Living The Life That God Has For Us....

God's Plumbline Ministries is called to repair devastation in the lives of God's people allowing restoration both physically and spiritually. Providing creative solutions for employment, education and life skills allowing God to repair and restore hope.  Empowering each community to establish a secure foundation both inside and out, while keeping in tact God given talents and uniqueness, not focusing on man's ways but God's ways.  Developing working relationships within social and economic circles, working hand in hand with community leaders to bring the love and compassion of Jesus Christ. 

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

They Forget Love Is Powerful....

Birth Control - Mascreti Seed - Baby?

Haiti is full of many superstitions that have wandered aimlessly (or not so aimlessly) into the lives of our ladies and their families. Oddly enough they don't seem to question if these are true or not. Nor do they question why they keep having more children when they are using birth control. I use that term loosely.
They just say, I got pregnant while I was on family planning!
We are all thinking to ourselves, yeah, right!
Now, we know why they keep getting pregnant. It is because of the method of birth control - the Mascreti seeds. We are thinking science, pills, condoms or shots. They are thinking seeds. They don't have to buy them, they find them on the road as they walk.

Part of our woman's program is to offer our ladies education about birth control choices, not seeds tied to culture that end up prolonging the cycle of poverty. Last week as we talked to different ladies about choosing options that would work best for their lives and we began to unravel some very different myths. One of those option was taking seeds. How does it work? You simply take as many seeds as the number of years you don't to be pregnant. Example: twenty seeds equals twenty years of protection.

Are you kidding me? I couldn't make this work in my mind. After all the teaching we had done, it didn't sink in. I finally had to spend the morning talking to Marjorie trying to make the idea fit in my head. I called Vanette in and she really seemed to believe the fact that if she took twenty seeds she wouldn't have a baby for the next twenty years.
Uuummmm - No!
Nope, Notta! It just wasn't working.
Marjoire and I sat asking questions so I could try and understand what was her thought process. Why on earth was she willing to believe such a thing.
Pretty soon Marjoire started to laugh and said, I can't believe such a thing.
When finished with the quiz, she excused herself and went back to sewing her bags.
Here all this time I was thinking it was just me, but Marjoire is Haitian and she didn't get it either. Honestly, I am thinking she has lost her mind. She can't feed the children she has now and she just took twenty stupid seeds and thinks she is fine.
We finally stopped laughing. But this was not a laughing matter. It wasn't funny, it was painful, actually. I just didn't know how to handle it.
We sat and just looked at each other and Marjorie tipped her head side ways and said, they forget love is powerful.
Marjorie understood that the twenty seeds wouldn't work and she would be coming to our program with another baby unless we could break off this thinking.
We will start with another teaching on birth control not on seeds.

One other note on the matter. I did ask the other sewing ladies if they used the seeds or if they knew about them. Yes, they knew. They had used them in the past as well. Some said, now they are too old and don't need to worry. Some said, no way, that is just talk and they believe science.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Let It Rain...

If I could only pick one word to describe what it is like to live in Haiti, I would pick...Raw! There is no fluff, no warm fuzzy stuff to entertain you. Most people are in survival mode from one day to the next. That includes American's as well as Haitian's. We all live life up close and personal, some more raw than others. Most parts of life here we will never understand. So when ever we have a chance to get away to experience the refreshing of God, we sneak away and take advantage of worship and prayer.
Brenden and Janell come for the week from Georgia to do the youth retreat and spend time with Ted and Lisa. The retreat was over and they would be leaving in a few days so they wanted to do worship with the kids. As we sat in the coolness of the afternoon and the music filled the air, Brenden began to sing "Let It Rain". It was like the Lord reached down to meet us. He opened the heaven's and breathed life back into us. Sure enough, the rain began to fall.
As we sang I was watching the different kids laughing and singing. No fake worship with this kid...he needed the Lord as much as we did! I am pretty sure he found him right here in the middle of Haiti that afternoon.

Monday, January 26, 2009


When I look at this picture I have to laugh - talk about looking thrift store rejects from the 80's! Now you know what people are talking about when they say, you can spot a first timer from miles away. They all have the deer caught in head lights look and they are wearing clothes no one wears on purpose. But we really did go to the thrift store and pay for these.

This was our first trip to Haiti in October 2000. The five of us came to Haiti on a medical mission trip and worked in the mountains near Pestel. Only to have a child die while in our care as we sat at sea with engine failure desperate to get back to Port Au Prince in order to get the children traveling with us to the hospital. It would sound like something out of a television show if it wasn't really my life. So next if I told you that the doctor traveling with us fixed the engine on our boat with a paper clip you would think yeah right, but that is exactly what happened. With port in sight we found ourselves being held at gunpoint being accused of murder. The boat captain had sent word that we had a child that had died with us. This trip is often called Mr. Toad's Wild Ride.

