The Move, the Emotions, and the Empathy

I had dragged little people down there at 8pm, with sleeping bags, a paintbrush, and a large cup of coffee in hand.

We made makeshift beds for them on the carpet padding, and then got to work.

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Our kids “corner” for sleeping or watching movings….nail free, and fairly clean.

 

Always fighting back panic with song.

But the panic gained ground.

and gave way to panicked pleading.

Please, God, please. Work a miracle in this place and please, please, please let it be ready for us to move in  in two weeks!

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Little ones in a work zone is….stressful. to say the least.

 

I swept up a pile of sheetrock and spackle dust. Sending the dust swirling into the air…

and onto anything nearby.

Sweeping up sheetrock dust, the Lord met me.

Sweeping up sheetrock dust, the Lord met me.

Visions of me endlessly wiping the dusty stuff off our furniture that would have to be moved in to a work zone because our lease had run out, flashed through my mind.

A phone call from our dear ministry partner, Chuck, who lives a few blocks away, led to the discussion of the fact that we had no kitchen counters and no kitchen sink.

“That’s OK” I said, only half believing it, “people all over the world function without kitchen sinks.”

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BEAUTIFUL cabinets redone by my artist friend….but with no kitchen sink or countertops on them.

 

As we hung up the phone, it hit me.

Every emotion I was walking through, with thoughts of moving my kids into an unsafe environment, into a living condition hazardous to human flourishing, and all the tension that comes along with it…

…the inner turmoil that come with instability, without a place to call home and settle down in…

….every extra strain because of financial constrictions that hinder you from being able to just do what you need to do to take care of your family….

….functioning without hot water, electricity, and yes, even kitchen sinks…

is experienced every day

in this neighborhood.

Most women do it without a spouse, and with just as many children as I have, and without a support system praying for them and helping them.

The feelings of being stuck and trapped in circumstances are exactly where God wanted me.

It was an introduction into the neighborhood.

into their emotional world.

And realizing that, helped lift the panic, and submit to the plan, God’s plan, knowing it was all part of His training and preparation for me to be able to love my new neighbors from a place of mutual understanding.

So when, 36 hours before we were had to have every item that 8 people own out of our rental house, right as I finished taping up the last “kitchen” box with everything needed to feed those 8 people, I got a phone call telling me we had failed our electrical inspection and Georgia Power had immediately cut the line to our home, I fully walked in those emotions…

instead of fighting them.

I found myself in more of a place of receiving rather that restricting.

Receiving the education, and the experience the Lord was giving me,

rather that trying to control, constrict and throw a conniption over my frustration.

And from the very beginning of our move, we were forced into a place of receiving…for we had to call on neighbors to run massive extension chords to help light lamps to finish the painting, and the installation of the kitchen sink, and then run a space heater to keep an Iverson crew warm until the power got turned back on Tuesday morning.

We saw God do miracles with changing the hearts of those working on the electrical situation.  We saw His provision through our Muslim neighbor who ran the extension chord.  We saw His care threw our black neighbor who helped with painting and has become a friend and declared “this is crazy…I’ve never been friends with a white man before”. And we see His faithful steady care as little by little appliances have been provided, work has been done, friends have shown up help with little projects, so that we could start unpacking boxes….and this home, it is becoming a haven.

A haven, not just for us, but for those who for their whole lives,  have been walking through the tension and stress that I endured for just a few weeks.

Watch the slideshow to see some of the transformations:

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A Pathway Through….

**Note: I know many people have asked for an update on our move and how things are going in our new neighborhood, but since I have been painting, and working on renovations and unpacking boxes and feeding small people and lugging laundry through the path of boxes and chaos, I don’t have it written up yet. But in the meantime, and for the sake of showing that we ARE still alive, here is a blog post I actually wrote 6 weeks ago, and never posted. Update post soon to come! pathway-at-hallasan

For I am about to do something new.

See, I have already begun! Do you not see it?

I will make a pathway through the wilderness.

Isaiah 43:19

A single girl living a life of freedom and independence in New York City, the city she loves, but with a job she hates.

A single mom of five living in a small apartment in crime-ridden Newark,NJ recently “adopting” her four teenage nieces and nephew after her sister passed away, with no choice but to keep caring for them all and scrounge what she can to feed the large crew.

The CFO of a top U.S company, with a home, pool, and nearby horse farm that rivals the top vacation destinations of the country, but who feels empty in the corporate ladder he has so successfully climbed.

