My Breast Cancer Diagnosis

While recovering from surgery, I watch a whole season of Downton Abbey in one day :)

While recovering from surgery, I watched a whole season of Downton Abbey in one day 🙂

On January 20, I was diagnosed with breast cancer.   One month after my 40th birthday.

I was hoping to take a tropical vacation to celebrate my entrance into a new decade. Instead I took a trip to Iowa Methodist Hospital and had a bilateral mastectomy and reconstructive surgery.  Not really what I had in mind for this year.

I’ve been sporadically sharing updates about my months of cancer madness on my writing blog. Take a look at kimharms.net if you are interested in learning about the ups and downs of my year so far.

God is good. And he has shown himself to me in the sweetest ways over the past few months. I’d give up the cancer if I could, but I sure don’t want to give up the closeness I have had with my Savior.

My posts here will probably not be regular any time soon, but mom and I are still continuing our ministry. We want to keep serving and moving in whatever direction God leads us.  Here’s what we’ve got going on currently.

  • Mom is preparing for our second shipment to India.
  • We are still in need of large wedding gowns to ship to Haiti.  Size 12 and up. Please let us know if you have one you’d like to donate.
  • We are hoping to provide support to the sewing school in Buedet, Haiti where mom and I taught in November.  As we learn of needs at the school, we will pass them along to you.

Thoughts On Child Sponsorship


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“Hello, how are you?”

When I had the opportunity to spend a little time with Lucson while in Haiti last month, he greeted me in English.

Pleasantly surprised, I asked him why he decided to learn English.

“So I can speak to you,” he said.

That was about the extent of his English (the rest of our conversation was held through a translator) but wow.

Just wow.

There I stood with my arms full of gifts I brought to give to this boy we sponsor through Mission to Haiti, and he, with nothing in his arms, gave me something much bigger than the soccer ball, the book, the clothes and the food I had for him.

He’s learning a new language so he can communicate with the American woman who has shown up on his island only twice in his 14 years.

That, my friends, is just a little bit humbling.

My hope for Lucson is that he will continue to improve his English, not simply so he can speak to me when I show up down there again in a few years, but so a world of opportunities will open up to him.

But infinitely more important than learning English, he is also learning about Jesus.

And I know that one day in Heaven, our native languages won’t matter. We’ll be able to hang out and speak whatever language it is that citizens of heaven speak, and the gifts we give to each other here on earth will pale in comparison to the gift of eternal life that we will enjoy together.

If you don’t already, I urge you to consider sponsoring a Haitian child. You can learn more about it at Mission to Haiti.

A Meaningful Life

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The truth is, if what we choose to do with our lives won’t make a story meaningful, it won’t make a life meaningful either.” – Donald Miller – A Million Miles in a Thousand Years

I had the opportunity to read two fantastic books over the course of my week in Haiti (mostly in airport terminals, airplanes and the wee hours of the morning after the rooster gave me my 4 a.m. wake-up call.)

The above quote is from one of those books. I will have more to say about our trip once the words dancing around in my head settle into cohesive thoughts, but while I wait for that to happen, I wanted to share this.

I (and I’m sure mom agrees) want what I choose to do with my years on this earth to make a meaningful story; a meaningful life.  A life in which my words and actions point people to Jesus.

And I want to thank all of you who prayed for us and supported us in other ways while we prepared for this trip and during our week in Haiti. You play a role in making 500 Dresses meaningful.

(Now go enjoy some turkey and some Black Friday shopping 🙂 I’ll be back with some Haiti stories after the holiday. )

 

Gotta Love God’s Timing

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I wrote this article about my experience with treadle sewing after I returned from my last trip to Haiti. I’ve had variations of it published in a couple devotionals, but I recently received this new copy of it as a full article in a magazine.

The issue of the magazine doesn’t technically come out until February, but I received my copy ahead of time.  It was perfectly timed by God to remind me that it’s not about me. Our service to him is never about us. I guess he wanted to be sure I have that in my thick skull before I hop on the plane next week.

By the way – for those of you who have heard of my ineptitude on treadle sewing machines, I would like to share that I am in fact still inept at it. I tried at my folks house last week with no success. I choose to blame the fact that I am left-handed. Yep, that’s what I’m going with.

