Sunday, September 11, 2016

15 years ago.....

15 years later.  This was my story.  It was a Tuesday morning like any other.  I was working on a farm in PA, just outside of Pittsburgh.  Got to work, loaded up the Gator, went out to feed the 100+ horses that lived outside.  Finished up.  It was a little muddy out, and the Gator needed hosing off, but I went
inside to get a drink before heading back out.  And as I passed the cleaning crew working on the stalls on one side of the barn, one of the guys said, "Dawn did you hear what happened?"  And I asked what he was talking about, and he said "A plane hit the World Trade Center."

Silence, and then a laugh.  You have to understand, the guy was a goober, who listened to Howard Stern while he cleaned.  "Did Howard tell you that?" "Yeah, but it's real."

More silence, followed by a mad dash to the viewing room.

This was not your typical horse farm. Large, landscaped farm with climate controlled indoor riding ring, as well as several other rings.  And, of course, a large theater room to show clients videos of
horses on the "big screen".

And that was how I watched 9/11 unfold.  On a large screen, about 80 miles from where flight 93 crashed.

I turned on the screen and listened in horror as the commentators discussed how there could be up to 50,000 people in those buildings on any given day.  And then cried as the second plane struck,
with the realization that this was no accident.  And struck dumb as the towers fell.  The echo of the words "50,000 people" still ringing in my ears.

On the big screen.

I remember how the USA came together, and how most of the world mournedwith us in the days to come.  I also remember seeing pictures of some people rejoicing over what had happened, and not being able to comprehend that thought process.  I still don't.

I wrote this last year:"There was an instance in the movie [The Giver], when the boy is having "flashbacks" of all the things that had happened in the world "before", and one of those showed a picture of Tiananmen Square.  I wondered, in this theater filled with teenagers, how many of them got that reference.  Several of them said, "Ooooh", watching the guy standing in front of the tank, but I don't know if they actually understood what had happened, or the significance of it.  It reminded me of the day before, when the younger kids were still with us, and we had gone to Minnehaha Falls (more about that later).  As we headed towards home, and we were near the airport, I watched as one plane took off, and one plane was getting ready to land.  And they were actually nowhere near each other, but you could see that for a minute there, they were in the same flight path, and thoughts of 9/11 came rushing in.  It dawned on me, watching those planes, that the children we had in the car with us, not only had no idea what it was like to experience that day, they hadn't even been alive at that point.  It was a sobering reminder of how history can be forgotten, or how it becomes non-applicable (or so we think) to present day.  I'm sure it was like Pearl Harbor for a previous generation, and they had the same thoughts watching the next generations learn about it only through books and movies and not having any idea what it was really like."

Thursday, October 8, 2015

And now for something a little different.....

I feel like telling some stories....so whatever story pops up, that's the one I'll tell.  I'm sure there will be traveling and adventure mixed in.

FWIW, I'm home, working full time (5 days/40 hours a week full time), not getting to travel much (but will be soon), and back into normal routine.

A friend of a friend just posted an ultrasound photo of her horse's bun in the oven.  I tried to find some good photos via Google, but Google only believes in little baby human photos apparently, because it didn't matter what I typed into the search box, I got little tiny humans.

All that to say, it reminded me of my first days working on a farm in Texas.  I had just come from working on a small family farm in Wisconsin, with about 30 horses of all sexes, breeds, and ages from 3 months to 30 years.  This was the farm that my mare, Morganfee, and I first met on.  I was there for the birth of one baby.  So, it was quite a leap to go back to Texas and start a job on a 150+ head horse farm, with 30-50 babies a year.  The first weekend I was on my own, one of the guys who had been out feeding, comes in and says, "You need to come check on this mare, she's got something coming out of her."  It was fall, and none of the mares were due for several more months, so I ran out to the field, and sure enough, she was delivering.  I had one of the guys call the actual breeding manager (who thankfully lived just down the road), while I brought the mare in and tried to figure out what to do next.  Of course, the foal was stillborn, but what was amazing to me, was that even though the mare was only 7 months into her 11 month pregnancy, the baby was perfectly formed and beautiful.  She needed to be larger, and her hair still needed to grow more, but there was this beautiful filly lying dead in the straw.  I didn't realize that, much like humans (and probably most mammals) horses take form very early in the pregnancy, and then just need the extra time for all the details to develop.  But, also like humans, even in the first few ultrasounds, you can see the heartbeat (sometime after day 25 for horses, approx 6 weeks for humans, though the heart is developed by week 4-5).  This picture is the one that was posted to Facebook.  See the head in the upper L?  That's the leg coming across, of course.  This just a few months into the pregnancy, otherwise you wouldn't even be able to get this much in one shot.
Thinking baby horse thoughts today.....

