01 June 2015

The Long View

                   
There has been a recurring theme in our hearts lately... investment.    When you hear that word, do you think of the financial world?   Do you think of money saved and interest earned?    Do you imagine delayed gratification - sacrificing the use of your money so that one day you will have more?

Recently, I (Laura) have been in a season full of questions.   God does know that I am an analyzer and a seeker  who wants to follow His plan to the letter.    I have been praying for clarity on several issues relating to the ministry of ROH and IVA.   

One Thursday in early May, I was sitting on a wooden bench at IVA in the heat of a tropical Honduran afternoon.    Rambunctious IVA students were screaming, dancing and trying to practice their routines for the then upcoming Mother's Day event.     I was looking for some music on my computer to get the next group going and something caught my eye.    A group of boys were out playing soccer on the IVA field,  the kitchen work was being wrapped up for the day and chores were happening inside my classroom.    In the space of the moment, God whispered to me... "these kids are worth the investment, Laura."

Wow... so this is what investment really means.      These faces, these stories, these challenges that seem so insurmountable... these very ones are worth the investment of my time, my treasure and my life.   And, if you are reading this, yours.

Here's the rub.   Investment sounds so pretty, doesn't it?   Investment sounds as if there is somehow a guaranteed windfall at the end.
    
Is that how we are to view the work of Reach Out Honduras?   An automatic win?   A guaranteed success in the eyes of the world?

Our students come from very hard places, some with stories that would make you shiver.  Their culture pulls hard, terribly hard.   And we lose some...  we lose students to teen pregnancy, to the lure of an easier way, to relocation because their family has no ability to earn money here.        

Is our investment failing?

Friends, investment is so much more.   It is a risk, yes.   We do not know the outcome.   However, investing in the Lord's economy means that we put the results entirely in His hands.    What looks like a failure to our human eyes may just be the beginning of His beautiful work.

Recently, I had the privilege to sit across the table from a friend who spent years in education administration.   We talked and together  uncovered a new meaning of 'success' for Instituto Vida Abundante and ROH.    Instead of counting the losses and mourning those who won't 'graduate' with us, how about we look at the days and months and maybe even years that we were able to pour love into their lives?    What if we define success as more than a diploma?     

Yes, success CAN be a diploma or a college scholarship.    But, what if success in God's eyes also looks like a student who can look an adult in the eye and communicate well?   What if a good investment results in one who can write legibly?   More importantly, what if the ultimate success is a student who can read and understand a page of the Bible for herself?     What if His success looks like hungry bellies who do not have to worry about today's bread?  

 From today on, we choose to take the long view.    We choose to believe that God has begun a good work in each of the students He brings our way.     We believe that He has allowed all of us to be a small part of their journey without being able to control any outcomes.       

As sponsors, donors and prayer warriors for Reach Out Honduras and Instituto Vida Abundante, we urge you to prayerfully do the same.   Your investment is different than ours, but no less critical.   Know that each dollar, each note and each visit is depositing seeds of hope into the lives of your 'neighbors.'    You may never witness the return on your investment or  the return may be much less than what you had imagined when you originally signed up to sponsor a child in a third-world country.     


We ask for your prayers to keep our hearts focused with eyes to see that His idea of investment does indeed bring a rich return, even when it looks much different than we ever imagined. 

19 April 2015

A Thin Line ...

I lived a day of extremes...

A friend sent me a text early to say that a mutual friend of ours had suddenly become unconscious. She was still breathing, but completely unable to move or open her eyes.    She called a few hours later to say that the doctor couldn't find any evidence of brain activity.   A few hours later, she died.   The line between life and death is thin.

Alex and I went to the hospital.

This hospital would scare the daylights out of most of my US friends.  It is a dirty place with lots of sweaty people coming in and out.  There is very little privacy, not enough beds and fewer medical supplies.

