From the Mouths of Babes…Birthday Grace

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Super Dad had taken over for the evening. I lay sick and exhausted in bed, for I had used every last ounce of my strength to take Trinity out to buy a birthday present for Katy-Grace (with her own money). And we had made cupcakes and assembled snack bags for the Little Chef’s party (NO way I was going to execute that on this  utterly depleted energy level) Now go-to-the-movies-to-see- Frozen-and-get-to-sit-and-be-still-for-2-hours birthday party the next day.

Anyways, there I lay, half comatose in bed and Trinity COULD NOT WAIT to have Katy-Grace open her present, so she had opened it that evening, the day before her birthday. I hear them brushing teeth and getting ready for bed after the “grand surprise”.

Trinity: “I’m so glad you like your make-up set. You totally deserve that present for your birthday.”

Katy-Grace: (in her passionate, somewhat disgusted voice) “What?!? After all the mean things I do to you?!?!?!”

I died laughing.

At least she owns up to it. She knows she’s a sinner. Undeserving of grace.

And, in a particularly rough patch with her, I remember telling Danny, “You know, we named her Katy-GRACE because I was praying she would be full of grace. But I think God wanted us to name her that, so I”m ALWAYS reminded that she NEEDS GRACE”

But the hope is, that with the measure she has received, she will measure out to others and the grace that has had to be poured out on this passionate, willful, impulsive  (but also incredibly indearing!) child will fill her tank up so full, that one day, that grace will come spilling out to others that need to know the grace of the Father too.

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He Trains my hands for battle: How to combat the slumps and train our kids to do the same

“Mommy, I know why you sing. You sing when you are trying not to be angry.”

This guy is watching Mommy's hands and heart be trained for battle- the battle for JOY

This guy is watching Mommy’s hands and heart be trained for battle- the battle for JOY

He trains my hands for battle; He strengthens my hands to bend a bow of bronze. You have given me your shield of victory. Your right hand supports me. Your help has made me great. You have made a wide path for me, to keep my feet from slipping.

 Psalm 18:34-37

The little guy spilled the milk all over the already-spilled grits and eggs. It splatters all over table chairs and floors. An already-exhausted mother (you know I’m tired when we have breakfast for dinner) holds in every impulse to burst out in frustration, and instead bursts out singing. And that perceptive little boy, saw right into my battle strategy.

“Mommy, I know why you sing. You sing when you are trying not to be angry.”

With nerves short and energy levels low and mental and noise capacity maxed, there is a constant battle going on in my heart, and in my home.  And my kids will either be the victim of the battle or they will be trained by my training in it. They are constantly watching mommy battle for it….or unfortunately fall victim to the battle.

A battle for joy.

A battle for strength.

A battle for perseverance.

A battle for patience.

A battle for the joy of the Lord to be my strength.

So I personally battle. Battle within-which transfers to battling without. And these five little soldiers are watching mommy get trained.  Instead of yelling at my kids to “fall in line” and quit complaining, stop shirking their responsibilities and cease avoiding doing their chores. Instead of calling them to quit the bickering and fighting and irritating of each other, I must teach them to battle the same things I battle:

A complaining spirit.

A surrender to “weakness” and “lack of motivation”.

A desire to give up

A yielding to impatience.

A sinking into despair.

And we battle all of it with the gaze of our minds. A gaze of our hearts. Which can only be overcome with a gaze of praise. And singing through the storms is a sure training exercise that shifts that gaze. For each and every one of us.

From the Mouths of Babes…Valentines Day

We tried to make Valentines Day really special this year. The month of February we all memorized I Corinthians 13:4-8 and I John 4:7-11, and the hymn How Deep the Father’s Love for Us.

