This Thing Called Hope

Just write for yourself. It’s what I tell myself, sitting on the couch on Sunday morning. I put my headphones in, attempting to block the sound of Haitian church and screaming singers. Just write for yourself..

And so, I do. Free from the weight of expectation or the fear of judgement, I spill myself onto the pages of a worn-out journal with blank ink. 

It is hard to know what to say and how to write an update. There is a part of it that I love.. almost really, need. Because it’s in the words scrawled on paper and the letters typed on keyboards where He meets me, again and again. He whispers the things He has been trying to tell my heart a thousand times.. but it’s here, away from the busy of the day, that I finally listen. Here, where I finally pause and let His words sink in.

I find my perspective renewed, my gaze reset. I find myself amazed at the goodness of the Lord and the works of His hands, here in this place. And I also find myself deeply convicted and ever-challenged to be more of Him, and less of me. 

Haiti is a country I struggle to put to words. There is a sort of beauty here, in this land where children run the trash-littered streets, laughing and happy. You see it on the hike up the mountain, as you climb above Limbe -with its noise and trash and smog- until your gaze falls upon mountain tops and growing pineapple plants and rusted tin roofs. It’s in the morning sky that turns shades of pink as the sun brings the heat of the day. The beauty, when you choose to find it, breathes hope.

But in all honesty, it is hard to see the beauty here. It does not come naturally; what comes naturally, is just the opposite. 

All around me are a hundred reasons not to hope. Hatred, anger, jealousy, pride, and selfishness surround the little life we live here 3 months at a time. And those same qualities sometimes enter that life more often than we would like to admit. Such displays of darkness are everywhere– both great and small. And it wearies a heart. 

I can see it on the streets, where men cat-call and people bicker loudly. I see it in the eyes of the half-starved elderly, who sit in the house near the market. I see it in my own classroom, where anger has such a deep hold, three-fourths of the class wouldn’t talk to us for nearly the entire week. And just when you wonder how there could be any more, you see a facebook newsfeed full of more mass shootings and news headlines and friend arguing against friend. Every day, the reasons to lose heart stack higher and higher.

Desperate, I look for somewhere to hope. Surely in the Bible class our kids are doing this year. Or maybe in the older generation of kids. In the boy with the snazzy wheelchair that makes him grin ear-to-ear, and in the way his legs bounce (actually bounce!) in his jolly-jumper. Or maybe in that one-tooth wonder, who always has a big grin and a warm and sticky hug for you. 

But I find that those things, in and of themselves, still disappoint.

On Sunday morning I scrawl the words of Isaiah 40 onto an index card… those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. I find myself overwhelmed by verses 25-31, pausing to remember Who my God is. I’m humbled, my eyes opened to the way I fail to lift my head to the One who brings out starry hosts and has no equal. 

Why do we so easily forget Who we belong to?

I pray the words of Isaiah 40 over and over, desperate for them to take root in my life. Teach me to hope in You. Show me what that looks like, in any season or any land. I want to know that life promised in Isaiah 40– the one where His people soar on wings like eagles, where they can run and not grow faint.

It’s been almost a week since that Sunday morning, and the corners of that little index card are just starting to turn up. I’m not quite sure how to get there, to that life of hope in Isaiah 40. Somehow I think it’s a work He has to do, in His own timing. But in the meantime, I’ll start here– in remembering Who He is, and what He has done. 

-Anna

Season by Season

The words aren’t there. I’ve watched the pale morning skies turn their bright blue, deep golden sunshine on the cacao and labape trees outside. I pour a second cup of coffee, my body, heart, and soul feeling the way we have been here nearly 3 months. At least the coffee wakes me up physically. 

My Bible has a literal layer of dust on it. How can you claim anything, write anything, live anything, do anything.. when you don’t even open this Book once a day? Shame runs deep, and I know its voice well. There are tears in the coffee, because I am running on empty. My prayers hit the ceiling and bounce off the cement floors and go everywhere except where I need them to. Verses are highlighted, written on flash cards to be memorized, read again and again from the page.. but I can’t make them make sense in my heart, no matter what I do.