A missionary mom struggling through the culture shock of moving her family of six to one of the darkest and most desperate third-world countries in the world : doing radical things for Jesus, but wondering if she will survive it…survive tomorrow.

A mom of six with access to incredible school systems, Costco’s  and green parks in the suburbs of Atlanta, Ga, but who feel so fractured by the endless schedule because of all the resources available to her and her children.

These individuals, they are all close friends of mine. They are all Christians.  They know the Bible. They want to follow Jesus.  But each one is also struggling….groping along, wondering “how did I get here? And why does it look so endless and dismal?”

It just goes to show  that our circumstances can vary widely, but the exact same sentiments can be had by all. trapped. depressed. empty. purposeless. Rich or poor. Privileged or not. “Free” or bound.  All finding themselves in a wilderness.

And what to do with it?  With the wilderness we find ourselves in, with no seeming way out of it?

Ah. But there it is….we desperately want a way out. 

But the eternal promise is for a way through.

I will make a pathway through the wilderness.” 

Our time on this earth is full of wildernesses. And instead of the long list of ideas on how we could get ourselves out of them….

if I just got a different job,

if I just didn’t have so many kids to take care of

if my work was just more fulfilling

if I just lived in a place that wasn’t so externally hard

if I just didn’t have so many schedules and responsibilities to take care of….

Then I’d be OK. Then I’d be out of this wilderness. Then I’d be happy.

But Jesus wants far more for us. He wants to give us eyes to see, He wants to train our eyes to see, and find, the pathway He is making through the wilderness.  A pathway for today.

A pathway that is strangely familiar

But is also new.

For the pathway is actually HIM.

I AM THE WAY…IN ME you will have peace….no one comes to the Father except through ME.

But it will also look differently each day. It will be new each day.

And our eyes for seeing it, they are in training.

So despair not, sweet friends.

Despair not, oh my soul.

He is doing a new thing. He is sending his very Spirit…His Graceful, Counseling Presence into this moment, and He will be in the next. Just have eyes to see Him there. See Him here.

Fully stand, leaning the full weight of your being onto this moment with Him, step by step, and moment by moment

and walk on the pathway He is making.

