Rebirth

It’s spring in the Northern Hemisphere. Haiti is just on the border of that, so spring here isn’t as noticeable as in some places. I keep thinking that in Canada the snow is melting, the grass is peeking out, and new flowers will soon be making their appearance. I always looked forward to spring when I was living there. The spring rains would slowly wash away the grub from built up road sand, and things would start to turn green. The day when we could open the windows for the first time in the season and let the fresh air in was always exciting. Seeing the garden start to break out in color and the trees bud up was the sure sign that winter was over and we were moving into a new season.

Life is like that too. We go through seasons. There are times when things feel like the long drawn out winter, and then we burst forth into a sort of spring where all becomes new again.

I feel like our family is starting to be renewed. That we’re going through a rebirth of sorts.

If you’ve been reading the blog for over a year you know that we’ve gone through some challenging things. And, if you’ve been reading the blog for any length of time, you’ve probably read me saying that a very small percentage of our “real” lives makes it’s appearance on here.

In the last few years we’ve had our fair share of hard times. And, because of the nature of those experiences it wasn’t alway possible, or a good idea to write about them on here. While I still believe that there are a lot of things that aren’t appropriate to share on here, I do feel like we’re in a place where it’s okay to talk about some aspects of those things. And through that, healing takes place.

In 2009 we experienced an arson attack on a mission vehicle and were left with death threats toward our family. What followed was over a year of legal issues around the whole thing, and wow – a storm of criticism about it. It’s amazing how many experts there are around issues like this, and that none of them have ever walked in our shoes. None of them knew the fear that boiled up in us within the first 24 hours when we realized who was responsible. Our critics were so focused on pointing out what they felt we’d done wrong in the situation, rather than trying to understand how it feels to be totally exposed, wondering if I should move my kid upstairs into my room at night so no one could shoot her through her bedroom window. They didn’t want to put their advice and opinions aside and ask us what it felt like. They accused us of many things, and very rarely asked us our side in the situation. And if they did ask our side, it was often only to humor us and it was evident that their minds were already made up.

That whole situation brought on some attention from certain individuals that decided to stir things up a bit. I think in their minds they believed they were doing what was right, but it brought no end of grief for our family. In an attempt to explain our side of things we “took the opportunity” (she says sarcastically) to talk to a few journalists. What I saw come out of that is still to this day some of the worst journalism I have ever seen. Seriously terrible.

It was about that point that I started to coil up in a little ball and became very guarded on the blog. Here we were just trying to be honest, to share ourselves, share our lives, share our experiences, share our inadequacies, share our learning experiences – and people were trying to use it against us. SO. NOT. COOL.

Because of other things involved in that whole situation we also realized that we just couldn’t talk about certain things for safety reasons, so we stopped. In fact, you might remember that the blog almost went private. I seriously struggled with that decision. I was so worn out emotionally from the criticism, and the criticism that that criticism stirred up, that I didn’t know if I could keep putting myself, ourselves, out there.

Around the same time the earthquake happened, and we realized that we had some important things to say when our blog went viral a couple days after the quake. You can still find it on msnbc’s website if you search for all things Haiti. I was asked to write for Esquire because of that. That still baffles me. I wrote for ESQUIRE magazine. In turn, Esquire Russia asked if they could publish some of our stuff. Crazy. I remember holding an actual print copy of that edition. I couldn’t read it, but was able to make out certain dates in headers that I knew referenced our blog posts. It was at least a 5 page spread. Of our blog! Humbling.

So, it was affirmed that the blog was a way to speak, and people wanted to read. I knew we had to stop caring what the haters had to say about things, but I was still very guarded.

We were going through the nastiest part of our adoption too. Things became ugly, and much of it couldn’t be shared. It couldn’t be shared because it would have jeopardized whether or not Olivia ever became a Rolling. We saw corruption, and we realized that child trafficking is happening in Haiti every day from the very offices that claim to be protecting Haiti’s children. It doesn’t always look like people trying to sneak kids out of the country illegally. Sometimes, often times trafficking looks like people demanding bribes to do what they should do legally. Demanding a bribe to sign an adoption paper is trafficking. You are financially benefiting from a child. It’s extortion too. Looking back there is no doubt in my mind that our adoption only every got completed because of God’s repeated intervention. We were so blessed to connect with people who, like us, believed in fighting corruption. They were willing to put their jobs on the line for it, and to this day I’m sure our adoption was one of the least expensive ones done in Haiti in the past few years because some people chose to take a stand for what is right. At one point we sat in the office of the Minister of Social affairs explaining our situation. We learned that not long after that he was no longer in his position because he was trying to stand up against corruption. The emotional toll that all took on us was amazing. I shared some of it, asked you to pray, but there was so much that didn’t get printed here because it was too sensitive.

