Wednesday, May 15, 2013

It's May...what the what?

Hey, so is anyone shocked by the fact that today is May 15?!? May, as in, the month before June. Where in the heck did the time go?

In any case, May 15 is significant for a couple of reasons, to wit:

  • My parents are bringing a team of awesome people from Faith Bible Fellowship Church in exactly ONE MONTH!
  • School ends in exactly one month minus one day! (talk about perfect timing...)
  • I leave Haiti in about two months (all sorts of mixed feelings on that one...saving that for another post).

The more I chat with my parents about the ins and outs, the details, the fine print of their trip here, the more excited I get. I'm blessed with great parents who are making this their second trip to Haiti in as many years, and I'm so thrilled and grateful for the team that's coming along with them because I want people to experience this place. I want people to come, without expectation, without trying to "fix", without pretense. I want people to come and see and love. And I believe this group of people gets that.

Lately I've been pondering this question: Do I love Haiti? 
I know the answer is yes, but I can't say I love Haiti in the same way people say "I love Italy" or "I love Paris." People love Paris for its culture, its food, its theater and museums and nightlife. People love Paris because it's so darn loveable. Haiti is a mixed bag of loveable and unloveable, beautiful and ugly. 

But it occurred to me that I love Haiti in the way that I love my family. They are wonderful, yes, but not perfect. And I love them because they are part of me - they are knit into the fabric of my existence in a way that no other people in the world are. And that's what Haiti is to me - a place which has shaped me like no other. Under my skin, in my bloodstream.

And now, just because they're adorable and delightful (despite their ability to be infuriating to a weary teacher with one month of school left), my kids:

Here's what the girls do at recess.
video

And the boys.


video

Gosh, I love 'em. (Does it make you want to visit?!? I'll only be here for two more months, so act fast!)

Love to you all.

-Kristen


Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Today's gift.

Hey friends.

Happy Easter! He is risen and risen indeed. This was definitely a meaningful Easter for me, following a contemplative, if self-guided, Holy Week.  There's just something about the good news and the unabashed joy of Easter that I need, especially living here. Haiti, at first glance, is not a place that's overflowing with good news, and so I delight in this most important and most joyous of Gospel celebrations. Not to mention that there was ham. And turkey. (Turkey!) And all sorts of other delicious food that I pretty much never get around here. It was good, guys. I hope yours was also.

Today was back to school after a pretty long (and much-needed) Spring break. It was good to be back, to see the kids, to settle back into a groove. Except I have one student who consistently gives me a hard time, and today was no exception. I found myself telling him (already! first day back!) that if he was going to waste my class time playing, then he would use recess time to finish his work. Most days I shake my head in frustration, swearing that this kid must hate me. (Teacher friends, anyone hear what I'm saying?) Thankfully, he shaped up at the last second and accomplished the bare minimum requirement. (That's more than I often get from him, so I'll take it.)

Fast-forward to after school. I was at this kid's house, because I tutor his older brothers and sisters a few afternoons a week. As I was talking to some of the kids, he called my name and beckoned me over. When I approached, he held out his hand, and in it were three small seeds. He explained his offering- they are the seeds of a beautiful purple flower that is growing in their backyard. He gave me strict instructions about planting and watering them, then deposited them gently into my hand. From there, we paraded around the backyard garden, me with my little seeds still tucked in my hand, and I listened to him wax eloquent (in his really sweet, 9-year-old way) about all the plants and vegetables and how to care for them, acting appropriately impressed when he pointed out veggies he had helped plant.

Some of you know that I've been on the lookout lately for God's gifts. I know they're all around and I just have to look for them (cue Chicken Soup for the Soul cheesiness here...). But I can sometimes get discouraged about life in Haiti, and I have trouble catching them. But this one today just hit it out of the park. If you're a teacher and you've had difficult students, you can probably appreciate how meaningful this was. There was no trace of stubborn defiance. I had no need for my Mean Teacher Face. These moments were treasures, pure and simple.

Will this kid be ornery tomorrow? Eh, there's a decent chance. And will he make me feel ornery? Probs. But today was a gift that I think, somehow, will give me the grace to deal with tomorrow. And when those pretty little flowers start blooming (pray for them, I'm a terrible gardener!), it will remind me of grace, and God's goodness, and his gifts.

And the only appropriate response for such a lovely gift is Thank You.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Food for thought.

So, media fast is officially over. It was good, and I learned stuff. But if I can liken the stuff I learned to a baked good, well, it needs more time in the oven (sorry, me and the food references these days...).

I think it started a lot of good things in me, but they're still maturing, and not well-formed just yet. So I'm going to beg your patience a bit longer, but in the meantime, here are two quotes that I read recently that have stirred something in me. They came from a book I just finished reading, A Year of Biblical Womanhood by Rachel Held Evans. I know I sort of always say this, but I think everyone should read this book. It has important things to say about the American church and our beliefs about women and the lens through which we view Scripture. It is also hilarious. You may not always agree with Rachel, but she will make you think. And if you don't know anything about this book, please don't judge it by its title. You are bound to be surprised.