Last fall, the young mother of one of our students died in childbirth because there were no bags to take blood donations.  Literally, there were people ready to donate blood, but nothing to put the blood in.    I saw her sister last Saturday, working herself to death to provide for her deceased sister's 4 orphaned children.    The line between death and life is thin.

For some odd reason, there is something about being in that very hospital that makes me feel closer to God.

I stand there, watching people grieving in one corner and celebrating right around the other corner... and the veil between Heaven and Earth is stretched.    Strangely, I feel alive in the hospital.

From the first day I stepped foot in this town, I felt this sense of being very close to the heartbeat of God.   This area is simultaneously the most difficult place I have ever experienced and the most authentic.

How is such a dichotomy even possible?

Horribly difficult in terms of poverty, survival, comfort.   Authentic in terms of the way it is literally impossible to pretend to be something that you are not.   Authentic in the way that life is lived on an hourly basis... literally, meal to meal.  

Death once again touches someone we know.   We were not a daily part of this lady's life, but we love her family.   We wanted to be fully present to love our surviving friends.    I watched the gallon of formaldehyde being brought in by the friends.   I stood aside watching my husband help load and unload the body.     I listened as friends sang beautiful songs of comfort to one another.  Authentic.

There is no undertaker or funeral home.   There is no funeral plan or insurance to pay for the burial.   The family comes together, buys the wood, makes the casket, digs the grave themselves and buries the body.   Authentic.

Oddly enough, we left the bedside of death and entered into the thick of life.

Instituto Vida Abundante girls had a soccer game this afternoon.   Since Arlee is part of the team, we planned a Waits family outing to the game.   Our excursions as a complete family are rare due to the need for someone to be home and prevent thievery.

Giggling girls.

Smiles and nervous energy.

Life pulsing.

And so it is.   Ends, beginnings, somewhere-in-betweens.

There is a thin line between death and life.

03 April 2015

When Easter Seems Far, Far Away...

Religious holidays always creep up on me somehow.

Day after day passes.   Suddenly, it is Palm Sunday.   I am taken back in my mind to palm branches, Hosannas and air-conditioned churches.

Living in the midst of a different culture requires the temporarily setting aside of some traditions while intentionally looking for others to pick up.    I have grossly failed in the "picking up" area.

The past 5 Easters in Honduras, I have felt disconnected from Easter.   I don't mean the eggs, or peeps, or chocolate.  I've felt disconnected from the cross, the waiting, the risen Christ.

My personal relationship with God in Christ has grown and blossomed and expanded.   But, these holy days... why do they feel so hollow for me?

It happened again this year.    I wanted to read a Lenten study, then didn't.    I wanted to be intentional about preparing for Holy Week, then wasn't.  

One Friday, we were sitting in our missionary women's Bible study (which is also a place where we can bring our real selves and set them out to be accepted).    We were all homesick for the traditions of an English-speaking church.   It appeared that I was not the only one who desperately wanted to connect with the Holy day instead of letting myself pass by as merely a tired spectator.

Our friend, Dr. Marianne, worships in the Catholic church here in Puerto Lempira.  She brings a completely different perspective to our Bible study.   We openly discuss and at times ask serious questions of one another.    There is a respect and a love that has grown.     This love gives room to seriously focus on the things we believe in common, rather than making assumptions that may or may not have a foundation.

In response to all of our 'homesickness' for something Easter, Marianne shared the tradition of the Stations of the Cross.    I dug deep in the recesses of my mind to look for a shred of meaning in that phrase 'Stations of the Cross.'     I came up with nothing.

The next week, Marianne brought a devotional on the Stations of the Cross and shared the history of how the tradition began.   We walked through the events of Good Friday with Scripture, reflection, questions and prayer.    Surprisingly, I found myself connecting.

Today, Marianne invited us to an actual dramatization of the Stations of the Cross.   Nervously, I read through all of the material in advance, in Spanish.   Unsure as to what would transpire and how I would feel,  I picked up my friend, Linda, and headed to a church I had never stepped foot in.

