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.

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Moving forward in weakness

On the steps of the church

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

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

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

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

And we are suppose to be starting a church soon.

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

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

 

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

the half dozen

the half dozen

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

He.gets.it?

He.gets.it.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So we move. Move forward in weakness.

But there’s that promise about weakness.

A promise that HIS power is made perfect there.

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

but IN it.

 

But he said to me,

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

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

so that Christ’s power may rest on me.

2 Corinthians 12:9

Where are you sitting?

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

Psalm 110:1

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This is where I have been sitting.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

they would find me.

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

with every moment stolen, or thought process fractured,

I would become more embittered.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

until he makes my enemies my footstool.

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

 

God Uses the Messes

It had been another frantic Sunday morning.

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

Help me, Lord. 

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

Help me, Lord.

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

Help me, Lord. 

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

Help me, Lord. 

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

Help me, Lord.

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

Help me, Lord. 

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

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

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

Then the whimpering starts…

“Mommy! Mommy! My tag is itching me.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

And then I feel them.

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

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

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The miraculous scissors

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

Thank you, Lord, Thank you!!

I whisper to Him.

And He did some whispering back:

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

Isaiah 65:24 NLT

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

New Beginnings

new_earth

In the beginning….

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

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

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

” In the beginning, GOD. “

My new beginnings start with HIM.

“In the beginning, God CREATED.”

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

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

I ask Him to hover.

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

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

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

And nothing is left but disorder.

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

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

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

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

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

Genesis 1:1-24

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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