Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Why I celebrate Christmas

This morning I was contemplating God’s choice to send Jesus as a baby who grew up to be a man – always God incarnate, destined to die and become the Savior for mankind. 

As babies we are utterly dependent on someone care… Jesus was too.  

 Let that sink in for just a moment – 
God became entirely dependent on human care.
Have you fallen and skinned your knee? …. Jesus has too

Have you shed a tear, or two, or lots? … Jesus has too

Did you ever have to obey your parents even though you knew it wasn’t the best decision? … Jesus did too

Have you lost a parent or someone close? … so has Jesus

Have you ever felt misunderstood or that no one really knew you? … He did

Were you ever hurt? … He was more than we will ever understand

Do you need to forgive? … He does

Christmas is a joyous time; a time of gratitude. Behold unto you this day a Savior is born! He shall be called Emmanuel, God With Us. 

Oversees somewhere in a red-light district brothel is a young woman who’s been used and abused too many times to count, not that she’d want to remember any of them. Her daughter is still miraculously with her. 
Young enough to be spared the greater evils, but not for much longer. The brothel owner knows she’ll bring a pretty penny. This woman wants something better for her daughter and yesterday someone offered hope of a better future for her and her daughter. She doesn’t think there is any hope for her, but she’d do anything for her daughter…

A few nights later the child arrives at the address on the business card, alone. She is crying, begging for someone to go and save her mom.  As they approach the brothel owner and ask to speak to the woman, they are told she is busy but the woman appears behind the doorway. Beaten. Bruised. Bloody. Barely able to stand. Their hearts break. Somehow she manages to slip a small piece of paper to one of them. 

The brothel owner is furious that the child is gone. But she’s smart enough to let one child go at the risk of being discovered by the authorities and losing everything. The one who holds the slip of paper heads home. Opening the paper scrap she reads the quickly scribbled letters.

For my daughter’s freedom it was worth it.

The one holding the gift of sacrifice weeps. For the woman… for the child… for herself… for all humankind. Love is the greatest gift of all, and Love paid the price. 

For her. 

For me. 

For you.

It wasn’t just a piece of human experience the Son of God shared with us. He chose to experience it all, from being knit together in Mary’s womb to being tortured and hung on a cross.  He knows us and He cares. He rejoices and grieves right alongside of us. 

He reminds me

For your freedom, it was worth it all.

That’s why I celebrate Christmas.  

 Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

More Adventures with United, Airports, and my Diet Coke

You’ve been dying to ask this, I just know!    
How did United Airlines do this time?

Well… Just sit right back and you'll hear a tale…

Full of anticipation of the adventures that we would find in Haiti later that day when we arrived in Port-au-Prince, we boarded the United aircraft along with the others destined to travel with us. Awaiting us was the flight attendant assigned to greet us with a smile. I don’t know how it started, but we joked about keeping me content by serving me diet coke and he kindly offered to give me a can right then. 

Thankfully, we were not jammed packed into the tin can like Siamese sardines and there was plenty of overhead bin space. Surprisingly a few minutes early we begin to leave the gate and JD turns to me and says, “Wow! That was a relatively painless and easy United experience” (or something along those lines). And then we stopped and the pilot informed us that there was a mechanical error with the plane that was being looked into. JD and I look at each other and sigh… “Really!?! Again?” At this point I begin to pray and drink my diet crack coke, I think. 

After a short wait, the pilot informs us that whatever the problem is has “fixed itself” and we are cleared for take-off. Yeah…. I think. “Hopefully you were actually in on that fix Jesus.”

We made it safely to Port-au-Prince without further incident and I didn’t even take another diet coke when they went by with the drink cart, even though we did chat with the great flight attendant again.  

Fast forward to the end of the week and we are back in the Port-au-Prince airport waiting for our flight back to the States. The time on our tickets says the flight is scheduled to leave at 3:06pm. Around 2:30pm a garbled announcement is made (something that sounds like the woman is eating the microphone) that our flight is delayed and we will board as soon as it lands at 3:50pm. (although I did have one of my most favorite moments during the time. You can read about it here) We’ve now been at the airport for somewhere around 4 hours. At 4:30pm it appears as if we have begun to board… sorta. First we have security. Again. 
For the 3rd time. Bags are searched, drinks are confiscated, and everyone gets the radiation wand treatment. Then… you can walk out to the plane. 

We finally get on the plane, one of the last few and find some cubby holes for our carry-ons. Right near our seats, who do we see but our happy flight attendant friend! I say hi and he remembers me – the diet coke girl. Yes. And can I have one as soon as possible, delays make me cranky- especially on United flights. We take our seats hopeful that we will soon be on our way, looking forward to a shower on the other end of this flight. And we sit…. And sit…. 