Almost immediately, I saw one of our students dressed as a soldier and acting out the first station, "Jesus is condemned to death."     Truly, I began to get teary-eyed as I was transported back to the years of dramatization in my church.   My dad was Caiaphas one year, if I remember correctly.

Each station included a dramatization followed by Scripture reading, a reflection, a moment of prayer and song.    The crowed would then walk to the next station... 14 in total.    We covered 2 miles or so. Each station was beautifully acted out by the youth of the church.   They were serious, respectful and honoring in every moment.     I found myself connecting.

When Jesus was taken down from the cross, I looked across the crowd and saw a mother of a young man we know very well.   She was weeping.    I knew that she spoke very, very little Spanish... and yet she was present, witnessing the drama, experiencing the Gospel with her entire being.

Such an awareness arose in me of my smallness and God's grandeur.   His power, His work... and all this time, I have just existed in my little box, just sure that God was only working where my little eyes could see.   Forgive me, Lord.

The procession ended at the large catholic church in town.    The one and only time I had been in that church was for the funeral of a dear friend.     When all was said and done, I could only sit and reflect on all that I had seen and felt.    I went outside, under a huge mango tree, and let myself think.

Easter doesn't feel far from me this year.   Good Friday was real, as tangible as it has ever been before.   Yes, I look with anticipation on Sunday... I eagerly await the resurrection, where the death of Good Friday loses its sting.     My Jesus rose again, yes, but I cannot quickly gloss over the reality of Friday... He suffered horribly, was treated like an animal, and endured it all for the small people like me and my neighbors.    What kind of love is this?

Thank you, Lord, for the surprise of this Good Friday and for Your incredible love that simultaneously whispers and shouts.


29 March 2015

Stories

This school year, we have 118 students at Instituto Vida Abundante.   Our students come from very difficult family backgrounds.   20-30% of our students have lost one or both of their parents.   The majority of the remainder live in a single-parent home.  

Our students range in age from 11-19.   Each student has a very special life story.  

Within our own home, we have 5 children.   Our children come from various family backgrounds.   All 5 now live in a two-parent home.    Our children range in age from 3-almost 15.   Each child has a very special life story.

Life stories.

The work of God in one life.  

I love to hear their stories.   I hate to hear their stories.   

People ask me how I handle the weight of their stories.   

I don't handle it.    I grieve.

I weep with them while simultaneously reminding myself that God is not done.

Alex and I feel like the students at IVA are our second family.   We treat their stories and their lives in the same way we treat the stories and lives of our own children.

We listen, we hug, we love, we give it to God.

We pray, we cry, we laugh, we give it to God again.

We sigh, we grasp, we smile, we give it to God yet again.

If we took every heartache completely upon our own shoulders, we would fall under the weight. Instead, we see each one as a distinct child of God.   We honor the work that God is already doing in their lives.   We help bear burdens where we are able, we listen with every ounce of care that we have and we cast the rest on Jesus.

My children and the IVA students are not extensions of me... they are separate, unique, individual.   My mistakes will not be their mistakes and I have very little fear for their future decisions... because those decisions are theirs.  I am not reliving my life through them, nor do I wish I were their age again.    The lives they will live are theirs.   My job is not to shield them from difficulty, but to walk right through it by their side.    My job is not to sugar coat the ugly, but to point them to the Beautiful One who makes the ugly into something worthy.    

This week in our missionary women's Bible study, I was promptly reminded of how Holy Week speaks directly into the stories of our children, students and my very own story.

Jesus suffered.  His story included the very ugly. 

People walked beside them as far as they were humanly able.  And then, He was alone to live His story... the greatest story.    He gave it all into His Father's hands. He did exactly what He had been sent to do.

And then Sunday came.

Life came forth from death.   Jesus lives.

Jesus brings light from darkness.   His resurrection gives us hope that our stories are not in vain.  He makes beautiful things from our dust and dirt.    