In the past year we’ve gone through another set of trials within the organization. I still don’t feel like it’s appropriate to discuss that in any detail here and therefore I won’t. I can say that it’s been hard. It’s challenged us to our core beliefs. We’ve hurt a lot. We’ve questioned God’s direction. We’ve had to seek a lot of wisdom. We’ve had to be willing to stand up for some things because it was the right thing to do.

What I see happening now in our family is a rebirth of sorts. I see it in small ways. After experiencing the amount of stress that we’ve been through, it’s noticeable. To experience the levels of grief that we have, it’s noticeable.

I can still vividly remember moments, standing in my kitchen, and wondering what on earth we were going to do. Of being afraid. Of weeping in a way that I don’t know I ever have. Literally keeling over in gut wrenching sobs. To the point where I felt completely spent and emptied of myself. Crying out to God. Begging for him to tell us it was time to go home. And then hearing it.

That still, small voice.

That still, small voice that said, “It’s not time. I’m not done with you here, yet.”

Then the voice got a bit louder.

And the tears stopped.

And instead of fear, peace and hope started to slowly bubble up.

And then joy in the midst of despair.

And a very deep, sure knowledge that we were being cradled in Gods arms like the children we are, deeply loved and so very cared for.

Yes, what we were experiencing in all these situations was hard, but it was not the end. It was a process of coming to the end of ourselves for that time (because I believe that it won’t be the last time), and realizing that God was peeling away a layer of ourselves. A layer of trying to figure things out on our own. Of reasoning through things on our own strength. Of wondering what we were capable of.

He used those moments to show me very clearly that he had called us here according to his good purpose.  He reminded me that the sin of man often leaves us with situations to navigate through that are ugly. That are horrible. That are full of pain and grief.

But, the thing that matters in those moments is the seeking. The needing. The realization that we are desperate for wisdom. That we can’t do anything completely on our own strength.

In all those situations we started to see what God saw. That he had chosen us, for such a time as this. To be his chosen ones for this ministry. He called us here and over the years he has affirmed that calling repeatedly in our lives. Some have questioned that, but you know what? It’s not up to them. It’s between us and God. In the end, there will only be us and him having that conversation that involves the words well done.

In the past few years I have seen us change. I have seen us deepen as people. I have seen our character get tested and develop. I have seen us develop thicker skin. I have seen us learn to put aside things that don’t matter. I have seen us realize that we are capable of more than we ever anticipated.

And now, now I see us moving into spring. Things are growing in us.

Yes, when I look at my husbands face I see more lines there, but they are the lines that have been carved from experiences. From deliberation. From pain. And some from laughter. I see his hair, my hair, and a lot more gray, but we wear it like a badge of honor. The stress came, but it didn’t defeat us.

I think back to so many sleepless nights, and now I see my ability to compartmentalize in a good way. I can better step back from a situation now and decide how much of my time and energy it merits, then let it be. And sleep peacefully.

Most of all, I’ve seen us learn some valuable lessons about integrity. The most important being that integrity isn’t what you do when everyone is watching, it’s what you do when no one is watching. It’s much easier to make things look good on the surface, but everything will eventually come to light, so it’s what you do in the private times, in the places where you think no one will see, that really matter. I am honored to say that I am married to a man who has more integrity that anyone I know. Chris will absolutely stand for what is right, no matter what. He has been criticized, he has been challenged, he has been lied to and lied about, he has faced rumors – and yet his integrity is still as strong as ever. And you know what? Those lies, those rumors, those that are responsible? We don’t worry about them, because in the end they don’t answer to us. Just like us, they will have to stand before a just God and answer to Him. And we know we can stand before him with a clear conscience. That feels good.

I have seen our marriage weather the storms and deepen. It has become stronger. We have seen each other at our worst. When the stress was overwhelming. When we said things that hurt. When post-traumatic stress was wearing away at us and causing us to react to things in ways that weren’t “normal”. I have seen us clash. And, I have seen us tread through that, sometimes feeling like we can barely keep our heads above water. But, eventually our feet touched down. And we could stand a bit. And breathe a bit. We’ve learned to communicate better. To be more gracious to each other. To remember that our marriage has to be the core, with God as the very center. Ministry may change or we may move on, but we will still be married. Our children will grow and move on into their own lives, but we will still be married. It’s amazing too how many times I’ve seen people, “well intended” people, people that call themselves Christians and friends, trying to pit us against each other. I am so grateful that God has given us wisdom to see through all of that and to stand against it.

