Saturday, October 22, 2011

Cross City Race: Training for Haiti Half Marathon

On Sunday, October 9, we continued our family tradition of participating in Fresno's Cross City Race. Ericlee ran with several of the members of our Remember Haiti Marathon Team, who were training for the big marathon/half marathon coming up on November 6. Among them was my dad, Doug Lazo, who ran a great 10k race sporting his Remember Haiti team shirt from last year.

Our friend, Heather Fenton, ran the 10k at a great pace. She and her husband, Mike, are also part of our Remember Haiti team. They are gearing up for the half marathon race.

Allison Vasquez, and her hubby Troy, are also part of our Remember Haiti team. Her daughter Mia ran in the kids' race. We had fun cheering them in.
The highlight of the morning was Meilani running the quarter-mile kids' race with Daddy. She ran the whole thing with a smile this year. She won a 2nd place medal for her age group. We were so proud of her! Her sister, Giada, is looking forward to joining the runners next fall.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Transitions: How to Live in the Developed World with a heart for the Developing World

I remember it well. My eighth-grade English teacher had scrawled across the top of my essay: “Need to work on transitions.” I tried to figure out what that meant. I tiptoed to her desk and formed the question. She explained that my writing marched from one topic to another. I needed to work on transitions between topics. She wanted me to help my reader along, prepare them for the next point. When I worked as a newspaper reporter years later, I remember a few articles my editor returned to me with similar comments.

The tables turned when I became a professor of journalism and writing composition. I found myself writing something similar on my own college students’ essays. “Needs a transition” or “Work on transitions" or "Too big a jump for your readers.”

Why are transitions so hard for us?

I’ve been asking myself that question for the last six weeks. Six months. Maybe longer. Our family is “home.” We are back in Fresno, California after a three-month stint serving on the front lines in Haiti with Christian Friendship Ministries. We truly are blessed to be back in the arms of our family, our church community, our circle of friends who embrace us and challenge us and love us for who we are.

But I have to admit I've had a hard time with the transition. It’s probably that reverse culture shock thing. 

Our first week back was the start of kindergarten for my oldest daughter. That next week we moved into a new rental house, extracted all our boxes from storage at friends' houses and started unpacking. The following week my women's Bible study and MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) group started up at church. The Awana Club and dance classes commenced for Meilani. Meanwhile, my hubby jumped into a new role as a fundraiser and full-time ambassador for our non-profit. He also coaches classes a few mornings a week at the Crossfit gym. 

Bottom line: we dove headfirst into the busyness that is American life. There wasn't really time for transition. I ran out to Barnes & Noble and bought one of those handy-dandy planner calendars for mamas complete with grids for the daily schedules of each member of the family, special pages for to-do-lists and even a spot to plan out my menus. I felt organized. I felt American.

On the outside, I feel quite comfortable creeping back into my old life and all the routines that Fall brings. On the inside, however, I feel a sort of sadness, a longing for the life I learned this summer. As a family, we learned to embrace a simple life. We savored long mornings of studying the Bible together. Each day was focused on spending time with people instead of rushing off to appointments. People stopped by our house to visit without calling ahead. If it took longer to get someplace we had an attitude of adventure instead of impatience. Our kids played for hours in the yard with their friends from the orphanage. We were not caught up into a world of commercials and billboards and magazines constantly selling us more stuff.

Don't get me wrong, I am so grateful to be home in the United States. I know how to fit in here. I'm honestly grateful for the conveniences. I love my air conditioning. I love my hybrid. I love cooking in my kitchen with its brand-new gas stove and large oven. I love the ice cream in my freezer. I love that I can throw a load in the washer and forget about it until tomorrow if I want. 

Of course, it's bigger than just the conveniences. Sometimes I find myself staring out the window and wondering what all my neighbors are doing on this night. We've lived here six weeks and we don't know any of them yet. We wave to the lady next door when she pulls in her driveway. She waves back.

One day I almost started balling in the bathroom at Target. The bathroom was unbelievably immaculate with automatically-flushing toilets, shiny silver faucets with clean water spewing out. Above each sink was a sparkly-clean mirror. Maybe it sounds like no big deal but I couldn't help but think about so many of our friends in the mountains of Haiti who use an outhouse or find a hole in the garden when they need a restroom.

I found myself asking, Do I really get to live here? Why me?

I don't believe God really wants me to feel guilty for this privilege but I do want to remember that it is, indeed, a privilege to live in the United States.

I've been watching my girls with mama eyes to see how they are handling the transitions too. I've noticed my 5-year-old Meilani is surprisingly shy in new social situations. She chews on her lower lip constantly now. There have been a few nights when I've found her crying in her bed for her friends. She identifies them as the orphans at the orphanage we lived next to in Haiti. And I remember her doing the same thing this summer - crying for her friends here in the U.S.

It took my 2-year-old Giada three or four weeks before she would stop asking me if we were still in Haiti or when we would take an airplane to our next destination. The other night Daddy was coming home late from the gym and she insisted we stop and pray for him so he "didn't get stuck in the mud with the truck."

Coincidence? Culture Shock?

Our church Life Group just finished reading David Platt's book, RADICAL TOGETHER. We were convicted by this quote:

Are you and I personally willing to put everything in our lives on the table for Christ to determine what needs to stay and what needs to go? ... Are you and I willing to say, "Lord, we don't want to settle for good things as your people. We want only your best"?

What it comes down to is that we as a family are trying to learn how to live in the "developed world" without  losing our soul-connection to the "developing world" or "third world." This is especially important as we live in California for the next 6 months and plan to return to Haiti in the spring.

We ask ourselves: How can we be intentional about living simply here to free up more resources to share with friends in need in Haiti? How will we spend our time differently so that it's less about saving up for more stuff/vacations/retirement plans that benefit us and more about developing relationships and finding creative ways to serve others both here and Haiti? How can we be content that we have enough?

We are not sure exactly what the future holds. We are praying now about taking on a leadership role here in the U.S. with Christian Friendship Ministries while still returning to Haiti for a month or more each year with our family. We dream about adopting from Haiti one day. We also have learned a lot these past two years about not planning so far ahead that we get out of God's view. This calling to be a Christ-follower is all about obedience one day at a time.

Our non-profit organization has a mission to "connect resources to Haiti." We know that some of that means being a bridge for other families or individuals who might want to go to Haiti on short-term trips.

That means facing a lot more transitions as a family. I'm not sure if I'm ready, but I'm jumping in.