Because of this Hope and my absolute certainty in it, I can continue to walk beside our children and students, hear their stories and not get lost in the suffering.     

Hope lives.

Jesus lives.















17 March 2015

Gotchas

My life before Honduras included adoption... two of our children are adopted and one of our children is still in the adoption process.    My life before Honduras had room for me to ponder all of the intricacies of adoption... the tragedy of one mother losing a child, the blessing of another mother receiving a child,   the complicated feelings that an adopted child might have, whether birth order/adoption order impacts a child and so on.

I wish I had more time to think through these things now.    

Today is Adam's Gotcha Day... the day that he officially and legally became a member of our family.  If I give myself the space I need to think, I can remember vividly the way we all got dressed up in our best, the wee little man that sat up on the judge's desk and played with toys she had stowed away just for that moment.     I remember our lawyer and his kind, soft manner.   I remember the hard marble tile that clicked as my Sunday shoes took their next step.  

Adam is at a very curious age.   He asks many questions about his birth family.   He is enamored by the fact that he had another name.    He wants to hear his story over and over.  He imagines his birth mama.

His adoption is not a 'family secret' that needs to be hidden in darkness.   There are parts of his story his ears aren't ready to hear.  But he receives the pieces as he is able.

And this mommy heart wonders.   Am I doing enough for him to know he is loved?   As the middle of 5 children, does he feel isolated, left out or does he feel right in the middle of it.     Does my work at the school make him proud or resentful?   Honest questions.

I know for certain I will never be 'enough' for him, even on my best day.    But recently, my son has asked me more and more about Jesus.  He has expressed an interest in putting his little faith in the hands of Jesus.  

Jesus is enough.    This I know.



14 March 2015

Mirrors & Windows

In our house, we have two mirrors and quite a few open windows.   Our windows are wood slats that never fully close.    Oddly enough, when I am in Honduras, I rarely look in the mirror and spend a lot of time looking out of the windows.

In our house, the light hides my gray hair, my wrinkles, and every stray eyebrow that might need plucking.   I live without the knowledge that my years are quickly passing.   My body and brain feel 30 most days.

In the US, there are mirrors everywhere and very few open windows.   The minute I begin to head toward the US, I am keenly aware of the ways I need to 'fix' me.    When we left Puerto Lempira last November, one of my missionary friends suggested I go to a salon in La Ceiba to get my hair done before going to the US.  :)   I had no idea what she was talking about until I found a mirror with good lighting.   My hair was 3 different colors...  gray at the roots, darker about 1/3 of the way down and blonde highlights that had grown out that were on the bottom 1/3.   Hmmmm... interesting look, gringa.

In the US, I wear make-up.  I always say that I am going to keep wearing it when I come back to Honduras.  But somewhere around 2 weeks in, I give up and just put on the every-now-and-then mascara and lip gloss.

I wish I could make some deep spiritual analogy here... really, it is just an awareness and possibly a deeper wondering of why.    Probing the interesting and odd is just my happy place, so I share my own with you today and we can ponder together.

I miss writing so much.   So much in my head rattles around and bounces off only me... this cannot be healthy (haha).    I pray for minutes to write and process.




08 November 2014

A Year of Firsts

There are about 48 hours left before we take to the skies to make our way to the US for 7 weeks.    It is always such fun to count months and then weeks and finally, the days before our trip.   But as we reach these last few, the reality of even a temporary good-bye begins to sink in.

This year has been a year to remember.  It will go down in the books as a year full of firsts.

This year has also been a year of answered prayer.  Beyond the amazing way that God answered prayers for the ministry, God has been sweet to our children.   Our two oldest children have prayed for good Miskito friends, really good friends, for a long time.    This year was the year.

Aidan and Arlee decided to study Spanish at IVA.   This was a courageous move from my viewpoint. IVA begins at 7th grade - Arlee was in 5th grade at the time.  Aidan was in 8th, but certainly not at a 7th grade level in his Spanish.

