Scary Good

Do you ever have those moments where you have a realization that you’re stepping deep into something new, and you might be kind of terrified, but in a good way? That feeling that you have no idea what you’re doing, or how to do it, you just know that it’s going to get done?

I’ve been coming to that realization over the past few days. In hindsight I can see that it’s something that’s been brewing in me for a while. Maybe years even, but it’s just now that the pieces come together. I love how God is so patient as we go through this slow process of seeing things in ourselves – things he’s planted there that he wants to use for his purposes, but things that we might not be ready to face yet.

In this post I shared a bit about this lovely lady joining our staff in August:

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You guys, there are so many moments these days where I find myself thinking things like, “This is the second to last time I have to do this before Peggy comes!” I’m so excited that Peggy will be part of our staff because I already love her. She’s a complete sweetheart with a giant heart, and I think she’s going to add so much to our team. I’m also excited because I’m realizing that those thoughts are coming from a place of me outgrowing the place God first put me in when he brought me to Haiti, and that in that process, in his perfect timing, he’s filled that hole to enable me to move into new groanings.

I know the word “groanings” might seem like a strange choice, but isn’t that what it is? When we truly look back on the process of God taking us from one thing to the next we can see times where our very being was groaning.

Maybe it’s a frustration with something.

Maybe it’s wishing that someone, anyone, could fill a particular need that we see.

Maybe it’s just recognizing that we are in need.

It’s those internal conversations we have. It’s the waning of energy or enthusiasm for something that we previously had excitement for or were enthusiastic about. It’s the questioning if something is wrong with us because we no longer get excited about those things. Is there something wrong with me? Am I not wanting to serve any more? I thought this was where I was supposed to be…

When I was going through the process of realizing God was calling me into missions, something I thought I would never do, there was so much groaning. Two years of groaning. Lots of “Yes, but…” conversations in my heart and head. And yet, when I finally said, “Okay God, I’m jumping in,” the peace was overwhelming and I can look back and see that all those groanings were part of the process. It was me coming to terms with the change in direction, the change in calling, the change of heart. Deep down my heart was yearning for something more, and the rest of me had to come on board.

As we get closer to Peggy’s arrival I feel like my eyes are being opened to the groanings that I didn’t know were actually that. In so many ways I see now that my very core has been yearning for something different, and that it was God working in me to show me that it was time to start focusing on something different than what I have been. There are reasons why what used to get me excited and what challenged me no longer does. I’ve outgrown those things.

When I first started with the mission I got excited about taking on big projects like revamping or designing something that would help our programs. I still love that aspect of things, but I haven’t needed to do much of that in the last few years. We’ve got some well running things in place, and while there might be tweaks here and there, nothing has needed to be completely revamped or started fresh. I’ve wondered why I feel like a bunch of my work is boring and hard slogging. In reality, it hasn’t been challenging or new for me. And that’s not a bad thing.

There have been times where a frustration, even in circumstances with the best of intentions, have pushed me to be more active. For many years we had people back home get graphic designers to volunteer their time in designing promotional materials for the mission. In every situation, while we appreciated the time and effort, something was just not hitting where we wanted or needed it to hit. I realized it was because Chris and I have very strong feelings about how we represent the people of Haiti and the work we do as an organization. Trying to communicate our vision and reasons over email and going back and forth about details is hard. Deep down I knew I could design our materials to send the message that we strive to communicate, so I did the work. I learned a program and now whenever we need new materials I can pull those together and get them done in a way that pulls everything together and consistently represents what we do.

And you know what? I love doing it.

I can literally spend days pouring over every detail of a brochure. A nudge here. A shrink there. It fuels a level of creativity in me that God has put there.

I love to write. That’s why we have this little blog here. And apparently you enjoy reading it because, well, you’re reading it! I like the opportunity to take all those things rolling around in my head and heart, and to put them out there. Most of the time I write because I just need to process what’s going on for me. The fact that others can read it and get something out of it too is just a bonus. Sometimes I realize I can be a voice in a situation that maybe wouldn’t otherwise get shared. Being in the mission field in a country like Haiti and having that opportunity is not something I take lightly. It’s something that weighs heavy on me. How do I share things in a way that respect and honor the people we’re called to serve? If any of them read what I write, how would they feel? Sometimes it means pushing my feelings and opinions aside and choosing not to share certain things, even though it might make a great story.

My heart has been groaning in the past few years over words. Wanting to write more, but feeling that there isn’t the time or head space. I think there are writers who like the idea of it, and do it, and then there are those who need to do it to release certain things. I’m learning there are definite times where I fall into the later category.

I love taking pictures. This past weekend I had the chance to do something that has been so much more than what I thought it would be. It kind of has me reeling.

Some friends here are running a beading project, which was started to help some local families earn money to cover their rent. The beaders roll paper beads, then the ladies running the project bead them into a variety of items. They’re in the process of ramping things up and trying to develop their website and sales portal. They asked if I would be willing to take some product shots for them for the website. I thought it would be fun, and felt honored that they’d asked. I’ve been playing around with my camera that I got in January and have had fun with it at get togethers and have just shared those pictures with friends here.

I wanted to do this for them, knowing how much good pictures can draw people in, especially when you’re trying to sell something that will have a greater impact. I had some ideas, and on Saturday as we were at a local resort for a ladies day, we took about an hour and did the pictures.

You guys, this was SO fun for me! And eye opening.

We had spent a bit of time talking about ideas, so I had some things rolling around in my head. The picture taking was fun, but taking it from that through the editing to end product made me see that I could take that idea or vision in my head, and make it a reality. When I showed our friend Maggie the early edits she said, “I want to buy all of this stuff, and I make it!!!”

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A sneak peek! To learn more about Mowi Beads go to www.mowibeads.com. New pictures coming soon!

I’ve always had a love of photography. I literally had an entire Rubbermaid container of pictures in storage at my parents house from just my teen years. No exaggeration. The hang up for me was getting the ideas in my head to become reality. I can read and read and read, but technical stuff like users manuals doesn’t sink in. I’m a hands on learner. I need to hear and see and touch to fully comprehend something. I need to be able to talk through things with someone to pull it all together in my brain. My frustration with photography was the technical side – how to get from shooting in basic automatic, to manual where there’s much more creative control.

This weekend it came together, and this week because my work load has been lightened up I’ve had the time to be pouring over online photography lessons and practicing with my camera. And it’s exciting!

I feel like something has unlocked in my brain and heart. I can actually do this.

It’s gotten me thinking about all those groanings. What was it about the work that I was initially doing for the mission that left me feeling fulfilled and excited, and what’s changed about that since?

It’s the creativity.

When I was first here, no one else could do it. Chris didn’t think on that level. We could talk about a problem and he would say, “I have no idea what to do with this,” and I would find myself already running ahead designing a program or system or form to make it work. This is why we’re a good team.

Since then, those systems have continued to work well for us, with tweaking here and there. The work involved now is maintenance for me. It’s not creative, but routine. There isn’t much new involved. Yet it takes up my time. So much time that the other things that I see as issues and frustrations get put on the back burner. Over the years I’ve found myself slugging through things because there is nothing new under the sun. I loathe certain jobs because to me they feel mundane, yet they fall onto my desk because they’re admin related. I get frustrated with some of those things hovering in the background because I see the need, but there hasn’t been someone to fill that need over the long term. I have ideas and plans, but haven’t had the time to implement them or to learn how to do something. We kind of keep hobbling along when I know it could be so much more, if only we had the right person to take it on.

Just yesterday it all came together for me.

I am that person.

I’m the person that will be filling that need. Not because there is no other solution, but because that’s the best solution. It’s the solution that God has been pushing us towards for a long time. That he’s been putting pieces in place to prepare us for, for a long time. I just didn’t see it.

Track with me here.

Those groanings have purpose. They are the process of God showing us that what we are in is not where we’re meant to stay. When we move to that next place it’s fulfilling and we feel we’re making great contributions, that our gifts and skills are being used. When we outgrow those things they are hard to get excited about. It’s not that we don’t see the need or want to help, we just don’t feel as enthusiastic about it as we once did. This has been me to a “t” for the last couple of years. I knew it needed to be done and I was it, so I’ve been doing it, but I haven’t been really excited about any of it for a while. It’s shown in my attitude and enthusiasm. I haven’t been great in the “joy” department, if you get my drift. But, I’ve needed to go through this process so I could see the next step, to fully appreciate God’s timing and his preparation. I’ve also needed to go through it so I would be able to fully release some of the control over these things.

When Peggy joins our staff she’ll be taking over the things that have become the day to day “maintenance” type jobs I do. Not because I hate them, but because my time needs to be focused on other projects that are big needs for the mission. In the past, handing over any of these tasks has been hard for me. Sometimes it’s been because I know I’m just going to have to take it back in a few months. At other times it’s because I wasn’t sure that it wouldn’t lead to more work for me in the long run between the training and follow up.

In the past couple of months as we’ve started moving towards Peggy’s arrival I’ve been really thinking about what this will be like for me personally. It’s a lot of transition to go from my entire work day looking like one thing to it looking like something completely different that we’ve never done before. It’s kind of scary. Scary good. 

I have never had someone specifically here to help me. This means I need to be intentional about figuring out what tasks and jobs to hand off. I need to be okay giving direction in this area. Kind of scary. Scary good.

