Fat Fridays: The Stories Behind the “Why”

I grew up in the North of Haiti as a missionary kid. Our final four years there was a very turbulent time for the country, during the time of Aristide’s presidency. We were there when the US placed an embargo on the country and it was a very difficult time of food, gas, and medicine shortages. 

We lived in a flat roofed, two story, concrete brick house at the top of a mountain pass (ok, it was really a very tall hill, but it had the feeling of a mountain, and the road was steep enough that it might as well have been a mountain.) We had a view of the Bay of Acul and the Plan du Nord, a beautiful plain dotted with rice paddies and sugarcane fields, surrounded by distant mountain ridges. I spent a lot of time outside, just gazing at the view, maybe trying to sketch what I was seeing, thinking a lot. 

We didn’t have electricity. We had a generator, but during the embargo we had to be very careful with our fuel. We would turn the generator on every couple days so we could get the water pump working. We had a utility room that was full of 5 gallon buckets and water jugs that my brother or I would stand and fill with a hose. This would be our water supply until the next time we turned our power back on. (I mastered the 5 gallon bucket bath.) We had a kerosene refrigerator, but no kerosene, so we just made do without a fridge. Our stove was gas, but somehow we were able to get the fuel for that. 

My mom was a genius at making do with what we had as she tried to feed the family on a very limited budget and very limited available resources. We had friends in the States who would send boxes of food occasionally and there was the local market place. By the time of the embargo, the few grocery stores around were mostly empty. I remember that my mom would buy a giant bag of flour and a giant bag of sugar that she would keep in a steel barrel in the kitchen. The barrel was to keep all the bugs out of the food. My mom baked our bread every week.

There were many times that we were unable to leave the house due to unrest and disturbances. While that sounds exciting, it was actually very boring. Imagine a fifteen year old sitting at home with nothing to do. 

Mom, I’m bored. 

One of my favorite things to do was look through old GOOD HOUSEKEEPING magazines that someone had sent us. They had so many amazing pictures of food. Imagine. Decadent desserts, fancy roasted chickens. Our diet at the time consisted of a lot of canned tuna and Spam, because that was what people sent in food boxes. My mom is a gourmet cook, but she didn’t have much to work with. We will never let her forget the “Sweet and Sour Spam with Angel Hair Pasta” that she made. One of the few times I think I just didn’t eat. 🙂 So, here I am, bored, looking at food magazines, wanting to make all these amazing recipes. I asked my mom if I could bake something. Sure. She handed me her Better Homes and Gardens cookbook with the red-checked cover. 

Find a recipe that we have the ingredients for. 

Ok. 

Turns out, the only recipe I could find that we had ingredients for was simple sugar cookies. Sugar, flour, margarine. Some salt and baking powder. Eggs. Ok. We can make this recipe! I mixed everything up and then pinched some dough when my mom wasn’t looking. (Salmonella! Don’t eat raw cookie dough!) We baked the cookies. A bit too long. They were rather crispy. But they were sweet. It satisfied a longing. It pushed away the boredom for a little while. The cookies made me feel good. 

And cookies and other sweets still make me feel good. For a little while. Until I look down at myself and see the consequences of too many cookies. Check my blood sugar, see some more consequences. But how to change this life long habit? I’m bored. I’m feeling antsy. I’m not happy…food will make me feel better. 

I am discovering that it’s a really hard habit to break. 

Just Remember

Well, the Coronavirus is all over the news. And it seems like I should say something about it. Seeing as I have a blog and all. 🙂  Whenever I try to think of “words of wisdom” for the masses, I come up blank. All I can do is share what’s been happening in my life. So here goes. 

 

I’ve been keeping an eye on the news the last couple weeks. I have been concerned. Not really scared. Just concerned. I decided it would be a good idea to follow the CDC’s advice to have extra supplies on hand. I’ve stocked up a bit. Not a ton. I’m feeding thirteen people every day and I simply don’t have the refrigerator space or the pantry space to stock for large periods of time. But, if we couldn’t go to the grocery store for a week or so, I’d be ok. Since I have a hard time imagining a Capitalist country like ours not finding a way to sell me groceries, I’m not over-concerned about that. I’ve stocked up on some vitamins and OTC medicines. Some medicinal teas. I’ve got a bit more cleaning supplies on hand. I’ve got toilet paper. 🙂 Not an insane amount. I just bought what I usually buy, then grabbed one more package. (I was smart though! I bought it before the mad rush started.) If the kids’ school gets canceled, well hey, I home-schooled for twelve years. I’ve still got all my old supplies on hand. Not a big problem. 

