Kickball and the Kingdom

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“Honey, a dumb kickball game is not one of my priorities right now! I have too much to do around here!”

I huffed and puffed about this time commitment, and this wife’s heart was anything but submissive.

I hung up the phone with my knuckle, since our conversation was had while I franticly tried to keep up with the mess that was being made…breakfast dishes scattered across kitchen. four loads of laundry to be folded. many more to be washed. my desire to get some blogging done. the house projects still needing to be tackled.

“Doesn’t anybody realize how much WORK is required for a family with six kids?!? I don’t have time for some church kickball game!”

The church where we are doing a residency program before we launch our church plant has a summer kickball league on Saturdays….the day when I try to get “caught up” on life.

but the minute I hung up the phone, I was convicted that I needed to submit to my husband’s request that I show up with the kids for the sake of community and fellowship.

I pull up to the field. forty-five minutes late.  (by the time you get 6 kids dressed, and fight the seat belt battle, and settle a few sibling tiffs and tempter tantrums, that was record time!)

Right across from the field a group of about 20 African Americans, march with signs about the racist shooting in Charleston last Wednesday.

I cringe as I realize I am a white person driving around in an all black neighborhood, right when racial tension is at its height.

I wonder what these individuals think of me….

~~~~

On the field was a smattering of whites, black, tan (Asian), and dark tan (Indian) bodies.  All friends, all gathering together to enjoy one another and fellowship.

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Receiving kickball instructions

I realized that this was far more than “a dumb kickball game”.

This kickball game was a display of the Kingdom.

Why would people of so many different colors, ethnic backgrounds, and economic statuses join together?

it was for more than a dumb kickball game.

It was because a group of people, who all need the Same Savior, to the same extent, gather from all parts of the city in order to know Him better, worship him more freely every Sunday… and throughout the week.

This is my Church.

And when racial tensions strain to new levels, Gospel love is creating a bond and unity amongst races, ethnicities, and socio economic disparities.

And that group of protestors, might ask questions about this diverse splattering of skin colors out on the field. Ask who we are and what we are doing.

And we tell them we are the Body of Christ.

We are a kingdom preview of Revelation 17:9

After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands.

We love Jesus.

And we like to play kickball.

 

 

 

 

From the Mouths of Babes….or young lads who challenge the home or hospitality mentality.

The curtain rod fell down on my head as I balanced on a stool for the tenth time that day, all with hyperactive children running all around me a few feet below. I half caught it and then slammed it down on the stack of boxes below.

“I can’t get anything done around here! I can’t even get curtains hung!”

Danny tries to calm me.

“Honey, its OK. It will come together eventually. ”

“But I’m so tired of not being settled! I just want everything in its place and I want our house to be done!”

Danny could have talked til he was blue in the face, but it was my son’s words that penetrated.

“Mom, nobody in our neighborhood even has curtains. Why do we need them? Right now we’re just like everybody else.”

Oh, how his words sunk in. put this nesting mamma in her place. put priorities in order.

My neighbor's make-shift curtains, which is how my entire neighborhood "does" curtains

My neighbor’s make-shift curtains, which is how my entire neighborhood “does” curtains

What does it really look like to come from a “different culture” but choose to become one with the culture we have moved into?  What does it look like to to truly become incarnational in this context? Right here in America, where I can drive 15 minutes to a friends house and see beautiful tapestries hung and in place?

Maybe it means prioritizing people above the picturesque home I desire.

Maybe it means enjoying children more than enjoying neatness and order.

Maybe it means welcoming neighbors into a home that still has boxes stacked in the corners and walls still to be painted, simply because today I choose people over projects, the “to BE” list, rather than the “to-DO list”. 

Do I choose to spend the afternoon preparing a meal for houseguests who will then experience the meal in God's word? Or do I spend the afternoon tackling the boxes?

Do I choose to spend the afternoon preparing a meal for houseguests who will then experience the meal in God’s word? Or do I spend the afternoon tackling the boxes?

We chose the houseguests, and the Bible study.

We chose the houseguests, and the Bible study.

and let the stack of pictures to be hung just sit there.

and let the stack of pictures to be hung just sit there.

I don’t completely forsake the chipping away at household projects, or the desire to create beauty, order and grace in a home. For now, the slowness of the process can be embraced as a needed process of soul sanctification, neighbor identification, and it becomes far bigger than just my home transformation.

After all, maybe Liddell, who lives in a home with a blue tarp roof,

IMG_7635would feel far more welcomed into a home that is also making good use of large blue tarps

our backyard and the blue tarps...what drives me crazy, might actually drive our neighbors towards us rather than away from us.

our backyard and the blue tarps…what drives me crazy, might actually drive our neighbors towards us rather than away from us.

Every neighbor in this area lives in a home that needs work done on it, and despite my desire to “just be done” with house projects, being in this state of process might be the very thing that unites us instead of divides us from our neighbors.  Those walls needing paint, and that unlandscaped yard, and that pile of building supplies, might be the very thing that keeps the “us and them” mentality at bay…the very “us and them” mentality that left this neighborhood so forsaken those years ago.

So maybe with a death of my desire,

a desire that feels so natural and justified to me,

actually creates a void

in which new life can emerge,

the life of a neighborhood connection,

a commonality,

an identification,

a “with”ness,

that creates a platform for

witness.

Which in the end, is far more important, far more eternal, than curtains being hung.

