Monday, January 30, 2012

House Renovations

Throughout the past several weeks I have become quite an avid fan of the website, Pinterest.  This website consists of a variety of great ideas for recipes, exercise, organization, and crafts.  To say the word crafty is not my middle name would be an extreme understatement. 

I was once invited to a craft party. All attendees were to bring their current craft they were doing and we would spend the evening working on our projects. I was half tempted to go and buy a Disney princess coloring book and spend the evening getting the red just right in Ariel's hair.  Do not misunderstand me, I have extreme respect for those who "craft."  However, if it takes more than 2 hours to make, you can count me out.  I am pleased to say I have married into a family that has done their fair share of projects.

Trey's parents are visiting us in Haiti right now. Over these past few days there have been quite a few house renovations. We have painted our living room and kitchen, an extreme improvement to our stark white concrete walls. I look forward to sharing pictures as projects around the house reach completion. 

Today I wanted to share with you on of our most recent changes. The area behind the stove gets quite a bit of filth on the wall. In an effort to cover this space My father-in-law developed a wonderful plan...

With a few pieces of plywood and a lot of nails we have our renovated kitchen!  I absolutely love the new look to the stove area.  Inspired by the updated and oh so "homey" feel to our kitchen I baked some chocolate chip cookies to celebrate.  I'm excited to see what other changes to our home may result from our time with Trey's folks, Pinterest has nothing on us!

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Lovin' on the Little Ones

Hugs, hugs, and more hugs!  These are a few words I would use to describe what I was able to be a part of this morning.  Not too far from where we live and work with Baptist Haiti Mission is an orphanage called "God's Littlest Angels."  Trey and I actually discovered the orphanage before we even moved to Haiti and were thrilled when we learned how close it was to our house!  Since being in Haiti I have been so excited about the opportunity to get to go to the orphanage and it finally happened today!

A couple visiting BHM this week wanted the opportunity to get to see the little ones at the orphanage.  Me being the oh so generous person that I am eagerly volunteered to travel down the mountain a little ways this morning to love on the kiddos.  We had a wonderful tour of the orphanage and were very encouraged to see the diligent work of this organization.

 Pray for the children in Haiti who are without a mom and dad.  Pray for changes in the adoption law of Haiti that would enable more families to take home their precious little ones.  Pray for protection for these little lives.  Pray the Lord would begin making himself known in the hearts of these children that they may know what it means to have a relationship with their Heavenly Father!

Monday, January 23, 2012

Learning to Speak the Secret Code

Best friends often create a secret language with one another.  A language only they understand and can use anywhere with the confidence that no one else will understand.  By knowing this secret language they are able to communicate with one another in a way that reaches deep and cannot be separated.  Over the past 4 months I have been living in a country where I watch these best friends communicate with one another day after day, hour after hour.

This secret language is sometimes whispered, sometimes sung, sometimes shouted, sometimes followed with laughter, sometimes spoken with heads bowed in moments of prayer.  I study, I listen closely, and I oh so eagerly anticipate the day I too can be a part of this secret language.

There are moments, moments where the words roll off of my tongue and I receive a nod of affirmation or a response that actually answers the question I intended to ask.  However, at times I receive puzzled looks or giggles from children that communicates shock that the "blanc" is looking them in the eyes and trying to speak their secret language.  (The little one on the left is a perfect description of the looks I am referring to)

The days are often long and the struggle to understand can become quite frustrating.  The desire to understand and be able to hold entire conversations with my brothers and sisters in Haiti is far stronger than the frustration.  As I learn this new and secret language I feel at times as though I take one step forward and two steps back.  After 2 weeks of being in Haiti a woman told me she knew God had us here for a reason and He would help us to learn the language.

I have thought of her words often throughout these past few months.  Avek Jesi, yon jou mwen kapab pale kreole! (With Jesus, one day I can speak creole!)

1 Peter 3:15, "...Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have..."

Pray for Trey & I as we continue to learn Creole.  It is our desire to be able to clearly share the reason for the hope that we have in Christ Jesus!

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Food for Thought

True confession, I have an obsession.  I absolutely LOVE dark chocolate.  I heard once it was good for me.  When my mom and dad came to visit they brought me 2 big bags of dove dark chocolate pieces.  I have enjoyed eating them as well as reading their secret messages inside the wrapper.

A few days ago I began to think about what it would be like if I actually followed the advice that was being given to me from the great and all knowing wrappers.  Here's a glimpse of what would happen.

DISCOVER YOURSELF, this is the first direct council I was given from the wrapperHow does one do this self discovery you may ask?  Don't worry open another chocolate goody, there is more advice to come...

