been surrounded by so much joy in my whole life.

Haitians speak French Creole, so there was a language barrier. It was frustrating at times to not know exactly what they were saying to me. However, the first night I was in Neply, Mike Wilson (the co-founder of myLIFEspeaks) said to us that love has no language barrier. Everyone can understand what a smile means. His words couldn’t be more true.

The joy I felt in Neply was based on service to others and a loving community of people. It wasn’t based on materialism. Money wasn’t a focus of life there like it is in the U.S. Nobody cared what clothes you wore or how pretty your hair was. The people there only wanted hugs and smiles. They wanted to laugh with you and learn from you. What blew my mind was that every person in the village knew everyone else. They knew whose chickens and goats were whose. They knew who everyone’s children were and cared for them like their own. They knew all of their neighbor’s prayer requests. It was truly overwhelming to see how love filled this village was when in the United States some people don’t even know the name of the guy next door. It was mind blowing to see children share their one meal a day with another child. These kids were around six years old and starving. Yet, they knew that the kid next to them hadn’t eaten in a while and needed the food more than they did. So, they gave their free meal to them. This happened every day at Feeding Program. There was not one day that this action did not amaze me. We rarely see children in the U.S. share things, especially something so valuable.

My whole trip I was pondering how I could bring these experiences back home. I was wondering how I could take what I learned from the people of Neply and apply it to my everyday life in the states. Everyday life in the U.S. is polar opposite of everyday life in Haiti so I have been struggling with how I can apply my experience to my life here. For now, I think that living each day with joy and a passion to get to know and help others is the best way to do this. I know I can’t go picking up any kid I pass in public or go into a stranger’s house to pray with them in the U.S., but I can show love to every person I meet. I can try to create a sense of community by seeing people face-to-face and having real conversations with them instead of behind a screen. I can show up randomly at friends’ houses. I can surprise my parents by cleaning the house for them. I can help a stranger in need if they seem like they need it. It’s these simple things that add spontaneity and joy to life. Serving others spices life up just a bit.

Leaving Haiti was one of the hardest things I have ever had to do. I wish I was there right now. But, here I am. I’m about to start my second semester of high school tomorrow. God had taken me to Haiti for a reason. His timing was perfect and it always is. I now know where I will be attending school next year. I have a better sense of the direction God is pointing me in in life. I will never forget all of the relationships and bonds I formed with the people I met in Neply. I will continue to keep them in my prayers and I hope you do as well. My wish is to go back soon whenever that will be. But for now, I am going to try to create that same sense of community where I live.

If you have any more questions about my trip or myLIFEspeaks, don’t hesitate to ask. I hope to post more on The Blessing Jar and would love to share more stories from my trip.

kabi and me

Kabi (10) and I

Neply 2016

Nicer home in Neply

haiti 2016

In the middle, Chrisnay (6) and Keshnara (4)

kabi 2016

Kabi (10) and Olivia (unkown age) before Feeding Program

Fear of the Unknown

“People can plan what they want to do, but it is the Lord who guides their steps.” (Proverbs 16:9)

Do you like to be in control? If you know me, I like to plan. I like to know what’s going on and what’s going to happen. It scares me a just a bit when the future is unknown. I’m a big dreamer also. I love thinking about what I will do when I’m older, where I will live, the places I will travel to, and so much more. However, a sort of uneasiness comes over me when I think about that my plan for me probably isn’t God’s plan for me.

One of the hardest things in life is to accept that everything will work out in the end. As humans, we love to rely on ourselves and our own interests. It is extremely difficult for us to put our trust in God and know that His plan is better for us. Hold up. How am I supposed to believe that God’s plan is better than mine when I don’t know what’s going to happen next?

We must learn to trust in God, not ourselves. I mean hello, God is the one who created the universe, I’m pretty sure he is able to make  our lives turn out just fine. Do you ever find yourself in a pretty awful situation, and you think that nothing possibly good can come out of it? It happens to me all the time. And you know what? I usually  see the light at the end of the tunnel. It might take a little while, but the light always pulls through in the end. God puts us through these situations so we are able to see him more clearly. He yearns for us to trust Him even though we repeatedly depend on ourselves instead.

I know it can be frustrating when things don’t turn out how we planned. It’s heartbreaking when we work so hard for something, and we fail. However, God plans for us to fail so we can try again with Him by our side. We should ask for Him to guide us next time we feel lost or nervous about what’s to come. After all, it’s His job to walk with us on our journey.

I thought I’d add a country music quote to get the inspiration flowing.

“Every Storm (Runs Out of Rain)” by Gary Allen

Every storm runs, runs out of rain
Just like every dark night turns into day
Every heartache will fade away
Just like every storm runs, runs out of rain

The light will be there at the end of the tunnel just like every storm, runs out of rain. Don’t worry. God will guide us down the unexpected path of life. His plan far exceeds our own.