Disappointment weighs heavy in my heart because where are You when I need You most, and I know I need You, and I’m begging for You.. and You don’t come?

The kids finish their last week of school. Wildaneise has passed onto her 6 times tables. We stand in the doorway, looking at our class of 7 working away at their Subtraction with Regrouping worksheets, no one needing help anymore. As I check the papers, I hear Mayline’s voice reading a short story reader. She’s so lost in the words of the book that she does not notice the class empty out at 12:00. I smile for the way she sounds out words, the incredible progress she has made since the fall. 

Mikey has become almost too heavy for me to lift. He’s in his bed, laughing and then screaming, and then laughing again. The kids are all outside for singing group, so we steal precious moments on the living room floor. He pinches my cheeks, and it actually hurts now. His arms are strong, pushing my hands away when he’s mad with me. He can put up a fight, this stubborn child who does things in his own time. But I think he has learned that I am stubborn too 🙂 He has my heart forever entangled, and I think Stephen’s twice as much so. We have watched his tiny person emerge. And while his screaming can drive me absolutely mad, I hear him shriek and inside I whisper, “Yes.. find your voice..”

Sadrack knocks on the door. “Can you sell me two lollipops?” Somewhere along the way, we became the shop for lollipops, Cheeko’s and Twizzlers. The chalkboard sign on the door means nothing, as knocks come whether we are “Open” or “Closed”.

Bello can do his 6, 7, 8, and 9 times tables now. He tells me of the way he can do the math faster in school because it. Sadrack reads smoothly through the short story readers now, and has read every book on the shelf. Every afternoon at 1:30 they come, and every afternoon when they leave at 3 or 3:30, there is always a thank you, a smile, and a little more self-confidence behind their eyes.

I walked to Digicel twice yesterday, Stephen out with the team and us needing to buy another phone. Past the tin shacks selling crackers and candy, past the women calling for the “blanc to vin achtey” their bread loaves and fried street food, past the men who catcall and want to know if I am married (Abel has no shame, translating for me), through the mud puddles of streets, stepping in things I don’t want to know, walking along the side of the road where whizzing motorcycles and enormous trucks aren’t even an arm’s length away. We stop to hold baby Waldo along the way. I wonder who he will grow up to be, touching his tiny toes and silky soft hair.

My despair grows, because where in the world is the hope in all this? I remind myself (my emotional, feel-deep-or-don’t-feel-at-all self) that things are not always how they feel. 

We have watched God provide for our needs in the most unexpected ways. The check comes once a month, and sometimes it is more and sometimes it is less, but it is always what we need. When we find out Alaska will cost more than we anticipated, a message ‘just so happens’ to come later in the morning, asking for information on how to support us. When taxes looked overwhelming, one phone call later found us a place in Florida to help answer every complicated question we had. Nate even comes with coffee creamer the day my powdered kind has run out.

This is not a plea for support.

This is God, reminding me He has never once failed to meet our physical, financial needs. He provides in ways different than we might’ve imagined, but He’s never failed to provide.

And if I can do that for you physically, do you not think I am doing that in every sense of the way? Spiritually, emotionally, mentally? He whispers to my heart, reminding me He has not left us.

We learn to trust; things are not always as they appear, even when you feel empty inside. God provides different than we might sometimes hope, but He always provides.

So I let myself feel the sadness. I don’t deny the despair. I let the Bible sit open somedays, unopened other days. The words on the flash cards hold little meaning right now. This country does look hopeless. But these things, I’m learning, are okay. Because God is still providing somehow, in ways I cannot see right now, for whatever the reason.

And it is somehow okay. 

