We can make our plans, but the LORD determines our steps. Proverbs 16:9
So… Eric came home with a turkey last night which was kind of a big deal. We have never bought a turkey in Haiti before and this was definitely a Thanksgiving splurge. The kids and Miguel keep talking about Thanksgiving saying they “can’t wait!”. I have a suspicion that my attempts at a traditional American Thanksgiving in Haiti may not match whatever expectations they have dreamed up. Much of this has to do with my own expectations which include a fear of turkeys. I already planned my speech on how the Pilgrims having come to a foreign land gave thanks for whatever local bounty they were blessed with and likely this did not include turkey on their table either. I was much more prepared to have Thanksgiving without turkey than to have Thanksgiving with it. The truth is I’ve only cooked a turkey on my own once in my life and had not planned on a repeat of that experience. I’ve plucked and cooked chicken but for some reason the turkey completely evades me. As I ask for explicit turkey cooking instructions, my mother cannot understand. But I do.
Mother is and has always been the designated turkey cooker at every holiday, family get together, and church function. Therefore she assumes that her daughter who moved out of her house over eighteen years ago should be able to cook a turkey by now. I explained that turkey cooking is not an inherited genetic trait nor is it learned by osmosis during the passing of time. All those times when I was shooed out of the kitchen while a turkey magically appeared on the table only taught me that it was my job to consume turkey but never to cook it! Somehow I have gotten away with learning how to cook just about every other side dish but have managed to excuse myself from turkey duty. But this Thanksgiving there is no one else. And now I am asking why Eric never learned to cook a turkey either? I guess for the same reason that I never did. It was never necessary before. Which make me realize that this will be the very first Thanksgiving that we have ever spent around our own table with just us. We have always either ventured to others tables or others have brought their bounties to ours. So this year will be a first for us. And I will make turkey. Which makes me realize that I have no turkey pan. Mom’s recipe definitely includes the pan. Anyone have a recipe for Thanksgiving turkey that does not include a pan?
Moving on…should the Lord tarry past turkey day. I feel like we have run the Haiti gamut of trying to find ways that make Christmas feel special to us the past three years. We have repeatedly given ourselves the talk that Who and what Christmas is really about IS what makes it special. Everything else is just fillers and substitutes. It IS Jesus birthday. But we all look forward to the birthday party right? We are really looking forward to HIS party this year! This year there will be no wondering if the kids presents will make it through shipping and customs in time, no last minute frantically searching and buying a pitiful overpriced substitute present because grandparents didn’t make it, no sadness over not having electricity to plug in Christmas lights, listen to Christmas music, cooking Christmas dinner and playing games in the dark, no sweating and swatting mosquitoes. There will be no locally caught tropical parrot fish happily cooked up by Genise as a Christmas lunch present to us. There will be no red and green food themed Christmas dinner which was my totally lame idea to avoid the kids asking for Christmas turkey. So we splurged on imported frozen lasagna and broccoli (the red and green foods) that we didn’t end up eating after parrot fish and stomach bug episodes. As I recall all these things from three Christmases past I am smiling. We have made the most of the past three years and don’t wish to trade those unforgettable memories. But this Christmas we are all looking forward to un-Haiti made memories. Our family has never spent Christmas together outside of Haiti since our girls have joined our family. We have never all experienced grandparents and cousins and Ta’s Christmas turkey all celebrating Jesus birth together. This is what we are most looking forward to this holiday season.
Last April as we were searching for the best timed and priced tickets to return to Haiti after our summer travels we were not thinking it would be possible to return to the states as soon as Christmas. But then we found amazingly priced tickets that cost the same whether we only returned to Haiti in the fall or also booked roundtrip tickets to include a stateside Christmas. This Christmas is the first Christmas in many years that all my siblings and parents were able and planning to spend Christmas together in Texas. We really wanted to be there and felt that finding the affordable tickets was a green light. Little did we know then that there would be other reasons. God knew. We found out in August shortly before returning to Haiti that I would need to have extensive dental work completed over three appointments that must be scheduled three weeks apart. Then there is the home we own in New Braunfels, Texas. The only option we had due to time constraints and adoption paperwork filed under that house at the time we moved to Haiti was to sell as much as we could and rent the house partially furnished. That is what we have continued to do throughout the past three years and three renters. We felt that as long as the house was covered financially without having to raise or take away from donations for Haiti ministry we could feel good about the house being used to bless others with it being a financial wash to us. A sweet family who has rented the house for the past year and 1/2 has enjoyed filling the house with teenagers like we once did during our years spent working with students there. We knew they would like to continue renting the house and it was our desire that they be able to do so. However, the taxes we have to pay on the property value have gone up in the past year and this forced us to re-evaluate the situation. We have not yet raised even half of the financial support we need to live in Haiti and knew we could not afford to keep the house under the current financial conditions with the tax increase. So after praying and consulting financial advisors we gave our renters two months notice that we would need to raise the rent to the current market value or we would need for them to move so that we could remove the rest of our belongings out of the house and put it up for sale. The only time we have to do this is over the Christmas holidays since we already had tickets. This came at a challenging time for our renters as the mother had been struggling with her health but we thought at the time we sent the letter that she was improving. We found out the next day that she was scheduled for heart surgery. She is in Minnesota as I write this undergoing her heart surgery today. If you are reading this please take a moment now to pray for Jill and her family. The family could not justify nor afford a rent increase in the midst of doctor and hospital expenses and time away from work. So they moved out last weekend. We were thankful to hear that they have family in the area that have a home and heart to help them during this time. We felt terrible about the timing. But God knew and we are all trusting His timing is for the best for all of us.