~~~~~

Guests in our home, AND the curtains were hung (in the backdrop) both desires fulfilled, but not until patience was learned.

Guests in our home, AND the curtains were hung! (in the backdrop) Both desires fulfilled, but not until patience was learned.

 

 

Eventually those boxes were unpacked.

Eventually those boxes were unpacked.

The house looked like this when we moved in...

The house looked like this when we moved in…

And looks like this now. PROGRESS!!

And looks like this now. PROGRESS!!

Progress, but not perfection...still little things needing to be done!

Progress, but not perfection…still little things needing to be done!

 

The Trials ARE the Training

We’ve sat in seminars. Visited hotel conference rooms and small group brainstorming sessions. We have been “trained” to be church planters.

Don’t get me wrong, these things are good and necessary things, but nothing is quite like

the training that trials bring.

Since moving to Atlanta, with a vision to plant churches that keep planting churches, one block at a time,
we have hit multiple trials at a time.

Toxic black mold ordeal, and losing all of what we owned.

coming head to head with witchcraft and voodoo curses from our international neighbors.

A car crash. flooded basements…FOUR times. an incredibly difficult pregnancy. depression. a motorcycle crash. near death baby delivery. another basement flood. very sick four year old. broken collar bone. broken finger. ripped up shoulder. extensive shoulder repair surgery. postpartum depression. root canal. enough medical bills to repave the pot-holed streets of Atlanta. a half renovated house with no more money to finish it. All while keeping up with the constant needs and and schedules of six children.

When you move forward into God’s calling on your life, don’t expect things to get easier, expect them to get harder.

For the trials are the training.

Yes, they may be spiritual warfare, but they are also purposed battles which God has ordained for us to engage in. And with each battle, one gains strength as you learn to gird up your sword and fight for joy and fight for trust and fight for savoring this moment hidden away in the Presence of the Prince of Peace, even when everything external seems to be exploding, and everything internal seems to be imploding.