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Budweiser - the King of Animal Commercials

And now, on  a lighter note, and in a slightly different format than most of my posts......

Budweiser just put out their next Super Bowl commercial, featuring (of course) the Clydesdales, and once again, causing me to cry.  So, just for the heck of it, this is going to be a listing of some of my favorites.

The newest one:

A fun one (Snowball Fight):


One of my personal favorites (I won't tell....):


Not the Clydesdales, but once again, Budweiser being classy (Soldier Tribute):








And, to end it, the one only aired once, the 9/11 video:




Monday, January 26, 2015

It All Started With One......


“Here's to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round pegs in the square holes. The ones who see things differently. They're not fond of rules. And they have no respect for the status quo. You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them. About the only thing you can't do is ignore them. Because they change things. They push the human race forward. And while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius. Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do.” 
― Steve Jobs

Yellowstone National Park

One of these days, I'll pick my other stories back up.  My year is over, I'm close to home, and I'm back at work.  And I'm learning how to make all that work again.  Taking a year off and traveling and seeing things and living things, it changes you, in a way that many things don't.  Trust me, even before this year, I've lived life.  I've been through hard things, and sad things, and amazing things, and beautiful things (which were sometimes the hardest of all), but  I never expected to be changed as I was in the past year.  My relationship with Jesus.  My relationship with others.  My world view.  My long term goals.  I don't want things to go back to the same old, same old.  I don't want to get caught up in a routine, and to get to the end of the year, and say that this year,  I was not changed.  I think we get caught up in our own lives, and our own mess, and our own work, and our own families, and we forget to look at the big picture.  That there are other people, with their own hurts, and sometimes we can do something about that.  And sometimes, we get jolted out of our private little lives, when we become that person, that family, that hurt.  Sometimes, all it takes is one person for a change to happen.

I was sharing my stories of Haiti with my church this past week, and I started to tell them about how Mission of Hope began.  With one life.  In 1998, Brad and Vanessa Johnson were visiting Haiti, as they had numerous other times, and were wandering through a village, when someone came up and asked for help for their sick child.  They arrived at the house, and there was a small child that was in obvious distress, and they picked her up and rushed out to their vehicle, with the father, and drove as quickly as possible to a clinic the next village over.  Which was closed.  So they took off again, and drove further away, to a hospital, which couldn't take her.  Their last hope was a 45 minute drive away at another hospital, and on the way, that precious little girl died in her father's arms.  Now, if you asked that father, that was probably one of the worst days of his life.  And if you asked him if any good could come from that situation, the answer would probably have been no.  But, that little girl's death haunted Brad and Vanessa, and they said, we have to do something about this.  And so Mission of Hope was founded.  Now, 20 years later, that little girl's legacy is the many lives saved and many more changed forever.  Orphans who have a home,  Children who are being fed and educated.  People's lives being changed by the power of Christ.  For, you see, out of that little girl's death, the Johnsons built a facility that is over 90% Haitian run, empowering Haitians to help transform the lives of other Haitians.  They built a school, an orphanage, a clinic, and a church.  When the first day of school came, and the children were passing out from hunger, they went to town and purchased a peanut grinder, and hired a Haitian to just grind peanuts for sandwiches so the children would have food, and this has grown into a ministry, with assistance from organizations like Feed My Starving Children and Convoy of Hope, to feed 90,000 children in the surrounding areas.  They educate 6000 children a day on 13 campuses, and see almost 30,000 people/year in the now completely Haitian run clinic.  It is an amazing place, and all these lives are being changed just from the loss of one child.

