Monday, January 16, 2012

Adele; music to my soul


God has always spoken to me through music. I don't have to be listening to praise and worship for Him to say something profound. In fact, over the years I have thought so many times that the love songs of the secular world could most definitely be translated into how I feel about Jesus.

This morning on my run, rather than listen to my normal Praise and Worship playlist, I decided to throw on some Adele. As my feet hit the pavement and my labored breaths were exhaling, the song "He Won't Go," came over my headphones. I wasn't listening very closely, as I was nearing my second mile, but suddenly some words overwhelmed my ears;
"You would choose poison over me?"
The actual lyrics are, "...he would choose the poison over me," but I could have sworn I heard it the other way. God was audibly saying to me, "Why would you choose poison over me?" Those words, no joke, rang in my head for the next five minutes trying to ponder what He was really saying. And it became clear. I have been doing so many things to get closer to my Lord and Savior. I have been soaking up everything I could possibly read that would help me walk step by step with him. I don't lie, steal, cheat, kill or commit adultery but, still, how many times do I choose "poison" over Him? How many times do I choose judgement over acceptance? How many times do I choose bitterness over joy? How many times do I choose pride over humility? More than I want to admit. But I do. I choose it. I choose to drink the poison.

God said to me, "If someone had two cups in front of you, one with poison and one with life everlasting, which would you choose?"
In my most annoying, teenage voice I said to Him, "Well, duh, life everlasting."
"Would you still choose the cup full of life everlasting even if it meant a difficult journey?"
"Yes, absolutely."
"Then why, my child, when I place my cup of life everlasting in front of you daily, do you choose to drink the poison, even if but a sip?"
"I have no idea. Because its easier?"

For me, that was it. That was why. Because its easier. It's easier to hate than to love. It's easier to ignore than be intentional. It's easier to hold a grudge than to forgive. But when Jesus said this journey would be difficult He didn't mean that around every turn there would be tragedy, even though there will be some. He meant that the road He's asking us to travel is difficult in the sense that it goes against everything that is inherent in us; in the world. It will be hard work to change what comes so easily.

I am grateful to Adele, and to God, obviously, because that tangible image, drinking poison or drinking life everlasting, makes my daily decisions a lot less difficult.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Photo of the Week-1/3-1/10


grismeily is shy, reserved and pierces your heart with a single stare. she is the youngest of four and the only girl. when i found out her mom was pregnant and that she was a girl, i don't know why, but i was so excited. maybe, if nothing else, just for her mom who was surrounded by boys. maybe because i knew she would be one loved little girl. and maybe because i thought, just maybe, her mom may warm up to me a little bit given that i had a little girl too.

you see, up until grismeily was about one month old, her shy, reserved mother was very weary of me. i had loved her boys for almost four years and said hello to her and hugged her whenever i could, but still she was very stand-offish. never rude or blatant, just weary.

when grismeily was one month old, i had been making headbands as a fundraiser for our ministry. i saw one that i had made and thought of her immediately. the next week i brought it to her mom. elisabeth's eyes lit up. she was so excited. something as small as a headband with a flower became my window of opportunity to love her as much as i loved her children.

even at age 22, elisabeth is one of the most caring, loving mothers i have ever known. even me, at 30, i don't know how she does it; caring for three boys and a baby girl. and although our friendship isn't where i would love it to be, i know for some, trusting doesn't come quickly.

grismeily and her headband, about 6 months old when she could finally wear it!

New Photo of the Week

A new Photo of the Week is up, click here.

Sunday, January 08, 2012

Girls Group 2 - Week 1

Meet my new girls!

Mariela - Age 8, Yissell - Age 11, Estefany - Age 12

Rosio - Age 9, Ana Cristina - Age 8, Magdalena - Age 11

Cindy (Nena) - Age 11, Yennyfer (Uva) - Age 8, Rossy - Age 9

Grismarly (Ia) - Age 9, Eliany - Age 8, Carola - Age 10

Yanibel - Age 8

Meet my new older girls group!

