Saturday, April 19, 2014

To the Kids Who Stand in the Back

To the Kids Who Stand in the Back:

I see you. In fact, I search you out. As the group walks proudly on stage, my eyes bypass those in front in order to find you. Don't think for a second you are too far back, that no one in the audience notices you are there. Because I see you.

My daughter used to stand in the back. When she was alive, she danced in the back row. She wasn't in anyone's spotlight but my own. But, oh, how she shined in that light!

She wasn't the best dancer, and more than likely, you aren't either. But that's okay. In fact, in my opinion, that's more than okay.

Because you're still doing more than the person who refuses to try. You're out there and you're doing it. You're doing it because you enjoy it. And that, right there, is everything.

My daughter, Avery, who stood in the back with you, knew you, too. Even if none of the kids in the front row knew who she was, she didn't let that stop her from getting to know you. She could tell me your name and what school you went to. How many brothers and sisters you had and if you had any pets. She knew that you were frustrated because you couldn't get a step, even though you practiced over and over and over again. She knew that it didn't come naturally to you but that wasn't a reason for you to give up.

She knew you felt picked on, that you fought back tears because for some reason the teacher in the front of the room felt the need to use you as an example. Telling the class over and over the importance of practicing. But that teacher didn't understand you suffered from a condition that made your muscles weak and that this dance class was part of your therapy. You didn't tell anybody that because you just wanted to fit in.

She knew that even though the class sees you as overweight, you used to be skinny. That the medication you take to keep you alive has a side effect of weight gain. But you don't tell anybody that because you just want to be seen as normal.

My daughter knew you were painfully shy and you suffered silently from debilitating anxiety. That for you, just participating was akin to climbing Mt. Everest.

She knew you ached and grieved over the loss of your grandma because your grandma was the only person you could go to where the yelling and screaming and fighting couldn't reach you.

She knew you came to class driven by a kind neighbor because your mom was always too drunk to drive. That you spent the majority of your childhood parenting your parent.

She knew that not everyone in the back row suffered. Some simply just weren't good dancers. But they wanted to be. And sometimes they even felt like they were. Even though no one ever gave them a compliment about their dancing.

And she knew that sometimes, oftentimes, the kids in the back row were the kindest. Because they got it.

And, so, when you walk up on that stage to your spot in the back row, know that I see you. Know that I am swelling up with pride for all that you have overcome. And know that I believe you are doing an amazing job.

And know something else: I've done the math.

See, there's only so many kids that can fit in the front row. Now, count all the kids that stand in the rows behind them. The majority of the kids in the class are not in the front row. That means the majority of the audience are here to watch those kids NOT in the front row. When that crowd erupts in applause know that the majority of them are clapping for all the kids not in the front row. They're clapping for you. Because without you there would be no performance. And, even if there was, it wouldn't have a very large audience.

Be tall and proud standing where you are. Because I see you. And know that I'll always be watching you dance.

Monday, March 31, 2014

Sometimes, you have to go back in order to move forward.

There were so many supportive, encouraging words said to me through Facebook after Avery died. But as time passes, they get harder and harder to find. And what if the internet connection goes out? Or no one uses Facebook anymore? What happens when I move to the nursing home and want to take this memory with me? Facebook was so amazing in that it helped chronicle my grief. And it kept track of all the people holding me up when I couldn't stand. Truthfully, if I want to write about it with raw honesty, I have to go back to that place. But I didn't know how... until I discovered My Social Book.

 

 
 
 

 
 
 
 Sometimes, you have to go back in order to move forward.
 
This is 300 pages chronicling October 24, 2012 through April 30, 2013. Three hundred pages. Every status update. Every post. Every comment. Every photo. Every reply. Every like.  
 
My book of grief.
 
My book of hope.
 
My book of sorrow.
 
My book of love.

