Dusty, Dirty Me

Muddy feet 2

We are experiencing an influx of dust at North Harmon. The home reno marches on. It’s fun! It’s exciting! However, at times it’s also overwhelming, exhausting and dirty.

I keep telling the tribe that sheet rock dust has fiber.

Savor the flavor. You’ll miss it when we’re done.

They haven’t bought into my psychological ploy to keep spirits up. In all fairness, I’m not sure I believe my own pep talk.

Living in the dirt can be hard.

And yet—— when I’m tempted to crumble beneath the weight of life’s dirt and dust, my mind wanders to the tiny island of Haiti.

Our family and another family went to Haiti in the fall of 2010. It was six months after the quake and 24 hours after hurricane Tomas. I’ll be honest, if I had known what we were about to encounter I’m not sure I would have gone, much less taken the children.

My life-changing epiphany happened the first day at the work site. Our task was to build a new home for a pastor and his family. Consequently, our first job was to take down the Haitian Pastor’s tent.  He and his family had been living in it since the earthquake.

I need to elaborate so you can visualize it accurately. If you are a tent camper it’s likely that your mental picture isn’t bad. Roof over head. Clean floor in tent. Perhaps you were even pitched in a scenic area.

The pastor’s tent was not like that.

There was a primary tent but it wasn’t large enough for the entire family so sticks were stuck into the ground next to it. Battered and torn tarp was placed over and around the gnarly, multi-directional twigs. Gaps abounded in the makeshift shelter.

The tent floor consisted of more pieced together tarp. It would have been impossible to keep the bugs and dirt out of the domain. I can’t imagine what one would do in the rain (let alone a hurricane).

The “home” sat three feet from an outdoor latrine. However, “latrine” is a gracious description. In truth, it was a slab of cement with a mosquito infested hole.  It reeked.

There was no running water within sight. Not for cooking. Not for bathing. Not for hand washing.

The scenic view from the tent was garbage and rubble.  I don’t mean a little scattered garbage like we see in a South Dakota ditch or the one to two rock piles we find in a field.  No, their view was…

Refuse everywhere.

Rubble everywhere.

Haiti Time Magazine

The first task for disassembling the tent was to take down the overhead tarps.  Not too bad of a job. Next we needed to tear up the floor.

This process was arduous, primarily because of the quantity of garbage that had become enmeshed and compacted throughout the tarp and soil (the recent hurricane did us no favors.)

Most of the garbage was unidentifiable, however (unfortunately) the cockroaches were easily identified. How could you miss them.? They were the size of small doughnuts.

I remember hunching over as I sifted through the myriad of refuse and roaches. Sweat ran down my temples. I’d stand up to relieve my back only to find my deep draw of air smothered by the reek of the latrine.

As I bent back down to continue my task, I deliberately positioned my face so none of my family could see me. My tears embarrassed me. But I was less embarrassed by their presence than I was by their purpose.

I was full of self-pity.

What are we doing here?

Immediately, an inaudible but unmistakable voice said,

“The same thing I did. I came to earth. Rolled up my sleeves. And I got dirty.”

Now it was really hard to hide my tears. I was overcome by the thought that as dirty and uninhabitable as this placed seemed to me…that was how dirty and uninhabitable the manger must have felt to Jesus. Such a thought may have crossed my mind in the past. It’s possible I even acknowledged it with a sage,

It’s hard to imagine everything Christ gave up.

But that day, that moment, I got it. It’s easy to romanticize the Cradle.  But think about it. Compared to heaven it surely exceeded the contrast between my home and Haiti.

Donna Van Liere’s The Christmas Journey poignantly captures the truth:

          When Joseph opens the stable door, the stench of hot, sweaty animals and manure assaults them.  He hesitates for a moment—this is no place for a birth—but Mary groans, her face twisting in agony. 

          Sheep scatter throughout the stable as he leads Mary inside; a disgruntled cow stamps her foot and lifts her tail to urinate.  This is a dismal place for a woman no older than a child to give birth to a child.