I need to think about what other things I haven’t been able to do and would like to. How do I arrange my day going forward? If I don’t need to be sitting in front of my computer doing accounting or general admin stuff, what does that look like? I literally need to revamp my entire definition of “work”. A lot of scary. Scary good.

What if I can actually be creative in my work again? What if that creativity can meet other needs for the mission? What if pouring over website design, rather than accounting is exactly what God has in mind now? What if spending days, weeks, months, years learning my camera means that you can see more of what we do? That you’ll engage more and know better what the needs are? What if it’s a way of sharing a different side of Haiti and her people than what typically gets seen in promoting support for aid organizations? What if having more time to write means I might be able to say things that others aren’t, things that challenge or get conversation started?

Realizing that I’m the person that God has had in mind all this time to fill these needs is scary. I’ve been looking for other sources. Someone back home that can do the web design and maintenance to relieve our board member that’s doing it right now so he can do other things for the organization. Someone else that could take beautiful images of what we do. Thoughts of “I wish…”

But then I do this…

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And this…

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And the pieces fall together that I’m that person. That God has stirred up those groanings in me with a purpose – because it was me all along that he wanted for this. To serve the mission this way. I needed to get unsettled and frustrated so I would be completely ready to hand things over when he brought the right person along. I needed to feel that I needed something more, because I do. I need to feel more because he’s put things inside of me that I’m not fully using, that are wanting out and wanting to be used so he can do more with this whole ministry he’s called us to.

I needed to come to terms with the fact that I am a creative person who needs to have that be part of my every day work, not just for things like crafts. In the past I’ve compartmentalized it. It’s something I do, not something I am. I have thought I had to put it aside or put it away to do my “real” work. And yet, as I step back I realize so clearly that when the opportunity for creativity isn’t there I push and shove against it and I’m pretty darn cranky. I wonder why my brain tells me I have to do one thing while my heart and everything in my being is wanting to go another direction. Realizing all this I kind of feel like this giant light bulb has gone off above my head.

In the past I’ve been happiest when my work has a balance of creativity and me using my gifts and skills in the areas of administration and leadership to work towards something bigger than myself. Until today I’ve identified myself as an administrative person, but I’m realizing that’s not who I am. I’m actually a creative person with high administrative skills. The administrative skills are a means to an end for me, not the thing I LOVE to do. They’re a tool for taking a vision and making it reality, whether it’s figuring out how to plan and coordinate a conference for 600 students, or designing brochures. There is administration involved in both of those things, but there is also a high level of creativity. It’s the creativity and challenge that I crave, that keeps me engaged and excited.

Being able to use all of it in ministry is when I feel the most fulfilled and in my “sweet spot”, and doesn’t God want all of us in that sweet spot where we can see more clearly the people that he’s created each of us to be? He’s put all of these things in us, don’t you think it makes him so happy when we realize that and want to use those things for him? Sigh.

You know what is great about connecting with those groanings? It’s that when you do, and you see the pieces coming together, what you thought might be hard often isn’t. I know that going into this whole new stage with Peggy being here is going to mean a lot of transition for not just me, but also Chris. I’m not the only one that needs to rewrite my definition of work. As I’ve been mulling this over I was wondering what the conversation was going to be like when I told him what’s been rolling around in my head and heart. In the past it’s come out as frustration, thinking that I needed to do more of one thing and less of something else, of blaming anything and everything for why I was frustrated and unhappy. Oh, the groaning. His response when I shared all of this? “There’s so much to be said for loving your work.” He knows. He’s been on the receiving end of the frustration and me pushing against and around. He’s been here for the tears and the confusion, and I think maybe there was some sweet relief to hear my words, “I’m excited to see what it feels like to be happy doing what I do again.”

Funny how we can learn the same lessons over and over in life, isn’t it?

This is all so exciting to me. And scary. Scary good. 

As a fellow missionary here in Haiti regularly says, “We’re going to do it afraid!”

~Leslie

 

Subtle Stress

It’s always amazing to me how stress can creep up on us. Over the years Chris and I, because of some of the major issues we’ve had to deal with, have gotten pretty good at managing things. Typically, when something comes up now, we just do what we need to do and often catch ourselves talking about it later and noticing the differences in how we’re processing or coping in a situation that several years ago would have had us not sleeping, reeling and not able to focus on anything else. When we were back in Canada on our sabbatical in 2010 one of the best things that we did for our own personal well-being, as well as family and marriage, was to spend a couple of months in Post Traumatic Stress counselling.

Aside from connecting with an amazing counselor that we now have in the friend category in our lives, we were able to learn some tools to help us cope and process.When things are going on, those things are deeply rooted and are a natural way of dealing with things now. On that list are things like voicing things like fear, frustration, etc. Actually allow ourselves to feel, I guess. As we share, it’s recognizing that we each will process things differently, and that all of those processing things and feelings are valid, even if they aren’t the same as what the other might be going through. Sometimes it’s okay to cry. For me this is a big one because I’m a natural crier and it’s my body’s way of physically letting go of those feelings. I usually feel wasted, but lighter afterwards, like I’ve flushed out all the crud. I think one of the other big things is perspective. Being able to emotionally step back and put things in order of importance, deciding how much time and energy to give something, and seeing where it fits in the bigger picture of things is something that we’ve gotten better at.

Despite all those things though, the stress can still creep up and invade, and sometimes we don’t even really understand where it’s coming from until we start taking off the layers. That’s where I’m at right now. I’ve been feeling overwhelmed, but under the surface and didn’t realize that’s what it was until yesterday. I’m doing life and yet just sort of feeling “off”. Like I’m not quite there yet. When I start feeling that way, it’s hard for me to be a good mom and wife. My patience is limited because I just feel agitated. Once I start realizing the causes, I need to take time to work through the process of taking care of the things that I can, to essentially bring myself down a bit.

So, what’s been going on here?

Well, all in all things have actually been pretty good, thus the subtlety. I honestly didn’t realize I was feeling this stressed out.

You’re going to laugh when I tell you the first part of this, because it is so obviously something that should be incredibly stressful – but we were pretty chill about it and just rolled with it.

Back story… when Chris’ parents were here last week his mom mentioned that their shower in the dorms was backing up a bit and asked if there was any chance the septic tank was full. I smiled and said that it wasn’t a big deal, sometimes the pipes in the round house get clogged and the shower backs up, I would have Chris check on it after they left.

And then Yonese went down to start cleaning up the dorms on Friday after their visit. And she told me there was a big problem in that shower because it was full of water. Chris checked it out. Yeah, it was full of sewage.

I wish that was where it ended.

He came upstairs a few minutes later and very calmly said, “Um, yeah. I need you to stop what you’re doing and come downstairs because we have an emergency on our hands. I need you and Yonese to help clean out the dorms while I try to unblock the shower in the small dorm and get the septic to drain into the tank. I think there’s a big blockage.”

He was so calm about it that I thought he was exaggerating. (Because he does that from time to time…) I *may* have let out an exasperated sigh and said something along the lines of “Is this really something I need to come help with???”

And then I went downstairs. And yes, it was bad enough that the large dorm shower was full of water. But what was worse was the that small dorm had not only a full shower, but also 1-2 inches of standing sewage water through most of it. The bathroom. The main room. The small storage room where we keep everything from sheets and towels to our personal luggage and our bankers boxes of previous years filter forms.

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This was after at least half an hour of sweeping. Anywhere that’s wet had sitting water.

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Chris going in to snake the shower, which had about 10 inches of standing water in it.

And then we went to work. Yonese and I grabbed brooms and just started pushing water out the door. And the whole time I just kept thinking things like:

“I’m so grateful we live in a place where it’s all concrete construction and not drywall, carpet etc.”

“People often think what we do is amazing and “glamorous”. I don’t think they realize that sometimes it means you get to be ankle deep in poo water.”

“That just splashed my face…”

“We always try to make sure that we don’t ask our staff to do something we wouldn’t do ourselves. I guess tandem poo water sweeping is pretty much the definition of that…”

And I would try not to focus on the fact that there were shreds of toilet paper floating by me.

Now we are in the process of digging, and sadly not a swimming pool like Olivia was hoping. Our septic tank was full and overflowing and it wasn’t the type you could pump. Needless to say we’re making some design changes on the new one…

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Busting into the leach lines to do the first assessment.

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The not a swimming pool hole and the third load of dirt to go. And our poor lawn…

And yes, it’s been stressful, but definitely no where near where it could be.

  • We’re grateful for the fact that we have several buildings on the property, and each one is on it’s own septic tank. This means we can go and shower and use the bathroom and do laundry down in the round house during the day and feel mostly normal.
  • We have a fabulous staff that have been rock stars, whether it’s been Yonese bleaching the things that she can clean up at this point, or the crew of guys that have been digging a hole in our yard for the last few days.
  • The sewage smell has really been minimal. And this is a miracle in and of itself because we had to cut open the section of pipe coming from our building into the tank to let the pressure off and give it a place to drain the overflow. We literally have a pit of standing water with a section of 6 inches missing from the pipe. It’s mostly grey water going down there now from doing dishes, so I think that helps. BUT it could be so much worse.
  • We’re thankful this happened days after our last visitors of the season left. We have nothing else scheduled for a long time and no pressure to make it all better before a certain date. While it’s a minor inconvenience, it’s not the end of the world.
  • We have a trained plumber on our staff, who is meticulous in his work. He did all the plumbing in our building and does a great job. Being able to keep this stuff in house means less cost to the mission when stuff like this comes up.

