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Category Archives: Inspirational

Beauty from Pain: Reflections from Irma

So much is on my mind, but so little time is available to write about it.

I continue to watch the increasing devastation in almost numb disbelief- Harvey, Irma, earthquakes in Mexico, wild fires burning Montana and Idaho, and now Maria. What a pounding. There’s a morbid fascination in watching and reading news clips and images. It feels surreal, like an over-the-top movie. But this is real and there’s an aching to help, but I feel so small.

My home and my immediate neighborhood, aside from loss of power and freedom to flush for about a week, came through Irma well. But families in other areas of my community, my county, have lost everything: their homes, their vehicles, their momentos, and their sense of security.  But I do hope they’ve felt a sense of community and love in the outpouring of local high school sports teams, volunteers for disaster relief organizations, local church groups, and just good samaritan individuals, their neighbors, coming together to help them tear out soaked carpeting and furniture, tarping their damaged roofs, and feeding them.

You never know when you will be the one who can serve or needs to be served. It happens so fast. Where do they go from here? How do they, how do any of us, get back to a “normal life” after this? Is it even possible?

My husband and I fluctuated back and forth for days on whether or not we should leave before we finally decided to take our animals and go. Nobody could tell where Irma was going, other than she was the size to cover our entire state no matter where her eye went. There was stress and confusion. Once people decided to leave, where was it going to be safe to go? Nobody could tell where Irma was going after she left Florida. But she was a big storm, and we were offered a safe place, so we took it. We boarded up our windows, moved as much as we could off the floors, packed up our smaller valuables, and headed out in the still dark hours that Friday morning, praying and hoping for the best.

I stayed strong throughout. What could I do anyway? I was worried for my sister in Tampa and relieved when they missed the brunt of the storm. Our side of the state took the tornadoes and had a major storm surge, and all I could really do was check Facebook for updates as my freinds all rode out the storm in the middle of the night, with the noises of howling wind and “things” they could not see hitting their houses. Some managed to sleep; most did not.

Then it was over and where I was we began to see images on the news of the destruction. Even then, I was shocked, but I shed no tears. After a few days passed (we had some tropical storm type remnants in our haven), we headed home. I still had not cried, which is probably unlike me. I tend to be much more emotional than I like to admit.

Upon heading home, it became much more real. On I-95, there is generally a good mix of out of state cars with Florida cars. On the way out, almost every car was a Florida car. I’m sure everyone else had already left. On the way back, the personal vehicles belonged only to Floridians, and I wondered where exactly they were headed and what they would find when they got home. Would they even have homes? But there were also caravans of out of state trucks and vans heading down to restore our electricity, our internet, and to help cut and haul away our debris. The National Guard was bringing drinking water by the truckloads.

And that is when I cried. When we passed the “Florida Welcomes You” sign and I looked at all these people coming to help us, I cried. It didn’t matter to them what religion, race, or political affiliation these Floridians they were coming to help belonged to, but their fellow man needed help so they left their families behind and came.

Thankfully, my power is restored, and our home suffered only a few broken shingles from a palm tree that snapped in half, but so many others have rebuilding to do. I hope they see the love of others who have been and continue to come together to help. I hope they can see this as a chance for a new beginning, even as they mourn what they have lost.  I hope and pray they can find beauty from the pain.

 

 

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Reflections of a Mission Trip: The Faith to Go

I got home a couple days ago now from a week-long mission trip to Guatemala. I want to remember what I learned now while it’s still fresh. That being said, I have probably a few subjects on which to reflect, so I’ll spread them out. Otherwise this would be one long post.

Team Pic

Might as well start at the beginning, right?

This was not my first mission trip. It wasn’t even my first mission trip to the same place; it was, in fact, the third mission trip I have taken to Guatemala. Since I’ve done it before, and I like a little sense of adventure in my life, this part was not scary. The unknowns of a foreign country can be a huge obstacle for some, and understandably so. Because of that, I knew when I was asked to be one of the leaders on this trip, that I could be an asset in guiding the team through this and helping them in knowing what to expect.

Ugh! I was going to start at the beginning, but I’m already getting ahead of myself.

Brakes.

Reverse.

I went to Guatemala in 2013 and 2014, but it’s been a few years. Life happened and I was just holding my head above water. Doing anything beyond that seemed impossible, so though I had it in my mind I would go back one day, I didn’t think the time was now.

promise

When I got the call from our international mission team leader asking if I would be one of the co-leaders for our church, I said I would talk it over with my husband, we would pray, and I’d let her know. In the back of my mind, or not even so far back, I really thought it would be a no. First, it was my husband’s turn to go, and it wouldn’t be fair to him. Second, mission trips cost money, and we had none. Third, my own life was a mess, so how could I possibly be someone a team could look to?