A pathway, not out of, but through the wilderness.

~~~~~~~

Some of my pathway stepping stones…only seen…only fully stepped upon, by inviting Jesus, moment by moment, to give me eyes to see the path He is creating through the wilderness of my filled-to-the-brim life.

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witnessing the growth of sisterhood (even with it’s growing pains)

the constant companionship of these little guys...and the fact that on THIS particular morning, they got themselves dressed without mommy

the constant companionship of these little guys…and the fact that on THIS particular morning, they got themselves dressed without mommy

In a room that usually looks like this....

In a room that usually looks like this….

finding shoes neatly placed side by side (even if they ARE suppose to be in the shoe bin)

finding shoes neatly placed side by side (even if they ARE suppose to be in the shoe bin)

magnetic shapes buying me some time so I can make phone calls to doctors and insurance companies...

magnetic shapes buying me some time so I can make phone calls to doctors and insurance companies…

I witnessed a miracle….

I trucked my little ones down there, armed with snacks, action figures, and a laptop to play movies on…

…Desperately trying to make progress on a project that seems impossible.

I walk into a house that is suppose to be “home” to a family of eight in just three short weeks, and it looks like this:

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As I entered the mess and chaos, and with it, the enormous to-do list, I started…

singing.

Something welled up inside me to declare,

I don’t care what kind state this place is in, it is going to be a place where Jesus Christ is worshipped. 

Don’t get me wrong, this house renovation has been a vacillating faith walk for me these past several months.  I have laid this house before King Jesus more times than I can count, praying boldly that it would be like the Tabernacle of the Old Testament, in which God already had all the details and measurements in mind for it. He anointed men to work on it and build it and He even lined up all the materials for it. And then it became a place of reverent worship unto Him. (mmm…that sounds vaguely familiar to the book that is in the process of being written) And I pray diligently and I believe faithfully, and then…

every time I would show up to the work site, all my faith would quickly run down the drain…a drain that looks like the paint-covered, spackle-crusted one that is suppose to give my babies baths in three weeks.

But today, today I would choose to sing, and declare the praises of my Lord in a place and situation that seems too impossible for human hands to fix. 

I check my phone to see what the weather is suppose to be like on Saturday, a day scheduled for volunteers to come and help with fixing up the place.

One of the coldest weekends of the winter predicted… too cold to paint, too cold to work outside in our demolition-site-appearance of a yard.

I lay that before King Jesus too, for He is Lord of weather and warmth.

Saturday morning, after a 4:00 am rising, we re-enter a house that still looks like it did earlier in the week.

And this time, a new battle cry, or maybe heart submission stirs.

Lord, I know I made that inner vow months ago, “There is NO way I’m moving my family into an unfinished house.” But, Lord, if you have given us the faith to move into this neighborhood, you can give me the faith to move into a house that isn’t completely finished. Faith from YOU can enable me to do and endure anything. I surrender it all to your will. 

And then I started singing again.

For when your own efforts can do little to change circumstances, your heart efforts in sacrificial praise and thanksgiving can.

9 a.m people start rolling in…people I have never met before. People who just got wind that a family needed help with their house renovations. Master organizers started cleaning and sorting the tools and supplies strewn all over the place. Skilled workers who actually knew how to fix porches and put trim up and spackle sheetrock rolled in. Skilled painters came in who painted cabinets and walls and closets. And skilled chefs brought food to nourish working individuals.

 

Danny sharing the vision for our move to Grove Park

Danny sharing the vision for our move to Grove Park

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God miraculously brought hands and feet to help us get this job done

 

And the sun came out. And the temperature rose. And in 55 degree weather people joyfully filled an entire dumpster with all the scrap materials that cluttered the yard, and in bright sunshine men fixed rotting wood on the porch, and in a warm breeze we later gathered to eat lunch and talk about how God is stirring…doing something mighty in this place.

reconstructing a porch that had been eaten by termites

reconstructing a porch that had been eaten by termites

It used to look like this

It used to look like this

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Later in the day we gathered in the driveway to eat and fellowship in the warm sun

 

And as I bustle about getting supplies for different projects and giving direction to different “crews” I keep saying.

This is a miracle.

THIS is a miracle.

This is a miracle!

Hope bloomed bold in my heart. Maybe, just maybe, we will move into a (mostly) finished house. And if we don’t, my heart is in a place to receive that, too, with thanksgiving. And thanks to the wonderful people who showed up, I now know how to cut, install, and spackle sheetrock. Which makes all of the other jobs around the house more “learnable”. (I mean, who says, a mom of six can’t finish sheet rocking the basement, or  learn how to place tile in a bathroom, or lay a backsplash in the kitchen?!?)

By the end of the day, FORTY individuals had come through that house. Some worked for two hours, some for 8. Some were 7 years old and some were 65. Some were skilled carpenters and some were kids who just picked up trash or sanded re-usable trim.

There is still MUCH to be done, but this mamma has witnessed a miracle. And what I see happening in a physical building, I am praying for in the human hearts of my new neighbors, in myself, as we build, not only a house for my kids to dwell in, but a community of Jesus followers for my Savior to dwell in.

After all, I have witnessed a miracle.

God is building us a tabernacle, so that we can be His hands and feet to build His Tabernacle.

A Tabernacle of people who are His, who believe their God and witness His miracles.

To watch a short video of Danny sharing the vision before the work day two weeks ago, click HERE. 

 

 

 

 

Will I grab for it, or will I listen for it?

Salt was flying.

Sugar was spilling.

Baking powder was pouring.

Small hands were grabbing and snatching and dumping.

Ingredients jettisoning all over the kitchen.

A mommy was attempting baking…

…with an overly eager two year old and four year old.

Those little boys were so eager to help me make “gooten fwee bwownies” (Gluten Free history here)

that they were a little TOO eager.

For they were snatching things up and dumping things in and spilling things over and in their zeal, they were actually ruining the brownies they so desired to make.

“Boys, boys! You have to wait patiently, and listen to mommy, and step by step I will tell you what to do. If you don’t wait for instruction, you will ruin the brownies.”

And in that moment, I was the prophet.

Speaking, “Thus sayeth the Lord”

to a heart that needed to hear it.

For so often I long for the end result (yummy, Gluten Free brownies? or an influence in people’s lives for the sake of the Gospel? or a home that is well-run with lots of discipleship happening in it? or a house that needs to hurry-up-and-get-renovated-because-I’m-suppose-to-be-moving-my-kids-into-it-in-three-weeks? or a church to plant in a neighborhood I have a lot to learn from?)

But just like those boys, I’m grabbing and dumping and trying to outrace the other set of hands in order to try to accomplish things in my own, limited understanding.

But if I would just wait patiently in the presence of the Lord.

and listen for His voice

and expect to receive step by step instructions

and then DO them.

Then beautiful, powerful, and significant-for-the-Kingdom things will happen.

Sort of like those “gooten fwee bwownies” those little boys so proudly produced.

So proud of themselves!

So proud of themselves!

 

Lord,

I find set before me more ingredients and possibilities and to-do’s than any one person could possibly manage. Grant me the grace to enter into each day with a heart attitude of “you know the recipe, Lord, and I won’t touch or do or add anything unless your voice whispers, “now add this”  and “it’s time to do this”. So often I’m asking you to help me “get all this done!” but right now I ask you to help me hear Your voice. May I only touch what you tell me to touch, and do what you tell me to do. I believe and trust that you are creating something wonderful and I want to be a willing participant in it’s accomplishment, not a hindrance to it. I’m trusting you for the recipe, Lord.

 

Be still before the Lord, wait patiently for Him.   

Psalm 37:7