So without further ado, some inspiration care of my girl RHE:

Drop Thy still dews of quietness,
Till all our strivings cease;
Take from our souls the strain and stress,
And let our ordered lives confess
The beauty of Thy peace.

-John Greenleaf Whittier


And a prayer from St. Teresa of Avila:

Let nothing upset you,
Let nothing startle you.
All things pass;
God does not change.
Patience wins all it seeks.
Whoever has God lacks nothing.
God alone is enough.

May God's peace be yours this week and in this Lenten season.


Wednesday, February 6, 2013

missionary-turned-food-blogger? nah...

Hey there readers.

So, I baked a grapefruit today. [Um, sorry, did I fail to mention that this post has nothing to do with my media fast? I was a little excited about the grapefruit.]

You know how that's all popular and trendy these days? The baked-grapefruit-trend? Anybody?
 Right. So, we finished dinner and I wanted a little something sweet. Behold, we had grapefruits. We had brown sugar. And we had not much other sweet stuff in the house.

That was enough motivation for me to whip out the ole computer in search of a recipe. Which basically boils down to this: 1. Cut grapefruit in half. 2. Cut around the edge to separate fruit from skin. 3. Cut around the little sections. 4. Sprinkle brown sugar on top. 5. Broil for 5 minutes. (Or, if you happen to live in Haiti with a gas oven that has no broiler, just turn your oven heat up as high as it will go, and pop that grapefruit in.)

It was quite delicious, and definitely something I would make again. (I failed to take a picture of it because, well, I was a little too interested in consuming it. I would make a terrible food blogger.) Here is a beautiful picture that someone else took of this delectable creation.


So, um, sorry if this post is semi-lame/irrelevant. I just felt like you should experience this, if you haven't already. That's all, though my media fast will in fact be over in about a week. Expect a post on that not too far into the future. Until then, go bake yourself a grapefruit!

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Fasting.

Hi all.

I'm writing to let you know that I'm taking on a media fast of sorts for the next month. Not because I'm all cool and disciplined, not because I'm super-spiritual. Actually quite the opposite. I've been remarkably bad at listening to God's voice lately, and this is a critical time in my life when I desperately need to hear from him. Not to mention that I need to invest time in things like lesson plans and grad school applications, and not in Facebook and my favorite blogs.

So, a media fast it is, and in the interest of transparency, I'm going to lay out my guidelines for you here:

1. No Facebook, at all, until February 14, 2013. I know you'll all be lost without my clever status updates for the next month. Try to be strong.

2. I'm reserving my RSS feed and my TV shows for weekends only. The goal is to avoid mindless time-wasting and using media stuff to numb me to my need for Christ, so I am purposely cutting these things out during the week. I'm going to allow them in moderation on the weekends because, speaking as someone who lives in Haiti, it's important and necessary for me to incorporate little pleasures into my life. So, during the week: off-limits. On the weekend: acceptable in moderation.

3. I will use the Internet for: e-mail (necessary for my job and communication with loved ones), lesson planning (also necessary for my job - when you write your own curriculum, you need all resources at your disposal!), Skype (for communication with loved ones). I haven't decided yet if I will blog over the course of the month. I think if God grants me some incredible insight to share with you, then I will. If not, then I won't.

I hope you don't interpret this as legalism on my part. God did not "tell me" that I MUST do this. I just know that I feel distant from him, and I don't like it. So I'm taking some steps to give him more room to speak, work, breathe in my life.

I'd like to humbly request, if you are a pray-er, that you would pray for me over the next month, that:

1. I would experience God's love for me in new and meaningful ways.
2. He would give me insight and direction for the here-and-now, and for my future.
3. I would trust in His goodness, even if I don't see it.

And finally, if you must get in touch with me, I can be reached at kristen.bulgrien@gmail.com.

Back next month, hopefully with some insights to share. Catch y'all on the flip-side :).

-Kristen

Thursday, December 6, 2012

A silly story.

Just a silly story that will (hopefully) put a smile on your face.

As I mentioned in my last post, I have a constant stream of kids coming to me after school. "Miss Kristen, staple this!" "Miss Kristen, I need a band-aid!" "Miss Kristen, lend me a pencil!" "Miss Kristen, I want to do my homework in your room!" "Miss Kristen!" Miss Kristen!" "Miss Kristen!"

I love these children. I do, with all my heart. But I have to tell you, this gets exasperating.

Our story takes place after school, with the typical gaggle of children elbowing their way into my personal space. (Did I mention I love them? Because I do.) I'm listening to one of them explain what he needs from me, when, from out of nowhere, one of the others reaches up and, I kid you not, whacks me on the forehead with his notebook. Not sure whether to laugh or be horrified, I looked at him in shock. As did the other kids. One of the older students even proceeded to chastise him for his unprovoked behavior.

