Friday, May 18, 2012

American Awakened: Part Three - A Pause for Mess

I clicked a friend's link to a link to a link and came across this blog entry by Dan King, who is social media editor for, blogger at co-founder and media director for the movement, and social media director for help on now.

Mr. King writes about the Haitian mud left on his shoes from his time spent helping the local people with various needs.

I can't help but remember the shoes I wore while in Honduras. They became quite a mess. I waded up to my knees while dirty water soaked into them, creating that oh-so-unpleasant gushing feeling when walking. They were expensive and waterproof - yes, but only up to the laces. I did not intend on going caving. Or hiking upriver through water and rock.

But the boots did more than go on adventures. The boots walked down dusty, dirty roads and helped me kneel to take pictures for Paramedics for Children. The boots took me around Daniela's school. The boots gave me a solid foundation to stand on when my emotions quietly got the best of me and I felt like I was going to quake so much I might collapse.

I tossed those boots in the wash the first day I returned home. They made a huge clunkety-clunk that drove us mad, but I wanted that old-water, horrible, smelly smell out.

I read Mr. King's blog about his Haitian mud and now I want my Honduran dirt back.

Why did I want to wash it off? What was wrong with it?

Did it not fit in with my clean house? Was I afraid I would taint my hardwood floors? Get grime on my comforter?

I'm a very nostalgic person, always have been. I still have the box of candy a boy gave me in the 4th grade (the box, people, not the candy!). I am very nostalgic about things. I kept all my plane ticket stubs from my trip. I kept audio recordings of our guide talking. I think I might have taken a sugar packet home.

Yet I had to get rid of that dirt.

I am ashamed.

And yes, you can tell me not to be so hard on myself. But I need to be.

I am not beating my head with a hammer, but I am realizing that I could have taken a lot more away from my time in Honduras. I could have felt a lot less comfortable.

Ironically, it is now, back home, where I am feeling the most uncomfortable. I hear this is normal, that it makes sense.

Please, tell me how.

I'm back to my comfortable Americana; I'm back to writing Daniela letters, sending her pictures. I have a second sponsor child I write to as well: Selpia in Indonesia. It's been a year with her. We are just getting to know each other.

I wonder what her mess is like.

I wonder if it is as beautiful and as horrible as the things I saw in Honduras.

I wonder if, should I ever visit her in Indonesia, I will come home and slip off my worn and traveled shoes and opt for my plush couch...

or if I will scrape off some of that stuff and slip it into an envelope.

Terra firma of another world that I am called to love.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

American Awakened: Part Two - In Abundance or In Need

Today is the last day before I return to work. Before I return to the real world life I lived before my trip to Honduras. Husband is at an appointment and was kind enough to drop the kids off at school. I sit here at my kitchen table that, now that I look at it, is quite fancy and nice. In fact, I've been doing a lot of looking around at my house and it is very nice. Very, very nice.

I feel fragile today. I felt fragile yesterday. I was so exhausted at the end of the day, felt so depressed, and I thought if I just succumbed to sleep, then I would wake up and feel better.

I woke up and did not feel better.

So here I sit at the computer with my worship music playing. God seems to be orchestrating the selection of iTunes that plays.

Casting Crowns sings:
"Just love them like Jesus, carry them to Him
His yoke is easy, His burden is light
You don't need the answers to all of life's questions
Just know that He loves them and stay by their side
Love them like Jesus

Lord of all creation holds our lives in His hands

The God of all the nations holds our lives in His hands
The Rock of our salvation holds our lives in His hands
He cares for them just as He cares for you"

And I think yes, yes, that is what I tried to do. I tried to love them like Jesus. I volunteered with Paramedics for Children  and took pictures of each student in that tiny rural school as they held the gigantic wipe board that said their name, grade, weight, height, and school name. Their ages ranged from 4 all the way up to one 13 year old. For most of them, the wipe boards were as big as they were.