~~~~~

And your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, “This is the way, walk in it,” when you turn to the right or when you turn to the left.

Isaiah 30:21

~~~~~

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding, in all your ways acknowledge Him and He will make your path straight.  

Proverbs 3:5-6

Little Glimmers of God’s Work

A little girl in our home lost her first tooth this past week…

….and a mother caught a glimpse of God’s work.

 

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That five year old was thrilled to show all of her friends, including her “best” friend, our neighbor, who spends the afternoons and most evenings with us while she waits for her dad to get back from work. The two girls worked together during “homework time” to craft Katy-Grace’s first tooth fairy letter.**

This best friend (who is a single child) has become part of our family…and she has experienced the good, bad and ugly of our family.  She experienced our intentionality in building relationships when we first moved into our home. She experienced the massive dinners and the joyful whirlwind of children in and out of the house. Then she experienced my pregnancy days when I was so tired and overwhelmed that all I did was scream at my children. She has experienced bickering and complaining and the loudness and craziness of our home. She has experienced times when I intentionally discipled hearts through the “so-and-so isn’t including me!”, but she has also been there when I called from behind locked bedroom door “Just work it out!!”

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She might be five years older than Katy-Grace, but they are still the best of friends

 

She has experienced the rhythms of this family life…that homework has to be completed before playtime. That evening chores have to happen before dinner. That laundry still has to be put away even if they are in the middle of deep imaginative play. That vegetables are eaten at dinner whether they like it or not. She has sat with us through family devotions many a night, even when she would have rather gone home or continued to play. (the policy in our house is: if we feed you your physical food, then you stay to get spiritual food as well)

She has experienced us living life…a life that comes with “victories” in being a good mom and caretaker of our home and the people within it, but also a life with a whole lot of defeats in being kind, patient or caring. But somehow even in all the messiness and sin, seeds of the Gospel, of “God with us”,  have been planted. And in a season of navigating through the roller coaster of postpartum emotions and a sinking thought-life, God in his mercy let me see glimmers of hope that He is working in , and in spite of the messiness.

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That early morning rising, I pulled the letter out from under the pillow in order to replace it with “tooth fairy money”.

Little did I know, that note would glimmer.

Glimmer with a “God is at work!” sighting.

A flash of light, encouragement…

that He is on a mission to win people’s hearts to Himself, and He can even use a family like ours, messy as it is.

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“God loves you”

Since when did kids care about telling the tooth fairy that God loved them?

Since they started seeing that God loves a home full of fun and bickering…. and joy and hardship…. and impatience and delights in the moments….and intentional rhythms and its-all-unravelling-just-go-play free-for-all’s.

When they start going to church with you, and then recruit their mom (who lives on the other side of town) to take them each Sunday.

When they experience a “family”, whether its perfect or not.

When they get back from school and come to a “home” , even one that is messy and unorganized and may or may not have snacks available based on when mom actually dragged six kids to the grocery store.

~~~~~

Then God confirmed it again, a few days later, that He is working despite the messy offerings, when this neighbor-turned-family member’s mom stopped by, and behind tears and a thick Ethiopian accent tells me of a school writing project in which her daughter described each member of our family and what they all play and do together and how they are like the brothers and sisters she never had. And that thick Ethiopian accent confessed how hard it is for her daughter to be passed back and forth between divorced parents with no siblings to come along, but that God provided a family for her to be part of through ours.

