22 December 2016

My First Water Truck


Here it is. My first water truck...and what an appropriate hood ornament it had. I've lived here six years and never needed one until now. My first house mooched off the neighbor's city water. We paid them $100 a year to turn a valve and let theirs feed into both our cisterns. It wasn't that generous of them--they paid a flat fee no matter how much they used, and it didn't come on that often...like once a month in rainy season and less when it's dry.

My second house got city water for free because the valve broke in the "on" position and they didn't feel like fixing it. Between that and David's system of pipes to catch the water from our roof, we were golden. 

Until now...


Someone small was a little excited about this...yes, he's skipping. Maybe it's just because he got to get up from his nap. (Why does everything exciting always come during nap?) 


Here's how low it was. Our cistern is actually under our house, and I'm pretty sure it makes David very nervous that our floor is going to somehow give way and provide us with an indoor swimming pool. Being the fool that I am, I thought I could just kinda stick the end in there and it'd just gently flow out...seriously, it was like Old Faithful coming out of the opening in the ground, and all I could think was 'one dollar, two dollars, three dollars...' 

So we locked my big dog in the laundry room, and his assistant came around to hold the hose in a better position. Then, as it started to run out, they wanted to know where my buckets were: they didn't want me to lose all the water still in the hoses, but they couldn't pump it in. 

Not having enough buckets, I suggested that they roll up the hose from the back and push the water into the cistern. "It's very heavy," he said. He looked at me. I smiled at him. "Do it my way this time, and I'll get more buckets for next time," I said. Surprisingly, he agreed.


TA-DA! $35 and 20 minutes later, and we have water again! Of course, you can't drink it unless you treat it first, and I have no idea where it comes from, and it'll probably rain tomorrow, but hey, it's water, and it's all ours.

26 November 2016

Your Skin and Mine

I cannot resist cheap books. Old, new, wrong language, whatever. It's a compulsion, really. So I don't know where we picked this one up, but it's a good one. 


Everybody's skin makes melanin, it says. 
Some skin makes a lot of melanin. 
Other skin doesn't make very much. 

That's it. Here we are, created in the image of God, with varying amounts of melanin. In language school, I used to try to eavesdrop on my neighbors, wondering what the heck they were talking about. You know what they were talking about? Money. Lies their friends told. How So-and-So's hair looks ridiculous. Whose turn it is to make dinner. All the same stuff I talk about. I don't know why I was surprised. 


And today, this happened. E was running around like a crazy animal while I was trying to navigate the new craft store without the benefit of a baby cage cart. The employee who's supposed to watch for theft was sitting there, and she was out of breath, so she sat down next to him. He was delighted. They couldn't talk to each other, and it didn't seem to diminish their enjoyment of sitting together one bit.

I want to develop that part of me. The part that recognizes the image of God in everyone, whatever the melanin content of their skin. The part that loves innocently, indiscriminately. The part that just sits down next to you, whoever you are, the part that just wants to be together and hear what you've got to say, even if I don't understand. I think it's important. I think it's getting more important every day. 

24 November 2016

Thankful Thursday: Chicken Edition

Today, I am thankful for:

*Chicken, which, when grilled over hickory chips, is a fine substitute for the pardoned bird.
*My children, who keep wishing me a happy birthday today. (Kids, if it were my birthday, there would be more chocolate.)
*Special time together with my parents and distant relatives at the beach this past week. Always too short, but I'm thankful for it nonetheless.
*I didn't burn anything, but I did make butter accidentally. It did not go well with pie.
*God loves me. You guys, God loves me. Still hard to believe.

Happy Thanksgiving!

11 November 2016

Nighttime visitor

"Oh, hello," I said, seeing him on the wall. 

Well, it was more like, "Oh, HELLO?!" 

And then we said goodbye. 


10 November 2016

Thankful Thursday

  • I'm thankful I got to hang out with an old friend yesterday. It's fun to sit with someone who knows your story and say, "Ok, so here's the parts you missed..."
  • I'm thankful for how Ellie says "wocketship." 
  • I'm thankful my gate is fixed. I couldn't go anywhere for a while...and my kids couldn't go anywhere. Apparently, they were stir crazy, because they literally just started throwing whatever they could reach at me. "Nothing that plugs in, you guys, nothing that could really hurt me!" 
  • I'm thankful my daughter is two years old. She's a handful, but it's because she's healthy. She's curious and imaginative and a great singer, and I'm so glad she's part of our family. 
  • I'm thankful I get to hug my amazing parents in less than a week!
  • I'm thankful for the baby banana tree I was given yesterday. Smoothies for everyone! (In about four months.) 


How about you? What are you thankful for? Political posts will be cheerfully deleted, even if I agree with you.