          Mary grabs his hand, “Joseph, hurry! Find what you can.” He stumbles through the stable…spots a trough that could serve as a bed—but there are no blankets. The Light of the World pushes his way into the darkness as Joseph rushes to help. With one final cry of anguish her labor is over. Immanuel is here. His head is misshapen from being pushed through the birth canal. His body is red, blotchy.  Is this truly the Son of the Almighty God, screaming now as his earthly father smacks his bottom?

          Joseph swaddles the baby in dry rags.  Deity is swaddled in the arms of humanity. 

The Cradle marks the place where Christ came into the world. He didn’t minister from a distance. He came. He got into our world. And——–

He. Got. Dirty.

The trip to Haiti changed me. I don’t see dirt in the same way anymore. Jesus wasn’t above getting dirty.

And I’m learning…neither am I.

Photo with Pastor Soloan 1

Be sure to stop by Suzie Eller’s #livefree today for inspiring perspectives on what it means to get dirty!

If you have a moment, check out this link from National Geographic . You’ll see what has happened in the five years since the Haiti quake. It’s amazing what can happen when people decide to “get dirty”! How about you? Is God calling you to take a chance? Lend a hand? Get dirty? 🙂

Your (Dusty, Dirty) DoAhead Friend,


  1. Oh, Cindy. I’m at a loss for words. Thank you. Thank you for sharing this experience. Thank you for reminding me that Jesus came, and Jesus GOT DIRTY, and why the heck am I complaining about ANYTHING AT ALL?!?! Wowzers, how I needed this. I feel like such a fool for having EVER complained about the tiny travel trailer that our family of five shared for several months after losing our home to a tornado. Big. Stinking. Deal. We had food, we had shelter (actual SHELTER). We had running water and proper sewage… eventually we had electricity and even television. Shame on me. Shame on us.

    Lord, continue to put REAL LIFE into perspective for us. Forgive us where we have failed to open our eyes to reality, where we have failed to get dirty in the name of vanity and security. FORGIVE ME, Lord!

    Oh, how grateful I am that He came and got dirty. Ready to kick my shoes off… GIMME SOME DIRT! Thank you, Cindy!


    • Perspective is indeed a gift Crystal. Oh how I need it…usually not just on a daily basis but moment by moment. I guess that’s why its called flesh. THANK God for the sweet Holy Spirit! He’s so patient with us. Love you girl. <3

  2. Cindy, I haven’t read a blog that moving in quite a while. Romanticizing the Cradle…I do it year after year. Most of us do. Just shaking my head in perspective change over here. Fantastic. Just, fantastic. Thankful for you today!!

    • Haiti was a gift to me Meg. It changed me. Following in Christ’s (dirty) footsteps has a funny way of doing that. I still marvel over the fact that my goal was to go save…turns out I was the one saved. Blessings friend. So glad you stopped by! <3

  3. Oh my goodness, what a beautiful post, Cindy. I’m a huge fan of your writing. <3

    • I covet your prayers for Haiti friend. As we speak the government is in major turmoil. Politicians aren’t honoring elections. Tension is high. Our friends back on the island are having to consider evacuation. I’m praying the enemy will lose this round. 🙂

  4. Cindy, I have friend whose whole family just returned from Haiti. She said they are forever changed. I said on Suzie’s post today that I want dirty, dusty feet. I really hope I learn to live life that way. 🙂

  5. I think you already are. 🙂 Sometimes it’s simply different dirt different places. Under toes, Behind the ears. Ground into the crevices of our hands. I KNOW your servants heart. Trust me friend. You’re dirty.

  6. Such vivid imagery, Cindy! I married a farmer so I know the sights, smells, and sounds of a barn but I rarely associate that with Jesus’ birth. How could I miss that! This is a wonderful post! Loved it, Cindy

  7. What a beautiful post and a jarring reminder that Christ gave up so much and got dirty for us. Thank you for sharing your experience!

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