The experience was unforgettable.  They did oral presentations, read newspaper articles, created projects in Spanish and took 4 challenging exams.   Both of them ended up with excellent grades.

BUT, more than this academic experience... my children deepened friendships.

When they entered through the gate that divides our personal property from the school property, they entered into the social aspect of IVA as well.     Barefoot soccer, rag-tag band practice, Miskito dancing groups, etc.  

Aidan & Arlee both love soccer.   They play with everything they have just like the Miskito kids... without shoes.    Both of them have recently broken toes, but this truly has not slowed them down.   Tomorrow, they will participate in a dance exposition - 5 girls and 5 boys from IVA doing traditional Miskito dancing.

In September, they both played drums in the band.   Neither of them had ever played a drum before, nor marched one step in a parade.   They were determined.





Aidan and Arlee do not see skin color,  they do not shy back from lack of language skills.  They are much more brave than their mama.   And much more compassionate.

Our trip to the US will be another adventure for these two and for our other three.   As we head out this time, we are intentionally focusing ourselves on time to regroup and find our bearings before burn-out sets in.   Burn-out doesn't mean that we didn't have a GREAT year.  It just means that we have reached the absolute end of ourselves and need some time to lean into God.

It has been a good year for our kids.   It will be a great trip for our kids.

27 October 2014

What I stand for...

My family and friends in the US are saturated in fear-inducing news... Ebola, ISIS, fears about violent illegal immigrants, virulent strains of influenza, and more.    Saturation impacts the mind's ability to rationally process information.  

As I scroll through Facebook status updates, I see articles and comments about lots of important topics.   The obvious thing to me is the us vs. them mentality that permeates the space.

Thanks to the arrival of new missionaries to help with Reach Out Honduras, my heart has found the space to breathe again after being just too busy for about 10 months.     When I have room to breathe, I can pick up a book and read again.   Or, perhaps, do something that I enjoy that is not ministry related, like write.  

My first new download was Philip Yancey's Vanishing Grace.   I read his book What's So Amazing About Grace? a very long time ago.    That book reminded me of the amazing grace that set me free... and it encouraged me to look at every, single person as an opportunity to share that grace.  

Philip Yancey's style is educated, yet very readable.  He connects with me, a person desperate to 'give an answer' for the faith that lives within me.    He reminds me again that US Christians are missing the boat when we politicize every topic and divide within ourselves.     It is sad to watch this happening from afar.    

And so, I have intentionally decided to focus my thoughts and words on what I stand FOR instead of what I am against.    A thirsty world does not want to hear the divisive messages that we send when we talk only about the wrath of God.    In fact, I wonder if anyone has ever come to Jesus in a heart-changing way by being preached at about God's punishment.    Should we not begin our Gospel message on every occasion with God's grace... and should His grace not be evident in our actions before our words?

There are very, very few things I am truly against.     I am against anything that lowers the intrinsic value that God has placed on individual human beings.... human trafficking, genocide, abuse of children and the like.  

Now, the things I am FOR make a lengthy list...  maybe it is just a matter of semantics to some.  If so, let's rephrase our posts and our comments to reflect the hope we have in Christ.    

"See to it that no one misses out on God's grace..."  Hebrews 12:15



13 September 2014

The Pouring Out



My favorite place to think and pray is driving down the road in my open-aired Yamaha Rhino.   From the very first day I drove 'Ruby the Rhino' around town, I knew that my head and heart could find connection in this spot.

The hum of the engine, the wind blowing my hair in all directions, passing familiar homes, waving at smiling faces.... there is a peace.   His Peace.  

This morning, I found myself alone with Ruby, driving down these muddy-red dirt roads that are home.   My thoughts lately have been oh so jumbled up.    This morning, my heart and head connected and I came home ready to write again.

