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...



01 June 2014

Walking Past the Stench

That stench...   goodness, what was that stench?

For a few moments, I searched my mind for some familiar recognition.    I ran through the normal things that my nose takes in on these dusty roads... urine, vomit, rotten veggies, feces, trash, fermented fruit, remnants of a night of inebriation.     

Unsure of what it might be, I turned my head back to the left and behind me.   The sight took my breath away and the stench suddenly became distant and distinctly unimportant.

There they were... students of Instituto Vida Abundante in their white school t-shirts.  2 came carrying a beautiful Arbor Day mural made from 100% recycled items followed by the rest of the 60 walking in 2 lines, very proud to be a part of the Arbor Day parade.




I looked at the boys in front and I began to remember ... a young man who finished 6th grade as a 16 year old with perfect attendance,  a young man whose mom abandoned the family and left the house in the care of her children,  a young lady sold by her mother and then rescued by her father,   a young lady who came to school after her father had broken the windows out of their home in a drunken state, a teeny 13-year old bolt of energy who came to us from a remote village speaking primarily Miskito who has dug in and adjusted to a new program.

My heart began to just celebrate the way our God perfectly planned for each student.  He built a safe place for them to study and grow,  He worked in their hearts to give them a hope,  He touched many churches and committed people to love these students from afar.

I smiled a HUGE smile... and I thanked God for the moment when I get a small glimpse of what He is doing.

The day-to-day is often difficult and overwhelming for this spoiled Texas girl.     BUT GOD... He is faithful, friends.   He doesn't call us to something unattainable.  He calls us to good work with the hands and hearts that he has given each of us.    He gives us the very things that we can ONLY handle with His Grace, Mercy and Power.   He never, ever gives up on these students... nor does he give up on me.   They often give up on themselves, as do I.   BUT GOD... never, ever gives up.

We walked in the parade for almost an hour.   Our students presented a song, a poem, a dance, recycled projects and our mural.     3 of our students had a 10 minute visit with the Secretary of Education for our Department and with a UN representative.  They were able to talk about Instituto Vida Abundante, our logo, what the logo represented and how God's creation was the thing we are protecting.   


This is Junior, one of our smallest young men in stature and one of our grandest in character.   He was very impressive in his presentation.  Not 10 minutes before, he was a nervous wreck and wanting to throw our mural backward into the lagoon.    

Our mural won 2nd place!   In a time where we NEVER expected to win anything nor even be recognized for participating, our students were honored.  Their work was recognized and all I can do is say thank you to the One who LOVES these children.   He gives them tangible moments to encourage them to keep 'walking through the stench' and out into the marvelous light.




12 April 2014

Forests and Trees

We all know the idiom.... "can't see the forest for the trees."   As we grow through different stages of life, the 'trees' and the 'forest' represent different things.

In this season of opening the school, I am actively trying to take a look at that forest of students.

Instituto Vida Abundante is an all-day study program providing 2 meals each day.   Students arrive at 6:45 and leave at 3:00.    Typical schools here are half-day and do not even meet everyday.    The majority of our students have adjusted beautifully to the longer school day and the higher expectations.

But.

There have been a few.

Precious.

Girls.

Who did not adjust well or were forced to leave by their families.

It is these few that stay very close in my mind.   These few girls are driving me to look for out-of-the-box ideas about educating young girls in third-world settings.   Cultural expectations for 14, 15, 16 year old young ladies are to cook, clean and meet a man.   Truly, I never realized how much pressure this places on one young lady who might want to succeed in another area.

We lost 2 girls, sisters, because their mother wanted them to work for her around the house and go to school on the weekends.    I almost threw in the towel over this one.    These 2 and their siblings have been a huge part of our lives since we arrived in La Mosquitia.    I know how their lives go, the rhythms of their mother and the cycle of poverty that entangles them.    Their mother and I have had endless conversations about this prior to school starting.   I begged her to let them try this year...  and it just didn't work.

Maybe I tried to hard to persuade her?   Maybe.    Maybe I didn't fight hard enough for those two?  Maybe.

God used this family to plant the vision of the school in our hearts.   How could I let these 2 go?