Our Love Tree. With a listing of all that love is, based on I Corinthians 13

Our Love Tree. With a listing of all that love is, based on I Corinthians 13

We learned about the history of St. Valentine. Then, on February 4, the kids found this sign in the kitchen:

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And each day, they would find a new heart on their door with something their mother loves about them [Can I just HIGHLY recommend doing something like this, especially if you are struggling with appreciating your children, ahem, I mean, not that I don’t always appreciate them, of course. But writing out their good qualities does something to a mother’s heart in thankfulness for the great things about them, and somehow lifts one above the complaining spirits or the bickering or the fact that they always forget to do their chores, and it enables us to see beyond the frustrations that can bog one down] So that by Valentine’s Day, their doors looked like this:

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And My sweet, loving husband, set out dark chocolates and flowers for me after I fell asleep (no huge feat, for I’m falling asleep around 8:30 pm these days). Which looked like this when I got up at 5:00 am to get water and set up the rest of the kid’s surprises (little boxes of chocolate, heart cookies, and waffle mix ready for the waffle maker).

My husband set up the table for me. Soon to be bombarded by the "results of our love".

My husband set up the table for me. Soon to be bombarded by the “results of our love”.

Danny's "Healthy Valentine" from me

Danny’s “Healthy Valentine” from me

After being up for a little while, I headed back to bed to doze for a few minutes before the masses came storming down our door.  It wasn’t long before I heard it….

“Moooommmmmmyyyyyyyy!!!!!!! Benjamin ate some of your chocolate from the table!!!! I see it on his face!”  Daniel Josiah our faithful, controlling, reporting son exposes the crime.

Then we hear Benjamin’s little voice at the door.

“No, I didn’t!!! No, I didn’t! Somebody….somebody….somebody just come put chocolate on my face!!”

And some people think children are born good, with pure hearts.

Well, we didn’t teach that child to LIE (and do a bad job of it) just to save himself from getting in trouble. No, I think that comes deep within. And its in all of us. And we all need a perfect Savior because of it.  A Savior who the real St. Valentine’s needed, and needed so badly that he was willing to die for Him.

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Platform: Gaining One Worth Having, and Keeping One Worth Preserving

An email came from a literary agent. A book proposal hurriedly composed. Edited. Reexamined. Sent out. A writing sample was requested. A meeting was held, a team deliberating over taking up the project.

The factor that did or didn’t seal the deal?

Platform.

Its the buzzword of this blogging, tweeting, social media dependent culture. Your songs can’t be heard, your blog won’t be advertised upon, your articles won’t be distributed, and books won’t be published….without it.

Platform.

It means you’ve got to be popular, and noticed, and esteemed in order to be heard. It means you have to have a following of people, because people have money, and money buys books.

And its interesting that the very One I type away into the wee hours of the night for, and the One I’ve been on my face in front of asking for guidance, and the One I have begged to give me wisdom and words, the One whom I pray is glorify in and subsequently hoped in due to this book,

Well, He seemed bent on destroying his

Platform.

After healing a leper (revolutionary medical progress!!) he said, “See that you don’t tell anyone. But go, show yourself to the priest and offer the gift Moses commanded, as a testimony to them.” (Matthew 8:4)

The demon-filled man, whom Jesus set free, begged to go with him and join the rank of followers, but “Jesus did not let him, but said, “Go home to your own people and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you.” Mark 5:19

When faced with the possibility of a very wealthy, very powerful young ruler becoming one of his followers, he had such a heart-probing conversation with him that, instead of gaining an important and rich follower, he lost one, for At this the man’s face fell. He went away sad, because he had great wealth. Mark 10:22

After feeding the five thousand, and teaching the people that HE was the Bread from heaven, he was met with grumbling, complaining, arguments, and On hearing it, many of his disciples said, “This is a hard teaching. Who can accept it?”…From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him. John 6:60,61

When tested to see if he would “break the Sabbath rules”, Jesus proceeded to heal the man with a shriveled hand and defy cultural  and religious values and destroy his popularity so badly that, Then the Pharisees went out and began to plot with the Herodians how they might kill Jesus. Mark 3:6

No, He did not weigh in on His popularity. He did not unite the masses to follow him and give him a platform to be heard by the Jewish rulers who were getting it all wrong nor to the Romans who were oppressing his people. He lived for one platform alone. The one established by complete surrender, yieldedness, and obedience to the will of the Father.

