No other explanation

It’s all his fault.

He made me do it.

Just if he hadn’t written that little book. Just if it hadn’t hit such a chord in my soul. Just if I hadn’t begun to pray that prayer based on what he had written.

“I cannot-and only God can….It means bowing to the fact that you cannot and only God can.  It means acting on the assumption that this is true, and exposing ever situation to Him moment by moment, for HIM to accomplish what you cannot, while you tell Him ‘Thank you!’…Then you will be begin to live miraculously. A life that can only be explained by the fact that there is a Resurrected Christ and He lives in his people.”

Major W. Ian Thomas, The Indwelling Life of Christ

So, I foolishly started praying that God would work in such a way in my life, that “there would be no explanation except that there is a Resurrected Christ and He lives in His people. “

I had envisioned constant energy. Unending peace. Supernatural optimism.  The God-given ability to keep up with everything, and manage 8 people’s different schedules, and have joy in my children while doing so.

But, instead, I end up with an incredibly debilitating pregnancy.

And a sick boy.

And a husband having major reconstructive surgery. **

And then postpartum depression to top it off.

Not exactly what I was expecting.

But in all my weakness, and inability, the body of Christ rallied. People made us meals. Friends volunteered to watch children.  Teachers took kids on extended playdates. Administrators at school showed grace when things weren’t done or turned in on time. A neighbor volunteers to read to little ones, so I can help big ones with homework. Other friends gave rides, fed little people snacks, welcomed my kids into their homes and loved them like their own.

It was just embarrassing, how needy I was.

But then, God gently reminded me of the prayer I had been praying ever since Ian Thomas’ message broke into my life….

“…there would be no explanation except that there is a Resurrected Christ and He lives in HIS PEOPLE.”

Not just Kimberly, as one person.

Oh no, that would give her far to great an opportunity for pride.

No, He was answering that prayer.

For He was surely putting HIMSELF on display not through simply one person, but a BODY of PEOPLE all moving as the Spirit led them. All offering themselves, their time, their resources, to help another member of the Body…

me.

And Danny

And this rather large brood of energetic, ready-for-LIFE little children.

and the church planting mission He has placed us on.

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so, when people stop and gawk at the entourage of Iversons, and say, “I don’t know how you do it!”

I tell them,

“I don’t.”

“You want to know my secret?”

“Two thousand years ago, Jesus Christ lived, died and rose again from death. He is alive NOW. and He lives in His people.”

Our family can offer no other explanation.

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**THANK YOU-to all who prayed for Danny’s surgery.  The doctor told me beforehand, “I’m actually really excited about working on his shoulder. Its not your standard repair, so its an exciting challenge for me.”  Welp. I’m glad Danny could add some excitement to his day. But seriously, the doctor was AMAZING and is one of the best shoulder arthroscopic surgeons in the country.  We are beyond blessed to have been able to use him.  The surgery went well, the doctor is optimistic, Danny is very groggy, and is now embarking on a 6-10 month journey to full recovery, through an enormous amount of prayer and physical therapy. Let us know any prayer requests you have, because he’s gonna have ALOT of mindless exercises to do that can be filled with times of prayer and intercession!

What He COULDN’T do….

He turned water into wine.

Multiplied fish and loaves to feed thousands.

Healed sick people.

Raised individuals from the dead.

Walked on water.

Drove demons away.

Caused money to appear out of a fish’s mouth.

Sensed people’s thoughts.

There wasn’t a lot that this God-man, Jesus,  couldn’t do. In fact, some would argue that there’s NOTHING that He couldn’t do.

But right there, tucked between healing a woman who had been bleeding for 12 years and raising a little girl from the dead, and then sending out his followers to go do the same, it says it:

He could not do any miracles there…”   Mark 6:5 NIV

And there are areas of my  life, and I’m sure in yours, in which I wonder, “Why Lord? Why don’t you change this in me?  Why don’t you work in this situation?”

And, my guess is, it is for the same reason that Jesus couldn’t do any miracles there.

You see, Jesus was in his hometown. He was a familiar face.  His name was a common one. His family was known, his background was known. He had been placed in a safety zone of predictability by the people around him.

