Going through the motions of security checkpoints and checking in for flights came like second nature to me. Even though I had not flown to Haiti since before the summer, my body remembered how to get there via plane, for sure. Upon arrival in Haiti, I was not overwhelmed like I thought I would be. It felt like coming home. The banjos playing in the airport, the chattering Creole, the teams with the matching shirts...it was all there in that airport. When the immigration officer commented on my "good" Creole, I laughed and thanked God I could remember enough to have a conversation with her.
Walking outside, the heat hit me first. But, following soon after were the emotions. So many emotions seeing so many people and knowing how many of them had stories that had changed in some way or another over the last 7 months.
I did not expect memories of the last time I was there, sick as a dog, to come flooding back to me so quickly on the route home. I did not expect to feel so overcome with thanks for the way God protected me in that time, processing that experience as if I were seeing it more clearly. I did not expect to feel so many emotions, reeling in my mind, as I was reunited with the teen mother who we've been praying for and supporting; the cooks for Konbit, who waited in the waiting room of the clinic that night with me; the people I have come to know as family- all who welcomed me with open arms.
I also did not expect to feel so sad. Sad for the woman who had lost her child due to a strange illness or lack of drinking water; sad for the way I made people worry about me there; sad I couldn't do more to help everyone; sad that I am not superwoman and can't do everything I want to do, that I expect myself to do.
Haiti has made me feel a lot of things in my time working and learning there. This short time visiting helped me to see ever so dimly through the veil that stands between the heavenly work God is doing and my miniscule understanding of it all. That in between place, where I have to squint my eyes and think real hard, is usually where I live. Wondering and waiting to "get it," to get the point of whatever it is I am suffering through or learning. This time was no different, but I do feel like I saw through the veil for a moment. Here's what I saw:
1.) Hope abounds. The first thing I felt when I walked into our little community was hope. It was overwhelming, almost tangible. Though people might not know where their meals are coming from or what is happening in their midst, they are hopeful. Flowers were growing, new baby animals were everywhere. It's new. And, it was a reminder that in the middle of everything up in the air, we can still hold onto hope (and hopefully baby animals).
2.) Our lives do not only affect ourselves, no matter how private we tend to be. I kind of sunk into a hole, being away from Haiti so much. I thought to myself that if I didn't share the intricacies of my own pain and life with anyone, that I could only affect myself. However, I realized when we landed in Haiti that that simply wasn't true. Those who love us and whom we love want to know the struggles and issues we are facing. They face them with us and we with them, even if we are far apart.
3.) We will never understand the fullness of the intricate plans God has for us. If there's one thing I learned this trip to Haiti, it was just how veiled our experiences are. The way I experience things in Haiti is different than even how Ryan does, nevermind our Haitian friends. Everyone sees things through their own lenses, their own personal experiences, and depending on what God is actually doing in the lives of the people experiencing things. I noticed that while I hated being gone, there was a lot of good that came out of it, as well.
4.) We can still mourn with those who mourn even when we don't understand. I am just one of those people. I like to tie things up neatly almost before I process them. It is difficult for me to just hear information and not know what to do to tie it up. When we got word that a little girl dear to our hearts (and certainly to the hearts of our friends in Haiti) had passed away suddenly, there was a gnawing at my heart to bury it. I didn't understand it, so I didn't want to deal with it. But, that is not the right way to do things, even in the inbetween time. This is still a painful injustice experienced by far too many parents in the developing world, but we can have a reaction to it: mourning with those who mourn. In that mourning, no matter where you are or what the situation entails, there is something holy that happens in that brokenness. If that's all we experience in this lifetime, then that is enough, too.
5.) There can be (and is) joy in what we don't understand. In the midst of feeling so much and also not knowing what to do with those feelings, I felt it might be best to lock myself away until I could get ahold of myself. However, I quickly realized that wasn't the only thing going on. While we convince ourselves that pain and sorrow are incompatible with joy, this just isn't so. Joy is best when paired with sorrow, I think! I saw and experienced so much deep joy in Haiti because I realized that it is not our circumstances which define us, but the hope withstanding it all. The hope that allows us to mourn collectively, the pain that comes when we the people we love are in pain, the friendship that endures miles and miles. This is what defines us, and this is what gives us joy.
