Two Ways of Being Carried

“…In His love and mercy, He redeemed them;

He lifted them up and carried them as in the days of old.”              

Isaiah 63:9

There’s only two ways to do it…the whole “being carried.” business. We can either willingly be carried by the Holy Spirit, or we can try to move forward in our own power, and end up being carried away by temptation.

I always start out attempting to do the undoable task of walking independently.  Don’t we all? We want to do it our way, with our own effort, by our brute strength and will power. We even attempt good things, setting out with our own determination and desire to serve God, “do the right thing”, be a good parent, care for those around us, try to stay away from sin. I have spent the greater portion of my Christian life attempting this. I muster up a new resolve to follow and obey, but my inner strength and focus doesn’t really last long.  As soon as that temptation to indulge that craving for chocolate when I feel like having some, or the rage that erupts when the kids aren’t behaving as I want them to, or irritation that gives way to disrespect when my husband doesn’t use his time the way I think is important.  As soon as those things hit, swwwooooosh!  I’m being carried away by the currents of selfishness and sin.

Photo by Jim Christensen

Photo by Jim Christensen

This is the first way of being carried. I am carried this way often, and those currents deposit me in a place I hate being. Muddied, murky waters of brokenness-broken relationships with children, with spouse, with God.

But it makes sense that the ending place is a pool of selfishness, because the whole process started with self. I am the beginning and the ending.  I started the day, the process, the situation with ME walking forth in an attempt to follow God in the midst of the stream. And it is ME that gives way to the rush of the moment, failing miserably. And ME wallowing in the puddle of self pity, self condemnation, self inflicted guilt. I have become the alpha and omega. And its ugly.

But there is the supreme Alpha and Omega, that is more than willing to do the carrying. In fact, He has already done the massive carrying.  The carrying of my sin, repeated failures, and the messes I made has been done by Him upon that cross.  He carried all the brokenness that this prideful (boy, it would feel good to be able to do this on my own) selfish, seeking-to-be-autonomous sinner has made. But the carrying didn’t happen just once over 2000 years ago on Calvary. It happens daily, hourly, momently.

When I start my day, declaring, “I must be carried by you, Lord, or else I will be carried away by all the currents of temptation and chaos that come streaming towards me!” He is faithful to lift these wobbling knees out of the stream, and over the rushing waters. And I see God work in real time, what he did thousands of years ago for the Israelites, “…how I carried you on eagles wings and brought you to myself.” (Ex. 19:4) And God is so much smarter than my formula-loving self, for if it only took one declaration at the beginning of the day, then I would not be brought to Him but to a formula that I can check off my list, thus repeating the cycle of being self-centered and self-sufficient.

No, I must cry “Carry me!” in the early a.m. when lunches need to be made, breakfast serve, Bible read, and kids ushered out the door, after I’ve been up all night with the baby.  I cry, “Carry me!” when, while occupied nursing Malachi, Benjamin has written on the wall and unrolled the toilet paper while Katy-Grace didn’t quite make it to the potty, and Trinity’s downstairs trying to (very messily) make herself a snack. I hum, “Carry me!” when in the afternoon, I am tired and could consume half the bag of chocolate chips in an attempt to get a sugar boost.  I sing out “Carry me!” when everyone needs something at once and tonight Danny’s working late and I’m flying solo doing dinner, feeding, clean-up, baths, and family devotions….for five children. I whisper, “Carry me!” when I can’t turn my mind off from those critical, judgmental musings or those thoughts absorbed with self.  I moan “Carry me!” during weeks like last one, when I had the stomach flu and then dealt with it spreading through our family , many of whom don’t know how to make it to the bathroom in time. And, this week,  I CRY (literally!), “Carry Me!!” through every excruciatingly painful feeding of my baby with thrush, which has been spreading like wildfire.

And since HE carries me, I am enabled to “take up my cross” in each of those situations and carry it to follow Him (Luke 14:27)

And those strong arms, carry me.

Those strong promises of Isaiah 40:11-

He tends his flock like a shepherd; He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart; he gently leads those that have young.

and Isaiah 49:4

“Even to your old age and gray hairs I am he, I am he who will sustain you. I have made you and I will carry you; I will sustain you and rescue you”,

they carry me.

Jars of Clay’s song Dead Man (Carry Me) has truly helped me sing, “Carry me!” in those moments.

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From the Mouths of Babes

 

After Malachi was born, the three older kiddos received the GREAT treat of getting to go to Disney’s Animal Kingdom with my older brother, his wife, and my niece. They were spoiled by Uncle Ken and Aunt Susan, and had such a great time with their cousin and continue to talk about it.  Katy-Grace, especially was impressed by all the animals she got to see and is always saying, “When I went to Animal Kingdom Come….”  At first I didn’t understand why she always added the “come” part and then it hit….when she hears the word “kingdom” it is almost always as we pray the Lord’s prayer, “Thy Kingdom Come”, so of course, its “Animal Kingdom Come” because kingdoms, they come. Just as God’s is coming on earth as it is in heaven. And in the meantime, we’ll welcome anyone coming to the area for Disney’s kingdom.