But after a few days of praying and discussing with my husband, I began to see it differently.  My husband had a focus of school and it had been a life change for us to send him back. I had been feeling depressed and useless. I had been given a new purpose in my life a few years before, but just had it taken away and was having trouble processing who and what I was, and whether I had a purpose or anything to offer to others anymore. Now I was being asked to take on an important role. This meant somebody felt I did have something to offer, and that idea was likely placed there by God. And when God says you have a purpose, you better say yes, strap in, and enjoy the ride, because He will use you if you let him. I knew I was at a point where I needed this.

But still, we were struggling so much financially, I felt it was wrong to do traditional money raising, and we certainly couldn’t do it ourselves. But I remembered just how perfectly the previous trips had worked in financial fundraising, one trip almost to the exact dollar. Of course, the trip was scheduled for three weeks before I had available paid vacation at work, so I would also be losing an entire week of pay when we were already living paycheck to paycheck. So, I decided if God was sending me, the money for the trip itself would come, and so would the money to cover my week of not getting paid.

Then there was still the nagging reminder that though it seemed God wanted me to go, I just couldn’t see how I was going to be effective when my own world was partially shattered.  If I was falling apart, how could I help hold together a team of people with varying personalities.

But God uses the messed up, the falling apart, the broken people. After all, I wasn’t going to do it by my own strength, but through Him. He would just be using me. Having learned over the last few years to live by faith when I couldn’t make sense of the world around me, He knew I was prepared for this. My being broken was what He wanted to use.

el cruz

So after more prayers, more talks with my husband, and some tears, I called the international team leader and told her yes.

There are so many scriptures and so many songs that come to mind about being called, but these two scriptures are the ones that have gotten me through all the pain and heartache of the last few years:

Romans 8:28

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”

and Jeremiah 29:11

“‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.'”

Sure enough, we had several people on this trip who had never been before, and I was able to help prepare them and help guide them while we were there, to support them and encourage them. What a blessing that was, to watch as they experienced the emotions of such a trip, and to be able to be part of it. The funds were raised quickly and by less people than I would have expected. My portion was over 100% paid faster than any other trip I have gone on. My husband began a job where he is earning more and working more hours, in fact, much overtime right now, and it has more than made up for my missing week of work. And my brokenness? It was just the condition my heart needed to be in.

volcano me

This was just the beginning of my story. I still want to reflect on what we did and the people of Guatemala, the sense of community and how it spans across cultures, and my personal attachments to Guatemala. Stay tuned. Those are coming.

Epic

If you would like to read now about our work, one of my awesome teammates wrote a blog while we were there. Check it out here: epicgoguatemala.com

One of my other teammates shared this video for our team, and I want to share it with you. (Just click on “this video”).

 

 

Hitting the Glass Ceiling While Wearing Glass Slippers

I was coloring with my favorite little girl one afternoon when she suddenly started asking me the origin stories of some of the better known superheroes. Personally, I love Batman and told her about Bruce Wayne’s tragic loss of his parents and his way cool butler.

She really wanted to know about Wonder Woman.  I only knew a little, but we happened to be going to a friend’s for dinner that night who is a big Wonder Woman fan, so I told her to ask that evening.

That night, she learned about Wonder Woman and watched the pilot episode of the Linda Carter show from the 70’s. By the end of the night she was wearing a replica tiara, bullet proof bracelets, and holding a golden lasso while spinning.

WonderWoman

And she hasn’t stopped since. My little girl IS Wonder Woman, and I’ve become a big fan too. A beautiful, smart, strong, courageous princess who fights for truth, justice, and love. What’s not to love? Or encourage? I could not ask for a better role model in a world saturated with everything I never want my princess to become.

She is a little girl who always favors the female characters, but in her eyes, even Leia couldn’t compete with her curious love of Darth Vader (though Leia has always been a hero to me), and she was still looking for the perfect hero.

But of course, she doesn’t just want to be strong; she wants to be pretty…and a princess. Naturally, she also still loves the Disney Princesses.  We very recently watched the 2015 live-action version of Cinderella, who happens to be one of her beloved princesses.

Now, I know there are arguments out there that these old fairy tale princesses teach young women to be weak and to depend on being saved by their “prince charming,” but I think that just shows a lack of responsibility in teaching our young girls the values and virtues of each of those princesses.  Is Cinderella weak because she has to be whisked away to the castle by her prince? I don’t think so. She was good, kind, and beautiful, and was in the end rewarded for it.