Now explain to me why anyone in their right mind would ever come back here? There is no middle. Either you get it the first time you come or you get on your flight, ask for a diet coke with ice and pretend the whole thing never happened. In less than two hours you are back from the time warp of Haiti and you can easily allow denial to set in. I am pretty sure that is one reason why Haiti is the way it is.

Maybe I should never tell those details, I don't know. For years I never said a word about any of it. It was painful and too many people already had written me off as a flake because all I talked about was Haiti, Africa, South America, missions, HIV and world hunger. You know, all the normal chit-chat stuff. I would see people's eyes glaze over and back away slowly wondering what on earth they had gotten into.

So pretty soon, I just got really quite about all this crazy stuff. Until that is the five of us would hook up. Wow! We would talk and talk about our trips and how our lives would never be the same. Sure enough, they are not the same. We are all still a bit crazy, in a good way, I think. We can laugh about all our bathroom stories, rats in the bed, all the bugs, bad food, no water and feel so.... normal. We have a connection that no one really understands. For the life of us, we don't know why everyone doesn't love the same things we do.

But, for whatever reason all of these things happened, it was the turning point that changed our lives and knitted our hearts together. I am thankful for my friends. I think they are all amazing, passionate women whom I admire deeply.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Best Friends

Shortly after she died, I had a dream about our lives and our friendship.

My dream was about the creation of a beautiful tapestry. It was one of a kind and being created in front of me. As I watched the weaver working from the bottom to the top, adding colors of blue and green constantly meeting and overlapping, while all the different shades came together to create something unusual and beautiful at the same time. Blue was for Gwen and green me. Our lives grew and changed just like the motion of the different shades being created in the tapestry. It was as if the weaver of this tapestry understood that every time the blue and green would meet he purposely created turquoise, my favorite color. I understood this color was the places that our lives overlapped.

Today, when I look at the tapestry in my minds eye, I see that all that remains at the top is a beautiful blue sky. It didn’t seem right; I would have thought that the only color left would have been green. But the fact of the matter is Gwen was a gift. She was the one who could hold her tongue in our friendship, she was usually right and had the last word even though she almost never said it.

This is what the weaver was trying to tell me in my dream. She was saying, I give you myself, a beautiful blue sky. It was her way, filling my life and lives of others with who she was. The most beautiful blue...

In memory of Gwen Hogan....

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

I Only Like...

"a man whose father less than 60 years ago might not have been served at a local restaurant can now stand before you to take a most sacred oath."

As I read this quote today I was thinking about the woman who walked up to me at a show in our art gallery about three years ago. She had been looking around for awhile and as she finished she stopped at this picture and said to me...
"I am not prejudice but I only like white children".
As she walked away I was speechless. I quickly excused myself from the show, locked myself in the bathroom and cried.
I was shaken by her words and was trying to think of something really good to say back to her.
Something like "funny, you don't look like a racist, but you sound like one"!
It takes me days to think up really good answers to stuff like that. I wish I could push the "pause button" until I could think of something really good to say and then nail 'em. Sadly, it never works like that for me. I just replay it in my head for days wishing I could have thought of something to say right then and there.
I do come up with a long list of great come backs that I will never get to use.

So, when I read this quote, I was thinking, no matter who you voted for, we have just seen something historic. You may not like him, just as that lady didn't like black children, but he is who God has allowed to be in office and he will need a great deal of prayer.

(FYI - This picture is a photograph I took here in Haiti, the artist is Kenneth Gatewood)

Monday, January 19, 2009

Measure and Math

As part of sewing school I have been talking about how important math and measure really are in order to succeed.
This year I even added two weeks of math and measure to the front end of the program to help each lady understand what would be needed in our program. If they didn't pass math they could not continue in our program. Sadly, we had four ladies who couldn't continue in our program.

Over the past few weeks as I graded the different paper projects, I began to notice we had a problem (still). Things had been coming across my desk that seemed odd and would never fit a body. As I made mental notes I had an idea of who was "getting it" and who was not! I was thinking back to the first two weeks when the ladies said things like, we understand, we just want to sew! You are wasting our time with all of this math stuff.

Well Thursday the rubber met the road in sewing school. Now it was clear to everyone just who understood math and measure and who did not! It was painful as they began to laugh at each other. I had been trying to protect them, but part of grading the work they do is to see if it really fits their body.

I understand that some people are just not good at sewing and they will never be good at it. It's just not who they are. But on the flip side, I have seen many ladies who can memorize things perfectly, yet have no practial abiltiy to apply what they have learned. It is a sad fact to see the gaps within a culture that have come generation after generation of people who don't have the ability to process and reason due to having such a poor base line because sickness and poor nutrition.