Part of my New Years Resolution was to write a book, of which the rough draft is done, due to wee hour writings and a husband who believes in the project. This past fall, my missionary friend in Swaziland, and I have been plugging away at the work, asking for God’s guidance in the project, for neither of us had a clue as to “how to write a book”. We felt the specific call to write, not knowing where that might lead. We just figured that we would self publish it upon its completion this spring. Then, two weeks ago an email introduction by a mutual friend to a literary agent in a prestigious publishing agency led to the request for a book proposal, and then to the asking for more and more writing pieces and information. It was all barreling along quite unexpectedly and thrillingly well.

And then the blog stats were asked for. And those meager numbers didn’t impress, at least not enough to have enough clout with a Publishing House. Every email leading up to this had sounded so promising and so hopeful but then, that email was received, actually at the end of a day spent taking my sweet four year old daughter and our international exchange student around the Disney theme parks. My girl and I, we had found our place to watch the evening Disney parade and fireworks, and while we waited for it to start, I whipped out that phone and read those words:

“We enjoyed your work, but – given our current client list – I needed a confident and unanimous response from my colleagues…and we didn’t get there. In brief, we’re concerned that publishers will find your current platform limiting.”

And I tucked phone back in pocket, and gazed at my girl all eager to see a “real” princess go by in a parade, and I longed for her to know that she is a princess because of what King Jesus has done to make her a child of God, not because of sparkles and puffy dresses.

And it hit me.

The best place for her to learn that…. is upon a

Platform.

The platform I build through day in and day out service and sacrifice, being joyfully engaged in the little things in her world, in the worlds of my five little children and the one growing within me. And maybe building a platform in that blogosphere, literary world would distract this mamma’s heart and mind from gaining the one platform worth having…the one I build in my husband and children’s lives. And building one out there might chip away at the one platform that I do have that is truly worth keeping. The platform that is right here. Right here in flesh and blood, right in front of me.

So, I will willingly forego landing a publishing deal, or all the work it would take to get a platform in order to land a publishing deal,

if I can only build a Gospel-centered, Christ-exalting, love-exuding platform with my husband and children.

I will labor in the mundane, sacrifice in the secret, faithful preach the Word of God to those within my own four wall, that I might build that platform in my children to proclaim to them the Savior that died for them ad loves them. And Lord willingly, they will be made into little disciples who do the same in their spheres of influence in 5 or 10 or 25 years.

This is the type of platform Jesus built. One with twelve simple, average guys who were so captivated by the miracles they saw and the death and resurrection they witnessed and the love and power that was imparted to them, that they moved forth into their communities, cities and the nations to repeat the process of building platform, in their own spheres of influence.

May I do the same, for these kids, as Christ does it in me, for His glory.

I have a big job before me. A time-consuming, emotion-consuming, life-consuming platform to build. It may not be as glamorous as soaring blog stats. It may not be as significant-in-my-culture’s eyes as a name on a book fresh off the printing press.

But it is big in God’s eyes. And it is big in those little one’s eyes whom I have the opportunity to gaze into and tell that they are loved. and prioritized.

And the platform I have in their lives is worth every moment of the work that building it entails.

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Who may ascend the mountain of the Lord?
Who may stand in his holy place?
The one who has clean hands and a pure heart,
who does not trust in an idol or swear by a false God
They will receive blessing from the Lord
and vindication from God their Savior
Such is the generation of those who seek him.
Who seek your face, God of Jacob.
Psalm 24:3-6

From the Mouths of Babes….with short memories

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I’m so glad kids have short memories…

The day after this failure, the girls were climbing into bed and Trinity said,

Mommy, you’re the best mommy in the world.

and Katy-Grace was quick to follow up with,

Yeah, Even though you sin, we STILL love you.

unmerited grace from these little ones,

refreshes a mamma’s spirit.

