Four years ago today Chris and I got married. It was a hot, hot day in the sunny Okanagan. It was Canada day. We intentionally chose that so we Chris would never forget what day our anniversary was. And so that we could say the fireworks were for us if we were in Canada for our anniversary. We were both sick. Chris more so than me. In fact, I didn’t know if he would be standing up when I walked in the church. He was, thankfully, but to the day he remembers very little about our wedding.
We met here in Haiti back in 2003. I was a youth pastor and was here leading a team of high school students as we came to the mission for two weeks. The founders of the mission were from our church originally and I had actually known about the mission longer than Chris had. He met them here in Haiti and eventually came on staff. He had been working with them for about 5 months when I met him.
Chris was a flirt by nature. I was interested. He was “being nice” :) We stayed in touch over the coming year and in 2004 he decided to visit Vernon on his vacation again. He had visited for a weekend the year before about 3 weeks after we had gotten back from Haiti because he had family not too far away and really liked a bunch of our leaders, so we all hung out. In 2004 he came for a week, and we hung out. We talked about me bringing another group in the summer of 2005.
I would like to mention that during Chris’ first visit in 2003 during some trampolining and chatting he pretty much insulted me and told me that I was living a cushy life in Canada. He meant well. He meant that a lot of people live cushy lives in North America, often because they are afraid to step out of that comfort and do something completely different. Me? I was mad. I stewed. I stewed enough that I ended up writing him a big long email about how arrogant he was. He suggested I call so we could talk. I did. We got over it. For the record, I didn’t do that with guys. EVER. Apparently he got under my skin :)
This is probably all news to our parents. I don’t think I’ve ever told them the story. I only mention it because it was sort of the start of a conversation with me and God that went on for about two years, and resulted in me moving to Haiti. See, Chris was absolutely right. About me anyway. Fear was my biggest hold up. I had never traveled, I had never taken chances, because I was afraid. So then I go to Haiti, of all places, for my big first step out of my comfort zone, and it grabbed me. And everyone saw that it grabbed me. And when Chris said what he said, it got at me because I knew that Haiti had grabbed me, and I already knew the conversations I was having with God. The conversations that sounded like, ” Yeah, but, I just became a youth pastor…”
Those conversations didn’t stop. I would shush them down and eventually something would bring them back up. Maybe it was a news story. Maybe it was a conversation. Some of it felt so random, but I could see that none of it was. God was not letting Haiti fall off my radar. I was asked to become a board member for the mission. Through that and the fundraising we did Chris and I stayed in contact. We also started working towards another team visit in 2005. Through those conversations Chris would say things like, “I really need someone who can be here long term, ” and “I need someone to do the administration stuff. There’s so much and it takes me forever because I’m not good at it.” And then he would throw out, “Hey! You should come work with the mission!” and not in a flirting way. Just in a way that said that he thought it was a good idea. I considered it because I had already thought about it. And then we started having conversations about what it might look like if I did come. I mean, I knew that my spiritual gifts were administration and leadership. When I was getting on the plane in 2005 I knew, and Chris knew, and my parents knew that I would be feeling things out and making some sort of decision over the two weeks. And I did.
The second day were were in Haiti I stood cutting diffusion plates for the filters all. day. long. and looking around and asking myself if this was the life I had seen for myself. And the tears flowed down under my sunglasses because it was nothing like the life I had imagined for myself. And then I felt God saying, “Leslie, don’t worry about it. Enjoy the time here. When it’s time for you to know, you’ll know.” And I was able to not worry and enjoy. And three days before we left I knew with so much certainty that I was able to tell Chris that evening that I was coming back. His response? He just smiled and said, “Good, now we can start making some plans.” See, I was the first person since the founders had left Haiti, besides him, that had committed to working with the mission long term. Indefinitely. For more than a month. He was in a position where the mission could start moving forward rather than just getting by. I called my mom and we both cried on the phone. But we knew it was right.
Chris had already planned a trip to BC for a week again that September, and I had already set my move date for October. This time he stayed with me and my roommate and we hung out the entire week. We started dating about two days after he arrived. When I asked him when he realized he had feelings for me he said it was after we had left. See, he had decided a long time before that if he was going to pursue a relationship with someone then they needed to be interested in being in Haiti long term. I tease him now because he was literally the LAST person to figure out that there was chemistry between us. I kid you not. I had had people asking me for two years what was going on between us. I’m glad it worked out this way because we were both able to make a decision about be working with the mission that wasn’t clouded by a relationship.