Two Little Words

Did you know that two little simple words can make someone’s day? Those words could even make their week. Take a guess at what those words are. If you guessed thank you, you are correct.

I will never forget the time I saw a guy’s jaw drop because of those two words. While on Mt. Rainier, my group and I stopped at 10,000 feet to eat and sleep a few hours before we ascended to the summit. It was about 15 of us crammed in a wooden shack the size of maybe a one car garage. It was quite the experience. Anyway, this guy who is only a few years older than us brings in hot water for us. We all tell him thank you because that’s just the normal thing to do. The expression on his face was priceless. Tears came to his eyes. It was pitiful. He was so astonished at the fact that we told him thank you. He goes, “Out of the 50 times I have helped groups climb this mountain, you guys are the only ones to tell me thank you”.

Let that sink in for a second. I mean, wow. This guy did everything in his will to make us comfortable and safe on our climb. You would have thought he had gotten a thank you before.

I feel like that’s what God goes through every second of the day for us. He gives and gives and gives to us, and we seldom remember to utter a thank you.

Recently, I have seen the problem of hunger show up. I read an article on hunger in the U.S. the other day in National Geographic. More than 48 million Americans rely on food stamps for their meals. A large percentage of them are white people with jobs and a home.

At the beginning of the summer, I helped out at a food bank in Oklahoma. People would come in and shop for the food they needed for that week. My job was to tell these people how many of each thing they could get. The people I helped didn’t look any different than I did. Except one thing was different. They were extremely thankful for the food they were receiving. I saw God in each and every one of their smiles of gratitude.

If you think about it, there are so many little things in our lives we should be thankful for. Food, clean water, and family are just a couple. What about the blessing of forgiveness or mercy or his never ending love?

Whatever is, be thankful. When your day takes a turn for the worst, think about how much you have and give thanks.

“Thanks be to God for his inexpressible gift!” –2 Corinthians 9:15

There Ain’t No Mountain High Enough


I am sorry it has been a while since my last post. I’ve been busy out in the Pacific Northwest on an adventure program called Moondance Adventures. I’m so incredibly blessed to have gone on this trip and to have met some amazing people. If you don’t mind, I’d like to share how The Lord pushed me out of my comfort zone to figure out what I’m made of.

There’s something about the way the mountain side is lit with head lamps in the middle of the night. In the darkness of the night on July 5th, I climbed up Mt. Rainier in Washington. It’s an incredible sight to see all of the climbers look like little ants of light trying to achieve the same goal as you.

God holds the whole world in his hands. When you’re afraid, God goes before you and holds onto you. You can’t experience The Lord without going outside of your comfort zone. I’m terrified of heights and never do anything on the edge, but something inside of me just pulled me to Rainier. Oh boy, I had no idea what I was getting myself into. I didn’t think about how it is one of the biggest mountains in North America. Imagine an almost twenty four hour climb where some parts were under twenty degrees in the dark..kinda scary huh? Or the fact you’re over 14,000 feet above sea level?! I don’t know about you, but knowing that if you trip, you’re basically done for scares me a teeny weeny bit.

“But the Lord stood with me and strengthened me” (2 Timothy 4:17)

What I learned from Rainier was that you have to go into the climb with the right mindset. It’s a mental game. I went in with the mindset that no matter what The Lord was going to get me up that mountain one way or another. And guess what? He did. I was one of the three girls on my trip to summit Mt. Rainier. Honestly, without God, there would’ve been no way. He kept me company all of those indescribable hours. There were times when I couldn’t see my feet and times when it was hard to take a simple breath. However, God pushed me to my limit to see what I was made of. He forced me up that mountain so I could know that I can do about anything with His help.

“And the Lord, He is the One who goes before you. He will be with you, He will not leave you nor forsake you; do not fear nor be dismayed.” (Deuteronomy 31:8)

I feel that The Lord wishes for us to explore the magnificent world He designed. It’s a way of worshiping Him and His glory. At about 4 am, we took a break before our last stretch to the summit. I looked out over the mountains below and saw a sea of pink invading the sky and the world around me. The sun was neon orange and was peaking through the thick clouds. It’s like God wanted to whip up a special show for us on that mountain. It was simply unbelievable and brought tears to my eyes. The way to experience these one of a kind moments is by testing the waters and trying something new and crazy.

What is God calling you to do? Is there something you’re afraid to do? I challenge you to step outside your comfort zone and explore what God has to offer. It’s way better to take on the challenge than looking at it from your safety bubble. No matter what it is, God will be with you step for step even on the hardest mountains.