A few shots of their Animal Kingdom adventure with Uncle Ken, Aunt Susan and Savannah Kate.

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The List

It was #14 on that list penned by a motherless teenage girl.  The list could have included “long walks on the beach” and being “romantic” but rather, this list consisted of qualities desired in a man of God fit to be a lifelong partner in the Gospel. It was the list of a teenage girl who wished to bypass the drama of pointless boyfriends, in order to hold out for the mate God had foreordained for her.  And the list included #14. “He has mother who I get along with well.” Because that was important to me, in the absence of my own.

It was a feeble request to a God who promises to do “exceedingly and abundantly above all that we ask or imagine” (Ephesians 3:20) I had NO idea how pathetic my request was compared to the woman God would bring into my life through my husband.  A woman who has now nurtured me, mentored me, gracefully shared the wisdom she has attained through years of adventure, struggle, and walking with God in the midst of missionary life and raising NINE children.

This answer to prayer, this woman who nurtured my husband for so many years, and who now nurtures me and my children, has flown across continents and oceans FIVE times over, in order to be present for the arrival of each of our babies, and to nurse me back to health in the wake of labor and delivery. And she comes with so much more than willing hands to fold laundry, cook meals, organize closets, and occupy grandchildren.  She comes with her servant hearted example, a deep humility, eyes set on Christ, and profound wisdom for that motherless girl now on the front-end of the mothering adventure.

Carol Iverson and her first grand baby, Daniel Josiah

Her first visit, she was a guide post at the beginning of so many adventures to come. New to full time ministry in the inner city, new to sharing my home with needy individuals, new to housemate who we were trying to help get back on their feet, and very new to the adventures of motherhood. She came to a scared young woman who didn’t know what on earth to do with a newborn life solely dependent upon her care and attention.  She taught me all the foundational “stuff” for caring for little ones. Books just don’t cut it, when the baby is screaming in the middle of the night and you don’t know what to do. You need an older mamma’s voice to coach you in your care.

“Ba Ba” and Trinity (with Aunt Betsy in the background)

Her second visit was truly a stream in the desert.  The desert of Newark, where all around was parched ground that her son and daughter-in-law were seeking to satisfy with the Living Water.  For two years we had been pouring into the parched ground of teenage boys living with us, constant knocking on the door by drug addicts, the homeless, neighborhood girls who wanted a safe place to hang out. Since my husband is the leader of men, fatherless teenage boys flocked to our home, to our dinner table, to our family life. I was absolutely surrounded by men. In the midst of a busy ministry, who had time to cultivate relationships with female friends? But what a sweet refreshment it was to have an experienced mother, wife, hostess, and missionary to talk to in order to glean wisdom and advice from.

“Mom” with Katy-Grace

Her third visit, I thought surely wouldn’t happen. I had already been spoiled for two baby arrivals and surely I couldn’t expect her to fly from Japan AGAIN to be with us.  But God worked things out so she could come, and what a blessing, in the midst of a painful recovery while a three and one year old scampered around the house and needed constant attention and care. She graced us with delicious meals, a cleaned house, “Grandma time” for the kids, and the added “protection” from constant neighborhood visitors (when you are 10 years old and bored, what’s more fun than visiting Miss Kimberly and the new baby?!?)

Mom cuddling Benjamin

Her fourth visit came in a new location, Orlando, just a month after we had moved into our new home. The now-a-bit-more-experienced mother needed counsel as she entered into a new season of supporting her husband, not in ministry but in seminary in a vastly different setting than what she had grown to know and love. She helped smooth the transition and poured out her wisdom as the homeschooling adventure was beginning, and life with four children four and under proceeded.

At it again, the magic touch with Malachi as well

And then this visit. When life with small children with big needs seems so constant and overwhelming. When at times you feel as though you are drowning in spills, and laundry, and shrieking, and bickering, and energy, and…did the one-year-old just escape out the front door? And she’s provided a sweet little respite to cherish the newest bundle, to cuddle him and nurse him quietly, and to take an afternoon nap with him upon my chest because neither of us slept the night before.  And her service and hard work has allowed the entrance of this newest life to our family be a joy instead of a daunting “task”.  Her counsel concerning child-rearing reassures me and gives me fresh vision in the journey. She has a big “grandma-ing” job, because, for my children she’s the only one they’ve got. Her presence and love now nurture not only her own son and his mate, but the next generation of Iversons.

I’m so thankful for that list written so many years ago.  It stands as a visible, tangible testimony of the ways God answers prayers beyond what we could even dream of. When that list was written two women were praying for the same man.  A mama’s heart praying for her son’s future helpmate, and a young woman praying for her partner for the journey. And Source of All has woven a beautiful story drawing glory to Himself.

For God, too, has written a “list” of sorts…his great and precious promises.
“For no matter how many promises God has made, they are “Yes” in Christ. And so through him the “Amen” is spoken by us to the glory of God.” (I Cor. 1:20)

So, in awe of His goodness and faithfulness, I say

“Amen”

to that list scribed by my sixteen-year-old hands.

BECAUSE I can also say

“Amen”

to the promise spoken by Him and worked out by HIS hands.

Ba Ba and (our) five of her 14 grandbabies