In the past 6 months I have seen little peeks of spring in our family. I have seen laughter come when before there would have been anger or hurt. It’s good to be able to laugh at a situation that really, when you step back, is ridiculous. Not to make light of it, but to see it for what it is. That wisdom and freedom is such a blessing.

I have seen us focusing more on our family. I have seen us focusing more on our calling here. Of being able to say, “Focusing on this is NOT why we’re here. We’re here to lead the mission, and this needs to take up space in the back of our brains.” I believe that’s what God wants from us. THIS, leading the mission, being a family, being married – is our calling. Not that other stuff. We are here to lead and guide the mission, to lead our staff, to build into them. The other stuff is just stuff that requires some of our time, but not the most important part of our time.

I have seen our staff move forward. There is joy. There is laughter. There is trust. There is openness. There is encouragement. Others have tried to destroy that in the past few years, but it hasn’t worked. That, is a blessing. I feel like we’re becoming more of a family of sorts.

I see God blessing the work here. I believe that he blesses that which is set apart by him. He called people to start Clean Water for Haiti. He called us to lead it. We have tried to be faithful to that calling. We have tested it over and over and still he tells us to stay and lead. And he is blessing this. We have gone through lean times, and yet he provides in very specific ways. When we leave things in his hands and just move forward with what we know we are to do, he blesses. He has never left us wanting. For example, we shared most recently that we had cut back our work week in an effort to be responsible with the funds that we did have while we waited for God to provide what we needed to go back up to full production. We shared that we had received a large donation that was going to help towards it. A couple weeks ago we received another large donation. Large enough to put us back up to full production for the rest of the year. We were kind of excited :) Most of all, for Chris and I, it was an affirmation that we were doing what God had called us to. He was tangibly showing us that we are where he wants us, doing what he wants us to do. To those who prove faithful, much will be given. 

I’m sure you’ve heard it said, it’s not the destination, but the journey that’s important. I believe that. When I first moved to Haiti, I had no idea what the future would look like. I had no idea how long I would be here. I had no idea that I would end up married, with two kids, far from the soccer mom. I had no idea. And yet, I can see how perfect God’s plan is. He knew I would fit the needs of the mission. He knew that Chris and I would be perfect partners, complimenting each other when needed, and grinding against each other when needed. He knew exactly what he was doing when we held a sweet, little Haitian baby for the first time. He knew what he was doing when he placed a baby boy in my womb instead of the girl that Chris insisted we needed. He knew what we needed, when we needed it.

He knew.

And he knows.

He knows where we’ve come from, and where we are going. He knows that we are still tender, vulnerable. He knows the words we need to hear from the mouths of those who encourage. He sets the prayers we need in the hearts of those who lift us up. He gives us the grace we need when we screw up. He gives us the wisdom we need to lead well. He gives us the affirmation we need when we doubt. He gives us the hope we need when we feel discouraged. He provides for us when we ask.

I know that I am still going to be guarded with what gets shared on here. Some because there are things that are not for the interweb. And some because we are still recovering. We are still licking some of our wounds. We are still healing. But, we are. Healing, that is. It’s a process. But we are.

Healing.

Being reborn.

Oh, and just because we still have some sort of sense of humor, I will admit that there’s a little sign on our bulletin board that says:

“Don’t try to win over the haters – you are not the jerk whisperer.”

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About Leslie

I'm Leslie. Wife. Mother. Missionary. In the day to day my husband and I are responsible for running Clean Water for Haiti, a humanitarian mission that builds and distributes water filters to Haitian families. Living in Haiti full time provides lots of stories, and as I tell my husband, our grandkids probably won't believe most of them. Maybe writing them down will give me some credibility.

One thought on “Rebirth

  1. Thank you for sharing how you have journeyed through the hardships, how God has brought you & your family “through the fire” giving you strength, peace, hope and affirmation that you are doing what God wills you to do.
    It’s only when God is all we have, that we know for sure that God is all we need.

    Isaiah 41: 9 – 10:
    “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”
    Be encouraged, God is faithful, His TRUTH will & ALWAYS prevails; keep up the good work that you are doing for Him & His people in Haiti!

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