On the other side,  I had 58 other students that were succeeding and adjusting.   At some point, I had to let go of these 2 and turn around to see the 'forest' that God had provided.  

It still hurts as I write this.    I haven't seen these 2 in about 6 weeks.   I miss them.  And, I wonder what I could have done differently.     My prayers surround them always.

Their older sister is still a big part of our lives and is studying on the other side of Honduras, thanks to generous sponsors in Texas.     When I talked to her recently on the phone about this, she said her heart was breaking in two pieces.     And, I thank God that he took her out of this and gave her a chance to just study.

There were 2 other girls who left in the first few weeks - unable to commit to the all-day program and unsure about their ability to succeed.   Both of these had experienced significant trauma in the last 6 months of their lives.

And, I wonder,  why only girls?

Why are the boys thriving?

What about the remaining girls?  How can we strengthen their confidence?

And, I pray... Lord, give us Your wisdom and Your heart.

Open our eyes!

Yes, we were able to accept 4 more students in those spots.   Yes, we are thankful for this.

We know we will likely lose more students this year.   Our Board of Directors has been very realistic about this, knowing what we are up against.    If we end up with 40 students at year end, that is 40 more students that have repeatedly heard the Gospel, that have been given an opportunity for academic excellence.   It really isn't even about the numbers at all, is it?  Each individual 'one' is important.

Pray with us.   Pray that we can see the beautiful forest that God has given while simultaneously loving those individual saplings that stand before us with their eyes full of uncertain hope.




10 April 2014

A Few Family Updates

It has been quite a while since I've written about those little things that are going on in our family...  here's a quick update of our world:

*The school is officially open and operating. :)   The first 2 months have been filled with God-sized things and so many learning experiences.    Every day brings something new.  For this, I am grateful.

*We have a 2-year old ... hard to believe, the little nugget is already 2.    While most of my peers are watching their kids start to drive, we are still potty-training. :)    Cumi Joy has started calling me "Mama Mia" in a loud, sing-song voice.    Her adoption is still 'in the works' and quite far from ever being finalized.  It is hard to explain the process and unknown if she will ever actually be 'ours.'    I cannot think about this very long or my heart begins to unravel.

*We have two 7-year olds... yes, we are in that 3 month time of the year where both Adam and Aaron are 7.    They are 9 months apart... and eons apart in every other way.    They have such unique talents.   This appears to be a good thing in many ways.  If they were more alike, we would have even more competition than we do now.    I pray that one day they will stop fighting and just enjoy each other.   Our most recent solution for fighting is putting them both in one of Alex's t-shirts at the same time and sending them outside to pick up trash...  

*Arlee is 10 going on 20.  She heads over to the school for Spanish class.   As always, she is super competitive and scored the highest score in Spanish for the first quarter.    Arlee dreams of living here one day with her husband - she drew a picture of their little house on stilts the other day - it made me smile.   

*Aidan is rapidly finishing 8th grade.  He also participates in Spanish at Instituto Vida Abundante... and his sister got a higher grade than him.  Hmmmm...  

*Next week, a team from West Virginia is coming to visit.  They will be building a house for a dear friend and visiting a remote village to give food bags, dresses, balls, etc.   They are throwing a party for our students and working on a few small projects around the school.   

*It seems like as each week of school passes, we begin to settle in a little more to the new normal.   

There are a lot of deep things that have floated around in me these last few years.  I stopped writing in this public spot because I just couldn't get it all out.   Writing does ease the confusion and often brings me back to Jesus instead of my struggling.    If I can grab some time, I will try to write again here on a more frequent basis... just sharing the stuff God is teaching me.  I am no preacher, just one broken person living a life where the pieces are being put back together in a beautiful way.

30 March 2014

Names & Naming

If you are a mama, do you remember those days of pregnancy where you searched and searched for the perfect name  for your baby?

Remember testing the name with your last name?  Sharing the name ideas with friends and family?  Writing it a million different ways?   (Well, that happens with child #1, by #5 all of that craziness has long worn off :))

Some people even talk about names for children when they are dating!

Names are important.   Names are significant.

Imagine yourself in a place where babies are not given names for a few months.    Why?