And all I did was click a button and wait for it to arrive on my doorstep.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Choose Wisely

The same person who said Avery's visitation was tacky (because it was held in her school gym in an effort to accommodate the 600+ people who came to pay their respects) was the same person who left a voicemail on my phone 12 hours after Avery died talking about how worried she was for Matt and to have him call her (umm... call him on his phone? I'm sure he's sad, but I just found out my daughter died so I'm kind of busy here) and is the same person who told me that I had no respect for the sanctity of marriage (I'm divorced; although she's never bothered to ask the circumstances) and repeatedly questioned my relationship with God (because I guess you can't believe in God if you're not Catholic) and who told me I needed psychological help because I chose not to have a large birthday party when my third child turned one. (Please note: none of my children had huge parties when they turned one. Also, I'm the Mom.)

I could go on and on and on and on... in fact, several years of my life was spent getting together at her home, at dinners, at different events, and once even during a very awkward and uncomfortable vacation where I found myself constantly being passively (and sometimes not so passively but rather painfully obvious and aggressively) put down and criticized with no chance of escape. 

For months on end I tried hard to make an effort. Once, I even sat through an incredibly disrespectful conversation about how Matt would be better off dating his ex-girlfriend. Smile uncomfortably, take a sip of water, wonder if this conversation was even happening; surely there's a hidden camera.

After several years, a couple things were obvious:
        
           (1) This wasn't getting any better.
           (2) In fact, this is actually getting worse.

I found myself emotionally drained before I even left the house, unwilling and, truthfully, unable to handle the subtle yet obvious belittlement that occurred every single time I found myself around this woman.

And yet, doesn't God call us to be kind to one another? Doesn't God call us to love one another? Does this mean God calls us to keep company with someone who is constantly hurting us?

I knew God called me to be kind to this woman - even if I didn't like how she was treating me. I'm kind to all sorts of people I don't know: clerks in the grocery store, the man walking into the gas station at the same time I am, the waitress who takes my order and the flight attendant who hands me my soda. Obviously, I shouldn't be unkind to any of these people, including the person who treats me harshly. That whole "eye for an eye" thing? Well, I didn't think the answer to my situation could be found in trading verbal barbs and attempting to hurt someone on purpose.

But I was so confused. There was no way I wanted to keep putting myself in a situation where I was being disrespected. And there was no way I was going to submit my children to that. I couldn't sit with a fake smile on my face while my children sat confused and uncomfortable while another person said unkind things about their mom.

I wondered why on earth God would place someone like this in my life. Someone so bent on hurting me. And, it wasn't just me; the criticisms, gossip and beratement extended to many people beyond just me. Why would God invite someone like that to be near my heart?

The answer became very clear to me: if we cannot stand up to the lies a human voice speaks out loud to us, how will we ever stand up to the lies the enemy whispers softly into our minds?

Because everything this woman has said to me, about me, has been lies: Avery's visitation was definitely NOT tacky. It was beautiful. It was amazing. It was a precious tribute not only to who Avery was in life, but to all the lives she so incredibly touched. And I did and can and continue to love God regardless of my church affiliation. And, you know what? Lots of parents opt to have a small, quiet birthday party instead of an insanely large one. That doesn't mean they need psychological help.

We have all come in contact with someone who chooses to spread passive-aggressive untruths; who enjoys churning up the drama and gets a kick out of seeing someone hurt. Maybe you have someone in your life like that right now and you're wondering why they're there.

Maybe, just maybe, they're there so that you can learn how to gather your strength and say, "no. No, I choose not to believe what you say. I choose not to step into your created drama. I choose not to feel dragged down, unworthy, unloved, unwanted by you."

Anyone who does not love
does not know God,
because God is love.
1 John 4:8
 
Because as soon as you can stand up to that visible person you're going to be better equipped to stand up to those lies swirling around in your head about who the enemy wants you to believe you are. All those lies keep you from revealing who God intended you to be. All  those lies that you're not good enough, pretty enough, smart enough, talented enough - they're all being whispered just to keep you from being the amazing person you were put on this planet to be.
 
