“Are you ready?”

This is the question that we keep hearing, and the question that Ryan and I regularly ask each other and our children. In just two weeks, we are bringing our family of eight to Haiti. We wonder how each of the kids will react to the completely different way of life they are about to experience… Will the toddler and preschooler have a hard time sleeping in the new surroundings, heat, and mosquito net-covered beds? Will the older kids miss their grandparents and friends, as well as familiar foods and toys? Will they be able to really see the purpose and joy in serving the poor, and then make the small sacrifices of comfort and familiarity in order to serve faithfully? I wonder if we are ready to leave behind all of the things that make life so comfortable and easy in Texas in exchange for third world country challenges. It will be difficult… often the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.

We are in the fourth week of Advent, which is meant to be a time of penance and preparation. We pause, clean our homes and hearts, pray, and become more and more ready for the coming of our Savior. How often do we really feel ready for Christmas, let alone ready to allow God deep into our hearts, to bring new transformations? We may be ready to jump into the next season, into something new and big, but we are never fully prepared.

Imagine a young couple who is eagerly awaiting the birth of their first child. They are so excited to meet this new little person, and to begin the adventure of life as a family. They make all of the preparations, and become as ready as possible. But, nothing can truly prepare them for the reality of parenting – the absolute joy and exhaustion they will experience, and the love and strength they will need in order to give so much of themselves to their child.

The story of Mary during the Annunciation is such a beautiful example of this. Mary was created in a special way, to fulfill this incredible purpose of carrying the Son of God on earth. She was ready to do this job, and ready to answer, “I am the handmaid of the Lord, be it done to me according to your word.” Yet, nothing could really have prepared her for the intensity of that moment – being surprised by an angel and given a message that was difficult to understand. She was “greatly troubled” at what was said. It took a great amount of faith and grace to accept the role she was given at that moment.

How appropriate that we are in the final stretch of preparation for our family mission during this season of Advent. It’s a time of waiting. We pray, we talk about some of of the experiences we will have in Haiti. We practice fun little Creole phrases with the kids. We tell them things they will love (playing soccer and doing crafts with the Haitian kids), and things they will probably not love (the humidity and bucket baths). Most of all, we ask God for patience, flexibility, and grace to follow where He has called us, and to take a leap of faith.