Isn’t this the carpenter? Isn’t this Mary’s son and the brother of James, Joseph, Judas and Simon? Aren’t his sisters here with us?” And they took offense at him.” Mark 6:3

And for those of us who were raised in a Christian home, or have lived in a culture of Christianity, we might just do the same. Jesus becomes predictable. He becomes confined. Confined to Sunday morning worship services, our even to our morning quiet times, or to the One we pray to before meals or at bed. We believe He’s still there, just like his fellow towns people believed he was there, and probably expected him to be a good,  moral, kind, humble individual, just like he had been for the past thirty years. But what if He is ready to do things beyond the box we have confined Him to. And it is our unbelief that keeps Him from doing so…

He could not do any miracles there…..He was amazed at their lack of faith.  Mark 6:5,6 (NIV)

or

“…he marveled at their UNbelief.”  Mark 6:6

Its not that we’re purposely choosing not to believe him….no, it usually comes in the form of a gradual shift of gaze to circumstances instead of to His power, and a gradual dwindling of expectation. Its not so much disbelief, but a slip-in-the-back-door-prefix unbelief, meaning not, absence of, lack of

And his townsfolk had fallen into such a predictable rhythm with him there, a faint presence in the background of their daily lives, that they did not expect him to do anything out of the ordinary.

And we too, get lulled into rhythms of life, jobs to work, school schedules to keep up with, bills to pay, friends to spend time with and we know his faithful presences is faintly there in the backdrop of it all. And, not by our disbelief, but rather our non belief, or non expectation, it ends up that,

that is where we keep Him.

in the backdrop

in the predictable

tucked away in the rhythms of our lives, and our agendas, and our needs.

But this little story in Mark, shows us that

Jesus shows up where he’s expected to.

And I want to wake up each morning expecting to see Jesus do miracles today in and through a fatigued body that needs a God-out-of-the-box to work miracles in my kids lives, in my home life, on my street, in my neighborhood.

I want to wake up to each day and expect Jesus to work resurrection power in a marriage that needs alot of death to self, mainly in myself.

I want to wake up each day in humble expectation that Jesus can and will cast off the strongholds of food reliance and self-image obsession fromone weary individual.

I want to wake up in expectation that Jesus’ hands reaching and love extending can and will happen through me, despite being in a state of such weakness, to those individuals who have yet to hear of His Power and Resurrection or to the weary saint that needs His Voice of encouragement.

I want to watch in expectation for Him to show up.

May simple non-belief not be the box that keeps this Amazing, All-Powerful, Always-Moving, Always-Working God-Man Jesus from doing miracles in my life, through my life and throughout my home, hometown, and nations.

…in the morning I lay my requests before you, and wait expectantly. Psalm 5:3

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But as for me, I watch in hope for the Lord, I wait for God my Savior;

My God will hear me. Micah 7:7

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I wait for the LORD, my soul waits, and in his word I hope; Psalm 130:5

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But when you ask [God], be sure that you really expect Him to answer, for a doubtful mind is as unsettled as a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. People like that should not expect to receive anything from the Lord.”  James 1:5-6 NLT

Fear…the death grip and how to wring free from it.

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart….and  your paths will be straight”  

Proverbs 3:5-6

There’s nothing that makes my paths more crooked than pregnancy, and the hormones, fatigue and sickness it brings.

I plan a course of action, a schedule and an agenda…..and then I don’t have the energy to carry it out.

I want to love my children well…..but patience levels plummet to nil and I find myself bursting out in anger and frustration.

I want to stay fit and trim…..and my body balloons out as it prepares for a growing child. (WHY does this virtual vegetarian crave hamburgers and french fries for a baby that is only two inches long right now?!?)

I want to cling to the Lord and trust on His promises.…but hormones do crazy things to my mind and I can’t find my bearing in the waves of vacillating emotion.

I have a book to finish writing, ONE thing in my life that seems like an attainable goal (when everything else I do is so easily undone )….. and the fatigue and exhaustion dwindles discipline and drive and motivation.