And I'll tell you - God's people spread love. God's people help you stand strong. God's people encourage and praise and rejoice and honor and give! If the people in your life are not doing that; if the people in your life are dragging you down, hurting your heart, making you feel defeated and unwelcome - they are not God's people.
 
I look at Avery's classmates. She would be in 6th grade this year - those dreaded middle school years. And I want them to learn two very important lessons: Do not BE the person who does not love, and Do not be WITH the person who does not love. If you're making little comments (or even big comments) about the outfit someone is wearing or how they're doing their hair or how they choose to spend their free time, you're wrong. Stop being mean. Just stop.
 
And if you're hanging out with people who are making those comments and making others feel bad, you're also wrong. Even if you're not saying it, you're hanging out with people who are and that is not the way to be. Don't stop someone from being who God intended them to be. Don't get in God's way of greatness.
 
I look at parents who have divorced or separated and are in a situation of co-parenting and I want them to learn two very important lessons: Do not BE the person who does not love, and Do not be WITH the person who does not love. If you cannot stop yourself from making passive (or not so passive) comments about the other parent, you're wrong. Stop.
 
If you're hanging out with people who are constantly making comments and rude digs about your ex, you're wrong. Stop hanging out with them. You don't need that influence of hatred. And your kids don't need that atmosphere of hatred.
 
Because all those rude, petty, snide, passive comments are just a breeding ground for hate. And I don't know about you, but I have no time for hate. I have no time to be attacked by it, to sit in it, to keep company with it, to be affected by it, or to learn from it.
 
Choose your words wisely.
 
Choose your company wisely.
 
Choose to be one of God's people.
 
 
Make no friendship with an angry man,
and with a furious man do not go,
Lest you learn his ways
and set a snare for your soul.
Proverbs 22:24-25

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Teaching Moments: The One In Which I Implore Mamas to Teach Their Kids Simple Home Maintenance

God continues to provide moments of humor in my life. This one comes from Matt.

Oh, I know. It's been a while since I've told a "Big V" story (as he was known in previous posts, before Avery passed away and we were outed over the interwebs), so today, Readers, you are in luck! I give you The Dryer Story.

My dryer was not drying. I wasn't too surprised, since the thing is only about 5 years old. (Insert curmudgeony they don't make things like they used to comment.) I, being the person that I am, went straight to Facebook asking for advice. Over and over I heard the same thing: MAKE SURE THE VENT IS CLEAR OF LINT!

Seemed easy enough, so I did what every independent woman does: I asked my knight in shining armor if he would please check the dryer vent and make sure it was clear. "Don't just do the part from the dryer to the vent," I directed. "Make sure you go outside and clean the vent from the outside of the house."

So, he did. Because he is nothing if not my knight in shining armor who wishes to spend his whole life saving me from disastrous situations!

But, alas, the dryer still would not dry.

Instead of taking two cycles to dry, it now took three. And it wasn't like I could go hang clothes outside in 10-degree weather. My electric bill was going to be sky high (again) and this just didn't make any sense. The dryer seemed warm - hot even - after a cycle, but the clothes were not drying.

"It's not drying, Matt." I sighed. "Are you sure that the vent is clear?"

"Yep."

"Was there a lot of lint in it?"

"Nope."

"And you cleaned the outside, too?"

"Yep."

I was confused. Frustrated. Annoyed. So, I did what every independent woman does: I checked it myself.

I walked outside and noticed something peculiar. While the dryer was on and operating, none of the little vent flaps were moving.

Thinking maybe they had figured out a way to be frozen shut, I pried them open with my fingers.

I was promptly met with a wall of lint build-up.

I pulled out what I could and then came up with a genius (passive-aggressive) teaching moment.

"Oh, Brody!" I called out to the 4-year old. "Would you like to help mommy fix something?"

