Hello Friends and Readers. I was invited to attend a writers meeting last night. When I got the invite, I thought it was a mistake. But no - it was addressed to me. We went around the room sharing what we write, why we write, and our journey to being "A Writer."
I felt so out of place and inexperienced. I have never taken a writing class. I never wanted to be a writer growing up. The thought of researching a book terrifies me. I really don't even read that much, even though I like it, and I can't remember the last time I've been to the library. I didn't even realize I knew how to write until you all started saying, "Hey, I actually like your Christmas letter. You're a good writer."
It's about time I took my writing seriously. I'm in the process of revamping my blog and trying to make it more professional and easier to use. What you're looking at is a pre-designed Blogger template that I don't love but I like better than the last format. I want a simpler, more stream-lined blog with less craziness and more calm.
Will you do me a favor and comment (yes - comment even if you have to create a gmail account to sign in) on why you read my blog? What do you like? What keeps you coming back? What don't you like? What could change? I'd love your feedback on formatting, frustrations with how the site works, and stuff you'd like to see changed. What do you want more of? Less of?
Oh and I need some help with a title. When I started this blog, it was on a whim with very little thought put into a purpose or a title. I'm not emotionally attached to "JoJo's Journal" so I'd love some input on a title too. Maybe something that more clearly captures the essence of this blog, but what exactly is that?
This is obviously a work in progress, so please help me. I value your feedback! Love- Jodi
Saturday, November 26, 2011
Happy Thanksgiving. The Holiday Season is officially upon us. Our family was talking last night about how fun this time is. Grant (10 years) said, “My favorite thing about the Christmas season is the spirit in the air. People are just in a good and joyful mood and it’s so much fun.” We celebrate family, friendships, togetherness, tradition, giving. What’s not to love?
But as I reflected on all I am thankful for, it dawned on me that not everyone loves the Holiday Season. For those who have no family or who have strained relationships with their family, this season can dredge up bad memories or wishful thinking of what should be. For my friend who just lost his wife to cancer, this season magnifies the depth and breadth of his loss and his grief. For my single friends who long to have a spouse to share this time with, it can bring up discontentment and feelings of isolation. To my friends struggling to pay their bills and losing their homes, this season magnifies their helplessness. Or what of my Haitian friends who live every day without electricity, running water and permanent homes?
It’s easy to feel alone, isolated, and abandoned by people and by God. I read Isaiah 49 yesterday and was touched again by God’s intense love, protection, and possessiveness of His most treasured creation – us.
If you are one of those people who dread the Holiday Season, be encouraged. This is what the LORD says... (Isaiah 49:13, 15-16, 23, and 26)
“For the Lord comforts His people and will have compassion on his afflicted ones…. Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will not forget you! See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands; Then you will know that I am the LORD; those who hope in me will not be disappointed. Then all mankind will know that I, the LORD, am your Savior, your Redeemer, the Mighty One of Jacob.”
You are not alone. Your family may forget you, but God says, “I will not forget you!” May you feel His personal love and protection over your life this Holiday Season.
Wednesday, November 23, 2011
Today’s post is written by my sweet friend Amanda Jones. We met during all the training meetings for our trip to Haiti. After one summer meeting, we stood in the parking lot and talked for an hour. It felt we were immediate kindred spirits. Amanda is LOVELY. She is flawed. She, like all of us, bears scars from her past. She is redeemed. Forgiven. Beautiful. Talented. Smart. Kind. Loving. Sweet. Amanda is a passionate Jesus-follower. Amanda became my sister over the past few months. I know you’ll love her too! Learn more about Amanda at her new blog www.ajfallingintograce.blogspot.com
By Amanda Jones
A few weeks ago as a team of ladies and I jetted from airport to airport on our way to Haiti I poured through the pages of a book loved by Christian women everywhere, Captivating. For years I have listened to ladies just cherish the sweet secrets of every women's heart that unfold in the pages of that book. But to be honest, I had never really read it. I mean I had flipped through the pages here and there. I had from time to time grabbed a verse or read a chapter that seemed needed at the time. I figured that a long day or two of journeying to a foreign country where our mission was to love and teach women was a great chance to see what I had been missing. What a timely opportunity. If you have read the book you know that more than a few times the author highlights the desire of every woman's heart to be seen as LOVELY.
