Beautiful Nevers

The dimmed nightlight casts shadows on my bedroom wall, illuminating the darkness that is 3am.

I have seen this hour more times than I care to count. We’ve become well acquainted with one another, this baby making us otherwise unlikely friends.

Life is a funny thing. Throwing you twists and turns, curve balls and foul plays, landing you in unexpected places. God has this funny way of bringing your never’s to life. Of making you face your greatest fears.

I wasn’t in a rush to change our life of two. The Stephen and Anna life seemed to be working pretty well. And, if I am being honest, I had some serious reservations about the idea of motherhood. Motherhood is exhausting. Motherhood is draining. Motherhood demands your entire life. Motherhood is downright terrifying.

Motherhood was something I wasn’t totally sure I was cut out for. And most of it hinges on this: I was, and am, daunted by the idea of being responsible for another life. A life completely helpless and dependent. On me.

The irony of it all is not lost on me. Not only am I a now a mom, I have been gifted an incredible child with an extra demanding personality— one who refuses to be laid down for play or for sleep, one who can’t be on his own for more than 3 minutes without melting down, one who demands my attention constantly.

He is my world.

And now, I would never go back.

But even as he sleeps, I am reminded of this, my greatest fear: I am responsible for this little life. And I feel the weight of that. The unrhythmic rise and fall of his body on my chest heightens my every sense. Because this baby of mine, he still struggles to keep his tongue out of his airway. He still has moments he stops breathing in his sleep. He still can’t get that tongue where it belongs, especially at night.

And that fear I had leaving the hospital last summer has been made all the more real. What if my baby stops breathing in the night? has become my baby struggles to keep his tongue out of his airway when he breathes at night.

God has this funny way of bringing your never’s to life and making you face your greatest fears. Perhaps to find that, in the face of them, He is enough.

He is able, and you are not.

What I’m learning these last 7 months is this— this may not be the life I had planned and these may not be the challenges I expected to face. But they can draw me to that place where He is enough.

I’m not there yet. But I want to be.

He has gone before us in every situation in the past. He has been in every situation we’ve previously faced. He has been enough up until this point. Why should I doubt that he will be enough again?

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We are still here.

As of this week Liam is back in myofunctional therapy for his floppy tongue that should hopefully get stronger as we are exercising it. We anxiously await the day Liam can sleep independently for longer than 45 minutes with his tongue in that “optimal resting position” he just can’t seem to get the hang of. In the meantime, mom and dad sleep in 3 hour shifts and try to enjoy the moments our wild child is calm and peaceful.

I’m still in pelvic floor physical therapy but have been blown away by God’s hand of provision for a new PT who specializes in mom and baby care. After not having lots of luck with my first PT, I’ve been seeing slow but steady progress with this new one, and remembering that healing takes time, and lots of it.

Stephen will be transitioning to a new job in mid-April. While a good job for a season, we felt God leading him to resign. His new job is still an airport job and actually very similar to what he was previously doing, but this one is closer to home and all around a better fit. Another story of God’s incredible hand of provision at work in our lives.

Unending Winters

4 o’clock sunshine pours through my kitchen windows.

Winter. It has been long, and dark, and cold. I feel it. Deep inside. The dark evenings and bone-chilling wind have left their mark on me, body and soul. Like many others, I am winter weary and tired.

But there are fewer things that whisper hope to me the way these early March days do. The tulip buds, sing-song birds, and golden evenings scattered between the cold days.. all reminders of a long forgotten promise.

Winter does end.

Soup steams on the stovetop, vegetable cuts scattered on the kitchen floor. My baby naps independently down the hall, a rare and blessed occurrence. A group of kids ride their bicycles down the street, still in winter hats and jackets. And that sweet sunshine falls across the kitchen floor, warming my woolen socked feet in the process. The birds outside remind me— winter is thawing.

And brighter days, they are coming.

This Season Called Postpartum

There is a saying in Haiti that has come to mind more than once lately. It just about describes our current life situation.

“Dèyè mòn, gen mòn.”

After this mountain, another mountain.

They tell you postpartum is hard. They tell you about the lack of medical care, the fatigue, the night wake up’s, the physical healing. You think they tell you all the things.

But I was unprepared for this.

I didn’t expect to go home from the hospital on a catheter. And I didn’t expect to have to learn self-catheterization when I still couldn’t pee 2 weeks postpartum.

I didn’t expect 3 months of nursing issues with a tongue tie baby who would scream and struggle to breathe during feeds.

I didn’t expect round the clock mouth stretches, and the way my baby would scream through them.

I didn’t expect weekly mouth therapy sessions an hour’s drive away.