“We just want to let you know that one of the fuel pumps isn’t working. They are trying to fix it now. We appreciate your patience.” I am running out of patience and I have no diet coke this time, cause even if I had bought one in the airport, the security guard would have taken it away.  JD looks at me and says, “If we have to stay here tonight, we’re screwed.” “Yep!”   

And we sit… 5:30pm. We would have been almost landing in NJ by now. Now, even my normally go-with-flow resilient friend is agitated. You know it’s bad when…  Add to that a group of loud obnoxious women who go from sprinkling holy water to drinking the little bottles of wine. Hey! How did they score that and my favorite flight attendant hasn’t brought me a can of pop?!  “Well, they can’t get the pump fixed, but we can still take off with other five. We are just trying to get the appropriate paperwork filed so we can take off. Should only be another 15-20 minutes. Thank you again for your patience.”  I’m getting antsy, along with everyone else and trying to keep JD calm. At least the women seem a bit more sedated.  “Well folks, seems like the pump ‘fixed itself’ and we are clear for take-off.” Sounds familiar. Jillian pipes up at this point, “I don’t think that makes me feel much better.” We agree. But at least it doesn’t look like we are spending the night with our eyes open in the PAP airport. 

 At some point, we actually do get in the air. But my diet coke still isn't coming as we have turbulence. Can I get a break here?! Finally! Finally! After waiting TOO many hours the drink cart comes by and we politely ask the other attendant (we didn't have the cool guy) if we could have the whole can and not just the cup. She graciously obliges. The rest of the flight is fairly uneventful as I drift between watching a movie and resting.

The next afternoon I board the little commuter plane that will take me home to Detroit. We are off with no hiccups and the beverage cart comes down the aisle... this time I settle for just the little cup of pop. I am content with that. I drink it down and am about to throw my cup away when the flight attendant comes up to my seat and asks, "You had diet coke, right?"  "Um.... Yes." "Would you like some more?"  "Sure!" She walks back with a 2/3 full can of diet coke. I look at her and ask, "Did someone tell you about me?" She looks confused and says  "No." She explains that we are the last flight of the day and she would just be throwing it out. So I explain the story with the cool friendly flight attendant who gave me the can on the first flight and then remembered me on the way back. Maybe he had given her a heads-up. Still, it was odd that she picked me out of the whole plane full. I smiled. 

God knew. He is good and so is my diet crack coke. 

But God is infinitely better!!

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Home from Haiti: A Scrapbook

It was a short whirlwind of a trip to Haiti and I've been back a couple weeks now, but unsure of really what to say about the trip. Most of what meant anything to me is trapped inside sensations and emotions changing me that words cannot describe. So I'll let the photos tell the story and use my words to share a few moments that stood out to me.

The slums of Port-au-Prince
Photo: JD Richardson

Photo: JD Richardson

Photo: JD Richardson

Photo: JD Richardson
Photo: JD Richardson

Photo: JD Richardson
There was a sense of overwhelming heaviness and desperation in Port au Prince, that was even in contrast with the area of Haiti in which we stayed. It actually hurt my chest just driving through and seeing the people and the conditions in which they live.

A school

Photo: JD Richardso
Photo: JD Richardson

  This cutie stole my heart the first day. As the students were filing into the church, we were shaking hands and giving high 5's. This flirt stopped in front of me and kissed his hand before taking mine. I smiled and quickly drew my hands up to my heart. He turned around and gave me a smile before heading through the door. If only he were just a little older...
Photo: JD Richardson

Photo: JD Richardson

Handing out bags of rice at a nearby church

Jillian snuggling with one of the orphans

Photo: JD Richardson
Photo: JD Richardson

Photo: JD Richardson
Photo: JD Richardson
 Coloring with the kindergartners was an experience. This little boy Kensly didn't want anything to do with me at first and started crying. While the tears stopped once I pulled him on my lap, I couldn't get him to crack a smile no matter what I tried. In contrast, every time I looked up this sweet thing gave me a huge opened mouth grin (see photo below) When I was able to walk over to say hi, she leapt into my arms and didn't want to let go.

Photo: JD Richardson
Photo: JD Richardson
Mr. Cool

Jillian and her sponsored child Medgina
Photo: JD Richardson

Medgina's house

Medgina's grandmother
Photo: JD Richardson
Photo: JD Richardson

3 month old baby Sunday
this made me very happy

Photo: JD Richardson

I have such a connection to the ocean, I even dress in the colors of the shoreline I am on
Photo: JD Richardson

Last night... hanging out with the orphans again
  Several people have asked me what one moment stood out the most to me or was my favorite. For me it wasn't anything we did on the trip, but a beautiful experience in the airport waiting to go home.