So then fast forward to February 14, 2006. Chris proposed and I said yes. And we decided to get married that summer. He thought weddings just threw themselves together. I laughed at him. And then I got on a plane two weeks later to go home and start working out the details. We got married on July 1st surrounded by all of the people we love.
When I look at the last 4 years it amazes me. When I arrived Haiti was coming out of a coup d’etat. In 2006 post-wedding we started making a lot of changes around the mission. All wonderful things that became building blocks for where we are now. In 2007 we went to Jamaica for a friends wedding and had a great time.That summer we started talking to our orphanage about our plans to adopt. We started doing paperwork and getting ready.
In 2008 we brought Olivia home. The mission kept growing. We started two major building projects. We had Matt here. In November I had a miscarriage.
We weren’t planning on a second baby at that point, it just happened. There was so much going on that it felt overwhelming. We literally had three + months of visitors scheduled with only days of turn over time between. We never mentioned it to anyone besides our friends here in Haiti and our families, who in turn told some people. We wanted to wait until we had that first doctors appointment. Unfortunately I miscarried the week before that was supposed to happen. We didn’t say anything here because we weren’t in a place where we could handle what we knew would be a lot of care from people. We just weren’t up for it, so we grieved as a family. I can see now so many things that have come out of that. I would even say good things. Truth is, we weren’t ready for a second child then. Olivia was only about 9 months old. We learned about resources here in Haiti that we had no idea existed, things we would not have known about otherwise. The day after it happened Chris Mum and sister arrived for their planned visit, so we had family here and I am so grateful for that. It helped Chris and I work through a lot of stuff over time. Yes, we grieved, but I see God’s hand through it all.
That New Year’s Eve I watched my husband run out of a burning building. That wasn’t fun at all. But again saw how God had protected him. A few months later we would have our van lit on fire and receive the threat notes that would start our “legal adventures” that are still ongoing. In there we’ve had adoption stuff too, as you all know. Last year we had tandem malaria and I had Dengue.
This year we have experienced the earthquake, we have literally fought for our daughter and we have continued to see the mission grow.
I will be honest, there are days when I wish that we did have that cushy life where I would be a soccer mom and Chris would come home at 5 pm from some sort of job. I would say that we would be driving a mini van but anyone who knows Chris knows that would never happen. Unless the mini van was actually a Volkswagen bus and we just called it a mini van. I wish for that some days. Usually they are the days when life here is overwhelming and draining. But then I go to bed and wake up the next morning and am thankful that we are here, doing something we love and making a difference. That we get to do it together every day. That because of it we can both give our daughter time outs throughout the day as needed and read her stories and do the other things that most families just have to juggle. I’m so thankful that my daughter has a wonderfully close relationship with her Daddy because she can be with him all day long.
Yes, the last four years have been a ride. We often find ourselves telling each other, “Well, at least life isn’t boring.” I remind Chris about all the stories that we’ll have to tell our grandkids. Not that they’ll believe most of them I’m sure. So, would I trade it for anything? No. And would I want to do it with anyone else? No. I love that Chris and I are so right for each other in so many ways. Sometimes we couldn’t be more different and we’re like oil and vinegar. And other days we are so on the same page. Through all of that we’re learning to share who we really are, to communicate and to love each other. It makes me laugh when Chris’ Mum tells me that I’m probably the only person in this world strong enough to stand up to Chris. For those that know him, they know that he has a very strong personality. And it’s funny to me because before I met him I didn’t like conflict. I didn’t like being direct with people. But then one day a guy told me I was living a cushy life, and well, here we are. I know I’m not an easy person to live with either and yet he puts up with me and tells me how much he loves me and how beautiful I am even when I give him that “You have got to be kidding me,” look because I am covered in sweat and can only think about taking a shower. I see how we are rubbing off the rough edges in each other and I see what God meant when he said that man and woman would become one.
I get it and it’s amazing.
Oh, and for the record… after I got back from my first visit to Haiti I showed a friend a picture of Chris and I said, “I think this is the guy I’m gonna marry.” Which was a little crazy considering I barely knew him, and well, he lived in HAITI. I had always thought women that said those kinds of things were silly. I guess that’ll show me.