Friday, August 31, 2012

Reading List

I don't know if you know this about me, but I like to read. A lot. I will read just about anything I can get my hands on. But I really like fiction. Stories are powerful... and easier for me to process than most non-fiction. Lately I've been reading lots of the free books I downloaded from Amazon's Kindle store. There have been some really great books among those free ones! And I also have some pregnancy/childbirth and parenting books I've been working on. (Not quite the same as a good historical romance though.) Anyway, my point is I like stories. I don't generally choose non-fiction unless someone recommends it to me or I start having dreams about my new friends, er, the characters in my books.

Today I was thinking about some books I'd like to read this fall, and I realized that there are multiple non-fiction books on my list. More than I've probably ever had on my list at any other point in time. I haven't read them yet, but I've heard really great things about them. So, I'll share my list with you and if you've read them or want to, we can have a nice chat about them. We can even start a little book club if you are up for it!

Books I want to read
In no particular order

Kisses from Katie by Katie J. Davis and Beth Clark

Thursday, August 30, 2012

We're still alive!

Hi friends and family.

We're still alive. We promise.

Friday night Tropical Storm Isaac blew over Haiti. It was... intense. Friday afternoon it rained and rained, but the wind didn't pick up until the evening.

We were safe and dry (except for some water that sneaked through a window and got the tile floor wet), but we could hear a tin rough flapping in the wind during the night. We're sure that family didn't make it through the night dry.

Saturday brought more rain and some wind, but the not the crazy variety of the night before. By 3pm he sun was trying to peek through the clouds and the rain had stopped. We ventured out of our house to get a 1000 piece puzzle from the guest house. (The internet was out and we needed something to keep us busy.) It rained again that night, but sans wind. Our neighborhood had branches and trees down, but no serious damage.

We have seen some of the pictures from other areas of Haiti--mostly the tent camps that are on much lower ground. Our hearts break for them.

I came across this blog this morning that talks about Weathering Isaac in other neighborhoods in Haiti.

Keep praying for this island and the people who call it home.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Keeping our eyes on this guy

Have you heard about tropical storm Isaac? We've heard plenty. It looks like he's headed straight for us and should be here tomorrow afternoon. We live in the mountains, so we'll just have to deal with some rain and wind. We'll stay inside our apartment and be fine. However, there are lots of people still living in tents and other sub-par housing in Haiti. Pray for them would you?
[Image of 5-day forecast and coastal areas under a warning or a watch]

Yummy Food

Much of my life revolves around food right now, so I thought I'd share some one of the recent recipes I've made.

My current favorite is  Black bean, Corn, and Zucchini Enchiladas. You may have heard me talk about them before. This is probably the best meal I've made all summer. I really want to eat them today, but it's a lot of work for this pregnant momma. First I have to make the flour tortillas. Then I have to pressure cook the beans, chop the veggies, and make the BEST enchilada sauce ever. Then I have to sautee the veggies and put everything together in the pan.

However, looking at the delicious pictures on those links has just convinced me to get to the kitchen and get started! Maybe I'll share another recipe later. For now I'll be working on tortillas and enchilada sauce.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Prayerful Monday

Would you pray with us for these requests this week?

  • Praise God that Dayley's infected ankle wound is finally healing! He still has an open wound, but it is draining on it's own and doesn't look disgusting anymore... just raw. And there is quite a bit of new skin growing/forming in the area. He tells me it still hurts, but he plays and comes to church, and I think the wound will be completely closed before school starts. Praise God and keep praying for his healing.
  • We have computer class with the young people in Gramothe every Mon. through Fri. I am excited to get to know this new group of kids, but building relationships takes time and investment. Pray for me to remain patient with them (I always have this problem at the beginning of the school year. I just want to pick up where I left off, but I have new students that are still trying to figure this lady out!)
  • Pray that God would give us favor as we apply for my permis de sejour. We are still waiting on one paper and then will file the application as soon as we have it.
  • Praise God for the beautiful weather we've had this month! We've gotten some much needed rain, but mostly at night when it doesn't effect traveling to and from Gramothe. And it hasn't been too hot for this pregnant lady.
  • One of our older neighbors died last week. Pray that the peace of God comforts his family as they prepare for the funeral (it should be on Saturday).
  • Lots of kids and parents are showing up for registration. Pray that God would prepare the hearts and minds of the students and teachers as they get ready for the start of school on Sept. 10th.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Pretty in Pink

