Undeserved Gifts

 

 

 

 

 

Our God is a lavish Giver.  I dare anyone out there to try to out-give Him.  It just can’t be done.

My most recent experience with the fact that He is far more creative, generous, and extravagant than I could ever attempt to be towards Him and His Kingdom work, was evidenced in a wonderful, refreshing trip a few weeks ago.

Six months ago, Danny was asked to be a groomsmen in the wedding of good friends in California.  I immediately thought, “We can’t do that, we have no money!” Oh, me, of little faith.

SO, the wedding was approaching and the bride and groom offered to help pay his ticket to get there, BUT since Danny didn’t play it safe last April and flew to Japan in the midst of a nuclear crisis, we racked up a whole bunch of Sky Miles (and evidently a “free companion ticket” that had to be used by the end of 2011).  Danny started scheming a 7 year anniversary get-away plus wedding combo due to the fact that we could both get to California for FREE.

My servant-hearted sister-in-law, Sara-Beth, agreed to watching Trinity, Katy-Grace, and Benjamin (in addition to her own three!) and our pastor and his wife welcomed in Daniel Josiah for those four days. (PRICELESS GIFT!)

THEN, since the amazingly generous bride and groom didn’t have to pay to help get Danny there, they put us up in an AMAZING, quaint hotel just across the harbor from San Francisco (I thought we would be crashing on the couches of someone in their home church! I didn’t find out about the hotel until 3 days before the trip!)

THEN, Danny was able to score an ABSURDLY good deal on a rental car AND not only did they give us a deal but then they UPGRADED our car (Danny pulled his “Enterprise” connection on that one) The car providing really cheap site-seeing ventures.

THEN, most of our meals were provided through wedding festivities, and they were such FULL meals, they’d last us through the next meal time.

THEN, Danny got paid?!? to speak at a small gathering of men two days before the wedding. (which fully paid for the car, gas, and Ben & Jerry’s ice cream as we strolled through the picturesque harbor one afternoon)

THEN, a situation arose with our room, and we just let the front desk know that they might want to fix it after we left, and they immediately gave us a $50 credit for room service, their restaurant, or renting a movie! At this point I was thinking “Ok, Ok, Lord, this is getting ridiculous!!”

AND THEN, we were super late for our flight home, which would have resulted in a full night camped out in the airport, plus a hefty rescheduling fee, but miracle upon miracles I was able to get them to hold the flight for 15 minutes while Danny returned the rental car and sprinted through the airport. (Believe me, that was NOT due to my persuasive abilities, because I have none)

The whole trip, I couldn’t believe that we, a poor seminary student and a homemaker of 4+ kids, were experiencing a luxury vacation on the West Coast.  This could only be done, because God is a Giver of good gifts, and He far outgives any feeble offerings we make to “sacrifice for the Kingdom.”

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Meet the goddess, Productivity

“The sorrows of those will increase who run after other gods.”  Psalm 16:4

Productivity. I admit it, I worship her. I do it in the name of “service”, and “sacrifice” and even in the name of “Jesus”. But its all a mask, for the real goddess I am serving is Productivity and it is often for the the short-lived feeling of significance and satisfaction.  But all it does is bring sorrow.

Sorrow in the body of my weary husband who just needs a greeting, a kiss, and a warm meal. But his wife has been so ardently serving Productivity, that she’s too tired and distracted to lend any.

Sorrow in the eyes of my children as mommy lays into them for doing childish things that threaten and slow Productivity’s service. (like having an accident on the newly mopped bathroom floor)

Sorrow in a mourning momma, as she holds her gangly, sleeping five year old boy and tells his dreaming self that she’s so sorry for the ways she yelled at him and expected too much of him, when all she really wants to do is enjoy him and treasure the cool kid that he is.

The sorrows of those will increase who run after other gods.

Oswald Chambers writes, ” The great enemy of the Lord Jesus Christ today is the idea of practical work that has no basis in the New Testament but comes from the systems of the world. This work consists upon endless energy and activities, but no private life with God….An active Christian worker too often lives to be seen by others, while it is the innermost, personal area that reveals the power of a person’s life…In our Lord’s life there was none of the pressure and the rushing of tremendous activity that we regard so highly today, and a disciple is to be like His master.  The central point of the kingdom of Jesus Christ is a personal relationship with Him, not public usefulness to others.”

