My New Normal

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I have been back in America for a week today. Just one week, but it feels like an eternity. The people of Seguin feel so far away, so unreachable, and even worse — so unattainable to help. Every morning, I wake-up and my first thought are those eyes I saw peeping through the window of the clinic door waiting for us to come play, to give them water, to sneak them some breakfast. Every night, as the sun sets, I think about how the sunlight has already long disappeared up in the mountains of Seguin. I think about the cool nighttime air settling in and how many little bellies are still hungry. At random times during the day, I swear I can hear Joress whispering “Shae”, “thank you”, and “I love you” — so much so that it raises the hair on my arms. Haiti has consumed my thoughts, prayers, and even haunted my dreams this week.

If I am going to be honest with y’all (and myself), I am struggling to find a new “normal”. I have felt every emotion trying to get back into my routine: sadness, nostalgia, anger and mostly frustration. I am frustrated that I can’t do more (yet). I am frustrated with all of the unneeded that I have. I am frustrated that somehow, I won the lottery of being born in America and that Joress and every other Haitian I looked at last week did not. I’m frustrated how distracted America is from what really matters: Christ, family, and survival. And if I’m going to be REAL honest: I’ve even been frustrated with the Big Man this week. I’ve questioned Him, cried to Him, and quite frankly talked to Him more than I have in a very long time.

Today, as I was questioning Him again, I came across John 14:18: “I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.”

That verse gave me chills. It was a needed reminder that I know a God who restores hope to the hopeless through His promise that this world, this broken and unfair world, is just our temporary home.

And as I sit here, closing out my first week back in America, I am realizing just because life goes back to normal doesn’t mean that I have to. Keep praying for the people of Seguin and that God fills their bellies and their rain buckets.

Photo cred to my little man Joress.

If you’re interested in supporting my trip back to Haiti, please donate here:https://www.gofundme.com/fe6nrpqw

Haiti 2015

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I will never be able to put my experience in Seguin, Haiti into words, but I feel I owe God my best effort to share my experience.

When I arrived in Port Au Prince with my Americanized mindset, I was terrified. Their tiny airport and the heat welcomed me and I was reluctant to touch anything. The dirt and smell and the people — I was in culture shock and I hadn’t even made it to the street.

As we waited for our bags, bugs lingered by my deet covered skin. This is the second I started second guessing my decision. What on earth did God get me into? How in the heck was I going to survive the week?

When we walked outside of the airport, I was “greeted” by a large crowd of Haitian men asking to carry my bags in French Creole. When I nervously shook my head no, they stared. When we finally made it to our enclosed van it felt like a sanctuary. I took a deep breath and with an upset belly I began to take in the people (and smells) of Haiti.

We traveled for quite some time through the Haitian filled streets. We were stared at and begged to buy goods our entire trip to our hotel in Jacmael. I must admit I stared equally as hard, but mostly at the women. I looked in awe as they balanced large buckets, baskets, and goods on their heads walking either barefoot or in some sort of worn out flats.

I wish I could say once I made it to the first hotel, that my attitude changed. But as I stood in the lobby listening to the loud conversations of the Haitians around me, I could feel the fear growing in the pit of my stomach. I think at this point, I had germx-Ed my hands at least 20 times.

Sarah and I made it to our room only to be greeted by a large cockroach. I screamed and the Haitian man squashed it and scooted it out of our room as if it were harmless. That night we had a buffet of Haitian food. I was terrified to eat or drink anything. I ate a quarter of a plate of rice and beans. That night, Sarah and I slept in our sleeping bags on top of the bed.

The next morning, we began our trip to Seguin. We rode this large truck called a tap tap up the extremely rocky, unpaved Haitian roads. I feared for my life on that one, not gonna lie. It took us four hours to travel 17.5 miles up the mountainside to Seguin.

I will never forget driving up the driveway to the clinic for the first time. We were warmly greeted by at least 30 Haitian children chasing us to the entry way. The second I hopped off the tap tap both my attitude and life changed forever. I wasn’t on the ground more than two seconds before I had two beautiful children in my arms and three pulling at my raincoat. This is the moment I knew I was going to survive the week. This is also when I saw the beauty of Haiti for the first time. I didn’t see dirty, shirtless children — I saw my baby brothers and sisters in Christ. Their excitement was contagious and I was overwhelmed with God’s peace.