-Anna

(We leave for Florida on Tuesday. Partly because of the visa situation, partly to get a little week-long break before being in for the month of April. So if you don’t hear from us for a while, we are enjoying paved roads, real coffee creamer, salads and red meat, and sleep 😉 

A Day In the Life

It’s the fifth time I’ve tried to sit down and write this post. 

Life has been busy.

Some days, I ache to find words I do not have. Other days, just as the words come, there is a knock on the door, or the clock strikes a certain hour and it is time to go. And at other times, I’m afraid of the words that would come if I sat for too long. 

Music has been blaring in the next-door soccer field since 3 o’clock this afternoon. Literally 5 hours and counting of blasting loud Creole music with a slightly obnoxious drum beat. It sounds like the same song on repeat. I just found a dead cockroach underneath the couch I’m now sitting on. The shower has left me feeling clean- a feeling I’m thankful for after being covered in sweat and dirt and who-knows-what-else all day. The sound of the fan helps drown out some of the music. My good ole “Shaggy” (the kid’s nickname for Stephen) sits at the kitchen table grading yesterday’s quizzes. 

It’s been a busy few weeks. 3 weeks of school beneath our belts, 2 teams, and 1 stomach bug later, I’d say we are into the ‘swing of things’ here in Limbe. This week in school we are working on contractions (you + are = you’re). And I am praying one of these days we will make it past subtraction with regrouping (please, Jesus, please). School is a continuous up and down ride- the child who doesn’t want to listen one day is a grade A student the next, but yesterday’s grade A student then decides it’s their turn to make your morning miserable.. and on and on the game goes. But we are learning to roll with the tides, to Quit Taking It Personally, and to recognize what the struggle is really about (because it’s really never again the flesh and blood).

Stephen has taken on the role of being the teacher/supervisor/grader/test-giver for the oldest classroom at the orphanage. They started a new virtual school program last month, and needed someone to keep track of tests and scores, and just keep tabs on how things are going. We sat on the kitchen floor this morning, tearing out georgraphy tests from the booklets.”So did you ever imagine yourself doing this?” I asked Stephen. He just laughed. But now he sits at the kitchen table, with a stack of answer keys and pile of papers, furrowed eyebrows and pen and all.

Since being back, I have found myself asking the Lord again and again, “Is there really any chance that a lasting impact can be made here?” I struggle with my own cynicism, quick to judge or point out the hundred reasons why cerain ideas or dreams would never, ever work here. It has been a struggle to view the world I see realistically, yet not belittle the power of my God. It’s a balance I’m not quite sure I will ever get a handle on. Some days I feel overly optimistic, and other days I’ve become such a pessimist I hardly recognize my own self. 

My prayer through it all has been that God would instill His heart into mine. That I would see with His eyes, and hear with His ears. And in certain moments, what He has laid upon my heart is simply this.. it’s not the people or the culture. What you hate is the evil at work within the people, throughout the culture. 

And I pray He continues to remind me of that, especially in the moments I forget it..

Mikey continues to be my little sweetheart, and dare I say has even gained some weight lately? Every time I put him in the bouncer in our apartment, the spring seems one step closer to bottoming out. He’s a little rascal, that boy. Eating macaroni noodles for me one minute, and the next spitting them out all over. But he’s got a killer of a smile and a tickle spot that simply melts my heart. 

The girls favorite afternoon activity has been knitting. I ordered in a kids knitting book, full of projects and beginner techniques and stitches to learn. They’re working on washcloths right now. Finding the time and energy to sit and fix mistakes and explain things proves difficult. There is never enough time.

Sadrack (one of the orphanage boys) comes up every afternoon at 1:302:00, 2:30, whenever I finally go to find him. First thing I am buying when we get to Florida in March is a watch for that little boy. Haha. So many afternoons I call him my saving grace. He comes up and practices reading with me (pretty sure I can recite all the words to “Little Critters: Just Helping My Dad”). Tigers, sharks, whales, and lions are little Sadrack’s obsession. So we end up reading about animals, and watching short youtube videos about lions vs tigers until the power goes out, taking the Internet with it.