The rushing, the public usefulness, the cramming of a million activities and responsibilities into amounts of time that provide no buffer for skinned knees, peacemaking among bickering, potty accidents, or a hungry husband home for lunch.  THESE are signs of idol worship. And the first to be sacrificed on her altar is my family, and my usefulness to THEM as opposed to everyone else.

“Woe to you, Kimberly, you who carry out plans that  are not mine, forming an alliance (with coffee, sugar, sheer willpower to push through the fatigue), but not by my Spirit…This is what the Sovereign Lord, the Holy One of Israel, says:

In repentence

and rest

is your salvation,

in quietness and trust

is your strength

but you would have none of it.

You said, “No, we will flee on horses”…You said, “We will ride off on swift horses!”  (Isaiah 30:1,15,16)

We will FLEE the unsettling silence, and the feelings of NOT being productive, we will flee WAITING and having to trust solely in the Mover of Mountains to work.  We will flee time constraints, we will flee the monotonous (for the exciting and “significant” service projects).

“Therefore your pursuers will be swift!”  (v.16) The pursuer of TIME, and FATIGUE and IMPATIENCE and FAILURE to care for the most important things (i.e. my soul, my husband, my children), and no matter how hard one tries to outrun these pursuers, the will always eventually catch up with you.

Now, at this point, my wise, godly Grandmother would say “Honey, I DO believe, we end up having this conversation about every two months.  WHEN will you learn, darling?”

But, that goddess Productivity, she takes so many different forms.  She dresses herself in “godly hospitality”, or in “service to the poor”, or in “caring for other’s little ones” or in “homeschooling agenda” or in “keeping a clean house”.  And somehow I fall for it every time.

YET….

“Yet the Lord longs to be gracious to you; he rises to show you compassion. For the Lord is a God of justice. BLESSED are all those who wait for him! O people of Zion, who live in Jerusalem, you will weep no more. How gracious he will be when you cry for help! (when you shut the kids in their rooms and lock yourself in your closet and literally cry for help) As soon as he hears, he will answer you….Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, “This is the way; walk in it.” (Isaiah 30:18, 19,21)

So the only combatant against the strong pull to bow and worship, this goddess, Productivity, is in

repentance

and rest

and quiet and trust

so that I can truly hear my LORD’s voice, over Productivity’s call, saying, “THIS is the way, walk in it.” These promptings will surely lead me into a FULL life, but not one that brings sorrows of sin to myself and those I love dearest.

For the worship of the Living God brings fullness and joy and peace in the midst of the craziness.

while the worship of Productivity brings sorrows, increased, to the point of insanity in the mist of the craziness.

The sorrows of those will increase who run after other gods”

The Only White Kids….Again.

Recently the Lord has called Danny to pastor the (very!) small portion of English speakers at a Korean church here in Orlando. The goal is to reach out to the large Latino and African American population just a 1/2 mile from the church, and build a multi-ethnic, multi-cultural Body as a ministry of the Korean Church.  In Newark, everyone else was Latino and African American, now everyone is Asian. Its a good thing our kids are always up for adventures (and that they don’t mind being the only white kids).

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Below is an excerpt from an email I wrote, resigning from doing Children’s Church at, what had become, our church home. It sheds some light on our decision making…

“In the past two weeks he has gotten three different job offers at different churches, which would entail us having to leave Covenant and switch churches.  Despite the offers, we were really hoping to raise support for these seminary years, so that we can stay at Covenant….
Then tragedy hit.  A kid from Newark that we had invested alot in, was murdered last weekend. If you want to read the story, I blogged about his life. One of the churches that has asked us to come on board is a Korean church in a not-so-great neighborhood that has started an English speaking congregation to try to reach the multi-ethinic neighborhood.  There are only about 10 people in the church, but the Koreans feel really called to back this “church plant”.  This is the only position we are seriously considering now (the other two church were “bells and whistles” churches-the ones that have all the programs and  could easily find someone else to fill their positions).  Daniel’s death, has really shaken us up to the urgency to be reaching “the least of these”, and we don’t know if we can just put it off for another two years until we go back to Newark.
The Lord continues to push us to the marginalized.  Our hearts are for hurting, small, struggling flocks.  We have seen the Lord “meet our needs” (relationally, financially, emotionally, spiritually) in amazing ways in the past, even if we don’t go to a church that “meets our needs” in the traditional sense, i.e. awesome kids programs, (or even childcare for that matter!), tons of families, or people who are similar to us, etc.)  He’s called us to serve and seems to always lead us to places where the need is great and the laborers are few. All we can do is trust and obey. Please understand our grief in leaving, but also our anticipation as we “show up” and see what the Lord (the MIGHTY ONE) can do with weak people’s availability.
For the King and His Kingdom,
Kimberly”