And that training….its not even really about YOU. Yes, you are strengthened, but you don’t get strong for strength’s sake. You get strong for the Glory of God, to show HIS strength in you in trials. And He’s preparing you for greater service, greater empathy, and greater compassion towards others.

~~~~~~

I didn’t start to see it until a few wonderful and crazy, and faith-filled and fear-plagued people started preparing to join our launch team. And then the constant unraveling, the impetuous kinks in the plan, the crushing weights of a life in upheaval that we have experienced these past 18 months started pressing into those dear ones as well. And I saw.

I saw that in this church planting endeavor, we are leading people into rocky waters. Thrilling, refreshing, but rocky nonetheless.  And if we had not had to learn to stand as the waves of hardship, frustration, financial strains, and struggle crashed into us, then we would have no voice of hope to continue to beckon them into these stormy waters where we get to meet the One who says “Peace, be still.”

Our dear little launch team has already seen stolen passports and social security cards, lost jobs, deaths of loved ones, struggle to find housing, struggle to find local work, disappointments over not getting accepted into the local schools, houses being broken into and cars being stolen. All soon after saying “yes” to the call . We have seen God provide along the way, strengthen when we had none, and shine brightly in the darkness of our confusion and fatigue. And now they will get to as well.

And it won’t simply just be for their training, it will be for their infilling.  They will come to the end of themselves, and cry out to the Living God to fill them, and then, and only then, will they have anything to offer those around them.

One of our brave launch team members, savoring the quiet of baby cuddles as she walks through the storm of trials.

One of our brave launch team members, savoring the quiet of baby Judah cuddles as she walks through the storm of trials.

Easter Celebration~ Prayer Resurrection~God’s Kingdom Perfection

**My apologies for the extreme delay in this update…I’ve been very busy…busy cleaning up potty accidents, and putting out sibling rivalry fires, and cleaning more dishes and doing more laundry than one can keep track of. I wish I had something “more significant” as an excuse, but every load of laundry is a Kingdom investment when done unto our King.

Easter, three weeks after the move-in.

Easter, the climax of God’s redemption.

And for us, a display of prayer resurrection.

For months, while we were consumed with renovations and the struggle to simply GET there, “all” we could do was pray.

To do the “work on our knees”.

We laid out the promises of God….promises-turned- prayers for God to work at our little tabernacle that we had been working on for so long.

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

that your ways may be known on earth, your salvation among all nations.” 

Psalm 67:1-2

Lord, may the nations be blessed through this home.  May your salvation and your ways be put on display in this place.

 “…for my house will be called a house of prayer for all nations.” Isaiah 56:7 

Lord, may all nations be able to gather here to pray and meet you. 

A voice cries: “In the wilderness prepare the way of the LORD; make straight in the desert a highway for our God.” Isaiah 40:3 

Lord, would your Spirit go before us, to prepare the way for YOU to work through us. Make highways into the lives and hearts of people to meet you.

 “I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message,  that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me.  I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one. ” John 17:20-21

Lord, cause the Believers in this place come together as one.  May we work towards the same aim of bring your shalom, your peace, to this place. 

Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,  and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” Matthew 28:19-20

Lord, may true disciples be raised up and formed in Grove Park.  May you lead us to those that are ready to be discipled and who will want to follow you and will raise up others to do the same.

“Come, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and he who has no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price.” Isaiah 55:1

Lord, would you go before us and put a hunger in people’s hearts for You and Your Word which satisfies so richly. 

And then, as Easter approached, and I unpacked a few more boxes….

 “Then people will come from east and west, and from north and south, and take
their places at the banquet table in the kingdom of God”.  Luke 13:29

Lord, we didn’t plan ahead, but please bring to our table anyone who needs a place to celebrate your Resurrection with us.

And 48 hours before Easter, I didn’t know who all would come, but I planned to lay out a feast in faith that God would bring whoever needed a “family”.

And they started to come.

An international student from Rwanda.

Our Rwandan friend

Our Rwandan friend

Kenyan Christians just reeling from the news of the slaughter in their homeland.

Kenya, Rwanda, Japan, and Atlanta represented here!

Kenya, Rwanda, Japan, and Atlanta represented here!

Our former neighbor and now close friend, whose family is from India.

My friend, and former neighbor whose family is from India

My friend, and former neighbor whose family is from India

Friends that we had made from our life in suburbia of Atlanta, who once had been homeless but had now stabilized,

A woman from Cameroon, (who had randomly known our Haitian neighbor) and started coming to our sending church with us (and became a member!), who we had lost contact with but joined us last minute anyways.

Compton, who didn't have anyone to spend Easter with

Compton, who didn’t have anyone to spend Easter with

Then our Muslim neighbor, and our seventh-day Adventist neighbor, and a guy from our church, and our own rowdy crew and on it went….

Our gracious neighbor who ran extension cords to our house when we first moved in with no electricity

Our gracious neighbor who ran extension cords to our house when we first moved in with no electricity

all gathered at that kitchen island that a sweet friend had built for us

to feast on food, and fellowship, and the joyful declaration,

HE IS RISEN!

And that was just the beginning….

After our feast we migrated over to another “intentional neighbor”‘s house. A sweet friend and fellow Believer who has lived in the community for four years now.  We did a Scripture egg hunt and then a candy egg hunt on the big lawn in the middle of our community.  On my way over, I stopped by a house where I had invited the kids to the egg hunt just a few days prior.  As they prepared to come, another neighbor asked…

“You doin’ and Easter egg hunt for the kids? There’s a bunch of kids up that way that would wanna come..” And then the word started traveling up the street.  A bunch of kids and even a teenage girl hopped in the car, with others promising to meet us “over there”.

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When it was all said and done, there were nearly thirty kids gathered on the back deck, a handful of teens and a smattering of parents, all listening intently to the story of Christ’s death on the cross, his burial and his resurrection. Songs, a testimony, and a chance to invite this Risen Savior into one’s life and heart ensued. Neighbors had gathered to celebrate the beautiful Resurrection.

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After the massive candy egg hunt, kids played football, neighbors gathered on the front porch, Danny engaged the teen guys who had come down, and we enjoyed the beautiful day that God had given us.

Together.

So many people gathered together for Celebration over our Savior’s victory.

And my heart throbbed with joy for the prayer resurrection of all those seeds of prayer buried deep into the heart of a Father who hears his children’s cry to see Kingdom perfection.

And then, if that weren’t enough… God was about to show me just how extensively He had been answering all those prayers prayed.

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on the lawn of “pioneers” who moved into the community four years ago and are creating beauty through home and lawn and the presence of Jesus in their lives

