Posted by: lesabrackbill | August 18, 2010

God is Awesome…

My friend Laura got married on August 7th in Colorado, and there was simply no way for me to get there financially. It made me so sad, because I so wanted to be there, to celebrate with her and Wes. I had hoped to get out there sometime in the next year or so to spend time with them, on a day that wasn’t as busy as a wedding day tends to be.

God answered that prayer in an unexpected way!

I ended up going to Denver for work on Monday night through Tuesday, and we took a later flight home than expected, which allowed me to hang out with her, Wes, and our friend Allegra for hours! What an awesome God we serve, who takes care of His children! I love that I got to see them, only 10 days after their wedding.

God is simply awesome… :0)

Posted by: lesabrackbill | June 5, 2010

One Month Later…

Five days after I returned home from Haiti, I left for São Paulo (Brazil). I knew that it wouldn’t be enough time to process anything, and I pushed Haiti to the back of my brain so that I could fully engage in our mission while in Brazil. And it worked. When I returned, I spoke at church on both mission trips, and had to refresh my memory as to what had happened in Haiti!

But now, God is bringing it all back, and I am finally beginning to process it all…and as I looked through my pictures today, tears came to my eyes. My heart is re-breaking for Haiti, and I can’t wait to return…and I can’t wait to see what God continues to teach me through this experience.  I am ready.

“I saw what I saw, and I can’t forget it…” –Sara Groves

“Something on the road cut me to the soul…” –Sara Groves

(http://www.youtube.com/eastshorebaptist#p/a/u/1/fMvvz1xNi5Y –the video put together by D. Jostenski of my photos…)

(http://eastshorebaptist.org/sermons/2010%20Sermons/Audio_05_23_10.mp3 –the audio of my “talk” on Haiti and Brazil…)

Posted by: lesabrackbill | May 11, 2010

Greater Things Have Yet To Come: Haiti (part one)…

As I sit down to blog about my Haiti experience, I am still not sure exactly what to say or how to say it. I will break this up so that it’s not an overwhelming blog. :)

It is astounding how six days can change your heart forever.

I’ll begin with my time in the Ft. Lauderdale airport before boarding my flight to Port-au-Prince. I was sitting in the waiting area when a group of 20 college-aged white people walked in with a guitar…it was very clear to me that they were on a mission trip :)  So I asked one of them, and they confirmed my suspicion.

One of the girls began talking to a Haitian man who was sitting across from her about the earthquake, and I overheard most of the conversation. I wrote in my journal two quotes from the man: “I don’t think we’ll ever get out” (in reference to recovering from the destruction). “They never finish the job” (in reference to the international community starting in really strong at the beginning with help, but never staying to see it to completion). I pondered this as we flew into Haiti…

…even from the plane, we could see tent cities for miles. As we drove through Port-au-Prince to get to our house from the airport, it was hard to not be overwhelmed by the piles of rubble everywhere (and by the seeming lack of driving laws!). We passed many tent cities sponsored by several different nations. The devastation was and is incredible–yet, people are making the most of it. Shops are open on the street in front of the buildings in which they once operated, amidst the piles of rubble. There is so much color, everywhere–buildings, umbrellas, clothes, fruit, flowers…and it provides a stark contrast to the gray piles surrounding everything.

I immediately began to ask the question, “where do they even begin to rebuild?” Everywhere you look, all you see are damaged/destroyed buildings…I was brought back to the comment made by the Haitian man in the airport, and I joined him in his sentiment…at first.

We had an orientation on Sunday night to Haiti, to what our week would look like, etc. We were told to be fluid, not flexible, because flexible can break. What a great concept, especially for what was ahead!

