The Second Year – Living Water Well Update

This is a message I recently received in regards to the new well at Thomonde, Haiti.

This is a picture of the new well at Thomonde, one of the Living Water wells.  Notice the water on the ground–it works.  The man in the brown shirt is Etienne Rolzaph, the pastor of the church in Thomonde. The well is the anchor of the church’s dream for a new church building. I included his email to me when he requested a visit from us to give a “proper thank you.”  

Hello my dear pastor, I greet you in the soft invaluable name of Jesus. I am Etienne Rolzaph pastor of the church Baptist Jerusalem of Thomonde. how is – that you go? We have so much to pray for you and your group. How was the journey? On my behalf staff and of the church we are anxious to say to you thank you and thank you still for this big gift(donation) how much important for the church not to say the whole community (for the well of water). The committee of the church wants to thank you face to face. When can we to hope you and your group in Haiti still more exactly has Thomonde?
I remain at your disposal to give all the information necessary for this demand(request) and ask you to approve, my brother, the expression of my distinguished consideration.

Below is a map of Haiti. You can see where Thomonde is located.

Thomonde Location Map

And here is another map that shows you how remote this area is.

How thrilled Mike would be at this news! He would truly be humbled and in awe at the kind generosity of all who have contributed to this worthy project in his memory.

Beauty from Ashes



The Second Year – Melancholy days

I have been reading a book called “The Greatest Gift” by Ann Voskamp. It is a series of daily readings which coincide with Advent – the anticipation of Jesus’ birth and ultimate celebration of Christmas. I am so glad I came across this book. I look forward to my mornings reading and reflecting on this season of the year. It has enabled me to experience the days leading up to Christmas with a depth of peace and anticipation that I have never experienced before. It is a quiet joy. That sometimes includes tears.

My heart has been heavy lately. I realized that in an effort to gain some sort of “normalcy” in life, I am trying to “remake” myself – who am I? What kind of work do I want to do? Figure it out. Figure it all out. Where do I want to live? Where will I be in six months or six years? Figure it out. Figure it all out. Churning, striving, thinking. Always thinking. Wakefulness, wonder, worry. Yes, there are questions to be answered. So many. Why did the coal fire go out? It was just burning great three hours ago. Why is it 49 degrees upstairs when I had the furnace repaired last week? Why can’t I escape the multitude of things rushing through my head? God, why? God, how? God, help.

I have questions. I have doubts. And this is what I learned about doubts today:

There are “two kinds of doubts – one that fully lives into the questions, and one that uses the questions as weapons against fully living.” (The Greatest Gift)

I do not want my questions to stagnate me. To get me stuck and become a barrier to living. Life here is short. I am painfully aware of that – and seem to be reminded of it frequently. But the unanswered questions grab onto my legs and pull me down into the sea of doubt. And this is the doubt that becomes a weapon against fully living. I cannot be afraid of the doubt that fully engages me into the questions – to talking about it, all of it. Be authentic and real. We all have doubts. Even the most faith-filled have doubts. How we handle those moments of uncertainty determines whether we truly live or not.

Trying to “remake” myself has been exhausting. I am realizing that the process cannot be forced. But what to do? Today I received some insight from the Greatest Gift:

“Come to Him just as you are.  Give up trying to be self-made: this is your gift to Him – and His gift to you. Simply come.” “the miracle of Christmas is that you get more than proof of God’s existence. You get the experience of God’s presence.”

This Christmas I desire to be freed from the striving, the churning, the worry. I know it is a process. But there is this hope – that life can be lived; fully. Even with the doubts. There is a place where I can go. Just as I am.

“You don’t have to work for the coming of the Lord. You don’t have to work for Christmas. The miracle is always that God is gracious. You don’t have to earn Christmas, you don’t have to perform Christmas, you don’t have to make Christmas. You can rest in Christ. You can wait with Christ. You can breathe easy in Christ. Open your heart to the miracle of grace. He will prepare your heart for the coming of the Lord.”

I may not have much to give others in the way of gifts this Christmas. It is humbling. Can be frustrating. But perhaps the gift I can give is one of Hope – that there is life to be fully lived. Joy in sorrow. Beauty from ashes. Hope that came in the form of a helpless infant. Hope that grew and willingly suffered as a man; One who knows my sadness, my quiet sorrow, my doubts. One who understands. And because of His life and death, I can experience life fully here. That is the joy and hope that I have.