~~~~~~~~

I pulled up to the tiny house that is “home” to more people than I can keep track of. I drop a handful of kids off, and then meander over to Tamiya’s dad’s truck, where he sits talking to all the neighborhood men, the ones who congregate at “the spot” to chat and sip away at their Budweisers all day. I introduced myself to him and apologized for keeping her so long.

“That’s OK. I’m just hang in’ out anyways. Hey, do you guys know of any kind of programs that mentor girls?”

You, mean, discipleship?!?

I think in my heart.

“Yah, my girl, she’s a good girl, but her mom and I split, and she don’t go to a good school, and she’s getting caught up with the wrong crowd. I know my girl is smart. She used to read all the time, but she really need some sort of mentor in her life to help give her direction, cuz she keeps mess’in up in school.”

And we had a long talk about parenting, and the Gospel, and the power of prayer, all amidst the other guys interjecting,

“You said your husband’s a pastor?”

“When you gonna start prayer meetin’ s or something’? I’ll come, I need to get back with God again.”

“I wanna be part of stuff too.”

“Can my kids go to church with you?”

And then we all prayed right by that beat up red pick up truck. We prayed for our neighborhood, for Tamyia, for the struggle of parenthood, and we thanked Jesus that, because of His death and resurrection, we could have His presence right there with us.

And we had “church” right there on the side of the street.

And it reminded me of the way Jesus use to do it. Along the road. As he came and went. Meeting people where they were. His Kingdom Perfection, amidst an imperfect world. His Resurrection, all making it possible.  And the Celebration that happens when we get to witness and participate in it all.

  

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.

~~~~~~

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

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