Let the children come….

Karishma in the middle, not wanting to go home

Karishma in the middle, not wanting to go home

“No”

She said it calmly and resolutely.

“Come on, sweetheart, all my kids have to go in to go to bed now. I need to take you home.”

“No”

Again, just as calmly and firmly as before.

I had seen her a couple of days earlier, riding her tricycle around followed by her sari-draped grandmother.

This night, with our bike brigade of our own children plus the two “adopted” ones, we had started trekking around our street to deliver cookies we had made and flyers for a kids club we are having next week. She was tricycling around alone. A four year old.

We stopped by a few houses and came to hers and told her we wanted to go give her family some cookies. “No, don’t go there.” she said. Puzzled, I re-explained that we wanted to give them some cookies and talk to her family. Again, she told me not to ring the doorbell. Another neighbor who had joined the parade said, “Oh, I think she be scared of her grandfather.”

Of course we still rang the doorbell and delivered the cookies and talked with the family. Evidently she lives with her great-grandparents, aunt, and full time working young mom.  I asked permission to bring her around with us to make our other deliveries, which she willingly did, but hardly speaking a word, and never with a smile.

When the evening was over, and we had invited the fifeteen children on our street representing six different countries to our kids club, it was time to get Karishma home.

The process reminded me of being in Newark trying to return children to homes where they just didn’t want to be, maybe for reasons I’m fearful to know about.  A simple stubbornness to go. FINALLY, we convinced her to return with me and I walked home with a heavy heart, not knowing why exactly she didn’t want to go.

But I also walked away, asking the Lord to meet her through our family, and praying that Jesus would show up in a powerful way next week at the simple little afternoon sessions of Bible lessons, crafts, games and snacks that we will be hosting in our home.

Would you be willing to pray the same? For her, and for the children of the nations who we pray will be joining us?

A Mother to the motherless…

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I lost her when I was fifeteen. I would have given anything to get her back, but in God’s plan for my life and hers He saw fit to bring her home when I was young.

However, He did not leave me motherless. Instead, in each new season of life he provided multiple mother figures for me. My high school best friends mothers adopted me as their own, welcoming me into not just their homes, but their families. Treating me like a daughter, faithfully praying for me, sending care packages in college, and remembering my birthday.

A surrogate mother since I was 15 years old-faithfully prayed for me, supported me, and has sent me a birthday gift every.single.year since high school

A surrogate mother since I was 15 years old-faithfully prayed for me, supported me, and has sent me a birthday gift every.single.year since high school

Then I married a man with the most amazing mother, who also adopted me as her own. A mother-in-law who was a gift and answer to prayer.

Wherever we have lived, different women have poured into me and mentored me. They have been a mother to the motherless.

Christina-My mentor/mother figure throughout seminary. An amazing prayer warrior and kindred spirit.

Christina-My mentor/mother figure throughout seminary. An amazing prayer warrior and kindred spirit.

Now its my turn.

By giving me this “Kingdom-strategic home” that I had prayed for in those months before moving here, the Lord put me smack dab in the middle of several “motherless” children. To the left of us, we have Jamar, whose mother died in Haiti, and to my right, I have Jasmine (Phil Phil), from Ethiopia, who just lives with her dad.  Then there is the sibling set down the street who live with their single father, and the brothers/sisters/cousins group of kids who live with their grandmother. These kids have their fathers, but no mammas.

And they love being at our house.

And even though it is definitely more hectic and crazy now with these additions romping around, being part of meals, reading times, excursions and clean up schedules, I have to ask myself.

Is this home that Danny and I are attempting to build just for us? For strictly my biological children? For my own sanity? For my own control?

Or is it a place to welcome the motherless (or the fatherless) to experience the rhythms, the joys, the sins and failures of a home with two parents. A home ushered under the influence of the Holy Spirit as a Mamma desperately cries out to Him in the mundane, and offers Him a place, a Lordship in the midst of craziness.

These kids will not see a mamma who always has it all together, or who is always patient and kind.

But they will see a mamma that runs to the foot of the cross, in desperate need of a Savior’s mercy and sustaining power.

And if they learn to follow me there

then I have succeeded

to be a true mother to the motherless.

The Iversons...plus the adopted ones

The Iversons…plus the adopted ones

From the Mouths of Babes…

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I would have missed it.

