When Aaron and I first got married he worked at church that was pretty affluent. The first city we lived in was a fairly affluent city. We were on the path to fulfilling the “great American dream” of 2 kids, nice car, white picket fence and of course a cute dog as well. I was racking up credit card bills left in right to try and have the best clothes and make sure I was a good looking church staff wife. I ate dinner in people's big houses and dreamed one day of having one myself. It was all about ME. What can I get for ME. How can I have more for ME.
Then we moved to a small town outside of Nashville.
Then I went to Haiti.
My eyes were opened. I had NEVER seen what I was seeing. My world was changed. I could not dare go back and think some of the thoughts I had been thinking my whole life. I could not dare go back and complain about living in a house with ONLY two bedrooms, for my house with ONLY two bedrooms was a mansion compared to what I had just seen.
Sara Groves says it best in her song “I saw what I saw” ..
I saw what I saw and I can't forget it
I heard what I heard and i can't go back
I know what I know and I can't deny it
something on the road, cut me to the soul
your pain has changed me
your dream inspires
your face a memory
your hope a fire
your courage asks me what I'm afraid of
and what I know of love
we've done what we've done and we can't erase it
we are what we are and it's more than enough
we have what we have but it's no substitution
something on the road, cut me to the soul
You see that trip to Haiti in the Fall of 2006 forever changed me. I will never be the same because God opened my eyes to the world around me. The world where no one really lives like we do here in the states. The world where people are forgotten and pushed down because of their race or class. The world where I didn't fit in.
In 2007 we began a journey that would forever change our lives. We committed to our two children Amos & Story and began visiting them often in Haiti. We tried really hard to be there 4 times a year. Not always together, but one of us there with them a few times a year. Through those 2 years God continued to mold our hearts to see things through his eyes.
I remember making a statement that I needed Haiti. I needed that place to remind me of who I am. We're all desperate for Jesus. We're all nothing without him. You see, here in America there is so much stuff around us that we can begin to feel as though we don't need Jesus. We can do this on our own. When I would go to Haiti I would be reminded of the great love that God has for ALL his people. I would meet people that by my standards had NOTHING, but yet the joy and happiness that flowed through them was something that I had never experienced in my years as a follower of Christ. I was challenged greatly.
I decided I need to get out of my comfort zone a lot so that I could be the person he wanted me to be here. I needed to be reminded of certain things. I struggle with materialism. Going to Haiti four times a year reminded me of that.
God changed our hearts in so many ways those two years. Our goals in life changed. Our view of success changed. Our dream home changed. Our dream school for our kids changed. Our dream retirement changed. Our dreams were altered. They were not diminished. They were greatly enhanced by HIM. He changed us.
I tell you all that to say that today I was reminded of how much I can be swayed into MY own dreams. I still struggle with wanting more. I still struggle with the “american dream”. I have to chose to die to my own desires daily. Some days I kick-a doing it and other days I am fighting for my life in it.
Today as I was driving home from my parents I had one thing on my mind. I was dreaming of expanding our home. (let me clarify this before someone jumps down my throat here … nothing is wrong with expanding your home. heck we may do it some day. stick with me here) I was planning my dream laundry room. I was planning a sun room. I was planning a huge deck with lots of parties. I was dreaming a study for all of us to do homework at night. I was dreaming of a wall full of books. I was literally building my dream home for us. I was wanting and wanting and wanting an wanting and wanting.
Then I get home to this email from Aaron who has just spent the last four days in Haiti with our friends Troy and Tara:
This is the first time I've been here in 2 years.
It's completely unchanged.
Other than the new road that leads to nowhere and the many buildings no longer here because of the earthquake, this place remains the same.
Still over-run by orphans and the sick.
Still oppressed by darkness.
Still stuck in a vicious cycle of corruption and evil.
Nothing has changed.
It seems untouched.
Women still abused.
Children still sold for sex and slavery.
White people still taking advantage of the black man, and black men still bitter about the white man taking advantage.
Nothing has changed.
Trash still clutters the streets, and weariness clutters the human heart.
