Category Archives: Guatemala or Bust

When Hope Wears Thin

The first Sunday of Advent and the lighting of the candle of Hope…but man, hope is currently a scary and dangerous thing. Hope has my heart on the line, risks having it broken in two, risks disappointment, and sometimes it’s just easier, safer certainly, to protect that hurting heart rather than let the candle of  Hope burn it to the ground. I am sharing this today because I am certain I am not the only one struggling with a hopeful heart this season.

Five weeks ago on Sunday morning, 5 days into my 2.5 week Guatemalan adventure, a weak warm breeze moved across my face as the ceiling fans twisted and turned, struggling to keep the stuffy, sun warmed air moving. Blanketed by a language I don’t speak, my mind continued to wander back to my very first experience in this place.  A phone call made from the bottom of a bunk bed, undecipherable words uttered though broken-hearted sobs. An internal promise made for forever without any idea what that was going to cost, emotionally and spiritually and even less of an idea of what that was going to look like. I am still learning the depths of my heart, the passions it can carry within it. The very essence of who I am continues to be written. I find myself mixed up in something I could have never imagined, and it would be untrue if I said I wasn’t afraid of where God is leading in these flashbacks and passions ignited.

Eighteen days. A long time to be gone but I was blessed with the opportunity to spend this time working and loving and building relationships in what has become my second home. We shared meals, celebrated birthdays, played countless games of UNO and soccer, fumbled through the language barrier, laughed, and cried. Eighteen days I was given the chance to show up at the door of a very special house on the hill, creating memories, giving life to the promises I have made. My momma heart just wants to wrap them all up and level their path, take away their uncertainty of the future.

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Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you your heart’s desires. Psalms 37: 4. The verse of the day delivered to my phone bright and early on a Tuesday morning. I am trying so hard to delight in God. I am rolling up my sleeves and making this my job, delight, worship, praise. I know this is what you do in the in-between, in the waiting. As for the desires of my heart, I was again reminded on this morning that none of this was my idea in the first place but now it feels like it is literally breaking my heart. I am broken because of the desires that I fully believe God placed there.

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For the last month my right eye has had this fantastic little twitch and two weeks ago I found myself in a completely ridiculous argument that ended with a complete meltdown (think toddler tears and snotty nose) on my part, not at all comparable in magnitude or topic to the disagreement that brought it on. I just want to go back to feeling like me, except not really either because I LOVE THIS KID and I wouldn’t undo that for anything. But I can’t figure any of this out. How it works, when (IF?) he can come home. And anyone who could help, tells us the same thing, there are no adoptions happening between the US and Guatemala. EXCEPT I KNOW GOD IS MOVING AND THERE IS LIGHT IN THIS TUNNEL NO MATTER WHAT THEY SAY!!! So this is where it gets messy.

Hope. This first Sunday of advent. I identify with the words of Ann VosKamp and Jason Hague,

How do you hope unlikely things because you love someone to death?  

We all need to believe that things can change.

Sometimes believing in a miracle feels like living in a mirage. You can feel like a fool, walking around with your pitcher. Really, God? Really?

YES! I have asked God that, a lot lately. REALLY?! And every letter I have sent out seeking answers has been like seeking water in a mirage.

It seemed to me I had two choices: I could either live in perpetual sadness, or I could lower my level of hope.

Living in this land of the unknown, the waiting, the land of unanswered prayer, your heart throbs, maybe with anger, maybe with hurt, but almost certainly with disappointment.  

Yes! Everyday, my heart carries with it the burden of helplessness. I feel crazy and that pendulum can swing from righteously crazy to flat out delusional. Crazy. My orderly, logical mind, struggles everyday with seeing the way, seeking an answer, continuously chasing it’s proverbial tail.

But, I know. Faith in things unseen. Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. (Hebrews 11:1)

I know that when Noah built the ark he had never seen rain but he picked up his hammer in obedience.  Can these stories be true for me? Today? Am I grasping at Biblical straws?

We are building an ark, actually it’s a bedroom, but if we are going to have faith in things hoped for and live in what we believe to be obedience, then we need to be ready for another child. So, in what some days feels like insanity, hammers are being picked up.

For we walk by faith, not by sight. (2 Corinthians 5:7)

In the land of unanswered prayer, we follow His lead.

The Lord taught me how to sigh in pain, how to weep in gladness, and how to trust during days of hope deferred.