Here's the latest baby bump picture. 
34 weeks down, 6 to go! (as of 8/12/2012)

Friday, August 17, 2012

"the life you give"

I caught myself praying a very Haitian prayer the other day. (Not a bad thing.) I think I was praying before our meal, but it really doesn't matter if it was mealtime or bedtime or just anytime. While I was praying I heard myself say, "thank you for the life you've given us." It's an English variation of the Creole prayer merci pou lavi ou bay, which translated simply says thank you for the life you give.

I often hear Haitians say this phrase while praying. It's used during church prayers, mealtime prayers, and prayers said at school and other events. I used to think of it as a nice general prayer. You know a good ole, Thanks God for my life. But ever since I heard myself pray that way I've been thinking about what it means.

I used to have a different life. A very different life. I taught 8th grade reading at a school I loved. I was part of a teaching team that worked together and supported each other. My students and I spoke the same language. I was deeply invested in my students and knew many details about their families and home lives. I also was very involved in the youth group at my church. I walked along side those teens as they figured out what it meant to follow Christ--and thoroughly enjoyed being with them. My family and friends were close by and I connected with them frequently. I was gainfully employed (something I really miss). In my old life if I wanted something, I bought it. I enjoyed the stability and predictability of my life, as well as constant electricity and warm running water. Shopping, restaurants, gas stations, nearly every store or business I needed were mere minutes away. I was independent and self-sufficient. My life was full and more importantly fulfilling. It was a good life.

Just two years later, my life is a bit different. I'm a foreigner in a strange land. I teach in a school where I can't communicate with most of the staff or students. I can't be deeply invested in my students' lives because we don't understand each other. I attend church, but I'm not a vital (or even non-vital) part of ministry there. I talk to my family and friends via Skype now--when it's working. I live in a developing nation where important paperwork is completed by hand. Corruption plagues the government. Riots are commonplace (though we haven't actually had any for quite some time). I am now dependent on the generosity of others to be paid each month. If we need to buy something, we have to budget for it. I get charged more at the farmer's market because of my white skin; beggars are especially persistent with me for the same reason.  Electricity is not guaranteed. I need help ordering at restaurants and sometimes checking out at the grocery store. I can't remember the last time I went anywhere on my own. The convenience of life is gone. But this life, this inconvenient and sometimes frustrating life, is still good... and fulfilling.

I'm thankful for this life God has given me. I have an amazing husband (cheesy, but true) who loves me and takes care of me. Arold and I are part of a ministry that is literally changing lives. Even with my limited Creole, God uses me to impact the lives of young Haitians. I am blessed with fellowship and encouragement by the myriad of people who come through the guest house to serve with MTM. Learning to budget has been a good skill to add to my toolbelt, and learning to live without the things I think I "need" has been a good exercise in what Haitians call degaje, making do with what you have. It also causes me to come face to face with my own selfishness and sense of entitlement. (while not fun, it's good for me, right?)

I never could have imagined living this life, but it's the one God has give me and I truly am thankful for it.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Blue Pens

Blue pens have special power here in Haiti. For some reason blue is the OFFICIAL color for documents and exams. Kids can only use blue pen on their exams and are supposed to use it for all homework too. Sometimes they won't even take notes or do classwork in another color or with a pencil. If they don't have a blue pen in class that day, it's like the world has ended and they can do nothing. Nothing. It's pretty ridiculous.

Part of Haitian culture is that they are pretty formal when it comes to "official" things. Like uniforms are a big deal. Once in my senior English class last spring I had each student stand and read something. One boy got up there with his shirt untucked. I didn't notice, but the rest of the class stopped him and made him tuck it in before he could continue. That's how serious they are! So if they are supposed to use a blue pen for something, then they refuse to use anything else.

