Ripe for Redemption

I picked up the kiddos from their amazing school in the wealthy, sheltered part of town. The magnificent building, the pristine landscaping, the haven that the school and church property is… This place has been a great blessing in our lives.

Our sending church is like a resort....

Our sending church is like a resort….

One of the nicest church properties in the U.S.

One of the nicest church properties in the U.S.

When I drive through its parking lot dotted with gorgeous red maples, it seems surreal that when these kids were first born we welcomed them into a church family that met in a building with crumbling walls and a roof that leaked every time it rained, all surrounded by some of the worst poverty in America.

The inner city church we helped replant.

The inner city church we helped replant.

Our Christmas outreach (yes, with Santa) and rotting walls that we could never repair fast enough due to the leaking 100 year old slate roof

Our Christmas outreach (yes, with Santa) and rotting walls that we could never repair fast enough due to the leaking 100 year old slate roof

That poverty stricken area was home.

And I loved the beautiful ugly it held.

And now, as I pick the kids up, we head downtown. Down to our soon-to-be new home on Maywood Avenue.

And I know I will grow to love this place, but the stark contrast from what I just picked my kids up from, and the place where I was driving them into…well, it was just abrupt.

All the kids piled into the 12 passenger van that a VERY generous person (that we love!) enabled us to get

All the kids piled into the 12 passenger van that a VERY generous person (that we love!) enabled us to get

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I drive from pristine beauty, into desolation

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And pawn shops….the sort of store that declares “the people in this area are in financial crisis!”

 

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or stores that couldn’t make it, boarded up only to be inhabited by squatters…

And I’m going to bring my babies here?  And raise them in beautiful ugly again?  A beautiful ugly that is still just ugly to me?

The toxic fear creeps into my heart. There’s six of them now! And life isn’t as simple as it was when I just had three little ducklings that stayed close to mamma duck.  

Life was simple when they were little

Life was simple when they were little

And all their friends were little too

And all their friends were little too

Now that 3 year old boy is nine, and wants to ride bikes in the neighborhood and play football with the kids down the street…

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nearly half the homes in the neighborhood look like this…

...and this.

…and this.

 

 

Kids who curse and who have been exposed to who-knows-what in their homes. But they are kids who need to know the steadfast love of a God who has endured far more tumult than they have in those homes.  They need to meet a God who went to the cross in order to rescue them from the generations of sin and struggle that they were born into. My kids, too, have been born into generational curses that I constantly have to repent of, and run to the cross with…and doesn’t that put us all in the same boat?

 

 

….We pull into the driveway and before I go in to meet with contractors working hard to make that little home livable for a family of eight, I set the kids up with a picnic in the yard….a yard, with trees.

 

 

 

Our new home....looks tiny, but it actually has a huge basement we are refinishing with extra rooms!

Our new home….looks tiny, but it actually has a huge basement we are refinishing with extra rooms!

We are about to start a church in the inner city, and my kids still get to grow up with a yard and trees and forts in bushes and tire swings and crickets singing at night.

And if God can move me into the desires of my heart-to live amongst, and pour into the marginalized of society, and live fully for and pour into the children God has entrusted to me and He can provide a yard for those kids, then I’m sure He can provide everything else they need as well.

And I will cling to and live by the promises that “my God will fully supply your every need according to his glorious riches in the Messiah Jesus” (Phil. 4:19 )…and that includes the wisdom to navigate the raising of these kids in the neighborhood God has called us to.

 

 

No other explanation

It’s all his fault.

He made me do it.

Just if he hadn’t written that little book. Just if it hadn’t hit such a chord in my soul. Just if I hadn’t begun to pray that prayer based on what he had written.

“I cannot-and only God can….It means bowing to the fact that you cannot and only God can.  It means acting on the assumption that this is true, and exposing ever situation to Him moment by moment, for HIM to accomplish what you cannot, while you tell Him ‘Thank you!’…Then you will be begin to live miraculously. A life that can only be explained by the fact that there is a Resurrected Christ and He lives in his people.”

Major W. Ian Thomas, The Indwelling Life of Christ

So, I foolishly started praying that God would work in such a way in my life, that “there would be no explanation except that there is a Resurrected Christ and He lives in His people. “

I had envisioned constant energy. Unending peace. Supernatural optimism.  The God-given ability to keep up with everything, and manage 8 people’s different schedules, and have joy in my children while doing so.

But, instead, I end up with an incredibly debilitating pregnancy.

And a sick boy.

And a husband having major reconstructive surgery. **

And then postpartum depression to top it off.

Not exactly what I was expecting.