It was not an easy road to walk. It still isn’t easy, and it isn’t safe.

Rather, it is a confounding country full of myths and mirages. Here, faith resembles denial, settledness looks like surrender, and hope is the scariest creature of all.

We (Mae, J and I)  had the gift of sharing a “normal” day together during our last visit. An opportunity to spend the day together in Antigua (his first time,) breakfast at one of our favorite places and shopping in the marketplace. The opportunity (and struggle) for him to pick something out for himself. And lunch at his choice of places, McDonalds,  where we ate ice cream first. Life is short…eat dessert first! The gift that these few hours were, not just for him, but for me as well, to watch these two together, knowing what my heart longs for, having a peek into what life could look like, the day was as beautiful as it was heartbreaking. This is a day you relive over and over and over.

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In July I began a mantra.  Every letter, every visit, I make sure to remind him, as much as myself, what we know to be true. This has become the rudder of our relationship as the months have passed and I believe that he is maybe, hopefully,  finally trusting the truth in the words. How many promises has his heart held, only to be broken? These words, our promise to him, have to be lived out continuously though our actions because without that they are empty, they are worth nothing.

  1. We are a family. We don’t look like a normal family but God creates all sorts of families and we belong to each other, all five of us.
  2. I promise I will be back – forever and always. I will always come back.
  3. God has a plan and we can trust it. (This one I must remind myself of, as much as him. It is so hard to see the hurt and not be able to fix it in the way that my heart longs to.  As much as I love him, God loves him even more. I know that in my helplessness and disappointment over every passing day I need to lean into God as the sovereign one, trusting He knows best.  Comfort at the foot of our Savior. I know this, and it terrifies my heart, because what if…)

Everytime, in both English and Spanish…Somos una familia, volveré, lo prometo, y Dios tiene un plan y podemos confiar en él.

It’s the first Sunday of Advent. Hope candles are lit everywhere.

God is giving you Hope. 

Hope — for you. 

Christ who comes to give us the gift every one wants more than anything — a future and a hope.

And my prayer must be, “I believe; help my unbelief!” (Mark 9:24).

Postscript- I stumbled across an old post, apparently I have been here before, just not with the same passionate desire. I could say that the life situation that birthed this post also birthed the one I find myself in today. Be encouraged by these words written in 2015 if you are struggling with hoping in the impossible today. Today, I feel an even closer connection to Sarah. I understand better what the longing and waiting for a child can do to a mother’s heart. Laughing along with Sarah…

Ever wondered what a trip to Casa Bernabè is like?

In less than a week I am headed back to Casa Bernabè in Guatemala. The following video is something my daughter put together from our family visit in July. The beauty of Antigua, the city of Guatemala, and of course the kiddos at Casa Bernabè…it may leave your head spinning a bit with its speed but she covered a lot of ground and our cumulative days.

(If the video doesn’t load for you it can be viewed here.)

As I prepare to head back we are looking at the projects we would like to accomplish while we are there. 

One of the things that was most amazing to me when we were there in January was the opportunity to bless the house parents and check some much needed items off of their wish list (you can read about it here.)

We would love to be able to do the same this time. As you can imagine living in a house with 10-15 children will cause things to wear out quickly. 

These house parents are all amazing individuals who are serving on the front lines everyday, standing in the gap for the children God has placed in their homes, praying for them, guiding them, loving them as their own. 

Would you consider partnering with us on our quest to bless those living at Casa Bernabè? Tax-deductible donations made before 10/24 will be doubled through Love Runners. Learn more or donate here.

Thank you for being part of the Run and Be Still community! Hope you enjoyed the “quick” look into our July trip!

In Between

Here I sit, again, suspended above the earth in this in between place. In between families. In between realities and cultures. This frozen place in time where I have to leave one to be with the other. This is an impossible place to live.

As I gaze out my window I realize the clouds look like my thoughts feel, some banks looming large and other, wispy, fly away pieces. If I try to grasp any one of them they simply slip right through my fingers. Disconnected…disjointed…I can’t quite put any of it together.

I heard the seven most beautiful words earlier this week. “Today was our last day of school.” This was the very first English sentence that He has ever spoken to me. (I am so proud of him. Learning English is so hard!) This began a quiet conversation that allowed me to ask him things – what he likes- what he wants – and he was able to answer me without the need for anyone translating. Together we planned an end of school ice cream party for his house. A celebration of a whole lot of things. Big picture…I cannot even begin to convey how precious these words were and the effect that they had on my heart.