For a mama in severe poverty, the possibility that her baby may not survive is a real one.  Malnutrition, inadequate health care,  superstitious beliefs,  violence .... all reasons that a mama might lose a baby too soon.

When death hovers close to new little ones, mamas are hesitant to cling too tightly.    And thus, important landmarks such as naming and remember birthdays become inconsequential in light of survival.

Many children here have no birth certificate, no record of their very existence.   Those that have a birth certificate often do not know their birthday or the proper spelling of their name.    

At Instituto Vida Abundante, we operate with the names as they are officially spelled on their birth certificate.  I cannot begin to tell you what a challenge this is for the majority of our students...

We have a Jayson who spells his name Jaison and cannot remember that his birth certificate uses the y.    We have an Erica/Erika, a Maik/Maick, an  Erickson/Erickkson/Ericksson,  an Orlen/Orlin and on and on.   

We have a majority of students who have no actual idea how old they are on their birth certificate - just how old they are based on what family says. 

The same goes with last names...  

Since my thinking typically runs in spiritual metaphors,  of course I began thinking about how God views this naming thing.    It is interesting that God gave names before birth...  as He revealed those surprise pregnancies to Abraham and Zachariah and Joseph, he also revealed the name that the parents should give the child.

Names throughout the Bible have meaning and are chosen with the meaning in mind...    

I wonder about this naming thing and how it impacts a child?   I wonder if any of the lack of confidence we see here results from the fact that the students don't see themselves as an important individual with a God-given purpose?    I wonder.

I never have to wonder if I'm Laura or Laurie or Lori.   My parents chose my name with care.   My name has meaning... the word itself has meaning.   I feel chosen and loved.    That basic building block has never been missing for me. 

What are your thoughts about importance of a name?    



13 December 2013

Sitting Down

I sit in a beautiful kitchen in the warm home of a dear friend, Wendy.   She graciously offered her home to our crazy crew for our month-long visit to the US.   What a gift!

I sit alone because my sweet husband has taken the testosterone-producing offspring to let off some steam. My girl, Arlee, is spending the day with Grandmom Parker.   My baby girl, Cumi Joy, had to stay in Honduras due to political situations beyond our control.    I sit missing her.

I sit with a grateful, grateful heart as I process all that the Lord has done in ministry this year through the hands of so many people.   Most of my moments are spent in sheer disbelief that we are opening the school in 52 days! 

I sit with my belly full of a pumpkin spice latte from Starbucks.

I sit processing the personal hurt this year that left my soul burned.   

I sit feeling the Lord's healing begin to work and refresh the wounded places.

I sit.

I sit anticipating a few days away with Alex to remember the two of us together... where this started.

I sit ready to write again after a season of near silence in this space.

Thankful for comfortable places to sit and old friends to sit with.   It is a month for sitting, listening, remembering, forgiving, loving and preparing.    

Sit with me and celebrate the Lord's mercies.  Wherever you are today, just sit and remember... and be in absolute awe of the way He has worked in all of us in 2013.

25 October 2013

Coming to the US of A in December




The Waits Family will be visiting the US in December of 2013.    Our trip is shorter this year due to the opening of Instituto Vida Abundante in February of 2014.
While we hope to have a great deal of time with friends and family just hangin’ out, the reality is that this is our chance to tell you about some GREAT kids in La Mosquitia!
This trip, we seek sponsors for the school – Instituto Vida Abundante and for our family’s personal support... two very different things.  It is certainly much more fun to raise money for a school than to talk about our personal needs… and yet, without the personal support, we cannot stay to open the school.
If you have come alongside our family in the past, we thank you for the impact you have made on us, personally.      Your support for our family has made God so much more tangible for our children.   They hear about  your generosity and are not afraid to trust Him with the details of their lives.
Our words this year will be focused on sharing God’s work;  the ways He has made the impossible, possible.   It is all God!    When we think about how far He has brought us, individually and as an organization, it is astounding and humbling.
If you would like to visit with us OR host an event for Reach Out Honduras, email us:  laura@reachouthonduras.org.  We would love to speak for whatever length of time you have available.

Blessings in Christ,
Alex & Laura Waits

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