The missionaries told us about a conference that was held in November 2009, a conference that had a greater impact on Haiti than they ever imagined possible. A group of 2,500 Haitian pastors met together to pray for their nation. They specifically prayed that God would “break the spine of Haiti”, and “shake the things that could be shaken.” They asked God to remove the corruption from the government, to get rid of the voodoo influence, and bring revival. We all got chills. About two months later, God answered that prayer in a mighty way! Wow…

This year, Haiti cancelled Carnival (a voodoo festival) and called for three days of prayer and fasting. Haiti is a country that made a pact to serve the devil for two-hundred years, and voodoo is a very real thing there. So, the fact that this festival was cancelled is incredible! Hundreds of thousands of people gathered! The Lord is shaking people’s hearts daily…and the spirit of darkness, fear, oppression, and anger is disappearing…

Adventures in Missions (the organization with which I went) has been working directly with Haitian pastors to empower them to help their people, which I think is the absolute best approach. Many of the pastors, when asked what they most needed, said that they need discipleship–not food, not water, not buildings. And they said to start with them. In a country filled with so much need, so much desperation, these pastors recognize that man does not live by bread alone, but by the Word of the Lord, and that was so encouraging!

Haiti is a magnet right now–God is bringing people from all over the world here to “help Haiti”, but these people are leaving with a new sense of spiritual hunger and desperation that they are taking back to their homes. God wants to bless the nations through Haiti, and I can definitely say that my experience is in line with that! People are going home infused with an urgency and a desire to serve Jesus more!

God is working in Haiti, and we were so encouraged, so inspired by the joy and determination of the people…

And I’ll write more later… :)

Posted by: lesabrackbill | May 11, 2010

Greater Things Are Still To Be Done: Haiti (part two)…

Many people have asked what we specifically did there, so this post will focus on that.

We worked with a man named Pastor Theodore, who serves in a community filled with hungry people–physically and spiritually–near Carrefour. We went down there each morning for a couple of hours and prayed for the Lord to lead us. One thing I loved about our trip was that it was so Spirit-led. On Monday morning, we were split into groups of two or three, with an interpreter, and told to walk around the community and do whatever God led us to do. At first, it was quite scary! I am used to plans, details, specifics. But I quickly learned that allowing the Holy Spirit to work and lead is the best way to go!

We started out prayer-walking, and made our way down the main “street” in the community. We approached an intersection, and my teammate, Ola, felt compelled to pray right there, so we did. Our translator (Pierre Louis) told us then that intersections, or crossroads, are where voodoo practices often take place. Interesting that she felt compelled to pray there! We prayed for two people who were very sick; one of them, a man with TB, told us that he hasn’t been able to take his medicine because you have to take it with food. I had a bag of crackers in my bag, and I felt compelled to give them to him. When we saw him later, he was sharing those with his family–so precious to see him unselfishly sharing! :)

It was hard to look around the community and grasp that this was real…that this is their reality, their daily life, and they can’t easily escape.

We would go home for lunch (for two reasons: one, because we can’t just eat in front of them, but also to allow us a time of rest after working in the extreme heat). We would also prepare during that time for our small-scale Vacation Bible School that we did for the kids, which consisted of a group game and/or song, a story (that we would act out as it was narrated, because they loved that!), and an activity like coloring or making things out of pipe-cleaners. We had at least 150 kids each day!

Random memory: as we walked through one afternoon, inviting kids to come to VBS, I heard a girl singing, “Na na na na, you are the music in me”–which is from Disney’s High School Musical! Even in the poorest of countries, High School Musical has made it’s appearance. :)

Another random note: I ate goat meat down there–without knowing it. It was actually really good! I thought it was beef until the missionaries said, “this is the best goat we’ve had so far!” :)

Our house had electricity–when it was on. I quickly became so accustomed to flickering lights, or non-existent electricity that coming home to constant power has made me more thankful than ever for the simple things we enjoy.

Toughest moments: As we drove to our site each day, we drove past a section of homes in the median of the road…they have no where else to go, so they live in the five foot (my estimation) median in the middle of a busy street. Heartbreaking. The kids play in the space between the curb and the tires that their parents have set out about two feet from the curb.