And then somehow all those tough pregnancies were worth it.  And all the mundane laborings to run the household seem worth it. And those early morning risings after long nights with sick or needy children, were worth it. Even when the thoughts that accompanied them sometimes sounded more like a temper tantrum than a joyful offering to the Lord.

“What where we THINKING?!?! Having SIX children?! I’m not gonna survive this!! I can’t face another day of needs and spills and mouths to feed….(Its always a bad sign when you’re counting down to bedtime starting at 6 a.m.).

But still, God, in his enduring love and faithfulness, let me see that those prayers prayed, even prayed inconsistently, that God would use our children from young ages to bring Him glory and draw others to Him, they are answered….

…in a note to the tooth fairy.

Moving forward in weakness

On the steps of the church

On the steps of the church…miraculous gathering of body and attention span (sort of)

It had been a frazzling day. (Come to think of it, every day is a frazzling one with six kids).
That Sunday we had ushered those six kids out the door early in the morning to attend worship at our “sending church”. We had scooted downtown to attend an event at the sight of the new after school program starting up, stopped by the house we are renovating, and were headed to the evening service of the church where Danny is interning for the year. As we rounded the corner, we spotted Mike, one of our future neighbors  walking down the street. I quick rolled down the window, had Danny pull over and called out to him, “Mike! Hop in, we’re headed to church!”

He hopped in, told us about how he had wanted to go to church that morning but had overslept, and it was perfect timing that we had seen him as he walked to the grocery store.

We sat in worship, and I struggled to stay focused at times, when my days are so full and flustered, it’s difficult to keep my brain from being so as well. My mind wanders…..
I feel so weak. I feel like I’m running on fumes. I feel like six kids fills up every waking every single moment of every single twenty-four hour time segment.

And we are suppose to be starting a church soon.

The last time we worked on starting a church, we were ten years younger. That was six kids and a whole lot less responsibility ago. We were full of energy, drive, eternal optimism, and naïveté. We ran programs, put together outreaches, offered hospitality and loved on a lot of people. We poured every waking (and sometimes,even non-waking) moment into ministering to those God had placed in our lives in Newark.

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Christmas outreach at the church plant in Newark. Daniel Josiah could still be toted around in a back pack carrier….six kids won’t fit on my back anymore…

 

Now we are suppose to be starting a church and we are older, more tired. Not tired of Kingdom work, but tired from getting up 3-4 times a night with whichever kids is sick, having bad dreams, or wets the bed. Six kids with a range of needs-sports schedules and nursing schedules, school projects and potty training endeavors, social commitments and diaper changes…its a full time job….for three people. I used to run from one massive outreach to another and now I run to one crisis mess after another. The time between each meal, I mean, kitchen explosion is a mere three hours…on a good day.  I have so little left to give after tending to half a dozen kids day in and day out. How are we going to have the energy to pour ourselves out like we did last time? How is Danny going to be able to lead us all in this endeavor when he’s currently half-crippled with a shoulder that is still 6-10 months away from full recovery? How are we going to battle the sin and disfunction in our new community, when the sin and disfunction already runs deep…in our own home, in my own heart?

the half dozen

the half dozen

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you can only imagine the discord X 6 when they don't feel like cooperating...

you can only imagine the discord multiplied by six when they don’t feel like cooperating…

We filed out of our rows to go up to receive communion. I partake in faith. A weak one.

I slumped back into my seat, head bent over, laying it all out to a Jesus who sometime feels far.

I feel a strong arm squeeze my shoulder and pat me on the back.

I look up to see Mike’s dark skin in contrast to the pale walls.

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Mike worshipping next to Danny, different skin colors, same needy heart

 

He.gets.it?

He.gets.it.

He gets that this is hard. He sat in that car and heard all the fires I put out concerning children’s needs in just the 15 minutes that we drove across town.

Mike has his own set of struggles and hardships. And I have mine. And did we not just eat of the same table? The one that represents the Bread of Heaven that has promised to satisfy hungry souls?

When we moved to Newark, I knew I “had” the bread and my job was to hand it out to everyone. Now, I’m just as starving for it as our soon-to-be new neighbors who know street life and struggle far better than I.

We are moving into this mission as common beggars toward the same God. How different from the “I’ve come to bring you the Savior ” mentality I had as we entered the ministry in Newark ten years ago. Now, I’ve got a “I’m desperately clinging to the Savior. You want to help each other along on the journey?” mentality.