I have a mind brimming with ideas for blog posts, people I want to write letters to, individuals I want to reach out to……and all those ideas are just trapped-trapped in a mind that doesn’t have the time or an able body in which to find fruition.

And we are called to trust the Lord with all our hearts in each of those circumstances.

And I wonder why it is so hard, why I can’t seem to muster up the trust, for on many a day I am crying out to the Lord and He feels far off (you mean, Lord, you’re not just going to send a nanny to my doorstep when I”m struggling through the dinner hour?).  But the only way for trust to take root, is to find what is standing in its way.

And I find that the Giant called Fear takes up residency in a place I long for trust to grow.

Fear?

No, it couldn’t be that. Most of us wouldn’t openly declare, “Hi, I’m ______, and I am filled with fear”

But when levels and layers are uncovered, we find that at the root of our desire and desperate attempts to be in control, fear is the demon driver behind it all. 

We want to be in control, and get things done, and have a schedule. Fear of losing control and God not handling it all, drives the desperate grasping after the schedule. I’m afraid God is not able to take care of this.

We want to love our children well. Isn’t that the key to them growing to walk with Jesus and become responsible adults. Isn’t that the caliber by which we judge our devotion to God? Fear, that I might ruin my kids, disappoint God, and be exposed as the selfish, sinful person I am is what unsettles ones’ spirit over personal failures. And I’m afraid God is not able to take care of this.

We want to have a certain image, fit into our culture’s declaration of what beauty is. We want to feel in control of our bodies. It is fear of disapproval, of being looked down upon and judged, fear of spinning out of control of our little kingdom of self found in body building and toning. And I’m afraid God is not able to take care of even this.

We want to be “strong in our faith” and stand on promises of God’s word, but fear of not being strong enough to weather the storms of suffering, propels us into guilt and condemnation for not having more faith. And I’m afraid God is not able to take care of this.

We want to accomplish our goals and finish what we start, and fear of never finishing, fear of God never bringing to fruition this faith walk He has led us upon, causes panic, “This will never get done!” (which leads to frustration at little people whose diapers and snotty noses and never-ending appetites are the “VERY” reason why it will never get done).  And I’m afraid God is not able to take care of this.

We want to be used to bless people, to help people, and we can’t do that if we don’t follow through with the promptings to reach out, can we? It is fear that God is not big enough for that person thought of, that they need ME to be the one to reach out to them and serve them, that leads to a disappointment with self  over not following through. And I’m afraid God is not able to take care of this.

But I am not the only one who struggles with fear.

A million people who had just seen the mighty hand of God  deliver them from slavery, from Egypt along with all the wealth of Egypt, were overcome by fear, despite God’s recent acts of faithfulness and powerful displays of deliverance. Little did they know that the very thing that terrified them (Pharoh’s army pursuing them right up to the Red Sea (Exodus 14:5-9), was the thing God was moving into place to display his glory all the more.

The Egyptians will know that I am the Lord when I gain glory through Pharaoh, his chariots and his horsemen. Exodus 14:18 

God was sending the unsurmountable Egyptian army to pursue his people (after they had just been released from their slavery), not to defeat their hope, their spirits, but to build their hope and the faith in His Might and His Love .

And the promise, the hope, the great fear combatant that God declares through Moses to those fearful people watching the Egyptian army pursue them, is one that rings through the centuries, right into this fearful mother pursued by an army of emotional, spiritual, physical and mental oppressors.

“Fear not, stand firm, and see the salvation of the Lord, which he will work for you today… The Lord will fight for you, and you have only to be silent.” Exodus 14:13-14

And since I think in lists, formulas and simplified terms, scribbled in my journal are the bullet points:

1. FEAR NOT.

2. Stand firm

3. See the salvation of the Lord

4. He will work for you

5. The Lord will fight for you

6. You have only to be silent.

If God is in charge. I need not fear. If I let him be in charge, my only need is to stand firm. If I believe He’s always moving even when this tired mother can’t, I can simply watch.  Watch him work for me. Watch Him fight for me.

I need only be silent and still.