We saw children who live with absolutely nothing, who make toys out of garbage. Oh the contrast to American children…

I had a child ask me if I could get him a passport so that he could come home with me to America…several asked me for food because they were/are hungry…

Yet, in the midst of this extreme poverty, the Haitian mindset is not what you would expect! The pastor told us that they essentially say “I know I’m hungry, and I know my house fell down, but I know that in Jesus I have everything I need.” Wow. They rejoice in what they have, not like the developed world which so often becomes “depressed” because of what they do not have.

“Your grace has found me just as I am, empty-handed but alive in your hands.” –Majesty, by Delirious

More to come…

Posted by: lesabrackbill | May 11, 2010

You’re the God of THIS City: Haiti (part three)…

‘”My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.”

So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me. That’s why I take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong.’

–2 Corinthians 12:9-10

Besides our ministry in our community, we were able to do a couple of unique things that were so awesome! On Wednesday, we had the opportunity to go buy and deliver mattresses to an orphanage, as a result of a generous donation. So, we spent four hours driving around Port-au-Prince in our three vehicle caravan, finding places to get mattresses (no Wal-Mart in Haiti), and then delivering them to the Son of God Orphanage in Carrefour. We got quite a tour of Port-au-Prince as we did this…

And we got to see some beautiful people…

We got to hang out with the children at the orphanage for about 15-20 minutes after delivering the much needed mattresses…and we didn’t want to leave them behind.


Friday was a similar experience. Our team split into three groups and we went to deliver all the supplies that had been collected and donated (TONS of stuff) to three pastors and two orphanages. My group went to an orphanage in Leogane run by the Fleury Foundation that was only 10 miles from the epicenter of the quake in January. The building was decimated, but not a single child was lost! God worked a miracle, and it was through a baby boy named Charlie…

Charlie was left on the steps of the orphanage before the quake (I can’t remember how long beforehand). They normally don’t take children this young at this orphanage, but decided to keep him. The afternoon of the quake, all the children were outside with a nurse who had come in to teach the children how to take care of their new baby brother. Absolutely amazing…only one life was lost, and that was a housemother who went in to get two girls, and when the building collapsed, her body shielded the two girls and saved their lives. God is amazing…

Those who shut their ears to the cries of the poor will be ignored in their own time of need.” –Proverbs 21:13

We went to the boy’s camp first, and discovered that they were out of food…so we went to the market and bought food for them (this was not part of our “plan”, but as I said before, the trip was about the leading of the Spirit, not our plans). I really wanted to take these precious boys home!

Blessed are those who are generous, because they feed the poor.” –Proverbs 22:9

Before the earthquake, there were 380,000 orphans in Haiti (the term orphan in this case doesn’t necessarily mean that their parents are dead–many are just abandoned)…

“Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress and refusing to let the world corrupt you.” –James 1:27

A man came to know the Lord this week, and needed an English Bible rather than Creole, because he spent many years in the U.S. and speaks English better than Creole. So I gave him mine. No hesitation. This week I realized that I am rich…I may not have a job, I may feel poor, but I am rich…and I have 4-5 Bibles of my own, and this man had none…

Our team was able to prayerfully decide how to bless our community with a budget of $2,000, and we decided to give rice and beans to the Pastor to distribute, as well as to buy wood and other roofing supplies so that they could put a roof on their cinder-block and tarp church. The food was delivered under the cover of darkness (we felt like it was a mafia deal, LOL) for safety reasons, and the building supplies were delivered to the church to their complete surprise. It was SO awesome to be able to give to them! They only had two tarps covering their church when we came that week, and we added more to that (picture below) before deciding to give them the supplies to build a real roof.