So yeah, that is a bit of the stress causer right there, but honestly, it hasn’t been that bad. I feel it a bit in the sense that we’re having to think about how we use water in our house every day, but we should be thinking about those things or be reminded of them regularly. And honestly, I think the biggest stressor out of all of it is Alex. He wants to be where the action is, but sometimes gets in the way. It doesn’t bother the guys, but frustrates Chris, so then I have to try and keep him occupied while trying to do other things and get stuff done. And the whole time he’s fighting it because he wants to be back down in the yard. It’s times like this where I’m reminded of what a blessing Yonese is to us because she’s that extra set of hands and eyes and helps us out with him SO MUCH.

So that’s one thing.

Yesterday I came face to face with a surprise stressor. This might sound totally crazy, but hear me out.

Our printer/copier.

First off, we love this thing for so many reasons. Part of my job is to get things like training manuals printed and put together, training posters printed and laminated, and all of our installation forms printed and ready to go, just to name a few.

All of these things are double sided, so back in the day when we just had an inkjet printer I would, no exaggeration, spend two weeks printing. I would have to do one side, then the other, or just use more paper and do single sided pages. But I had to babysit the printer because the ink would run out and the printer wouldn’t stop. When we upgraded I specifically wanted something that would do double sided printing in color. Four years ago when we were looking for printers the only real option was a more office grade printer/copier that would do duplex in color.

It does a nice job for the most part, but the toner cartridges are expensive and need to be brought in specially. If we haven’t had regular visitors or I forget to plan ahead and make sure we have a supply here in country, running out means we can’t use the printer – period. It shuts down with an error message and until you replace one toner, it won’t work.

The drum unit, the part that holds all the toners, needs to be replaced every 1-2 years, depending on use. Last fall our printer started dumping ink all over the page. I ordered new cartridges, because sometimes the old ones wear out, especially if you refill them. Replaced them, but the print quality was still poor. We ordered a new drum unit and drum belt (the part that pulls the paper under the toner rollers) and they came in with Chris’ parents. They’re fragile. They didn’t travel well. I tried to put them in and while the printer works, the color print quality isn’t fabulous.

As I was working on things yesterday and doing everything recommended I was able to get to a place where I could be logical about the whole thing. Chris and I had already talked about the fact that the drum unit might not work well. We do have an inkjet printer as a back up and had been using that for the last 6 weeks or so but it just ran out of two colors of ink and when I tried to find them at the office supply store we checked in Port a couple weeks ago they didn’t carry them.

I realized that we could just keep using the big printer/copier for most things. Our day to day is things like printing in black and white, which works fine, or running things off that aren’t important and just for in house. If there are other things that are more “special” we can still use the inkjet, right?

Ah, but the ink!

This is the other part of the subtle stress. This stuff always happens when we really need the printer. Never fails. Definition of Murphy’s Law.

As we moved into the new year I realized that I wanted to put the effort into making an organization binder, so all of the things running around in my brain can be in the same place. I do have a day timer, but it sits next to my computer and it’s more for jotting down work stuff that needs to be done.

To give you an idea, I wanted a place where I could do my meal planning and master shopping lists for bigger grocery runs, plan blog posts (or jot down ideas so I might actually write the posts), a “wish list” so as I think of things we need to order to come in with people or bring back I can write those down, a cleaning and organizing chart, a place to check in with my yearly goals, packing lists, menu and planning pages for when we do get togethers at our place… so many things.

As I looked around on Pinterest there were a lot of great, free printable family/home binder planner pages out there, but a lot of them didn’t quite get the job done. Much of the stuff in them didn’t apply to our life here, and most of the stuff I needed wasn’t included. So, I made my own. And I love it! I spent a couple weeks designing all the pages, and being really methodical about what I wanted it it. I made my own dividers, and can add whatever other pages I find I need as the year progresses. Next year I can change dates and see what worked and what didn’t, then make changes accordingly.

The only hitch was that as I was finishing up one of the ink cartridges ran out. As in there was no more fluid in the resevoir. I kept going though, and the print quality wasn’t affected. I decided to wait until Chris’ parents were gone, then put the big printer back together and try to print things on it. Well, when it would work in the way I needed it to I felt frustrated.

Waiting on being able to use this thing, I realized, has had me feeling really disorganized for the last month. And knowing that it’s just been sitting there, and that using it, if I could, would alleviate that feeling has been hard. Using the binder will also mean that I can clean up my work space too, by taking down four clipboards off my wall, giving me more white space and a calmer, cleaner place to do my job. That’s a big deal for me because my “nook is about 4 feet wide and 2 feet deep (have I mentioned how excited I am about getting an actual office at the new property???).

After realizing I wasn’t going to be able to get the big printer to do what I wanted it to do, rather than getting really upset and agitated I made a quick decision to let it go. I set the inkjet up on our kitchen table, went through my computer file of all the pages that are supposed to go in the planner binder, how many I still needed to print off in total, and then decided which were the most important and how many I need to print for the next two months. I then fired a message off to a friend who is leaving next month for a few days and who has already offered to bring something small in and asked if she would be cool with transporting some printer cartridges for us too, that would allow us a bit of breathing room. And on top of that, made plans to make an order to build up our stock here, for Chris to bring back in April. Then, I sat down at the table and I just started printing, telling myself that I would do as much as I could until I couldn’t print any more because the cartridges were EMPTY (another was almost gone, too).

Let me tell you, it was a loaves and fishes situation.

I got all of my essential stuff printed, and a few extras that will allow me to work on stuff into March without having to madly print stuff off in the 24 hours after our friend gets back and I leave on a trip (big excitement to share!). As this was all playing out I felt a layer of stress come off me. I didn’t realize how feeling disorganized and not “together” was affecting me, but when I thought about it I realized I had regularly been thinking about it, whether it was wanting to use it to write a big shopping list or work on next months menu plan, or wishing the “wish list” was in place to be writing down the things I know I need to get when I’m away. Basically not having a place to “dump” all that meant I was trying to remember all of it and my head is very tired.

When Chris came back from a meeting and I explained the status of the big printer the first thing he said was, “You know what? I’m kind of done with it and I’d like to get a new printer that is better for what we need, doesn’t need all these consumable parts and has less cost for the ink.”

And another layer came off. And I realized how big of a source of stress the printer had been for me over the years. Yes, I loved it and the work it would do made my job easier, so I dealt with it, but it has been a headache on and off, and always at the least opportune moments.

We can get everything we want and need for what we do in a much less expensive printer that won’t have the high cost toner cartridges. We can even bring one in our suitcases, rather than having to ship it in. I love how technology keeps advancing.

And, another layer off.

Life here takes so much more work than back home. Even the act of buying the food to feed our family requires more work. Because of location and availability, I have to plan what I buy and when. St. Marc has a large percentage of the things we need and use regularly, but some things we can only get in Port au Prince, so I have to plan specific shopping lists for the once a month trip to the store there that Chris makes. Weekly I need to look through the menu plan I have in order to make the Thursday market list for Yonese. Not planning means we buy fresh fruit and veggies, and they get wasted because we don’t use them before they go bad. Truly fresh food in a warm climate doesn’t have the same shelf life as it does back home.

Yesterday as I was grocery shopping for the first time in a couple of weeks, I got to the cashier and as I got to the end of my haul I realized I exhaled. Had I really been holding a breath and feeling stressed out because I needed to go shopping?

Yes. I had.

Some days it’s getting breakfast ready and realizing we’re out of bread and trying to figure out what to feed Olivia because she doesn’t eat eggs (gag reflex leading to several bad experiences, not because she’s picky). Others it’s trying to figure out what to eat for lunch because we don’t buy a ton of things like deli meat, so sandwiches are harder. Anyway, you get the idea. It just takes more work. And it takes planning because we have to drive 20 minutes to the nearest small store where I can shop for most of the stuff, aside from fresh stuff.

Another layer off.

Today my goal is to spend a bit of time on self-care, doing the things I need to do in order to feel more pulled together. Meal planning for next month. Dumping some of my brain stuff out in the right places. Tidying up my work space. Spending some time working on my women’s Bible study lessons so I don’t get behind.

What are your subtle stressors? What makes you feel like you can decompress a bit?

Ringing In A New Year

It always feels biter-sweet to me to take down the Christmas decorations. Christmas is my favorite time of year. I just love the hunkered down feeling. I always try to take quiet moments and just sit and enjoy the Christmas lights and the quiet that seems to come with winter, even here. When it’s time to put everything away for another year, while I love the fresh clean feeling of space after it’s all down, it’s always hard for me to put things in a box and close the lid for another year. As I did it the other day I just kept thinking about the anticipation come November when it’ll be time to bring it all out again. And then I cleaned! :)

I feel like this year I’m easing into the new year. Usually we come back in a flurry of travel, and have a day or two to unpack and settle back in, then it’s back to work. This year has involved sleeping in, slowly getting things like my 2014 day timer set up, and tidying things and thinking about what I want to see happen in 2014.

I’m not a big “resolutions” fan. They seem fake and like you’re just setting yourself up for disappointment if you can’t do what you set out to do. Over the years I’ve set small goals, and if I don’t make it, it’s okay. As I’m thinking about the year, these are the things that I’ve decided I want to focus my attention on.