But I am terrified that this is where I am going to be stuck, in between. Hope is getting thin as my heart fills fuller and fuller, with a love I didn’t even know was possible, until I feel like it will burst or break. I try to see beyond our circumstances, beyond the bureaucracy, but the reality is hard. The reality terrifies me and so faith and fear do battle within me.

I don’t want to have to choose any more. I don’t. I want my entire family around my breakfast table on Saturday mornings. I want us all tucked in under one roof. I want Christmases, and birthdays, and boring old Tuesday afternoons. I want to share the life experience of every picture we went through on my phone after our ice cream party.

I don’t want to have to look into a set of eyes and say I love you and I will be back soon. I don’t want any more goodbyes on either end of the flight.

This is what life looks like right now and it’s taking its toll. I don’t know how long I can keep doing this and yet I don’t see any other way and I need to be both places.

Please continue to pray for God to move quickly. Your prayers are carrying us through. The tiniest spark of activity continues while the clock is ticking ever more loudly. I dream of the day that he is sitting next to me watching the landscape pass by below us, heading home.

For God’s glory…

Get caught up on our story…

This was not my plan

This was not my plan – Part 2

Please don’t stop praying

Down but not out

Down But Not Out

defeatedYesterday, for the first time in recent memory, I didn’t have words. I always have words, and zipping thoughts, on most days too many probably. But yesterday they failed me. We received word from our adoption attorney that the government said No. Hard stop. Just. No. We can’t do anything more. They hold the power, maybe when he’s 18 we can do something, but that is a long way off and presents a whole other set of hurdles.  The attorney that I had prayed would be the answer bowed out. And I was left holding this hurt with no plan, no idea what to do next, nothing. My brain shut down. And as the questions came in over the afternoon of “Any news?” I didn’t know what to say and I knew even less how to respond to your kind words of encouragement. I sat and stared for long periods of time at my blinking cursor, not wanting to appear short or unappreciative but just without the words to respond.

On the same day that we received our bank approval to add an addition with another bedroom and bathroom for our growing family, on the same day that a box of adoption books and materials arrived in the mail we were told “No.” Stop. Give up and leave us alone.  We are not doing this. We will not even look at this or consider approving this. And so a kid sits, alone, waiting and praying for a family who are waiting and praying for him. What is wrong with this system…

And my heart right now feels perilously close to the same way it did 17 years ago when my prayers for my son weren’t answered and the only thing we have of him are our dreams for what would have been, and a baby laid to rest next to his great-grandfather.

My prayers feel ineffectual. My heart is breaking. And, for what? A child who I can never tell how badly I want him. A child who I will never be able to mother the way my heart longs to. This was not my idea. I didn’t dream this up, I didn’t choose this.  But, there is no doubt that God placed this squarely in our path. It was a hard yes to say, it was scary, and while I didn’t expect it to be easy I am having a really hard time seeing where we go from here and understanding why? Why did God pull us into this? And I know the fight isn’t over. Somewhere in the recesses of my brain, I know this and I know that this isn’t over.  This can’t be over. I know that God can do the impossible. I know His promises, but today I am having a really hard time feeling them. Today, this feels so final and I feel so defeated.


Before I could even get this posted a shift began to happen. An “accidental” phone call from my sister early this morning that turned into words that I needed to hear. A reminder that my heart began to embrace. This is how God works and these are your prayers in real time .

Be Still. It’s something I should be intimately familiar with by now (Run and Be Still.) Dear wrestling and wiggling and fidgeting child, be still. Get out of the way, rest, and watch God work.  And I look to my past experiences as a reminder of what I know to be true of God today. And I throw myself at His feet, shedding my pity party.

So it is with every attempt to do something significant for God. It is never simple. Whenever God stirs us to establish His Kingdom in a new place, the enemy is sure to taunt us. The devil always tries to convince us that we’ve tackled too much this time and we’ll soon be humiliated. 