I didn’t expect to have to go dairy, wheat, corn, and soy free in attempt to get my baby’s reflux under better control.

And I most certainly didn’t expect to be diagnosed with pelvic organ prolapse.

The last one hit me like a ton of bricks Thanksgiving week.

Merry Christmas, here’s a cystocele!

I can’t lie. After a very easy, smooth pregnancy, this postpartum stuff has been rough. I am tired. I am overwhelmed. I am wondering if things ever get back to normal. Or is this yet another “new normal” I must learn to embrace?

We have had one issue after the next. When I’m not crying, I laugh at the irony of it all. Typically just as one problem is resolved, another problem pops up. Without fail, within that very same week. The last 4 months have felt cruelly unfair, and I’m certain I’ve shed as many tears as my newborn.

Our Liam is a miracle baby. An unexpected, unplanned, God-ordained soul intentionally placed in our lives. In light of that, I have to believe every complication we’ve had since then is also just as much within His sovereignty.

I struggle to see His purpose in it, but I know it is there.

Use this story.

It’s what I find myself praying moment by moment. Because deep in my soul, I know it to be true: He can use this too.

Isn’t that what we all long for? Deep down in us? That our lives, our stories, our joys and struggles and everything that lies in between.. all of it made into something meaningful?

I know the One who can do that.

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I’ve been to see a urogynecologist (yes, those exist) and am currently seeing a pelvic floor therapist to address a prolapse that rates between stage 1 and borderline 3, depending on who you ask. I’m currently into week 2 of pelvic floor therapy, and we are praying to see the prolapse reverse as time and exercise strengthen all the right muscles. We are thankful for the many resources God has provided for us, and all of the things He is teaching us. Hard as they may be.

the rules of baby raising

My coffee is lukewarm. I don’t drink it often these days, but when I do it is always lukewarm, at best.

The world is loud. A busy and chaotic storm. And social media, it screams all the louder.

My feed fills with a variety of things— from friend’s highlight reels, to the most recent political article, to the do’s and don’t’s of baby raising. These posts, they make me feel as though I am doing it all wrong.

Put your newborn to bed drowsy but awake.

Encourage self soothing habits.

“Eat. Play. Sleep.” is the ultimate goal for optimal baby happiness.

Rocking your baby to sleep will create long term dependency.

And don’t you dare co-sleep.

My tongue tie baby and I, we have broken every rule.

This stressed me out for a while. The articles, they had me convinced I was setting myself up for long term sleep deprivation and a child who will be overly clingy (and maybe, maybe I am?). For a number of reasons, the tips and the tricks just did not work for us. And I search for a voice, somewhere among the posts and their comments, who validates this feeling I have, that it really is okay to just do you. Whatever that looks like.

That voice is hard to find.

But in this moment, in my darkened bedroom with the steady whirr of the fan and the occasional creak of the rocking chair.. it is ok.

In this particular season, I can do this. I can be here for him. I need to be here for him. This is, in fact, my one biggest job right now. And what a gift that ability is, to fully give myself to it.

All too quickly, he grows before my very eyes. Independent sleep will come. The run I long to take, the floor I want to mop, the unrushed shower I miss.. it will all come back again. My baby, he will grow up.

And I imagine that all too quickly, I will long to relive the days I spent rocking him to sleep, and breaking all the rules in the process.

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I’m dusting off the keyboard, resetting old passwords, and sharpening the pencils again.. with hopes of resurrecting this little blog of ours. These posts will more than likely contain very different content than they used to, and will most likely primarily consist of my random writings and musings. There is an unsubscribe option if your inbox feels overly full these days, but know that you are more than welcome to continue joining us on the journey 🙂

Catching Up and Slowing Down

I have started many a blogpost since we returned to Haiti 3 weeks ago. But somehow, they don’t accurately describe all that has happened in a mere 21 days. And so I scratch the paragraphs I’ve written, time and time again. And retry. Until those re-tries, too, become outdated and inadequate.

Getting back to Haiti was a task in and of itself. As we sat on the O’Hare tarmac (our Miami-bound flight significantly delayed) we should’ve realized then that this was the precursor to how our start in Haiti would go. Delayed by a day, trying to get our checked bags in Florida, and overnighting in a hotel were only the start to our adjustment back to Haiti.

We hit the ground running when we arrived in Limbe. With so much happening on the compound in our absence, we struggled to adjust and keep up with all that was going on. Stephen’s parents came to visit a week later, and we had the chance to show them Grace Mission and the small chaos of our lives here as we continued to settle in.