At the gate, we were sitting next to this woman who was reading the bible. JD asked her what she was reading and then she shared with us that she had just buried her precious mother 3 days prior and how deeply her mother loved the Lord. She showed us photos of her mom and the family. Then we returned to our quiet waiting. We were quiet, but the gate area was ridiculously loud with the crowd of people. In the midst of the din, our new friend begins to sing out loud "My Jesus I love Thee" in French, or Creole (It all sounds the same to me). I joined in with the English words. And there was light in the midst of that dark, heavy place, and I felt God's presence.  More than anything else this moment resonated deeply in my soul, and not surprising that it involved music, and reminded me of how wonderfully connected the Body of Christ truly is. And that worship has no cultural or language boundaries.

It was the perfect segue to leave Haiti and return to the States.

Sunrise on the way back to the airport.
Au Revior!

Friday, November 2, 2012

Haiti Update


We leave on Nov. 12th. Please pray while we are there for our unity and our safety. Hurricane Sandy has caused much flooding throughout the country, so we are unsure of what additional obstacles we may face. 

To those few of you who supported me - may you be blessed abundantly! I am beyond grateful. 

Friday, October 5, 2012

Home for Haiti Photography Sale

You can read the purpose of this trip and why we are raising funds here.

Leave a comment with the photo name and size you want and a way to contact you. 
Sale ends October 28th. 

Please share this post with anyone who may be interested in helping out. Thank you for all your support!

Frozen Tranquility
8x10   $30
11x14  $40

Covered Bridge
8x10  $20
11x14  $35

Sunset Reflections
8x10  $20
11x14  $35

Curricuck Lighthouse
8x10  $20
11x14  $35

Wild Horses
8x10  $20
11x14  $35

At the Starting Line
8x10  $20
11x14  $35

Pelican Posts
8x10  $20
11x14  $35

Summer Day End
8x10  $20
11x14  $35

Calm Waters
8x10  $20

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Strings of Freedom

 There’s a park nearby that has a kite festival every year. The colors and shapes of kites are incredible. Drivers passing by on the highway are treated to a sky filled with these wonders. I remember my attempts to fly kites as a kid. Of course, all I ever had was the cheap plastic kind with Rainbow Bright or some other silly design. I definitely didn’t have a treeless hill to fly it on and more often than not after the first time the line got tangled in the trees, the fun was over.

But I do remember one time…

I think I was around 10 years old perhaps, out in an open field. Finally, the kite caught the wind and began to soar higher and higher. My dad showed me how to let the string out enough to let the kite continue to climb with control so slack in the line wouldn’t make the kite lose altitude from or worse yet come crashing down. The string kept going out all the way to the end which was tied to the handle I was holding onto. And I held on, staring up at the small sight of the kite floating up against a blue sky.

I never once questioned why the kite was attached to a string – that’s just what makes it a kite. How else would you make a kite fly?  

Galatians 5:1 It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery. (NIV)

God wants to set us free and we balk against doing things His way; seeing it only as something to tie us down. We want the perks without the rules and regulations, the grace without the discipline. Is freedom really “no strings attached?” 

When I threw my kite into the air, it fell right back to the ground. If I had gotten the kite into the air and then cut the string, the kite would have fallen back to the ground. Or if my dad hadn’t tied the end of the string to the handle to secure it, the minute the string ran out the kite would have floated away and eventually crashed to the ground. Are you getting the point?  

A kite cannot fly without the tension in the string. We cannot continue to fly higher and soar if there is any slack in our connection with God.

True freedom lifts us up and lets us soar. This world will try and keep us flattened to the ground or tied up in the encroaching trees, whatever those obstacles might be in our lives. We must live in the freedom of the open field with the tension of life as a Christ followers in order to soar the way God intended us to. Then, we can float against His great big sky of grace, anchored to Him who has a firm grip on our string.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Adventures with United Airlines

...a new reality show beginning last fall.

First I want to say that the customer reps (except 1 or 2) that we have dealt with have been kind and as helpful as they could. The issues seem to stem more from company management and policy.

Before I begin, let me refresh your memory on the highlights of our United Experience last year.


Because of United’s inability to accept a Canadian credit card, I booked my plane ticket, JD’s and Joshua’s (at a later date). When JD and Joshua show up at the airport, JD was informed that her ticket had been revoked…a while ago and the computer showed a refund had been requested. Um… I didn’t get a notice or a refund on my credit card. So with minutes to spare, a new ticket had to be purchased.