Blessings Abounding

We already have a fairly big family, and I already get lots of comments like “My, your hands are full!” when we are out in public. Well, I hate to think of the stares I’ll get when I’ve got a nice round tummy, along with the baby on the hip and a toddlers hands in mine with a few others trailing behind. BUT what people don’t realize is that while my hand ARE full (of literal bodies and activity and hard work),  they are also FULL of LIFE and LAUGHTER and LITTLE PERSONALITIES and FULL OF BLESSINGS….

From the beginning of our marriage, Danny and I have the Lord had put on our heart Psalm 127:3-5
“Sons are a heritage from the Lord,
children a reward from him.
Like arrows in the hands of a warrior
are sons born in one’s youth.
Blessed is the man whose quiver is FULL of them.
They will not be put to shame when they contend with their enemies in the gate”

According to this we were to welcome children that the Lord would see fit to bless us with AS blessings and rewards from Him.  All throughout Scripture it is GOD who is described as the one who opens and closes the womb.  Could we trust Him to do what was best for our family?

Daniel Josiah’s entrance into the world was a MIGHTY testimony to us, as to God’s amazing ability to provide. People had counseled us, “Don’t start a family until you are financially stable.” Well, God saw fit to give us a child before we were financially stable, and EVERYTHING we needed, plus far more, was provided…from a job for Danny with full health benefits that would cover a “pre-existing condition” like pregnancy, to hand-me-downs from neighbors, to baby showers with everything we needed, and even a stock of diapers so that we didn’t even have to buy diapers the first three months of his life. The argument that “children are too expensive” had been eradicated from our thinking.  If God was going to give them to us, He would provide for them.

Then Trinity came along, after a heart-breaking miscarriage. And as I look back (and even while I was in the middle of it all) I saw God’s perfect TIMING for bringing another child into our family. Perfectly timed in between huge bursts of ministry activity in Newark.

Then SURPRISE, Katy-Grace was born, and her sweet joyful disposition as a baby was a saving grace to me, in the midst of dealing with “terrible twos” and super active toddlers.  Getting to rock her and enjoy the PEACE of a sleeping infant, was such a breath of fresh air needed RIGHT in the middle of that season.  So if we had “waited” and spaced them out more, what would have been the source of my refreshment?

Then, again. SURPRISE! Benjamin was conceived.  This was, by far, the most challenging.  SO much was going on in our lives as we prepared to leave Newark, pass on the ministry of Safe Haven, and move to Florida.  I was not ready emotionally, or physically to carry another child.  I complained against the Lord.  I seriously doubted His goodness and care of me and our family.  “I trusted you and THIS is what I get?!?” I was determined that we would not have another child for a LONG time after this one.

And then, that precious boy that I complained about carrying around in my womb, turned out to be the most angelic, joy-filled blessing to not only me and Danny, but to his older brother and two sisters, not to mention all those that have been blessed by his dimpled smiles and cuddling embrace. Little did I know, during those nine months of misery and complaining that God was TRYING to bless me and reward me and enrich my life with this gem of a child.

Even after we met and fell in love with Benjamin, we kept asking the Lord what His will for our family growth was.  Did we have “permission” to use birth control? There was only silence. We literally had no clear direction one way or the other, so we chose the “safe” route.

But then, after all those months of silence, the Lord started speaking.  First, it came in articles that I would happen upon about large families and how the grown kids are serving the Lord all over the world.  Or mothers of even MORE kids than I have at even younger ages…Then it happened in conversations with women who wanted more kids but could not physically carry them any more, or couldn’t conceive. (It caused me to reflect on all the incredibly safe and healthy pregnancies I’ve had) Then it happened over and over in God’s word.  I tried to ignore reading Psalm 78 for a while, even though it KEPT coming to mind….”Oh, I already know what it says.” But when I actually looked it up, my heart stopped when I read, “I will open my mouth….{about God’s mighty works}…we will not hide them from their children, WE WILL TELL THE NEXT GENERATION, the praiseworthy deeds of the Lord, his power, and all the wonders he has done. What if I was suppose to be a vehicle through which the next generation entered the world?