Since then, Haiti has had a 5.9 magnitude earthquake that gave our buildings here a good shake, and left everyone on edge with its aftershocks. The most recent one being Monday night. “The shakes” are becoming less frequent, and less intense. Over the course of the last 2 days, Haiti’s people have taken to the streets, in riots and protests over a government money scandal. Limbe has been a hot spot of burning tires, firecrackers, and the sound of gunshots the last 2 days. This morning is quiet, and we are praying it lasts.

I feel like I keep waiting for things to be normal, just for a few days.

Our new normal here is fairly quiet mornings— prepping for Bible studies, mopping our floors and doing laundry, running out to the market, having one-on-one time for Mikey. The kids are all in school until 2:30/3 o’clock, which gives us a chance to tackle projects we otherwise wouldn’t ever find time for. Once 3 o’clock hits though, our door receives continuous knocking.

Shaggy constantly has boys begging and pleading to do driving practice with the 4-wheeler, motorcycle, or dodge. I spend most of my afternoons feeling like the little kid/baby magnet for the infamous diaper twins (who actually wear clothes now) and the 1st grade class. Every night is a mad rush of kids begging, “Can I cut your carrots tonite?” Dinner prep has become a scene of slight chaos, with the tv on for David and Joshua, kids at the table coloring or playing with the little ipod, the speakers blaring music, and another 2 kids wanting to help me cook dinner. Little Jenni is my shadow— quite literally. She follows me as close as my own shadow, even when I’m walking 3 feet from the table to the freezer.

We’ve picked up our Fun Nights again, as well as our Bible studies for the boys, girls, and Young Adults. Surveying such need on this compound alone, much less throughout all of Haiti, we are reminded that all our hopes for these kids are through God working, and through the kids having a personal relationship with Him. We definitely feel a burden for that— to have Bible studies, to answer questions, and to help and encourage the kids to get to know Him personally.

So often I think we are tempted to believe we need to be doing, doing, doing. But God has been teaching us just the opposite. In his “My Utmost for His Highest” Oswald Chambers reminded us Tuesday morning.. “The key to the missionary’s difficult task is in the hand of God, and that key is prayer, not work— that is, not work as the word is commonly used today, which often results in the shifting of our focus away from God. The key to the missionary’s difficult task is also not the key of common sense, nor medicine, civilization, education or even evangelization. The key is in following the Master’s orders— the key is prayer.”

It is easy to believe the lie that doing more will help Haiti, giving more will help Haiti, starting more programs will help Haiti. Even on our compound, I feel an overwhelming urgency, like success for the Kingdom is depending on how much I accomplish in a day. The thought, when written on paper, sounds quite ridiculous.

Oswald Chambers later writes, “Prayer does not equip us for greater work. Prayer is the greater work.”

The words have struck with me since I read them, the thought continually coming to mind. God is working. Not us. And so, these days in Limbe are spent trying to learn just that— that we are tools and instruments in His hands, made useful when we are connected to Him.

-Anna

An Update

Hey everybody! We are back in Haiti! My brother asked for an update so I thought I’d post it on here as well.

We’ve been back in Haiti for about 2 and a half weeks and it’s been quite the start after our summer in Alaska. On Saturday the 7th we were having our Young Adult get together and all of a sudden we heard a rumble and then a second later it started shaking. We all ran out of the cement building because we’ve all seen pictures and heard stories of the 2010 earthquake. These buildings just don’t withstand a lot of violent shaking. The earthquake was about 40 miles northeast of us close to a town called Port de Paix. Everything here stayed together but some of our buildings have concerning cracks in the walls but no real damage. No one was injured except for a few bumps and bruises from people running out so fast and bumping into things.

We had about 3 aftershocks for a few days after the initial earthquake that left us all real jumpy at any noise. Some of the kids find it funny to make the rumbling noise and watch everybody run! It was kind of entertaining to see how fast they could move but then we tried to keep them from doing it again as it could end up like the boy who cried wolf.

Sine the 9th we haven’t had any aftershocks and the kids are less and less scared as each day goes by without any more shaking. For a few days afterwards, some of them were super scared and kept asking “do you think the shaking is done now?”

It was very good in a sense because it made them all and us think about how quick life can change and how fragile life is. Tonite we had an hour of worship and the kids really loved that. They were singing at the top of their lungs it was so neat to see!

Prayer Requests:

-thankfulness for God’s hand of protection on all of us here

-continued safety

-for Port de Paix and the surround communities as the people recover.

-that God would continue to work in these kids’ lives and that they would wholeheartedly commit their lives to Christ.

-safety as I’ve been teaching two of the older boys how to drive the manual transmission dodge diesel pickup. Not the easiest first vehicle to learn but once they get the hang of it they can drive anything!