Darkness still hangs at the end of every street, next to smoldering rubber tires and gang fights.
The land is still Barren.
Trees are still distant memories to a lost generation.
Nothing has changed.
Children still wander the streets without food in their bellies or fathers in their hearts.
Missionaries still love and care for the forgotten, while America chooses to forget while saving their money for a new car.
Orphaned teenage mothers still cry for their newborn cholera-stricken baby's fever to finally break.
Nothing has changed. Progress seems invisible.
But our God and His Kingdom are also invisible.
They aren't made up by progress, governments, and paved roads.
His kingdom contains things like faith the size of mustard seeds.
Cities on hills.
Fisherman turned missionaries.
Women who pour perfume on dusty feet.
Peacemakers and forgivers.
Those who hunger not for food or drink, but for righteousness.
Friends that turn cities upside down with a crazy gospel.
And children who kill giants.
His kingdom is different.
The invisible here contains things like faith, trust, love, kindness, and generosity. And even though its invisible, I can see it.
So even though nothing has seemingly changed, everything is changing. And the fight must continue. So, we keep giving. And crying. And pleading. And hoping for Him to come back.
This we boast in… He is unchanged.
I sat here and bawled. I bawled. Aaron is there. I am here. I'm fighting wanting a bigger laundry room and people there are fighting to live. I'm wanting a bigger game room to host more friends. People there are wanting a hospital to save their baby. I'm wanting a sun room with a really cool sliding door that I saw on Pintrest and people there are wanting a house that's not a tent to keep them out of the harsh weather.
I am that same girl I first told you about.
She is always there.
I fight her daily.
I know this. I am reminded of this today once again. I will not give in to her though. My selfish heart will not win. Jesus paid too big of a price for me to give in to her once again. God is in Haiti. God is here.
I will chose to die to my self. I will chose HIM. It is not all about ME.
I am struggling more than ever in this very way. Thanks for the reminder.
Oh sister. I fight this every single day. What a wonderful reminder. You are not alone!
I so needed to hear this today. Thank you for perspective!
Girl…I needed to read this tonight. Thank you for sharing. It’s been almost 5 years since I’ve been to Haiti. I’m so disconnected and if I’m honest, I’ve allowed bitterness to be the victor in that regard.
I needed this reminder. I love ya friend. Thank you for being honest.
Jamie, you are so sweet! Such a beautiful child of God! All of us struggle with something, I am glad you wrote this. It reminded of what I used to see in Brazil on a daily basis and what I saw in the mountains of Mexico once. It also reminded me that there are americans who will get out of the comfort zone and actually see underdeveloped countries and suffer with them. If God has a husband for me, I hope he is doing what you guys are doing, it was the hardest thing to try and date a guy who had never been out of this country before. He had this “american dream” concept of life, always getting deeper into the Rat Race, if you know what I mean. We disagreed in most things. I thank God he rescued me from getting married to him. I was as far as picking a ring….
Have a great week!
Such poignant words. So powerful- so true! Thank you for being tremendously transparent and honest, challenging and loving, real and understanding. It is so easy to fall back into our selfish ways; we must be reminded. We must constantly examine our hearts. We must be accountable. Thank you SO much for this. It encourages me to see other people writing things like this. love you guys
Thanks for sharing! This was a great eye opener for me and something that I feel God is speaking to me about lately. With all the wildfires in Texas that is going on, I have seen a lot of friends that have been affected by it. While I am trying to build my future marriage to be the “perfect” life, I see the smoke flowing across the sky as hundreds of homes are burning to the ground and families are robbed of their bedrooms, photos, etc. Everything that they have lived for is ruined, yet I still sit back and watch the smoke pass by thinking of how great my life will be once I get this dream job with the dream house, with my soon-to-be dream husband.
I’m just reminded through your post that God is bigger than MY dreams, life is bigger than MY dreams! There are places that God has put on our hearts for a reason and we have to fight for them! Praying for movement in our idle and selfish hearts! That God would do great things with us! Thanks again for your openness and conviction! Let’s fight this battle knowing that the victory is already won!