What can I give Him, poor as I am?
If I were a shepherd, I would bring a lamb;
If I were a Wise Man, I would do my part;
Yet what I can I give Him… give my heart. (In the Bleak Midwinter)

The Second Year – Joyful music

A little known fun fact about me. I grew up playing piano. And when I was in middle school I learned to play the pipe organ at our church. Around that same time,  I remember going to Radio City Music Hall and sitting up in one of the many balconies listening to the Christmas music. I saw the organist moving both feet and hands on multiple pedals and keyboards while manipulating various stops as he created such beautiful sounds. Powerful and strong, gentle and tender. I was amazed.

Once a week, I was able to practice on the pipe organ at church in preparation for my lesson. On more than one occasion, I would climb up on to the bench, open up all the stops and do my best to blast the roof off the church building. Oh, what power. And on the occasion I was able to play a piece well (it took a LOT of work for that to happen!) it had an impact on me. Each foot moving in a separate direction, hands on different key boards and eyes taking it all in. Music touches me deeply. All kinds of music.

But one song in particular was Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy”.  I came across this YouTube video on facebook. The part I enjoyed most was the transformation of the faces in the crowd…from uncertainty to understanding to pure joy. And you could see the sense of joy in the musicians as well once the piece was done. A shared experience amongst strangers. A gift of song.

A bit about the history of this piece:

The text for the hymn was written while (Henry) van Dyke was a guest preacher at Williams College in Williamstown, Massachusetts.  It is said that one morning van Dyke handed the manuscript to the college president, saying, “Here is a hymn for you.  Your mountains (the Berkshires) were my inspiration.  It must be sung to the music of Beethoven’s “Hymn of Joy.”

The tune is from the last movement of Ludwig van Beethoven’s great Ninth Symphony, “The Choral”.  In this great work Beethoven combines the sounds of the orchestra with a full chorus and soloist.  The choral finale uses Schiller’s “Ode to Joy” as its text.  It is hard to believe that at the time of composition Beethoven was totally deaf.  At the premier in 1824 the soloist had to turn the great man around to acknowledge the thunderous standing ovation, which he could not hear.

Joyful, Joyful we adore thee. God of glory. Lord of Love.

The Second Year – Miracle of the Moments

Red and I took a walk during the last snowfall. It was that kind of snow that coated the trees and sparkled on the lawn. I am always amazed at how quiet it is when it snows.  Since Mike has gone, I have these moments once in a while – they are fleeting – but they are deep seated and joyful. Filling me with gratitude for the love and life we shared for 30 years. I miss him deeply and the heart ache hits hard. And yet how blessed I am to have had such a loving companion for so long. These are the little miracles of the moments in life that I am so thankful for.

The Second Year – Coal

“Let it breathe, Trish, let the coal breathe.”

When Mike had a severe case of Lyme disease a few years ago, I became responsible for the coal stove. Each morning I had to shake out the ash and load the stove up with coal. I learned quickly that there is an art to keeping a coal fire going. One time I shook the hot coals too hard and bent the cast iron shaker grates. But Mike had the knack. He was the “Coal King”. And he was determined to teach me how to improve my coal burning skills. Little did I know that I was being prepared for this season of life.

The memory of Mike’s words encouraged me yesterday as I took on this year’s challenge of cleaning and starting the stove. On my very own this time. We have a ton (literally) of coal in the backyard and I don’t want to waste it. So I invited Red to come to the basement with me to give this my best shot.  This was not going to be a quick job. so while I worked, Red got comfortable.

First, I had to prepare the stove for the coal. I didn’t use it last year so I had a lot of cleaning to do. Three ash buckets later, Bertha (who names their stove??) was ready.

That was the easy part. Starting the fire and building the base takes time. A lot of time. And so I began. Fire Starters. Then, kindling. Then logs. More logs. Then a little bit of coal. Another log to keep the fire hot. A bit more coal. Check the air flow. If you put too much coal in at once, it will suffocate the flame and you have to start all over, with a cleaned out stove.

Less wood, more coal. A little more coal. And then a little bit more.

“Not too much at one time, Trish. Let it breathe.”

Go slowly. It needs to breathe.