“The longer the blessing is in coming the richer it will be when it arrives. That which is gained speedily by a single prayer is sometimes only a second-rate blessing; but that which is gained after many a desperate tug and many an awful struggle, is a full-weighted and precious blessing. That which costs us the most prayer will be worth the most.” Charles Spurgeon

My eyes began to be opened to something that is so much bigger than one child.  What if the very words that have failed me are meant for bigger things? What if they are meant to advocate for an entire group of children waiting and praying? What if they are meant to bring God’s voice to a group of people frozen by 10 years of corruption and inaction?

What if this really isn’t about me (duh!) and instead about using my heartache, my passion for the kids sitting and waiting to age out of homes,  to bring about change. What if I refuse to sit down and be quiet, refuse their no for my child or any of the rest of them? What if…

For if you keep silent at this time, relief and deliverance will rise for the Jews from another place, but you and your father’s house will perish. And who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” Esther 4:14

And so it goes, as it always has, that an old song comes to mind, my prayer…

Please don’t stop praying…

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Just a quick note to say please keep praying. We are still fighting for this young boy. I never, ever, ever want to look back on any of this and wonder could I have done more. Here is the latest…

You have to love a question that begins with “I don’t want to offend you but…” One of my very dearest and bestest friends in the world and I were having a conversation and I had just shared with her our newest-big-news which is – We officially have a Guatemalan attorney who is going to petition the court and make this whole process official.  No more dancing around it, we are just going for, it in the biggest way possible.  The attorney was described to me as a “big gun who can get things done” and she was more than happy to help us. I was literally a puddle on the floor after my conversation with her. There is so much more to the story, but it’s long, so just know this, God continues to weave this story together in ways that humble and amaze me. He is doing things that only He can do.

Anyway, back to the offending question. It was finished with this “Do you ever wonder what you’re doing?” Ummmm, yes. Yes. Yes. A thousand times yes. We have looked at each other and asked that very question many times but we continually come back to what God is doing. None of this makes sense yet it is 100% right. We are trusting Him to direct our steps even when we have no idea where it is leading. Any doubt that I have is negated by what God has already done in putting all of these moving parts together and what He has done, not just my heart, but all of ours.

I want to share two more things with you tonight. First this video, I can’t tell you how many times I have watched this. (He was thanking us for a surprise that we had sent down to him.) You have seen pictures, but this is the smile, this voice, this kid, oh my…As you pray for him, I want you to know him too.

Second, this song. I recently heard it, not for the first time, but with new ears, it stopped me in my tracks. So many layers, my prayer, my wish for my boy who has given up hope for a family. Tell your heart to beat again…

 

This boy knows I love him. I have told him so many times, but he has no idea how fierce, and protective, and strong that love really is.  He doesn’t know what it is to be loved by this mom. One day, hopefully very soon, he will begin to see…Please, please, please don’t stop praying for us. God is on the move.

If you have no idea what I am talking about, you can get the scoop here and here.

This was not my plan

Nineteen months ago, I got on a plane with my 14 year old and we headed south to Guatemala…the great unknown, an adventure, following a dream and a calling.

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By Wednesday, day 5 of our trip, I was pretty sure we would write this off as a “learning experience.” An amazing time but I was ready to be back home, back to my comfort zone, back to my own language. I wasn’t sure we would be back. And then this happened…

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Sponsorship…and this…something so much bigger…

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I can only tell you that in the moment that he hugged me something happened. A hole that I didn’t even know was empty was filled. My heart was wrecked and overflowing at the same time by this young man who has never known a family outside of the orphanage. His, a heart-wrenching story that we didn’t know until after the fact. At a point when I was wondering what I was doing there, feeling like I was floundering, to get an answer to prayer, and be an answer to prayer…God is so good! I didn’t go to Guatemala thinking this would happen. I would have not believed that a 13 year old boy would so capture my heart in the span of seconds. I would not have thought that now I would worry for him, worry for his future in a country that is so poverty stricken. (excerpt from An aching heart)

And then we were home and time passed, and normal-ish resumed it’s dominion. We wrote letters, mailed gifts, and sent prayers heavenward. We nurtured and fostered a relationship despite the miles and language barriers. We were also smack in the middle of navigating having a senior and a freshman, our lives full of wonderful teenage fueled chaos. And then, because God has a sense of humor we moved for the 2nd time in 3 years. (The sight of moving boxes now causes PTSD and I am pretending our storage unit full of I don’t even know what doesn’t exist.)  Smack in the middle of state playoff football, and just weeks before Christmas I was offered an empty spot to go back…