08 November 2016

Plot Development

I stopped writing this blog because I couldn't find the endings. It wasn't a matter of time or concentration. I couldn't find them because they weren't there.

I wanted to give you the neat version of my life. You know, the tidy ending where I found out something deep about myself or got to know God better or helped someone overcome a life-changing problem. As a lover of literature, a good ending is very satisfying: not always neat, but the plot resolves enough that you don't want to strangle the author.

But the problem is that I'm not writing my life.

There is an end in mind, I've been promised, and it's worth waiting for. But here on the pages between the beginning and the end, it's messy.

Standing at the gate, watching J's face through the tiny door, through a gate I can't even open because it's broken, on a day when I was supposed to be at a women's retreat, listening to my kids upstairs singing instead of sleeping, listening to J tell me that his neighbors are going to wreck their house if he doesn't come up with $50 today...

That's messy.

Heartbreak is messy, and sometimes, you don't learn anything from it except that we live in a broken world. But here I am writing, because the plot's still developing. And there's foreshadowing yet that I'm not alone, that God hurts with me in the mess...even the messes I cause.

I'm not writing the story, but I'll tell it if I can.

03 November 2016

Le Lion

He knew his time would come. He was patient. He watched, daily, as the door opened and shut. Opened and shut. Opened and shut. And today, when my neighbor Sharon came home by herself from grocery shopping...he seized his opportunity.

That's right: I'm talking about a 165-pound Mastiff named Robbie. But my yard guy doesn't call him that. He calls him Le Lion, and it is a name rightly deserved.

From my couch watching Netflix, I heard Sharon calling his name--then heard the desperation edge into her voice. I opened the door in my pedestrian gate just in time to see them go flying down the hill, him trotting along easily, her in hot pursuit. Let me tell you: it is not easy to run down a large dog on an unpaved road. This is not just any road. This road has river rocks. It has gulleys and dips and cracks. She did better than I would've done. Sheer terror helps, I'm sure.

Dumbstruck, I stood there for a minute before I shouted, "What can I do to help?"

"Get some meat!" She shouted back, and they both disappeared around the corner. Everything was frozen (we were having lentils for dinner), but I grabbed the bag of liver treats I use when I need to tie up my dogs so I can open the gate. (By the way, this experience served to remind me exactly why I should really do that every single time.)

I was pretty quick, but by the time I caught up to them, she had him on the leash. "He's never done this before," she panted.  He'd foolishly turned down a dead end, and she was able to corner him. But friends, getting Robbie on the leash was only half the battle--we still had to get him back in the yard, and I was more than a little worried that he was going to pull Sharon over completely. So we both took part of the leash, and slowly, we were able to work our way back up the hill. Well, maybe it wasn't that slowly. It was however fast the 165-pound dog wanted to go, you see.

And oh, you should've seen them staring. Those Haitian onlookers weren't getting within 100 feet of us. People literally cowered, and I don't blame them. I predict that no one from this neighborhood will ever attempt to enter her yard.

Robbie was a fan of the liver treats, Sharon and I did not get dragged along behind to the detriment of our knees, and the gate is shut.

Le Lion is back in his cage...for now.

01 November 2016

Toddler Tuesday

Finally convinced that Mama isn't going to give them more screen time, they have resigned themselves to play. It's quiet. Ellie talks to herself as she makes pancakes with blue play dough that smells like peppermint. Every once in a while, she tastes it just to keep me on my toes. Peter is lassoing wild horses which bear a striking resemblance to our kitchen chairs, asking me how pulleys work. Dad will be home soon, mellow music by a new band gives atmosphere to the humidity and the creativity.

Sometimes, I have the best job. 

25 October 2016

That time I did the right thing, which turned out to be the wrong thing, which turned out to be the right thing after all

They always come on my busiest day. Strangers who know a white lady lives here, sitting on my step so the dogs go nuts, desperate, staring at me. I stared back at Christelle, gave her my "go away, I don't know you" stare. It didn't work.

"Garbage," she muttered.


"Garbage, I can take your garbage for you." She nodded toward the two large sacks near the tree.

"I have a service who does that for me."

Her face fell. She didn't move. I looked her up and down. She had a hungry look that can't be faked. No purse. So young, so skinny...except for the baby bump. I think it was the bump that made me do what I did next.

"But..." (It's a sweet word, sometimes, isn't it?) "But I have other trash I need hauled away, if you want to work hard. It's heavy."

"I can do it," she said softly. 

I crossed my arms. "Where will you put it? I don't want it on the street."

She pointed. "Near the market, where the dumpster is."

You wouldn't believe how much trash I had. For the next hour, I hauled stuff out to the curb for her...and she just kept coming back for more. I was impressed. I was sweaty. And...she seemed to be getting...faster. Surprising, but hey, it could be, right?