Meanwhile, our 4th team member’s flight is delayed, as a part for the plane has to be sent from somewhere else. She arrives in D.C. just before we begin boarded for Ghana.

But wait… this plane has the same issue and will now not be leaving until the following afternoon.

Get hotel and food voucher from United and proceed to wait several hours (not exaggerating) in the Nov cold in clothes meant for African weather for the hotel shuttle. Get to hotel and wait another hour only to find out the hotel is full and we must go to a different hotel. (Did I mention it’s now very early morning) Finally get in our room about 3 am.

Fast forward 2 weeks once we are home, I begin the process of trying to get my refund for the revoked ticket. I called and ended up in India or Bangladesh or something. Every time I was given different information and still no refund. I was getting nowhere. After a month of giving United a chance to make it right, I simply disputed the charges on my credit card. Meanwhile, JD sent a message about our experience on Twitter requesting it be passed along.

Shortly thereafter she received a call from the US customer service director. While I think we should have gotten some 1st class free flights anywhere, we did end up with $400 vouchers for each of us to be used within 1 year.


We decided to use our vouchers for a trip to Haiti. Since I was going to be in Canada and booking the flights with my credit card again (fingers crossed) it made sense to do it then.

Call #1:
We got the names, addresses, and flight information into the system. She was unsure of how to process the paper vouchers and trying to get help from a manager. Somehow the phone was disconnected while we were on hold. Houston we have a problem… the number on file to call back was JD’s work number and JD wasn’t at work.

Call #2:
This was one of the few reps who did not provide us good customer service, we’ll call her Bad Day Diva. We had no information, but having been on the phone for an hour already we did not want to start at the beginning again, especially not with Ms. Diva. Luckily, JD was able to check her work voicemail and get the confirmation numbers the rep. had left. (That was a Godsend, because typically you can’t get a confirmation number without credit card information and we hadn’t gotten that far) We decided to hang up with this woman and try again in the morning.

Call #3:
My man Paul. After I explained the situation he told me he was new… only worked there 35 years. Oh he tried and tried to make those vouchers work. He changes the expiration date on the reservation to give us an extra 5 days. This was another godsend. Then he says, “Did anyone mention that you need to convert these paper vouchers to electronic ones?” Ummm….. no. That would have saved us some phone minutes. I get online and he shows me what to do and he tells me there is a whole department that deals with the vouchers. He knows something in that department so he’ll transfer me to that person. Except… Not in the office. He tries to transfer me to the main number and it isn’t working. I take down the number and hang up.

Call #4:
Electronic Voucher Department…. I’m sorry the number you have dialed is no longer in service.

Ummm… didn’t we get these vouchers to restore our faith in United? How is this making us want to purchase from them again?

(3 days in now)

We get the vouchers scanned and go thru the online process of converting them. Oh wait… first I have to take a PDF of the voucher and make it super tiny to attach.

Your voucher has been received; it may take up to 72 hrs to receive your electronic voucher.

...... waiting.....

3 days later… electronic vouchers arrive! HALLELUJAH we have progress!

(6 days of trying to book these tickets…. Beginning to wonder if this is a sign we aren’t supposed to go…)

Call #5:
We’ve got the confirmation numbers. We’ve got the voucher numbers. He puts them in and finally – IT WORKS!!! Magic Mike. Yes, JD actually called him that on the phone. Awkward silence for a moment and then he moved on. He graciously agrees to even waive the $75 of phone booking fees. Give him the credit card number…

I knew it was going too smoothly.

It kept trying to convert my card to Canadian funds because JD’s address was in Canada. Even when he changed the billing address to mine, it still wasn’t working right.

But 3rd time was a charm. And finally the tickets were booked.

This should the end, right? But that wouldn’t be any fun now would it???

A few days later I checked my credit card balance and something didn’t seem right. There was $50 in phone booking fees and JD and Jillian flights were charged twice. I was dreading the call I was about to make – fearing the worst and having flashbacks from last year…. Did I have the strength to do it?

Call #6:
Rep was very understanding and refunded the $50. Magic Mike probably just forgot – there was a lot going on and back and forth between 2 reservations it was an easy oversight. She assured me that the 2nd set of charges wouldn’t go through but she would note the account just in case I had to call back (NOOOOO!!!!!) but she was certain I wouldn’t need to. 20 minutes and it was taken care. Record setting phone call. (And thankfully the 2nd set of charges are gone)

And now we prepare to go, praying that United planes don’t take as long to get off the ground as it does to book a ticket.

Lord, please we are praying there is not a part 3 to this story.