Not about the soccer schedule….

"Our Kids" at one of our youth group meetings several years ago. "

“Our Kids” at one of our youth group meetings several years ago.

Spoke to my best friend yesterday.

We didn’t shoot the breeze about our kid’s soccer teams.  Or about ballet schedules being busy.  Didn’t talk about the sale at Macy’s or about what color we will paint our kitchens.

No, the mothering issues she faces are far more intense than that, for she resides in Newark, NJ, where every day is a battle for a child’s life. A struggle against a society so broken and dysfunctional due to the generational curses of sin and selfishness…theirs and ours.

When asked what was going on in her life, she unloaded the enormous burden she’s been carrying for the past several weeks in.  One of her surrogate children came to visit…came to visit with bruises all over his body.

Bruises due to his stepfather’s anger.  His anger and his leather belt.

She tried to contact that boy’s mother, but that mother is in such an intense addiction due to her own mother’s neglect and abuse because of her addiction (the cycle goes on and on), that she can’t think of anything beyond how she will get her next fix. My best friend didn’t dare call the cops, because that means that child and his two older sisters would be taken out of the home and tossed around the foster care system.

A system that my friend herself endured as a child, and to this day bears the wounds of abuse within it.  She just could not do that to them.

Weeks passed by with him living in her home, hiding him, being a refuge for him from the wrath of his stepfather, and those weeks rolled into the school year starting. She worried and fretted because wasn’t a legal guardian and couldn’t enroll him in school. But she prayed. And she cried out to God to work in this situation. Miraculously, that boy’s grandmother, showed up out of nowhere and agreed to take him and enroll him in school .  A beacon of light for this hurting boy, whose hurt and crying out for help has come in the form of behavior that has kicked him out of four different school.  Will that grandma have what it takes to help this eleven year old boy overcome the ripping apart that happens in a child’s heart when his mother abandons him for her drugs, and a stepfather left to raise him beats him?

THESE are the questions my friend battles with…on top of her own financial struggles, on top of raising numerous children in a violence-ridden city, on top of not having a local soul to help her, pray for her, encourage her, because where she lives…she’s the most stable one around.

And if all that weren’t enough, towards the end of the conversations she says,

“Miss Kimberly*, I know you are going through alot, and I hate to tell you this…but I need you to pray…..

….last night a fourteen year old got shot and killed in Rosie’s (a housing projects two blocks from our old home).  I haven’t found out who it was yet…after I saw it on the news, I started calling around but I still haven’t found out who it was…it might have been one of our kids**”

*She still calls me Miss Kimberly from when I started teaching her daughter’s Sunday School class those 8 years ago.

**”OUR kids” means one of the kids who was part of Safe Haven

A child. got shot. and killed.

And I’m worried about toxic black mold.

Daniel’s heart-wrenching story started flooding all over me again.  All the thoughts and emotions, and tears and grief I experienced two years ago over his death, they surfaced like it had happened yesterday.

And my heart goes into a panic, and I feel like a caged animal. Longing for a city, a people so dark and broken. Longing to be THERE. Longing to DO something. Longing to simply show up in that place, to at least be a tiny light for kids who have nothing, kids who get beaten by grown men, kids who have mothers so hurt by the abuse they themselves experienced that they can only live  for the numbing affects of their heroine addiction. I feel trapped. trapped here in the comforts of the suburbs, in the mess of dealing with mold and moving in, and school schedules and housework.

Something must be done.

Those gates of hell, must be stormed.

The darkness must be penetrated.

Penetrated, not with a financial gift, or a handout, or a soup kitchen,

but penatrated with the Power of the LIVING CHRIST, whose precious blood has already been spilled to break those kids, those abusive dads, those heroine-using moms free from the power of sin.

and the LIVING CHRIST shows up in that neighborhood through his Body.