I am sure I will elaborate on my week in its entirety, but for now I will consolidate the best I can. I spent my four days in Seguin hiking the beautiful country side building raincatchers for the world’s poorest of the poor. When we hike, we hire Haitians to carry our backpacks. I know how terrible this sounds, but they want to work for their money and Bob (the founder of raincatchers) has worked hard to instill that mindset in them. I was running behind our first afternoon of hiking and I ran out the front door to a little boy waiting for me. He pointed at me and said, “Mue, backpack Shae?” I felt the tears well-up. How on earth did this kid remember my name? I swallowed the lump in my throat and said, “Yes! Of course!” He grinned and grabbed my hand. I looked down at his bare feet and looked at an older Haitian and asked if he had shoes to wear. He did not. Bob gave him a pair as I ran back in to fill his water bottle. After I laced his shoes, he grabbed my hand and Joress and I embarked on our week together.

Throughout the week he stayed faithfully by my side as I built raincatchers with my fellow teammates. Let me take a second and explain this process. Raincatchers are made of PVC pipe. We put them on the side of the homes, build a “filter” and give them a large blue barrel to collect their water in. Come to find out, these barrels often get stolen and are like gold. After we finished building the raincatcher, we prayed with the family, and blessed them with food, toys, clothes and shoes. I fought back tears every single time as I stood inside these small homes the size of my bathroom with no furniture or electricity. Their gratefulness was overwhelming. Every single hike was made worth it in that moment.

One of my favorite times of the day was in the evening after we finished our meals. Little Haitian faces and bright smiles peeped through the window of our door. Mind you they stood there and watched us eat every single meal. But once we finished our dinner we invited them inside and fed them our leftovers at the table. We portioned out the food the best we could but some nights, Bob had to turn several kids away. I feel like I’ve had my heart broken, but never like that. Once we got the kids in, as hungry as they were, they never touched their food until everyone was seated and someone said grace. I cried watching them eat every single night.

Mine and Joress’s friendship grew throughout the week. Everyday after school he was there to carry my bag in the same outfit from the day before. He had the largest heart. On every hike he shared his water I gave him with the other Haitians. But, he would never quite drink it all. I equated this with the fear he would not get more. At the end of every hike I snuck him a treat and told him to run home with it. The kids fight over the snacks and rightfully so. They have no idea when we will get back or when they get these things again. We even watched them lick our wrappers out of the garbage.

My hardest day was the last day. Not only was I feeling physically and emotionally exhausted, the Haitians had a different mindset knowing it was our last day in Seguin. Their smiles were fading and tension grew on the mountain. Many Haitians hiked miles to bring Bob notes of needs and asks as they knew we were leaving. As we hiked out to repair raincatchers, I will be totally honest I had an awful attitude. I hadn’t showered in a week, my body ached, I was dehydrated, and I was hungry. My spirits were waning. But God gave me a fast reality check.

That afternoon we went to visit the poorest of the the poor. These Haitians homes were literally made of cornstalks. We took tarps to these families to cover their homes to protect from the rain and hurricanes. These living conditions crushed me. As went went from cornstalk home to cornstalk home, the children followed us to see the “blancos”. We were the first white person that many of them had seen. They were all barefoot and once they watched Joress hold my hand, many of them grabbed me and held my hand from place to place. One of my highest moments was walking through he countryside with at least ten Haitain children with me. They had no idea what I was saying in English, but as I said it, they echoed me in perfect harmony. I said, “I love you” and without missing a beat they repeated “I love you.” This continued until we all burst out into laughing fits. I will NEVER forget that moment.

My week came to an end with having to say goodbye to Joress and all the beautiful people of Seguin. I couldn’t fight my tears on the last night as we fed them one last time. I did well not crying in front of the children, but tonight I couldn’t hold it back when Joress wrapped his arms at my waist. He heartbeat pressed into my stomach and I closed my eyes prayed that his heart stay healthy, kind, and full of God in his coming years. When Jorress saw me crying, he cried too.

He waited for two hours by the door peeping through the window whispering my name through the crack. I had to ignore him and my heart ached a feeling that is impossible to describe.

I didn’t sleep my last night. I tossed and turned at the thought of leaving these beautiful people and as I type this my heart still hurts. Today, as I sit midair, homeward bound to a country that is far too materially wealthy, the people of Seguin are continuing to fight for survival.

I am beyond privileged to have had God call me to serve as the hands and feet of Jesus to the people of Seguin. As my week went on, I thought about how God calls us to serve others and get dirty like Christ did. Once I saw the need of these people, my fear of touching the people and things evaporated quickly. All I could think is if I were to get sick, at least I would get the treatment I need at home. Nothing even mattered other than stopping and loving these people.