This is what the Sovereign Lord, the Holy One of Israel, says:

“In repentance and rest is your salvation,
    in quietness and trust is your strength,
    but you would have none of it.

Isaiah 30:15

(I am slightly addicted to this song right now….my heart’s faith-cry through the trials)

Expecting: When you don’t get what you expect, but still expect to get

We didn’t get what we expected.

But now we wait in expectation for what we will get

We will get

Strength when we have none.
Faith to ride the storms.
God moving, moving in our children, when I’m rendered too weary for the job.
Order when I can’t be the one to enforce it
Joyful trust when we don’t understand the plan

I really should have known this would happened. Many  life experiences show, that as soon as we have a plan, a course of action we are following, Jesus moves us down a different path to remind us that he told us , “Come follow ME” not “come follow the plans you think I led you into”.

So, the very week we finish our adoption homestudy paperwork, we find out where our newest family member is.

He or she is growing…

in my womb.

And shock sets in, and grief over the seemingly shut door to adoption*, questions concerning all that had transpired this fall that seemed to make it so clear this was our season to adopt, but then also excitement over the newest little Iverson growing and the wonder of who this little person will be and become, and then the sudden realization and reminder that pregnancy.is.not.fun.

At least its not fun when you have five other little kids to keep up with and care for and naps are no longer an option in your life except at the extreme cost of finding plastic toys in your oven, every room in the house tornadoed through, and an inability to find your keys because the 1 year old was playing with them while you dozed during the supposed reading time that didn’t last long for mommy.  (cough, cough, its not like I’m speaking from experience…from this week)

Pregnancy is a cross to bear.  A giving up of one’s own life so that another might have it.  It is the gospel worked out, into every nitty gritty too-fatigued-and-nauseous-to-keep-up-with-the-housework-much-less-the-blog-i-wanted-to-be-more-faithful-about moment, in which I exchange my “right” to pursue my own passions and desires, my”right” to my body, my “right” to my own energy, my “right” to have a certain figure (let me tell you, when you are on your seventh pregnancy*, your body wastes NO time stretching right back out to the way it looked for 47 months of its previous existence). You give up your “right” to keep up with the New Years Resolutions, and you give up the “right” to have enough strength to keep your kids in line and do everything you need to keep things running.

But with all the suffering involved, even if its nine long months of it, it is worth every moment to impart life, a body formed around a soul entrusted, right there in your own womb.  Its worth it for who that child will be, how that child will bring laughter and joy and sanctification to his or her awaiting family members.  It is worth it for the sake of every life that child will impact throughout its life.  And most of all, its worth it to provide a place in which that little body can grow, grow eyes and ears and a heart and mind and a body to experience all the wonders of his or her Creator on this miraculous planet called earth. It’s worth it to bring a child into the world in which he or she will come to know God’s incredible redemption story. This child will come to know that although, he or she is born with a sin-cripped heart that will never need to be cultivated, only exposed, he or she will also find that this sin-cripped heart has been dealt with by the Sin-Crippler, Jesus Christ, the One with a pure heart. This child, I pray will gaze upon the cross that Jesus died upon, and come to realize this is his or her means to  a new heart, the very Heart of God, come to dwell in us. This message is what cripples sin within us, that only His heart can live abundant.

This is the greatest of all miracles, all mysteries, and it takes the miracle and mystery of pregnancy to invite a soul into such wonder.

So in the meantime, as cells reproduce rapidly, and God works miracles within, I will have to wait in expectation.  Not getting what I expected, but still expecting to get.

Expecting to get…

Strength when I have none.
Faith to ride the storms.
God moving in our children, when I’m rendered too weary for the job**
Order when I can’t be the one to enforce it.
Joyful trust when we don’t understand the plan.

For His promises declare it…that the waves of nausea and tiredness and aches and pains will not sweep over me, but rather the same Lord that created me and now forms this child, has commanded me to not be afraid but rather trust in the fact that I, and this child, and my family, who will all be affected by this pregnancy, have been called by name. And we are His.