When I was graciously brought back to the Lord five years ago and began going to church again, I remember looking around and thinking, “Wow these women are so beautiful.” At the time I believed it was because they had done things right -not at all like me. I had stumbled so many times. The idea that I could even begin to build relationships with these women seemed impossible. I remember one night going home and weeping to my mother, "I will never be like these girls. They never laugh too loud or cry too hard, they never say the wrong thing. Surely they have never fallen away or made mistakes that seemed to swallow them up." I thought they were perfect and I wasn't blind to the fact that I was far from that. But what I didn't know is these women I looked up to, revered, and admired, were not perfect. They were Lovely.
The years progressed and the Lord blessed me with friendships, sisters, and women in my life that would open up their lives with vulnerable courage and begin to show me their hearts. I began to see the truth. These were not women that had somehow evaded the trials of life. They had stories. They had hurts and wounds, pains and failures just like me. These women were not perfect at all.
The most beautiful women I have been blessed to come to know over the years are not the ones that always have the right answer, dress size, or eloquent speech. Don't get me wrong, they work hard, they seek the Lord to become more like Him, and take care of their bodies and blessings they have been given. But, the most beautiful women I know are the ones who like Esther, went into the palace of the King and were washed clean.
Beauty shines through their love, healing, and surrendered lives. The image of God is what makes their eyes sparkle. Their smiles draw you to them. They are strong and vulnerable, courageous and dependent on the Father, beautiful and unashamed. This loveliness does not only shine through women in my town, my church, or my family. This is a loveliness I have been blessed to see in some of the ugliest situations and horrific circumstances. In far-off countries like Haiti where the world has literally crumbled around them.
They reflect the Lord’s…
Wisdom and Kindness
Tenderness and Innocence
Heart For the Broken
Thank you Lord for all the women who have opened up their lives to share their loveliness with me.
With all my heart,
Tuesday, November 22, 2011
Alli (7 years - 2nd grade) had a Family Tree monthly report to write and create this month. I loved her written report and asked if I could share it with you. She said, "Sure. It's not like it's private information. Everyone in my class gets to hear it." I typed up what she wrote, so spelling is corrected, but grammar is exactly as she said.
Family Tree Report
By Alli Stilp
Seven Years Old
2nd Grade – Mrs. Fox
November 22, 2011
I love my Mom so much. She is awesome. She has done a very good job on raising me to be a good kid. I will love her forever. I will never stop loving her. My Mom is so special to me. She gives me food and water. She puts me to bed and says, “Good Night!” She lets me go to birthday parties. She also loves God and reads her Bible and goes to church. My Mom’s name is Jodi. She is 37 years old.
My Dad (Curt Stilp)
I love my Dad. He is so funny. He sometimes makes me my dinner and sometimes doesn’t. My Dad works. He is a PA (Physician’s Assistant). He works from 7 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. My Dad loves the Lord and goes to church and reads his Bible every morning. He is so loving and kind. My Dad’s name is Curt. He is 36 years old.
My Brother (Grant Stilp)
My brother’s name is Grant. He is hilarious. I love him. He will eat anything. He loves the Lord and goes to church and really reads his Bible. He lets me come in his room. He makes up songs and sings all the time. My brother says I’m cool. I love my brother. He is 10 years old.
My Sister (Katie Stilp)
My sister’s name is Katie. She is 9 years old. She is awesome. I love her. I like that she plays church with me. She loves Jesus and goes to church and reads her Bible. She is funny and sweet and nice. We play coffee together.
My Sister (Paige Stilp)
My sister’s name is Paige. She is 5 years old. She is cool and funny. I love her. She is in Kindergarten. She plays baby dolls with me. I think that it is fabulous. She loves Jesus and doesn’t really understand reading her Bible. She goes to church too. I share a room with her. I like sharing a room with her so I don’t get scared at night.