 

All of this “prepping” has kind of happened as a Side Issue. Life has been so incredibly busy that I really haven’t had time to just focus on Worrying about the Coronavirus. When my thoughts do turn that way, I’m finding that I’m having a lot of flashbacks from my childhood. I grew up in Haiti and we lived through a lot of political turmoil. There were many times when we couldn’t leave our house for a week at a time because people were rioting and we could hear gunshots and all the roads were barricaded by angry citizens. And we just stayed in our home and hoped that we would not become a target to anyone’s anger. Going to the store was not an option at all. We just had to make do with whatever we had. One time we were stuck in our house for days and all we had was a giant bag of pancake mix and a bunch of pasta. It took years for me to enjoy pancakes again. 

 

We also lived through an embargo that was put on the country where medicine and fuel and food were very difficult to find because the US wasn’t allowing it to be shipped in. Our family had to ration our driving. My brother and I biked and walked a lot. We carpooled. We just didn’t go anywhere. 

 

Sickness? In Haiti we had TB, HIV, Malaria, Typhoid, Anthrax, Diphtheria, Hepatitis, and a whole host of tropical diseases just floating around everywhere. My mother held medical clinics in our home. All those sick people would come and sit on benches in our yard while my mom would see them in a room in our house, one at a time. We washed our hands a lot. We used Clorox a lot. We got sick sometimes. We recovered. 

 

When I compare those childhood experiences to what’s happening right now, I just kind of shrug. Yeah. This is really nothing. 

 

Here’s the thing. I don’t want to downplay people’s worries. I’m not overly concerned because I have seen God’s faithfulness through much worse circumstances. If God could help my family when I was a child living through tumultuous times, then, I know that God can help me and my family now. 

 

Not everyone shares my history. Maybe this is the biggest thing you’ve lived through. Maybe this is really shaking up your world. I think the pattern holds true though. When we are faced with trials and worries, we look back. We remember other hard times that God helped us with. We remember how God has helped other family members. We think about the stories in the Bible, how God provided for the Israelites in the wilderness. We remember God’s faithfulness. And in remembering, we strengthen our faith. And as our faith is strengthened, we can let go of our fear. 

 

 

Fear not, for I am with you;

Be not dismayed, for I am your God.

I will strengthen you,

Yes, I will help you,

I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.’

 

                     Isaiah 41:10 (NKJV) 

Better Late than Never

This past 9-11 was interesting for me.  I suddenly got interested in the events of that day 18 years before.  Yes, every year our country has a day of remembering, and every year I have felt melancholy as people shared different memories from that day. But I did not feel like I was entering into the mourning like my friends were. 

 

When 9-11 happened, I was living in bush Alaska. I had an almost one yr old baby. I was pregnant with my second. I didn’t have a tv. The events of that day seemed very far away. I did not sit in front of the news and watch the events unfold. I just heard about it after the fact, in a tidy little written news article I found on the internet. I also had a very complicated history with the US, having lived in Haiti while the US put that country under a strict embargo. Seeing firsthand the suffering that the Haitians endured because of US politics made me feel very ambiguous about being an American. 

 

When 9-11 happened, I saw it as an outsider. How sad. Those poor people. It was some kind of crazy disaster that was happening far away to people that had no connection to me. 

 

So, this past 9-11, I suddenly felt very curious. I started watching little video clips that people had posted about various aspects of that day. Then I got on Youtube and found where someone had posted an unedited clip of the news, playing straight from 8:30am to 11am on that day. Over a couple days, I sat and watched the whole thing unfold. I cried a lot. Suddenly feeling very connected to the confusion and pain and bewilderment as people watched their country being attacked. I went and found another video that was made a year after, that showed what was happening at the government level during that time. I watched an amazing clip of a fireman who had been in the building when it collapsed and somehow he got out. He gives God all the credit. I watched some footage of different news camera men who had been on the scene, watched their live footage as they lived through the chaos. I watched an amazing little documentary about all the boats that spontaneously gathered to help evacuate Manhattan. And I cried some more, this time at the wonder of people coming together to help each other, uniting.  And then finally, I felt like I had watched enough. 

 

And I wondered. What was that interest all about? I’m still not sure. I do know that I hate mourning. I hate entering into emotional pain. I distance myself from it. It’s not good that I do that. Instead of feeling the emotions, I just shove them down. I used to be pretty purposeful about it too. If something was getting too overwhelming for me to handle, I would literally envision a big walk-in closet. Then I would envision myself going in, taking an empty box, setting the problem into the box, shutting the box, and putting the box on the shelf, and then I’d walk away. 

 

Perhaps God is letting me do some catch up. Let’s open that closet door and start unpacking all those boxes. One at a time.