Seeing that she was ready to be done, I prepared her pay: $4, a tin cup of clean water, leftover beef and pumpkin soup, and a banana. Pick the nicest one, I thought. Pretty sure the thought didn't come from me. I even threw in a plastic spoon.

"Are you from this neighborhood?" I asked as she took the grocery bag.

"No: Crois-des-Bouquet," she said.

"Well, you can go back there now," I said. "Can I pray for you?"

No smile. She shifted her weight uncomfortably. "Madam, do you need someone to clean for you?"

I shook my head. "This was all I can do for you."

She turned and slowly walked away, sat down behind a guard shack and inhaled that food.

The next day, I was walking up the street when I saw it--that's my old breadbox, the broken one. It's under my neighbor's truck. I bent down--and there it all was. Well, almost all of it. She took the first bag to the trash pile...the rest ended up here.

To say that I was seeing red doesn't really capture it. It was more like a deep shade of crimson, the color of a football coach's face when you miss the game-winning field goal.

I gave her my best banana. Yes, I hear how stupid that sounds. More than that, I re-arranged my morning for her. I made time for her. I tried to get to know her. And I got played. It didn't feel good.

But you know what? The title of this blog post stands--I did the right thing. I played the fool, but I did what Love would do. Christelle, I hope that meal kept you going. I hope you and your baby find a safe place to grow. And I hope I never forget what you taught me--that doing right doesn't have to feel right.

Also, always check under the truck.

20 October 2016


I've been cleaning out my email inbox. (Don't be impressed; they're making me do it. Let's face it, that's how all my cleaning happens.) I'm deleting lots of stuff that's pointless: Zulily offers, all-staff updates, people who were trying to get flights when I was scheduling.

But there's some good stuff in here, too. It chronicles Christine-That-Was: all the things she was afraid of before she got here. The stuff she worried about in language school--she sent pictures of her bug bites to the advice nurse. The little things I did for others; the big things they did for me.

Boy, she hardly knew anything.

I'm not picking on Christine-That-Was...you bring a lot of culture when you become a missionary. Take my toaster as an example. I thought you needed a toaster. I thought a toaster was just an indispensable thing that every civilized person must have for those breakfasts when you just cannot pour yourself a bowl of cereal. (Probably because your wife forgot to reconstitute the milk last night.) But you know what? My toaster broke, and when it did, I realized that I hadn't used it in six months because it was such a power hog. And you know what? You can toast bread in a pan...on the stove.


I'm not a "third culture kid," but the idea remains solid--you build a personal culture when you leave your own. It's a little bit of everywhere you've loved. When we returned to Haiti after our first furlough, I was sitting in the parking lot of the hardware store, waiting for David. And the wind was moving through the trees. It hisses, you know. It doesn't woosh or whisper. It's not a sinister hiss, but it's a hiss nonetheless. And I'd missed it, I'd ached to hear that sound, without realizing it. How did that happen?

When did I become a real missionary?

I better go reconstitute some milk.

20 August 2016

That says it all.

When your three-year-old unplugs the nightlight for a second fan...you know it's hot. 

Ellie dumping water over her head is an everyday occurrence, I just thought it was cute. But we'll pretend it's because she was hot. 

07 August 2016

Monday Meme

I heard this quote on the God-Centered Mom podcast, and it's just stuck with me. 

This week, may my life be more about grace than ego, more about patience than pride. 

Please keep praying for Maryann. Wilson left for central Haiti a few days ago to accompany his brother to the Partners in Health hospital, because his brother was coughing up blood. This family still needs your prayers! 

02 August 2016

Toddler Tuesday

Standing in a puddle, holding my Camelbak water bottle, face shining, hair dripping, she beams up at me: "Here Mama: wawa!" Once the joy of doing something for Mama wanes, she starts babbling about how wet her shirt is and runs away. 

28 July 2016

Update on Wilson's sister

Her name is Maryann, and she's 20 years old. She's in the hospital near where his mom works, sitting on the street all day trying to sell food, so Mom's been able to bring her food pretty consistently. There's no cafeteria--relatives must bring everything you need.

When Wilson spends the night there, he and two of his brothers don't sleep. They make them go to the pharmacy and buy everything that needs to be administered, even in the middle of the night...no credit. He says the suffering is hard to watch. He looked terrible. 

It looks like she's going to be ok--my impression is that she's damaged her abs and won't be able to push, so they want to do a C-section. The baby seems to be ok, as far as Wilson knows. Maryann's pregnancy is about five months along. They are intending to wait until the baby's grown more to do the C-section.

I'm relieved that it's not as serious as I feared. Please continue to pray--childbirth kills many women worldwide, and I don't wish Maryann to be one of them. 

27 July 2016

Without Ceasing: Wilson's sister

This isn't the way I like to do it, blogging from my phone, but there just isn't time. 