So my three year old is HIS, when I really should be doing a better job of discipling him but can’t keep up with everything. And my 6 year old is His when I’m going to have to ask her to prepare lunch for her siblings. And my 8 year old is His when he’s just going to have to figure out a way to get his homework done without me. And my four year old is HIS when she’s going to have to settle for staccato-style reading of her older siblings rather than mommy always reading that book to her. And my 1 year old is HIS when he’s dressed in mismatched clothes because his four year old sister dressed him and that was the only way we could get out the door in time. And my husband is HIS when he comes home to dishes begging to be done and a wife fallen asleep at 9pm.

And my faith will be built, and there’s will too, as we all depend on the Mighty One, Jesus, together.

But now, this is what the Lord says—
he who created you, Jacob,
he who formed you, Israel:
“Do not fear, for I have redeemed you;
I have summoned you by name; you are mine.
When you pass through the waters,
I will be with you;
and when you pass through the rivers,
they will not sweep over you.
When you walk through the fire,
you will not be burned;
the flames will not set you ablaze.
For I am the Lord your God,
the Holy One of Israel, your Savior;

Isaiah 43:1-3

And the battle cry these past few weeks, as morning sickness has set in, has been the calling out into the water that the Lord does.  And the expectation that He will meet us IN the waves, and IN the fire, For HE is the Lord our God, the Holy One of Isreal.

My Savior. from my sin. from my fear. in my weakness. in my need.

*stay tuned for what this means for our adoption process

**we lost one baby, in between our first and second children, thus making this our seventh pregnancy

***I already saw this happen, as last Tuesday I felt like death incarnate, and could not function.  Daniel Josiah and Trinity (first and second born, ages 8 and 6) “sent me to bed” and said, “Don’t worry, Mom, you go lie down. We will clean up the kitchen.  AND THEY DID. AND THEY DID IT WELL: cleaned dinner dishes, loaded dishwasher, started dishwasher, emptied trash, swept, wiped down counters and table and pushed in chairs.  I was amazed. (NOW if they would just do that EVERY night 🙂

 

A Battle Lost, but the War not Over

I do not begin to know what the Lord is doing in all of this, but I do know that God never breaks His promises. We join the ranks of those who waited in expectation for the redemption God would bring about. Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses..and the rest that believed in what was to come, but did not see it in the present…

“All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance, admitting that they were foreigners and strangers on earth………These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised, since God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect.” Hebrews 11:13, 39

I long to see the streets of Newark ring forth with praises to the Creator and Savior. I long to see broken hearts restored by the One whose heart broke for the purpose of ushering in that restoration. I long to see fatherless children know the love and faithfulness of the Heavenly Father. I long to see broken, ugly, marred things be made beautiful. There are many longings lefts unfulfilled as this chapter closes, and, although it seems that this battle has been lost, the war is not over…..

Danny’s letter to supporters announcing the closing of Safe Haven, the ministry we started to reach out to children, teens, and families in the inner city of Newark, NJ

Dear Faithful Supporter,

Eleven years ago God gave me a vision for a community… a community plagued by crime, gangs, addictions, prostitution, and filled with thousands of kids being exposed to the hideousness of such evil and raised in the midst of it. My heart broke, and I saw the need for the Gospel to be proclaimed in word and deed in the lives of those precious kids and in the lives of all those living there. Out of that vision Safe Haven was birthed. I never imagined what God would do, and I am still hopeful for what He still will do as the gospel seeds which were planted in those lives begin to bear fruit.

You are receiving his letter because you have been a part of that vision, part of the transformation that God did in thousands of lives through the work of Safe Haven and Trinity Reformed Church. Somehow and in some way, God has included you in his restoration project in Newark, and I am so thankful that we had the privilege to labor together to bring God glory and see our own lives, as well as the lives others, changed. Some of you came and served here, selflessly pouring yourselves into the lives of others, and in turn receiving more from the relationships you developed in that community than you ever imagined. You met Jesus here in a special way and will never forget the things He taught you, the way He comforted you, and the way He used you. Some of you chose to give, and you abundantly and selflessly shared your resources with the poor and marginalized here. As God’s love flowed through your generous hearts, you felt His presence and you rejoiced all the more in the great gifts He has given you and your ability to share with others. You were blessed as you gave. Some of you faithfully prayed, committing this ministry to the Lord and trusting Him to accomplish His good work as His gospel went forth with power and love. You wept for this city with us, and you rejoiced as God answered your prayers and did mighty things to display His power and bring people to Himself. It has been an adventure and I am so thankful for what God has accomplished, and thankful for each of you and your part in this story.