-for continued wisdom in knowing how to use our time.

Thank you so much!

-Stephen

An Update

The commercial certified pilot himself! On August 13th, Stephen passed his Commercial checkride up in Alaska! We are so thankful for all of the support and the prayers from so many that have helped to achieve such a big accomplishment! God has been so faithfully good.

The summer has flown by since Brooks Range Bible Camp, and we have so many stories to share of the in-between. But we are both back in the States now, and are spending some time road-tripping out west to see family and friends. We plan to recuperate from the summer and then head back to Haiti on September 20th.

We are thankful for your support of us, and have experiences and stories we plan to share on the blog here at some point. We’ve been a little silent lately, but we haven’t forgotten 🙂

Until then, here’s some fun summer photos and memories.

-Anna

Brooks Range Bible Camp, from July 9th-23rd.

Sweet friends we will miss this winter.

Sight-seeing fun we had while my sister, Sarah, came to visit!

Stephen preparing for his commercial checkride.

Alaska 2018

The Stephen Harwerth Flight Adventures part one :)

Some fun photos of life here at Kingdom Air Corps, and some of the training Stephen has been doing over the last 2 weeks. If you follow my instragram or facebook, then some of these might be repeats of what you’ve already seen. But there are some new photos too!

Beautiful Alaska, and the Kingdom Air Corps runway.. a view that never gets old.

The airplane Stephen has been doing most of his training in, nicknamed “the silver bullet”.

One of Stephen’s requirements for his commercial license (his goal for this summer) was a solo cross-country flight. So here he is the morning of his big cross country, checking the plane and getting everything ready for take off.

A video of Stephen’s take-off for his big cross country. It ended up being a 7 hour day for him, which included flying and also making 3 different stops at airports along the way (part of the requirement for the flight).

A pilot friend loaned Stephen his GPS spot tracker, which allowed him to send check-ins messages every so often to let people know he was okay. I was able to see them on my phone, and could keep track of where he was whenever he checked in.

Stephen’s view from the air during his cross country. Alaska is absolutely stunning!

Making milkshakes Kingdom Air Corps style (yes, that is a drill). Any time a student passes a major milestone in their training, KAC celebrates with chocolate milkshakes. This was in celebration of Kit, a Thai student here for the summer who passed his instrument written test.

Stephen flying with Zack Loving, an instructor here at Kingdom Air Corps. They needed to go to Anchorage to do an airport pick-up, and it also was an opportunity for Stephen to practice flying the 206, one of KAC’s bigger airplanes.

Along the way to Anchorage..

A photo from this past weekend. We went up flying for a Saturday night date-night, and I got to enjoy Alaska from the air for the first time since being back. We were pretty excited about getting to see a bear along the way!

Beautiful Alaska at about 8 o’clock at night.

Kingdom Air Corps (also called ‘the Ranch’) from the air.

We are so thankful for your continued prayers for us and your faithful support and encouragement to us. It means more than we can put to words! We have a peace and a confidence that here is where God has us for the summer, as hard of a season as it can be at times. We are growing and learning a lot– in the means of aviation, of understanding and loving each other better, and of seeking more of who God is and what He has for us.

-Anna

God-Wrestler

Alaska’s bitter wind and sweet sunshine have filled our days for almost 2 weeks now. After 21 hours of travel last Wednesday (May 23rd) and a 3 hour time zone difference, I think it is safe to say we are finally caught up and back on track now.

Our first few days we enjoyed seeing familiar faces again and catching up with people we haven’t seen in nearly a year. All the familiar sights of Kingdom Air Corps greeted us, as if we had never left last August. Our hearts have been refreshed, listening to stories of all that God has done, and sharing some of our own.

It has been both bitter and sweet to be back, but if I am going to be completely honest, it has been mostly bitter.

I told myself I would not let the blog go silent the way I did last year. That I would write of our time in Alaska, and I would write it with honesty. I would write the things that are hard to admit, harder to write, and even harder still to share.

And I would write not because I needed the rest of the world to know (though I do believe that in sharing our hearts and sharing our stories, God can do incredible things).. but I would write for me. Because I needed to see it with my own eyes– I need to see the redeeming grace of God at work this summer.

We have seen time and time again the way He uses our stories and experiences not just to change our lives, but to touch the lives of those who listen and read and join the journey with us. And so that is my prayer this summer: that with journal and pen and coffee in hand, He would use these words for His purposes, and give me the courage to keep writing.