Health

Weight Watchers:
I haven’t done an update in a while – maybe two months? The truth is, I hit a road block in November where I hovered at the same weight for over a month. I realized that the issue was I was anticipating the holidays, and all the stuff we would be doing. I love to celebrate the holidays as fully as we can here because I think it adds a sense of normalcy that helps us to feel more at home, so for me this involves having food that is familiar to how we would celebrate back home, just scaled back a bit. This means Christmas treats and special meals like the traditional turkey dinner. My problem was that I was starting to find reasons to not track my food so I wouldn’t feel ashamed about eating the stuff I liked. I finally go to the point where I realized I was sabotaging myself by telling myself I shouldn’t want those things. Most of them are things I wouldn’t normally eat in any major quantity through the year, just at Christmas. I didn’t want my success to date to be for naught, so I got honest with myself and when I realized I was starting to look at tracking my food over the holidays in a negative way I made the choice to stop, and give myself a break. I know that for this to work over the long term I can’t ever let my relationship with Weight Watchers become something that I look at with disdain. So I took a break, and gave myself permission to eat what I wanted for the rest of December without guilt. I weighed myself weekly as I normally would, just to keep tabs on things, and it was a good reminder, but at no point did I tell myself I couldn’t have something. I enjoyed everything, and listened to my body. I also knew that come the beginning of January we would be going back to our normal eating patterns and normal food that was available in the house.

The great news? When I got on the scale this morning to do my weigh in I was less that one pound up from the last time that I was regularly tracking. And today was my “back on track day”. I’ve been having internal conversations with myself to gear up to it and as I woke up this morning it was kind of freeing to know that today was the day to get back into routine. I’m not harboring any negative feelings and am looking forward to getting back on track with things. I know this program works for me, but I also need to give myself space to enjoy life if it’s going to work over the long term.

Drinking Water:
You would think that 8+ years of living in the Caribbean would have me in a place of sufficiently hydrating every day, but sadly, no. Drinking enough water every day is a major challenge for me and I feel the physical effects daily. Often I feel sluggish, and I can get headaches. My first word of advice for anyone else is to drink more water, but I don’t do it enough myself. So, a goal for this year is to make a bigger effort in this department.

Today I downloaded a free app for my phone that lets me check off glasses of water each day, and it has alarms that you can set that go off at your chosen times to remind you to stop and drink. I want to try it through January and see if it helps me get more fluid in my body, and in turn how I feel if I drink enough.

Another part of this is not just hydration, but also replacing electrolytes. Living in Canada I didn’t have an issue with this, but here we sweat a lot more, even with little activity. A person can hydrate, but if we don’t replace those electrolytes our bodies have to work harder. It’s not something I’ve really put a lot of thought into, but a friend here who was drinking a lot of water told me she was still feeling sluggish until she started drinking one glass of Gatorade per day. Chris and I are going to try it and see how it works for us.

Spiritual
I’ve been going to a Bible study weekly with a group of other missionary ladies from our area and I’ve really been enjoying it. I want to be more intentional about working on my Bible study lessons through the week rather than madly working through them the day before so I get more out of them.

I also want to find a good devotional so I can be more regularly reading my Bible. I know it’s key for helping me stay centered in all areas of my life, but often it’s the last thing on my priority list.

Time and Organization

Social Media – Facebook:
I’m becoming less and less in love with Facebook. Recently Chris and I have been really reminded that it’s a very poor platform for conversation. The whole thing has always been funny to me in the sense that I think it gives us a sense of more importance than we really all need. I was hardly ever on it until the earthquake, then it was the fastest and easiest way to keep everyone updated on things here. Since then, it’s just kind of stuck. But, I don’t love it. In fact, when I think about how I use it, I often feel frustrated. I waste a lot of time scrolling through status updates that aren’t always that interesting. I have people on my “friend” list that I never communicate with in “real life”, and because of it I feel limited in what I can share because it doesn’t feel personal any more.

This year I want to be intentional about stepping back from Facebook. I’m not leaving it behind, but rather being more intentional about how I use it. I think limiting myself to one check per day and setting a time limit to it is healthy. It’s so easy to kill hours on there. I also decided that I’m not going to post or get involved in hot button conversations. It’s not the platform for where those “conversations” should be happening. The truth is, a lot of people will say things on the internet that they would never say to someones face, and I don’t want to be part of those conversations any more. I’m going to limit my use of Facebook to occasional status updates and photo postings, and only share the information that I think is truly valuable or important. It’s also a time thing for me. I need to better use my time. Facebook isn’t it.

Blogging:
I know that people love reading our blog, and I enjoy writing it. The problem for me is when I start comparing myself and my blogging to other bloggers. It’s so easy for me to feel inadequate, usually in the realm of how frequently I post, and that there aren’t a ton of pictures. The truth is, I have ideas for blogging all the time. The catch is I don’t often have the time. When I do sit down and blog I am frequently interrupted and it takes even more time to finish a post. This post for example, I’ve been interrupted by the kids more times than I can count. I sometimes have a window in the mornings during the work week where Chris is gone to take Olivia to school, and Alex is happily playing outside, where I can have focused time on the computer. When those moments are there I can get a lot done, but it’s hit or miss. I need to step back and stop feeling like I’m not meeting the mark on this one. Our present reality is that time is limited. Aside from the fact that I’m a wife and a mother to young kids, one of which who is still home during the day, I also have a lot of responsibilities with the mission administratively and otherwise. I just don’t have the time to post more than once or twice a week, no matter how much I like the idea. So, for this year, I’m releasing myself from any expectations and will blog when I feel like it and when I have time. I’m not a professional blogger, I’m a wife, mother and missionary.

Homefront

Menu Planning:
This is something I’ve been doing for years, and I plan on continuing. Where I need to be more diligent is checking the plan in the morning, even earlier in the week, and doing any preparations needed whether it’s making a loaf of bread to have with dinner (I use a great no-knead recipe that literally takes about 10 minutes of work) or looking ahead and making sure I put everything on the weekly market or shopping list that I need so I’m not scrambling come dinner time. We’ve found that meal planning helps to save money, so that’s another big part of it for me. As I plan I want to be intentional about planning meals that are lower cost, but balanced and enjoyable. I can’t tell you how often we talk to people here who talk about a poor diet, yet Haiti is bountiful in fresh vegetables and fruit, beans, rice, various meats… I could go on. Anyway, I want to be more intentional about being prepared, and eating what’s available to us and seasonal. We benefit health wise, and the mission benefits with lower food expenses.

Organization:
I did quite a bit of work last fall to go through the house and purge each room. Now I need to stay on top of it. I’ve already put together a check list for each room that is a great reminder of what needs attention. Yonese is great with helping keep things tidy through the week, but it’s my job to control our stuff. I have a binder that I used to keep myself organized through the holidays, and I plan on making it work year round for general household organization. Part of it will have space for meal planning each month, and there will be the check list to go through the house and stay on top of keeping things organized.

I should say, that over the last year or so I’ve realized that while I like things organized in the sense that I want our house to be organized because it’s small and we need to know that things have their place, where they are, what we need etc, BUT we also need to be able to live here. As in, while I enjoy the 5 minutes post cleaning where everything feels fresh and sparkling and it’s in it’s place, that’s not reality most days. Most days the floor needs to be swept and there are things on the counter that need to be put away and shoes splayed three feet away from the door. That is just the way it is right now. When we build and move to the new land, there will be more space and new ways for us to store things and live. But that is not now. I have to relax to a certain extent and accept that there are four people in our house and we all have different needs. So organized, but not anal about it.

Personal Care

I’m really horrible when it comes to doing things to take care of myself. Little things like actually washing and moisturizing my face. Seriously. So, I want to work on that.

I have back problems, and repeatedly my chiropractor has told me that simply taking the time to stretch certain muscles will do a lot to relieve that. So, I want to work on stretching and see if I can help my body heal. I’m good at complaining about it, but not doing the work to help it get better. Stupid, I know.

I want to finally grow my nails. I’ve been a life long nail biter, but I want to grow them. Not crazy long, but so they look nice. Olivia loves “doing nail polish” and the crazy thing is that Chris has become her go to person to have her nails painted. I like having polished nails and toes, I just don’t take the time to do it. So, I want to do it. I have a bunch of fun new colors and glitter polishes coming with Chris’ parents (thank you Ebay!) to have fun with. When I take the time to polish my finger nails, they grow and I don’t bite them. So, that’s a goal.

I want to be more intentional about looking after my skin. I’m 35. It’s time. I’m not a person who is crazy worried about wrinkles, but also don’t like when my skin feels dry or rough. I know that when I take the time for a day or two in a row to take care of my skin it feels better. Again, it’s a laziness thing. Time to grow up a bit!

Hobbies

Knitting:
I know I’ve mentioned on here that I enjoy knitting and really started to pick it up in the last year or so. It’s relaxing for me and gives me something to do with my hands. I’ve also realized after talking to a lot of people that it’s one of those things that comes naturally to me, and that already in the last year I’ve challenged myself with projects that most people don’t attempt in their first year of serious knitting. I know that for me it’s a case of needing something new to challenge me and keep my interest. After we came back from holidays in August I started working on Christmas stockings. Wow, pushing through to finishing number four was a trial. It was too much of the same thing without a lot of variation. I love how they turned out, but wow, I was happy when they were done.