A few heart/head connections for one Saturday morning:

This life called the Christian walk isn't some easy stroll in the park...   a life lived completely for Christ is one that is "poured out."  

Poured out... pouring out.   What exactly do those words mean?

Our Savior lived a poured-out life.    He was filled by the Father in prayer and He then turned outward and poured Himself out for others.   Ultimately, He was completely poured out on the cross.

My deepest desire is to be more and more like Christ... to be filled daily with God's grace, mercy and love and to be completely poured out at the end of the day doing everything that He places in my path.

In my human flesh, the pouring out can be utterly painful at times.  In other moments, the pouring out is the most beautiful offering I have to give.

There are days when I am half-full, which means that I empty quickly and run on vapor, barely reaching the end of my day and trying to pour from my own reserves.    These days bring mixed moments - moments that reflect Him and other moments that reflect me alone in an unpleasing manner.

There are days when I am completely empty, which means that I, literally, have not one drop to offer another.    These days are full of tears and fist-shaking and that inner voice that tells me "I just cannot do this another moment."

Then, there are precious days that begin by God filling me to the brim through prayer and His Word.   These days are the substance of what it means to be poured out.   Every good drop that He has placed in me is gladly and generously given in a way that reflects only Him.

I sure do love those days.

Sometimes when Ruby and I are navigating these roads together, I wonder if it is all worth it... this pouring out stuff.     Through tears and hurt and smiles and joys, my answer must be yes.   What is the alternative?  

Sure, I could live a life guarding my pitcher and carefully protecting every drop.   And yet, guarded drops eventually evaporate...   I want my drops to water and nourish and encourage.   I don't want those drops to evaporate and be wasted.

Regardless how many moments remain,  I want to be found with an active pitcher, one that is being filled and poured out again and again.






30 August 2014

Ahem... hello again!

I love this space of the blogosphere, I really do.

Even though this blog is dusty and neglected, I believe the words here represent something special as God faithfully works on me, conforming me to the image of His Son.

When I come over here to write to you, I often have very little to say.   This season is one of quiet and listening.     My heart holds much, but my mouth isn't free to speak it all.  

Instead of writing, I often decide to first read what I last wrote.  Ahem, God speaks aloud to me again.  The same things I wrote about months and months ago are still 'works in progress.'

Thankfulness.

Gratitude.

Celebration for what IS instead of honing in on the one thing that ISN'T.

Bigger things than which student did not have her uniform on today.

Better things than my tired, weary complaining.

IVA is God's baby.   What a privilege and JOY to be able to put our hands to work.  

_______________________________

A few updates:

*Reach Out Honduras is growing.  We have new missionaries on the ground serving alongside our family.  
Our Board of Directors is eager, capable and leading us all toward the future.

*Our family will be in the US in November and December.  We are traveling West to California and East to Alabama.   If you are anywhere in between those destinations, we would love to sit and have a cup of coffee with you and talk about the work.

*We have two more Sundays in December open:  the 21st and 28th.    If your church or Sunday school class would like to visit with us, we are ready!

*IVA students are entering their final quarter of the school year.   Pray for them to finish strong!   The month of September is a time to reflect upon Honduran Independence.    Our students are marching in the September 15 Independence Day parade, along with several other parades throughout the month.  

*Waits kids are growing up... Aidan is 14 and is playing one of the large drums in the band,  Arlee is 11 and is playing a snare drum and is leading up the choreography,  Adam is 8 and wants to just play anything in the band :),  Aaron is 7 and still full of life and doesn't care about the band at all,  Cumi Joy is 2 and is the princess of all things IVA, including the band.     Our family life is very full and sometimes feels the weight of 'starting a school from scratch.'    Please pray with us that our kids are able to see God at work in all areas.  Their childhood is unique in some beautiful ways and challenging at the same time.

*Waits parents are growing up...   thank God!

Love to all...



Share It

One way to encourage this missionary family... comments!