But in all my weakness, and inability, the body of Christ rallied. People made us meals. Friends volunteered to watch children.  Teachers took kids on extended playdates. Administrators at school showed grace when things weren’t done or turned in on time. A neighbor volunteers to read to little ones, so I can help big ones with homework. Other friends gave rides, fed little people snacks, welcomed my kids into their homes and loved them like their own.

It was just embarrassing, how needy I was.

But then, God gently reminded me of the prayer I had been praying ever since Ian Thomas’ message broke into my life….

“…there would be no explanation except that there is a Resurrected Christ and He lives in HIS PEOPLE.”

Not just Kimberly, as one person.

Oh no, that would give her far to great an opportunity for pride.

No, He was answering that prayer.

For He was surely putting HIMSELF on display not through simply one person, but a BODY of PEOPLE all moving as the Spirit led them. All offering themselves, their time, their resources, to help another member of the Body…

me.

And Danny

And this rather large brood of energetic, ready-for-LIFE little children.

and the church planting mission He has placed us on.

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so, when people stop and gawk at the entourage of Iversons, and say, “I don’t know how you do it!”

I tell them,

“I don’t.”

“You want to know my secret?”

“Two thousand years ago, Jesus Christ lived, died and rose again from death. He is alive NOW. and He lives in His people.”

Our family can offer no other explanation.

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**THANK YOU-to all who prayed for Danny’s surgery.  The doctor told me beforehand, “I’m actually really excited about working on his shoulder. Its not your standard repair, so its an exciting challenge for me.”  Welp. I’m glad Danny could add some excitement to his day. But seriously, the doctor was AMAZING and is one of the best shoulder arthroscopic surgeons in the country.  We are beyond blessed to have been able to use him.  The surgery went well, the doctor is optimistic, Danny is very groggy, and is now embarking on a 6-10 month journey to full recovery, through an enormous amount of prayer and physical therapy. Let us know any prayer requests you have, because he’s gonna have ALOT of mindless exercises to do that can be filled with times of prayer and intercession!

Where does discipline come from?

But this kind never comes out except by prayer and fasting. (Matthew 17:21)

It kept ruminating around in my head.  I personally had decided to fast multiple times over the course of the past two months, but as soon as crisis hit, or the exhaustion set in, it was just too easy to reach for that food, grab that cup of coffee, down that handful of chocolate chips.

But this time, I did it.

It wasn’t because I am a disciplined person.

It isn’t because I am a holy person.

It was because I was a desperate person.

At the root of all Christian disciplines: prayer, fasting, early rising, Bible memory, giving, is an element of desperation. 

We are desperate to meet God. Desperate to see Him work. Desperate to be delivered.

Desperation drives discipline.

And I needed help. I needed miraculous intervention to the prism of thought life that held me as prisoner. So I abstained, because deliverance was more important to me than dinner. My discipline was driven by desperation.

It was the third day of the liquid fast, each day crying out for God to rescue me. I met with my pastor’s wife where I cried, and unloaded, and vented about how wild my kids are, how much I have failed to train them, how I can’t keep up with everything, how I have a sick boy  who needs a lot of attention right now, how my husband is about to have surgery and what am I going to do without his help?!?

We prayed. And God started moving.

A friend last minute volunteered to drive the kids home for me. When I got home, BOTH little boys fell asleep at the same time (which hasn’t happened in a good year or two). And as I desperately tried to catch up with the school emails and all the commitments I needed to plug into the calendar, the phone rang.  It was the Christian postpartum counselor I had spoken with a month prior. The one that I had left a little glib message with two weeks ago, “I don’t think I’m struggling with postpartum depression after all. Thanks anyways!” (just to sink further in during the subsequent days).  She asked how I was doing and if I wanted to set up an appointment to see her.  There were financial obstacles and time obstacles, but I would get back to her.  Twenty minutes later (still while the boys were sleeping so I could actually have a conversation without all hell breaking loose while I was talking!) one of the counseling pastors called to see how they could help financially so that I could go see someone. “Just pay your percent, and have the rest billed to the church. ” and that was that. So another phone call was made to set up an appointment with the counselor. I managed to get out of jury duty and rearrange another meeting in order to set up the appointment. In an hour flat it was all worked out.

And hope began to shine forth. Hope that I was on a path toward health again. Emotional. mental. spiritual. health.

We’re not at the end of the journey yet, but at least we’re moving in the right direction, and not sitting {LINK THIS } in a place of despair.

I have no doubt that “this kind” will come out through prayer and fasting. And God often waits a little while to move things into place so that He can bring the healing.

And it wasn’t my holiness that drove me to fasting and prayer.

No, desperation for God drives us to discipline for the sake of getting Him.