I would have missed it if I hadn’t silenced the bombardment of to-do’s that came rushing through my brain while I read the ONE (and ONLY one, because I-don’t-have-time-to-take-up-nap-time-reading-books-to-you-for-pete’s-sake) to them. I would have missed it, if I “just didn’t have time” to respond to the curly headed, dimpled  faced two year old’s request, “you sleep wit me, Mommy?”. I would have missed it, if I had not asked the Lord to make a bottom bunk a sacred place of prayer instead of my preferred spot, on my knees in my room with the door shut.

I would have missed it, if I had not crawled into that uncomfortable bunk and cuddled up next to that sweet little boy, and stared into those big brown eyes.  They stared back, then fingers slowly removed from mouth and a whisper came.

“Mommy, I yuv Got”

“What, honey?”

“Mommy, I yuv GOT”.

was annunciated more slowly from that two year old’s lips.

and my heart swells,

at the first glimmer of the Holy Spirit’s work in this babe-turning-boy-on-the-warpath-against-every-imaginary-monster (and sometimes, sibling). This child that I have prayed for.

And to think, that the trash needing emptying, and the boxes needing unpacking, and the emails needing checking would have shouted out that little two year old’s voice….or at least my availability to hear it.

“Mommy, I love God”

Walking in His Footsteps

How on earth did he get the lid off the paint can?!?

How on earth did he get the lid off the paint can?!?

The role of motherhood often, often, often feels as though one is merely treading water, or running around a hamster wheel, or living in constant state of deja vu.

How many times did I sweep that kitchen floor today?

You mean you haven’t learned from the twelve other times I disciplined you today, NOT to do that?

I JUST DID the laundry, how did that pile grow so high?

Its mealtime AGAIN? I haven’t even done the dishes from the LAST meal.

Oh good, I just love cleaning spilled oatmeal off of the floor I mopped 15 minutes ago.

And so it goes.

Motherhood abolishes any hope and satisfaction we could possibly find in accomplishing the “to-do” list, because that thing we just thought we could cross off, gets put back on the list in…oh, say, 45 seconds.

And this is why mothering without a Living Lord who has promised His presence, can lead to…insanity.

But when those things that we do over and over and over again are opportunities to commune with a Living God, a Jesus who himself stooped to wash filthy feet with a basin and towel, a Lord who touched the leper, and stopped and responded to the cries and the needs of the lowly beggar, and fed the masses (I might only have five, but they EAT like they are five thousand). Then I realize I have an incredible privilege to walk in many ways as my Savior did.

The blessed, glorious thing is that Jesus’ actions are not some lofty moral path that I strive to obtain, but rather a picture of what happens when a Living God fills and propels a completely emptied and obedient human vessel. Jesus and the Father were one.

But on the cross, they were ripped asunder.

That the temple’s curtain might be ripped asunder.

So that I might know that sweet oneness.

His work on the cross cleansed me so that the same Living Spirit of God that filled and propelled Him, can fill and propel me.

So it is no longer, me looking at Jesus and imitating what He has done, but rather seeking to be the available, emptied servant that He was so that HE can do his serving, and healing, and feeding, and ministering through me to my own little brood.

And I can truly walk in His footsteps, because they are actually His.

He’s just using my feet.

“God sent you here.”

Our new home for the next year

Our new home for at least the next year 

“God sent you here.”

He spoke it before a piece of furniture had been moved in, before we had a chance to get a feel for the neighborhood, before we had spent even one night in the place.

Danny had gone to the house to meet the inspector so that we could move in the next day and he got to talking to our new neighbor, Richard, a Haitian man who has been in the States for the past five years, and his son, a sweet 9 year old named Jamar who live in a one bedroom basement apartment of the house next door. Danny had gotten talking to him on why we had come to Atlanta and how the Gospel changes people and places and our hearts.

Richard proceeded to tell him in his beautiful Haitian accent, “God sent you here. I just recently realized I need to get my life right with God, and I can’t live without him.  I need to start following him.”

They’ve had informal Bible studies together nearly every day since and Richard is hungry. And Jamar has already become like my sixth child.