Who will go?

“Pride Goes Before A Fall…”

The minute the words started moving through my lips, I knew where it had come from.

The rush, starting in the heart, always in the heart, moved those words, up and out just like a tidal wave moves a piece of ugly driftwood easily ashore.

That momentous force that pushes those ill-timed words out, words that under other conditions would be harmless, maybe even beneficial but are ugly, ugly sin when motivated by

PRIDE.

PRIDE in the heart.

PRIDE welling up.

PRIDE bringing low.

With Danny’s new job (at Perimeter church), he is meeting with many different department heads to see where his giftings would be best used for the next two years before he plants his own church. Well, Head of Community Outreach was on his way to our house to pick Danny up for a meeting.  Estimated time of arrival? 4pm, right when Kids Club would be finishing up and our yard would be filled with kids from all nations.”Perfect”, I think to myself, “He’ll show up at our house and see how focused we are on reaching the community around us. He’ll definitely want Danny working in his department, then.”

So yesterday we finish up kids club and I start cleaning up and all the kids start trickling home. Afterwards, Mr. Head of Community Outreach gets welcomed into our home, with craft papers and markers still strewn about, and now not just pride over doing outreach sets in, but pride over my house and “I-can’t-bear-to-have-him-think-that-this-is-what-my-house-always-looks-like.” gets the better of me.

So as Danny introduces him to me, I cleverly pridefully throw in a,

“Sorry about our house, we just finished up doing a kids club this afternoon.  We’re doing it all week to reach out to our neighbors and get a chance to share the Gospel with them.”

Those ugly words, slimed with my pride.

And Matthew 6:1 shakes it’s eternal head at me…

“Beware of practicing your righteousness before men to be noticed by them; otherwise you have no reward with your Father who is in heaven.”

And just as a reminder, God sent rain ALL DAY today, and a phone call from one of the kid’s grandma’s saying that she wouldn’t be able to come, and a conversation this morning with one of the dads saying his daughter would be with relatives today, and a knocked-on door that never got answered, and a visit to Nurhiam, Joseph, Joshua, and Renato’s house that was met with a “we can’t come today, we are about to go to the doctors.” And I walked back to my place, under the umbrella, under the rain, and under conviction. .  “Lord, I know I got prideful at how well this kids club is going and I took a gift FROM YOU, and tried to get glory FOR ME from it, And I’m just an ugly mess of mixed motives.  But please, Lord, I repent of this, and please don’t let my sin get in the way of these kids meeting you this week.”

So with my five, and just two other neighbors we do “Plan B” kids club, which was actually God’s “Plan A”.  Because as I told them to draw a picture while I read to them, instead of doing our normal schedule of events (because I don’t want the other kids to miss the crucial parts of the Gospel presentation), I opened the book they chose for me to read, and this is what the first chapter was:

Chapter 1: Pride Goes Before a Fall

Chapter 1: Pride Goes Before a Fall

I get it, Lord! I’m learning!

And I invited those seven kids around the table into my learning process, and told them how I had been prideful and how today not many kids could come, AND it was raining, AND how God was using this little children’s book, “In Grandma’s Attic”, to whop me over the head, humble me, and keep me on my knees before Jesus.

“Is it worth it, guys?” , I ask.

NO! they sound out in unison.

“See how our pride hurts us and the people around us?”

And its a wonder that God chooses messy, arrogant people to be his laborers in the harvest.

May He get all the more glory from using broken tools to build His Kingdom.

Glimpse into today:

Newspaper “Snow” Ball fight in the basement

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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?

Mirror, Mirror in my Kid–Reflecting All I Said and Did

You might think you’re holy (or at least close)… and then God will give you kids.

And you might think you’re pleasantly being sanctified by those infant months when you have to “give” a little to a new cute bundle of joy.

And then you might be a bit more broken and needy for wisdom, when they hit the terrible twos.