I needed that squeeze on the shoulder from Mike every bit as much as he needed a ride to church. We’re in the same boat, him and me. And maybe our presence in each other’s lives will be the very thing that keeps us looking out on the water towards the One who walks on it, instead of looking at the waves that threaten to crush us under it.

It’s a weak place to be…just barely catching one’s breath in between the rolling waves of raising six children.  But a perfect place for our Savior to walk through.

For the humbled place, the weak place, the struggling place is often the place where He likes to show up.  He did it when he showed up in the womb of an unwed Jewish teenager.  He did it when he showed up in a stable to sleep amongst the farm animals.  He did it when He walked and talked among the poor folk, the outcasts, the unclean and the unlawful.

So my only prayer, our only hope, is that He shows up in the weak place again. The weak, but available place of my heart, and our marriage, and this home, and that neighborhood that He’s called us to move into.

So we move. Move forward in weakness.

But there’s that promise about weakness.

A promise that HIS power is made perfect there.

So we go. with weakness, yes, but with availability, and expectation that somehow God’s spoken word will truly create an image of His power being perfected…not just despite the weakness….

but IN it.

 

But he said to me,

“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”

Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses,

so that Christ’s power may rest on me.

2 Corinthians 12:9

Where are you sitting?

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“…sit at my right hand, until I make your enemies your footstool”  

Psalm 110:1

It was a short verse, at that 4 am rising, but the minute I read it, it hit me:

There is something about where we sit and what happens to our enemies.

right there on the same page, are promises about being right there at the King’s right hand.

“For he stands at the right hand of the needy one.” (Psalm 110:31)

The Lord is at your right hand.” (Psalm 110:5)

There is something about where we sit and what happens to our enemies. 

Anger. Depression.  The feeling of sinking with no way out. Irritability towards my kids. Lies of guilt and condemnation ruminating around in my head. Utter defeat.

This is where I have been sitting.

Blessed is the man who walks NOT in the counsel of the wicked…nor sits in the seat of scoffers. Psalm 1:1

And I had taken up a spot right there among them. Knowing cognitively the Bible verses, but scoffing at their power to break into my crazy hectic days of tending to one emergency after another, with not a chance to breath ,and an escalating list of things needing to be done that I was falling hopelessly behind on. (and the list wasn’t one of “write a blog post” but more like clean the kid’s school uniform so they have something to wear tomorrow, and shoot!-that-time-consuming-moms-need-to-help-leaf-project-is-due-in-two-days, and we’re eating rice again because I STILL haven’t braved another take-six-kids-into-the-grocery-store trip. )

And so I scoffed. and sunk deeper. deeper into despair that I would ever be able to keep up this running-on-fumes-pace. Deeper into a pit of atomic bomb reactions to the kids misbehavior.

If you fail to sit at the feet of King Jesus, you will inevitably end up sitting somewhere you don’t want to be. 

And those mornings that I clung on to every last minute of sleep, and those 6:15 risings with an explosion of urgency as kids needed uniforms, and lunches needed packing, and kids needed directing, not to mention the grumpy moods that come with the early risings or bickering over whose turn it is to make breakfast that needed peacemaking….

they left the spot of sitting at the feet of Jesus very empty. for many mornings.

It wasn’t that I wasn’t trying.  I’d get up and try to steal a few moments of quiet with the Lord, but our house isn’t that big. and inevitably,

they would find me.

diapers needed changing, disputes needed settling, “I can’t find the oatmeal!!” needed tending to,

with every moment stolen, or thought process fractured,

I would become more embittered.

“Don’t you know that this time is going to save you from having an angry mother all day!?!”

But how do you explain that to an infant, or a two-year old, or even a 4, 5, 7, and 8 year old who thinks your sole reason for living is to come at their every beck and call.

So I found myself sitting in the seat of scoffers. angry at my robbed time. angry at the every need. angry at God who gave me such a big load of responsibility that I don’t even have time to have a quiet time anymore.

but my King, who is for me, not against me, He beckons me still.

“sit at my right hand, until I make your enemies your footstool.”

HE is able to make these enemies, these despairing thoughts, these anger outbursts, these times of tears to become my footstool. Not totally disappeared. Present, but under control, Nearby, but under my feet…. instead of overwhelming my head.