KEEP THE PROMISES YOU MAKE TO YOURSELF.  If you don't think you have made any promises to yourself, have another piece of chocolate and you will discover you are to BE THE FIRST TO HIT THE DANCE FLOOR.

LOSE YOURSELF IN A MOMENT, in the midst of those great dance moves don't be afraid to let yourself go.  After all it is so important to LIVE YOUR DREAMS.  Don't forget YOU ARE EXACTLY WHERE YOU ARE SUPPOSED TO BE.  TAKE A DEEP BREATH AND EXHALE, keep reminding yourself, SMILING IS FREE.

We live in a world today where opinions, advice, and guidance flows from every corner.  Even our chocolate is providing direction for us!  I am so glad that in the midst of voices and council flowing from all around I know and am in a deep relationship with the WONDERFUL COUNSELOR, Isaiah 9:6.  It is in His Word alone I am to seek and find the advice and guidance for my life.  Enjoy this life, embrace each moment, live it to the hilt, but do it walking in the ways of the WONDERFUL COUNSELOR.

Psalm 25:4  "Make me to know your ways, O LORD; teach me your paths."

P.S. You can stop wondering how many days it took me to eat the chocolate that was inside all of these wrappers.  After all, I had a blog post I needed information for :)

Sunday, January 15, 2012

1,000 + Blessings

At the start of a new year I must admit I have been known to make quite a few new year resolutions.  Actually at the start of a new week I tend to make new week resolutions.  If we wanted to get technical at the beginning of a new day I make new day resolutions.  After all the "resoluting" I must say I am so overwhelmed by the fact that our Lord's mercies are new every morning (Lam. 3:22-23).  There is nothing I can do to make Him love me more or love me less.

With this being said it is also my desire to take up my cross DAILY and follow Him, Luke 9:23.  As I seek to live a life in obedience to my Lord & Savior Jesus Christ one HUGE area of obedience is found in taking my thoughts captive.
Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.  What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.  Philippians 4:8-9
At the start of this new year, new week, new day, new hour...I have accepted a challenge given by author Ann Voskamp, to record 1,000 Blessings in the year 2012.  In order to achieve this I must write down at least 3 blessings everyday.  This discipline will cause me to stop & recognize the goodness of our Lord.  There will be FAR MORE than 1,000 blessings in the year 2012 but oh how prone I will be to miss them.  

I pray that upon accepting this challenge my heart will daily anticipate the goodness of the Lord and I will walk in a way that seeks to recognize and praise Him for who He is.  His goodness stretches beyond my greatest expectations!  May I wake up anticipating to see Him work & lie down praising Him for all He has done.  Here are a few of my recorded blessings from today...

 *Uncontrollable laughter with my best friend & love of my life Trey
*Doing "everyday life" and enjoying the love story my Savior has written for me
*Calm evenings at home for peaceful resting
*Eating Golden Grahams and truly enjoying every bite!

"Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good!  Blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him!" Psalm 34:8
Will you too search for His blessings this year, this month, this week, this day, this hour?

Friday, January 13, 2012

A Week to Remember

After a WONDERFUL week spent with my parents it was bittersweet to say our goodbyes this morning.  I loved spending this past week with them and getting to share our new home with them.  Our life is definitely very different here than it was back in the U.S.

We loved showing them all the many places of Haiti.  We loved introducing them to our new friends here.  It was truly a breath of fresh air to have them here.  I miss them already but am oh so thankful for the time we had together.  Here are some highlights from each day they were here:

 We picked Mom & Dad up from the airport Saturday morning.  They had been awake and traveling throughout the night.  As soon as we made it to the mission property we treated them to some chicken nuggets and french fries just in case they were already missing American cuisine, it also saved me from needing to cook something.  After lunch we spent the day showing them the property and simply catching up!
 We took off to church first thing Sunday morning.  Dad was not quite sure what to think of our mode of transportation down the mountain roads.  I suppose it is slightly different than traveling down 7th street hill in Corbin.
During the church service Mom & I went out to "children's church" so she could get to be with all the kiddo's.  She definitely attracted quite a good bit of attention.  The children enjoyed welcoming their visitor by saying "Welcome, Jamie" in English.  EVERYONE told us we looked like one another.  I will definitely take it as a compliment :)
 Monday & Tuesday were big work days for us.  Dad said when he came he didn't want to get in the way but he wanted to help.  I do believe it is safe to say after two full days of organizing and moving clothes in one of our storage depots and then doing some intense work in our front yard his goals were reached.  We definitely put him to work :)
Early Wednesday morning we traveled to the camp property of Baptist Haiti Mission.  We were excited to get to show Mom & Dad where camp is being planned for many Haitian students this summer.  They were also eager to see where Crossings Ministries will be sending students to serve over the summer as well.  Mom & I enjoyed chatting with Madam Lillian & Love (cooks at the camp) while dad snorkeled and Trey worked on the property with the guys.  It was a fun day in the sun!
Yesterday, our last full day together, we had the opportunity to visit on of the Sponsored Children of Baptist Haiti Mission.  Mom & Dad knew this was one of my favorite things to do and were excited to have the opportunity to do it as well.  We traveled to visit Anne-Sophie (the 4 year old girl)  She is in kindergarten.  We were able to take food and some gifts to this precious family.  She sang for us and told us about herself.  The afternoon was full of kisses and sweet little hugs.