My man, standing by me as I feel with postpartum issues, and the juggling of six children...

My man, standing by me as I deal  with postpartum issues, and the juggling of six children…

 

 

My Sick Little Boy

“Jesus is so stwong. He is stwonger ‘dan satan. And Jesus love yittle Judah and he is wiff you. He is wiff you evewy day.”

The little white-boy afro hovers over his little baby brother and sings truth to him. Truth that even this Mama needs to hear every.single.moment of these action packed, feels-like-I’m-sinking in all the needs of this family of eight days.

Benjamin singing over Judah in his little bouncy seat

Benjamin singing over Judah in his little bouncy seat

Those songs sound like the ones I used to sing over him before placing him in his crib in that mold infested room. I thought it was a safe place for him, but all those nights of sleeping and playing in it were actually slowly infusing toxins into his little body.

We didn’t discover it all until last fall, and finally the health issues that little boy was having made sense. We worked our plan, and saw improvements.

But then symptoms started coming back towards the end of this summer. The sallow face. The bags under those brown eyes.  I started catching him laying around the house more and more, just like he had done in our old house. The fatigue, and achy legs, and he started catching every sickness that came into our home, and it took him twice as long as anyone else to get better from it.

It was time to do some health hunting again.

His pediatrician (who was at least honest enough to admit this!) told me that western medicine is ill equipped to deal with detoxifying a body and strengthening an immune system.  “If you need drugs, I can prescribe them, but other than that, I can only refer you to a naturopath or someone who deals with detoxifying the body.”

So last week, I loaded the three little guys up early in the morning to drive to Birmingham to get tested with a much-recommended naturopath.  We would also be conveniently visiting my wonderful, wise and encouraging 89 year old grandmother who lives in Birmingham as well.

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Grandma Murphy’s first time meeting Judah

After Benjamin’s testing, several months of my suspicions were confirmed. He’s still got an off-the-chart level of mycotoxins (from the mold) in his body. He’s got chemicals and hard metals festering there.  His gut and liver are in hyperdrive trying to remove the toxins, but because he is gluten, dairy, peanut, soy and sugar intolerant (and the kid lives off of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches….good job, mom.) his body has been constantly attacked, with not a break to recover.

The doctor told me, “This little boy couldn’t have experienced enough trauma and stress in just four years to cause his adrenal glands to be this depleted, even with all the exposure to mold….The only other explanation is that your adrenals were shot when you were pregnant with him.” Well, as a matter of fact they were. (we were in the middle of leaving the ministry in Newark, to move to seminary, and my body completely shut down)

The doctor asked about rapid mood swings, about complaining about running, about his bowel movements….all things she could read on the scan she had done, and it hit the nail on the head.

Serotonin levels were extremely low, leaving no buffer to deal with conflicting emotions.

The yeast and mold has settled even in his joints, which explains why he doesn’t run as much as the other kids, and hates walking up and down the stairs (or is that only when I’ve asked him to do his chores?)

His digestive tract is in ruins because of all the stuff I’ve been feeding him that his body can’t digest.

That appointment for my boy connected a lot of dots. explained a lot of issues. but also gave me a heap of a lot of work to do to try to get my little man better.

nebulizer treatments. round the clock herbal supplements. vials of homeopathic prescriptions. alkalizing water treatments. soap and skin care product changes. and a major dietary overhaul.

SO….on top of adjusting to life with six and trying to keep up with the older three and all their school commitments and homework and projects. and on top of nursing and caring for an infant, while his two preschool brothers get into everything imaginable in the house, we now are playing Dr. Mom AND specialized- gourmet, gluten-free, dairy-free, peanut-free, soy-free, and sugar-free chef.

And based on the symptoms that the doctor was describing, I have very strong suspicions that Katy-Grace and Malachi also have gluten intolerance as well.

I have to admit it. Our family is now categorized in the “food snob” bracket of society.  We’re taking everyone off gluten and dairy and we’re eating a whole lot of fruits and veggies and rice.

So when we turn down the snacks offered or the treats given, please don’t take it personally. Can you offer us blueberries instead?  We have restrictions now, but we know that “The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; surely I have a delightful inheritance.” (Psalm 16:6) and we will be happy and content with our boundary lines

We know that our “bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? We are not our own; we were bought at a price. Therefore we will seek to honor God with our bodies. (I Cor. 6:19-20)

And we will be careful what we put in them, not so that we can “achieve” perfect health, or simply be healthy in order to have a “happy life”, but because that little boy, Benjamin,

he has some more singing to do.

And he has more hearts to touch.