Friday night, Pastor Theodore’s church wanted to have a “thank you” service for us…and it was so amazing. They worshiped, a choir sang for us, they prayed for us, and a few of us shared how this week had impacted us. The love between believers is astounding, and surpasses even language barriers! It was so hard to say goodbye…

My life has been changed by this week, in ways that I probably don’t even realize yet. We experienced so much, saw so much…

The song by Sara Groves, “I Saw What I Saw” has even more meaning now…

I saw what I saw and I can’t forget it
I heard what I heard and I can’t go back
I know what I know and I can’t deny it

Something on the road, cut me to the soul

Your pain has changed me
your dream inspires
your face a memory
your hope a fire
your courage asks me what I’m afraid of
(what I am made of)
and what I know of love

So, there you go. A brief glimpse into my experience in Haiti. I’m sure this won’t be the last time I write about Haiti…but for now, until I get back from Brazil, here’s a little bit about my trip.

Haiti is a country filled with joy, hope, love, determination, and peace…despite the media’s portrayal. And I am encouraged, inspired, and ready to advocate for them! :)

Please pray about how you can help the people of Haiti. My prayer is that the stories/images/testimonies from my team will inspire people to action. You can SPONSOR children through World Vision, Compassion International, etc. You can GO to Haiti through several organizations (I recommend Adventures in Missions). You can DONATE to organizations that are serving down there (there are numerous, just make sure they are legitimate organizations). And you can PRAY. But please don’t ignore these images and stories…allow God to speak to your heart and change you from the inside out! :)

Posted by: lesabrackbill | April 30, 2010

Thoughts of Haiti…

I begin my journey to Haiti tomorrow, and will arrive on Sunday morning. I have been trying to mentally prepare myself for the reality with which I will be met once I arrive…but I know that what I experience there is far beyond anything I can imagine now. I am excited, I am slightly nervous (as much of this is an “unknown” to me), but I am thrilled to have this opportunity to serve and to love the people there. I have a suitcase that is 90% full of supplies for the Haitian pastors to distribute, and only 10% is my stuff. What a great feeling! I so wish that I could take more/do more…

This week, I have been pondering self-image and the effect that the media has on young girls. At my temp job this week, I encountered paperwork on a girl, age 4, who is refusing to eat because she doesn’t want to “gain weight”…FOUR YEARS OLD…I am about to encounter children who are starving, who would love to be nourished and well-fed, while there are kids here in the States (and this child is also impoverished) who are already so self-conscious that they don’t want to eat. It broke my heart! What could have caused this young child to be so afraid of what she looks like? Sigh…such a contrast to what I am about to encounter, and yet both break my heart…

I am praying the words of Hillsong’s song “Hosanna”: “Break my heart for what breaks Yours, everything I am for Your Kingdom’s cause…” I know that this week will be challenging, but I also know that I am going to grow, and that I will not be the same when I return. :) And that’s what I long for!

Please pray for safe travels, for the health of our team…but more importantly, pray that the Lord will present us with challenging opportunities, and that He will stretch us and make us uncomfortable! We are not there on vacation, we are there to work hard and to serve the precious people of Haiti.

And I can’t wait to get there. :0)

Pictures and stories when I return…

Posted by: lesabrackbill | February 19, 2010

Reminiscing…

I love going back and reading old blog posts, especially from the summer of 2004. It was a summer of so much personal and spiritual growth!

Today, as I was looking at my blog for a specific reason, I came across this post from May 29th, 2004:

So I mentioned yesterday that I wanted to post some Elisabeth Elliot quotes…and I will. :) I wish I could post them all, but no one wants to read all of them. So here are a few, my favorites–and the ones that spoke to my heart so clearly.

“Taken in a spirit of trust, even loneliness contributes to the maturing of character, even the endurance of separation and silence and that hardest thing of all, uncertainty, can build in us a steady hope.”

Loneliness is difficult–but it is something we all face at one time or another. God is teaching me each day that I need to find my fulfillment in Him, because no man can complete me fully…only God can. And if I learn to rest in Him, then I will be able to more fully love the man I will marry someday.

“Suppose He should ask me to wait five years? It stuns me to think of it. Yet–could I imagine that the mercy of God which has stretched to me from everlasting to everlasting could be exhausted in five years?”