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“I’ll go.” “No, I can’t go.” “Ok, I will go.” “No, it’s just not going to work.” This was the back and forth of my recent decision to go back to Guatemala. I had said no to this trip at least 5 times for very valid reasons and yet the opportunity and question “Will you go?” continued to come back around. And then I got an early Christmas gift from Guatemala with a note that read in part “May God bless you for all you have done in my life. I love you very much.” And suddenly none of those reasons mattered anymore. The only thing that mattered was this boy. (excerpt from On Again, Off Again, On Again)

Wheels downs in Guatemala just one year after my first visit…and my number one priority was sitting at the top of the hill. My reason for returning.  I couldn’t wait to see him.  When he came to the door, here was this grown boy, looking eye to eye with me. Still shy, but with a smile for me that made his eyes shine and my mama-heart melt. As the week went on, from across the church or the campus, his eyes would seek mine out and a smile and wave were quick to follow.

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What can I tell about this place except that it will break you. This sickening feeling of broken-hearted-joyfulness is one that I just want to hold on to, to not forget, to not let fade, even as the cover lays closed on the photo album and days turn to weeks. God is doing a mighty work within the walls of The orphanage and the walls of my heart. I cannot escape being overwhelmed by that. This is the collective experience of two trips and many a servants’ heart, not only mine. Tears. Lots and lots of tears. Not sweet, leaking eye tears but ugly, crying sobs. Broken hurts but broken heals. My heart has been mended back together, stronger and patched with the tapestry of this beautiful country, the smiles of a group of boys and love from this woven together family. It changes you, being broken, and not everyone will understand it. This shy boy, who’s simple words have shattered me has also shown me a love within myself that I don’t understand. A love I didn’t know I was capable of, a love that is bigger than me and hopes in the impossible. A love that I wasn’t looking for but now can’t imagine living without, whatever that ends up looking like. (excerpt from How Was It?)

And then a door opened, an opportunity to do what I love, a chance to advocate for all of the children living within the walls of the orphanage, a new job, a new adventure, and another trip south only 3 mo after my last visit. God had been busy in that short span of time. Working overtime on the hearts in our household, moving mountains, opening doors before we even had a chance to knock, doing the things that He does best, and the things that only He can do. And of course, my heart almost bust, when once again I laid eyes on this smile.

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Nineteen months ago adoption could not have been further from our radar. Today, it is a constant request laid before the Lord. We would love nothing more than to make this “official,” to bring this sweet boy home, to be a forever family in one place, to share his dreams, his fears, to struggle together, share the monotony, the hard days, and celebrate on the good ones. Right now this is still an impossibility as adoption remains closed and my heart is grieved beyond measure.

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I see this sweet little face, just after he arrived at the orphanage, and wonder why he has had to wait all these years only to face red-tape and the declaration of “impossible”and I am frustrated and at the same time amazed at what God has been weaving together for the past 15 years, all that He has done to get us to this point in time, standing at the threshold of the unknown, unimagined, unplanned,  that we might play a small part in this God-sized story.

We stand confident that we don’t live under the banner of impossible with God, and that is where we are placing our hope, our faith, and we know that this is not impossible but the clock is ticking ever more loudly these days. I am sharing this today because we need prayer. The only way this will happen is through God’s hand and in His timing and we seem to have hit the wall.  Would you join us in prayer?

Orphan care is just as much about pulling a child out of a broken story as it is about you being pulled into one. You will love more passionately, hurt more deeply, grieve more bitterly and celebrate more joyously throughout the process of caring for vulnerable children than you ever thought imaginable. This is the hard reality of where orphan care begins, where it takes you, what it requires of you and how it will break you. We must be willing to walk down this path, for their sake. As we do, our embracing of their brokenness paints a vivid picture of how Jesus embraced ours. ~ Jason Johnson

No matter what, we are family and in two short days, for the first time we will all be together in one place. I am not sure my heart will survive.

To be continued…

Living in Spanglish with my heart lost someplace in between

Last Thursday evening I found myself doing a form of the chicken dance, with a four year old I had just met, on the jet bridge of of my ATL to CLE flight.  I think I am losing my mind although she looked at me and said “I like you.” So hey, at least I am making new friends and keeping stranger’s kids entertained. To this point in the day, it had been 10 hours of extreme closeness with strangers and long lines and hurry and heartache as I replayed the previous 3 days in my mind and the miles slipped away.