My goal for this year is to have fun with my knitting and enjoy it. I had set out to make several Christmas presents, but as the holidays got closer and things got busier it became more and more of a burden. I was loathing how much knitting I “needed” to do. Then I realized that I didn’t “need” to do any of it. So I stopped. And I knit a dishcloth, because I needed something different and small and mindless to get my groove back. I switched up the gift giving and no one but Chris and I were any the wiser (except now my parents will be wondering what I didn’t make). And I felt free and enjoyed the holidays without the pressure of be a slave to my knitting needles. A couple of days ago I cast on a sweater for Alex to wear when we go camping. It’s my goal to knit each of us a sweater for the summer, but that’s a loose goal. And it might sound crazy to want that for the summer, but when we go camping mornings are often very chilly for us because of the fact that we live in the Caribbean, so having something to bundle up in until it warms up is needed. And, we can wear them when we go home in the winters. Anyway, I’m having fun on Alex’s sweater and am anticipating the yarn coming with my in-laws for Chris and I. I love the words “If you’re going to spend two plus months knitting a sweater, you might as well use good yarn!” Especially when they’re uttered by my husband :) (As an aside, if you know anything about Chris and his “special” sweater, you’ll understand what a big deal it is for him to have actually asked me to make him a sweater…) So, knit more and have fun with it. If I need a break from one thing, cast on something else that is exciting.

Photography
I won’t lie. At least once a day I find myself thinking, “My new camera is coming, my new camera is coming!” I’m so excited that it’s coming with Chris’ parents :) But, it also means I need to be committed to actually working on how to use it well. I had so much fun playing with our friends camera when we did our family pictures that it has me completely excited to get mine. I want to be intentional about learning how to use it well, and practicing with it regularly. And, it doesn’t hurt that I have two super cute subjects to practice with. I also want to set the time aside to work on editing those photos and actually sharing them. Ahem. So, maybe you’ll see more pictures on the blog this year… That is, whenever I get around to posting them because I’m not pressuring myself, remember? :)

So those are the big things for 2014. They are gentle and good for me types of things. Things that improve my quality of life and things that are worth working on. No guilt. No shame. No feelings on not meeting the mark. Maybe as 2014 comes to a close 12 months from now I’ll be able to look back on the year and feel a sense of peace and happy accomplishment. Maybe :)

What goals have you set for yourself this year? Do you even set goals, or hate the whole practice all together. 

~Leslie

My Mom Journey: Dealing With the Weight

It’s been a long time since I posted a “My Mom Journey” post. I’m putting todays post under that category because really, it completely affects how I mother.

Since puberty I’ve had weight issues. I come from tall genes on one side, and Ukrainian genes on another. They’re known as what we all like to call “big boned” people. I’m 5’10”, so I actually carry my weight a lot differently than most people with the same number of pounds on their frame. That’s good and bad. Good in the sense that a higher number on the scale is normal for someone of my stature. Bad in the sense that it’s easier to let that number creep up because it doesn’t look the same as someone who might be even 3 inches shorter than me. And there in lies the problem. The creeping.

Through my life my weight has slowly crept up. I don’t come from an athletic family. My dad is 6’4″ and his whole life heard comments about what a fabulous basket ball player he must be – except he is the first person to admit how awkward he looked as a teenager while running. So no, not a sports family. I grew up playing outside, but the only team sport I ever played was a couple seasons of soft ball.

My weight has always been a self esteem issue, like most people that struggle with their weight. But, in my case, I’m not a binge eater or struggle with major eating disorders. While my weight bothers me, it’s not the only thing that identifies me. Rather, it’s a problem that I’ve been too lazy to do anything about consistently. I have started several times, only to peter out after a while and go right back to my bad habits of eating portions way bigger than I need to, and doing very little activity. It doesn’t help that I actually really love food. I love the taste, the experience and the process of making it. Food is emotional for me in that it comforts and I use it to celebrate.

People who have gone through major weight loss tend to tell you that they finally got to a point where something just “clicked” for them, and the decision to do something about it finally stuck.

A few weeks ago I finally got to that point. And it wasn’t this big epiphany, it was more like, “Okay, this is it.” I know getting there has actually been a process full of thought for me. Because I’ve tried several things in the past I knew certain things just weren’t for me. Stuff like:

  • I hate counting calories. It actually has adverse effects for me when I see large numbers, even if the food is healthy. I feel guilty. It’s strange, but that’s the way it is. And yet, most often the most successful weight loss stories all have calorie counting in common. I get the principle and agree with it, but it’s incredibly hard mentally for me.
  • I hate feeling deprived. Any program where I’m told I can’t possibly eat the foods that I like because they will cause some sort of derailment in my weight loss only leads to disaster. As in, I get to a breaking point where I don’t just fall off the wagon, I throw myself off the side, roll under the back wheel and get left in a dust cloud.
  • I have really lousy will power. I need something that is encouraging, not boot camp style where I feel like I’m not hitting the mark because I miss a work out or something like that.

Over the summer the reality hit me that I was missing out on certain things with our kids because I literally felt like I couldn’t do them. I don’t feel comfortable running, so even running after my kids for some reason is always a check point. What if there was an emergency? Could I respond fast enough? When I had to honestly answer that I didn’t think I could, it was a wake up moment. What about the kinds of activities we can do as a family when we’re on vacation? Is my weight limiting us? The answer is yes. We don’t have a lot of cash to spend on the fun things, so we need to make our own fun. So many free activities revolve around being physical, and yet I was the one not wanting to do those because I didn’t feel I could. That’s a problem. How many experiences are my kids missing, even if it’s just something simple like walking around town and exploring? And lastly, I’m trying to teach my kids how to have a healthy relationship with food at a young age, but what example am I setting? If I tell them they don’t have to clear their plates, but rather can stop when they feel full, yet can’t do the same thing for myself, they will eventually notice that. And how do I tell them that they need to ask themselves if they’re really hungry, versus being bored, when they ask for a snack, if I’m snacking because I’m bored or have an emotional hole that needs filling? I don’t want to be hypocritical.

So, what did I do?

I joined Weight Watchers online. And you know what? It’s working for me, and most of all – I LOVE IT!

This is why:

  • I love the point system. For me this is so much better than tracking calories, yet it’s essentially the same thing. I get a daily allotment of points based on my current BMI (body mass index) that was calculated when I signed up. Tracking points feels like a game, so I don’t mind doing it every day. And, I was able to download the app for my iPhone and our iPad, so it’s easy to track things on whichever device I’m in front of, and it updates to my account so it’s the same right across the board. No need to try and remember things for when I’m in front of my computer.
  • Fruits and veggies are “free” foods, with the exception of a couple things like avocados which have a lot of great things in them, but also have a higher fat content. The point is that WW encourages the eating of as much fruit and veggies as you can during the day, so they encourage you to go to those foods first because they’re the most nutritious. Knowing that those things are a zero point value, I do find myself going to those as options first before something else.
  • You can eat what you want, as long as it falls in your point allowance for the day. I just have to make sure I track it. I haven’t felt deprived at all. If I want a treat, like a piece of cake at a missionary meeting, I eat it, track it, then choose other lower point foods for the rest of the day.
  • There are a ton of great tools like an activity tracker that gives you extra points to use, a recipe builder that calculates the points in a serving, and helpful articles and a community to get connected to – if you want to.
  • It’s affordable. Depending on where you live, the cost is about $20/month. For some reason a couple years ago I thought the cost was higher, so I didn’t consider WW. I’m sad I didn’t now. Rather than look at it as an expense, I’m looking at it as an investment into my health and the life of our family, and in that frame of mind it’s well worth it.

What I’m learning…

Wow. So many things! Chris just saw the title of the post and asked how being on WW affects me as a mom. This is how…

How food affects me. I seriously had no idea just how much what I was eating was affecting me. I knew that there were emotional issues because I felt cruddy about my weight in general, but I had no idea how certain types of foods were affecting my overall mood and how my body felt.

In the last year I’ve been feeling more overwhelmed with life in general. I’m kind of in a fog and not feeling really productive. I felt cranky most days, and would be on edge. Excessive noise would bother me, and I had a hard time feeling calm.

Since I’ve been eating better and not eating as much refined foods like pasta, or carb dense foods like rice, bread etc I’ve noticed a BIG change. When I have eaten those things I’ve quickly seen how those foods hit me. I get really tired for an hour or so after eating pasta, for example. This past week was a training class, so I wasn’t cooking but rather eating a LOT of rice and carb heavy foods. I’ve felt bloated and tired and cranky again.

When I’m making healthier choices I feel calmer. Last night for example, Alex was waiting for dinner and threw his plate on the floor. I was on edge and the noise startled me really badly. I hadn’t felt that way in the past couple of weeks, but had been feeling that way before I started eating better. The first thought in my mind was the realization that I wasn’t feeling calm, and I knew it was because my body was struggling.

Being accountable with myself. The point tracking is working for me. In the past when I’ve tracked calories, because of my weird mental relationship with them, I would find I felt guilty at times, and would skimp on the right portion amounts so I wouldn’t have to see the high number. Or, eventually I would just stop tracking.

This past week I made it a goal to track everything I was eating, as best as I could. I recognized that even while I wasn’t doing the cooking I had some idea of what was in things. I made a great effort to get as close as possible with things in the tracker, to enter the proper quantities of what I was eating, and account for how Haitians cook – like literally adding a tablespoon of oil to a meal in the tracker because I knew what I was eating was grease filled. And then after all that, I gave myself some grace.