And this mamma wants to give him every opportunity to do so, using a strong, healthy, mold and toxin-free body, that can be poured out for the sake of others. (2 Timothy 4:6)

 

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Anyone have some brilliant bulk style, affordable, gluten free and dairy free meal ideas?  Please share! It will save this busy mamma some time researching!

 

Mouths of Babes….Malachi

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They were all piled on the bed.

Sprawled out during our nightly family devotions.

We are reading through the Bible as a family, and we’re camped out in the book of Numbers right now.

I know, I know, not exactly an attention-grabber book of the Bible for little ones.

But you would be surprise, how much our family has gotten out of reading the book.

Even little, hardly-talking-yet Malachi.

Daddy’s voice was gone, so Mommy was reading that night from Numbers 13….

 But the people who live there are powerful, and the cities are fortified and very large. We even saw descendants of Anak there. The Amalekites live in the Negev; the Hittites, Jebusites and Amoriteslive in the hill country; and the Canaanites live near the sea and along the Jordan.”

And while I read it, all of a sudden half-asleep Malachi pops up and starts pointing to himself,

“Me!? Me!? Me!?”

It didn’t register in my mind, so I was about to scold him about needing to be quiet during family devotions, but Danny caught it…

“He heard Amalakite. And he thinks you said his name.”

Well, prove me wrong again.

All those nights that I spend half of family devotions breaking up feet fights between children sprawled on a bed, they might just be listening,

And through all the times I keep telling them to be quiet and listen,  they might just be listening.

And even if I’ve just yelled at them, I still gather them to hear God’s Word despite the fact that the one reading it is unworthy to share it with them, they might just be listening.

And those Words, and my prayers might just be laying dormant for a time, but Malachi’s little reaction gives me hope, that life will come from the seeds planted.

So, I’ll keep breaking up feet fights, and keep reigning in attention spans, and keep quieting talkative preschoolers, and keep bringing those kids to the Source of Strength that we all need desperately….

banking, all the while,  on the promise…

so is My word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty,

but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.  

Isaiah 55:11

From the Mouths of Babes….Breastfeeding According to an 8 yr. old Boy

This kid, the one that loves babies, is obsessed with holding his little brother.

Sometimes to the point of harassing me.

There was a mini-war-turned-formal-schedule over which sibling got to hold Judah during family devotions each night.

And if Mommy actually has to be nursing during the scheduled hold-Judah-night there is no lack of impatience.

Mommy, can I hold him?

Not yet, honey, he’s hungry and I need to feed him.

Mommy, is he done yet? 

No honey, I can’t make him eat any faster.

Oh, now, Mommy, can I hold him?

No, honey I have to burp him and feed him on the other side….

and so it goes.

And after devotions that evening, he was pondering the “other side” of nursing.

Mommy, why does Judah have to eat on both sides?

Because they get full of milk and he needs to empty both sides. 

Ohhhhh, soooo….its like two nerf guns that are loaded and once you finishing shooting one, then you have to shoot the other one. 

Exactly.

Sort-of.

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Family Devotions…blurrily captured by a little set of hand playing with Mommy’s iPhone.

Judah David Iverson

To read the background story of this little one’s birth, click here

 

Our prayer is that you will have the Word of the Lord as a fire in your bones, that drives your life and you can't help but share with others.

Our prayer is that you will have the Word of the Lord as a fire in your bones, that drives your life and you can’t help but share with others.

May God be gracious to you, so that you might make His salvation known to all peoples

May God be gracious to you, so that you might make His salvation known to all peoples

God knew Judah David was to be part of our family all during those months of working on an adoption home study

God was planning on forming you, giving you to us, Judah David,   all during those months of working on an adoption home study, thinking our next baby would be an adopted one.

“Sweet Little Boy, that I love so much. “

That’s what I love to sing over you.

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But did you know that I pray your name over you, too?

We named you Judah.

Judah, because it means “I will praise the Lord” or “praised one” in Hebrew, where we first find it in that Holy Word. That Word in which we find our life and ourselves and our Savior.

and we pray that you would see the sweetness and holiness of God, and would be in awe and wonder, and that you, too,  would praise Him.

And you know, son, Judah was Abraham’s great-grandson. He was a promised descendant of Abraham, when God told him.

 “And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”     Genesis 12:2-3

Our family, the one God chose to bring you into, is blessed because of that blessing, for that blessing of all the families on the earth was actually a foreshadowing of  Savior who would be available, not just to Abraham’s descendants, but to all people.