I have to thank God for this experience and allowing me to see Him in inexplicable ways this week. I went to change Haiti and it changed me.

Many of you have asked how you can help. Unfortunately we cannot send packages to these people. There is no way for them to get them. The main thing Raincatchers need is money. These trips operate solely on their own. They are not funded by outside sources and the money from my trip goes directly to feeding the kids and building raincatchers. There are not many organizations out there like that. If trips don’t happen, these people aren’t blessed. This organization is sustained by donations. I can assure you your money will go directly to the people of Seguin. If you know me, I’m hesitate with situations like this but if you need to ask questions, I know Bob would be more than willing to talk with you.

They need benches, clothes, food, water, and they needed funded for school. You can sponsor a child’s education. Please, please consider this option. These children are SO proud of their education and getting to go. They showed their uniforms off to us as if they we headed to prom. It was heart wrenching to watch these kids march into their classroom and several of them stand behind watching because they have no money to go to school. It only costs $200 a year to fund a child and is an ongoing commitment until they graduate 6th grade. Please message me if you’re interested and I can put you in touch with the appropriate person.

Another way you can help is my donating to my go fund me account that I’ll set up in the coming week. I am going back to Haiti and the matter of when is based on how quickly I can fund my trip.

I will end my post by saying thank you to Bob, Krista, Kim, and Travis for this experience and both their sacrifices and dedication to Haiti. I know it isn’t easy, but they are not only changing Haiti, they’re changing the missionaries too.

I am leaving Haiti with more than a new outlook, I’m leaving with the definition of true love.

The video you’re about to watch is the Haitian children chasing us down the mountain side because they know we throw off goods.

Please pray for rain in Seguin. God bless.

-Shae

From Mountaineer to Michigander: What two years in the “mitten” has taught me

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Has it really been two years since I uprooted myself from West Virginia and replanted in Michigan? I feel like I just got here. But maybe that’s just because it took me so long to get settled. Regardless, if there is one thing I’ve learned about life these past two years it’s this:

Making the wrong decision teaches you exactly who you want to be.

I am going to be raw and real honest for a second. I probably should not have moved to Michigan. It took me a year and a phone call with my mom at 2 AM to realize this. A phone call that ended in tears (just like the many that preceded it). I was angry and wanted to pick up and move home to West Virginia and just start over. When I realized I hadn’t made the “winning” decision for my future, I knew I could either accept my loss or I could learn from it.

With God’s help, I chose to stay in Michigan and learn.

The past two year’s I have learned that happiness has to start with yourself and can only be enhanced by (not dependent on) others. I have learned that my mom was right, “this too shall pass”. I’ve learned that home doesn’t always have to be a place. I’ve learned that my religion is Jesus. I’ve learned that sometimes the only person you need to forgive is yourself. I’ve learned that people with the most “stuff” are often the poorest. I’ve learned that beauty isn’t found in a bare minerals box. I’ve learned that investing in people is worth it. I’ve learned only doers make mistakes. I’ve learned that I can keep going, long after I think I can’t. I’ve learned when I really, really want to make a change, I can. I’ve learned the only person who will ever hold me back is myself. Most importantly, I’ve learned there is still so much for me to learn.

Thank you, Michigan. You’re not too shabby.

-Shae

Just Keep Moving

I have something on my heart I just have to share. Y’all know I only post on here when I actually have something to say and this time is no different.

I went for my run tonight and started off on a slower pace knowing I was running long distance. As I was jogging and cars went zooming by, I thought about how many people probably thought “dang that girl is going slow”. Maybe no one did, I don’t know. Regardless, I got to thinking about how if someone did think I was running slow, they had no idea how far I actually had to pace myself to go, nor how far I’d already run.

“You have no idea how far I have to go or how far I’ve already gone,” I thought.

Wow. As I kept running I started to think about how that applies to other aspects of life. So often, we judge people from afar without knowing how far they have to go or even how far they have already come.

So here’s my words for everyone out there “running”. Whether you’re just starting your run and pacing yourself, are halfway there, or reached the finish line and getting ready to start the next run — stay strong and determined. Do not let the judgement of others affect your pace. When your body starts to exhaust, keep going. When you feel like you can’t go one more step, keep going. Even if you have to walk, keep going. And most importantly, do not forget that some runs are going to be better than others, but it does not matter so long a you just keep moving forward. You are capable of so much more than you believe. Mind over matter, y’all. Mind over matter.