I was returning from a short trip to Guatemala and Casa Bernabe as I have accepted a new job.  I am the new Development Director for Friends of Children Everywhere, the stateside non-profit that provides approximately 80% of the funding for Casa Bernabe.  And while I am so, so excited about this, the weight of what this actually means is settling like a mantle on my shoulders.

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The amazing combined boards of FOCE and Funproni.  A group of individuals dedicated to caring for the needs of the children at Casa Bernabe. We were celebrating being together at an Italian restaurant owned by a German family in Guatemala City. Hmmmm….

During my first visit to Casa Bernabe, about a year and a half ago,  I was struck by the image of this place of care and respite literally being like a city on a hill.  Matthew 5:14-16 “You are the light of the world – like a city on a hilltop that cannot be hidden.  No one lights a lamp and then puts it under a basket.  Instead, a lamp is placed on a stand, where it gives light to everyone in the house.  In the same way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father. “ This place is a beacon of hope in a city that is filled with so much hopelessness.  A place for these traumatized children to feel safe and loved.

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According to a recent article  in Christianity Today, in 2015, Guatemala had the second-highest rate of child murders in the world. Of the crimes against children that get reported—including murder, rape, kidnapping—most go unpunished (88%). An estimated 2 in 5 children are malnourished. Among indigenous children, that rises to 4 in 5. This is the load that these children at Casa Bernabe are carrying with them.

My heart nearly broke during a visit earlier this year when I watched four young brothers being received into Casa Bernabe.  The care with which not only the staff, but the other children, showered them with, to immediately being healing the broken places that they came from touched the deepest part of my soul.

My heart is so raw and to be quite honest it is exhausting.  It hurts to feel so much…

I came face to face with this ache again this trip and my heart has continued to be heavy with the hurt since I have been home. These boys are the same age and one has a hope and a future and the other…well…I will not stop until he does as well.

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This is why I am doing what I am doing.  These are the faces of my passion, of my heart and there is much work to be done.

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I would welcome the opportunity for opening the door to conversations so that I can share more of this passion with you. You may find that it captivates your heart in the same way it has captured mine.  If you would like to get on my calendar for the coming year to have me come and share, with your church or organization, all of the exciting things that we have accomplished thus far at Casa Bernabe and the needs that we have going forward I would be excited to do that as well! God is writing quite a story.

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Haz Cosas Pequeñas Con Gran Amor

A lot can change in a year…when I got to Casa Bernabe, the first thing I did was head up the hill to see CJ.*  I had been looking forward to this day for the last year, and when he came to the door, here was this grown boy, looking eye to eye with me.  Still shy, but with a smile for me that made his eyes shine and my mama-heart melt. As the week went on, from across the church or the campus, his eyes would seek mine out and a smile and wave were quick to follow. To be there again, not as a stranger this time but as someone who belonged to him, I just don’t have words…

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I still remember being told, as I walked in oblivion up the hill on the day I met him, “He just needs a little love.” That was about 5 minutes before God completely rocked my world and wrecked my little existence.  Since that moment, we, as a family, having been pouring love into his life every possible chance we get.

To love and be loved and to belong to someone, even if it’s a long way away…a year ago this 13 year old boy was struggling, he was praying for a family, hungry for a relationship.  To hear how much better he is doing now, to hear that he is more self-confident and outgoing, and to know that his easy smile has returned over the last year was humbling to me. Loving from a distance is so hard and there have been many days when I wished I could do so much more but small things with great love have made a tremendous impact…

Haz Cosas Pequeñas Con Gran Amor…Do Small Things With Great Love

Maybe it’s a bag of jerky, a pack of sharpies, or a t-shirt, some photographs, a handful of letters, a whole lot of love and prayers for the right words to say to this sweet child…small things with great love, packaged up and sent south to Guatemala, every single chance I have gotten over the last year.

A lot of different people have said it in a lot of similar ways because its truth runs deep.  We can’t change the world, but we can certainly change the world for one person. It doesn’t have to be hard…it doesn’t have to be big…

If you are interested in learning more about visiting Casa Bernabe, sponsoring a child at the orphanage, or contributing to our November 2018 Casa Bernabe trip as we head back down to Love Boldly, please let me know. I would love to share this passion with you.