So, then, I was listening to a TED talk today from Nancy Frates, the lady who started the ALS ice bucket challenge.  Listen to it.  It's only 20 minutes long.  Her son was 21 years old, when a wrist fracture led to an ALS diagnosis.   A fatal disease, usually within 3 years.  At 21.  He was a ballplayer, and as soon he was diagnosed, he formed his own "team" around him, to raise money and awareness for ALS.  Knowing that he was dying, but wanting others to live.  Over $100 million was raised.  An ALS clinical trial, that they expected to take 3 years to fund, is now fully funded.  It's a start.  All because of one person.  

One life.

What will your legacy be?  Can you be the one who inspires someone else?

Monday, December 1, 2014

Mission of Hope - Every Man, Woman, & Child

As an organization following Jesus Christ, Mission of Hope exists to bring life transformation to every man, woman, and child in Haiti. We desire to serve the nation of Haiti, and see lives changed.
- Mission of Hope Vision Statement

Ti fi (little girl) in Haiti

Even as my time here at MOH draws to a close, my admiration for what the organization is doing increases.  They run an orphanage, but as much as possible, try to keep children placed with other family members in the community, and just support those family members.  They run a school for their orphanage kids, and also for the community at large.  They have a church, and actively work to train up indigenous leaders to continue to spread the gospel throughout Haiti.  There is also a completely Haitian run clinic, with a dental area, an eye area, and an emergency room, in addition to a regular clinic where they see people Monday through Friday.  They have a massive warehouse, out of which, 5 days a week, they ship 90,000 meals/day to area schools and orphanages that they are partnered with, providing meals to children who might not otherwise eat that day.  Literally.  This is real life. These meals are prepared through many companies, including "Feed My Starving Children" and Convoy of Hope, among others.  Also in the warehouse?  TOMS shoes.  If you know TOMS (and if you don't, please click on the link), you know that they say that for every pair of shoes purchased, they donate a pair to a child in need.  Well, I have now seen those shoes.  And they are awesome.  TOMS has also started a manufacturing facility in Haiti, to provide jobs.  Another Haitian run company, is Vi Bella Jewelry, which are producing beautiful beaded jewelry and crafts, and often using recycled materials.  I actually got to watch these ladies at work one afternoon.

What part do American teams play?  Medical teams run mobile clinics in outlying areas, ministering to the physical needs of the community, and Haitian pastors travel with them, so that spiritual needs are addressed as well.  Other teams do a mixture of village work and village outreach.  The work might include building homes, painting, etc, and the outreach involves going door to door talking with people, praying for them, and playing with the children, who love to interact with Americans, particularly ones with cell phones (or cameras) that they can play with and take pictures.  A lot of budding photographers.

The latest program out of MOH, starting this week, is to really put into practice the EVERY man, woman, and child principal.  In the cities that MOH is working in, they have village champions, who are chosen by the local pastors.  Please follow the link to learn more about them, because it explains it much better than I could.  This is about to expand even more.  The village champions are going to work even more closely with the teams who are doing village outreach, and literally go door to door, to every house, and get to know the people there.  What their needs are.  Doing health teaching.  Providing basic hygiene supplies.  What areas need more help, and what kind of help do they need?  What areas are not being reached by current projects?  And, has every person had the opportunity to hear the Gospel and respond.  Meeting people where they are, and ministering to them in that place.  Whether they are Christian or not, whether they want to be or not.  Doesn't matter.  This is the reality of the Gospel, and I'm excited to be a part of the beginning of it.  Want to know how you can be a part of it?  No special training/skills required.  Just visit the Mission of Hope website, and you can find all the details.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

The End is the Beginning.....


We have all heard that no two snowflakes are alike. Each snowflake takes the perfect form for the maximum efficiency and effectiveness for its journey. And while the universal force of gravity gives them a shared destination, the expansive space in the air gives each snowflake the opportunity to take their own path. They are on the same journey, but each takes a different path.
Along this gravity-driven journey, some snowflakes collide and damage each other, some collide and join together, some are influenced by wind... there are so many transitions and changes that take place along the journey of the snowflake. But, no matter what the transition, the snowflake always finds itself perfectly shaped for its journey.  
- Steve Maraboli

Grizzly at MN Zoo

3 weeks ago today, I had just arrived home from Lexington, KY and the US Dressage Finals, and was unpacking/repacking, and getting ready to leave early Wed morning.  Today, I took everything out of the suitcase, and began to repack to get ready to leave early Wed to go home.  The end is the same as the beginning.  