And how would we have known which house to rent…the one with the hungry Haitian next door.  And the boy whose mother died in the Haiti earthquakes who needed a second home in which to spent his summer days. (The boy’s already started calling me “Mom”)

We tried to find the diverse place to live, we tried to find a needy neighborhood on those trips last spring to line up a place to live here in Atlanta. But nothing seemed to come together. So I just started asking:

“Lord, send us to a Kingdom-strategic home. One where we can make the most impact for your Kingdom. ”

And He sent us to Richard and Jamar.  And to Teekay, the Ethiopian man next door, and his daughter PhaPha. And to the Guatamalans and Mexicans and Koreans  and Indians that all live on our street. And to the Global Mall less than three minutes away where I could buy a sari and Indian curry. And to the Arab, Latino and Asian grocery stores all within a five minutes drive. And to the Costco, where I, as a white woman, am in the extreme minority.  And to the other English speaking stores in our neighborhood, where people who could have grown up in Newark shop. He sent us to the desire of my heart.

To the nations.

To the poor.

To the margins.

Who would have thought it, in the suburbs of Atlanta.

 

Where’ve I been….

An explanation for where I’ve been (as I have obviously NOT been on my blog for the past month)

~Month of May-Danny was working to finish up a 19 credit semester so that he could finish his 106 credit Masters of Divinity program in the scheduled 3 year time allotment (not to mention the work of adding two new members to our family, pastoring a small congregation, and working several other part time jobs during those three years- can I hear a loud “Super Dad!!” in the background)

A Masters of Divinity AND two more kids...all in three years time. Pretty productive, I'd say.

A Masters of Divinity AND two more kids…all in three years time. Pretty productive, I’d say.

~Month of May-Have Nader‘s parents stay with us for the entire month, and his brothers and sister come to stay for parts of the month. It was so wonderful, and I now feel like I have a second family, a Libyan one.

Nader's sister, Miriam, became like an older sister to the girls, Nader's father (background) like a grandpa to them

Nader’s sister, Miriam, became like an older sister to the girls, Nader’s father (background) like a grandpa to them

~May 17-19 Fly to Dallas, TX to be part of the wedding party for Nader’s wedding. Those Arabs know how to party. Had a BLAST experiencing new customs, eating new foods, and dancing to Arab music.

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Katy-Grace, Trinity, Nader, and his brother, Osama

The girls with Nader in his traditional Libyan outfit

The girls with Nader in his traditional Libyan outfit

~May 15-23 AMAZING people show up at my house at random times to watch kids, or help me pack or clean in order to get ready to move. I COULD NOT HAVE DONE IT WITHOUT YOU. Thank you…

characteristic of those last two weeks...no set schedule (or bedtime) and boxes everywhere.

characteristic of those last two weeks…no set schedule (or bedtime) and boxes everywhere.

~May 20 My incredible sister-in-law/best friend, Sara-Beth flies in with Asher to help with packing and be here for Danny’s graduation

Danny, Sara-Beth, and Asher

Danny, Sara-Beth, and Asher

~May 24- Danny graduates!! Let’s hear it for my MAN!!

Sooo proud of him!

Sooo proud of him!

~May 25 morning-hosted our very last yard sale. Over the course of the three years, I hosted, or helped host 19 yard sales…Sara-Beth was there for the very first one and for the very last one ever. Way to go out with a bang.

~May 25 afternoon-nearly 20 people show up to help us move and then to enjoy lots of food together. The entire house got packed up in 1.5 hours…record time. IN AWE of how smooth and joyful whole day was.

~May 26-28 Finish up last minute things at the house and finish packing for our upcoming 4 week East Coast trek. Yes, I managed to leave a load of laundry in the washer. That’s what happens when you have too many things on your mind…

May 28-31-In Atlanta, house hunting. Most of the ones that were in our price range had mold, or were extremely run down. THE VERY LAST HOUSE (which we looked at an hour before we were scheduled to leave town) was perfect and we quickly ran around town getting all the paperwork in order to get a rental agreement in order. We offered to pay $100 less than what they were asking per month, and they gave it to us, even though the leasing agent said there was no way. Well, with God there is a way.