That quote especially spoke to me because I’ve already been waiting almost 6 years…and often the thought that I might be waiting another 6 makes my heart despair…but this quote has caused me to think a great deal about this, for whomever God has for me will be worth the wait, no matter how long it takes. I just have to be patient, learn to be “content whatever the circumstances” as Paul tells us…because really, what is another 5 years? It’s not like those years will be a waste by any means…so I need to remember that it is okay to be single, it is okay to be uncertain about the future, because God knows and is in control.

I found this worthy of reposting, because that was almost 5 years to the day that I started to become friends with Brennan…my future husband. :) I’m so glad that God prepared my heart even then to wait “another five years”. :) Believe me, he was well worth the wait!

Posted by: lesabrackbill | January 27, 2010

So, I’m Engaged… :)

I’m engaged! It doesn’t feel real. I have waited so long for God to bring my future husband into my life, and it is still sometimes hard to grasp the fact that I KNOW him. That he is mine. :) And what a journey it has been to get to this point!

Two years ago, I was still living in Southern California, preparing to move to Pennsylvania that summer. I did not move with any intention of finding a husband (though it wasn’t something I objected to ;) ), but God had other things in mind! I started going to East Shore Baptist Church in August 2008, but didn’t become active until January 2009.

I met a woman named Amy, who was fun and kinda crazy (just like me!), not knowing that she had an unmarried son. She invited him to attend ESBC for Easter (all of this without me knowing a thing, thankfully…being set-up is very awkward), and that’s where it all began. April 12, 2009. I was really tired by the time the 3rd service that day was over, and wasn’t really looking to talk to anyone (I’d been up since 4:30am). Amy called me over to meet her son, so I obliged. I said hello, invited him to join the new singles’ Sunday School class I was starting in a few weeks, and that was it. If you ask him, he says that I was grumpy that day. :)

By the end of May, I was beginning to be intrigued by this young man, but still didn’t think a relationship was in the future. He was sick one weekend, so I took him some homemade soup and some salad from my garden. He will tell you that was when he began to think that maybe I was worth pursuing. :) Food really IS the way to a man’s heart! Haha.

We started dating officially on July 19th…

…but on July 14th, I wrote in my journal that I knew he was the one that I would marry someday. I just knew. I had never really thought that it was possible to “just know”, but I can now testify that it’s true!

Things just clicked. We could talk for hours, and only stop because we had to work the next day and had to be responsible. He had (and still has) such a heart and passion for the Lord and for serving others. We had many common interests. And I “just knew”.

Oh, and he just happens to fit the list of 24 things that the Lord laid on my heart in 2002, things to look for in a future husband. He fits them ALL.

On August 24th, as we started going through a book called “101 Questions to Ask Before Getting Engaged” (excellent book, by the way), I decided to be bold and ask the question to which I already knew the answer: “Do you see us getting married?” Without hesitation, he said “YES!” So, if the definition of being engaged is that you have decided to get married, we’ve been engaged for months. :) He asked my Dad’s permission to ask for my hand in marriage when we were in California for Christmas, so I knew it was coming soon…

…but I honestly didn’t expect it until late February or even March. And I was content in waiting! I knew that he wanted to surprise me (and I wanted to be surprised).

The entire day today was perfect. We had a few errands to run, including going to Chocolate World (because Hershey now has Dark Chocolate Pieces and we decided that it was a necessity, haha) and riding the ride again. It was a day of enjoying each other, and a day filled with simple joys–which we both love. It’s all about the little things.

We came back to my house and hung out for a few hours before heading to church so that I could practice with our worship leader (for the concert we are having on February 5th to raise support for my Israel trip). We entered the sanctuary, and no one was there yet. So, as we were taking off our coats, and I was getting my stuff together to practice, he said something (can’t remember what) to get my attention. I looked over, and saw a box in his hand. A little black, velvety box, that could only have one thing inside: a ring! He got down on one knee, about 10 feet from where we first met on April 12, and asked me to marry him. I was completely surprised!! And it was perfect. Intimate and simple. Simply perfect. We celebrated by getting Blizzards from Dairy Queen, and by going to my best-friend’s house (at her request/demand! Haha).  Again, just perfect.