And THEN, you will be utterly disgusted by the sin habits that emerge in those little ones, as they grow, develop, and become

MIRRORS.

When I’m utterly exhausted by the complaining spirits over the meals I make, or the chores enforced, or the reading time logged in, I start to wonder WHY everyone is complaining so much and see what a drain my lack of gratitude is to my Maker.

When I’m annoyed at my oldest trying to manipulate his way by begging and prodding, I see a bit tarnished mirror of what I put my father through oh so many years ago.

When I am exasperated by “random act of violence” committed by my three year old to whomever is in her path, I have to wonder has my roughness towards her at times stemmed this? Has she learned that this way of acting out is the only way to get mommy’s attention, negative though it is?

When everyone is tense and at odds with each other, I have to wonder, “Have I set the tone for this?”

When I hear loud outbursts between siblings, they sound oh-so-painfully-familiar,  I know they are mimicking such outbursts from the one leading them.

When my usually helpful and compliant little girl starts to get that a look of hardness towards me in her eye, I always know its a sure sign of having lost her respect (usually from my own anger outbursts towards them, followed by self-righteous, self-justification over why I got angry)

When my two year old boy is screeching over his different needs, but then melts into tears saying “Hole me. Hole me.”, I see how in my rushing from one activity to the next, I have missed the most importantly activity-cuddling, loving, and holding close my rapidly growing boy.

When you have children,      you    can’t     hide.

You have mirrors always present to reflect what is in your heart as it comes out.

And God saw fit to fill our home with five of them

reflecting EVERY ANGLE.

So when life and spirit and heart are so vividly on display,

with fear and trembling, one’s day must begin on one’s face before the God who calls Himself Love.  (I John 4:8)

one’s soul must be filled up with the all-satisfying Living Water (John 7:35)

and one must clothe himself with the Lord Jesus Christ (Romans 13:14)

because anything else that is reflected is just, well, ugly.

And those mirrors need to see a humility quick to confess (over and over again) one’s failure and need of the Saving Grace that covers it all.

May this poor, ugly mamma die, and may the resurrected Living Lord LIVE with in her

That she might reflect His beauty,

and these five little mirrors might reflect HIS Spirit.

Meeting Him on the Water

The waves are crashing all around, while the secure boat feels safe against their surge. But then you spot, in the distance, an Image that beckons you. The figure that you have grown to love and adore asks you to meet Him out where there is nothing firm to stand upon, or so you think. “Is meeting Him worth the risk?” You sigh, and begin to get out of the boat. The risk will be taken, if the thrill of seeing Him up close is the sweet reward.

You can’t truly see Him show up, unless you get out.

And get out, we did, this Christmas.

And SHOW up, HE did.

Scheduled for this Christmas season, were Christmas clubs each Friday afternoon, a week long visit from Eric and Sara-Beth and their four children, during which, Danny’s other sister, Martha and her one year old would be staying with us (in case you need help doing the math- thats five adults and a 7,6,5, 4, two 3, two 2, 1 and 8 month year olds in our home! Joyful chaos is what we like to call it.) All in addition to extra Christmas outreaches at OKPCA, where Danny is a part time pastor, plus all the Christmas shopping, cooking, and baking needing to be done. As soon as those guests left, we were scheduled to host international students again.

The coordinator of the ministry we have been involved with for the past three years here in Orlando called me up to work on placing some students in our home. I had told him previously that we would be willing to take whoever was the hardest to place.  He had a Korean family of four who would be hard to place because the unit was so big.  I told him “yes” with slight disappointment in my heart.  Why? Not because it was a unit of four, although that would indeed make for a full house. But rather because the mom and three girls had marked “Christian” as their religion on their application for the program.  I was very glad they were Christians, but my heart beats for people that don’t yet know Christ as their Savior.  Last year’s thrill of sharing the Gospel with people who had never heard the Word of God or the Savior which it proclaims was still fresh in my heart.  “I guess we won’t get that joy this year….” I think as I agreed to take the family.  Despite the surface disappointment, I knew that if I just said “yes” and got out of the boat of my expectations, I would meet my Savior out on that water. And there is nothing sweeter than stepping out, and seeing Him show up and show OFF His beautiful handiwork.