My Sister (Sarah Wilmot)
I love my big sister Sarah. She is really not my sister, but we kind of adopted her. She lives with us. She lives in the guest room now. She doesn’t have dinner with us mostly because she sometimes has it with her friends, but sometimes she has dinner with us. I like it when Sarah takes me to the George Fox Library. I also think that when Sarah brings her friends over from a long time ago, it is fun. Sarah loves Jesus and goes to the same church my family does. She used to be my sister Katie’s student teacher. We met her at house church.
My Grandparents (Terry and Ru Hadlock)
I love my Grandma Ru and Grandpa Terry. I like that my Grandpa Terry takes me places. I like that my Grandma Ru gives me candy bars almost every time I see her. My Grandma’s real name is Rhonda, but nobody calls her that. They just got a new house. They live in Woodburn. They love Jesus. My Grandma Ru is my Mom’s mom. My Grandpa Terry is my Mom’s step-dad.
My Grandparents (Mo and Carole Stilp)
I love my Grandpa Mo and Grandma Carole. I think that my Grandpa Mo is silly. I like when they come and visit and take my family to the pool. I like that my Grandma Carole is so beautiful. They live in Minnesota. They love Jesus. They are my Dad’s parents.
My Grandparents (Don and Marcy Klippenes)
I love my Grandma Marcy and Grandpa Don. I like when my Grandpa Don kisses me. I enjoy celebrating Thanksgiving with them and seeing them in Sun River every summer. They live in Bend. I like when my Grandma Marcy laughs with me. They love Jesus. My Grandpa Don is my Mom’s Dad and my Grandma Marcy is my Mom’s step-mom.
Friday, November 18, 2011
On January 12th, 2010, a 7.0 magnitude earthquake shook Haiti. Almost 300,000 people died. Millions were displaced, losing everything. Bishop and Madam Jeune own a ministry compound in the middle of a busy neighborhood in Carrefour, a suburb of Port au Prince. When the earthquake struck one of the exterior walls of the compound fell down. Haitians, knowing Bishop and Madam’s reputation of kindness, flooded the property. Within days, 25,000 people were squatting on 12 acres and Grace Village was formed.
Bishop and Madam rose to the challenge of making even these
primitive conditions feel structured and welcoming. They brought in water and basic sanitation. They arranged the tents and tarp structures
into twelve city blocks and appointed Haitian leaders over each block. With the help of Solid Rock, they
launched the Lord’s Kitchen and started providing a daily meal for the
residents. It’s amazing what God
has done with their willingness to serve and love their afflicted countrymen.
|I stood on the roof of the hospital where we stayed and took these pictures|
Two years ago I watched the devastation unfold on TV in the comfort of my warm home. Months later, I listened to my husband recount stories of the oppressive heat, the primitive living conditions, the constant noise, and the delightful people. I lingered over the pictures his team photographer took.
But the reality of life for thousands of Haitians didn’t sink in until I
saw it with my own eyes.
|His teammate was so moved by these people's plight, that he dropped to his knees in prayer.|
|Curt when he went to Haiti in June 2010|
|Doing laundry by hand outside their home|
Families live in camping tents or homes constructed of donated tarps and scraps of woods. They sleep on the rocky, hard, dusty earth. The camp is on a slope. When it rains, the dirt transforms into a muddy river that flows through the camp. Mothers sit awake all night, holding sleeping children in their arms so they won’t drown in the muddy waters. Can you even imagine?
|This precious baby, playing with a box, was one of three kids we saw who lived in this home.|
When we toured the village, children sat outside their homes in the dirt playing with garbage as toys.
|These guys were playing with sticks|
|These boys were playing with trash|
A few lucky kids had real, well-worn toys.
|This guy had a soccer ball|
Most of the younger children wore only tops with nothing on the bottom.
|the kids loved the bubbles|
The atmosphere in the camp has changed over time. The “US AID – a gift from the American people” logo is stamped on tarps draping buildings and homes all over Haiti. I found it ironic that we live in extreme wealth every day, but proudly stamp tarps to give to Haitians living in abject poverty. The irony isn’t lost on the Haitians either.
They are beginning to feel exploited and on display. Wealthy Americans tour their neighborhoods and their homes, taking video and photos of their destitute living conditions, and offer help in small waves. But the reality remains that each night as Haitian mommies kiss their babies and sing them to sleep on their bed of dusty earth, they pray it doesn’t rain.
|This little one, Isabella, is youngest of six in her family|
God has a special place in His heart for the poor and afflicted. I read Psalm 72 yesterday and was touched by God’s fierce protection of His most vulnerable loved ones.