With that said, here's a picture of our blue pen bin from the supply closet. We'd like to give all the students a blue pen with their back to school packet of supplies. If we don't have blue pens, we'll give them whatever color we have. But we don't even have a lot of other colors right now.

If you are coming to Haiti this year, at any point, would you consider bringing a few packages of blue pens with you? If you aren't coming, but would still like to help our students, you can mail donations to the MTM office in Terre Haute, IN, at any time and someone will carry them into the country for us.

Mountain Top Ministries
c/o school supplies
PO Box 7053
Terre Haute, IN 47802

Also, see my post about other school supplies.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Computer Lab Use

Last week we did the VBS for the younger kids in Gramothe from 9-11ish. After we finished with them, we would go upstairs to the computer lab for an hour and half and have class with the teenagers. Arold was in charge of the class, and did a great job explaining new concepts to the kids. Some days I think his lessons were derived from their questions, and other days he had a plan going into the class. They worked on basic formatting in text documents for most of the time (bold, italics, columns, colored text, font size, etc), but they also had a long lesson on computer components and how they work (ie how they store information and what you can do with them).

There are quite a few teens in Gramothe that are not in the MTM school. Some of them attend other schools, and some of them are just not in school. Nearly all of them are in the church youth group, so I see them at church on a regular basis. The students who are not in the MTM high school don't have much of a reason to talk to me, so I don't know them very well. It was nice to interact with them a little bit last week and see their personalities as they interacted with each other and my husband.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Prayerful Monday

Here's what we're praying about this week:

  • Praise God for a wonderful week of VBS with the children in Gramothe. We averaged around 15 kids per day, with the majority being boys. It was a great time of learning from God's word and building stronger relationships with the kids.
  • Dayley still has an open wound on his ankle. We went to visit late last week after VBS to check on him. It's gross for sure, but if Micka can keep it clean it should heal just fine. Please pray for Dayley as his ankle heals--he does have pain and infection is still a possibility. Pray also that God would give Micka wisdom as she cares for Dayley and his wound.
  • We have nearly all the documents necessary for my permis de sejour. I hope that we'll be able to get the last two and apply by the end of the week. Pray for God's favor!
  • School registration begins in Gramothe this week. Pray for the students, teachers, and principals as they all prepare to come back to school in September.
  • Arold and I will be working with the Gramothe teens in the computer lab almost daily before school begins. Pray that we communicate new skills effectively, but even more so that the light of Christ shines through us as we spend time with these young people.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Name that tune!

Here's a video from our week of VBS in Gramothe. This is a classic Sunday school song in Haiti, just like it is in the States. But most of the kids didn't know the song, so Arold taught it to them on the first day. It ended up being their favorite song to sing. The video is from the first day, so it was pretty tame and in control. They got a little louder and rowdier with each day. I loved learning this song in Creole and singing with them. It brought back some great Sunday school memories for me!

And, here are the words in Creole if you want to sing along. The video doesn't quite start at the beginning of the song--sorry about that!

Friday, August 10, 2012

VBS in Gramothe

This week Arold and I went to Gramothe each morning for a few hours to have a VBS type "camp" with the kids. It was a lot of fun for me to interact with some of the younger kids. And I learned some classic Sunday school songs in Creole!

Our theme for the week was standing strong (kanpe djanm in Creole). Arold taught the kids the theme and verse for the day and then told a Bible story that went with the theme. We found a Group Publishing VBS outline on the internet and modified it to work for us. It's actually a 2013 kit, so if you are interested it's called "Kingdom Rock". Here are the lessons for each day:

  • God's love helps us stand strong.
  • Family and friends help us stand strong.
  • Prayer helps us stand strong.
  • Trusting God helps us stand strong.
  • God's word helps us stand strong.

In addition to the Bible lessons, we also had a time of singing and then a craft for each day. I was in charge of the craft. Mostly we used up some of the supplies that have been hanging out in the supply closet for a while. One day we used some foam stickers, another day they just drew their own pictures, and so on. A team of ladies from Georgia were here a couple of weeks ago and left some craft supplies, so we used a few of the things they left. My favorite was a coffee filter butterfly, but we didn't have the camera that day.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Prayerful Monday

Here's what we're praying about this week.