Our new home for the next year

Our new home for the next year

June 1st-2am Arrive in Waynesboro, VA to see Danny’s grandparent

June 1st 4pm Start trek to New Jersey

Jun 2-worship in a church outside of Newark. Get to see graduated seminary friends and hear brother and sister-in-law (The Nolls) present on their mission to Southeast Asia. Cousins have a grand reunion. My heart throbs for the Northeast to know the fire of the Holy Spirit in that place once again, and yet it also throbs for unreached places in Southeast Asia to have the opportunity to hear of the God-Man, Jesus, who reconciles men with their Maker. Can the two passions merge?

Noa Noll, Trinity, Martha Noll, and friend, Millie

Noa Noll, Trinity, Martha Noll, and friend, Millie

June 2-Leave for Cape Cod, MA for family reunion, and last minute decide to swing through Newburg, NY to see seminary friends-SWEET time of fellowship and mutual encouragement.

June 3-2am arrive at the most beautiful place on earth (in my humble opinion)

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June 3-8 Fabulous Foursome Family Reunion-The four siblings in my family were all in the same place at the same time for the first time in many years, all united by my father’s planning and prayers. Beach time, dinners, Plimouth Plantation, Martha’s Vineyard, and ice cream runs filled our time. TRULY a blessing and a gift from the Lord!

June 9-14- After all the siblings and patriarch had departed, my family stayed in a 100 year old cottage that I went to every summer as a kid. SWEET time, although the entire week was either cold or rainy. The cold didn’t bother the kids on the beach though!

When its raining...do puzzles!

When its raining…do puzzles!

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The munchkins enjoying the water in 50 degree weather

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Family Pic…notice mother in sweatshirt….

June 14-17-RICH time with some of our old flock in Newark. Had a “family reunion” with 35 people transported out to the house we were staying at for dinner and worship. Igor Silva, an amazing Brazilian man Danny has been discipling since 2005 graciously hosted us for 3 days. I got to spend every day with Shashuna, best friend from there, and her precious kids. (What I wouldn’t give to uproot her family and move them to Atlanta with us….) Danny preaches at a suburban church in the area. The whole weekend was vastly different from last year’s mission trip and visit.

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My best friend, Shashuna, and me…her daughter, Analicia, in the background. Analicia was in my very first Sunday School class in Newark when she was 7 years old.

Faith and Malachi hanging out at Shashuna's apartment

Faith and Malachi hanging out at Shashuna’s apartment

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Danny explaining “triperspectivalism” (seminary stuff) to our former worship pastor in Newark, Adam Culp. Him and his wife Kate (and 3 boys) are dear friends and ministry partners.

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post worship picnic after we all heard Danny preach

Daniel Josiah and his buddy Tawan

Daniel Josiah and his buddy Tawan

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We transported 35 people from Newark to our friend’s house in the suburbs for a Newark reunion. Such a sweet time catching up with everyone!

June 17-20- in Waynesboro, Va with Danny’s grandparents. Good eating (Grandma’s cooking is the best), good fellowship, and a good time of working in Grandma’s garden. If you ever want to learn the art and ministry of hospitality, go to Grandma’s house.

June 20-21- In Greenville, SC for the Presbyterian Church in America General Assembly. Get to see Noll family again and see JiJi(means Grandpa in Japanese), who is back from Japan for a few weeks.

Silly time with cousins and Aunt Sara-Beth at General Assembly

Silly time with cousins and Aunt Sara-Beth at General Assembly

June 21-arrive in Atlanta to stay with our good friends, Bray and Amberly Deavours, and their four kids for a few days until we can move into our new home. What did I start doing, within ten minutes of being parked in their driveway? Start dumping the MOUNDS of stuff all crammed into our car, a direct result of seven people living out of it for the the past several weeks. You don’t even want to know how many PB &J crusts, apple cores, and shriveled carrots we found in the process.

Massive slumber parties with the Deavours girls. Such sweet friends, and gracious hosts!

Massive slumber parties with the Deavours girls. Such sweet friends, and gracious hosts!

June 23-Attend worship at Perimeter Church, attend pool party at their own pool and splash pad!?!, AND attend evening event that helps newcomers learn about the history of the church. We were there for 10.5 hours straight. Starting life here at a sprint. We are going to learn SO much. To our scattered flock in Newark: It may mean waiting several years longer, but we will return to you so much better equipped to help facilitate change, for having spent this time here. Maybe I’m finally seeing the vision.