That peaked his interest. Matt's, too.

I took Brody by the hand and showed him the vent, explaining that we needed to make sure this was clean so mommy could dry the clothes. We checked out what screwdriver was needed (standard) and we set about unscrewing the vent cover. We then proceeded to pull out enough lint to stuff a pillow.

Meanwhile, Matt was standing behind us watching the whole thing.

After Brody and I threw away the lint and put the screwdriver back in the toolbox (mamas: ALWAYS teach your children to put the tools back in the toolbox. Always.) I turned to Matt. "You said you cleaned the vent!" I accused.

"I did!" he insisted.

And that's when he told me about how he had gone out to the side of the house with a rag and washed off the vent to make sure it was clean.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

About a Boy

I came to Haiti expecting nothing. It's something you get good at after losing a child. When you finally realize that you are in control of absolutely nothing, it's nice to sit back and just let God guide you. If I can't plan on Avery coming home from gymnastics on an ordinary Wednesday there's no way I'm going to try to plan what God has in store for me during a week in Haiti.

It was a medical mission trip of which I have no medical skills. The best I can do is apply a band aid to a superficial wound. My truthful answer to what will you be doing in Haiti? was I have no idea.

I ended up being recruited to the Eye Team. Maybe not my first choice, if I were being honest, but exactly where God intended me to be.

Our first day of work we planned to set up a medical clinic about 10 minutes outside the orphanage. We loaded everything up in truck and took off only to discover the site didn't have the required electrical generator we needed to run the eye department. Our small team of 6 were sent back to the orphanage.

I felt disappointed. Left out. Here I thought God would be using me for something big, showing me something beautiful, and our team was sent back. I'm gonna miss all the good stuff, I thought.

And at what point, exactly, am I ever going to finally get it through my thick skull that what I see as doors closing is actually God opening windows wide to His glorious plan?


Because if we hadn't gone back to the orphanage and set up shop where we did, we wouldn't have had all those beautiful children watching and asking questions and running in and out, laughing and joking.

And I wouldn't have looked over and noticed the quiet boy in the corner. The one who would look away every time I tried to smile at him.

I wouldn't have heard his whisper from behind me when I couldn't understand what a little girl was saying. I wouldn't have seen the way he turned his head and stared into space when I said thank you for translating, as if he were suddenly invisible.

And all week this boy watched me from the shadows. All week he stood his distance while I played and laughed and talked with everyone else. All week I would look over and there he was, pretending not to look at me.

But one day. One day he cautiously approached me while I was sitting on some steps. There were three other kids laughing, playing, hamming it up during a photo op. And he inched closer. And then more boys came, a deaf boy who wanted to play with my bracelet and he told him in ASL to stop and that he shouldn't be begging to see. And then he inched even closer.

So, I asked him his name. And his age. He told me his name was Riquelme and he was 14. I asked how long he had lived at this orphanage and he told me he came some time in 2012. All his answers were as short as possible. A word, maybe two. Mostly he sat next to me while I played and joked around with the other kids.

I went back to my room that night and prayed:

Lord, I don't know why you have me here, but if it's just to love on one child and this is the child you want me to love, I can do that. I can love. You know I can't do much of anything else: I don't have fancy degrees or important skills, and I pretty much have done most things wrong in my life, but I know how to love. So, you just let me know if this is the kid you want me to love and I'll do that. I'll love that kid hard, Lord, if he's the one. But you know me, Lord, I need something loud and clear that says this is the one. I need Gideon's proof - something bold and without question.


 The next morning the boy found me sitting alone on the same steps. He walked right up to me and sat down next to me. No slowly inching towards me this time.

Hello.
Hello.
How are you today?
Good.
Did you get enough sleep?
Yes.

But still he looked straight ahead. As if talking to the air in front of him. I suppressed a giggle. This boy of few words. And so we sat. Side by side, we sat. Looking at nothing. Saying not a word. Just being.