Please pray for Wilson's sister. He's one of my boys who's been coming to my gate for food and money for years now. This is the danger--the real danger--of living in Haiti...it's not the guns you have to worry about. It's the deep love which too often results in deep loss. He's a good friend to me now. And his sister is dying. 

She's pregnant. She fell. She's in the hospital, which I gave them money for last week. When I didn't hear anything else, I assumed she was fine. In reality, it was just the opposite, and he hasn't been able to get away to tell me. He hasn't left her side at the hospital.

Wilson's mother is gone a lot, because she doesn't get along well with his father. His sister is the one who takes care of him as well as their numerous younger siblings. It would be a huge loss to him on many levels. 

Please ask God for mercy on his family. Ask Him to spare her life and her child's life. 

God, please hear us, not for our sake, but for your Son's and the glory of your name.

15 July 2016

When a haiku comes to you at 9 PM

Baking granola.
Rain on my roof. Kids asleep.
Man. What a great night.

01 April 2016

The Cupertino Effect

I have this part of me, which is a bigger section of my soul than I would like. It wants things just right. It wants every holiday to be memorable (and not because we got food poisoning). It wants our photos to sparkle and our shoes shining and it wants everybody's waste to hit the inside of the potty all the time. 

But that's not life, is it? 

Wednesday, we traveled from Port-au-Prince to Portland via Atlanta. The car seat did not arrive in Atlanta. After scanning the claim ticket that I ripped away from the baby, it was determined that it was sent on ahead without going through customs...highly unusual. Highly unlikely...but instead of the freak out, I shrugged. His parents have a backup they would bring to the airport. Worst case, we ask Delta to replace it and they say no. 

Wednesday, I went to set my time zone in  Portland. It set automatically to Cupertino. Cupertino? Really, phone? Cupertino? 

You know what? It was good enough. 

Good enough is good enough. That's how life goes, especially on furlough. If everyone would try a bit harder with the potty, I'll be good enough, too. 

Thanks for your prayers. 

10 January 2016

The "M" word

I saw the crowd first, then the ambulance. Eight blocks from my house, headed to the grocery store, singing along to Soul on Fire, I saw the crowd before the reason it had gathered, and yet my heart jumped into my throat. "Get.out.of.here, get.out.of.here, get.out.of.here," my brain timed its message to the beats. He was lying in the road; there was blood on his temple. I don't know how or why, but it had happened recently, like a wick still smoking, like wax still warm to the touch. I wanted to stop, to ask why. Protocol dictated otherwise.

"I never been here before," Pete commented as I pulled off the road a few blocks away, his standard comment anywhere we go. I silently thanked God that he didn't see the man as I called my neighbor and warned her not to go that way. It gave me a good excuse to hear her voice and take some deep breaths. 

And though it may seem completely unrelated, there's a thought that's been itching at the back of mind...brewing, if you will. And today, I'm shouting it louder than ever. 

I'm not awesome.

I yell at my kids. I'm stingy. I'm judgmental of others. I'm easily angered. I'm unfaithful in prayer. I'm lazy and selfish. I'm ungrateful for my extremely blessed life.

And yet a few months ago, a coworker posted on Facebook about how awesome I was. He saw me sitting on my front step, reading the Bible with W and J, the young men who I give crackers to weekly. What he didn't know is that his presence was a factor: I did it partly because I knew he would see me and I wanted to impress him. 

I'm not awesome.

I wish I was. I really do. When I was a bit younger (don't ask how much younger), I spent a good deal of time trying to be. I wish I could tell you that I'm someone you can look up to. I wish I was "too blessed to be stressed" and all that. This isn't a lack of self-esteem, friends. I've got that in spades, unfortunately. I just can't let you think that I've got it together, just because of the "m" word..."missionary."

I know, it's scary to think that I'm common. If missionaries are extraordinary, then it's logical that God expects more of us. But if I'm sinful and selfish and common...what then? If God asks "so much" of me...what does he expect of you?

Here's what I know: it's not what I'm made of, friends. God didn't ask me to go here because I'm made of better stuff. If you and I follow Jesus together, then it's because we both need Jesus in equal measure. If we do it in different places, it's because the Master has a plan to match his name. 

I saw a dead man's face on Tuesday, on the way to the grocery store...a soul not on fire, but snuffed out. And as sinful and selfish and common as I am, I'm alive. If you can find something divine in my life, I'm glad, but know that it's not me. 

Hear this in the gentle spirit I intend it: I'm not made to handle dead bodies in the street better than you are. I'm not made for the mission field. I'm just burning my candle until it's extinguished on the day he's decided. Like the star of Bethlehem, leading curious kings to a dirty stable, what you find when we meet might be more human than you expected...but you can lay your gifts at His feet nonetheless. 

That's what I did, joyfully. That's why I'm here, gladly.