In the end, love doesn’t just keep thinking about it or planning for it.  Simply put: Love does! ~ Bob Goff

IMG_3199-1Our newest t-shirt design because it’s one of the biggest lessons I have learned…God can take these small, seemingly insignificant things and magnify them beyond what we could imagine. This design is only available at DoGoodStudio.org and all proceeds will benefit our November 2018 Casa Bernabe trip.

Read about our latest trip here.

 

 

*names have been changed to protect identity

How was it?

I am home. I have been for over a week now. The suitcases are empty.  The coffee has all been delivered.  The laundry is (almost) caught up. The house is (almost) back in order. The pictures have all been printed, photo-journaled, and the photo album on its new coffee table home, a display and a reminder. And yet here I sit, still trying to figure out what happened 10 days and 1900 miles ago.  I was not even going to go on this trip and now, as it was last year, I am afraid that life won’t ever be the same again.  Then again, I am even more afraid that it will.  Does that even make sense?

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“How was it?” A question so easily asked, but the weight of the explanation that it compels me to give is so large.  A full emotional explanation would be impossible. The far reaching effects and implications of this week are continuing to unfold and make themselves just barely visible. Whisps of smoke and hope that slip through clenched fingers just when you think you are able to begin to make sense of them.

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What can I tell about this place except that it will break you. This sickening feeling of broken-hearted-joyfulness is one that I just want to hold on to, to not forget, to not let fade, even as the cover lays closed on the photo album and days turn to weeks.  God is doing a mighty work within the walls of Casa Bernabe and the walls of my heart.  I cannot escape being overwhelmed by that. This is the collective experience of two trips and many a servants’ heart, not only mine.  Tears. Lots and lots of tears. Not sweet, leaking eye tears but ugly, crying sobs. Broken hurts but broken heals. My heart has been mended back together, stronger and patched with the tapestry of this beautiful country, the smiles of a group of boys and love from this woven together family. It changes you, being broken, and not everyone will understand it.

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This shy boy, who’s simple words have shattered me has also shown me a love within myself that I don’t understand. A love I didn’t know I was capable of, a love that is bigger than me and hopes in the impossible. A love that I wasn’t looking for but now can’t imagine living without, whatever that ends up looking like.

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The pride of having his sponsorship publicly recognized at our “thank you” night.

This was a hard trip.  It was both emotionally and physically draining. My body and my heart would hurt at the end of the day.  As a team we accomplished much, crossing many items off of a “to do” list and yet barley scratching the surface. We spent a day hauling metal roofing up the hill towards the clinic, being able to take part in a double blessing as Casa Samuel got a new roof and the old roofing was to be given away to families outside the orphanage who could use it.   Painting the art room and offices were a welcome change of project after the roofing. Paintbrushes and rollers aren’t nearly as heavy as sheet metal. The monotony of a wall preferable to the monotony of a hill.

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In addition, throughout the week, members of our team took turns traveling two hours away to build a 10 x 10 block structure so that three children from Casa Bernabe could be reunited with their family. These days were tough, filled with manual labor that our bodies and minds were not accustomed to.  On my day, concrete day, I hauled countless buckets of sand and gravel down a steep and twisty path and then pulled buckets of water, necessary for the concrete, up from the well until my muscles protested and ached. As I walked the hill throughout the day, I watched young girls wash laundry by hand, young boys carry back breaking loads of wood to sell, old women cook over fires on the ground, and at the end of the day I walked away carrying the weight of their reality.  There is so much about this day that my heart continues to struggle though reconciling. And yet, there is the certain knowledge that God’s love was evident in every bucket of sand and water we hauled.

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As hard as some days were though the trip was filled with the lightness of laughter, the sheer unbridled joy from the kids that is so contagious.  It was hard, but we had fun. Be it through a mouth full of marshmallows while playing chubby-bunny with the kids on the basketball court, pitting team against team during an afternoon of paintball with a group of teenage boys, sharing a meal of a Big Mac and fries, coloring a picture, kicking a soccer ball, or celebrating the week with an ice cream party and some whip cream antics, we had fun! New relationships were built and others were grown.  The language barrier disappears in these situations – laughter is universal! Love trumps all!

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Chubby-Bunny

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It’s universal, of course the whip cream is supposed to go right into your mouth!