I am thankful that we will be spending Christmas in our old New Braunfels house for several reasons. We moved to Haiti very fast and the boys didn’t have much opportunity for closure. Before we knew we were moving to Haiti we had prepared the girls room at that house and showed them pictures. All four children have asked if they will ever be able to sleep in their beds in their rooms in Texas even just one time and have prayed for that even though us parents somewhat discouraged those purely sentimental notions. I have sentimental notions of my own. After spending the past nine months in some form of living out of suitcases, sweating and swatting mosquitoes, and suffering sickness while sweating and swatting mosquitoes I really am not up for that cycle all over again. In between traveling to DFW for dental appointments it will be really nice to wash my own dishes in our own place with actual running water. It is difficult to explain with words what this means to me. You see, since I have been my girls mother they have only been able to observe and learn from me in our Haiti world or while staying in other people’s homes in our America world. We have always had adult Haitian women bustling about our house in Haiti doing things to help us that I never had help with in our American home (because in America there are machines that help with physical labor). It was nearly a year before our girls were informed that I could drive a vehicle and wash clothes. When Ethan told them that I used to drive him twenty minutes to school each morning they didn’t believe it because they had never seen it and could hardly imagine it. You should have seen the look on Elita’s face the first time I pulled into a gas station her second day in the states and she learned that her mom knows how to pump gas. You see, in Haiti you don’t get to pump your own gas. This is just one example of a whole slew of things that our Haiti world has never allowed me to teach and experience with my daughters . My girls have taught me how to live in their first world. I have longed for a chance to teach them how to live in mine. We started the girls adoptions and prepared to bring them home to that house long before we knew God was preparing to bring us home to them in Haiti. In His goodness He has brought us full circle.
The kids and I will fly from Haiti December 10th. Eric will follow on the 15th where he will arrive to meet me in Dallas and drive me back from my first of three dental operations. We will spend a few weeks in the house over Christmas which we hope will give us time to go through the remainder of our stateside earthly possessions and figure out what to do with them and the future of the house. We have a wedding to attend in DFW January 2nd and Eric will fly back to Haiti from DFW on January 6th. We are still praying about the date the children and I should return to Haiti. I have my second dental appointment scheduled for January 5th. The third appointment has to be scheduled three weeks later to give time for shifting and healing before the final procedure. We originally planned for me to use some saved up air miles and make a quick roundtrip from Haiti by myself for this. Now since we don’t know how the house situation will unfold we are leaving that up in the air and tentatively planning for the kids and I to stay in Texas during the month of January until after both the dental and house processes are completed. We appreciate your prayers as we make our plans and the Lord determines our steps in all these details and all the details of leaving Haiti and those we are leaving behind. We are praying that our Haiti house could be a blessing to others if there is a need for a family to stay in Haiti over the holidays. We need someone here to feed our dogs and not leave the house vacant. If we could leave knowing someone will be here that would be a huge relief and blessing to us too.
I spent last week with a precious family that has served the Lord faithfully in Haiti for the past 68 years. They had asked me to help document their stories and I was happy to have this honor. One thing Wallace, now in his late eighties, continually stated in nearly every story is “You know, God sees ahead.” So. Much. Truth. There. While there are still many unknowns such as how we will accomplish all that needs to be done concerning the house, we remember that God sees ahead and there are no unknowns for Him. As we seek His best and walk with Him making our plans we believe that the Lord will continue to determine our steps. He is directing your steps too! Thank you for your partnership as we seek to serve Him faithfully together in all our plans for His glory. Hope your turkey turns out tasty!