  • Arold and I are hosting a "camp" for kids ages 5-12ish in Gramothe this week. It will basically be a week of VBS. We're hoping to meet from 9-12 each morning and will have songs, crafts, games, a Bible story and verse for each day, and possible some literacy/math facts time worked in as well. Pray that God would be glorified through all our activities this week.
  • Keep praying for Dayley and the infection on his ankle. When Arold asked Micka about it she said he was the same. I don't know if he's started antibiotics or not, so I will ask Micka when we are in Gramothe for the camp.
  • Please continue to pray us as we pursue a permis de sejour for me and a visa for Arold. We were productive gathering documents last week and have sent a couple of them to be translated.
  • We're praising God for his faithfulness to us. We are continually blessed by the donation of the Tracker, and we are excited to have some new people partner with us financially. We're thankful for our safe and comfortable apartment, the fact that we have everything we need for the baby, and this life God has given us. 

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Rainy Sunday Morning

After a pretty lousy night of sleep for me (I just couldn't get comfortable and had to pee multiple times), we woke up to the sounds of rain. Arold's dad had mentioned a siklon (pronounced seek-lone, any guess on what it means?) yesterday, but we forgot to check the weather before going to bed. When I got out of bed this morning I noticed it was very dark and overcast, so I turned the computer on to see if we were going to get hit by a siklon. Sure enough there is a tropical storm in our area of the Caribbean. No worries though; both the Weather Channel and National Hurricane Center predict it will miss us and head toward Mexico.

Since my body was aching from a rough night of sleep and it was quite wet outside, I decided to skip out on church to stay home and rest. My husband texted me from Gramothe and said there were only 32 people at church today. Turns out I'm not the only one who stayed home this morning, so I no longer feel guilty about not going to church in the rain.

My handy-dandy thermometer (possibly one of my favorite purchases from my time in the States) said it was 71* this morning while it was raining and super foggy. That is pretty chilly for July! Once the fog lifted, though, the temperature started going up. Now, at 12:30 pm, it's not foggy anymore and the thermometer says it's a whopping 74*. The rain has stopped for now, but he sun still isn't shining.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Pregnancy Update

the first and last day of July
I've been in the third trimester of pregnancy for about 5 weeks now and I thought it was time for another update about Baby Charles.

how far along: 33 weeks or a little more than 7 months

symptoms: heartburn that is described as "fire acid", headaches, back aches, trouble rolling over in bed, stretchmarks (increasing quite rapidly now), a linea nigra (line on my stomach that will fade after birth), and some other things you really don't want to know about
our new dresser!
food: I didn't eat a lot during the first trimester because I just wasn't hungry, but once I hit 16 weeks and the nausea was gone I haven't looked back! My favorite foods right now are cucumbers, salsa, and sweet breads of any kind.

weight gain: As of my last appointment I had gained a total of 18 pounds, so I'm just back to my pre-pregnancy weight. I'm hoping that I only gain the recommended pound a week from here on out.

nesting: We were showered with love, affection, and gifts twice while I was in the States. Since I've been back in Haiti, I have been busy getting everything sorted and out of the way for now. The crib is up. We had a dresser made last week that will double as storage and a changing station. The clothes and diapers are washed. Now we just need to pack a bag for the hospital and put the carseat in the car. Oh, and take all the junk out of the crib so our baby can sleep there!

crib with lots of stuff

birth: I'm starting to get a little anxious about the birthing process. I've been reading books, watching videos online, and just trying to learn all I can to be prepared. We are having the baby at the maternity hospital in Petion-Ville. It's about 20 minutes from our house.

Currently we are praying for the following regarding birth and would love it if you prayed with us:
  • that baby will move into the head down position, he's currently laying sideways and if he doesn't move, it's an automatic c-section
  • that we will be able to have a natural birth with no interventions (I don't want pitocin, an episiotomy, forceps or the vacuum)
  • that labor and delivery will be as fast and painless as possible (I can hope, right?)