And on that note of losing power and internet, Stephen has gone to switch the generators. Which means now is probably a good time to post this and sign off, before I’m rewriting this blogpost for the 6th time.

-Anna

The music in the soccer field is going on over 6 hours here. But at this point, who’s even counting? 

The Bittersweet of Being Back

There’s a motorcycle rumbling outside. We woke to the familar sounds of Mondazi shouting from his room in the nursing home down below. Stephen stands at the counter, cooking eggs for breakfast.  The coffee is too hot to drink still. There are sunshine-y blue skies in Limbe, Haiti today. 

We’ve been back for 2 weeks. I have to do a doubletake at the calendar and count the days to be sure. January 6th -with its holiday embargo, last-minute flight booking, and visa hassle- seems like forever ago. In that time we’ve got a week of school under our belt, acquired nearly a dozen mosquito bites, cleaned the layer of dust from our apartment, Stephen caught a cold and a nasty stomach bug, helped unload the mission’s container that came full of supplies for the next year, been climbed on, hugged, and high-fived by the kids dozens of times, and have gone just crazy enough to be able to survive here for the next 3 months. 

Life has been so busy, but when is it ever not, right? Stephen took his instrument written test the day before our flights for Haiti left, and passed with flying colors. He spent hours upon hours studying while we were in Chicago, sitting at the little dresser with the laptop for days on end. But all his hardworking and time investment paid off 🙂 It made for a stressful time out, with everything we were trying to crunch into our schedules. But when we are in Alaska in May (and even now) we will be thankful for the timing of it all.

Now we are here. Where spiders live under the oven and cockroaches inside the kitchen drawers. Back to where there are so many children who are always wanting, wanting, wanting.. and you can only do so much. Here with school days and lesson planning and sticker reward charts (we brought back a Sam’s Club sized box of Airheads. Because, let’s get real, who can’t be bribed with a little bit of candy? Haha). Here with a new bouncer for Mikey and fun short story readers for the kids. Back to where the showers are so cold my nightly ritual of 100 jumping jacks doesn’t help ease the chill. 

I didn’t want to come back. Our time out was so nice, so almost-normal.. with clean floors, a culture we understood, family closeby, and lets not forget real creamer for the coffee every morning. I knew what we were coming back to. And while I packed our bags and ran errands, I found my heart saying, “God, make another way..” 

This place is not easy.. but it runs deeper than the roads that are mainly potholes, or the mosquitos and rats and cockroaches, or the lack of order and peace and normalcy. This place will suck every ounce of hope in your bones, if your hope is not founded and grounded in Christ, and Christ alone. You will look -at the chaos, at the tin shacks and barefooted children, at the cruelty to pick on the littlest and weakest, and the backwardness that is life here.. and you will wonder why? How can I even…? What can we possibly do..? 

But God, ever faithful, will speak His peace. In those moments unexpected. You will see Sadrack giving the old man a ride back to the nursing home on his bicycle. Mikey will laugh and laugh as you carry him up the stairs to the apartment. There are knocks on the door, shoes at the entry way, and little boys who sit and laugh and pour over books about sharks and bones and “Pete the Cat”. Maria, who comes upstairs to learn to knit, and talks of unicycle riding, school, and asks questions of “Why does God… this.” And “Why did God…. that.” 

And as close as the dirt sticks to your feet and the noise is constantly surrounding you.. so is He. And He will remind you.. of the way He hasn’t called you to be anything. Not a change-maker, not a fixer, not anything. He has called you only to be willing. The rest is always, only, Him. 

To be back is conflicting. And it takes a bit of adjustment, but I’d say we are getting there 🙂 It’s bittersweet.. but isn’t it always? 

As always, we are thankful for the love, the encouragement, and the support so many of you have shown us.. through your emails, your get-togethers when we were in the States, your giving of finances or supplies or time, and most importantly, your prayers. It is priceless, and it keeps us going day after day.