Then I happened upon Psalm 115:14,15,17-18 “May the Lord make you increase, both you and your children. May you be blessed by the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth….It is not the dead who praise the Lord, those who go down to silence; It is WE who extol the Lord, both now and forevermore. Praise the Lord.”

I was so struck by the fact that when we allow God to continue to bless us with children, He is allowing us to be the means through which He raises up the NEXT generation of worshipers of God, of servants of the King…the next generation of people, who, Lord-willing, will be instruments of mercy, peace, even justice in their generation…The seeds we plant and the prayers we pray for God’s love to be known in this broken world, will be carried out by our children long after we have left this world and entered into glory.

The Lord was making it very clear that it was time for me to climb upon that “altar” and be the living sacrifice that His mercy compels me to be (“Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God-this is your spiritual act of worship.” Romans 12:1-2)

I did it with fear and trembling. I did it reminding the Lord how hard/impossible it had been for me to care for the kids I already had while carrying Benjamin in my womb.  But I also did it holding on to God’s promises “he gently leads those who have young” (Isaiah 40:11) and “he remembers that we are dust” (Psalm 103:14), and “Let the beloved of the Lord rest secure in him, for he shields him all day long” (Deut. 33:15), I did it begging Him to show Himself faithful to his word and deal with me in a gentle and merciful way.

I prayed this believing that “I’d really be able to trust you again, Lord, if I didn’t get pregnant for a while”.  Well, God wanted to show me His gentleness and mercy and strength in a different way.

He has put a new “seed” in my womb, and this first 12 weeks has been absolutely miraculous.  It has been the easiest pregnancy I have ever experienced.  I have not been sick AT ALL (except for one night, and that was even after the kids were in bed) and I have NEVER had a pregnancy in which I have had so much energy.  I still need to take little breaks here and there, but with homeschooling I can use our reading time to lie down, and then I feel rejuvenated.

I am witnessing and experiencing his loving mercy every day of this pregnancy.

Our kids are thrilled and Trinity wants to pat my tummy several times a day.  I’m currently nannying a three month old and as I watch how gentle and caring the kids are towards her, I see that they are receiving great practice at being kind, gentle, and protective of those who are weaker than they.

I do not know what this bundle of joy’s temperament, giftings, or looks will be (well, maybe I do, based on the fact that all the other kids are tan and toe-headed) but the Lord does.  He has great plans for this child.  Every day we lift our kids up to the Lord-that He might draw them into a loving relationship with Himself, that they would realize they are deep sinners, but that the Savior has paid the price for them and now loves them with an unconditional love…that they would seek to be obedient to the Father, and that they would make themselves available to be used of the Lord however He sees fit.  We know from first-hand experience that it is a wild adventure, but when you chose to align yourself with the will of God, you truly see miracles happen.  We long for our children to get to experience the Living God in this way.

So, we wait in expectation. We expect the blessings and joys, (and sanctifying challenges!) that this new addition to our family will bring.  We wait in expectation for the ways we will have to depend Jesus in even deeper ways.  We wait in expectation to see how God is going to use this new pair of hands and feet and eyes and set of lips to bring glory to His name and bless those around him or her.

S0000, ready, or not, the IverSEVEN may be rollin’ around your hood next summer. (any more after this, and we’ll be rollin’ around in a good ole’ 12 passenger van!)

*this was my other fantastic excuse for not blogging lately, as my pregnant body needs more rest than it used to, and my bedtime as suddenly moved up to 8:30, with me usually falling asleep while doing family devotions with the kids.

Why I Haven’t Blogged in Nearly a Month…

The picture below, sums up why I haven’t had time to blog in over a month. Count’em.

The little boogers keep me busy

Thats five little people that need by time, care, and attention.  We just added Ella (3 mo.) to the mix a few weeks ago, because her mom had to go back to work, and we needed some extra income.

Not to be making excuses, but this time I really do have a good excuse.  It’s not that I don’t think deep thoughts that I would LIKE to write out, it’s just that at the end of a long day, going to bed is key for survival of the next day.  So blogs get put on the shelf.

BUT this weekend, my incredible and servant-hearted sister-in-law, Sara-Beth, is watching my kids while Danny and I are at a wedding in San Francisco (with a little R&R built in).  So, the blogging will resume! (stay posted for yet another fantastic excuse for why I haven’t been blogging lately)

Just thought I’d add some of all the other 25 pictures I had to take, trying to capture everyone on the couch…

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