Thank you for this reminder! I have been so selfish! I have returned to my old, selfish ways. When I went to Romania and Moldova over summer, the Lord changed me! And how easy was it to forget what He taught me? To forget what He did? Jesus-You are so much more than I’ve made You. Forgive me! None of this matters. What matters is that I live my life according to Your purpose. It doesn’t matter what others think. I’m here to serve You!
I love you & I love your heart. Thank you for this reminder today. We, too, are constantly battling with our flesh on this same issue. Lord–make us different!!
love this. I needed to hear this today as well.
Thank you so very much for sharing this. WOW, I felt as if I was almost reading about myself. I needed this today!! As we are in the waiting stage to move to Haiti….I continually struggle with this!! GOD Please help me to be SELFLESS NOT SELFISH!!!!!
I haven’t been to Haiti…but your trips to Haiti have changed me. I haven’t been to Haiti but I fight those same American Dream thoughts you fight. I haven’t been to Haiti but my heart aches for the people there and the people here (including myself) who think our way is a better way.
Thank you for this post. I am praying my heart continue to fight it’s way to Christ.
Thank you for writing this. The same thing happened to me when I went to Kenya as a 19 year old. I was changed forever; AND YET it is still usually a daily battle against selfish desires for worldly comfort. This post was a great encouragement!
It’s amazing how quickly we forget the things the Spirit impresses upon us as we travel the streets of the third world. It doesn’t take long for my needs to rise back to prominence and squash out anything that wishes to thwart their preeminence. Thanks for the reminder that I am selfish. I don’t want to settle in that place. Mark 8:34
Right there with you, except that so far I have not gotten to go or to see them firsthand. I try to help from here but know it’s not enough and I swing wildly back and forth between wanting to do everything I can for those, the hurting, the poor, the fatherless, the oppressed…and wanting to fix up my office or buy myself a pretty new dress. It’s hard, this struggle, because of being surrounded by the marketing and the wanting. I need to pray constantly to keep my heart broken and humbled and die to self. Thanks for that reminder.
Oh the battle with the flesh we all fight. I’m so grateful that I can follow this blog and get a good heart check daily. Thank you for sharing this. Thank you for showing those of us who have never been to Haiti how devastating it is there and how grateful we should be for what we have.
My husband and I are looking into adopting from Haiti because of the influence you and Aaron have had on our lives as we follow this blog. God is so good, and so BIG. He is changing our lives by allowing you to be so transparent in yours.
I went to Haiti for a short-term mission trip while in college over 25 years ago. Today, my son lives there. He went for a short-term mission trip the summer after high school. When he came home he shared his desire to apply for a long-term position with the mission. His words, “How can you turn your back on all this? How can I come home and live out the American Dream like I never saw what I saw?” Pray for him. His name is Shea. He serves with International Faith Mission in Fond Parisien. He’s had malaria three times in one year and typhoid once. But God has called him to make a difference.
Thank you for sharing your heart. May we all be so transparent. God bless you.
Thank you for sharing your heart once again. I have been fighting a battle with myself over wanting so badly to own a home – here on our mission field or in the States – wherever, just something to call mine, a place of stability, a “nest egg” for our future. It’s not in God’s plans for us right now, even if it *seems* to be in His plans for everyone else. I have to keep reminding myself that He has called us to a people and a place for an eternal investment, not a material one. I needed to hear this tonight.
Wow. Beautifully said.
Thank you for being so raw and honest!! Thanks for being willing to share in spite of how it could be perceived. Reading this was a gut check moment for me. Such a good reminder of how easy it is to fall back into.our old ways, but that we should pick ourselves up, dust off and fight it. Thank you! I NEEDED this.
it’s ok. just relearn it every day.
I. love. this.
amazing and just what I needed right now. We bought our home when we had 2 children…now we have 5. Some by birth and some through adoption. It is hard not to feel like you “need” more space or something else. The hard part is deciding what God’s dream is for me, my home, and our unexpected large family.
Krista I can totally relate to all of this. My flesh wants what my spirit doesn’t. Oh the battle of my heart and soul!