The highlight of my week though was not some big, sparkly, grand gesture moment. My highlight was being, not just invited, but welcomed, into a home close to my heart, given space on the couch to sit shoulder to shoulder, surrounded by family, to do something as simple as watch a movie.  As I sat there, the awkward, visiting American, who has a tendency to just smile and nod dumbly was gone. God worked this beautiful moment (with a little help from English movie subtitles) that touched the deepest part of my heart where we were sharing life, normal, everyday, life and I didn’t want it to end. This moment wasn’t planned or staged or organized and for that I am so grateful. Come in friend and share life.

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The boys with their new towels.  Thank you Love Runners community!
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I love this kid!
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Thanks to the Love Runners community for their generous giving that made this television (and so many more donations this week) a possibility!

I wasn’t going on this trip. The timing, financing, and lack of preparation were all wrong.  Saying no to this last minute opportunity to fill a vacant spot, just 3 weeks after the holidays, in the midst of moving our family of 4 and living in the mess of major home renovations, was certainly understandable. But I went and now I am home and I know that these few paragraphs and strung together words can’t do justice to what God is (and has been) doing.  The picture is so big.

More than anything, here is what I want to convey to you from this trip. I don’t want to be Jonah. Traveling in the belly of a whale, while more spacious than economy class, is not preferable to being available and obedient to God. “No” is many times the easy answer.  “No” may even be the answer that makes the most sense in our orderly lives, but that doesn’t mean that it’s the right answer. Two questions that He has asked me in my past have been resurrected and keep cycling through my head.  First, “If not you, then who?” and “Do you trust me?” Seriously God?   This wasn’t new information, just a much-needed reminder.

Physically, emotionally, and spiritually, I gave more of myself during this trip than I would have imagined possible, but you just do it.  You keep moving, hauling one more piece of roofing up the hill or one more bucket of sand down, you keep saying “Yes” to what God asks you to do.  You give until it hurts, love until you think your heart will break, and God makes it possible to just keep going, giving, moving, serving and loving.  In the exhaustion, physical and emotional,  you begin to see more of Him and less of you.

God needs you. It’s ok to be wary, be cautious, be scared. Just make yourself available.

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Take me where love is needed.

On again, off again, on again

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“I’ll go.”  “No, I can’t go.”  “Ok, I will go.”  “No, it’s just not going to work.”  This was the back and forth of my recent decision to go back to Guatemala.  I had said no to this trip at least 5 times for very valid reasons and yet the opportunity and question “Will you go?” continued to come back around. And then I got an early Christmas gift from Juan Carlos with a note that read in part “May God bless you for all you have done in my life. I love you very much.” And suddenly none of those reasons mattered anymore. The only thing that mattered was this boy.

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It’s almost been a year since I was last there and we have continue to nurture and grow this relationship despite the miles and language barriers.

Two days ago found the tipping point in my decision to return to Guatemala and I leave in less than a month.  My heart is absolutely bursting with excitement and anticipation and more than a little bit of panic as to how we are going to pull this together so quickly. I am looking forward to what God has in store for this trip.  It took him awhile for me to get the right answer to the question of  “Will you go?”  but we finally got to the “Yes.”  Last year, God rocked my world (you can read all about it and meet Juan Carlos, if you haven’t yet, here) and this year, with eyes wide open, I have put my heart on notice.

We are working to put together some really fun surprises for the kids while we are there this year – quite possibly, among other things, a trip to the zoo and a pizza/glow party for the entire orphanage!

We need two things – first and foremost – please pray.  I am much more anxious about the language barrier than I was last year and because of the timing , or lack there of, I have to pull a lot of things together very quickly.  Please also pray for the team that is going down.  We have a lot of “first-timers” and everything they are about to experience takes a lot of bandwidth to process.  Pray that we can help them to do that. And pray for the kids, that we would be able to touch their hearts in a way that lets them know they are loved. Secondly, I need to put together the funding necessary to make all of these extras happen.  Would you consider being part of this? We have set up a fundraiser through our non-profit Love Runners and Pure Charity in an effort to pull all of this off in this short amount of time. By combining our efforts, no matter the size of the donation, we will have a huge impact on the lives of the children at Casa Bernabe! You can make your tax-deductible donation here and help us reach our goal of $1500 by January 8, 2018.

From the bottom of my heart – THANK YOU SO MUCH! Have a wonderful Christmas and watch for details of our upcoming trip!