-Anna

We Are Here

Nebraska is cold. My always-chilly fingertips and triple-layered clothing can attest to that.

The wood floor creaks beneath my bare feet, water is boiling for coffee on the stove, and there’s a white-lit Christmas tree in the corner of the living room. We’ve been on the road for 11 days, traveling Chicago to Colorado, and now Colorado to Ainsworth. Scotty and Toby have opened their home to us, showing us a kindness and love that is overwhelming. So many people, in so many different ways, making all of this possible. 

There has been lots of rushing since the moment we boarded that plane in hot, sunny Cap Haitien. Unpacking and repacking, reuniting with family, holiday fun, phone calls and bills, and a never-ending to do list. But morning comes with its ticking clock and bright sunshine, bringing us an unexpected gift of quiet, and stillness, and time. 

It seems like a lifetime ago… the day we landed in Cap Haitien and began the start of this crazy new life. And here it is December already. The frigid showers, spelling test Fridays, sleepless nights, afternoon bicycle repairs, lesson planning days all behind us. I smile for the memory of it- the way the start of it all was so rough, the doubts, the struggle. Until suddenly, life seemed normal and life seemed good. Yes, still hard and exhausting and overwhelming. But there was grace. One day at a time. 

7 months married, we have grown both individually and together. We’ve gone from long-distance relationship to constant companions. And our biggest concern and biggest prayer, He has met. We walk away from 2 months in Haiti stronger together. Every struggle to communicate, every effort to work together, every little frustration, every sometimes-too-honest thought… all of it, He took and used for His good. 

And there is this compelling in my heart.. to tell them about how it was all Him. Of how it always has been and always will be because of Him. His goodness. His mercy. His strength. His love. His power. His presence with us. We have been but the mere vessels. Broken, under-qualified, and weak. He has been so good.

We have come home. Or maybe, we have left home. It is hard to know, when your belongings are stored in boxes in basements and garage shelves and totes in cement rooms. 

We are taking it as it comes, and trying not to freeze as we travel across central United States. We miss those little rascals… those crazy bicycles and stupid pencils and knocks on the door during lunchtime. 33 little faces and voices and sticky fingers have wound their way into our hearts.

As always, we are so thankful for your constant prayers, your support, and your outpouring of love.  We hope to see as many of you as possible while we are stateside, but we can’t seem to figure out how to be two places at once. So if we do not see you this time, maybe the next.

With love, 

from the girl who constantly has a hot chocolate, or fresh coffee, or warm chai tea in hand, 

-Anna

hiking the mountains in Colorado

Raindrops and Grace

Haiti’s gray skies promise nothing but more rain. For four days the rain has been constant. A rushing downpour like we’ve never experienced before. The yard is flooded. The ground is a slick mud pile. Our ears have been deafened by the sound of rain on tin. The kids are wrapped in sweaters to stay warm and garbage bags to stay dry. Jacquelyn’s plantain garden out back is flooded.

How do you put to words what a torrential downpour does to a country that lives most of its days outside?

The streets are dirt when it’s dry, and mud when it rains. The outside market -with its vegetables and fruits that lay on tarps spread across the ground, all cramped together with barely enough space to walk between the vendors- is a swamp. Homes are constructed of tin and scrap metal. Every roof leaks. Garbage clogs the sewers and drainage system. 

Life has been a mucky, sticky, soaking wet mess. Yesterday the sun came out for a bit, the water dried up some, and we ran around the front yard playing tag and hide-and-go-seek. It was a much needed day of sunlight and fresh air, and we were so thankful (and so ready) for it. 

Now the sun has disappeared, and the rain continues to fall.