It is not just the end of my Haiti trip, though.  This is also the end of my year.  I go home for a few weeks, then back to Texas for a very short visit for Christmas, and to get my things and Miss Lucy, then back home for good.  Starting to look at jobs and possibilities.  Thankful that I don't have to look for a place to live.  I'm ready to be home.  This year has been so good.  To have the opportunity to do all this traveling, and see all these things, and have all these experiences.  But, I am so grateful that I have a real home to go back to.

The US Dressage Finals.  5 days of great horses, great people, and cold weather.  :-)  I was a little disappointed, because the lady who was doing the scheduling didn't know me, and so stuck me out in Timbukto all weekend, but the first day, I was in the thick of things, and then I switched with someone for one day, and then the last day, I got to sneak out early and head home.  By the end, she knew me.  Next time, she will put me in the middle of things.  By the end, just about everyone knew me.  If not by name, then by reputation, as I was the person who made "the catch".  It was a funny set of coincidences/circumstances that led to this thing happening, and the whole thing made me laugh.  Not going to say more than that, since it could be a sensitive subject to those involved.  There were actually 2 such instances, though most people had only heard of the one, more famous one.  The second instance, I actually felt a little sorry for.  In the first one, though, when the person was confronted with the breaking of the rules, I had to smile when I heard what his response was.  God's rules, I always obey, but when it comes to man's, not so much. (paraphrased)  

A couple of other observations from that week.  I saw a variety of horses, a couple of ponies, and even one mule.  The one night, I stayed to watch the Freestyle, and go to watch this cute little cob ride his way to the championship.  I worked on a farm that bred Cobs in Oregon, so loved watching him in the ring.  You could tell he really enjoyed his work.  Which may sound funny to some people, but just as some people enjoy their jobs more than others, the same goes with animals.  All horses (or ponies, or mules) can do jumping, dressage, carriage driving, carry things around, etc, but they will not always be happy with their job.  And this was never more apparent than at this show.  There were (thankfully, not many) several riders I just wanted to tell, "Find another job for this horse.  It is obvious that neither of you is happy with this arrangement."  It is just as frustrating for the rider when the horse doesn't want to do its job, as it is for the horse.  The last night, I watched a lady come in and school a horse.  I was checking their numbers when they came in, so that we knew who was where at what time, in case an issue arose.  When I looked up this cute little grey horse's number, I saw he was a Trakehner, and seeing how much I love Trakehners, and there weren't any other horses in the ring at the time, I looked forward to watching him work.  But, even in the lunging, I could tell he wasn't particularly happy, and then the rider got on, and I was almost in tears at several points.  It takes a special kind of person to work with Trakehners, and this was not a special person.  She and this horse argued like no other.  The biggest problem that I could see, was that she was constantly trying to boss, instead of ask and get, and that doesn't work with this breed very well.  They have too much hot-blooded Arabian and Thoroughbred in them.  I ought to know.  I own one.  And worked on farms with them over the years.  And watched other people trying to deal with them.  It was incredibly frustrating and hard to watch, but she wasn't doing anything so overt that I could call the TD (technical delegate) over and do something about it.  Oh well, thankfully the good parts of the week outweighed the bad.

That last night, most of the horses had finished, and the rings were cleared out, and there were not so many riders out and about, and as I watched the sun set behind the Rolex ring, it was just a beautiful evening.  It got me thinking.  I have lots of horse friends, and lots of dressage friends.  One lady in particular came to mind.  She had a neat horse, and the opportunity to ride some other amazing ones.  She was given the chance to work with/for an Olympic trainer, with the goal that she would eventually compete at the Olympics.  And she gave it all up.  She's a missionary, in the US.  She still rides occasionally, and has a daughter that's probably as horse crazy as she was at that age.  But, after seeing the competition this weekend, it made me wonder why she would do that, give up all of this, her love, her life as she had known it, to go off and do something else.  And as I looked over the empty rings, I began to think of what happens after everyone goes home.  At the end of the day, what does it really matter?  Another trophy on the wall?  Another ribbon to hang?  What is the point?  I'm not saying these things are bad, but all of a sudden I understood how she could find "a higher calling".