With all the success that our ladies have making bags, you can see how meaningful it really is when they push through everything that stands in their way. It isn't just about math and measure. We are teaching life skills that will change their lives forever.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009


William-Sonoma was one of my favorite stops at the mall. I loved to look at all the wonderful cooking stuff; cake pans in every shape you can think of, mixers in bright red, flavored oils and the best knives in town. I am NOT by any stretch of the imagination a gourmet cook, but I sure never thought I needed a cooking 101 class for making toast.
Toast is a no brainer, right. Wrong!
For some reason cooking just doesn't work the same way here. Why? I have no earthly idea. The only thing I do know is that irregular current and massive power surges can cause you to loose your electrical appliances in a heartbeat. That's why I could never bring myself to buy a toaster. It seems silly. But, we have replaced coffee pots, coffee grinders and hand mixers when they got zapped just being plugged in long enough to use them for a few minutes.

Maddie and Parker wanted to know why we never had peanut butter toast anymore or waffles? So, like any good grandma, my mom gave us a toaster and waffle maker for Christmas.

Now take a good look at the outlet in the will notice that it is marked "EDH or Delco".
Why, you might ask?
Because these plugs only work when we have city power or the generator is going. You will have to use another plug in order to have power. Remember, you will have to think twice about using it since you will be draining the inverter, which may leave you without a fan at night which can prove costly with the number of mosquitoes we have here in Haiti....which could lead to malaria and we all know "Malaria Sucks" (we have the t-shirt to prove it)!

Back to the toast....

It had been so long since I made toast, I ended up burning the first few batches, getting them stuck in the toaster. I went to make round number four of toast and couldn't get the toast to go down because the toaster was so hot. So, with the help of John, the toast expert, he turned it up to five pushed the toast down and than tuned it down to two so I could successfully cook toast in our new toaster with out going through a whole loaf of bread.

I am happy to report day two of peanut butter toast went off with out a hitch.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Back In The Groove....

When you are in Haiti things that seem very odd become normal and you don't think twice about them. But, when you have been gone in the States you get used to a different normal very quickly. You forget that hot showers are wonderful, everything isn't covered in a fine layer of dust, there are no dogs barking all night long and the whole world isn't enjoying the fact that it is still almost 90 degrees everyday.

Here are few things I have been getting used to being "normal" again...

- When Parker said, "shotgun" he wasn't talking about riding in the front seat of the car, he was talking about the guards new gun laying on the dining room table while he was eating breakfast.

- Brooke's glass of "drinking" water was sitting on the desk next to the urine cups during clinic like it was no big deal. As I set my glass down next to Brooke's I began to think about just how GROSS that really was and quickly moved mine to a different spot.

- No, it is not normal to get up from a dead sleep to let Beth and Shelley in the clinic room at 10:30p.m. so they can get meds to stop contractions for a dog in labor.

- There is a shortage of gasoline and diesel in the country so the gas stations have lines that go all the way down the street. To be honest, the whole thing looks pretty intimidating. I was happy to have some diesel at the house for the generator.

- As Beth and I sat outside the little market waiting for Aghate to get a few things a real fire truck, with real fire men went speeding past us. Beth said, in twenty years she has never seen that before. I was thinking, wow, I hope they have real water!

Needless to say....getting back in the groove takes a few days!

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Love Is Not...

Here is how this works...
Answer the questions below, rating each from 0 to 10. Zero being the least rude, ten being the most rude.
1. Not saying "please" or "thank you"
2. Table Manners:
- elbows on the table
- leaving without being excused
- belching
3. Driving:
- cutting quickly in front of people
- driving close on someone's bumper
- driving slow in the fast lane
- driving slowly through a turn signal causing others to sit through the next light
4. Not responding when someone greets you
5. Arriving late to meet someone
6. Interrupt people when talking
7. Discussing bodily functions
8. Sitting up front during a church service with a disruptive baby
9. Talking during a sermon
10. Talking on a cell phone during a movie
11. Saying "shut-up"
12. Saying "what" when someone calls your name
12. Giving advice without asking permission

Depending on where, when and how you have been raised some of these things are not rude but are encouraged or just no big deal but to others they are very rude.

So, what is rude?

Rude is not being willing to change in small areas that would make a big difference in reaching someone's heart!

Our greatest lesson is this....I Cor 13:5 - Love is NOT rude, it is not self seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.

Picture by Jes (with one S) Harley and Marley a.k.a "Father and Son"
Topic for Blog - Pastor John, Liberty Church, Marietta,GA

Friday, January 2, 2009

Small Airplanes - part two

I was sitting in seat 10A watching the lady across from me work on a puzzle book of some kind. She moved her pen around trying to find the number that was missing from her puzzle in order to fill in all the boxes. I will admit, I hate doing stuff like that. Why would you sit for hours and do that when you could be reading a book. My thought is, I have enough unsolved puzzles in my life, I sure am not going to buy a book full of them and sit for hours trying to figure them out. No, thanks! My life is full of HIV, hunger, lack of housing and the need for education, only to mention a few.