“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” (Philippians 4:13)

If you’d like more information about Moondance Adventures or climbing Mt. Rainier, don’t hesitate to ask!

rainier

Fruit of the Spirit: Goodness

Oh my goodness! Thank goodness! For goodness sake! Did you know that Merriam Webster’s definition of goodness as an exclamation is “(as a substitution for God) expressing surprise, anger, etc.”?  I still don’t understand why these phrases of exclamation have to involve the Lord’s name. However, at least somebody came up with the substitution. Goodness is a substitution for God. God is goodness.

“For you were formerly darkness, but now you are Light in the Lord; walk as children of Light (for the fruit of the Light consists in all goodness and righteousness and truth)” (1 Timothy 6:18)

Nobody wants to walk in the dark. The dark is a scary place. You feel completely alone and broken. That’s why the Lord wishes for us to be good, so we can walk in the light. What does it mean to be good exactly? Being good can mean a  lot of things. It can mean behaving yourself. It can mean doing good works. The best way of being good, however, is by following the Lord.

I personally believe everyone has a piece of goodness in them. God placed a slice of the Fruit of the Spirit in each one of us. Nevertheless, it’s up to us if we want to share our slice of fruit with others. I feel that the Lord thinks that goodness is honorable behavior and kindness towards others. He wants us to turn away from evil and wrongdoing. Although, He doesn’t expect us to be perfect because He gives us an immense amount of grace when we need it. The Lord is good to us. He wants the best for us. That is why he put goodness in you, so you can let it shine.

“In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.” (Matthew 5:16)

The Lord is just asking us to try to show the goodness He placed in us. He’s so good to us it’s unreal. We betray Him everyday, but He forgives our every slip up. We don’t treat others right, but He still has mercy on us because we are only human. We don’t believe in ourselves, but He does one hundred percent. By doing good deeds, we glorify the One who always has our backs.

Let’s share our goodness with each other.

Fruit of the Spirit: Kindness

kindness

One of the first things you learn as a kid is to be kind to others. We learned not to bite the kid next to us just because they took our yellow crayon. I feel like the word kind is overused. In my mind, it starts to lack meaning, so when I saw that it was the next Fruit of the Spirit, I didn’t know exactly what to write about. Then, my favorite bible verse popped into mind.

“Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” (Ephesians 4:32)

This is how I look at a difficult situation. When someone is unkind, I think about how God sees everything that I do wrong. He forgives me for all of my sins, so why shouldn’t I forgive someone else? I feel like in today’s world everyone is so quick to judge. The first thing we see in a person are their faults. Does God just look in disgust at our faults? I don’t think so. He’s the one who created us for crying out loud. He notes all of the wonderful parts that make us who we are. In this verse, He commands us to do likewise to others. He wants us to be kindhearted and sympathetic towards each other. We have no reason not to forgive someone because the Lord forgives every mistake we make.

“Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.” (Ephesians 4:29)

The easiest way to let kindness flow from you is by purifying your tongue. Kindness starts with words. Words can either break or make you. Think about it. Think back to a time when someone cut deep into your heart because of the hurtful words they said to you. It made you feel terrible, right? Now think to a time when someone spoke words that warmed your heart. I bet it made you feel like you were floating on air. Which person would you rather be? The one who causes someone to be hurt or the one who builds someone up.

Be the one who gives grace to others. Lift up others with kind words. Don’t grow tired of being kind. Just think about how kind the Lord has been to you.

 

 

Fruit of the Spirit: Patience

When hard times head our way, it’s hard to be patient with God. We feel like we are constantly waiting for a miracle to happen to make the situation all better. The Lord always has patience with us though, even when we deserve it the least. We mess up all the time. God doesn’t get frustrated though. He waits patiently for us to do good.

“I waited patiently for the Lord;  he turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand. He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see and fear the Lord and put their trust in him.” (Psalm 40:1-4)

What do you think could happen if we always looked to the Lord when we are down in a slimy pit? What if we waited patiently for Him to turn our messy lives around? We’d be so much happier with ourselves and Him. Patience is easier said than done. When something hits you hard, it’s not easy to get right back up on your feet again. However, if you allow Him to, the Lord will make you stronger than ever before.

As a good friend of mine always says, “time will take care of everything”. We have to give the Lord time to transform us. He gives us all the time in the world to make up for our mistakes. By giving others our patience, we are spreading the Fruit of the Spirit. It’s only fair that we have patience with others as others have patience for us. Think about the different people in your life that have seen you at your worst. Did they have patience with you? The Lord sees all of our imperfections and still is abundant with patience for us.

The Lord has a divine plan for each and every one of us. Everything that happens in your life happens for a reason. If something upsets you, God may be trying to teach you something. In every circumstance, whatever happens is for a reason. The best thing to do in times of despair or hopelessness is to have patience with the Lord. For one day, He will make something good out of the bad.

“But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.” (Romans 8:25)