Friday, November 28, 2014

When Heaven Comes Down....

"This is what it sounds like
When you sing heavens song
This is what it feels like when heaven comes down
This is what it looks like when God is all around
Let it come" - Bethel Live

Path at Mt Rainier

Oh, guys.  I don't even have the words tonight, but will try.  I'm going home.  Not right this second, but on Wednesday.  And it's ok.  More than ok, it is good.  And I'm still learning lessons in the midst of all this.  I love that I have amazing people, both old and new, who can walk with me and speak into the broken areas in the middle of all of this uncertainty.  After a total meltdown tonight, I was walking back up the hill to the guesthouse, and stopped at the basketball courts again.  I think some of my favorite stories from this trip will be from the basketball court.  There were kids everywhere, since it is a Friday night, which also makes it a movie night.  American kids and Haitian kids, running and playing together.  Shooting hoops, and kicking the soccer balls, laughing and talking.  There was so much love.  

To backtrack a little bit.  The song above is one that has been on my computer for a while, but it came with/after another song, and I never got that far.  Until the other day, and it's only two verses, but it's amazing.  And tonight, as I watched the kids playing on the playground, this portion of the song just played over and over again in my head.   As it sank in, I was reminded of the verse, "Let the little children come unto Me, for such is the kingdom of Heaven."  And so the two melded into one.  The kids playing together, and loving each other, and even the parents, being fully invested in this amazing place, and these people, this is Heaven's song.  And to stand there and watch it, you could feel Heaven come down.

Let it come.


Wednesday, November 26, 2014

God is Good (aka Why I Don't Have it all Figured Out)....


“When you do what you fear most, then you can do anything.” 
― Stephen Richards

Red Panda at the MN Zoo



Yesterday, I had it all figured out.  Yesterday, I was just trying to decide who I was going to tell when, so that things were finalized.  Yesterday, I was preparing to go home.  That was yesterday.

I have struggled more with making a decision in the past 2 weeks than I have over anything in a long time.  And, what I normally tell my friends who are struggling over something like that, is that the fact that it is such a struggle may be making a decision in and of itself.  I don't know if that makes sense on paper, but it usually works well for regular life.  The thing is, I've made the same decision I made yesterday several times over the last 2 weeks.  And every time, God has used someone to speak into the areas of fear and doubt that kept me from making a different decision.  But, yesterday, after wrestling it through, I said, that's it.  The decision is made.  I cannot think of anything that anyone could possibly say or do that would change my mind about this.

And then today.  We spent the day doing community health at a large orphanage in Port au Prince.  We got back around 4, and I was headed up to my guesthouse, when I spotted an old friend, Jean Marc, on the basketball court.  There were only 2 other, much younger, children out with him, so I didn't feel like I was interrupting anything, when I stopped to say hi.  Now, Jean Marc and I go back to the first time I was at Mission of Hope, when he was a very young translator, as well as being an orphan who lived there.  He had such an amazing presence, smile, and laugh, that I definitely remembered him over all these years, and whenever I thought of Haiti, would think of him and wonder how he was doing.  My first full day this trip, that question was answered.  A team was preparing to leave and was doing their debrief.  Obviously, it wasn't something I needed to attend, but ended up at anyways.  At the end, they showed a video.  This video.  Featuring, guess who?  Jean Marc.  As an amazing young man, who has used his tough life story to impact and reach so many others.  I started crying.  To have my questions answered in such a way.....

After it was all over, I asked the leader about him.  He's an amazing kid, he said.  He helps lead worship on Tuesday nights, and he shares Jesus with everyone he comes in contact with, including in the classroom.  That was it.  I couldn't wait to see him.  5 days later, I did.  He was playing in the band for the Tuesday evening worship service.  I stopped afterward to say hi, sure he wouldn't remember me, but he did.  And that smile.  Something I could never forget.