Sewing is Hard

I spent Monday sewing with my mom.  It was a lovely, non-stressful experience. She has the patience of a saint. She explained each step in the process of our Haiti project, and I followed her instructions. In the end I had this lovely tote.

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I spent Tuesday sewing by myself. It was an unlovely, stress-filled day. I have the patience of a three-year-old. I had to read the instructions by myself, and there was no one there to stop me when I was about to royally screw it up.

I cut one piece the wrong size, but didn’t realize it until I was almost ready to complete the bag. I couldn’t figure out the stupid zipper. When I do zippers with mom I’m like “Okay, I’ve got it. No problem.” When I do them by myself I’m like, “What the heck am I doing wrong?'”  Who needs zippers anyway?

I wanted to throw my scissors across the room, and I about tossed the half-finished tote in the fireplace and roasted some marshmallows over it. I will not even tell you how many hours it took to complete because it’s far too embarrassing.

But in the end, I did complete it. And it’s pretty cute as long as you don’t look too close. There is even a completed (albeit very ugly looking) zipper pocket on the inside.

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By the end of Tuesday, I was wondering what in the world I had gotten myself into. I think I could probably go teach some writing classes, but sewing??? How am I supposed to teach a craft in which my skill level hovers at the lower end of mediocrity?

But you know what I think God is going to do with this? I think he is going to show me just how much this is not about me. It is about obedience to him.  I will work hard over the next two weeks to be able to sew a zipper with the best of them, but I will also trust that even if I am not a fantastic seamstress, he can and will use me. Because that’s what he does. He says,

“Hey girl. I’ve got this crazy task for you. And I know you think you can’t do it, and that’s okay. Because when I ask you to do something. I equip you to do it. I’ve got your back.”

The God of the universe has got my back. Why is that so easy to forget?

Help Us Feed Haitians

 “Have you even for one second in your life been hungry?”

That question, posed to me by a Haitian interpreter in 2012, has haunted me ever since. Read the following little story I wrote a couple years ago, and you will see why I am passionate about sending funds to feed Haitians.

(And why I am excited that we have an anonymous person willing to match all donations for doll dresses, up to $250!)

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Me and Billy

I sit enjoying Billy’s company on a wooden bench shaded from the hot Caribbean sun. He is eloquent. He is intelligent. His smile genuine. His joyful spirit contagious. He speaks excellent English with a beautiful accent.  Dressed handsomely in navy blue pants and button-down shirt, he may as well be an old friend from back home.

In just one day, my Haitian brother has gripped my heart.

He did not choose poverty.

He did not choose hunger.

He did not choose life in Tent City.

He asks about my life. What can I say? I live in a 5 bedroom home, of which only 3 bedrooms are slept in on a regular basis. I have cupboards full of food and regularly toss uneaten leftovers down my garbage disposal. Clean drinking water flows from multiple faucets and ice pops out of my freezer with the push of a button.

My voice falters. I can’t verbalize the discrepancy between his life and mine. So I speak of things that don’t accentuate the contradiction that is my abundance and his scarcity.

Then he asks the question I can’t sidestep. The one that now drifts through my mind a dozen times a day.

“Have you for even one second in your life been hungry?”

It takes all I have to look into his eyes, but I owe him an honest answer.

“No, Billy. I have never known what it is to be hungry. Every day of my entire 37 years, I have had more than enough.”

And now as I am back home, my more than enough breaks my heart into pieces.  Every bit of abundance causes an ache inside. But I trust that God breaks hearts so he can mold them into something new. So he can impart his perfect love into my imperfect being.

I know that as I sit here with my coffee and my laptop, my God – the one who is able to save little American girls and little Haitian boys – is working on the inside making me a new creation to do the work which he has prepared in advance for me to do.

And my friends, a new creation ever growing in the desire to serve and obey my God is exactly what I want to be.

A generous anonymous person has offered to match the money made from our doll dresses, up to $250. So every dollar you donate becomes $2. Sweet!

Here’s a sampling of the dresses available at Local Blend Coffee Shop.

If you are not local to Huxley and are interested in a dress email us at 500dresses@gmail.com.

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Counting to Ten – An Upper Room Devotion

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Sewing Class in Haiti.

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I was honored to write today’s devotion at The Upper Room. Written shortly after I returned from Haiti, it expresses a little bit of what God taught me while I was teaching some young Haitians to sew.

