Moving forward in weakness

On the steps of the church

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

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

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

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

And we are suppose to be starting a church soon.

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

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

 

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

the half dozen

the half dozen

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

He.gets.it?

He.gets.it.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So we move. Move forward in weakness.

But there’s that promise about weakness.

A promise that HIS power is made perfect there.

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

but IN it.

 

But he said to me,

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

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

so that Christ’s power may rest on me.

2 Corinthians 12:9

From the Mouths of Babes….extra ones

My sixth child...greatly influenced by the rest of my kids...shopping cart out, nerd rifle in one hand, purse in the other...

My sixth child…greatly influenced by the rest of my kids…shopping cart out, nerf rifle in one hand, purse in the other…

This child is the Presence of Christ in my life.

Not because she is a huge ministering Spirit or represents great power available, but because of what Jesus said in Matthew 25:40

“And the King will answer them, ‘

Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers,

you did it to me.” 

And to be honest, there have been many an afternoon in the past several months in which we arrived home from school pick up, all hungry, grouchy, bouncing off the walls or each other, and dying for a nap (usually it was ONLY me wanting the nap) and this precious little girl, like clockwork, would ring our doorbell within five minutes of us pulling into the driveway.

And the complaining, selfish spirit in me would sometimes moan…”Lord, don’t I already have enough kids to deal with?! This is one more mouth to feed, one more person calling my name, one more person who needs some of me, when I already feel like I have none of me to give (little baby Judah is selfishly claiming it for his development and growth) !”

But one afternoon, as she showed up, with her bright eyes and eager heart to hang out with me, (and sometimes my kids) the Lord whispered that verse, which He had spoken two thousand years ago, “as you did it to one of the least of these my children, you did it to me, ” and I knew I was suppose to view her presence in our home, in all the chaos of free play time and kid-herding during chore time, and attention-span reigning during reading time  and mouth feeding during meal time as HIS presence. And I have the opportunity to minister to Him by ministering to her. 

So, this little girl, who when I first met her hardly spoke English, is literally like a sixth child in our home now (first day of summer vacation, and our car wasn’t gone she was faithfully ringing the doorbell at 8:45 am).  And instead of being a burden, it is an opportunity, a blessing, and a privilege to be able to love my Lord, by loving her. Just as the call to love my own children faithfully each day is a constant falling upon the grace, power and Presence of Jesus available to me, I fall on that same power for loving her, another child to care for, shepherd, and pour into. And todays manna is never sufficient for tomorrow. But as surely as the sun rises, the manna will be available to be gathered .

So, in terms of her contribution to Mouths of Babes…In her broken English (but MUCH better than when I met her almost a year ago) she can say some funny, “mouths of babes” things just like my own little ones. And because she knows the rhythms of our home life, the other day she saw me putting on my running shoes, and says:

“You exercising now?!” (she likes to try to exercise with me…or at least watch me clumsily jumping around and sweating)

“Yup, I’m gonna try to do it real quick before I have to cook dinner.”

“You’re kitchen gonna break.”

I burst out laughing…I knew exactly what she was talking about.

I exercise to little youtube workout videos in the kitchen, and it often requires a lot of jumping and hopping around. which can be rather boisterous, loud, (and yes, I admit it…floor-shaking) when you’ve got a massive bump on your belly, and, ahem, maybe a few too many extra pregnancy pounds, to carry along with you.

“Oh, you mean because I jump around and it makes a lot of noise”

“Yeeaahhh….Your kitchen gonna breeeaaak.”

And that was my “you’re fat and pregnant” compliment of the day. Which, fortunately came from the mouths of a babe, an extra one…

so I wasn’t too offended.

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