The girls huddled around my camera as I took snapshots of each child. They were entranced with the view screen where they could see the person, live, moving in front of them. Little girls clustered around me and I wanted to scoop them up with their smiles and giggles and hug them close and say, "Jesús te ama." Which means, "Jesus loves you." I wish I could have had the chance to hold them tightly and sing, "Jesus loves me this I know. For the Bible tells me so."

But I was nervous. I felt comfortable taking pictures and smiling at each child, telling them to smile in Spanish. But I wasn't sure if they'd appreciate this strange American wrapping them up in a tearful embrace, wanting to hold onto the love that shone in their eyes, the ache that laid behind their smiles. So instead, for a moment, I lightly put my arm around the girl closest to me and smiled at her and patted her back for a few seconds.

For a moment I was transported, as a mother, back home to when I would rub my stepson's back.

A mother's hand rubbing a child's back feels the same in any country.

I saw the other girls turn and look to see what I was doing. They did not look displeased, just curious. I suddenly felt self-conscious and took my arm away and continued to snap pictures. My heart hurt. I felt so nervous that I would do or say something that was inappropriate, that stepped over cultural comforts.

I look at pictures and blogs of other people visiting children in third world countries and I see them hugging and playing with the children. I ache to go back now and sit each one down in my lap and hold onto them with all my might. Not only because I wanted to give them comfort, to show them how my heart beat for them, but also for me. Because I selfishly wanted to be loved. What a revelation that is. One that does not make me feel very altruistic, but I am being honest just the same. It's not so much that I wanted them to make me feel good or better about myself...

I wanted to simply feel the hope in them; I wanted their smile to infect me. 

I long to return. I had such a wonderful time at that tiny school, truly helping.

Visiting Daniela a few days earlier (a separate blog entry which will be forthcoming), was more about them welcoming us. We were celebrities for a day. I wish it could have been more about Daniela and me as a child and her sponsor, but I am so grateful for the entire village and school that put so much effort into welcoming us and making us feel at home.

But it was at this tiny school, this volunteer effort that popped on our radar at the last minute, a true God-given opportunity, that touched my heart the most.

And so yes, I found I did not ache for the poverty in which they lived in. I certainly noticed it. And I certainly wished better for them. But there were so many smiles and giggles and curiosity. 

One girl, in particular, with a ponytail and long, dangling earings - her name was Reina,. 11 years old, and she and I had a special, unspoken bond. She smiled at me with a certain shy coyness. I smiled back and I felt my heart stir. How I yearned to talk with her - somehow, even using my broken Spanish. I wanted to connect with her. But I didn't. I only have those smiles to remember. How she followed me around, wordlessly, face lit up with joy and inquisitiveness.

I miss her.

I wish I could have been more vulnerable and at least given her a hug goodbye.

It's these thoughts that have me sitting here at my nice kitchen table with tears streaming down my face.

I'm trying to scroll through Ann Voskamp's "A Holy Experience" blog because not only is she my favorite writer, but she has gone on many mission trips through Compassion International and has written extensively about the difficulties in coming home to the comforts you enjoyed before and how to deal with the conflicting emotions as you fix your family a full, healthy meal, all the while knowing that the precious children you helped a world away will probably have little if any to eat.

How do you reconcile that?

How in the world do you reconcile that?

The two:
poverty and riches
abundance and need
seem to run down completely opposite paths

but I know full well that Jesus connects the two
from one arm to the other
stretched out on the cross. 

I know full well that Jesus calls us to connect the two, ourselves.
He calls us to reach out and
hunger after loving the hungry..

I sit here, still in my American sleep, but now a bit more roused. I want to snap out of my sleep. I know what I saw; I know what I heard; I know what I experienced.

Strangely, I was not able to cry while in Honduras. I thought I'd be sobbing in the car if we drove by people climbing garbage dumps picking out anything they could find (and we did see that). I thought seeing a child in rags would bring me to tears. But I did not cry.

I thought that meant I wasn't being affected.

I thought that meant that I had failed.

But though I prayed that dangerous prayer: Lord, break my heart
and tried to be a Isaiah 25:4 woman

I fell trap to thinking that I had not done God's will. I had not followed His calling.

