Monday, January 16, 2012

That One Star Flag State

My roommate, Michelle, and I decided we needed a little vacation. So in October, we found a cheap flight and went to Dallas, Texas. We had no expectations, and no plans, except for a concert on Saturday night. We flew in on Thursday and went straight to our hotel.

Cue creepy thrasher movie music. Our hotel was a bit terrifying, but what can you expect from a cheap flight + hotel combination. We grabbed some food at a local Mexican restaurant and then decided to go to Billy Bob’s, which is a famous nightclub in Ft. Worth. We were expecting it to be kind of like the Wildhorse in Nashville, but boy, we were wrong! Ever heard of the Texas two-step? That is was EVERYONE was doing. It was really fun to watch then twirl and spin and dip, but it got boring after a little while. Apparently, this dance is in everyone’s blood. No beginners were on the floor, just seasoned veterans. We left after a little while and decided that we really needed to learn how to two-step.

Friday we woke up and headed to Dallas. We rode the downtown Trolley and ate at a yummy Chinese restaurant called Lovers Egg Roll. I could eat that every day.

After riding around on the trolley, we decided to go to a pumpkin festival! It reminded me of Cheekwood. There were so many pumpkins! We even found an orange and white house!

After walking around for a while, we decided to go see Cowboy stadium. Who wouldn’t want to see where the Cowboys play! Sadly, there is nothing on the stadium that even says “Dallas Cowboys.” It was a major letdown.

Right next to Cowboy Stadium was Ranger Stadium, where the Texas Rangers baseball team plays. The Rangers were one game away from going to the World Series, so it was pretty cool to see where they play. The stadium was super nice. After adventuring around the stadiums, we headed to Arlington to see what it was like. We detoured and say Dallas Baptist University. Such a little school, but extremely nice. On our way to Arlington, we heard on the radio that Chris Young would be playing for ten dollars! You better believe that we planned on doing that for the night! Before we did that, we drove around University of Texas, Arlington. We weren’t really impressed with the school. We decided on some Mexican food again, then headed to the concert.

I officially LOVE Chris Young. He was so great! We had a really great time at the concert. I looked at my phone when we left and I had a text from a random Nashville number that said “what are you doing in my city?” Creepy! I found out it was an old high school friend, and he wanted to meet up the next day. UT was playing so we decided on going to Buffalo Wild Wings and watching part of the game. Before we met up with him we went to see Gaylord Texas and Grapevine Mills. We had the best barbeque we had ever tasted and realized that Texas had a bit of a Nashville feel to it.

We raced back home to get ready for Ranch Bash, a huge festival in Fort Worth with Casey Donahew. It was so fun, but extremely crowded. It really made me appreciate Texas country music a whole lot more.

Overall, it was a really fun trip, and I would love to go back any time.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Moo Boo

Melissa Hope. A lot of you know my personal journey with this amazing little girl. When I moved to Haiti, I never expected to do many of the things I did. I went down with an eager heart to serve a people group to the best of my ability. I went to Haiti with a fear of caring for children, but God knew exactly what He was doing when He placed me in Haiti.

After doing volunteer work for a few weeks, Quisqueya Christian School offered me a full-time teaching position at their school. QCS is a unique school, in that it was originally meant to educate children of missionary families, but has turned in to a school where many Haitians want their to kids to learn. QCS offers a top-notch education in English, and I was honored to be on staff. I had never taught before, so the learning curve was steep. I was lucky to have such great support at the school to help me learn as I was teaching.

My main goal with my students was to invest in their lives and let them know I really care, while teaching them about the incredible authors and works of literature that I have loved. Leaving there was one of the hardest things I have ever done, and I think about my students daily.

If having a brand new job wasn’t enough of an adjustment in a foreign, third world country, Melissa came in to the picture. After Melissa was abandoned, I somehow opened my mouth to say that I would care for her. I thought caring for her meant a couple of days or weeks, and at the time, I didn’t realize that I would end up caring for her for 5 months and think of her as my child.

She was about 6 months old when she was abandoned, but was the size of a tiny newborn, suffering from a heart defect, Down’s syndrome, and malnutrition. In my short time with her, I learned more about myself than I could in any other situation.

I thought I was incapable of taking care of a child. The Lord made me capable. I was terrified to be her caregiver. The Lord calmed my fears. Many times I said, “I can’t do this! I’m 23!” The Lord matured me and reminded me that He was working through me. I didn’t know how to change a diaper, fix a bottle, or love a child. With the help of some friends and a lot of prayer, I learned all of those skills.

Melissa changed my life in a drastic way. I loved her with everything in me, and even though she couldn’t “love me back,” it was enough to know that she was changing my life. It was incredible to see her mimic some of the faces I would make to her. And who knew that I could talk to a baby! I sure didn’t.

When I moved into an apartment on campus, I was devastated to leave my Melissa Hope. In those few months, she became a child of mine, and I loved her as a mother loves a daughter. It basically ripped my heart knowing I wouldn’t see her as often. Little did I know I would only get five more minutes with her.

Jenny Chapman was in the process of adopting Melissa Hope. She had been doing everything in her power to get Melissa home, but kept hitting snags. When I left Haiti in May, all I could think about was getting to see Melissa more often once she was home with Jenny in Alabama. A short drive, and I would be reunited with this child that I loved. On September 5th, I was on my way home from a canoe trip with my church. I checked my Facebook and I had a message from Jenny saying, “Call me ASAP.” In my head I was hoping she was going to tell me that Melissa was coming home, but in my heart, I knew that would not be the case.

The night before, we had a worship night, and I couldn’t stop crying. If you know me at all, you know that I NEVER cry. I think my tear ducts have dried up. I had no idea why water was flowing my eyes, but now I believe that God was preparing my heart for what I was about to hear.

I called Jenny, and from the moment she answered the phone, I knew something was wrong. She put it plainly and softly said, “Melissa died this afternoon.” My head started spinning and I started to cry uncontrollably. My heart felt like it was broken in half, and I couldn’t even breathe. I didn’t want to believe it. I wanted it to be false. Jenny explained to me what happened, but I didn’t comprehend it very well. As far as I knew, her oxygen level had dropped, and she passed away peacefully.

I don’t understand it. I’m not sure I even believe it as true. I keep thinking that I’ll get to go down to Alabama for her homecoming and spend more time with her. It’s so surreal, and the hardest death I’ve had to face thus far.

So where do I go from here? Some days I’m paralyzed by the fear that I have. I loved Melissa with my entire heart, and now she’s gone. As much as the pain is still there, I have to remember the amazing things that Melissa did in her short life.

She changed my life. She changed a lot of other people’s lives too. If her only purpose in her 18 months of life was to radically change my life, then I can rejoice in her death, because she definitely fulfilled that purpose. I’m not sure I knew what it meant to love until I loved that child.

I’m definitely one to say, “I love you!” to everyone that I know. I want people to know that I care about them, and I try to invest in others lives. Since knowing Melissa, that is even more true now.

As much as it sucks to know that I’ll never see her again, her story will live on for years. She was a very special little girl, and I have no doubt that hundreds of people will carry on her story. The Lord has blessed me with the opportunity of caring for her, and I am so thankful that He allowed me to do that. As much as I said, “I can’t do this!” He has proved faithful and will continue to help me every step of the way.