Busy Counting.

So I dreamt last night. Now, I’m not that type of person who dreams frequently and then come morning is like, “WHOA. Let me tell you every detail of what I dreamt last night.” Nah. But since arriving in Madagascar, I dream of pleasant memories all the time. They are usually vivid dreams that I can recall in detail of people and places back home. Along comes reality at a bright and early 5 am, with the ringing of church bells and the song of my neighbors’ roosters. Waking up is hard.
Today I didn’t want to be here. I felt defeated before the day began.

I got up anyways – had a private praise session (Jesus and me baby!), met my cleaning lady at the door and handed her the usual supplies, took a trip to Shoprite for groceries, did lesson planning and then headed to my mentor’s house for a nice visit over lunch. About the time I got home, my outlook was beginning to change. I got an urge to do something – I wanted to go “blessing hunting”. I grabbed my camera and headed out. Gave it maybe a minute and joy completely enveloped my heart as I began to take pictures of the blessings that surrounded me. “It’s the little things.” That phrase rings true time and time again.

Blessing 1 -  John 15. Windows that open to let in a breeze and the sounds of the neighborhood.

Blessing 1 –
John 15. Windows that open to let in a breeze and the sounds of the neighborhood.

Blessing 2 -  Every day is a birk day.

Blessing 2 –
Every day is a birk day.

Blessing 3 -  The handiwork of God displayed in those little faces. He creates such beauty.

Blessing 3 –
The handiwork of God displayed in those little faces. He creates such beauty.

Blessing 4 -  New friends at the roadside market stands.

Blessing 4 –
New friends at the roadside market stands.

Blessing 5 -  Early evening.  Warm breezes.  Madagascar sunsets.

Blessing 5 –
Early evening.
Warm breezes.
Madagascar sunsets.

Blessing 6 -  Laura & Micaella.  My lovely flatmates.

Blessing 6 –
Laura & Micaella.
My lovely flatmates.

Blessing 7 -  Making forward progress in the art of cooking. Chicken Pot Pie Pasta.

Blessing 7 –
Making forward progress in the art of cooking.
Chicken Pot Pie Pasta.

Blessing 8 -  Those kids, again.

Blessing 8 –
Those kids, again.

Blessing 9 -  Tea time.

Blessing 9 –
Tea time.

Blessing 10 -  Quiet nights to write all my dear people back home.  Praise God for letters.

Blessing 10 –
Quiet nights to write all my dear people back home.
Praise God for letters.

“Count your many blessings, name them one by one and it will surprise you what the Lord has done.”
Do it. Stay busy counting all the ways in which He has blessed you.

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Heartbeats.

I made up my mind from the start – I will be candid. Sugar-coating rarely profits and I desire for anyone who reads this to be convinced that it is not some extravagant, thrilling, tourist adventure. Far from it.

Today marks my being in Madagascar for 1 month. When I first arrived, I kept asking myself one question, every day, multiple times a day: “What the heck am I doing?.. I can’t do this! I’m only 19! I can’t teach English to Malagasy students without a set curriculum! I can barely remember the name of the town I live in, let alone try to catch a bus to the inner city! And learn a language? This is going to be 9 months with no real joy, no gut laughter and no desire to even be here.” I know. The drama. But literally, that was my thought process for the first 2 weeks and often those same fears and thoughts can hit me unexpectedly. Everything is so new! To see pictures on the internet, or talk with a missionary is one thing, but to enter into a foreign culture and be surrounded by it is entirely different. The warm, beautiful people and their interactions with one other. The daily food – rice, rice and more rice. Want a snack? Grab some rice. The language. The transportation system – no speed limits, no crosswalks, no stop lights, no rules essentially. Pack into a bus, grab a taxi or dodge the traffic on foot.  The sense of humor. The streets and the waste that flows through them.  The chickens that roam the streets and the roosters that crow from 4 am on. The 80 degree weather on the daily. Daily stares from the people and continual inquires as to my interest in foreign men.. All the underlying customs that I am continually being informed of. I mention these differences with absolutely no intention of degrading the Malagasy people. I only hope to highlight some of the subtle and not-so-subtle differences in living that I have had to take in and adjust to. If I were to describe it I’d call it a “constant cultural overload”.

But regardless of my many emotions and the continual adjustment, the reality is that I am here. I am in Talatamaty, Antananarivo, Madagascar and my God was here before I arrived and He will continue to be here until the day I depart. I am not walking in new territory. And you know what He has shown me in just the short month I’ve been here? Not only is He HERE, but His heart is here. I was riding the bus back from Analakely several days ago. Seated next to the window, which is my favorite spot to snag due to the view and the breeze that drifts on through and I was just staring out at the bright green expanse of rice fields. The women and men were knee deep in the muddy water, harvesting the rice, while little kiddos ran on stretches of grass that rose above the fields. The houses on the edges  were on average the size of my room back home and built of sticks and bricks, complete with thatched roofs. At one point, I spotted two little kids wading in the mud and my heart began to ache. I hated to see the poverty. To see the dirt and the grime that they lived in, played in and made a living from. To see people struggle to free themselves from their circumstances. My eyes watered as I looked out the bus window. But then it was as if God whispered, “Hattie, my heart beats for these people. I love them.” Yes these people were mud-covered, malnourished and poor. Dirt poor. But the God who takes care of scavenger birds, mere sparrows, holds the Malagasy people and He desperately loves them. He isn’t just heartbroken by their circumstances, but He desires to know them and make them rich. Rich in the embrace of His extravagant love. Rich in His surpassing peace. Rich in Him.

I have tasted of the richness, the grace, the goodness of God. Oh, that these people would come to know the God who has wrecked my world! As of late, my prayer has been for more awareness, more compassion, more love. To be broken over the things that rip at His heart. To know Him so deeply that I begin to see Him in the smallest, most minute details of life.
I have been pleading for a heart that beats in time with the heartbeat of God.