It is to this Savior, that your Daddy and I cling.  It is in the death and resurrection of this Savior that we find our hope for this life and the next.   It is under this Savior’s perfect performance and obedience, that we hide ourselves, because your Daddy and I, we are weak, and selfish, and we are sinful, and we will fail you.  But our prayer is that you, yourself, despite all our earthly failings, will cling to Him as well.

And do you know what family this Savior was born into?

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It was the family line of….

JUDAH. 

God gave Judah a promise,

“The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet, until tribute comes to him; and to him shall be the obedience of the peoples.”   Genesis 49:10

God was promising that the King of kings, and the Lord of lords would be born through Judah’s line.  A King with a scepter, not of an earthly kingdom but of an Eternal One.

But you know what, honey, that Judah, the one that received that promise, he did some really rotten things in his life. It’s all recorded  and right there out in the open in the Bible. All his shame, and disgrace, and rebellion.  And, unfortunately, one day you will also have to come face to face with your own rebellion, and shame and disgrace. But here is the beauty in it, my son, Judah’s failures didn’t nullify God’s promises for him.  And neither will yours.

Judah’s name, and his story, and God’s story through his story actually represents hope.  Judah represents salvation to come. Judah represents the promises of God, that shine all the brighter in the backdrop of our own stumblings and wanderings. Judah represents promises that may seemingly be left unfulfilled, but always come to fruition in their time. Judah represents the faithfulness of God.

And as you grow and develop and your mind expands, we pray it will expand to catch glimpses of that faithfulness more and more. We pray that your own heart will learn to praise that God, just like your Mommy and Daddy do.  And we pray that that praise overwhelms your heart so much that it moves you to share with others how great and faithful your God is.

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We also named you David.

Your Grandpa Jones’ name is David.  And that David prayed your Mamma through many tumultuous years. He faithfully cared for your Mamma and taught her to run to, and listen to the God of the David after whom he was named. Because he knew to cling to the Faithful God, he was faithful. Faithful in those early years to give us a glimpse of the Heavenly Father, and faithful in those later years, after your Grandma Katy died, and he was left to raise three kids by himself. If it weren’t for his constant consuming of the Word of God and his consistency in going before the Throne of God in prayer, your Mamma might not have made it through those tumultuous years.

You’re not just named after your Grandpa, but also named after the David that he is named after.  That David, he was a hero.  A mighty warrior.  A victorious king.  He conquered lands and gained territory, and expanded a kingdom. But he also expanded THE Kingdom. Do you know why?

Because He learned to praise.

And praise isn’t just a happy cry to God.  It can be a desperate crying out too.

For in both joy and in sorrow, the place where you run to, is the place you prize the most.

And David learned this well.  That mighty warrior started out as a humble, no-name, my-dad-forgot-about-me shepherd.  But out there in the quiet, he learned to commune with God. He learned where to run, so that when he himself was running (from persecutors), he ran right to the Faithful Father.  And when he failed, he ran to the Faithful Father. And our prayer is that you will learn to do the same.

Already learning to be a prayer warrior

Already learning to be a prayer warrior

May you learn the secret of his strength, both when his world was falling apart, and when the world was being handed to him in victory:

Psalm 18

For the director of music. Of David the servant of the Lord.

HE sang to the Lord the words of this song

when the Lord delivered him from the hand of all his enemies and from the hand of Saul.

He said: 

“I love you, O Lord, my strength.

The Lord is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer:

My God is my rock, in whom I take refuge.

He is my shield and the horn of my salvation,

my Stronghold.

I call to the Lord, who is worthy of praise,

and I am saved from my enemies

And this David that learned to praise, was born through a family line.

The family line of Judah.

David was a king and carried an earthly scepter, but it was not the scepter promised to Judah those hundreds of years prior. No, he was still looking ahead to the One who would carry an Eternal scepter, and because of his love for God, his heart that was after Him, God promised to bring the One who would carry that eternal scepter through his family line, too.

So you see, son, your name,

Judah David

really represents…..

……double praise.

Judah David represents…..

…….a double promise.

Judah David represents…..

……a double pointing

to a Savior who would come. A Savior and King and God who humbled Himself and came through families, Judah’s and David’s.

Have you ever heard of something so wild?

The story of a God, who does demand, but rather demeans Himself to the point of ugly death on a cross, just so he could derive a NEW family line out of the mess that Judah and David were entrapped in, the mess called sin.

And just as Judah…and David….and your mommy….and your daddy….were called into that new family, we pray you will be called into it as well.

But the prayer and the promise doesn’t stop with just your life, son.

No, just as Judah, and David, were chosen to be part of a family line that points to Jesus in future generations, .

your life is called to be a double praise, and a double promise and a double pointing of others to Jesus so that generations after you will get a chance to see Him,

because of Jesus living in you, and flowing through you,

and a whole family of Judah (all those you impact) will find themselves a part of the Eternal Family of God, sweetly being ruled under the mighty and loving Scepter of King Jesus.