Suddenly, he stood up and walked quickly back inside the building. He seemed like a man on a mission, so I waited. A few seconds later he returned with one of his school composition books. He handed it to me and I started looking through the pages.

Is this your writing?
Yes.
You have very good penmanship.
Yes.
Is this your math?!
Yes.
That looks very hard!
No.
Do you like math?
Yes.
Do you like school?
Yes.
Do you do well in school?
Yes.
 
I flipped through some more pages before handing the book back to him and telling him how smart he must be.
 
Then he handed me a letter.
 
For you.
For me?
Yes.
Why, thank you! Can I open it?
Yes.

And with that he looked away.

I turned the envelope over in my hands. Why on earth would he write me a letter?

Inside I found two pieces of paper: one listed the English and French numbers, 1 through 20; the other listed English and French vocabulary words. All familial terms: mother, father, son, daughter, grandmother, grandfather.

He pointed to each word and said them in French. I copied him. He laughed when I couldn't pronounce parrain (godfather) even after three tries.



Then he told me there was one more.

One more piece of paper in the envelope.

In broken English, he had written: "Are you good are you family good. My love you for my mother ok. I love. I love. I love you. My pray for you ok. I love you Mother."

My heart broke.

What goes on in a child's mind when he resorts to passing letters to a woman he barely knows in the hopes of finding a mother? No child should have to pray to find a mother. No child should have to lay awake wondering if they'll ever be worthy of a mom who loves them unconditionally.

No child should have to prove his worth through a series of English and French vocabulary words. Look how smart I am. I am a smart kid. A good choice. Pick me. Please, pick me.

What goes on in a child's mind when he's old enough to know he has been abandoned? When he's old enough to know time is running out. That based simply on time passing he will no longer be eligible for the family he longs for?

This child deserves to know that no matter what has happened in the fourteen years that have led him to this orphanage, that God has something big and special and important ready for him. A reward bigger than even he can dare to dream.

He deserves to know that God will use him to make the world a better place. That people will be changed for the better because they knew him.

I don't know what this sweet child has gone through but I know he deserves a chance to hear the truth about how special and worthy and beautiful and perfect he is. He deserves a chance to know what love is; what it's like to have a mother say I love you and You are perfect and You are the best part of who I am.


 

And if God sent this child to me then He must think I'm the one who can tell him all of that (even if I wonder with every fiber of my being if I'm even worthy of such a task).
 
All I know is that the first time I looked over and saw this shy boy along the wall it felt like the first time I had seen each one of my newborn babies after being placed in my hands: indescribable love. I know that I didn't get to choose those children either; each one is just on loan from God. He just happened to entrust them with me. Just like God is entrusting this young man to me in whatever capacity He decides. And I trust God. Whatever He calls me to, I will gladly do it.
 
I have officially begun sponsoring him through the GVCM website. Because if I can't scoop him up in my arms and take him home, I will bring my home to him. I will write my love in letters. I will tell him his greatness in written words. The cost is $35 a month. GVCM aims to have 4-5 sponsors per child - but they're not there yet. There are so many sponsors needed. The money each month goes to help cover the cost of each child's education, their food, their general medical/health needs, and the buildings they sleep in, eat in, go to school in and worship in.
 
I found out that Amber, the beautiful, God loving woman who works at the orphanage, actually uses her own money (from the meager amount her own family is expected to live off of) to create little care packages and cards to give to orphans from their "sponsor parents" - even though they don't have any.
 
Readers, she makes sure each child feels loved by a sponsor parent even though they don't have any.
 
There is a huge part of me that aches awful for this boy in Haiti. That grieves over the distance between us. I have thought often about the irony of God sending a child to me who I cannot touch, I cannot hug, I cannot kiss, I cannot reach over and wrap my arms around - but who I love with everything that I am.
 
But I trust wholeheartedly God knows what He's doing.
 
Check this out:  All my faraway children are born in October.
 