As I shake myself out of that fog that the enemy tries to stick my head in

I realize that I did not fail. A hunched over, sobbing body does not mean that I am broken-open. Perhaps I did keep it together while I was there. But that did not mean I was not affected.

My time of broken-openness was at our first dinner home with our family. I dished up Salisbury steak, heaps of mashed potatoes, and spoonfuls of corn onto five pretty blue decorative plates and I thought about each child I encountered. I thought about Daniela and, while she wore nice clothes for our visit, I knew her home was a simple tin shanty with a dirt floor. She had told me that she cooks for her family. I asked her what did she cook and she answered beans and bean soup.

I have no pretty, tied-up-with-a-bow way to end this blog entry for today. I have not come to any earth-shattering finalized conclusions. I am in limbo, between a world of abundance and a world of need.

I will close with these lyrics from the song, "Gratitude" by Nichole Nordeman, which I will be quoting throughout my Honduras blogs:

"We'll give thanks to You
With gratitude
For lessons learned in how to trust in You
That we are blessed beyond what we could ever dream
In abundance or in need"

Lord who walks with me every moment, with us every moment, please help me balance myself between these two strange worlds I am in. I feel so lost and confused. Has my heart broken enough? Do I feel it enough? What do I do about it? 

And I hear God repeat to me those Casting Crowns lyrics:

"You don't need the answers to all of life's questions
Just know that He loves them and stay by their side
Love them like Jesus"

Until next time.... 

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

American Awakened: Part One - Lord, Break My Heart

How do I describe the indescribable? How do I echo grateful sobs from a Honduran mother thanking me for giving monthly financial gifts to her daughter? How do I show you the tin shanties and wild roaming dogs I saw in Honduras? The eager schoolchildren waiting for pencils, erasers, and toys? I am not a professional blogger who took professional pictures during my week-long stay. My husband is making a documentary both for ChildFund International, our church, and possibly for the other organization we volunteered with for a day. He's the professional filmmaker. I am the writer. I can only rely on my words and I find now, two days in the United States, that words fail me. But because I am a writer and I need to share my experiences, I will humbly try to do the best I can, hoping God will lead my fingers as they type. 

Before departing, I had prayed the dangerous prayer that Jennifer Dukes Lee had prayed in her blog, Getting Down With Jesus, in this post: "When You Pray for a Heartbreak."

That post inspired me so much and planted the prayer that I held throughout the trip:

Lord, break my heart.

It was a dangerous thing for this sensitive woman to pray. I cry at Hallmark commercials. I cry when I see a deer dead at the side of the road. How would I handle seeing the poor and needy by the side of Honduran roads? How could I stand to see such sadness? How could my fragile heart possibly make it through this trip alive?

But I knew I could not turn a blind eye. I knew my heart pumped for the poor in pocketbook and in spirit. My heart bled for those who needed love. That was part of why my family and I sponsor two children from afar: Daniela in Honduras and Selpia in Indonesia. Actually coming face to face with that need would be difficult, but I knew that I had to have my eyes opened. My comfortable American sleep must life from my eyes. 

I did not want to settle for feeling satisfied having that money automatically taken out of our checking account every month and saying, well I'm glad we're doing that. We're helping a child in need. And while corresponding with Daniela for eight years has been a true blessing and treasure, I wanted to look into her eyes, this girl I had known through the lines of paper since she was four and a half years old....I needed to feel her hand in mine. Or put my arms around her, if she'd let me. 

And the overall difference in Honduras. Yes, I knew my heart had been pointing stronger toward the needy since becoming a Christian, but I also knew I was at a point where God wanted me to follow Him deeper into the real world. 

And so I walked. Husband, Lee (I will finally reveal his name so to better narrate our story), Stepdaughter whom I will call Ashley (must consider a teenager's privacy), and I walked. 

I cannot hope to write everything I encountered and experienced down in one blog entry so I shall have to work on this over the course of many entries. I thank you for grace and patience as I capture words that flit around me like moths -- 

yet if I have learned one thing from this trip which I can mention right now, it is this:

someone can see a moth...and someone else can see a butterfly.

Until next time...