“He will defend the afflicted among the people and save the children of the needy; …He will deliver the needy who cry out, the afflicted who have no one to help. He will take pity on the weak and the needy and save the needy from death. He will rescue them from oppression and violence, for precious is their blood in his sight.”
The first night I was home, I relished putting my four kids to bed. We prayed, sang, talked, cuddled. As I kissed them and tucked them into their warm, soft, cozy beds, I thanked God for His many blessings.
|Clearly this is not at bedtime, but it's recent of me with the kids|
The next morning, my girls – who know better – were having a little gymnastics party on their beds. It sounded like a herd of elephants was about to come busting through the ceiling, something they didn’t consider as a dead giveaway when they chose to disobey.
I marched up the stairs, stormed their bedroom, and said, “Raise your hand if you were jumping on your bed.” Two timid hands drifted slowly above two very guilty faces. I lectured, “If you can’t take care of your things, you won’t have the privilege of using them. I’m taking your beds.”
They stared in disbelief, jaws on the floor, as I grabbed bedding, pillows, and mattresses and drug it out the door of their room and dumped it unceremoniously on the loft. One daughter sassed, “I’ll just sleep on this thing than” and sat down on her box spring. I took it too, leaving only her metal bed frame. It was so satisfying!
They questioned, “What are we supposed to sleep on?” To which I replied, “You figure it out. The Haitian kids sleep on the rocky ground with no blankets. I bet they wouldn’t jump on their beds if they had one.”
My girls rummaged through the house and made beds out of sleeping bags and pillows inside the metal frame where their bed was supposed to be. They thought they were roughing it. But I knew better.
I invite you to take a walk through Grace Village.
And tonight, when you tuck your children or yourself into bed, thank God for His many blessings. Sweet dreams.
Wednesday, November 16, 2011
|Here we are arriving in Haiti!|
My Haiti Experience (there was no title so I made one up and I admit it's lame)
by Melanie Dobson
Two weeks ago, I arrived home in Portland along with nineteen incredible women and four heroic men who sacrificed their week to protect and care for us in Haiti. Together we went on one of the hardest journeys of our lives…and one of the most amazing. Instead of journeying alone, we did it arm-in-arm as sisters (and brothers) in Christ.
|Our team leaving Portland|
|Diane worshipping with a lovely|
It's taken me these two weeks to begin to process a small part of what I saw during my week. The people that I met; the stories I heard. The women who shared the anguish of their heartaches after the earthquake and the beauty of redemption, about tragedy and miracles and hearing the voice of God.
A glimpse of their stories:
- A woman whose house pancaked under her feet as she stood on the roof. Her twelve children were below. Even as her neighbors mourned the loss of this woman's family, she continued to pray until she heard a voice in the rubble. And then she heard another voice. It seemed impossible, but every one of her children crawled out of their collapsed home.
- A young son who was led out of the ruins of his house after the earthquake, holding the hand of a man in "bright white." Once the boy got outside, the man disappeared.
- A woman who heard God's clear voice telling her on that fateful Tuesday to "put down her ironing and go to church." She argued with God in her busyness, but His voice persisted. So she obeyed even though she felt silly, sweeping the church while there was so much for her to do at home, but she remained until the church began to shake. Her house collapsed, but she and her family survived and praised the Lord in the streets.
- A father who risked his life to run back into his collapsed house and save his daughter.
- A woman who dug her deceased daughter out of a university building and carried her back to the ruins of Carrafour to bury her.
- My dear new sister, Pastor Elizabeth, who was trapped under the rubble for far too long. Her head and chest were exposed to the street, her legs buried under a wall. When the Americans arrived, she was their first amputee and spent nine months in a hospital, teetering between life and death. She promised God, if He let her live, she would go to Bible school and spend her life telling others about Him. In June, Pastor Elizabeth beamed as she told me, she graduated from Bible school.
|Melanie with one of the ladies she interviewed|
On the last day of the conference, Pastor Elizabeth pulled me aside and opened her Bible. Inside was a color picture of her on graduation day. She smiled as she pointed out her prosthetic leg in the photo, a testament to her of God's grace, and then she handed the picture to me. At first, I said "no." I couldn't possibly take what might be the only picture of her graduation. But she insisted, so I took her beautiful gift. I took it and I will treasure it--for the rest of my life. I rushed to my seat after receiving her gift and returned with a picture of me and my family for her. We're sisters, you see, now and for eternity.