What I found was once I knew what the point value was for, say, a cup of rice, I could eat a right amount for my hunger and stay very close to my point allowance. Knowing that it was a week full of heavy point meals, and frankly, heavy meals period, I didn’t snack much but rather left my points for meals instead.

I also paid attention to how I was feeling on a different diet, and the information gathered is really useful! I’ve come to realize that it’s more worth it to feel good, to be in a good mood, and to be able to deal with life better than it was to stuff myself. At the end of the week all I want is good food. Seriously, I made a big salad last night, and this morning there wasn’t a starch in sight when I made breakfast. My body doesn’t want it right now.

All through the week I really worked hard at being accountable with myself. And I’m proud of myself for getting through the week, not feeling guilty, and doing a good job! I really am proud. I feel good about staying on track in a difficult food situation. And, it’s one week! Why should I let one week determine my success or failure?

Learning portion sizes. This is probably one of my biggest struggles, and has lead to the most pounds gained. For most of my life I’ve eaten with my head, not with my stomach. As in, if I think it’s the right amount of food or it tastes good, I will let that override any messages my body might be sending me about what it needs, or when to stop. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve sat at a table and chosen to take more, even though I felt full, simply because I thought something like, “It tastes really good, a little more won’t do anything bad,” or, “I might not have this again for a really long time. Better eat it while I can!”

Now that I’m having to be very conscious about portion sizes I’m learning what my body needs to function. What my heart might need is an entirely different thing. Food is for energy and nourishment, not to fill any emotional void.

I’ve switched to using smaller plates when I eat, so that visually my brain sees a full plate of food. That makes a difference for me. It also helps with not feeling deprived.

I am measuring things. What does a cup of macaroni and cheese look like? Or 3 oz of steak? For years I had told myself that I knew, but the truth was, I had no clue. I was lying to myself.

The really interesting thing is that I’m feeling full. I look at the big plates in our cupboard and think, “Those look huge!” and wonder why I felt the need to fill them. Yes, I’ve felt hungry, but it’s a good kind of hungry. The truth is, rarely in the last few years have I allowed my body to feel hunger. And, I’m realizing my body needs less food than I thought it did – if I’m making good choices about the type of food I put into it. Things that used to be the foods that gave me comfort, like cheese and pasta, are slowly doing that less, and I’m happy about that.

Learning to be gracious with myself. I have a lot of weight to lose to get to a healthy weight. That can be very overwhelming when I look at the big picture. Thankfully WW focuses on smaller goals. I’ve been feeling encouraged when I see the scale going down, and being able to see how close I’m getting to the first goal of losing 15lbs.

But, after this week and eating what I have, I gained a bit. Rather than feeling guilty though, I can see the situation for what it is – a time where I was in a situation where I didn’t have the healthiest options in front of me. I can see how that has affected me emotionally, and most of all, I can feel  what that has done to my body. I know I’m bloated up right now, and that while the number on the scale when I weighed in wasn’t what I wanted to see, I can accept it. But, I know that I had a lot stacked against me this week, and I’m choosing to be gracious with myself and focus on the things that are good and working. I tracked everything, everyday. I was conscious about portion sizes. I tried to account for the extra oil. I did some gardening so I got some activity in, and those points earned went towards days where my points may have been over. I paid attention to how I was feeling after eating this way.

The biggest thing is, I know that today is a new day and I can make choices today. I don’t feel defeated like I have in the past, and I don’t feel like all is lost or that I’m just done. Rather, I spent today planning some good, healthy meals and am working on getting back to feeding my body healthy food. Chris and I have talked about what we can change on the class week menu too, so that we’re all eating better through the week.

Getting excited about healthy food. In the past I got frustrated with other plans because we live overseas. I don’t have access to “light” foods. I don’t have access to many of the brand name things that get included in calorie counters. It’s not always possible to eliminate certain kinds of food from my diet.

One of the great things about WW is that it’s fabulous for people like me who love to cook. Most of what we eat is from scratch simply because if I don’t make it, we don’t have access to it. With WW I can input my recipes, how many portions it makes, and get a point value for it that I can use any time I eat it. That’s hugely helpful. And for some reason the recipe builder is just easier to use than others I’ve tried.

Most of our produce is from right here in Haiti, and because most farmers can’t afford it, they don’t use chemicals or pesticides – so most of it is organic. We have a really good variety of stuff available to us as well, and because Yonese has worked for our family for a long time she’s really good at shopping. If she sees something I’ve forgotten to put on the list or she knows we like it, she buys it along with everything else. Our juice is homemade, so we can control how much sugar is in it. Our coffee is hand roasted on site. Our meat is so lean I have to literally add oil to the pan when frying ground beef or it sticks like crazy. We have an endless supply of beans, and a variety of grains. There is really no excuse for us to not eat fabulously healthy meals.

I’ve found myself in a cooking rut lately. I meal plan, but tend to make the same things every month. With focusing on how many points are in food, I’m finding that I want to try new things and see what I can incorporate that I may not have before. I should mention that typically Chris is a meat and potatoes guy, Olivia has recently decided there are things that she doesn’t like, and Alex will eat most things. I’ve already recognized that this isn’t just about me. I’m not going to be cooking separate meals for myself than I do for the rest of the family. So, I need to find good, healthy choices that are tasty and something we’ll all enjoy. I love Pinterest for this! Seriously, there are a wealth of fabulous healthy recipes on there. Even though we don’t see the same seasonal changes here as we would back home, I’m very aware of the fact that it’s September and my brain is all over pumpkin (Haiti’s variety is a cross between a cooking pumpkin and an acorn/butternut squash – super versatile!) and things like stews and soups.

While I’m thinking about the kinds of food I’m eating, I’m also paying attention to how I feel afterwards. I love that in the tracker on WW you can write in how you felt after a certain meal. Did I feel full? Tired? Being aware of those things is helping me to make better choices too. For example, oatmeal is great for our bodies, but it doesn’t keep me full for more than a couple of hours. Knowing that, I can pair up a portion of oatmeal so I’m getting the benefits of it, with a hard boiled egg for the protein that my body needs to feel satisfied longer.

Not hiding. I think anyone that battles weight issues feels shame about talking about them to some degree. It’s cultural. Our North American culture looks down on people who aren’t thin. We tell ourselves it’s all about health, but there are healthy, active people who have more meat on their bones, and there are thin people who have major health issues. I think living in a different culture has caused me to look at my body differently. In Haiti, being bigger is often looked at as a good thing. It says, “I can afford to eat well.” When we got engaged, Haitians congratulated Chris on finding a big woman as a wife. Sometimes I cried, but then got to the point where I knew it was a complement. In Haitian culture it meant Chris could afford to take care of me well. It’s also not abnormal for me to get comments on how beautiful I am, and it’s very normal to see larger women sporting bikini’s here. It makes me realize that the version of “beautiful” that I grew up with is off in many ways because it teaches people to be insecure, rather than confident in who they are as a person, not just in how they look.

Typically I wouldn’t feel comfortable sharing everything in this post with many people. But, you know what? I want to. This time I don’t want to be ashamed because I might be worried about what will happen if I struggle along the way. I want friends and family to know so that I don’t have to explain why I might not eat something. I want them to be able to ask how I’m doing and to be able to answer honestly, even when I might be struggling. I guess I just want to be real and to stop hiding behind what’s sitting around my butt, and let my heart speak.

I’m grateful for a couple of friends who wanted to buddy up on facebook, so we can share our personal journeys to getting healthy. We’re all in different places, in different circumstances, with different goals. But, we can support each other by checking in every week and sharing where we’re at – whatever that may be! Yesterday I also shared the fact that I’ve joined WW with a friend here in country who also wants to lose weight. It felt good to share and talk about it, what was hard, what’s working and to be able to encourage each other, and to open the door for that in the future. I’m realizing that one of the mistakes I made in the past was trying to keep my attempt at losing weight a secret, mostly because I was afraid I would fail. If I did struggle there was no one to help me pick myself up, so it was much easier to let it go all together.

I’m so grateful for Chris through this. We’ve had a lot of learning lessons along the way about how we talk about my weight. He’s had to learn that certain things are difficult for me, and I’ve had to learn to communicate those. When I told him I signed up for WW do you know what his response was? The first thing he said was that he was proud of me. The second thing he said was, “Tell me what I can do to be supportive and helpful. If I say something stupid, let me know. If I complain about what we’re eating as a family, tell me to shut up.” I *may* have cried right about then because I knew he meant it. And he’s kept saying it. When I have a good day I can tell him. And when I learn something, I get to share that and see his encouragement. When I’m feeling different like I am right now, we’re talking about those things. I’ve recognized that this process is going to be a big life change for me, and if he’s not a part of that, then we’ll be strangers. But, it takes me being vulnerable through that process, even when I’m struggling and not feeling good. The great thing is that those are the times where he’s saying, “It’s great that you’re seeing those things. Now you know how to do this better.” And I love him for it. Heck, I made vegetarian black bean burgers to have in the freezer for when I need an easy meal for myself and he asked when we get to have them for dinner. He hates cooked vegetables. That’s love.

This is a journey for me, and it’s one that affects every part of who I am and how I parent. I don’t want to hide it, but rather be able to share progress, what I’m learning etc. Especially because I’m doing it in the mission field. How exactly, does that work??? I’ll try to share updates regularly (maybe monthly, or something like that?!?).

Time to go cook dinner! I hope you all have a great week.