Sadly, it seems that Safe Haven’s small chapter in God’s larger redemption story is coming to an end. The Reformed Church of America, under which Safe Haven operates, has rightly determined it is time for us to close down this ministry. It has been really hard to write this letter, because it is hard to watch an organization into which I poured my life have to close its doors to the community. My heart grieved as I watched from a distance as Safe Haven’s leadership and vision fell apart this last year. I have felt powerless, called away to seminary on a new mission from God, to study and grow and prepare for church planting in the future. There was nothing I could do but pray for God’s will to be done in Newark according to His plan and not mine. “Why God?” is all that comes to my mind as I observed the struggle and witnessed the ministry I love fall apart. I don’t know why He would allow this to happen when there is still such need in that community. I haven’t received an answer yet and am not sure if I will.

Yet in the midst of the sorrow, there is hope… Not a hope in humanity, and our ability or capacity to build organizations and change or fix the broken things in our lives or in our cities, but in God, and in His ability to redeem and make things right according to His plan. He was in Newark before I was. He had His eyes on those kids before I did, and His heart breaks for that community more than mine ever will. Unlike the projects, programs, organizations or institutions we might begin, maintain and grow (and watch die), His Kingdom will have no end and the gates of hell will not prevail over Christ’s work and the invisible pure Church which our Savior leads. Yes, the things we begin do seem to break apart, usually because of our sin, our human pride and our own insecurities, but despite that, God’s redemption plan moves forward, and He accomplishes His will. What might have been intended for evil, He somehow turns around for good, and if there is anything to learn from redemptive history it is just that.

I am not about to point fingers at anyone for Safe Haven’s demise, and I encourage you not to either. I know my own failures as a leader must have played a part on the organizational level, and for that I am sad, but through that I hope to grow, and I hope to see God use me once again for His glory and Kingdom and for the healing of others. This has been a good chance for me to hitch in all the more to the promises of God and find my righteousness and significance in what Christ has done for me instead of what I may or may not do for Him. I pray that for you as well, dear partners in this ministry. Rejoice in what God has done, rejoice in Jesus and His Lordship, rejoice in His faithfulness despite our unfaithfulness, and respond to that as you live your life according to His Word. Continue to faithfully go, give and pray for ministries of mercy and justice, and do not lose heart in the battle for our inner cities, for the poor and marginalized of society, for the least of these who are often overlooked and underserved by the Church. Maybe God is clearing Safe Haven out of the way for something even more amazing to happen in that community? I don’t know – but I do know that our God is good, and that He is in control. I do know that He has commanded us to serve and love each other, to be faithful in showing up and leaving the results to Him. I do know that He will never leave us or forsake us, and that He is close and present with us as we step out in faith and obey His Word by the power of His Spirit which He has given to us. That’s where I am finding strength as I grieve and walk through this valley of confusion; as I pray for that community and those precious people made in God’s image and in need of His grace and truth, and as I dream and hope in what God might do in the future.

I encourage you dear friends, to continue in faith, and by the power of the Holy Spirit, to “spend yourselves” on behalf of the hungry and watch God bless you as you bless others. May the joy and grace of our Savior, who spent Himself for us, continually supply you with all strength, wisdom and power as you live for Him and for others.

For the King and the Kingdom,

Danny Iverson

Founder

Glimmers of hope

For the past few weeks I have filled in as program director for our after school program.  Betsy is back in town (she’s going to live here this summer-YAY!) and since her job hasn’t started yet, she babysits all afternoon for me, so that i can be with the kids in the program.  BOY is it hard work.  Danny and I talk about how we managed to get the “cream of the crop” in terms of having some of the hardest kids, from the roughest backgrounds.  (one fourth grader, after getting made fun of, stormed off to the kitchen to retrieve a knife-fortunately one of our leaders was following close behind her and we ended up having a long talk about it) Anyways, I feel that much of what we do isn’t even about the program but just loving these kids and PARENTING them.  They were never taught to respect people (people older them OR their peers) and they don’t really know what disciple is because some of their parents are so uninvolved in their lives (one of our teen workers reported that he sees several of our kids out at 1:00am and 2:00am just hanging out by themselves some nights). Having our afterschool program is like starting from square one in terms of teaching these kids how to respect people, how to listen, how to be kind  and how to deal with negative emotions. One day I was tired of getting walked over so I decided that yelling would be the answer.  I was super strict, (borderline mean) and I yelled alot.  When I came home and told Danny my new tactic, he gently reminded me that our goal is not to just get them to listen and to do what we want, our goal is their hearts. And slowly but surely, as we continually show up and invest in their lives, I believe their hard hearts are and will continue to change. God is so gracious to allow us to see little glimmers of heart changes, and here are a few:

 

-> one girl, “Kellie” used to be SOO bad in my Sunday School class. (her mom is one of the Crip leaders in the projects)  She would be absolutely unmanageable, go off on pouting sprees, pick fights with kids, and refuse to participate in the activities.  But since she started the program, her behavior in my Sunday School class has changed DRASTICALLY.  She participates, works hard on her assignments, and always volunteers to read. Last week, she was about to say something mean to one of the kids when she caught herself and stopped mid-sentence.  I got really excited that she has shown self control (so excited that at first, she thought she was in trouble), and had chosen not to say something hurtful.  This is HUGE for these kids because saying mean things to one another is as natural as breathing…I think half the time they don’t even realize how rude, mean spirited, and hurtful their comments are.  Then today during Sunday School she was having a “relapse” in some of her bad attitudes and disrespect, so I told her she had to leave my class.  She then joined in with another class’s craft and drew me a picture and wrote me a letter of apology for her behavior. This also is an enormous step…I don’t think that these kids even understood the concept of apology prior to coming to our church. 

 

–>Another girl, “Debbie”, who is a ringleader for most of the kids and a big bully a lot of the time, has been absorbing Scripture and all the stories and facts that we have been teaching.  This past week she disagreed with a way that I had disciplined another of our students and I got the typical attitude and “That ain’t fair!!! (If I got a nickle every time i heard that phrase, Danny and I could buy our own house!) I told her I was the leader, she doesn’t understand everything, and I wasn’t about to explain myself to her, and then just let it be.  Forty five minutes later, she came up to me and told me she was sorry for having an attitude.  

 

–> One of our teen leaders, at our weekly meeting, really “got” it as we did a Bible study and we questioned WHY we are doing what we do.  He immediately said “LOVE!!”.  He said there is no other explanation for why Danny and I would put up with what we do, other than love.  And he also declared that love was the only thing that would change these kids.  (Note- we don’t require our teen staff to be believers, but based on his responses, it seems that our “Jesus-time” and our devotionals are sinking in to his heart as well as the kids. 

 

–> One kid, “Damon”, who gives us the most trouble, broke down and wept last week and opened up about his grandmother dying.  Many of these kids grandmothers do more loving and nurturing than their own mothers do.  I was encouraged to see him finally opening up and getting to the “why” of his behavior. 

 

–> “Ken” got in trouble one day, and had to be in time out so I sat down with him to try to talk things out, but I then got distracted by two other kids who were fighting and disrespecting me. After I dealt with them, Ken  came up to me and said, “Miss Kimberly, I thought we were going to have a talk.”  My babysitter had to leave so I took him over to my house to have our “talk”.  This resulted in four other kids lining up at my back door so that they could have a “talk” with Miss Kimberly. This whole ordeal made me realize even more, that negative behavior is just a ploy to get some attention.  If they are bad, then they will get pulled aside and have to have a heart to heart with one of the leaders, with the leader giving them their undivided attention. Undivided attention, especially the calm kind, is a priceless rarity in their lives.