The historic context is the key to making excellent lessons out of these “helpless” princesses.  Our young ladies today need to understand what life was like for women once upon a time, that they were seen as unintelligent property good only for cleaning and having babies. But in these situations, these princesses were strong in the ways they were able to be strong. They were dignified in spite of it, and though women have not quite broken through that glass ceilings around the world, and not even always in the Land of the Free, they gave little girls hope. We cannot discount that today as weak. We should be proud of how far we’ve come. (and let’s not forget the B.A. Mulan, who is based off a Chinese legend)

Princess Diana lived in a land without men, and beyond learning to be strong and to defend herself and what is right physically, her virtues are the same as many of those fairy tale princesses. Many of those values of her femininity are what makes her such an amazing character.

Our little one is not quite old enough that we feel she should see the new Wonder Woman movie yet, but she will one day, and I wonder if she will get goosebumps and tear-filled eyes when Diana climbs up a ladder and rushes through No Man’s Land the way I did. Will she also get goosebumps and tear-filled eyes when Belle (Emma Watson) dances with the Beast in the grand ballroom brought to life…the way I did? I really hope she does.

Heroes don’t have to only be physically strong. A real hero is also emotionally strong, unafraid to show a tender side, and does right, even when it is hard. Mostly, heroes need to stand for something and reflect something we want in ourselves.

 

Mawwage- Here’s to Another 17 Years

mawwage

This man knows me better than anyone, and he loves me anyway. I guess the same can be said the other way too.

Seventeen years is a long time, especially in modern marriages. But we’ve stuck with it. I’m sure we both have wondered why from time to time, but marriages aren’t perfect. None of them. You work at it. You give and receive considerable amounts of grace, and you grow together, even when it means suffering “growing pains.”

Sharing your life and becoming one with someone is bound to get complicated, but you do it together. While one is weak, hopefully the other is strong. Sometimes you are both weak and you just prop each other up and know it will get better because you have each other. The last few years have been the most challenging in our marriage, but we made it to seventeen. During the first ten years we were practically children. I feel like we’ve finally actually grown and matured over the last seven years. The biggest part has been finding God in our marriage and keeping Him at the center…no matter what.

So here’s to another 17 years…and another…and so on. There’s more adventure to come. I love you Robert. Happy Anniversary.

We Are All Models

A man who does not know how to properly treat a lady has no business in raising one; nor does a woman who does not know how she should be treated.

The behaviors we exhibit for our children in our relationships are the ones they will develop in their own lives. That is a huge responsibility, not to be taken lightly. Parents, think about what you are modeling for your children. Is it what you want them to become?

Treat others as you want your children to be treated, and how you want your children to treat others.

wonderwoman

 

Dear Long Lost Friend

Dear Long Lost Friend & Those I Have Loved,

If I take the time to look back over my life, I see moments and people swirling, never stopping. It always keeps moving. Life doesn’t stop.

But I am sorry I haven’t paused to thank you for being one of those swirling faces. Each one is special. Each one helped make me who I am today. Some encouraged me and gave me hope. Some broke me down so I had to build myself back up, stronger. Some tested my moral fortitude. And some held me and let me cry.

I see pieces of laughter and inspirations to be better. There are adventures and quiet moments.  Fear. Wonder. Loyalty. Love.

Each person in my life helped mold or chisel a piece of me. All are part, though some more so than others, of the masterpiece that I am, or hope to be. Because that’s how it works. “We’re all in this together,” and wow, isn’t that the truth!

You never know the words you say that will forever stick with another, so please, choose them wisely.

 

Forever Yours,

Terri Klaes Harper

 

My Christmas Prayer 2016

My house is quiet this morning. The dogs followed me out of the bedroom but collapsed while I made my coffee. My husband softly snores yet with the cat. There are no excited children to open gifts. It is just me and thoughts.

Whether today is the true date of Jesus’ birth or not,  I am thankful that he agreed to come here and be born as a little baby who would suffer the trials of mankind, growing in communion and fellowship with so many imperfect people. These were the people who were looking for him, yet refused to see him.

Even as a baby he was born to die. He was a sacrifice. Imagine growing up knowing that. Then imagine him surrounded by the hatred and cruelty of mankind (not so different than it is today), and deciding to die for us anyway, Jew and gentile alike. In fact, he died for anyone and everyone who would choose him.

This Christmas, I am thankful for the greatest gift ever, God’s son. So many are lost, hurting, and confused. If I read the news, it brings me to tears more often than not. How can we believe in good when we are surrounded by so much evil? But I pray for this to be a day that gives hope. I pray everyone would have a small moment in their busy days to look past the commercialism and truly appreciate what Christmas represents. There is hope, if we only look. I pray we may all focus on the good and what we do have. I pray for hurting people to find peace. And I pray my little girl would always continue to love God and believe with her childlike faith.

john-1

Merry Christmas!