~Leslie

Grief in the will of God

I’ve been going through a process for a couple of years now. Yes, that long. I’ve written about parts of it on occasion, but I haven’t gotten to the point of letting it all hang out. 


I’m grieving. 

I’m not grieving the loss of anyone. I’m grieving the loss of a life. More specifically, the life I had always thought I was going to have. That may sound strange and some may not ever be able to understand it, but it is there and it is very real for me. It actually took me a while to figure out that the whole range of emotions that I was feeling was tied up into one thing – grief. 

See, I didn’t ever think my life would look like it does. And, the life that I have is not a bad one. Quite the contrary. I see many wonderful things about it and every day I find things that I am grateful for. At the same time, it is so very different from the images that I have carried in my heart and head for as long as I can remember.

When I thought about life down the road I saw myself being married. I would have children. They would go to Little League or soccer practice and suck on oranges with all the other kids. I would have friends to have coffee with, to go do things with. We would be closely connected to a church and be involved where we felt led. Our kids would be able to play in the neighborhood. They would go to school where they would make friends and have a chance to interact with other kids. We would be close to family and they would be an active part of our lives. 

My life does not look like that. 

I think my journey through this really got started after Chris and I got married. The realization that I couldn’t just pick up and leave Haiti if it got uncomfortable or if I felt it was time settled in on me like a one ton weight. There were many times in those first months where I found myself an emotional ball of goo. It was hard. There were a lot of tears. There were many moments where Chris wondered what happened to the reasonably sane woman that he married. It was hard for me to move through. I then realized that I was in fact going through a grieving process. I was grieving a life that I may never have. In the midst of it I was grateful for what I was in, but I at the same time I felt much sadness for what I was letting go of. 

Things got better. In fact, last year was a good year for me. There were still those thoughts in the back of my mind, but I was able to let them be there and still appreciate what was in front of me and come to a good level of contentedness. I loved that things were feeling more settled for us, I loved the work we’re doing here, and I loved that we were in the center of God’s will for our lives. 

I still love those things.

But, in the past few months I feel like so much has bubbled up to the surface again. I feel like I have had to make so many sacrifices to be here. That I’ve given up so many things. Dreams, desires, relationships, things…essentially a life that I may never live. And this is what I grieve. I am grieving a life I may not live.

It’s hard for me to share this because I know there are people out there that would call me a whiner. That would accuse me of not being grateful for what I have. That’s fine. This is just where I’m at, how I’m feeling, and those feelings are okay. They are part of me, and they are very real. They are mine. I’m okay with others not understanding them. You would need to be in my shoes to get there. It’s often hard for me to even express them because I know that others won’t understand. I even have a hard time talking to Chris about it because he doesn’t struggle with the same things. His life looks the way he had hoped it would. He is living out his dreams. He wanted to be a missionary. He is. He wanted to be in one of the places that needed the most help. He is. He wanted to be married and have a partner in ministry. He is and does. He wanted to adopt. We have/are. 

I know that God has called me here. That in itself was a process where he made his plans for me very clear, and when the time was right I stepped into them because I knew they were perfect and because I wanted to be obedient. I know that it is His plan that Chris and I are together and living this life together and I am continually grateful for my husband and that we do get to go on this wild ride together. I know that Olivia was meant to be a part of our family, before we ever knew we would be a family. Last night as Chris and I were talking about some of these things he said, “I believe serving God is a privilege.” I completely agree. While it is a privilege, there are still sacrifices that are made. I’ve just been really aware of them recently.

When I wander around here feeling bored I think about the things I could do if I lived in the first world. I think of the friends I’ve left behind. Of how my relationships have changed because I live here. Sometimes I feel very lonely. I miss the freedom and ease that I had to spend time with people. I miss women my age. Now that I’m a mom I feel jealous of friends back home that can be a part of Mom’s groups and things like that. I grieve that loss of relationship. We have friends here, but they are not the close, intimate relationships that I miss and need.

When things get busy around here and I see Chris and I getting worn down or stressed out I struggle with the fact that there are few places in this country that we can go where we can actually get rest. Everything here feels like work. Even going out to a restaurant for a meal isn’t enjoyable most times because you end up having to do things like remind the waiter that he can’t keep your change or get frustrated because you wait for an hour for your food to come. On weekends we feel like we need to close the house up completely in order to get any time to ourselves, and even that doesn’t work and we end up with people coming by at all hours for things like getting a cell phone charged. We’ve put down a lot of boundaries, but there is still very little privacy and it’s not something that most people care about or understand. I grieve the loss of freedom, of privacy, even in my own home.

There are places in Haiti that I haven’t been and want to see. But, like going out for dinner, the thought of doing some of these things makes a person groan simply because it feels like more work. I would think nothing of driving four hours back home to go on a weekend get away. Here, four hours of driving means feeling like you’ve been beaten up and by the time you get where you’re going you feel that everything has been sucked out of you. The other issue is money. We don’t have a lot, so thinking of going away means factoring that into the equation. I struggle with that. I don’t know if we’d be any better off if we lived back in North America. I just struggle with that always being an issue for us. I grieve the fact that there are things in life that I want to be able to do, but may never get to do. There are places in the world that I would like to visit and we may never get to do that. There are things that I would love to do as a family, but they may not be options for us. If they are options for us it may mean sacrificing a family visit so we can go do something different. I struggle with having to make choices like that because I know they would probably be less hard if we weren’t living this life.

Every single day I look at Olivia and I am acutely aware of the fact that my family is not a direct part of her life right now. They won’t get to meet her until she’s almost a year old. I think this has been one of the hardest struggles for me and the most difficult sacrifice to make. We knew that this was going to be our reality going into the adoption process while living here, but it doesn’t make it any easier. There are many days where I look at her sweet face as she’s looking up at me cooing away, and I choke back tears because my parents will never know their first granddaughter in this stage of her life. I feel that they are missing out on so much. I know they feel it too and that it’s hard for them as well. It is heartbreaking for me. I am grieving this most of all right now. I know that people all over the place are separated from family and friends as they go through these major life moments, I just hadn’t ever imagined I would be one of them. It is always there under the surface, in the back of my mind. I’m getting good at pushing it down, but every once in a while it bubbles up and I just need to let it out. 

I think about things like raising our kids here. There are so many advantages to it and things that I’m looking forward to. At the same time, I do think about how different their childhood will be. They won’t get to go to a “normal” school. They won’t build the same kinds of friendships with other kids. They won’t get to participate in the same types of activities. I worry that my kids will end up being those weird missionary kids that no one knows what to do with. You know the ones I’m talking about. I want my kids to be normal and socialized

Finding out that we won’t be able to travel with Liv until the adoption is done was a hard thing to swallow. Not that we weren’t prepared for it, but the reality of it is leaving both of us feeling out of control. It is giving up our freedom to experience life as a family as we had wanted to experience it. It is giving up our freedom to choose whether we would travel together or not. It is having someone else put your life in a box and tell you that’s all you get. It’s just hard going into it know this is our life for the next couple of years. That feels overwhelming and HUGE. I know we’ll probably look back later and feel that time has gone by faster than we thought possible, but looking at things now it’s hard to get there. 

Chris and I both know that there are many great things about living here and leading the life that we lead. It’s interesting. We like that it can be so much simpler than it would be if we were anywhere else. We like that it challenges us. We love feeling like we’re accomplishing something. We know we’re helping to change lives. We LOVE that we get to be with our daughter while we go through the adoption process. We hope that our kids will grow up with a broader world view and a deeper appreciation for other people because of living here. 
When Chris and I each chose this life it meant making sacrifices. When we chose to do this life together it meant more sacrifices. Those are sacrifices that we are happy to make because we know we are walking in obedience and this is God’s will for us. Being there though doesn’t mean that the sacrifices are easy. That’s why they’re called sacrifices. I know I’m on a journey. I don’t know how long it will last. It might take a lifetime. I know that in the grief there is also joy. I know that in the grief there is also contentment. I have experienced both. I have experience them simultaneously. Many days I’m fine and just plug along with life, but the process is still there, it’s just quieter. Other days it surfaces and I need to feel my way through it, let it come, and let it be.

When Blogging Becomes Therapy

I feel like I don’t know where to start today. I had a heck of a time dragging myself out of bed this morning and I don’t know if I was just over tired or if it was the ibuprofen. My back is hurting again. I seem to not have enough patience to let it get completely better before I go and do something, like move a metal planter. You know, that kind of lift, lean it against your body, and then wiggle across the yard thing. Yeah. Dumb, I know. So now I hurt again. Super dumb.

For anyone that knows me well there’s this thing that sometimes happens. I kind of let things, I mean emotions, brew. Then sometimes they just sort of blow up. The remedy for this is of course talking about it before the geyser goes off. I journaled a bit yesterday. It’s times like this though were I miss my family and friends, the people I would just normally dump on.

I’m having a hard time waiting for Baby. Surprise, surprise. But, I’m not liking how I’m having a hard time. I was so excited before. I’m still excited, but I feel like the excitement is tarnished. Do all adoptive parents go through this at some point? I would imagine that they do. And, I hate that the feelings that I have deep down are wandering around, things like feeling indifferent. Annoyed. Unenthusiastic. I also know that maybe they’re just there to protect myself from disappointment. After the close call with the baby up north, I realized how crazy my head can get, how easy it is to go there – to that place of thinking “it’s happening!” Sigh. I don’t want to be unenthusiastic. I don’t want to be indifferent. I don’t want to be impatient.