I was looking at the way she was dressed to see if that helped me understand what she could have been thinking to buy this book. Her hair was very neat, not one hair out of order. I thought about my hair. Mine? Well, my hair has a mind of it's own most days so I wasn't sure that was a good test. She was on puzzle sixty-nine, she had skipped sixty-eight completely. Obviously, a flaw in her very orderly personality was my thought. As she worked to finish the puzzle I could see she wasn't coming up with the answers that she needed. I was no longer tracking with Donald Miller and the "lifeboat theory". Everyone in the boat would have to wait as I watched her pen move faster and faster like it was going to help her find the missing number. She was checking her self over and over again.

Finally, she cracked the back of the book open and took a quick peak at the "puzzle key" finding that she had the wrong number in one of the boxes. That is why she couldn't move forward. No matter how fast she moved her pen and reworked the math in her mind she was stuck. With the problem solved she flipped back to the puzzle, wrote a seven over the four and kept going.

With the problem solved, her pen was moving slowly over the numbers again as if nothing happened. I wasn't sure why she had been working the puzzle in pen? It seemed to me she should have been doing it in pencil so she could erase her mistake. Maybe people with every hair in place use pen and people with messy hair use pencil?

When she peaked at the key to the puzzle it was like it didn't count since she just barely cracked the book open to get the answer. There seems to be a unwritten rule some where that says, if you only peek, you aren't really cheating. I know this rule from playing these puzzle games as a kid. It wasn't long after she peeked that she seemed to get bored with sixty-nine. She skipped seventy just as she had skipped sixty-eight and now her pen was slowly moving over the number pattern on seventy-one. I am sure she had a reason for this. Why she was working every other puzzle and not finishing the ones she started.

It seemed to me to be a clue on how we live our lives. Only doing every other puzzle, hoping that our life comes with all the answers in the back of the book so to speak so that we can quickly move on, not honestly correcting our mistakes. I completely understand how she was working the puzzles book. We leave gaps and holes in things never finishing things we start, moving quickly on to the next thing. Out of site, out of mind. End of story.

We live for immediate gratification, needing to finish things quickly. However, we are clearly unable to see the errors in our ways, our choices and other calculations. For the woman sitting in seat 9C it was harmless. In the world of a five dollar puzzle books it was harmless. People are passing the time on a two hour flight getting from point A to point B.

Watching her reminded me how many times in the last year I have wanted to peak at the answers to all of life's many questions. No, such luck! Someone said to me this week, it is about your character Sheila and our need to remain humble and teachable.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Small Airplanes

.....Huge Men Can't Walk in Small Planes.

My friend Susan was praying for me a few days ago and she said, God, would you just surprise Sheila in the way you speak to her. Lord, we know you are speaking, but would you surprise her. I was thinking, in a good way OK, I have had my fill of surprises over the past few months. Don't get me wrong, I love surprises, but they have a whole new meaning after living in a third world country.

It seems the Lord is shaking everything that can be shaken in me and everyone I know. The words "I don't know" and "maybe" seem to be part of what I am saying all day everyday. I said to a friend the other day, I don't mean to be so non-committal but I just don't know what to tell you. I hate that when I am the one who needs the answer.

So, now your thinking, what does a huge man on a small plane have to do with any of this. Here is what happened....

I was sitting on the plane reading "Looking for God Knows What" by Donald Miller, the guy who wrote, "Blue Like Jazz." (Appropriate title right!) When all of a sudden this guy is trying to walk down the isle of the plane. He was headed to the bathroom, so I thought. I am thinking, dude, don't even try! You are NEVER going to fit. Well, maybe the front half but not the back half which could work depending on what he needed to do, but he might get kicked off the plane. This guy was so big he had to bend over at the waist just to walk. He literally couldn't sit in one seat. He literally had to sit sideways in two seat. As he worked his way into his seat it seemed painful to be that big on such a small plane. I know my mouth was open as I watched him. As he stood next to me I heard the Lord say.....huge men can't fit in small planes.

Surprise!! It was like the light came on and I could see in the physical what God is doing in so many of us. We just don't fit our lives anymore. We pray and ask the Lord to do His will in our lives because the changes are painful. I have often said, I just feel like I don't fit in my skin anymore....that simply means what God is doing is big, really big.

Maybe it is the way you are thinking. Maybe it is what you are doing in a relationship that isn't working. Maybe it is your ministry. For me, is was all of the above. So, as I watched this man it was like God was saying to me, Duh, hello....what I am doing in and around you doesn't fit anymore. You need bigger thinking, bigger vision and new understanding. Sheila, you are trying to fit in the old ways and those ways aren't working anymore. Many of us are being called out of our comfort zone and are being required to grow with our destiny.

I have to remember these words......of course He isn't safe, but He is good.