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In His Arms (Reflections On an Unexpected Year and Hope For This One)

“When the waves dash against the boulders, And my ships tossed on an angry sea, I feel your hand rest gently on my shoulder. You guide me home and still the storm in me.

In your arms, I’m safe inside the harbor. In your arms, my heart could rest at ease. Walk with me, beside the quiet waters, In your arms is where I long to be.

Even if the rainbows colors faded. And the sun stopped shining from above. No power on earth nor anything created. Could ever separate me from your love.

In your arms, I am safe inside a harbor. In your arms, my heart could rest at ease. Walk with me, beside the quiet waters, In your arms is where I long to be.”

– In Your Arms Laura Bretan

I am sitting on my bed with a cozy cup of coffee, a notebook, and a pen beside me. The start of my year has gone by in a hurry of activity. Rushing my husband off to the airport, scheduling medical appointments, trying to figure out our budget, planning our yearly programs, coordinating paying our student scholarships in Haiti, among other things.

I hadn’t taken time to make any real resolutions or to look back on the crazy year that was 2023. I’ve still got a million projects going on but in this moment I am choosing to just breath, sit down, and compile some of my reflections on last year and hopes for this one.

Expectations

The word I would use to describe 2023 is unexpected.

As I think about my hopes, plans, and goals for the year I’m conflicted. I want to allow myself to look to the future with hope, but I’m also a little nervous. After all, the past year held plenty of unmet expectations and disappointments despite several good things that happened.

How am I supposed to handle all these unmet expectations that I have from the past year as I look forward in this new year? Am I setting myself up for failure by having expectations in the first place? Does God really intend to turn all things into good? Is it better to just live without any thoughts of the future, going where the wind takes me?

I think the trouble for most of us is not the fact that we have expectations; it’s that we often set our expectations on the wrong things. I had a mental list of both pre-and post-missionary life expectations. Many of my expectations were about how I wanted things to work out around me, about the things I wanted in life (all good things of course), and about how I thought others should be treating me or valuing me.

The trouble with having these types of expectations is that I have absolutely no control over any of them!

Let Down Or Lifted Up

Expectations reveal how we think things should be, and because we often cling to them tightly, the weight of expectations feels heavy and our happiness is often dependent on whether they are or aren’t met. Expectations that are dependent on human beings (myself included) or the temporary things of this world are bound to let us down.

Expectations that are dependent on an eternal, all-powerful, omnipresent, and good God, on the other hand, are a different story. When we place our expectations on Him and who He is, rather than on the specific outcome of a situation, we will never be let down.

As Christians, we can and should expect God to fulfill the promises that He has made to us. This is our hope. Of course we will still have trials and tribulations in this world, but when we “fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal” (2 Corinthians 4:18) we can rest.

This is what makes the difference between being let down at the end of the year or lifted up, in spite of the hardships, in spite of the losses.

So, this year, rather than expecting things to go smoothly, expecting people to understand me, expecting a mere man to fix the problems in a society (such as a president or leader), or expecting a smooth ride, I am choosing to hope in the Lord and His promises and expectantly wait and look for His presence all around me even in the face of more hard.

A Year of Losses and Blessings

A LOT has happened in the last 12 months!

The year began with us finding out that my husband’s green card interview was scheduled for March. This was a relief after 3 years of waiting! It was even more of a relief when he safely made his interview, jumped through all the final hoops, and got his passport stamped to travel right away! We came to the US together in April.

Sadly, Haiti worsened significantly in 2023. If the country had been sliding down hill for the past 5 years it is now plummeting down that hill with great speed. Though we are relieved that my husband now has his green card we are devastated that we can’t continue to live in Haiti full time right now. In September our eyes were really opened to the deteriorated state of our home village when a dangerous armed gang stormed in with assault riffles and burning buildings. Fleeing Haiti weeks later I knew that I would not be able to return for at least a year!

May 16th we confirmed that I was expecting our first child. It was unexpected but I was thrilled. One short month later before I was even able to fully grasp that I was finally going to be a mother we lost our baby. It was the most painful trial of our marriage. Such an extraordinary and crushing loss that consumed us for months.

By the grace of God in September we were blessed with another positive pregnancy test. We were so grateful and excited. For the first trimester we were nervous wondering if this pregnancy would suddenly end as out first had. But, I am now safely into my second trimester and everything is going well! Praise God! (:

What I’ve Learned

In all of these things, the hard and the good, I have seen God at work. Shaping us, molding us, teaching us to rely on him and let go of control. Sometimes the hardest thing of all is to let go. Let go of trying to figure it all out. Let go of trying to force an outcome. Let go of that perfect image I have in mind for my life.

Late in the year I came across a song by Laura Bretan that I have been playing and meditating on non stop. It talks about being tossed on a stormy sea but at the same time being held in Jesus arms and feeling calm. At times I have been both frightened of the waves and comforted in His embrace. I long to be able to live continually in that place of peace, peace that comes from letting Him calm the storm inside of me.

The past year, more than anything, I have been learning to cherish each blessing however long I am blessed while holding it with open hands knowing that it is not mine to grasp after. And to be ok not knowing what our future will look like, trusting that God does.

New Year Hopes

As far as hopes and plans for the new year I am choosing to focus on things that I can control, rather than setting my expectations on the things that I want to happen. Here are 8 attainable goals;

  1. Make the switch to natural. I’ve started making small changes recently such as buying only organic coffee, potatoes, natural bath soap, and using an essential oil humidifier while sleeping. Next I am going to be switching our laundry detergent, cleaning products, and the rest of our produce. I will be using all natural products for baby as well.
  2. Along with switching to natural products, I plan to make more wholesome from scratch or raw foods. Focusing on a Mediterranean inspired died for my health and postpartum recovery.
  3. One of my biggest goals is to get my side gig up and running to help out with our family finances and give me more flexibility. I’d love to be a stay at home mom but its going to take some effort before we are at that point. Living on just one income is not doable for us right now. I started a FaceBook vintage resale page called Thrift With Purpose. I hope to get it up to the point of generating the same income that I do working my part time shipping job.
  4. Finish off the full kitchen we have started putting in our basement apartment. We are nearing completion of the basics; plumbing, electrical, floors and walls.
  5. Pay off the latest land we have purchased in Haiti for a future business venture!
  6. Illustrate and publish a children’s book I recently completed writing specifically for TCK’s. Then begin working on a longer book I have an idea for.
  7. Abide intentionally. This looks like taking daily times of quiet to journal, read, and pray unplugged from distractions. Especially now that my side gig includes quite a bit of screen time and online communication!
  8. A goal for the last of the year is for us to find a piece of land to build on or small house in the US for us to purchase. We’d love to be in our own home before baby is 1.

I hope this January finds you encouraged and full of hope friends! I pray that we will all find ourselves trusting Him more deeply and resting quietly in His arms even if the storms around us rage! May you see beauty in broken places and find joy in the unexpected!

Let’s Talk:
What did the Lord teach you through out the past year?
What are some realistic goals you have for this new year?
How can you let go of control and trust Him more deeply in the coming months?

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Hi! I’m Rachel. Through a series of God orchestrated events I ended up in Haiti, in 2017.  Through years of serving with a ministry there I came to love the country and its people. I met Nelson and we got married in 2020. It was the best decision of my life! 

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