These women lost so much from the earthquake. Many of them lost everything. "We couldn't find anything, not even a cup," one of them told me. "But I didn't lose my faith. I didn't lose my Savior."
|Beautiful Haitian women|
Now I'm crying as I write this post, thinking of these beautiful women and their stories. This is the reason it's taking me so long to process. It's too much. I felt so inadequate to be on this trip, very small among a group of godly missionaries, and yet, I discovered that what some of these Haitian sisters needed most was not for me to bless them with eloquent words or (thankfully) immaculate attire. In fact, they didn't need me to talk much at all. They needed me to "see" them as God sees them. El Roi. They needed me to listen, and as I did, I promised them I would treasure the stories they shared. Then I promised them I would share their stories with you.
I fell in love with the Haitian women. God clearly speaks to them and through them. When they pray, they gather around you, all of them laying hands on you and speaking at once. I didn't need to understand Creole to feel the power of their words or the power in their worship.
One of my favorite moments was standing with all my American sisters in front of the room, praising Jesus in English as our Haitian sisters sang in Creole. One of the Haitian ladies grabbed me and began to whirl me around as they worshiped God in their dance. Out of my comfort zone? Very much. Did I love every moment of it? Absolutely!! Together we danced before the Lord.
Other Haiti moments I'll never forget:
- The toddler who clung to me as I walked through Grace Village…or was that me, clinging to her?
|Ann and Melanie with kids from Grace Village|
- Sleeping on the roof of the hospital where we stayed—a grand, giggly slumber party with my sistas. Stars above us, soft breezes blowing around us, the many sounds of Haiti below us, lush mountains beside us. Then waking to the spectacular sunrise over the sea as God painted the devastation of Haiti with His glory. The rubble faded away in the beauty of His light.
|Kay working to the light of a Haitian sunrise|
- Chewing and spitting out wads of fibery sugar cane, much like chewing on the bubble gum I love at home.
- Celebrating our dear brother David Hames who died during the earthquake with prayer for his family and his favorite treat—gummy bears--on his birthday. I was able to share the redemptive story of his life and death with a group of women who understood. Then seeing the site of the Hotel Montana from a rooftop with my faithful friend Jodi Stilp who journeyed through this loss alongside our family.
|celebrating David's life with gummy bears|
|Jodi and Melanie on rooftop with Hotel Montana in the background|
- Lining up to "jump by generation" into the Caribbean Sea and then eating my first goat kebab.
|Our team of sisters|
- Riding back through Port-au-Prince at night—burning trash along the sides of the windy roads, candles in the alleyways, protester roadblocks on the main roads, turning our bus around multiple times with traffic on every side, people staring at our light-skinned faces in the windows. I was doubly thankful that night—for our heroic bus driver who seemed to smile through it all in his "Burger Thing" T-shirt and for the traffic laws in the U.S. that keep cars (for the most part) on opposite sides of the road.
- Watching the palm trees sway in the breeze with the backdrop of mountains and clear blue sea, for above the rubble there is beauty in their dance just as there is beauty in the eyes of the Haitian women as they danced before the Lord.
- Taking a "two cup" shower on our last morning because someone had cut our water line. And being very thankful for my two cups!
- Being reminded constantly that what Satan means for evil, God can use for incredible good.
After traveling all day on Monday, I ran down the hall of the Portland airport to hug my sweet husband and girls. I missed them more than I can say and their notes, flowers, and love that night made me cry once again. Hours later, my life returned to its steady busyness—editing my manuscript, taking my kids to school, loading up my blessed laundry machine with dirty clothes.
Even now, my small suitcase is still not unpacked. Every item I take out has a wonderful memory attached to it. Every scribbled note from a Haitian sister or drawing from a child is something I want to cherish. I'm just not quite ready to put it all away.