But the key is in the sitting. Sitting there with Jesus, at those three hundred red lights per day that I sit at, trucking children back and forth to school (did I mention that some of my kids get out at noon, and one gets out at 3:00? Thats a lot of driving back and forth…) and doctors appointments, and extra curricular activities.  The key is in the sitting, rising early enough to be there at his feet before the children are at mine. The key is sitting at his right hand with my thought life, until 

until he makes my enemies my footstool.

And as I sit at my King’s feet, my enemies will sit at mine. 

 

God Uses the Messes

It had been another frantic Sunday morning.

If I had lain the children’s clothes out the night before, we wouldn’t have had battles over mismatching clothes.

Help me, Lord. 

If I had trained my kids better about putting shoes away in their shoe bins, we wouldn’t have spent 20 minutes franticly looking under couches and in toy chests for them.

Help me, Lord.

If I had a better chore system, my daughter would automatically do her breakfast chore without mommy asking 16 times.

Help me, Lord. 

If I had gotten up earlier, I would have had Bible time with the kids at the breakfast table instead of barking at them to eat faster so we could leave.

Help me, Lord. 

If I were calmer, gentler, maybe there wouldn’t be so much bickering and complaining in the car while we drove downtown to church.

Help me, Lord.

If I were a more organized person, my purse wouldn’t be so heavy with all the junk that’s accumulated in it…in addition to lugging a chunky baby in a car seat carrier.

Help me, Lord. 

Gotta love the chunky cheeks and double chin...except when you're carrying him in a car seat carrier with a large purse and five kids following behind...

Gotta love the chunky cheeks and double chin…except when you’re carrying him in a car seat carrier with a large purse and five kids following behind…

And we’re just rolling in to church, and I’m exhausted. The adrenaline rush to get us out the door is starting to crash, and we file into our seats. And all the kids are fidgety. And Katy-Grace is “hungry again”. (We just ate breakfast!) Daniel Josiah took five bagels off the refreshments table on our way into the sanctuary. (I’m telling you, we JUST ate breakfast!) Malachi needs a diaper change (I JUST changed it, before we left), and all I want to do is sing some songs to Jesus and not have to deal with anyone else’s problem for at least 20 minutes…

Then the whimpering starts…

“Mommy! Mommy! My tag is itching me.”

Honey, I can’t do anything about that right now.

“But, moooommmy, it really itches. Can you cut it off?”

Lord, I know I’m failing miserably at everything…and if I could just get my act together and get more organized, things wouldn’t be so hard. But Lord, you’re going to have to handle this problem. I give it to you. I have nothing left. 

“Mommy, can’t you get some scissors and just cut it off…it reeeeaaaalllly iiiiiiiitches…”

Honey, you’re just going to have to deal with it.

We’re already halfway through the worship time, and I’m fishing through my bag to find Malachi’s diaper so I can slip out and change it.

And then I feel them.

I had thrown then in there earlier in the week to wrap a gift for someone at.stoplights.on.my.way.across.town

because, again, I didn’t have my act together, and was doing it on the fly.

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The miraculous scissors

I quickly pulled them out and snipped the tag off. Thus relieving me of an entire-worship-service-long whining session.

Thank you, Lord, Thank you!!

I whisper to Him.

And He did some whispering back:

If you had had your “act” together like you envision and expect for yourself, I couldn’t show up in such intimate ways. You wouldn’t need Me.

 I take the entirety of your messy life, and use every part. Even un-cleaned-out purses and lost shoes and whining children. 

Bring me itchy tags, and disorganized purses, and frantic mornings, and let me bear them.  I have creative ways of carrying them, while you carry my easy yoke and light burden. 

The “extra luggage” that you think is so cumbersome now, might be your answer to prayer later. 

Faith as small as a mustard seed…as small as itchy tags, can move mountains. Just watch.”

 

The crazy full, and unorganized purse. All part of God's plan.

The crazy full, and unorganized purse. All part of God’s plan.

Isaiah 65:24 NLT

I will answer them before they even call to me. While they are still talking about their needs, I will go ahead and answer their prayers!

New Beginnings

new_earth

In the beginning….

I read it again, just as I did at this time last year. Beginning a new Bible reading plan, in hopes that THIS year there won’t be quite so many gaps in my completion of it.

Last year I had begun the year with high hopes and simple and tangible goals. A week later I had found out I was pregnant…which rendered me almost useless as an emerging being sucked every ounce of strength, energy and sanity out of me. There went the new years resolutions….again.