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Dormant Prayers and New Growth that Emerges

It was like they had all laid dormant.

But then finally growth begins to emerge where simple seeds of prayer had lain buried in the soil of the will of God.

You see, I had met Tahra, a Muslim Bangladeshi woman about my age,  last December, while I was trying to coordinate hosting international students in people’s homes for Christmas. Her English teacher had told me she was really struggling with the recent death of her mother, and caring for her 4 year old paralyzed son, and the four year wait for her husband to be able to join her from Bangladesh.

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Bangladeshi women are always beautifully clad. The women that are able to immigrate to America are so thankful to be here, rather than there, generally. In Tahra’s case, her son would not still be alive if she had not had access to American healthcare.

So I called her up and asked if I could come visit her and bring her some food.

I remember pulling up to the small house, the one that housed not only her but several other Bangladeshi families, with all my kiddos in-tow, and saying “Lord, I’m nervous, but I’m showing up. You’re going to have to take care of the rest.”

We ended up having a great conversation, as I know well the overwhelming loss she was experiencing, and I prayed with her and promised to come visit her again soon.

Two weeks later, I found out I was pregnant.

I eeked out enough strength to make a couple more visits, even getting to read Scripture to her and pray it over her son, who lay there hooked up to breathing treatments.

But those visits were few and far between.

Most days I was just barely surviving, without even the strength and energy to feed my own family, much less reach out to Tahra and stay connected in her life.

The guilt pressed in, but the prayers bled out as I laid there on the couch, or bed, or floor and thought about her, and all I wanted to do for her.

Prayers from afar was all I had to offer her.

And in those long months of growing a child, those prayers seemed to lay dormant.

And I asked the Lord, “How is she ever going to know the love and power of Christ, if the people with the Presence of Christ never show up in her life?!?”

And those prayers mingled with guilt and frustration continued to be planted until…

until life started to sprout out of those dormant prayers…

In the slower-paced summer months, I started to regain some strength so I tried to reach out again.

One afternoon’s text: “Hi Tahra! How are you doing? I’m sorry I’ve been so out of contact with you!”

Her response sent my heart soaring….

What church do you go to?

was all she said.

“What?!?!“My mind started racing… “Why on earth is she asking THAT? What have you been up to, Lord?!?”

I quickly found out that she had actually gotten a driving ticket and needed to do 20 hours of community service and needed to find a church to do them at.

I most certainly did have a church where she could do them.

It wasn’t quite what I was hoping for, but I would take it!

The next two weeks, the Lord filled a tired, pregnant mamma with supernatural energy to make phone calls, give rides, and help Tahra her get all her community service hours done by the two week deadline.

It was her two week crash course on being a Christ follower.

Through a school supply outreach, she learned why we Christians serve the underprivileged…not because we are earning points with God but because He served us in the Person of Jesus Christ who went to the underprivileged and showed them who God really was, and then died for them so that they could know Him for themselves.

Through helping out with the kids program, she learned that we teach our kids very similar morals to those that her Muslim faith holds dear, but for a different reason….because those morals exhibit the holiness of God, and if His Holy Spirit lives in us, then those will be the morals that come out of our lives as followers of Him .

Through the helping at the food pantry for the neediest of our community…we spoke of our neediness being the best thing for us.  We can only truly know God if we bring him our neediness, not our best efforts.  Jesus died for sinners in need of salvation, not sinners in need of better rules to follow.

Through working with other Christians at a church dinner, she learned of the kindness of the people who claim Jesus as their Lord.

Through helping with a church service, and she sat and listened to Randy Pope explain how we can listen to God and why we can listen to God-because Jesus lives to intercede between us and a Holy God.

And she witnessed us taking communion in that church service, and as I ushered my kids up to go receive it, I whispered to her that I would explain it all later.

And I did.

But not just to her.

That night as I ate their post-sunset Ramadan meal with them, I got to share the reason Christians partake of communion, the Lord’s supper. with her extended family in that Bangladeshi bungalow. (it was all women…the husbands and fathers were at work)

Starting with the very beginning, in Genesis we talked of the need for death of animals to cover Adam and Even’s nakedness in their sin, then went on to the story of Abraham and the death of the lamb instead of his son, Isaac (not Ishmael, as the Koran says), to Moses and the passover as God delivered them from death and slavery. We talked of the night before Jesus’ death, as he celebrated the Passover with his disciples, and his declaration that all those hundreds of years that the Jews celebrated that feast, it was really all leading up to, pointing to HIM.  The Passover Lamb.  And we Christians continue to eat of that feast, to remind us, that none is worthy. That we need a sacrifice for us to replace the life-debt we owe for our rebellion.  That Christ was that sacrifice, but because He was God and man at the same time, he rose again from death, therefore conquering it once and for all, for those who trust in His Name.