Mom and Dad are now in the air traveling back to good 'ol KY (if all is going according to plan.)  Thank you Papaw & Granny for giving us a GREAT Christmas present and making it possible for them to travel to see us.  Thank you Mamaw Peggy for keeping an eye on the girls at home :)  It was a very special time to get to have Mom & Dad travel to see us together.  We are already excited to have them return!  Now...time to clean up this house and get back in the "routine."


Thursday, January 12, 2012

January 12, 2010

The following is a blog I wrote for Baptist Haiti Mission today:

January 12, 2010 a 7.0 magnitude earthquake caused the mountains of Haiti to tremble.  More than 300,000 deaths were a result of this horrific quake.  The earthquake hit at 4:53 p.m.  Only an hour later darkness fell on the country of Haiti leaving the people injured, scared, and separated from their families.  Following the earthquake there were 52 recorded aftershocks that measured above 4.5.  After the events of this terrible earthquake 2 years ago today, it is safe to say the country of Haiti will never be the same.
My husband and I are new missionaries here with BHM.  Two years ago when the earthquake hit we were nestled in our homes in America.  Now, living each day in Haiti there is not a week that passes that we do not hear someone refer to the earthquake.  What was once an event we watched briefly on the news is now a very present reality for our neighbors.  We sit side by side the many faces we saw in pictures crying in the streets 2 years ago after this catastrophic event.  Over the past few months I have heard numerous stories about the day the earthquake hit.

One afternoon I was chatting with a friend of mine from church who was helping me learn Creole when she began to tell me about the earthquake.  She had gone down the road a little ways to go shopping for the afternoon.  She described the sound of the earthquake to be like a huge truck passing by - then everything began to shake.  Cell phone services crashed, darkness fell, and fear struck to the core.  

It took her two days to even make it back to her house to be reunited with her family.  As she  reflected on this terrible event tears rolled down her cheeks.  She told me her entire family stayed in their house for 3 months after the quake.  She was very fortunate to still have a home.  In spite of the pain she felt reflecting on this awful day, she did not speak with a sense of hopelessness.  Throughout every detail she shared she sat unwavering while starring forward.

We were sitting outside as she talked to me about the earthquake.  When the recounting of the many events became too much, she would gaze up at the huge mountains beside her house and tell me she trusted completely in BonDye (God).  She knows firsthand that He can move the very foundations of the earth and it is in Him alone we can completely trust.

This is one of thousands of stories that can be told about this day in history.  Today, schools and businesses are closed and most families remain at home.  This is a day to remember, to mourn, and to continue to trust in the One who can move the mountains.  Many articles and stories you will read today about this event will tend to focus on the destruction of this horrific day.  The damage from this huge quake was indescribable.

2 years later many buildings, homes, and churches have been rebuilt.  Outside aid is still being received and is of great need to the people of Haiti.  I would like to challenge you on this day to go deeper than thinking about the "stuff" that was lost or damaged.  Allow yourself to think about the families who lost loved ones.  Husbands who lost their wives, mothers who lost their children.  A sense of uneasiness still plagues many of the people of Haiti.  

Just a few weeks ago there was an incident at a local elementary school.  Two large water trucks drove by Kenscoff school and caused the school to tremble a little bit.  The children instantly began to panic thinking it was another earthquake.  They began to flee out of the school.  Several children were injured and had to be brought to the hospital at the mission due to the chaos that was brought on as a result of fear.  This recent occasion is a very clear example that the earthquake of January 12, 2010 will never be forgotten by the people of Haiti.  Pray for the people of Haiti today, pray that they will receive an incredible peace on this day of reflecting that can only come from the Lord.