You can take a peek at it here –  Counting To Ten.

I was also asked to write a blog post for today. You can find that here – The Big Things and The Little Things.

If you are visiting this site from The Upper Room, thanks for stopping by. We sew and send dresses, shorts, sewing supplies and formal gowns to Haiti and other places. I honestly feel like I don’t know what I’m doing half the time (and if you spend much time with me on this blog, you will find that I don’t even really enjoy sewing very much-my mom, however, is an amazing seamstress!) Though I am sometimes unsure of myself, God never is, and when I wait on him, he always shows me what to do next. God is good.

Guest Blogging Opportunity

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I’m looking for a handful of writers/bloggers who are interested in writing a guest post at 500 Dresses this summer.

I have discovered that when I am really paying attention and following through with a task God puts before me, he gives me another task and then another. Do one thing, and he’ll show you the next thing. I even had the opportunity to write about a series of “next things” in a 500 Dresses story over at Fullfill Magazine a couple years ago.

I know many of you out there are passionate about living your life for Christ’s purposes. And I know some of you like to write. (If you are like me, you have to fight the temptation to ignore real life and just read and read and write and write…and maybe drink some coffee and eat some chocolate.)

I want to hear about your personal experiences of obedience to God. Maybe it was something totally out of your comfort zone, or maybe it was something that fit right into your gifts and passions. Whatever your topic, if it’s a God-glorifying story of obedience, I’d love to share it here.

Send me a message at 500dresses@gmail.com or on facebook if you are interested guest blogging.

Here are the specs:

Word Count: 500-750(ish)

Pictures: Yes, if you have any available.

Format: Not gonna be too picky but short paragraphs are best.

Short Bio: Two or three sentences that can include a link your personal blog if you have one.

The Poor and The Prideful – A Mission to Haiti Experience Changed My Worldview

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I wanted to walk into their homes and see and feel and know what their lives were like. The day-to-day lives of sponsored children in Haiti.

Traveling down the pot-holed back roads of Port au Prince with Mission to Haiti’s Bill Nealey Jr., two sponsored teenagers and an interpreter, I expected this day would conclude with Kim Harms feeling pretty good about Kim Harms. That I would go to bed encouraged in my gifts to the poverty-stricken.

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STEVE

But when 15-year-old Steve opened the rusty corrugated metal gate that led to his two-room home, I sensed this afternoon adventure would not end with the proverbial pat on the back.

“Welcome,” his mom Elmase ushered us to sit down on hand-carved wooden chairs. I was suddenly ill-at-ease; a long sheer curtain in the doorway tickling my leg as I glanced down at a page of prepared questions that now seemed trivial.

I had anticipated stepping into Steve’s home and taking pride in my generosity that was providing for a Haitian family’s comfort. I would ask questions about his life and be satisfied that my money was doing a great thing. That I was successfully answering God’s call to serve the poor.

The poor.

That was my problem. Sitting in a tiny Haitian home a world away from my own family, I realized that to me they had simply been the poor.

The tall lanky teenage boy seated beside me in a slightly unstable wooden chair. The boy who likes soccer and probably enjoys watching an NBA game when the electricity is working. Up until that very moment in his home, to me, this boy Steve was the poor.

As I was struck with this new insight, my pride dissolved into shame.

   Steve spoke,

and I realized

he could be my own son.

The language was unfamiliar, but the sentiment was the same. He’s fond of some subjects in school and could do without others. He loves his little sister, but sometimes she’s annoying. And he wouldn’t mind a little privacy.

“I dream of having my own room,” he laughed at the unlikelihood and glanced at the door leading to a small room he shares with two younger siblings. I caught a glimpse of my oldest son Carter in his humor, but his eyes revealed something my three children do not have; a somber understanding of their life circumstances.

 If he were my Carter, my heart would house a continual ache from seeing the world at large strip him of his identity and lump him into the broad and undesirable category of the poor.

Conviction started weighing me down as I thought about the apathetic attitude with which I often walk through life.

“What is it that gets you through each day?” I asked Elmase thinking of how exhausting it must be to work daily for survival, and feeling guilty about the times I’ve grumbled about having nothing in the pantry.

“We’re living by the grace of God. Day-to-day we struggle to live.”

I knew as she said it that she understood the depth of God’s grace and mercy. And I began to wonder if I did.