And so I will linger on my time in Haiti, maybe for months or even years to come. Remembering, reflecting, and praying for those women who don't want to leave Haiti because they love their country and their people.
Next time I visit Haiti—and if God allows it, I'm certain there will be a next time—I hope that I won't be running back through the airport to see my family at the end. Next time, I hope my family is deplaning along with me, long after I've introduced them to my beautiful Haitian friends.
With much joy,
P.S. Much thanks to one amazing photographer (Jodi Stilp) for taking the above pictures and more than a thousand beautiful photos for our team and to Mike Varadi (one of our heroes) for capturing our week on video.
|Allie and I on the bus when we first arrived in Haiti|
Today’s post is written by my new friend Allie Rice. I met Allie when our Haiti team was forming. Each month I’d see her at our planning meetings, but we didn’t really bond until we spent a week together in Haiti.
Intelligent, entrepreneurial, and insightful, Allie runs her own (very successful!) web design business. She is well-spoken and her melodic voice is mesmerizing. I could listen to her talk all day. Allie is an eloquent and very talented writer. Learn more about her at www.delighteveryday.com
She summarized our last day in Haiti so well that I asked if I could repost her thoughts on my blog. Enjoy!
Potential - by Allie Rice
The last day we were in Haiti, we took a trip to the beach. I don’t know about you, but when I’m in a developing country, I’m skeptical about the beach. I pictured a beach-ified version of what we’d been looking at for the last week: rubble, trash, deforestation, devastation. Just add some ocean waves and maybe a little sand.
They told us it would take about an hour and a half to get there from Carrefour, but that was no surprise. The traffic in Carrefour and Port-au-Prince is completely insane. Buses weaving through traffic as if they were sports coupes, passing with the narrowest of opportunities, vans and trucks with 30 people piled into them, bus-sized holes in the road, no traffic signs or road markings, throngs of people walking every which way. It could easily take an hour just to get all the way across town.
And that’s how it started, with a trip through the crowded streets, navigating the infrastructure that can’t possibly support the population of residents and vehicles. On the other side of Port-au-Prince, we turned onto a wide dirt road. Immediately, things started to change. There were fewer vehicles, less rubble, only a few pockets of potholes here and there. Then we reached the end of the dirt road and took a left.
Suddenly we were on a smooth, paved road. A road with a double yellow line down the middle. A few minutes later, we came into a small town, and there were beautiful homes with ornamental archways surrounded by lush vegetation. Some of the homes had clearly sustained some damage in the earthquake, but nearly all of them had cleared the rubble and already started rebuilding. There were only a few tents scattered here and there; even the simplest homes had basic walls and tin roofs. And then we saw the ocean.
From that moment on, we were in the Caribbean. Of course, we were in Caribbean all along, but we were in the Caribbean that you picture in your mind. It was suddenly so easy to understand why France sold the Louisiana Purchase to the United States to fund their fight to keep Haiti from revolting.
We spent our afternoon at a Haitian beach club, sitting on chaise lounges, picking up seashells, jumping off the pier into the warm ocean. It was surreal. We were all asking the same question: How can I reconcile this with what I’ve seen for the past seven days?
Only one word seemed applicable: potential.
As we drove around this part of the island, we had a glimpse into what pre-earthquake Haiti might’ve been like. Obviously, Port-au-Prince and Carrefour are more populous than other parts of the island, and that’s a factor; the deforestation in particular is a longstanding problem in much of Haiti. But Carrefour is only a few miles from the epicenter of the earthquake. One has to wonder what it was like before January 12, 2010.
One has to wonder what it could be again.
Our translator — who grew up in Oakland, California and moved to Haiti six years ago — told us that, in America, we only hear about the bad in Haiti when, in truth, there’s so much good there. The people I met in Haiti — the women leaders I spent three days with — were a testament to the good: they have incredible hope, resilient faith, and an unshakable commitment to their communities. These are women who are changing lives, every single day. I hope I have the opportunity to go back to Haiti in 10, 20, 30 years and see the evidence of those lives changed. Of life changed.
“The Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the poor; to give them a beautiful headdress instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the garment of praise instead of a faint spirit.” (Isaiah 61)