The missionaries here at BHM have so many miraculous stories as a result of the earthquake.  There have been thousands of people who have entered into a relationship with Jesus Christ due to the events of that day.  The churches of Haiti are strengthening daily and the hand of the Lord is truly on his people here.

Lucy Dunn, 86, was visiting her family who are missionaries with BHM when the earthquake hit.  A few nights ago as we were talking about the earthquake she said, "I am so happy the Lord allowed me to be here when the earthquake hit.  I have loved getting to see Him at work!  He is changing the hearts of the people of Haiti."

Remember Haiti today.  Remember the works of our great God and trust in His ways for great is His faithfulness!

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Enjoying the Ballou Folks

Saturday morning Trey & I left our house at 7 a.m. to head to the airport to pick up my Mom & Dad.  It was truly surreal experience to pick up my parents from the crazy Port-au-Prince airport and introduce them to our new home!  I was so excited to see them I could not quite control my emotions.  When my emotions go crazy, tears are an immediate result.  But, I promise they were good tears!

Over the past few days we have cleaned out clothing depots, attended Haitian church, rode through mountain trails, learned new trades, laughed and met new people, and still have more to come!  We will be leaving EARLY tomorrow morning to travel to Baptist Haiti Mission's camp property for some snorkeling and fun in the sun for the day.

A highlight from their stay so far would have to be discovering all the many things they are surprised by here in Haiti.  It is so much fun to hear dad "Ooo and Ahh" over the amazing mountains views while Mom squeals "Slow down!" the entire ride.  It delights my heart to see my parents giving thumbs up and smiles to try communicate with the workers with BHM.  Today one of our workers addressed my mother as Momma Madam Trey :)  LOVE IT!

My blogging has been put on stand by because I simply do not want to miss one minute with the parents!  Keep checking back for posts I will have some more with pictures ASAP!

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Thursday Thoughts from Trey

It is incredible how the LORD moves and works.  He always seeks to remind us who He is and who we are not.  Too often I forget that He is God and I am not.  I try and make decisions based upon my own desires and present needs….or what I think would be best. 

I have been reading through Jeremiah lately and am constantly being reminded that we are glory hogs.  Like the Israelites I lack in thanking my God, not just for what He has done, but simply for who He is.  Jeremiah is sent time and again to the Israelites sharing the words of God to repent and turn back.  What did they do…nothing. Due to this lack, they were not able to find peace from God or the Babylonians.  
The question is raised: How does it practically look to walk towards the Father, learning from the many Israelites who came before us?

“…do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.  And the peace of God will transcend all understanding and guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” -Philippians 4:6-7
This is one of my favorite verses that I try and practice on a daily basis. Though, most days do not seem to be successful.  One of the areas that caused the Israelites and causes us today to put ourselves before God is lacking to thank Him.  When we cease to offer thanksgiving we quickly forget.  When we forget we quickly focus the lime-light on ourselves and become glory hogs. 

Read the above verse again and you can see that thanksgiving is in direct contradiction to anxiety.  When we are being thankful, we do not have time to be anxious.  When we are being thankful the glory is placed on the one receiving the thanks.  Praise Him that He is God and there is no other. Blessed be the name of the LORD…”Holy, holy, holy, is the LORD of hosts; the whole earth is full of His Glory”-Isaiah 6
May we seek the glory of God, rather than anxiously toiling for our own.

-          Trey

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Tis so Sweet to Trust in Jesus...

...Just to take Him at His word, Just to rest upon His promise, and to know "Thus saith the Lord!"

I am currently working through Stepping Up: A Journey Through the Psalms of Ascent, Beth Moore.
Stepping Up: A Journey Through the Psalms of Ascent,  Member Book  -     
        By: Beth Moore
She shared a quote in todays reading from Anselm, an eleventh-century English monk;
I do not seek, O Lord, to penetrate thy depths. I by no means think my intellect equal to them: but I long to understand in some degree thy truth, which my heart believes and loves. For I do not seek to understand that I may believe, but I believe, that I may understand.
I must confess I had to read this several times before I could honestly capture what was being said. In Chelsea terms;
Lord, I do not need to know all of your depths. I simply could not handle it! I am so thankful that you are God and I am not! I believe your Word completely and love you so. I desire to understand your truth more and more. My desire for understanding is not to lead me to belief but oh to teach me to love you more!
Think about this for a bit, I'd love to hear your version of this quote or any other feedback you may have.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Bon Ane, Happy New Year!

I hope all of you have had a nice and relaxing new year holiday.  Trey & I definitely enjoyed our weekend as we entered 2012.  It was definitely a weekend to remember!  Friday morning at 7 a.m. we began our journey to Muraille Lacee for the weddings of the year!