I want to be a mom.

Sometimes I get annoyed with Haiti. And life here. Just simply because so many things here revolve around waiting. I feel like we’re always in this holding pattern, and that whenever we get excited about something, about an idea of something, we forget that we should just automatically factor in a waiting period. A period where you eventually become indifferent and things become anti-climactic. Seriously. Take the container contents. Chris dropped everything off in June. We spent 6 months just hoping the thing would ship. Now it’s here. We’re waiting for a signature to release the contents (oh yeah – container update: we’re waiting for a signature to release the contents) and then maybe sometime this week we’ll be able to pick things up. When we were first getting stuff for the container it was really exciting. We were always talking about how much better things would be/how some of that stuff would change the mission when it go here. Now that it’s so close I feel like we’re both at this, “Meh!” place where we just feel like it’s taken so long for stuff to even get close to us that we’ve lost all enthusiasm for it.

Now, I think I need to share that I know that when the container stuff gets released, and we get it all here and unpack, we will be excited again. We’ll be very excited. I know the same thing will be true for the baby. I’m just at the place where every time I look in the baby’s room and see all of the stuff we’ve collected so that we can be ready, that I just want to pack it away and bring it out once the baby gets here, but then we wouldn’t be ready. And I know, that when we get the call, it’ll be in the moment that we least expect it, when we’re off doing other things and living life and we’ll be very excited and I’ll go through that whole gamut of stuff all over again, the stuff of wondering if we’re really ready.

This is just how I feel right now. Blah. Maybe tomorrow will bring something else. Right now you get blah. I wonder if I would feel differently if we had a date (an impossibility, I know), like “You will have a baby on Feb. 5th.” Would I feel different if I could plan it? I feel jealous of expectant mothers who have a due date. Yep, I do. At least there’s a ball park range to shoot for. And these days, if the date comes and goes, there’s room for human intervention. With us, we just have to wait with no date in sight. It’s a really big ball park. John said the only thing we can do now is wait and pray, and we are. And I’ve been encouraged to see how things have come together. For us it’s been an affirmation that we are doing what God wants for our family. We have everything here that we need. It all miraculously fit in suitcases and got here. We have all the money that we need. That feels like an amazing miracle when you live like we do. The only thing missing is Baby herself.

I know (I seem to know a lot today) that God has got her story all figured out. Her story and how her story connects to our story. I know that he’s writing that right now. I know that he’s with her and her Mom and that whatever they’re living in will be what leads her to us. I know that our baby girl is going to be beautiful and amazing and so very loved. I can’t wait to meet her. Can you pray for us? I know you already are, but really specifically for our baby and her story. And for the wait.

Chris has been busy in the last week, which is good. It means he’s feeling better. He’s kind of back in his groove where he feels happy and like he’s accomplishing things. There’s actually a lot just hanging in the rafters waiting to start. In the last two weeks our guys have started working on the solar panel stand. We get the panels in April to go up in May, and we need to have the stand ready for them. It’s going to be quite a feat of engineering. We have some really big trees in the work yard, a rarity for Haiti that will not be cut down. Because of that we need to get the panels up high enough so they get full sun most of the day. This means that two of the posts will be 30 feet high and two will be 25 so we get the right angle. It’s actually amazing to see how they do it. I think anyone that complains about construction projects in the first world needs to go to the third world to see how bare bones it is and what they can accomplish with basic methods.

Once the container gets released and we get the stuff we’ll be able to start training our welder. That’s a big deal because we’ve been waiting on that for 7 months. We only have 4 molds left in our yard, compared to 18 last summer. We’ve had to sell the others off to projects needing them and still have people waiting. We also need to do a training, something we’ve been wanting to do since last fall, but can’t until we have molds. We don’t train students unless they have all the equipment available to start their project right away.

Last night we got the go ahead to do two other major things. The first is that we get to buy a new mission vehicle. Yes, we just got a truck a while ago, but it’s a work truck. We’ve sold the KIA truck so now we have the two Daihatsus and the VW. Only one of those has seat belts – the old Daihatsu. The Daihatsus are great for work because they’re strong, but because they’re so strong they’re back breakers. You seriously hurt after a day on Haiti roads and I’ve hit my head on the inside more times than I can count. It doesn’t seem to matter how slow you drive the thing, the bumps are still horendous. The new van will mean that we don’t have to put visitors, or ourselves, in the back of the truck anymore. It also means that we can strap a car seat in, and because it’ll have air conditioning Chris won’t be having asthma attacks after a day trip to Port. It’s a huge blessing! The mission is in a great financial place right now so we can move ahead with some of these projects. We’re hoping to buy the van in the next couple weeks because they have them in stock.

The other MAJOR project is the dorm building. Right now our dorms have one level with two rooms, two bathrooms and can sleep about 18. We have a new volunteer coming in May/June (yay!) for the long haul and we’ve needed proper volunteer staff housing for a while. Our plan is to add a second level to the dorms and build a staff apartment there with two bedrooms, bathroom, kitchen and living/dining area so that our volunteers have a place of their own and our family can keep the mission house/office area. In order to build the second level we need to demolish the first one and start all over again. It’s not strong enough to hold a second storey – it already has big cracks in the walls as is. We’re hoping to start that early next month so we can get the first storey rebuilt with a cement roof by May. We’ll do the second phase of construction in the fall/winter.

So yes, there are many things going on around here. I think that’s part of my problem. There are a lot of things going on, but most of them are “boy” things – stuff that keeps Chris busy. I’ve done that intentionally, kind of cleared my calendar of anything but the essential work that I do for the mission because I know that when the baby does come I’m not going to have time for much. So, I don’t want to go and take extra things on just to fill my time, only so I have to try and figure out what to do with them later. It’s kind of a crazy place to be in. So, here I am, just waiting and trying to find things to occupy myself.

One thing that I’ve started doing in the last few days is swimming in the afternoons. We had a really beautiful weekend and after reading some magazines passed on to me about coastal living it was like I had a lightning bold hit me, again, about the fact that we live where we live. I think sometimes we feel guilty that we live in a really adorable house on the beach in the Caribbean. Really, our place is very unique and everyone that sees is tells us so. We have a lawn that’s coming in nicely. We have a great big hammock in the yard. A white, rickety, character filled fence. Big trees. Beautiful ocean breeze. The neighbors are much more friendly now. Life is not bad. We’re not suffering, that’s for sure. In fact, we feel very blessed that we get to live here and do what we do. It’s a great life. This weekend, the weather was just the right temperature, the ocean was amazing shades of blue and aqua, the breeze was blowing and I spent most of the weekend on the deck absorbing magazines. I went for a leisurely swim each afternoon, mostly for my back pain, but also just because I don’t do that enough. I don’t take the time to really enjoy what God has given us. I think sometimes it’s easy to be a missionary and feel like you have to deliberately deprive yourself of things, but when God plunks you in a place, I think he means for you to enjoy it. I want our home to feel like a home, not just this place we live in. I want us to love where we live. I think we’re doing that more everyday while trying to keep focused on what we’re doing.

We also had a very social weekend. We went to visit friends in Montrouis and play cards on Friday night which was fun. They have a beautiful place on the beach as well and we always enjoy having “tea” with them. Saturday more friends from Port came out and we spent both Saturday and Sunday evening with them. They also brought their whole group over on Sunday so those that hadn’t been to our place could get a tour. We all chilled out on the patio and devoured the mango pie that I made the day before for just such an occasion. The mangoes are starting to ripen like crazy on our trees and we had a 5 gallon bucket full of them on Friday so I made two pies and a few jars of mango butter. Yum! See, loving where we live!

Reeling and Dealing

Okay, it’s been a long time coming. Sorry about the delay. I’ve actually started writing this post about 4 times, then lost the energy or enthusiasm. However, here I am, posting, and hopefully I get this one up.

Chris and I got back to Haiti on the 4th and have been in the process of settling. Settling into married life, settling into Haiti life, pretty much settling into everything. The wedding was good with the exception of us both having not so fun colds. We did get through the important parts though and so far no regrets. The picture was taken with my Dad’s Edsel. That was fun! We had a fantastic honeymoon camping through the Kootneys in BC, down to the coast, and then the US to see family and have some fun on the Oregon Coast.

After being away for two months I feel like I’m having a hard time finding that balance that is so necessary here. Finding that place between adapting to the culture and holding onto what I know I need to be healthy. I think that’s even more difficult being married because it’s hard enough to be newly married as it is, but even harder when you’re trying to figure that out in another culture where they have a completely different idea about what that looks like. Most days now I find myself wondering if this place will ever truly feel like home and I’m sad to realize that it probably won’t. I will always stand out just because my skin is a different color, and because of that people will treat me differently too. I don’t understand most of what happens around me and feel like a wandering child trying to learn how to function in the world, which is a hard thing for someone like me. All of this had had me reeling and trying to figure out how to deal with all of it, and frankly I just don’t know how.

Another sad reality of living here hit me today like a Haitian bus. I got an email from home telling me that my cousin had been killed in a car accident a week ago. My parents only found out a few days ago in the middle of their holiday, and just yesterday were able to get to email. I feel so far away from the people that I love and all sorts of things have been running through me today. Sadness and grief. For my family and for the fact that I am where I am and can’t be where I want to be right now.

I know it’s a bit of a down note to leave things on, but that’s where I’m at today and that’s part of the reality of being here.