The kids have been sick with a fever since the weekend. Every morning there’s a new face Bonnie is giving medicine to, or a different body sleeping on their couch. Ray caught it on Monday. Lou followed close behind, catching sick on Tuesday. It’s a nasty bug- complete with a fever and a cough and an ache-y body. Stephen and I are just praying that, if we are going to catch it, it happens before we have to travel back to the States. Plane rides and head colds are a miserable combination. 

We find it hard to believe the days are winding down here. In some ways, we feel as though we are just finding ‘our way’. We’ve begun to feel like we’ve established somewhat of a routine and a schedule. We’ve got a better handle on school, and the kids have been getting used to the way we do things. We’re moved into the new apartment and have drawers and cabinets organized. It seems a shame to be leaving. Yet on the other hand, we are ready for normalcy. We are looking forward to the 14 hour roadtrip to Colorado, with smooth roads and coffee breaks. A hot shower sounds incredible. The chance to be a normal newlywed couple out for a date night will be a breath of fresh air. 

We are excited to see family and friends, to tell our stories and hear other’s stories. We are also excited to take a break from being “Hannah and Shaggy”, and to find time to be us for a while.. without 1/2 a dozen children tagging along behind us. Haha. But then Mikey giggles on his mats in the kitchen, and Carl tries so hard in school, and the girls have finished their first knitting projects. And we wish we had just a little bit more time..

On Tuesday afternoon, I sat in the bedroom working on some of the bits of this blogpost. On the other side of the door in the kitchen were Shaggy and Carl. Earlier they had been thumping around in the eaves mopping up puddles of water, now they were finished, and eating cake at the kitchen table. I listened to Carl’s question after question, changing from bicycles to life to spiritual questions. Every Tuesday afternoon is another boy at our kitchen table, another set of questions, and another testimony of what God has done. (Stephen has been doing a bible study with the boys once a week, and part of that study has been getting them to share their testimony with the group). There are always questions that come up at the most unexpected times.. “Hannah, does Shaggy have another girlfriend?” is one we hear often. “Did you make Hannah take a blood test before you got married?” was one that blindsided Stephen a bit more, in the bike depot surrounded by tires and bike parts. “Are you gonna take another boy besides Shaggy oneday?” The questions go on and on.

The questions remind us we don’t know why we are here or how God is using us. Because you can think you’ve come so they can read better and solve math problems. You think you’ve come to do a bible study and teach boys to fix bicycles and maybe ride the dirt bike. You think you’ve come to make the boy in the pac’n’play giggle and engage this beautiful world around him. But the unexpected questions in the unexpected moments remind us God has us here for His purposes, being mere tools and instruments in His hands, for whatever ways He deems fit. And we may never fully know what those ways are. We only are faithful to Him. 

Those words are easier to type than they are to live out.

Downstairs below us in the senior home, Mondezi shouts. 6:30 shower time, right on schedule. Today promises another day of multiplication bingo, spelling tests, and 1/2 a dozen energetic children climbing all over us. It’s funny the things that begin to seem normal. I’m exhausted already.. to think of the battle over pencils, the relentless teasing among the kids, and the arguing that seems to take place in the classroom. God really does give only enough grace for the moment you need it, and not a second before. 

-Anna

The Beauty and Why it Matters

The alarm goes off all too soon. It’s another morning where the coffee isn’t strong enough. Seems like there are a lot of those kinds of mornings here. I choose to ignore the ants in the sugar, stirring a spoonful into my coffee. Added protein. We play our regular morning game of “so what did the rat get into last night?” Milk powder, flour, potatoes, crackers.. We add coffee filters to the ever-growing list, following the papery traces to the hole in the cabinet where they scurry to and from.

So starts another morning in Haiti.

Many times I’ve said “No more.. I’m done.” I look at the sheer need- the faces hiding behind crumbling cement homes, the disabled boy in the park, the fragile frame of the elderly woman, the men who catcall, the 34 children in the orphanage downstairs, a country plagued with deceit and darkness, the 7 little lives just in our classroom. And my usual hope-determined soul has spent the last month broken at the feet of the Lord, crying for the way it’s all futile.  