Elisabeth - Age 13, Maria - Age 14

Angelica (Nana) - Age 14, Lisbeth - Age 12

It was so good to see SO many girls show up on the first day of class. We switched the time to the morning so that the girls who couldn't attend the afternoon classes because of school could participate this time around. I really enjoy being in The Hole first thing in the morning. I always go an hour early, drink coffee with the ladies (and sometimes some of my girls from the previous class) and just catch up on life.

After introductions, we started with the same craft we did with the previous class. Although it was fun to try it, it most definitely did not go as smoothly with this age group. The young girls had a lot of trouble with it, so it required A LOT of attention and explaining and re-explaining. But it was still good to introduce them to doing something creative.


There is something I'm beginning to discover that bothers me quite a bit. Growing up in "my world" I had ample opportunity to express myself artistically and creatively. Everywhere I turned there were more chances to interject myself in art projects or take a photography classes or paint murals on the walls of my high school. These girls from The Hole, it almost seems like they can't think creatively. I mean, maybe with a little direction and a lot of hand-holding, but seriously barely any of these girls could look at what I was showing them and re-create it themselves. They had to watch, had to do exactly as I did; they couldn't think of a way to do it on their own, with their own style. I'm not sure exactly what it means but I'm going to explore a little more of what seems to be causing this lack of creativity. Although, I have to note: Estefany (also called Esther) was quite artistic. She barely needed assistance and was often helping other girls with theirs. Her butterfly barrette was beautifully made and I see a lot of potential in her in possibly doing some great crafts in the future.


As we ended the day in prayer and I bowed my head, I was grateful...and frustrated. This age group (the 8-12 year olds) were hard to lasso in. They chatted and interrupted and fought with each other over a pair of scissors. I kept telling God during the prayer that I didn't think I was cut out for these younger girls, maybe I should focus on the older girls who actually listen. But I heard his gentle voice say, "Mandi, they need you too."


The more I am in The Hole, the more I fall in love with it. As I walk down the dirty staircase that leads to this building of hope, I feel my heart settle. I have a peace that shouldn't be there walking through a trash dump. But when I give kisses to little kids that jump in my arms and hug moms that I've recently befriended, I sometimes wish I didn't have to leave. Like, I just want to be there, doing life with them..whatever that may look like.

Thursday, January 05, 2012

"the itch"


i've had "the itch" for a few months now. i never thought it would happen. we are comfortable where we are. things are manageable. there's very little chaos. so when "the itch" creeped in, it caught me very off guard.

i remember the first time i felt "the itch." we were in brisas de ocampo having a field day. things were pretty laid back, only a few showed up. then a dominican woman showed up carrying a tiny bundle in her arms. naturally drawn to little ones i hurried over to see.

in her arms was one of the most beautiful babies i have ever seen. her perfectly smooth complexion, her delicately wide nose, her plump baby lips. i was smitten. the woman, the baby's neighbor, asked if i wanted to hold her. i couldn't possibly resist. when i took her in my arms i noticed an ever slight tugging. "the itch" entered in.

i carried her for most of the morning. at one point as i was staring at her, and her back at me, i could almost see her tell me how sleepy she was. instinctively, i adjusted my hold to one familiar to me. one i would adjust to whenever my own babies' eyes told me the same thing. and in an instant, her eyes closed. like a sleepy spell was cast and i was left to listen to the gentle rhythm of her breathing.

hoping mike would catch "the itch" i handed her off to the arms of a daddy. i didn't know her story, or if she had a daddy of her own, but when i saw her in his arms, "the itch" took over every bit of me.

there is something more than special to see the one who cares for you and your family, care for another. and in that moment, like many moments before, i couldn't help but fall a little more in love with him. and secretly, i was hoping that he was feeling even a smidgen of how i was feeling in that moment, watching him stare at that little girl.

i don't know what to do with "the itch." i've covered it, ignored it, and tried to get rid of it. but it keeps coming back. sometimes with a force so strong i think it will never go away. i pray for clarity and for wisdom and for God's will to be done. but if nothing else should come of it, and "the itch" should fade away, i am grateful for the opportunity to be reminded, once again, of the incredible man God has given me.