Avery's birthday is October 5th.
Alphonsine's birthday is October 4th.
Riquelme's birthday is on October 26th.
 
Avery died on October 24th. As the years pass, this date will fade away from the public's eyes and remain hard for me. But to know that God has given me a special birthday to celebrate just two days later is absolutely incredible! To know that I would not have gone to Haiti if it were not for Avery. I would not have met this boy had it not been for Avery. Yes, God knows what He's doing. I just have to be open to go along for the ride.
 
I have no doubt Avery has been with Riquelme for a long time now. She and Jesus working out the details to get me in the right place at the right time. Nudging this boy and whispering in his ear: that lady, right there. She's the one. She's the best mom you could ever ask for. Because she knows how to love hard. 

 


Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Waiting.


I haven't quite been able to digest how Haiti has impacted me. More than just Avery's country: the faces, the sights, the sounds, the smells - it's like it all seeped into my skin and soaked my soul, drenching now in faith, dripping in compassion, and I'm too afraid of what happens if I wring it out.

The homes we passed by could barely be described as houses. Sheds, maybe. Shacks, mostly. 5 people living in the size of my smallest bedroom. My living room - the one I complain is too small and awkward, the one where fitting furniture is too tricky for my patience - my living room is twice the size of these homes.

The kids go hungry.

The mothers go hungrier.

And yet, when we came, no one seemed angry, or jealous, or even mentioned all of our ridiculous excess. (They didn't need to. I felt my ridiculous excess to the core of my being.)

Instead, they were just happy we were there. Thankful. Grateful.

They walked for hours to see the doctors.

Waited for hours more just to be seen.

Waited in the hot sun. Back straight in perfect posture. No overstuffed diaper bags filled with toys and gadgets and fruit snacks and juice bottles to keep the kids occupied. No, the kids just waited, too.

(How long do I wait before I complain? 15 minutes? Ten? I'm busy, you know. I had a scheduled appointment.)

Quick with smiles. Some shy. Some gregarious. All filled with kindness.

Never complaining while they waited.

Always waiting.


Please enjoy this short video
highlighting some images from our trip.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Seeing Avery All Grown Up

One day I'll tell you about the freezing cold we left and the heavy bags we lugged, full of supplies and medicines. I'll tell you about arriving in Port au Prince and walking across a cracked concrete parking lot to board an old school bus with a flat tire. How the heat was suffocating after months of below zero Wisconsin winter weather, how the people crowded and walked too close to moving traffic as we searched for a tire shop that was barely more than a couple men sitting on overturned 5-gallon buckets on the side of the road next to a pile of old tires, everything covered in dirt.

I'll tell you about waiting on the bus while they removed the tire and I'll recall the loud explosion that rocked the bus and scared the life out of me and how I was relieved to learn it was just the tire blowing after being filled too far. (They didn't have any gauges.) And then I'll tell you about the fear I felt when I realized we didn't have a tire and we were stuck on the side of the road; 30 or so out of place Americans in a rough city while the sun set and darkness crawled in. 

I'll talk about the sound of gravel crunching up and down winding mountain roads, the lack of street lights, the lack of space for two vehicles at the same time and the edge of cliffs that seemed way too close. How we pulled into the orphanage after bouncing down a side road and waited for an armed guard to open the huge, cobalt blue metal gate that protected the orphanage from things I didn't know. How tired and dirty we were as we passed 50-pound rucks from person to person into a storage room while curious children hovered by the door.

We opened bags and sorted items in loud chaos: medicines to the back of the room, diapers and baby items to the right, food to the left. The shoes can go in the middle of the room, auto supplies and tools on the table in the front of the room. Toys along one wall, clothes sorted into piles for men, women, girls and boys. 

People were tired, sweating, moving, talking loudly over each other, bumping into each other, passing things to one another, tossing things into a pile, and then I turned and looked straight into the eyes of Avery.