But God continues to whisper, “Not yet.. I am not done just yet.” 

So we stand up, again. For another day of school. For another round of smashed avocados and peanut butter oatmeal. For another afternoon of fixing and refixing bicycles. For another cold shower and slice of peanut butter toast. Each night I fall to sleep saying “No more, God.” And each sunrise comes sweet with His mercy and grace, beckoning. “Stand again, for I am not done yet.” 

Here is the part where the story should change, where Light breaks through and Love proves stronger; the people change, the corruption and deceit are no more, and fruit for the labor is plentiful. But the boy still stands in the park, fatherless homes still crumble, and now southern Haiti is devastated by a hurricane. I sit, asking Him to tell me once again, of the power and the love and the beauty. I ask, waiting to see a love that never fails, a compassion that does not end, and a mercy everlasting. I sit and I ask, until I remember why it matters.

How does one paint an adequate picture of life here? We struggle, unable to relay all the life brings here- both the hope and the despair, the discouragement and the joy. And the way it all walks hand in hand. So many writings have been left unfinished, for the fear of sounding falsely optimistic or overly discouraged. 

There’s Carl’s proud smile over his freshly painted bicycle. Mayline pouring over math papers, bound and determined to push through until she finishes every problem. There’s David running the compound bare-bummed with mischief in his eyes and spunk in his soul. Uno games that echo loud in the orphanage. Mikey’s giggles that show up in unexpected moments. Everything, laced with the frustration and the joy and the discouragement and the hope. A mess that can never be straightened, but the way He makes it beautiful. And, whether we get to see it or not, the way He makes it matter.

Each morning we stand, again and again. And each morning we give Him our day, again and again. Knowing the greatest and only thing we can do here is done when we are on our knees. Knowing on our knees is where He makes it all beautiful. And on our knees is where He makes it all matter.

-Anna

These Lessons We Learn

It was the one plant I thought wouldn’t become much of anything when I picked it out. I didn’t plant it in a real pot with a good drainage system, or care about the amount of sunlight it would get. I put it in the barrel beneath the overhang in our backyard, giving it the leftovers of the potting soil and compost we had bought for the other plants. In my eyes, it was dead the day we planted it.

I watched it with half a heart, unfazed by its lack of growth. As the other plants grew big and began to flower, the little pepper plant stayed the same for a good portion of the summer. Unchanging. Until one day, we found buds. And for the first time, I started to think that maybe this little plant could become something after all.

Now the pepper plant is the last plant standing in our garden. Several weeks ago, the garden bed failed to keep up with the downpour of rain we had, and the bottom broke out, killing our vegetables with it. Then the tomatoes wilted for reasons I still can’t figure out. All within the same week. But the pepper I planted, the one I thought was futile, now has half a dozen peppers growing on it and continues to burst with more buds.

The Lord continues to teach us using some of the most ordinary of moments.

It seems a fitting lesson to learn right before we head to Haiti. He reminds our hearts again and again.. You do not know what I am doing or the purposes I have.

As we enter into this new season, it is easy to form our own ideas of how life will look, who we will help, and the way we will impact. Right now we are struggling to surrender all of our expectations. Because He has taught us it’s not always about the garden bed. Sometimes He is about the little pepper plant tucked away in the corner of the yard.

We are so thankful for those who have supported us on this journey so far. Many have offered their prayers, their encouraging words, and their finances. Words cannot express how humbled we are by your generous hearts. Seeing God’s people pray and commit and come along beside us has made a powerful impact on us. We are overwhelmed by all the next few weeks hold, but we are greatly encouraged by your love and support.

Thank you for making this possible!

-Anna

The Undeniable Beauty

“You know, for a while I wasn’t sure what was going to happen with that garden bed..”

I look across the room to where he stands at the window. Evening quickly encloses us with deep blue storm clouds. “Yeah..” I say, the memories rushing like the tide, “I know..”