We had no idea how long it would take to travel there by car or what to expect along the way but we were eager for all that was in store.  I made banana nut muffins the night before and took peanut butter and several packs of crackers to endure the journey that awaited us.  We drove for 3 hours up many winding and bumpy roads until there was no more road and then the hike began.

To say the trek was intense would be an extreme understatement.  As we were walking I have to admit I was trying to figure out how I would best describe the experience to you.  For every steep incline there was an even steeper decline!  We walked at a very rapid pase on an incredibly rough terrain.  The entire time I was walking I had to focus very intensly and pray I would not twist an ankle!  I finally decided it was like an incredibly interactive video game as I jumped from one rock to the next going down hill hoping I would not slip.  I was the only girl walking with SEVERAL guys.

I made up my mind I would not complain or slow down the pack.  It was in the midst of this experience I saw first hand that the Lord does not give us more than we can bare.  We had just finished going down an incredibly steep incline and then walked straight back up, I was so dizzy and so hot, I was just about to pull the "I'm a girl" card I need to stop and rest and then..TA DA!  A house showed up in the middle of nowhere and we had reached our destination.  I had never been more excited!  Needless to say the family at the house was a tad surprised by how red a white girls face could get!  We had a great evening getting to know the families of Muraille Lacee.

Throughout the evening couples who were getting married Saturday came and talked with Pastor Smith and received gifts for their wedding day.  The ladies were given shoes for the wedding and the men received dress coats.  We had rice and beans for dinner and then it was time to set up our home for the evening before we lost all light.  Below is the tent we stayed in.  It was right next to the house.  We had surround sound with men snoring in the house next door, pigs in the fence out back, and roosters in the field to the side.  The true haitian experience! 

Along with our beautiful home we also had a royal throne.  As we were resting after our long walk I noticed one of the guys cutting away at a piece of cardboard.  It did not take long before I realized he was cutting a hole out of the center of it.  He was making me a toilet seat for the bathroom!  I am amazed by the generosity and care shown by the people of Haiti.  They truly go out of their way to make us feel welcome.  I loved my special seat :)
The wedding was scheduled to start at 8 a.m.  We made our treck up one of the many mountain sides to the church in eager anticiaption for the wedding.  The picture below shows the church of Muraille Lacee.  There were tarps placed over the thatched siding and splinter filled benches.  It's difficult to see in the picture but to the left is a thatched building they built to house food for the reception.  Cake and drinks were given to those who came to the wedding.
Below Pastor Smith (right) was putting the final touches on the wedding program at the church before everyone arrived.  It was a true privilege to get to know Pastor Smith.  His love for the Lord is evident and we are so excited about the work he is doing in Muraille Lacee.
2 hours after the scheduled start time, the brides began to arrive!  It was all about being "fashionably late" to their special day.  Pastor Smith began the ceremony with much singing, and then it was time for the vows.  After doing the vows MORE COUPLES began to enter the small church structure.  So many in fact that Pastor Smith started the service over again to do the vows again!  After all...this was their wedding day!
The wedding ceremony was similar to traditional weddings in the U.S.  The couples all stood in the front as Pastor Smith led them in the exchanging of their vows.  He first addressed the ladies and at the end they responded with "Wi" and the men followed.  They also exchanged rings.  Pastor Smith preached about the importance of family and he spoke very highly about the support they had received from Baptist Haiti Mission to do a wedding of this size.  The large crowd began to grow restless throughout the course of the ceremony.  However, when the finale arrived and it was time for THE KISS all eyes were on the front of the church and cheers followed!
Kissing in public is not common in Haiti.  There were giggles and cheers as kisses were exchanged on this beautiful day!  Below is a picture of the faces of the precious couple you saw smooching in the above picture.  I loved seeing the couples come from all different life stages.  Everyone deserves to have a wedding day and it blessed my heart to see these precious people commit their families to the Lord.

After a great wedding weekend it was time to begin our trek home.  I literally felt like I had ran two half-marathons in 24 hours!  My cheerleaders were the precious children we passed along the difficult journey out to the road.  They helped me remember to breath and smile and enjoy the moment!
I loved being able to go on this journey with Trey.  We had so much fun laughing with one another over new discoveries and encouraging one another when it felt like we were never going to reach the top of the mountain!  Although hot, incredibly dirty, and STILL thirsty I would not have changed a thing.  Pray for us as we continue to get to know the people of Haiti.  Pray that we will seek the Lord daily as we walk with Him on this exciting journey!