Alaska is hard. I do not know that there is a way to share just how hard it can be, until one has experienced and tasted it for themselves. My days are more than ‘a little boring’, which is an easy assumption to make. These months are harder than that ‘camping lifestyle’ people like to make silly jokes about. How I wish those were our biggest problems, because they would be such easy fixes.

Alaska is my battle ground, and very quickly I feel like I am losing the war.

I battle here with enemies I never realized I had. My greatest fears and doubts, my insecurities and sense of worth, my faith and my trust, my marriage, my hopes and dreams… nothing remains untouched.

As the days pass, I am draw back to the story of Jacob from Genesis 32. I read it again and again with each new day.


So Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him till daybreak. When the man saw that he could not overpower him, he touched the socket of Jacob’s hip so that his hip was wrenched as he wrestled with the man. Then the man said, “Let me go, for it is daybreak.”
But Jacob replied, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.”
The man asked him, “What is your name?”
“Jacob,” he answered.
Then the man said, “Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel because you have struggled with God and with man and have overcome.
Jacob said, “Please tell me your name.”
“But he replied, “Why do you ask my name?” Then he blessed him there.
So Jacob called the place Peniel, saying, “It is because I saw God face to face, and yet my life was spared.”
The sun rose above him as he passed Peniel, and he was limping because of his hip.
-Genesis 32:24-31

Much like Jacob, the night is long. Much like Jacob, I am full of fear for what tomorrow holds. And much like Jacob, I find myself a God-wrestler. But there is never a length too great that God won’t go in pursuit of us, and therefore I find myself in the wrestling match of a lifetime. No, I do not want this. This is not what I signed up for. This is not what I had in mind.

He does not waver amidst my anger and my bitterness, or my hurt and my fear. As we wrestle, I question who He is and doubt the goodness of His plans.. yet the grace of God pursues me even still, as I find myself saying again and again, “I will not let You go, until You bless me.. I will not let You go, until I see You here.. I will not leave this match unchanged by You..”

And so that’s where I find myself this summer. Surrounded by airplanes and aviation and a world I do not know how to be a part of. Wrestling. And somehow believing that He will show Himself to us this summer, and that we will not leave here unchanged.

Passing Moments

These days, I can’t keep up with the laundry basket, overflowing in my bathroom.. much less my inbox that overflows with emails, and this here blog that has gone silent for nearly a month now.

I steal moments, here and there. When kids fall asleep on the living room floor. Or early in the morning, just as the coffee pot lights up and the sky turns pink. Moments, when kids stretch across our couches and the carpet, occupied with a movie for 10 minutes.

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These snippets, stolen here and there throughout the rushing of the days… they keep us going.

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In my mind, I try to appreciate the moments… the washing of popcorn bowls, piled high next to the sink after Fun Nights. Good morning shouts of excitement from the diaper twins when we walk down to the orphanage every morning. The little ones who come on a regular basis (and at the most inconvenient of times) to spend a dollar in our little shop and count their savings in my hand. The rain that pelts the tin roof overhead. Carl’s excitement to read, and read, and read. Sunshine that pours through our windows early in the evening. The soccer games played out in the yard.

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I etch the moments into my mind, as if they are tangible fragments of time I can trace. I remind myself of the way I will miss this busy during the long and lonely days that are Alaska. Right now, that seems near impossible, when all I ache for is one hour of uninterrupted time and a night of good sleep.

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The second-hand on the clock ticks, counting the moments. I think of all the moments that don’t feel like enough. The moments we give, and give, and give. The moments that refresh our weary hearts. The moments the worst of my character comes through.. the impatience within my soul, the frustration in my voice, the cynicism of the words I say behind closed doors. Moments of pure sweetness, mixed among moments of total insanity. All of these, moments.

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Early in the morning, before the rush and the knocking and the chaos begin, I find in myself a mix of fear and curiosity, wondering what moments this day will hold. With a whisper, I pray He uses them. And then I pray He makes up for all the moments I fail.. the moments my frustration, doubts, judgment, and impatience get the best of me.

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For here, we find that we are constantly being stretched beyond ourselves. And the stretching of these moments reveals our deep need for Christ to come, and be enough.. to be selfless where we are selfish, humble when we are prideful, patient where we are frustrated, loving when we are hardened. Moments that make us press hard into who He is, as we are emptied of ourselves.

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Haiti’s heat makes my hair stick to the back of my neck as the sun beats the tin roof overhead. Kids sit scattered across the living room and kitchen, working on sponsor letters and watching Lego Batman for the 3rd time this week. The clock on the wall continues ticking away the moments of our last 2 weeks here. But whatever they hold, however fast or slow the pass us by, we’ll give Him the moments we have left.

-Anna

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