On a miserably cold weekend in May, we spent 2 days building a raised garden bed, digging up dirt, and dreaming of cucumbers growing in the heat of summer. We planted our fragile little seeds with great care and precision, excited for what the future held for our little garden bed. Then, it rained. Hard. And we walked outside to find a garden bed with not enough drainage and a rock-hard crust of dirt suffocating the life out of our plants.

I may or may not have cried at one several points. We may or may not have fought at some point too. Although it felt futile, we tried again. Much to our surprise, after days of looking out the window, we found sprouts. Strong and resilient, we continued to watch them grow. And throughout the coming weeks, our hope grew along with them.

IMG_0766As the summer went on, the sprouts grew to withstand the Nebraska wind, the scorching hot sun, and the multiple hail storms we’ve had. Hope has been a very delicate thing this summer. Just as we become confident and sure, the clouds bring hail, or the wind whips harder, or the forecast calls for heavy rain once again.

Every time, I hold my breath. Every time, my hope dangles by a thread. Every time, I doubt.But every time, it continues to flourish beyond my imagination.

Now the garden bed literally overflows with life. I have come inside the house hands full as green beans and tomatoes cover the countertops.  And God continues to whisper, “When will you trust me?”

Sending out support letters made this decision all the more real to us, and while we are excited, we are taking the biggest step of faith we have ever taken. IMG_0783This journey has left my hope dangling by a thread on multiple occasions. When the rain clouds come in, I worry that He won’t protect. When hail the size of golfballs pelts the ground, I doubt that He sees. When we are faced with raising monthly support, I wonder how He will provide. When the details are still left unknown to us, I panic that somehow He has lost control. When “what-if’s” plague my mind, I fail to remember His perfect sovereignty and grace for every season

All the while, the garden bed sits smack in the middle of the big picture-window in our living room.

There’s an undeniable beauty in the way I cannot help but see it on a daily basis. To every day hear Him whisper, “Trust me, and let me grow it beyond your wildest expectations..”

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The (un)offical Update

It’s hard to know what to write. So much is behind us. So much lies before us.

Where does one even begin?

There were wedding bells and a white dress, dearly loved friends and family, vows and rings and laughter and chaos.. It all whirled by with the bliss and the romance and the insanity of missing car keys and a lost suit coat button. We left the church overwhelmed by the support and the love we had been lavished with on our wedding day.

Alabama was a refuge of sorts; the chance to breathe deep and close a door on a fast-paced world. We spent the week parasailing, talking late into the night, and eating half a pan of brownies for dinner. After a year of long distance and wedding planning, Alabama breathed life into our tired and weary souls.

Now we are here. In a summer rental house in the middle-of-nowhere (also known as Ainsworth) Nebraska. Stephen is putting in long hours at the autobody shop, working to provide and make our ends meet. I spend the days writing, making a mess of the kitchen, and going for too many runs.

So many are asking to know, “What’s next? What are your plans?”

We’ve been asking the very same thing. Haha.

To put our chaos into a nutshell… We are in Ainsworth this summer, adjusting to married life and preparing to head to the mission field in September. Our plans are to spend the fall in Haiti with Grace Mission In Haiti and to serve there in various capacities. We will come home for the holidays and a bit of a break, then we plan to return to Haiti in January. Come May, we will do away with the summer-time clothes, pack up our sweaters and jackets, and head to Alaska. Stephen is hoping to acquire flight hours and ratings at Kingdom Air Corp– a mission aviation ministry with a summer training program he was able to briefly visit last year. (Note: follow each sentence up with the line “Lord willing”)

Beyond that, we do not know. What we are continually finding true about God is that He gives us just one step at a time, the very moment we need it. Nothing more, nothing less.

We will update more in-depth in the coming weeks. In the meantime, leave us your comments, email us with questions, and keep us in your thoughts and prayers.