But I’m thankful that those words still stand there. 2014 was a whirlwind, at times feeling like a tidal wave the at I could hardly get my breath from, but still those words stand. Even when I have doubted, and sunk, and emerged again.  There is still a new beginning.

” In the beginning, GOD. “

My new beginnings start with HIM.

“In the beginning, God CREATED.”

And in my new beginnings, I believe that HE will CREATE.

And in this home that is so chaotic, and messy, and full and loud….the one that sounds much like the formless and void and dark earth that God transformed into the highly intricate and orderly universe,

I ask Him to hover.

Just as it says he did in the beginning, the Spirit hovering over the waters. And as I invite Him to hover, I ask Him to move in and begin creating order…giving each thing a place, a boundary, and each activity a season, and would He cause life to flourish within those boundaries-just as He caused living creature to flourish in the expanse of air, and land animals to roam?

I  beg Him for new beginnings.  Bring order to this chaos! Bring loving spirits instead of bickering! Remind my kids to clean up after themselves! Give me a workable system! Proper boundaries and places for things, just as you did over the formless void!

But maybe…just maybe, the boundaries and seasons and order I crave in my physical house, are reflections of a craving for order in my heart. For inside this chaotic heart I have forsaken rhythms, and seasons and order. Instead, I have sought to play the creator….without the Creator.

And nothing is left but disorder.

And without the hiding away IN HIM, who begins, and hovers, and speaks and creates, I have no capabilities to do so.

I will only create to the degree that I allow the Creator to take up residency here in the home of my heart one.nanosecond.at.a.time.

And I believe, and have confidence that His Creativity, His order, His seasons, and rhythms, and His boundaries will flow through me to help create the same in my home, and in my children, and in my relationship with my husband.

In this new beginning, 2015, may God create the order I crave…found only in letting the Creator have full access to this life, this family, this home.

After all, He is the one who takes the formless and void and brings order out of it.

Genesis 1:1-24

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formlessand empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.

And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. God saw that the light was good, and he separated the light from the darkness. God called the light “day,” and the darkness he called “night.” And there was evening, and there was morning—the first day.

And God said, “Let there be a vault between the waters to separate water from water.So God made the vault and separated the water under the vault from the water above it. And it was so. God called the vault “sky.” And there was evening, and there was morning—the second day.

And God said, “Let the water under the sky be gathered to one place, and let dry groundappear.” And it was so. 10 God called the dry ground “land,” and the gathered watershe called “seas.” And God saw that it was good.

11 Then God said, “Let the land produce vegetation: seed-bearing plants and trees on the land that bear fruit with seed in it, according to their various kinds.” And it was so.12 The land produced vegetation: plants bearing seed according to their kinds and trees bearing fruit with seed in it according to their kinds. And God saw that it was good. 13 And there was evening, and there was morning—the third day.

14 And God said, “Let there be lights in the vault of the sky to separate the day from the night, and let them serve as signs to mark sacred times, and days and years, 15 and let them be lights in the vault of the sky to give light on the earth.” And it was so.16 God made two great lights—the greater light to govern the day and the lesser light to govern the night. He also made the stars. 17 God set them in the vault of the sky to give light on the earth, 18 to govern the day and the night, and to separate light from darkness. And God saw that it was good. 19 And there was evening, and there was morning—the fourth day.

20 And God said, “Let the water teem with living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the vault of the sky.” 21 So God created the great creatures of the sea and every living thing with which the water teems and that moves about in it, according to their kinds, and every winged bird according to its kind. And God saw that it was good. 22 God blessed them and said, “Be fruitful and increase in number and fill the water in the seas, and let the birds increase on the earth.” 23 And there was evening, and there was morning—the fifth day.

24 And God said, “Let the land produce living creatures according to their kinds: the livestock, the creatures that move along the ground, and the wild animals, each according to its kind.” And it was so. 

 

I had the kids write out "themes" that the would like to see lived out in their lives for 2015

I had the kids write out “themes” that the would like to see lived out in their lives for 2015

Posted by the breakfast table, so we can remember to pray them into our lives each morning.

Posted by the breakfast table, so we can remember to pray them into our lives each morning.

 

 

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

IMG_4639

I drive from pristine beauty, into desolation

IMG_4637

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

 

IMG_4628

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…

IMG_4626

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.

 

 

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