We spoke of the difference between the Koran and the Bible, and the commands that Mohammed gave verses the salvation that Jesus freely offers.

I sang those women the Scripture song I made up for my children.

“Romans 3:21-24″

But now a righteousness from God, apart from the law has been made known, to which the law and prophets testify. This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe-there is no difference… For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace, through redemption that came by Christ Jesus.

 

And after our three hour discussion, I left that home, rejoicing in the power of prayer to a Living God.

Those prayers had lain dormant for a time.

But, God was waiting.

Waiting for a driving violation.

Waiting for a judge to assigned 20 hours of community service at a local church.

Waiting for some renewed strength for me, so I could show up again in Tahra’s life.

Waiting for the season that He ordained, for the message of his salvation and love to be planted in not just Tahra’s life, but her family’s life as well.

So, while those prayers seemed to lay dormant,

God was working all along.

Waiting for spring, when new life would emerge.

Prayer, too, has its seasons.

From the Mouths of Babes….A Big One

This kid LOVES babies.

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This kid, who, for the three months leading up to Judah’s arrival, did everything he could to help ease my life because it finally registered in his mind that out of Mommy’s misery, a wee little babe would emerge.

And he was excited!

He cleared out his own dresser drawers so there would be room for Judah’s clothes, he loaded baby toys into his closet and set up a diaper station. (I kept telling him, Judah wouldn’t join him in his room for several months but he just wanted to “be ready”)

The week of Judah’s arrival finally came, and because of a traumatic delivery, and a flooded basement, I hadn’t seen that firstborn of mine in five days.  All of his siblings would be going to the pool after school, but he decided to skip out on it because he could.not.wait to meet his new little brother.

The minute his head popped into the bedroom, to meet that tiny bundle, he started exclaiming

“Ooooh Mommy!!!!”

while he jumped around the room.

“Can I hold him? Can I hold him?”

So after a hand washing, and a settling down, we unwrapped that precious miracle and he held his new baby brother for the first time

“He’s so cute I could faint!”

That eight year old boy was absolutely giddy.

Over a baby.

And God knew, those many years ago, exactly what type of firstborn, what type of leader, what type of sensitive personality this Mommy would need as a right-hand man as Danny and I wrangle this now half a dozen kids.

 

Big brother LOVES his baby brother

Big brother LOVES his baby brother

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His love of babies even motivated him to keep refilling Mommy’s water and bringing me food in bed!

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Giddy over the tiny bundle!

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Lovin’ on his little bro!

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Once he learned about skin-to-skin time he started taking off his shirt to let Judah lay on his chest.

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Firstborn and natural leader…or forced into leadership because there are so many little ones following him.

 

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10 years

10 years.

This past week we celebrated 10 years of marriage.

A marriage that we embarked on, young, energetic, incredibly in love…and ready to change the world.

A marriage that we prayed over-that God would fulfill his promise in Psalm 67

“May God be gracious to us and bless us and make his face to shine upon us…”

but we didn’t just want the blessing….we wanted the purpose of the blessing….

“so that your ways might be known on earth, your salvation among all nations. “

And the evening we went to celebrate that 10 year long marriage, God showed his blessing and he enabled us to see a tiny glimpse of Him using it to make His ways known on earth, in real people’s lives.

~~~~~~~~~

10 year anniversary celebrated with baby #6 along as a chaperone....or because I'm his food source

10 year anniversary celebrated with baby #6 along as a chaperone….or because I’m his food source

The day had filled Danny’s inbox with 120 sweet memories of our 120 months of marriage, and countless recountings of situations that God has provided in, shown His faithfulness in, and delivered us in, times of laughter and tears, accounts of being led and directed by the same Spirit that had brought us together to begin with.

The evening had brought a demand to be dressed up and ready to go by 6:30, childcare was lined up and reservations had been made.

When we arrive on site, a table had previously been spread with flowers and a poem.  While I had been typing out all those memories and emailing Danny every half hour during the day, that husband of mine had also been reflecting over these past ten years….and had penned a poem.