The first little detail He took care of was their arrival.  The Nolls had JUST left and so many sheets and towels needed washing, floors needed mopping (you should have seen all the dirt those 30 feet tracked through our house), and bathrooms needed cleaning.  I was on a push to get things done WHILE keeping five children occupied, watching the time tick away quickly while the To-Do list did NOT tick so quickly.  Then I got word that their flight would be arriving late, and had 4 more hours to work before they arrived!  Thank you, Lord, for showing up, and taking care of this tiny need-to be ready for their arrival!

Then I got to meet my the family and it turns out it was a mom, Juyeon, her two daughters (9 and 11 years old), and her niece (16 years old) who had flown to visit them during her winter break.  As we talked about the upcoming schedule of events (including activities at our Korean Church), Juyeon asked, “My niece is Buddhist.  She has never been to a church before.  Is it still OK for her to come to church if she is Buddhist?”.  Is. it. OK…..My heart began to soar! “You mean she doesn’t know anything about Jesus?”  “No, not really.” was the reply. Jesus knew the desire of my heart, and He met me there.  I WOULD still get to be sharing with someone who had not yet even heard of the good news of Jesus!  Katherine (the niece) drank in everything while we were at church, and asked lots of questions.  She received a Jesus Storybook Bible from us for Christmas, as a follow up to what she had heard us read to the kids at family devotions during the evenings.

Then Juyeon (whose English was incredible) and I had wonderful conversations AS SHE HELPED ME CLEAN THE KITCHEN (more on that in a minute) she said she was so impressed that Danny led us in family worship each night, and she thought it was so good for her girl’s to see the father taking that role. She confided in me that her husband was not a believer, and how she longs for her life to be a witness to him.  We talked like kindred spirits over the struggle to live LOVE all the time and that we so often fail, and lose our patience.  We spoke of letting Christ live in us to the degree that HE is the one who lives, handles the conflict, and is the witness through our hands and feet and mouth and ears.  We even had prayer time together for her witness to her husband and for her girls to grow to know and love the Lord.  Throughout the week, she had so many questions for me…about why we have so many people live stay with us/come over, why we have so many children, why we work at a Korean church, etc.  I think she was amazed at our lives, which seem so “normal” to us. It was a joy to share that it wasn’t ME, anything good or challenging she saw in our lives, was due to the Power and Grace of Jesus living in us.

About the cleaning thing…Juyeon was just like the wonderful Korean women at my church…Always busy working on something, washing dishes, and tidying up.  She asked “Is it OK to do this?  It just feels natural to me.”  I’m not one to argue over that due to my own pride…I’ll take all the help I can get!  I couldn’t believe it. She made my week and a half with them even easier than when it’s me by myself with my kids – just another way of Jesus showing up and carrying what would have been a huge burden.  Beforehand, I had no idea how I would keep up with everything…my own children and the messes they make plus extra people at meals and more hospitality on Christmas day…but I had known that when saying “yes”, God would take care of those details somehow-and He did in Juyeon’s helpful spirit)

THEN, my least favorite part about hosting the students at Christmas is being down in the kitchen by 6:45 am to fix them breakfast, get them fed, and then get them out the door by 7:30 so they can go on their Disney excursions.  But the night they arrived, Juyeon said to me, “I hope you don’t mind, but I brought noodles for our breakfasts because my girls are picky eaters.  Is it OK if I just fix them their breakfast each morning?”  What?!?  Jesus showing up again and taking care of the details…