What does any of this have to do with making a decision?  I know, it's a long story.  But, here's the good part.  When I stopped to say hi to Jean Marc today, he sat down on the ledge, and began to talk.  We talked about his being in the band and worship.  He then went straight for the meat and asked how my relationship with God was.  And we talked about that.  How it has changed in the last year.  How I went from using worship to express my thoughts and emotions with God, to finding the words and voice for "regular" prayer.  And learning not just to pray to God, but to listen for answers, and the amazing things that sometimes come as a result.  Then, out of nowhere, Jean Marc begins to "preach".  He says he doesn't see himself becoming a pastor, but I don't believe it.  The boy can preach.  He talked about how sometimes we are called to do things that we don't think that we can, and that we don't have the strength for.  He spoke of how God gives us the strength.  Of Moses, and how he questioned God's ability to use him, because he did not speak well, but of all the ways God did use him, when he gave in.  How sometimes, things seem impossible, but that God is working through them.  Like Job, when he lost everything, but still he praised God, and was blessed abundantly for it.  Of course, he said all of this much better than I am now, but hopefully you get the gist.  And it all spoke, once again, right into the areas that I was struggling with.  And I didn't tell Jean Marc anything about what was going on with the current struggle.  That's ok.  God used him to speak anyways.

And so I sit here tonight, feeling incredibly blessed and humbled.  And giving up, once again, the idea of making this decision.  We'll see how it all turns out.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

There Came a Mighty Wind....

Jeff Bezos


Blue Lily in Hawaii

     It's two days before Thanksgiving, but it does not feel like it here in Haiti.  The weather is still in the high 80s/low 90s most days.  There are no commercials (because, no tv on campus, of course!) with the latest in Black Friday sales.  No Christmas carols playing (except on my computer, but that doesn't count).  Of course, Thanksgiving is an American tradition, so that makes sense, but it still feels weird.  I think this is the first one I have spent out of the country.  

Life here is a little crazy right now.  When I first arrived, there were only a couple of other small teams on site, and everything was kind of laid back and quiet.  Then, on Thursday, the "off on Thanksgiving break" teams began arriving, and haven't quit.  There are approximately 150 team members here, and that makes it a little wild.  And did I mention kids?  A lot of family trips, apparently.  The first team that arrived I swear had 2-3x as many kids as adults.  And then another one was a teen group with a few chaperones.  Which is great, really.  They are learning about missions and serving people at a young age.  Definitely changes the group dynamic, though.

And while the overall temperatures are warm, the last couple of days, it hasn't felt that bad.  Because, there came a mighty wind.  And I do mean mighty.  Blowing over mattresses and scattering dust over everything.  But it cools things down.  :-)

The first week and a half, I went with the teams going out and doing mobile clinics in the surrounding areas.  With a few days playing with kids in the neighborhoods, and going on tours of the Mission of Hope campus and surrounding communities.  This week, we're out doing community health in a couple of orphanages and some interesting other areas.  And then, next Wednesday, I get to go home again.  For 3 weeks to start, and then, to Texas for Christmas, then home again.  This time for good.  I have no idea what's going to come next, but looking forward to finding out.

The interns are having a party out back, so think I'll go out and see what's going on.



Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Changing of the Plans


"Whosoever saves the life of one person it would be as if he saved the life of all mankind."


Holy Qur'an, chapter 5 vs. 32

Beach in Hawaii

I have lots of stories left from Hawaii.  Some from traveling back across the country.  A few from being back in Texas.

But...

Today, I was reflecting on how plans change.  Two years ago, I planned to never leave VA (other than for "short" vacations).  A little over a year ago, I started planning this crazy, year long sabbatical.  6 months ago, I was looking forward to going home.  Definitely in January 2015, if not before.  Back in my same (great) job, with the amazing people.  Considering settling down, buying a house, maybe even adopting a child.  Who knows?  Maybe even meeting a guy and getting married (but probably not!).  2 months ago, I found out I would not be returning to my job (totally fine).  1 month ago, another opportunity arose from next year.  It's not for sure, so I'm not going to comment on it quite yet, but it really is an amazing opportunity, and fits in perfectly with what I for years now have thought the next stage of my life would be.  And doesn't have anything to do with settling down, buying a house, adopting a child, or even returning to VA.  Which leaves things pretty up in the air from where I thought they would be at this point in my year's journey.  I still think of VA as my home, now, though, and hope to return, and maybe even someday do all those settled down things.

All that to say, prayers and good thoughts, and anything you've got to throw my way appreciated as these decisions are made, plans continue to change and evolve, and things are all sorted out.  :-)