This entire trip reminded me of this verse "When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a (wo)man, I set aside childish ways. Now we see but a dim reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known. And now these three remain: faith, hope, and love; but the greatest of these is love.…" (1 Cor. 13:11-13). I don't understand a lot of the heartache in Haiti (or the world) and how it is presented ever so harshly there, like a slap in the face. But, I do know that I don't see the whole picture. Clinging onto the fact that there is joy in the middle of not knowing and to the Map Maker Himself makes me remember that there is hope springing up in every corner. We see dim reflections in our life now, echoes of hope and joy in this life. We see enough for now, though. Enough to know that faith, hope, and love are intrinsically important to the lives we lead. Enough to know that what we see isn't the full picture, but a glimpse.
I am thankful for each glimpse I get- of heartache and pain, of friendship and long-suffering, and of the overwhelming feelings I have when I think of this crazy life we share as a human race, bound together by our experiences.
A covered pot cooks in the corner and the sòs pwa scent rises up. Sitting on a small stool, she sits down and begins poking the ground with a stick. Sweat beads on her brow and her children run around her. She asks one of the children to go fetch some water for her while she laughs at what her friend says as she passes by. She is making dinner for her family, and likely many of her neighbors and friends who might stop by. The rice boils up, and it is not a lot. She is thankful for the some that she has. She shucks the peas as she waves off the flies that have gathered around the cooking food.
She is a Haitian woman.
She gets home after a long day on her feet. She comes home to a messy house, kids shoes thrown on the ground and screaming down the hall. She sits with her tea for a moment, and glances at the crossword puzzle in the paper. She sighs heavily as she gathers herself together to prepare a meal for her children. She checks the fridge to see what ingredients she can scrounge up before asking her teenage son to run out to the store. She laughs at the children down the hall.
She is an American woman.
My life has been a practice in observing strong women so that I might become one. Like the creation of a good meal, I have watched women all over the world work with what they have and make something beautiful out of their lives. I have been inspired by their confidence, their quiet self-assurance, their integrity, and their willingness to get things done.
Today, as it is International Women's Day, I can't help but thank God for the women I have had the privilege to know. To me, these women embody an entirely new perspective on the character of God. While we can call Him our Father, I also believe He is big enough to embody traits of a Mother.
I have seen women create something from nothing. Driven by the love they have for their families or friends or communities, they can't help but bring something together in a tender and caring way. Their imagination is second only to their strength. Through their dreaming, they are able to know their own strength to see their creations through: from meals, to new programs for their communities, to "just" making it work.
I would be lying if I didn't say that it took me a while to notice the women in my life as strong leaders and people to emulate. Growing up with three strong brothers, I often felt out of place and out of touch. I felt like I was supposed to care about things that I simply didn't care about. It was confusing. Until I noticed my mother. Either unaware or just not caring, my mom never put constraints on who she was. She was unapologetically herself, sometimes to my teenage embarrassment. But, she was herself. As I began to know her more as a woman, I began to embrace that part of myself. I grew an affinity for the "funky teachers" who were these unconventional women who dared to be dreamers and schemers. They challenged the status quo and in turn, challenged me.
In my work in Haiti, I was blown away by the charisma of many of the men I met on the island right away. Their loud and boisterous personalities and freedom drew me in from the first time I worked there. I remember telling my friend that I just didn't feel like I understood the women in Haiti, as they were quiet. Incorrectly, I mistook their meekness as weakness.
Though my time growing up in the USA taught me to be unapologetically myself, my time in Haiti has taught me to be myself no matter who thinks otherwise. Haitian women are genuine to the core. They can sense if someone is trying too hard and they are very protective of themselves and their tribe. They give meaning to the word family- and they do in such a way that is humble and sincere.
Through my time watching these two types of women live their lives, I realized that there are more similarities than differences. That fact, really, blows my mind on its own. Because on the surface they look so different, but underneath it's all the same.
We want to be seen. We want to be known. We want to stop being underestimated and start being respected. We want to know that our spouses/significant others respect us and take us seriously. We want to create and dream and be free enough to believe that those dreams aren't just for the boys, but are for us, too. I have seen the dreams that are on the hearts of the beautiful women I know around the world, and I know they are capable.
Strength doesn't always look like gregarious displays. Sometimes it does, though. Today I honor the women that display the heart of God- of caring, of love, of fighting for those they love. I thank them for the ways they press on in spite of difficult and harsh circumstance. And, I continue to want to find ways to connect with them, love them and carry on.
overthinker and under-planned; development worker, believer, friend, wife, sister, daughter; learning a lot every day.