~~~~~~~~

Seasons of Joy and Seasons of Tears  By Daniel Iverson IV

 The days of gazing into your beautiful eyes

Have slowly turned into beautiful years

We have walked through the valleys and flown in the skies

In seasons of joy and seasons of tears

 

We discovered our children through passion and love

Their voices of magic still filling our ears

Their laughter and weeping remind our hearts of

These seasons of joy and these seasons of tears

 

For better or worse, in sickness and health

Through thunder and rainbows we’ve learned how to steer

In danger or safety, in wanting or wealth

These seasons of joy and these seasons of tears

 

The sunrise remembers the light of His grace

As we walk through the dark without any fear

His promise unites us, our hearts set ablaze

Through seasons of joy and seasons of tears.

 

In every encounter, my beautiful wife

My joy is unleashed, when your face appears

To have and to hold you beside me for life

In seasons of joy, and seasons of tears

 For my Beautiful Bride Kimberly, on our 10th Anniversary – September 18th, 2014

~~~~~~~

And while we chatted, and talked about the past and looked ahead to the future, every time our waitress came by I couldn’t help but sense that she was carrying some sort of weight around with her. After our lovely dinner, and our sweet time together I planned to ask her if she had anything we could pray about for her.

But he beat me to it.

Once again, right there on the anniversary of the Spirit leading us together in marriage, the Spirit would impress upon our hearts and minds the same things….so that the Spirit could flow through us to make God known to someone who needed Him.

“Hey, Brianna, is there anything we could pray about for you?”,

my husband inquires as she fills glasses again.

Wow

She says.

Yes, actually there is! But let me go take those people’s order and I’ll be right back. “

After several minutes she came back, and but she didn’t just mention a grandma with cancer, or a dad that needed a job, or a desire to be happy and blessed.

No, she pulled up a chair to our table and started sharing her burden…

“Ok, so I’m in the army. and when I was at my last station out in California, some sergeants and I decided to go swimming in this lake while we were on our day off.  So one of the sergeant’s and I decided to go kinda far out to a set of rocks, and half way out he started dog paddling and looking worried. I asked him if he was OK and he said yes. 

So we kept going. 

We were closer to the rocks, but he still looked like he was really struggling. I asked him if he was OK and he said yes, so we kept going. 

We finally made it to the rocks, and I climbed up and he was about to climb up to, when he went under. I started screaming for help, and tried to reach down for him, but the algae from the rocks made everything murky. I screamed and screamed for the rest of our friends and searched for him, but by the time they got over there, and we found him, he had been under water for 3-4 minutes.  We tried to do CPR but he didn’t make it.  

Tears were filling her eyes…

It’s killing me inside…he had a wife and three kids, and I constantly replay it in my mind and think what I could have done differently.  I feel like I’m going to explode. 

Then, as if that isn’t hard enough, one of the my other army friends committed suicide this past week. 

I feel like I’m drowning in grief and guilt.  I just don’t know how to cope with all this. I feel like I have to fake being happy, and just keep going, but I’m dying on the inside. The only reason I got this waitressing job was so that I don’t have to go home at night and think about it all. 

So we sat there, on our anniversary date, and because God had been gracious to us and blessed us with ten years of fidelity and commitment and love through the storms, we were celebrating at the table of a waitress who desperately needed the face of God to shine in her life. He had indeed blessed us, so that His ways may be known on the earth, to Brianna.

We prayed with her there, thanking Jesus for his death that conquers all death. We prayed over her brokenheartedness and  grief and guilt.  And we thanked Him that He himself wept over death, and He himself knows all the pain and agony we face because he dealt with it on the cross. We prayed that because He rose again, Brianna’s heart would rise again as well.

By this time she was really crying.

When we ended she tells us

You have no idea how much I needed this…. I feel like I have no one to talk to about all this. I know I should go back to church and all, but ever since my mom and dad split up, and my dad was a bishop in the church, I just said, “forget that!” But all this that I”m going through has really shown me that I DO need God in my life.

And that disclosure led to a whole new conversation, about “church” not being a magic fix, but a hospital for broken people, and a place to meet Jesus in. And she wrote down our church’s name and meeting times, and I gave her my contact card, and assured her we would continue to pray for her.

And as we drove home, we once again stood in awe of God’s goodness and faithfulness to answer our prayer that He would use our marriage to make God known….even to a waitress who desperately needed to know His presence.

The sweetest anniversary gift

with which too celebrate

10 years.

~~~~~~~

“May God be gracious to us and bless us and cause His face to shine upon us

so that your ways might be known on earth, your salvation among all nations. “

Psalm 67:1-2

~~~~~~~

“Your teachers will be hidden no more; with your own eyes you will see them. 21 Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, “This is the way; walk in it.”  

Isaiah 30:20

**If you want to see what Danny did for our engagement, click here. 

If you want to see what he made for me for our five year anniversary, click here.

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