At this, he shrunk back a little bit and looked around shyly. And all he said was...

"There was a mosquito."




So, a big thank you is owed to my small friend who rescued me from what probably was a vile, malaria-carrying creature. Hero of the day, everybody!

Here's my little hero at our end-of-summer beach trip (sorry, it's the most recent photo I've got). 
This picture cracks me up every time...what a goofball!

Sunday, December 2, 2012

I'm dreaming of my Christmas break!

It is a rainy Sunday morning, and I confess, I am not at church. I've been fighting a cold, and though I only have eleven (!) days until I go home, they are a very full, potentially stress-filled 11 days, and I'm not particularly eager to add sickness to that mix. And so I chose this morning to get a little extra sleep and then worship from home.

I've got lots of thoughts swirling around in my head, stuff that I'd like to fill you in on and stories I'd like to share, and so I will apologize in advance that this post will not be particularly cohesive. But here are the thoughts, in bullet point format, for your reading pleasure:


  • I just downloaded and listened to last week's sermon from the church I attended in college, Church of the Resurrection in Wheaton, IL. The speaker observed that last week was the last Sunday of the liturgical year, and that Advent marks the beginning of a new church year. I love the intentionality that comes with certain seasons of the church calendar, particularly Lent and Advent. Haiti is not exactly the ho-ho-ho-full-of-Christmas-cheeriest of places, and so if I want some Christmas spirit around here, I've got to bring it myself. Christmas music playing, pine-scented candle burning, trying not to sweat as I watch Elf and drink hot cocoa :). But Advent encourages intentionality in my spiritual preparedness for Christmas, both looking back to the first coming of Christ, and looking forward with anticipation to His second coming. For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience. (Romans 8: 22-25) I love that. Waiting with patience and hope for adoption as sons and the redemption of our bodies, and indeed the whole world, at Christ's coming.
  • School has been going SO much better, and I heartily thank those of you who have been praying about that. There are still daily challenges, but I'm seeing marked progress in my students and am feeling reassured that yes, this is in fact where I have been placed and where I'm supposed to be. But if I can confess something to you, I will tell you frankly that I am TIRED. I'm ready for a break from long days of lesson planning, lesson delivering, tutoring, and students who really try my patience. But in reading through Mark's Gospel (where I've been lately), I stumbled upon something that really surprised me. All over the place, Jesus is healing people and performing miracles, and he consistently tells the recipients, "Tell no one" or "Go home but do not enter the village". I've always wondered about that - why wouldn't Jesus want people to shout from the rooftops that He was the Messiah? But this week it occurred to me: brother was TIRED! People were badgering him, all the time all the time all the time, to heal them, speak to them, provide for them. I'm not suggesting that this was the only reason he wanted them to stay hush-hush, but I felt myself understanding, soul-deep, a certain measure of what he was feeling. But inevitably, the people do go and tell - they want everyone to know that they were blind and now they see, they were sick and now they're well. And that, inevitably, leads to a large crowd of people, pressing in on Jesus, begging him to help them. I feel stressed just thinking about that, and I almost want him to yell, "NO! Just no. Go away and leave me alone for awhile! Maybe next week you can come, but right now, just...no." But he never does. He always welcomes them, he always listens to them, he always makes time for them. That was the challenge to me - I'd like to yell at the constant stream of kids who come to me after school, ostensibly needing pencils, paper, a staple or two (but really just wanting to be loved...) and preventing me from getting anything accomplished ever, to just leave me alone for awhile! I've said to God, "I'm just too tired! I can't deal with it anymore, so please don't ask me to!" and He has basically said to me, "Right. I know you can't deal with it on your own strength, but will you accept it with My strength, which is sufficient for you and made perfect in weakness?" I won't lie, I don't want to. I want to close and lock my door and keep all that crazy out. And sometimes I do, out of necessity (otherwise I really would not EVER get anything accomplished). But will I allow my attitude to be one of invitation, of receiving these children, despite my tiredness and frustration? Only in His strength.
  • And finally, I just have to tell you about the Christmasy things I'm dreaming about, dreams that will hopefully be a reality in 11 days or so: A Starbucks Peppermint mocha (in a Christmas cup). Wearing sweaters and scarves. Taking an unnecessary number of hot showers and baths. Putting up and decorating a Christmas tree (I'm thinking, like, the night that I get home. Mom? Dad? Can we arrange this?). Sitting by said glowy Christmas tree in the early morning. And undoubtedly at the top of the list, spending sweet time with loved ones, particularly my wonderful nephew and brand-new (so new I haven't met her yet!) niece! Yes, I am definitely ready to get this Christmas show on the road. Christmas break, please come quick but pass by slowly :).

Thanks for putting up with this long, weird, pictureless post. I'll try to work on getting you some pictures in the near future! In the meantime, a happy and meaningful Advent season to you!