I made some phone calls. I wrote in my journal. Red lay beside me, dozing. Breathing deeply. Restful.

As I fed the fire slowly, it gradually burned brighter. And warmer. I saw the blue flame spread. Finally, after midnight I thought it might be OK to go to bed. It was risky. I wasn’t sure if the coals were hot enough to burn through the now shortened night. I wondered if I needed to wake up during the night to check on the fire. And then I realized that I needed to let it go and allow the coal to burn; to do it’s job. Coal does not like to be fussed with. Any variation in air flow, no matter how slight, impacts how the coal burns. Too much air, it burns too fast. Too little air, and it suffocates. Either way, the result is the same – it burns out. So I checked it one more time and felt satisfied that the bed of coals was deep enough for the night. It was burning steadily.

Just before I dozed off, I thought about that fire and the fine balance that it needs in order to burn efficiently. Too much of one thing…not enough of another…and the flames either burn out too quickly or they are smothered. And so it is with JOY. It needs to be cultivated; with great intention.  Do I cultivate joy in my life? Even in the hard times? I think back to the late nights of Mike’s last weeks at home; when all was quiet. Mike was sleeping in his recliner. I was tucked into the blankets on the couch next to him. It was so dark. I listened to the rhythm of Mike’s breathing. I saw the moon and the stars through the door. Life was surreal. I thought about all Mike was going through. And all I was going through. I took the time, in the night, to process the previous day. And I looked at the stars.  Every night on that couch this song came to my mind. A song that reminded me to seek joy.

“You’re rich in love and  you’re slow to anger, Your name is great and your heart is kind. For all your goodness I will keep on singing, 10,000 reasons for my heart to find.”

And each morning I set about cultivating those seeds of Joy that God placed in my heart the night before. This does not mean I was happy. It was different. Much different. It was the joy of a heart at rest; knowing that even in the midst of intense difficulties, I knew I was not alone and I knew that ultimately, I was going to be OK. And that has not changed.

So like the stove, I remember to take it slow, that I can’t rush the process, and that healing takes time.

“Let it breathe, Trish, let your soul breathe.”

“Then Jesus said, ‘Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.'” Mt 11:28

The Second Year – JOY

A deep, intense feeling of delight, pleasure, satisfaction, contentment, and good cheer, not based upon circumstances or outward stimuli but rather upon an inward state or frame of mind cultivated over time and with great intention. (The Joy Project)

“The settled assurance that God is in control of all the details of my life, the quiet confidence that ultimately everything is going to be alright, and the determined choice to praise God in every situation.”  (Kay Warren)

The Second Year – Finding JOY on the Journey

I have been dreading this “holiday season”. Before Thanksgiving, I honestly felt like I just wanted it all to blow over. To go away. To leave me alone. I was overwhelmed even with the anticipation of the busyness and cultural urgency of the season. I didn’t want to listen to Christmas music, I stayed out of stores, and even the thought of decorating the house was overwhelming. But in spite of my seeming “scroogy-ness”  there was one word that entered my mind and took up residence there.

It didn’t scream for attention. It gently nudged me at times. Quietly. I decided I better start giving it some of my attention. One night I was working on a project and decided to “watch” the Charlie Brown Christmas special to give me some “white noise” (the house gets very quiet) . And there it was. That word again.

“Be not afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of a great joy which will come to all the people…”  Luke 2:10

Good news. Great joy. That is quite a promise. I realized how accustomed I have become to receiving bad news. I think on some level, I even expect it now. Linus got my attention.

“for to you…”

Get ready for it – here is the news – and it is good….

“….is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.”

According to Webster’s Dictionary, a Savior is “someone who saves something or someone from danger, harm, failure.” And Lord is defined as “one having power and authority over others”. This is the good news that would bring great joy to all the people. Even to the woman who is swimming in grief. The one who is sometimes afraid of moving forward, making new memories, discovering a new life. Don’t be afraid….there is good news for you…. there is One who has the power and authority to save you from danger, harm, and failure. There is hope for you. You are not alone.

This is reason for great joy.

I put my project aside and I was inspired to make it a goal of mine to find JOY in the next 20 days. This season, for me, is to be one of anticipation – an advent –  as I anticipate receiving, yet again, the good news that brings great JOY to all the people on Christmas day.

Here’s to the first day of finding JOY on this journey.