 

XO,

Shae

My Mission Trip to Haiti

My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. – John 15:12

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Photo by Kristina Graham

Growing up, I’ve had a fire in my soul for changing the world. The older I’ve gotten, experience and God’s word has taught me a very important thing: I will never be able change the world, Jesus will do that — but I can change the world for one. So I’ll keep stopping and loving one person as a time, because this is my call at a Christian.

In October I’ll serve as the hands and feet of Jesus as I travel to the mountains of southeast Haiti with a group of people from my church (242 Community Church) and the organization, Raincatchers. With them, I’ll build simple, sustainable rainwater collection systems called Raincatchers.

A Raincatcher is a gutter made from plastic pipe, some tin to divert the water, and a sediment filter.  It will catch about a liter of water a minute. This will ultimately save the Haitians from having to walk 5-10 miles a day to get water.

But most importantly, not only will this help the people physically but more importantly, spiritually. While we are there installing these rain catchers we will tell the people why we are doing it and share the gospel of Jesus Christ with them.

This is a wonderful opportunity; but, of course it is not easy and it is not free. With plane tickets, food and transportation, the cost becomes more than I can afford. That is why I created my gofundme account and ask that you consider a donation to help support me in helping these thirsty people.

I also ask you to commit the team and me to prayer while we are on this mission trip.

I am so excited for this mission trip and know God will open my heart to so much while I’m there. I literally cannot wait to spend my week in service to these Haitians.

Many thanks and God bless.

Shae

Life Changes

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People ask me all the time if I regret my decision to move to Ann Arbor considering my circumstances changed that originally brought me here. My jerk reaction has frequently been no. I didn’t want to regret moving here, so I always answered no, not knowing whether or not it was true.

But the more people have questioned my decision, the more I’ve sincerely thought about it: Do I regret moving to Ann Arbor, Michigan for a relationship that didn’t work out?

Peeling back my sometimes overly positive and optimistic layers, to my surprise the answer is still no. And it’s for three very big reasons.

When I really started to reflect on it I thought: how could I ever regret moving for something that I once wanted so bad? Moving here and starting a life with my long-term boyfriend was something my 18-year-old self dreamt about for five long years. I deserved that year living with him. Our relationship did. And now having done it, I will never, ever look back and wonder “what if?”. I know in my heart we gave it our all and that year was the final chapter to a very tumultuous story line.

The second thing that makes me not regret my decision an ounce is the the happiness I have felt from the friendships I have made. I started to think about all the beautiful and loving people I wouldn’t have met had I not moved here. I mean I found people who barely knew me and were willing to lend me both their hands to help and ears to listen (and usually always brought a bottle of wine). I have found a handful a people of I consider soul sisters and I know that is rare. From my co-workers to the girlfriends that have stumbled (drunken pun intended, Nagini) their way into my life the past year — they have all been a huge blessing from God. Thinking of never having met them is reason enough for me NOT to regret ending up in Ann Arbor.

And finally, I have come to peace with my decision to move here because I know I am right where God wants me. If there’s anything I’ve learned in my 23 years, it’s that like so many other time periods in my life (college, my summer in Phoenix, high school, etc.), I am going to look back and miss this one too. And that thought makes me love this place and these moments so much.

I have an immense amount of faith in God’s plan for my life and I have no time for regret or looking backwards.. after all, I’m not going that way.

Ann Arbor, Michigan, I love you so freaking much (even if I do complain about you and your weather 90% of the time).

Shae

Valentine’s 2♡15

 

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My heart is so happy I could explode. I have had a crazy, unexpectedly good week. So good that I prioritized writing about it right now over food (and we all know how food trumps all in my life). Before you ask, nothing monumental happened, just little blessings from God all week long.

They piled up and as I reflected on my week during my car ride home this morning, I started to think about Valentines Day and its significance. I love Valentines Day. I love heart shaped things, red is my favorite color, and my dad always makes for the BEST Valentine. I have tried to deny it because it feels wrong for a single woman to love this “holiday”, but I’m laying my cards ( a stack of hearts, hahah see what I did there?) on the table. I am sorry y’all, but I still LOVE VALENTINES DAY.

This year is different though. I’ve always taken this day and thought about how it represented how much someone else loved me. Usually my dad (thanks for always coming through dad) or a boyfriend if I have one, but this year it is all about self-love. No seriously. I know that’s cliche, but when I was reflecting, I realized that I have never had as much self-love as I do for myself right now. I got teary-eyed thinking about the journey to being this content with my life: all the people that helped and all that God touched to make it work.

I am blessed beyond measure. I am a woman of self-love, friendship, family, and God and those are some of the best Valentines a girl could EVER ask for.

Happy Valentines Day, loves.

XOXO

Shae