We had already decided on the song for our first dance months ago–”I Thought I Loved You Then” by Brad Paisley…and that’s part of what made the proposal even more PERFECT!

I remember taking you back to right where I first met you
You were so surprised
There were people around
But I didn’t care I got down on one knee right there
And once again I thought I loved you then 

It’s amazing to think that God set our love story in motion in 2002, when He brought me to Williamsport to be a summer missionary…twice. God brought me back to Pennsylvania in 2008, and it is so amazing to see how His hand was in EVERYTHING. I can’t imagine my life without Brennan, and I am so blessed to be the future Mrs. Brennan Brackbill. :)

And now you know the rest of the story. :)

283 days!

Posted by: lesabrackbill | January 12, 2010

Of Taste Buds and Winter…

I often wonder about strange things…I love pondering, hence the name of this blog.

My most recent pondering has been about Winter. As this is only my second “true” Winter (since I lived in California for 25 years), I am still adjusting to months of frigid temperatures, white powder covering the ground, and salt on the roads. Winter is bleak, yet beautiful. More than anything, Winter has taught me to fully appreciate Spring, Summer, and Fall. Someone recently described Winter as a time when God allows His creation to rest…a time for the ground to cease growth, and even a time for humans to spend time inside resting, enjoying the warmth and the time not spent tending gardens, mowing lawns, etc. Winter makes us more passionate about the other three seasons, and gives us greater joy at their arrival. I still marvel at all four seasons, recognizing that God didn’t have to create four–He could have kept things constant and thereby boring, and we would have never known the difference. This is yet another way God shows us that we are loved. :)

I often think about random things, and most recently it’s been taste buds. What a wonderful creation they are! Without them, we wouldn’t experience the pleasure of different spices and flavors, and eating would be tedious and a chore. Yet, God gave us these little dots to bring us pleasure and happiness while doing a necessary thing like eating. Taste buds are little things, but they bring great joy–or great disgust if you don’t enjoy what you’re eating.

How are these things related? I have come to believe that I may be going through a different kind of Winter right now–being unemployed. I left (well, was forced to leave) a job at which I was thoroughly unhappy, and a job where I was not able to use the talents, gifts, and passions that the Lord has given to me…and I am beginning to wonder if this extended period of joblessness is occurring so that I might more fully appreciate the “Spring” that is to come.

God made us all differently, with different talents, skills, desires, passions. Like tastebuds, certain things might leave a “bad taste” in our mouths, while others thoroughly enjoy them. I’m trying to figure out what it is that will leave me hungering for more, the “job” of which I just can’t get enough.

God has wired me so that I have to be passionate about what I do (for those who have studied StrengthsFinder, my top one is Belief). When I am doing something about which I am passionate (photography, singing, serving other people and gaining nothing in return, etc.), the joy that fills my soul and my life is incredible.  I can work for hours and not even notice. However, when I am doing something that goes against everything that I am (i.e. working in politics, strangely enough), I am unfulfilled, drained, longing for 5 o’clock to come.

I’m holding out for something more, to find the purpose for which God created me, and the purpose for which He brought me to Pennsylvania. I know in my heart that He has a specific purpose for me here, and I cannot wait to figure out what it is!

Lord, show me the path…lead me to the place where my thirst cannot be quenched, where I am meant to be…

Posted by: lesabrackbill | November 11, 2009

Support Lesa’s Ministry Trip to Israel by Purchasing Photography!

In an effort to raise the additional $2,800.00 needed to go to Israel as a worship leader next summer, I have been selling my photography and full color calendars (with 12 different photos)!

If you need unique Christmas or birthday gift ideas, or are just looking to redecorate your house, please check out these photographs!

Prices:

$15 for 5×7
$25 for one 8×10 or two 5x7s
$30 for 11×14 (Lesa’s recommended size for framing!)
$40 for two 8×10′s
$50 for 16×10

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