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KEVIN

By the time I sat down at the second stop on my excursion, I felt completely unworthy of this Haitian hospitality.  Shifting my weight in a cheap white plastic chair in Kevin’s one-room home, the bright bubble gum pink walls mocked the darkness that was being unearthed from my heart.

 What must they be thinking of me, this rich American coming to satisfy my curiosity by peeking into their private lives?

   I wanted to go home.

I wanted to go back to feeling comfortable with me.

But once God shows you something, there’s no going back.

And He had a purpose in mind for this trip.

So I sat and I talked and I listened and I learned.

Kevin’s cousin Rosanna opened up her home to Kevin’s family after theirs was destroyed by the 2010 earthquake. Since that awful day, six people have been existing in this space smaller than my bedroom. Neither work nor food was a sure-thing in thing in this household.

   “Sometimes we only have one meal for the day,” said Rosanna. “And some days we have nothing at all.”

Kevin’s father and mother, who are a mechanic and a factory worker by trade, often go months without work, making feeding a family nearly impossible.

It is relatively easy and unconvicting to think about the collective poor who do not have enough to eat. But I found it almost unbearable to sit in the Haitian heat next to Kevin, a growing teenage boy without enough food, and Rosanna who selflessly opened her home to her extended family yet often goes to bed with a hollow in her tummy.

CONVICTED BY MY WORLDVIEW

By the end of my afternoon with the Mission to Haiti sponsor families, I was deeply convicted by the shallowness of my worldview. God used that experience to clear some junk out of my heart. Instead of obtaining that pat on the back that I was expecting from this experience, I received a change in perspective.

As I thought through the day’s events, I became aware of a few areas in which God wanted me to change my way of thinking.

The first was that of presumption.

To an extent, I had presumed the poor were without individual identities. And when I did so, I stripped them of their God-given uniqueness.  Just as God created me with a set of gifts and passions, so he created Steve and Kevin. When I lump the poor into one category, it’s like dumping the pieces of a hundred puzzles into one box. There is no hope of seeing the beauty of each individual picture.

I will be much more apt to love my Haitian brothers and sisters and all monetarily less fortunate Christians around the world when I see them for who they are, beautiful individuals created by God.  Carefully knit together in their mother’s wombs just like me.

I also became sickened by my pride.

I am no stranger to pride. There are arenas of my life in which I struggle to get off the teeter-totter ride of pride versus insecurity. But my charitable giving is not an area where I expected to be convicted.

God showed me that I have a tendency to give out of my abundance and then to expect to be blessed. I was reminded that he did not call believers to give so we could feel good about ourselves.  He called us to give because we are his children and that’s what his children do.

When I give to get something in return, whether monetary or emotional, I am stealing the glory from God and missing the point of the call. I do not want my actions to steal God’s glory.

The final area in which I’ve had to shift my perspective is that of entitlement.

That feeling that because I am an American I deserve a certain standard of living. I am not saying that hard work doesn’t lead to opportunity, nor that taking advantage of opportunities that will improve our status in life is a bad thing. I am saying that at the root of all opportunities or lack thereof, is God’s sovereignty. Steve and Kevin may become the hardest workers in the world, but because of circumstances beyond their control, they will likely never reach the state of physical wealth with I am blessed.

Doesn’t it make sense that to be the best stewards of what God has given us, we should do what we can to provide opportunities for kids like Steve and Kevin? That maybe instead of feeling entitled to what we have and feeling a little too good about ourselves when we give mechanically out of our abundance, we should strive to be more aware of just how and what God wants us to give; not to the generic poor, but to his own children living in poverty around the world.

I’m just a regular American mom, leading a regular American life. And I plan to continue to enjoy an occasional caramel latte, family vacations and a membership to the rec center.

But I will never again look at giving to the poor in the same way. The poor could be me. The poor could be you. And it took sitting in a tiny little home on a back road of Port au Prince Haiti for me to realize it.

**Head on over to Mission to Haiti, if you are interested in changing the life of a Haitian child.

Disclaimer: Pardon the length of this post. It was originally written for magazine specifications, but that publishing opportunity fell through. Also, as the publishing world can be excruciatingly slow, the things I’ve written about are not new to me. They are things God awakened me to a couple years ago, but I am definitely still in the process of learning to see the world the way God sees it.