The first half of Christmas Eve, they attended a conference in which the Gospel was shared- it was Katherine’s first time having the full Gospel shared with her. They arrived back home, we had dinner and started getting ready for our Christmas Eve “Service”  (Korean style, is to do a talent show, where each small group does an act or a song, and then we close with a candlelight singing time).  Danny was going to be rapping for it and the kids were in a couple of acts, and shot-in-the-dark, I asked our Muslim housemate,Nader, if he wanted to come.  We have asked him numerous other times to go to church with us, and he never does, so I didn’t have much expectation of him doing so.  BUT faithful Juyeon, says, “Yes! Yes! You need to come with us, we will all go together and it will be so much fun.”  Low and behold he decides to come with us 20 minutes before we leave!  THEN half the acts and songs are in Korean, so Juyeon is faithful translating things for Nader.  A little kids Christmas play of the story of Jesus’ birth with the Scripture of each scene up on the screen in Korean AND English-Mary and Joseph traveling to Bethlehem, Jesus being born, the angels appearing to the shepherds, and the wise men coming to worship Jesus-led to alot of question and answer on Nader’s part.  In the past he has said “Muslims believe in Jesus too-that he was a great prophet” but he knew so little about Jesus’ background and his birth so we were a bit noisy explaining everything during the play, but so thankful for the opportunity. Only Jesus could have coordinated a woman from Korea getting a Muslim guy from Libya to go to a Korean Christmas Eve Service in America, to be a place where this American family could explain more about Jesus’ coming. Jesus shows off in extravagant ways out there on the water!

Then Christmas morning was SUCH a joyful time together.  Our guests and Nader experienced “Christmas” complete with “Joy to the World”, a reading of Luke 2, and massive amounts of presents** being opened for the very first time.  **(Did I mention that right after I agreed to host the four Korean students, someone anonymously sent us a $200 gift card to Target (THANK YOU to whoever it was, if you are reading this), which in turn paid for the stocking stuffers for the ELEVEN stockings I had to shop for and fill. )  Everyone had a such a wonderful time opening things, and I just loved seeing Nader’s and the Korean student’s reactions when I have gifts for them to open and they weren’t expecting it.  (Must be how God feels as I received gift after gift of seeing Him work and coordinate events this Christmas season)

After presents and Christmas brunch, our house looked like a tornado had hit it, and we were having two guys from Egypt and a guy from Iran(who now will be moving in with us in February) for Christmas dinner.  Again Juyeon came to the rescue and recruited her girls to set the table, and she herself cleaned up the house, while I was busy in the kitchen cooking.  (Thank you, Jesus, for taking care of the details again!) Then we had a wonderful dinner and a two and a half hour discussion afterwards about God, the Bible, the Koran, the Gospel, Islam, and salvation.  Around our table sat Coptic Christians from Egypt, a former Muslim now agnostic from Iran, a devout Muslim from Libya, three Christians from Korea, a Buddhist from Korea, and then our Christian American family.  You’d better believe we had a LIVELY discussion….but amazingly, even though things got somewhat intense at times, we all ended better friends and blessed to have been challenged by one another’s beliefs (Juyeon’s daughters kept my kids busy playing upstairs with new Christmas toys).  Again we saw Jesus show up around our dinner table, and throughout our conversations, throughout every little detail.  It is a joy to step out, and let Him take care of the logistics.  I just love meeting a LIVING SAVIOR outside the boat.

Our time with the students came to a close with Katherine telling me that she had learned SO much over the week and a half, and Juyeon and I promising to get together up north (she lives in Albany) before she moves back to Korea in a year.  I ended my time with them in awe of God’s goodness, and more inspired to take bold steps of faith, for having seen Him take care of everything, down to who would keep my kids occupied so I could engage hearts from the nation’s around my dinner table.

There is no greater joy than simply showing up, saying yes, getting out of the safety of the boat of my own limitations, and walking on water with a supernatural power that could only come from the One who had created it in the first place.  I’m sold.  I am convinced.  There is no other way to live life but outside the boat…walking towards the Image of the Holy One and meeting Him in the impossible places.

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