I expected to see Avery while I was in Haiti; just not here. Not right away. And not so grown up. 

Standing in the middle of an overcrowded, chaotic storage room stood the American woman who sold all her belongings to come to Haiti with her husband and son to serve the people. The woman who trusted God's Call even when it didn't seem like He was moving fast enough (or at all). The woman who took the hands of orphans and gave them her heart. 

She is everything I imagined Avery to be all grown up. The smile, the kindness, the compassion. The determination and matter of fact way of getting things done. The way the leader and the lover comes together to do God's work. The way her faith and hope and love for Jesus Christ oozes out of every pore. As I looked into Amber's eyes all I kept thinking was: Avery. Avery's here. I almost couldn't breathe. As the week wore on I would find myself repeating over and over this woman is exactly who I always imagined Avery would grow up to be.

 
But now I was being introduced: "This is Bridget, Avery's mom."

And with that Amber paused to search my face. Then she reached out and gave me the greatest, strongest hug ever. She just held me, held me tight, tears streaming down her face before whispering, "I have prayed for you every day." 

What do you say to that? 

What do you say to the woman who says that Avery - who she has never, ever met - has changed her heart? Has somehow managed to worm her way into this very orphanage in Haiti?
 
The Edwards go to Haiti!
Matt, me, Brody, Trish & Gabby

This past summer, a mother and daughter from our area were headed to Haiti on a mission trip. I never asked where they were going in Haiti or with what group. I just knew AVERYday Ministries would be supporting them. I decided to send along some t-shirts. And I decided to send her shoes. 

Her precious black and pink tennis shoes that she really, really wanted when we had gone school shopping. The shoes she was wearing in her 5th Grade Back-to-School photo just weeks before she died. The ones that I almost buried her in but it just didn't feel right. Those shoes didn't belong in a coffin. 

Instead, I took a Sharpie and wrote PSALM 121 on the inside and waited. God would tell me if and when I needed to do anything with her shoes. Then, I waited.

Finally, He told me to send them to Haiti. He told me to give the shoes to the family going to Haiti. And I felt nothing but peace by it. I can't tell you how healing it was to imagine a little girl in Haiti running around in Avery's shoes!

Never, in a million years, did I ever think I would one day actually hold the child who now wears them.

***
 
Amber told me through tears about how she had received Avery's shoes. How she hadn't been at the orphanage when the shoes arrived, but the story of a little girl who loved God and Haiti with all her heart was explained to her. She knew right away who the shoes should go to. As I listened to Amber tell me the story, I knew she had made the right choice.
 
Denise
Photo Credit: Children's World Impact
 
Denise is an 11-year old girl who came to the orphanage broken in every way imaginable: physically, emotionally, spiritually. She needs an army of prayer warriors and I ask you to join the ranks. 

Denise is beautiful. Beautiful in her brokenness. Beautiful in the way God will bring her to perfection, whether in this lifetime or the next. In the meantime, she's got Avery's shoes on her feet. 
 
Amber told me that she asks Denise to 'put on your Avery shoes' when it's time for church or trips to town. The Avery shoes are special. Almost like one's Sunday bests. 
 
Denise. Avery would have loved her.
Photo Credit: Children's World Impact
 
My shattered, splintered Mama Heart gets slowly pieced back together every single time someone mentions the Avery shoes, whether I hear it or not. I imagine an angel picking up a splinter of my heart from the floor and gently putting it back into place every time those shoes are worn. 

Avery is in Haiti.
 
 

Avery once told me she was going to have 100 children. I told her it wasn't possible. 

I was wrong.

Amber has 117. 

Avery would have made an excellent Amber.  

Amber is Avery, all grown up. 

Amber with one of the many beautiful children atAll God’s Children Orphanage and
Global Vision Citadelle Ministries in Haiti.

Photo Credit: Children's World Impact

Avery with her baby brother.



Ephesians 4:11-16 ESV
And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes.
Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ.