I witnessed a miracle….

I trucked my little ones down there, armed with snacks, action figures, and a laptop to play movies on…

…Desperately trying to make progress on a project that seems impossible.

I walk into a house that is suppose to be “home” to a family of eight in just three short weeks, and it looks like this:

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As I entered the mess and chaos, and with it, the enormous to-do list, I started…

singing.

Something welled up inside me to declare,

I don’t care what kind state this place is in, it is going to be a place where Jesus Christ is worshipped. 

Don’t get me wrong, this house renovation has been a vacillating faith walk for me these past several months.  I have laid this house before King Jesus more times than I can count, praying boldly that it would be like the Tabernacle of the Old Testament, in which God already had all the details and measurements in mind for it. He anointed men to work on it and build it and He even lined up all the materials for it. And then it became a place of reverent worship unto Him. (mmm…that sounds vaguely familiar to the book that is in the process of being written) And I pray diligently and I believe faithfully, and then…

every time I would show up to the work site, all my faith would quickly run down the drain…a drain that looks like the paint-covered, spackle-crusted one that is suppose to give my babies baths in three weeks.

But today, today I would choose to sing, and declare the praises of my Lord in a place and situation that seems too impossible for human hands to fix. 

I check my phone to see what the weather is suppose to be like on Saturday, a day scheduled for volunteers to come and help with fixing up the place.

One of the coldest weekends of the winter predicted… too cold to paint, too cold to work outside in our demolition-site-appearance of a yard.

I lay that before King Jesus too, for He is Lord of weather and warmth.

Saturday morning, after a 4:00 am rising, we re-enter a house that still looks like it did earlier in the week.

And this time, a new battle cry, or maybe heart submission stirs.

Lord, I know I made that inner vow months ago, “There is NO way I’m moving my family into an unfinished house.” But, Lord, if you have given us the faith to move into this neighborhood, you can give me the faith to move into a house that isn’t completely finished. Faith from YOU can enable me to do and endure anything. I surrender it all to your will. 

And then I started singing again.

For when your own efforts can do little to change circumstances, your heart efforts in sacrificial praise and thanksgiving can.

9 a.m people start rolling in…people I have never met before. People who just got wind that a family needed help with their house renovations. Master organizers started cleaning and sorting the tools and supplies strewn all over the place. Skilled workers who actually knew how to fix porches and put trim up and spackle sheetrock rolled in. Skilled painters came in who painted cabinets and walls and closets. And skilled chefs brought food to nourish working individuals.

 

Danny sharing the vision for our move to Grove Park

Danny sharing the vision for our move to Grove Park

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God miraculously brought hands and feet to help us get this job done

 

And the sun came out. And the temperature rose. And in 55 degree weather people joyfully filled an entire dumpster with all the scrap materials that cluttered the yard, and in bright sunshine men fixed rotting wood on the porch, and in a warm breeze we later gathered to eat lunch and talk about how God is stirring…doing something mighty in this place.

reconstructing a porch that had been eaten by termites

reconstructing a porch that had been eaten by termites

It used to look like this

It used to look like this

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Later in the day we gathered in the driveway to eat and fellowship in the warm sun

 

And as I bustle about getting supplies for different projects and giving direction to different “crews” I keep saying.

This is a miracle.

THIS is a miracle.

This is a miracle!

Hope bloomed bold in my heart. Maybe, just maybe, we will move into a (mostly) finished house. And if we don’t, my heart is in a place to receive that, too, with thanksgiving. And thanks to the wonderful people who showed up, I now know how to cut, install, and spackle sheetrock. Which makes all of the other jobs around the house more “learnable”. (I mean, who says, a mom of six can’t finish sheet rocking the basement, or  learn how to place tile in a bathroom, or lay a backsplash in the kitchen?!?)

By the end of the day, FORTY individuals had come through that house. Some worked for two hours, some for 8. Some were 7 years old and some were 65. Some were skilled carpenters and some were kids who just picked up trash or sanded re-usable trim.

There is still MUCH to be done, but this mamma has witnessed a miracle. And what I see happening in a physical building, I am praying for in the human hearts of my new neighbors, in myself, as we build, not only a house for my kids to dwell in, but a community of Jesus followers for my Savior to dwell in.

After all, I have witnessed a miracle.

God is building us a tabernacle, so that we can be His hands and feet to build His Tabernacle.

A Tabernacle of people who are His, who believe their God and witness His miracles.

To watch a short video of Danny sharing the vision before the work day two weeks ago, click HERE. 

 

 

 

 

Ripe for Redemption

I picked up the kiddos from their amazing school in the wealthy, sheltered part of town. The magnificent building, the pristine landscaping, the haven that the school and church property is… This place has been a great blessing in our lives.

Our sending church is like a resort....

Our sending church is like a resort….

One of the nicest church properties in the U.S.

One of the nicest church properties in the U.S.

When I drive through its parking lot dotted with gorgeous red maples, it seems surreal that when these kids were first born we welcomed them into a church family that met in a building with crumbling walls and a roof that leaked every time it rained, all surrounded by some of the worst poverty in America.

The inner city church we helped replant.

The inner city church we helped replant.

Our Christmas outreach (yes, with Santa) and rotting walls that we could never repair fast enough due to the leaking 100 year old slate roof

Our Christmas outreach (yes, with Santa) and rotting walls that we could never repair fast enough due to the leaking 100 year old slate roof

That poverty stricken area was home.

And I loved the beautiful ugly it held.

And now, as I pick the kids up, we head downtown. Down to our soon-to-be new home on Maywood Avenue.

And I know I will grow to love this place, but the stark contrast from what I just picked my kids up from, and the place where I was driving them into…well, it was just abrupt.

All the kids piled into the 12 passenger van that a VERY generous person (that we love!) enabled us to get

All the kids piled into the 12 passenger van that a VERY generous person (that we love!) enabled us to get

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I drive from pristine beauty, into desolation

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And pawn shops….the sort of store that declares “the people in this area are in financial crisis!”

 

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or stores that couldn’t make it, boarded up only to be inhabited by squatters…

And I’m going to bring my babies here?  And raise them in beautiful ugly again?  A beautiful ugly that is still just ugly to me?

The toxic fear creeps into my heart. There’s six of them now! And life isn’t as simple as it was when I just had three little ducklings that stayed close to mamma duck.  

Life was simple when they were little

Life was simple when they were little

And all their friends were little too

And all their friends were little too

Now that 3 year old boy is nine, and wants to ride bikes in the neighborhood and play football with the kids down the street…

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nearly half the homes in the neighborhood look like this…

...and this.

…and this.

 

 

Kids who curse and who have been exposed to who-knows-what in their homes. But they are kids who need to know the steadfast love of a God who has endured far more tumult than they have in those homes.  They need to meet a God who went to the cross in order to rescue them from the generations of sin and struggle that they were born into. My kids, too, have been born into generational curses that I constantly have to repent of, and run to the cross with…and doesn’t that put us all in the same boat?

 

 

….We pull into the driveway and before I go in to meet with contractors working hard to make that little home livable for a family of eight, I set the kids up with a picnic in the yard….a yard, with trees.

 

 

 

Our new home....looks tiny, but it actually has a huge basement we are refinishing with extra rooms!

Our new home….looks tiny, but it actually has a huge basement we are refinishing with extra rooms!

We are about to start a church in the inner city, and my kids still get to grow up with a yard and trees and forts in bushes and tire swings and crickets singing at night.

And if God can move me into the desires of my heart-to live amongst, and pour into the marginalized of society, and live fully for and pour into the children God has entrusted to me and He can provide a yard for those kids, then I’m sure He can provide everything else they need as well.

And I will cling to and live by the promises that “my God will fully supply your every need according to his glorious riches in the Messiah Jesus” (Phil. 4:19 )…and that includes the wisdom to navigate the raising of these kids in the neighborhood God has called us to.

 

 

When you want the glory without the path that gets you there

I dreamed it.

And it scared me.

Scared me right into humble submission to every long, hard, fatigued, feeling-sick day. Scared me into waiting patiently.  Scared me into receiving whatever I needed to learn and do in this hard waiting process.

It has been a tough 4 1/2 months. More negative emotions, failures, despairing moments, and struggles have been faced than I would like to admit.

And ever since week six, I had been grumbling about how I was excited about the child, but how I was horribly dreading/already hating the pregnancy . I kept whining to my very patient husband, “I just wish I could go into labor tomorrow. Why can’t I just skip the 9 months of utter misery and weakness, and get the kid?! Isn’t that what we were going to do with adoption? I’d do anything, just to be on my way to the hospital, ready to deliver this baby.”

And then I dreamed that it came true.

And I went into labor, and I was at the hospital….

…and I delivered a tiny, shriveled, and underdeveloped baby.  A dead baby. And the doctors told me,

“The baby didn’t have enough time to develop and grow. There was no way for the baby to make it.”

And that morning, the emotions still washing over me of what that would have been like, the Lord impressed it on my heart.

“What I am growing within you, is far more than a baby.  

And the character, patience, long-suffering, and endurance I will develop in you takes time.

If you rush the suffering, you will rush all that I am growing in you.

You will get a truncated self, just like that truncated baby”

So in my natural, in-my-strength, and according-to-my-plan self, I’d much rather avoid the messiness, weakness, humbling, and agony of it all.  Can’t we just skip to the glory? (have a precious little person in my arms to hold and to cherish?) But God is teaching me the same thing He was teaching His followers two thousand years ago.

You see, Peter seemed to have the exact sentiments as I do. (about the glory, not necessarily the baby)

This passionate and impulsive fisherman-turned-follower-of-Jesus, had great, bold faith in the Christ. He caught glimpses of a Kingdom led by this humble yet strong Man.  He was going to follow this God-leader into VICTORY.  He knew Jesus was the path to glory, to the Kingdom, that he had been longing for.

But he forgot that death is the path to glory, the shame of the cross the window into joy, the loss of self the finding of oneself.

He wanted what death brings about, but he wanted to skip the mess, the humility, the weakness of that which brings us to the resurrection.

Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, saying, “Far be it from you, Lord! This shall never happen to you.” But he turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me. For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.”  Matthew 16: 21-23

Peter didn’t want suffering, entrapment, torture and death for Jesus.  “There is another way!” He declares. “Far be it from you, Lord, that you should ever suffer such weakness, vulnerability, and humiliation!” Poor Peter, with all his good intentions, had his mind on the things of man, not on the things of God. And I, too, deserve such a rebuke. For Jesus has predicted my death, and I try to declare “There must be another way!”

Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it. What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul? 

Matthew 16:24-25

And who, in their right mind, would voluntarily choose death. and struggle. and suffering. and denial of our hopes and dreams. Who on earth would want to be a “disciple” if that is what the requirements are for the “Jesus Club”?

No one. Unless….unless, they witnessed, this leader walking straight towards death. Riding a donkey right into the city where He would be handed over. Continuing to be friends with the very man who would sell him for thirty pieces of silver. Head straight for the suffering. Not for suffering sake, but for the sake of the Love of the Father, the love of the Father for…

ME.

For US.

For the whole messy, bumbling crew of us.

When one witnesses that kind of suffering motivated by love, we can’t help but follow.

No matter what the cost.  No matter what the cross.

And because it was LOVE that motivated our Savior’s, sacrifice and death.

We can rest in the fact that no matter what sacrifices and deaths we face,

the Lord has led us there

Because of LOVE.

May we not shortchange His love simply because it doesn’t “feel” good in the moment.  For, if you just wait three days. (or 9 months in my case) or even years and years,

Glorious, wonderful, experience-love-to-the-fullest RESURRECTION takes place.

And its worth every step on the path that gets us there.

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How to STAY where God puts you

Ever since I was sixteen I wanted to go.

After this happened, and the Lord literally lifted me out of the miry pit of depression, and gave me a firm place to stand,

He put a new song in my mouth…

And I wanted to sing it to the ends of the earth.

And all my plans, and preparations to go,

has landed me in staying.

And now, even as I stay in bed many days, due to the life formation that is drawing all of my life out of me,  and I read of these adventures, of women I greatly admire, the longings to go pull at my heart.

But, for now,

I stay in faith.

but also long that,

I faithfully stay

With eyes wide open to opportunities God opens for me to be a witness here, rather than there.

And for those other women whose hearts long for the going, I share this poem about the staying.

May we stay in faith, and faithfully stay.

“Stay there until I tell you. Matthew 2:13

I’ll stay where You’ve put me; I will, dear Lord,

Though I wanted so badly to go;

I was eager to march with the “rank and file,”

Yes, I wanted to lead them, You know.

I planned to keep step to the music loud,

To cheer when the banner unfurled,

To stand in the midst of the fight straight and proud,

But I’ll stay where You’ve put me.

I’ll stay where You’ve put me; I’ll work, dear Lord,

Though the field be narrow and small,

And the ground be neglected, and stones lie thick,

And there seems to be no life at all.

The field is Your own, only give me the seed,

I’ll sow it with never a fear;

I’ll till the dry soil while I wait for the rain,

And rejoice when the green blades appear;

I’ll work where you’ve put me.

I’ll stay where You’ve put me; I will, dear Lord;

I’ll bear the day’s burden and heat,

Always trusting You fully, when sunset has come

I’ll lay stalks of grain at Your feet.

And then, when my earth work is ended and done,

In the light of eternity’s glow,

Life’s record all closed, I surely will find

It was better to stay than to go;

I’ll stay where you’ve put me.

“O restless heart-beating against the prison bars of your circumstances and longing for a wider realm of usefulness-allow God to direct all your days. Patience and trust, even in the midst of the monotony of your daily routine, will be the best preparation to courageously handle the stres and strain of a great opportunity, which God may someday send.”

Poem and excerpt from Streams in the Desert by L.B Cowman, March 17 entry

No one ever said Death was pretty…and how to work through it.

“Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.” Matthew 16:24

“Very truly I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. ” John 12:24

I face death every day.  I Corinthians 15:31

And we talk about “dying to self”.

But no one ever said Death was pretty.

Somehow, I seemed to have forgotten that. And when we found out we were having our sixth child and I prepared to endure the nine months of a thousand little deaths to myself so that new life could emerge, I boldly claimed and expected that God would meet us in the struggle.

He has. He is. and He will.

But there is some bloody, stinky death going on here. And  I forgot that death is never pretty. Even when God is in it.

There’s the death to my self-sufficiency, which I can so easily rely on when I have my normal amount of strength and energy.

There’s the death of my pride, as debilitating fatigue has landed me on my bed, at the mercy of people making meals for us and randomly being willing to watch a kid or two.

There’s the death of my banking on my ability to stand on the promises of God’s Word, and all my emotional and mental mess comes oozing out and I’m not “strong in my faith” or “able to keep it together (with the help of Jesus)”.

And then there’s the death of the logistics, like my kids showing up to church with mismatched socks, and a husband who reminded me again that he doesn’t have any clean boxers, and the incredible number of crumbs all over my kitchen floor (when you are lying down ON the floor, you get a great view of it all…I mean, of course I wasn’t sprawled out on the kitchen floor while I waited for the casserole to finish cooking), and the peanut butter smeared all over my black shirt when I showed up for the school meeting because I was too tired to change and too tired to care.

Over here, death just isn’t pretty.

And when life spins out of control, and you face the actual death of a loved one and all the despairing grief that comes with it, or you’re faced with cancer or a chronic illness, or you’re called into ministry in an intensely hard place where loneliness and fear can suck the life out of you, and whatever it might be, you, in faith (and fear) move into that place of personal death, over and over again,  and then you find yourself in a muddled and messy mix of emotions, doubts, strivings, and dimmed hope.  “Where did my faith go?” you might ask.

Maybe you, too, have forgotten that Death is never pretty.

So stop expecting it to be.

But as I recall, it wasn’t very pretty 2,000 years ago either.

There was blood spilled when Jesus was scourged, and there were probably bruises and disjoined limbs, and drool coming out of that busted lip from being beaten by the mocking soldiers, and there was an inability to even carry his own cross up the hill of Golgotha, and there was heavy panting and a desperate crying out, “My God, my God why have you forsaken me?!?!”

Its OK to have a bloody mess of emotions dripping down your face. Its OK to cry out in agonizing pain. Its OK to whimper there, try to catch your bearings and suck in your next breath. Its OK to ask those questions, “God, where are you?”.

Death isn’t pretty, and it isn’t naturally desired. But if we are a people called out, made different, made new by the very Presence of God within us, then our minds about death will change.  Our minds will change, because our hearts are changed by the One who was the Forerunner into ultimate death, so that all the deaths we die are just a folding of ourselves up under Him bearing it all for us. Our hearts and minds will be willing to embrace death, in all its messiness and agony, and declare in hope and faith “There is resurrection to come!” even when heart is hurting, and tears are flowing and mind is reeling.

For as we gaze on the face of the Forsaken One, with all blood dripping down and heart bursting, we remember what came three days later.  Resurrection. Yes. Resurrection. There is a joy, a glory, a resurrection on the other side of all the messy death we suffer through. And just like Jesus did, we will set our hearts on the joy set before us, enduring the cross, scorning its shame that we might sit with God on the other side.  (Hebrews 12:2)

For as Christians,

there IS another side.

to this messy, ugly death we face.

Lent (A Little Late): The best thing to give up for Lent

Lent.

A time to prepare our hearts for the sacrifice of the One who was sent to save people from the judgement they deserve.

A sacrifice necessary to gain us favor in the eyes of our Holy Maker.

And in honor of His sacrifice, we choose to sacrifice for 40 days leading to Easter.  All that we might know Christ–yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death. (Phil. 3:10)

And every time I open that age old book, hungry for some soul-sustaining Truth, I see it.

Sacrifice.

Funny, how you’ll drag tired body out of bed in order to read about animals being butchered. But in my Bible reading plan, I just finished reading through Leviticus and Numbers, and sacrifice after sacrifice after sacrifice is made.  Insane numbers of animals sacrificed, on a daily or regular basis. (to be honest…it seems like such a waste, I mean they could have eaten all those animals in their desert wanderings…but thats a whole different blog post)

And then I read that God doesn’t even care about all those animals He so specifically told Moses to sacrifice.

I will not accept a bull from your house
or goats from your folds.
For every beast of the forest is mine,
the cattle on a thousand hills.
I know all the birds of the hills,
and all that moves in the field is mine.

If I were hungry, I would not tell you,

for the world and its fullness are mine.
Do I eat the flesh of bulls
or drink the blood of goats?

Psalm 50: 9-13

Well, great. Now I’m wondering why God won’t make up His mind. He commands them. Then He says He doesn’t want them.  But I read on. And sacrifice pops out from the pages once again.

Offer to God a sacrifice of thanksgiving,
and perform your vows to the Most High,
and call upon me in the day of trouble;
I will deliver you, and you shall glorify me.

Psalm 50:14-15

And the very next morning, not so early (it was a painfully fatigued day), but during a few stolen moments while small children built forts with couch cushions, and very successfully unorganized the entire playroom, it pops again.

You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it;

you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings.

My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit;

a broken and contrite heart you, God, will not despise.

Psalm 51:16-17

And the pondering and praying I had been doing on what to give up or do for lent, (meat?…no this pregnant body is desperate for it these days, even-earlier morning prayer sessions? no this pregnant mamma needs more sleep, not less. Coffee? I’m sorry but my children would bear the brunt of that each day) it all came clear as to the sacrifice I was to make for these forty days leading to His magnificent one.

A sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving.

A sacrifice of a broken and contrite heart.

And how could the two go hand in hand?  Well, for me to praise the Lord and give thanks in the midst of physical suffering? Well, thats a sacrifice of brokenness. Broken of my own desires and agendas. A sacrifice of me being on the throne and dictating to God how I want my world to be run. A sacrifice of my will, to declare “whatever You give is good, and I will thank You for it”.   And a sacrifice of praise is one contrition and repentance, for I simply cannot do it.

But I know the One who can.

And as I share in some suffering, and choose thanksgiving in it, I choose CHRIST. I choose Him IN me to accomplish it. And I choose the resurrection that comes when Christ is alive in a dead tomb of a struggling mamma.

And the sacrifice of self,

leads to the Resurrection I long to experience.

So, the best thing to give up for Lent

is myself,

for this is where I meet Jesus in that dark garden and know Him in me intimately as I, too, cry,

 “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.” (Luke 22:42 ESV)

And choosing to praise Him no matter what, is a constant declaration,

not my will, but yours be done.”

More Lenten helps

And to help with the sacrifice of thanksgiving, I downloaded this app on my phone to help me record all those things worthy of giving thanks to God for.

With the kids in the afternoon (when I can gather some of the neighborhood kids as well) we are doing this Lenten devotional.  There are only 17 entries which is perfect for late starts and moms who can’t get their act together on some  most days (namely, ME).  We always take time to observe and recount what we see in the painting (most DEFINITELY a homeschool activity as they learn to observe famous historical art, as well as get their hearts probed by the Word)

Last year’s Lenten endeavors.

The Real Secret to Real Strength.

Because all I’ve got is a lot of weakness right now.

All I’ve got is irritable mood swings.

All I’ve got is a lot of failure under my belt.

All I’ve got is this longing to be Repunzel and get locked in a remote castle (where I can sleep all day!), at least until this baby’s born and my energy is restored and my hormones aren’t going crazy.

All I’ve got, and all I can give, and all I can do,

is repent.

But not the kind of repentance I was taught in my Southern Baptist high school those many years ago.

No, a life-giving repentance.  One that infuses real strength, in a really weak person.

“Real Repentance is hilariously exciting. It is facing the facts of life, recognizing how God made you, how you were intended to function, and then being restored to that relationship of mutual interavailability that the Lord Jesus enjoyed between Himself and the Father, a mutual interavailability in which you are prepared to let Him be God.  That is true repentance.

Real repentance happens the moment you genuinely admit,

“I cannot-and only God can.”

Deriving from that repentance is the attitude the Bible calls faith.  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 every situation to Him moment by moment, for Him to accomplish what you cannot while you tell Him, “Thank you!”

You give Him

your hands for Him to work with,

your feet for Him to walk with,

your lips for Him to speak with,

your eyes for Him to see with ,

your ears for Him to hear with,

your mind for Him to think with,

your heart for Him to love with,.

You tell Him, “Thank You for being my Creator within the creature. YOU are in business!”

Taken from: The Indwelling Life of Christ, by Major Ian Thomas

And this, my friends, is the real secret to real strength.

For the Strong One is doing all of the heavy lifting.

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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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

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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