Judah David Iverson

To read the background story of this little one’s birth, click here

 

Our prayer is that you will have the Word of the Lord as a fire in your bones, that drives your life and you can't help but share with others.

Our prayer is that you will have the Word of the Lord as a fire in your bones, that drives your life and you can’t help but share with others.

May God be gracious to you, so that you might make His salvation known to all peoples

May God be gracious to you, so that you might make His salvation known to all peoples

God knew Judah David was to be part of our family all during those months of working on an adoption home study

God was planning on forming you, giving you to us, Judah David,   all during those months of working on an adoption home study, thinking our next baby would be an adopted one.

“Sweet Little Boy, that I love so much. ”

That’s what I love to sing over you.

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But did you know that I pray your name over you, too?

We named you Judah.

Judah, because it means “I will praise the Lord” or “praised one” in Hebrew, where we first find it in that Holy Word. That Word in which we find our life and ourselves and our Savior.

and we pray that you would see the sweetness and holiness of God, and would be in awe and wonder, and that you, too,  would praise Him.

And you know, son, Judah was Abraham’s great-grandson. He was a promised descendant of Abraham, when God told him.

 “And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”     Genesis 12:2-3

Our family, the one God chose to bring you into, is blessed because of that blessing, for that blessing of all the families on the earth was actually a foreshadowing of  Savior who would be available, not just to Abraham’s descendants, but to all people.

It is to this Savior, that your Daddy and I cling.  It is in the death and resurrection of this Savior that we find our hope for this life and the next.   It is under this Savior’s perfect performance and obedience, that we hide ourselves, because your Daddy and I, we are weak, and selfish, and we are sinful, and we will fail you.  But our prayer is that you, yourself, despite all our earthly failings, will cling to Him as well.

And do you know what family this Savior was born into?

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It was the family line of….

JUDAH. 

God gave Judah a promise,

“The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet, until tribute comes to him; and to him shall be the obedience of the peoples.”   Genesis 49:10

God was promising that the King of kings, and the Lord of lords would be born through Judah’s line.  A King with a scepter, not of an earthly kingdom but of an Eternal One.

But you know what, honey, that Judah, the one that received that promise, he did some really rotten things in his life. It’s all recorded  and right there out in the open in the Bible. All his shame, and disgrace, and rebellion.  And, unfortunately, one day you will also have to come face to face with your own rebellion, and shame and disgrace. But here is the beauty in it, my son, Judah’s failures didn’t nullify God’s promises for him.  And neither will yours.

Judah’s name, and his story, and God’s story through his story actually represents hope.  Judah represents salvation to come. Judah represents the promises of God, that shine all the brighter in the backdrop of our own stumblings and wanderings. Judah represents promises that may seemingly be left unfulfilled, but always come to fruition in their time. Judah represents the faithfulness of God.

And as you grow and develop and your mind expands, we pray it will expand to catch glimpses of that faithfulness more and more. We pray that your own heart will learn to praise that God, just like your Mommy and Daddy do.  And we pray that that praise overwhelms your heart so much that it moves you to share with others how great and faithful your God is.

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We also named you David.

Your Grandpa Jones’ name is David.  And that David prayed your Mamma through many tumultuous years. He faithfully cared for your Mamma and taught her to run to, and listen to the God of the David after whom he was named. Because he knew to cling to the Faithful God, he was faithful. Faithful in those early years to give us a glimpse of the Heavenly Father, and faithful in those later years, after your Grandma Katy died, and he was left to raise three kids by himself. If it weren’t for his constant consuming of the Word of God and his consistency in going before the Throne of God in prayer, your Mamma might not have made it through those tumultuous years.

You’re not just named after your Grandpa, but also named after the David that he is named after.  That David, he was a hero.  A mighty warrior.  A victorious king.  He conquered lands and gained territory, and expanded a kingdom. But he also expanded THE Kingdom. Do you know why?

Because He learned to praise.

And praise isn’t just a happy cry to God.  It can be a desperate crying out too.

For in both joy and in sorrow, the place where you run to, is the place you prize the most.

And David learned this well.  That mighty warrior started out as a humble, no-name, my-dad-forgot-about-me shepherd.  But out there in the quiet, he learned to commune with God. He learned where to run, so that when he himself was running (from persecutors), he ran right to the Faithful Father.  And when he failed, he ran to the Faithful Father. And our prayer is that you will learn to do the same.

Already learning to be a prayer warrior

Already learning to be a prayer warrior

May you learn the secret of his strength, both when his world was falling apart, and when the world was being handed to him in victory:

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For the director of music. Of David the servant of the Lord.

HE sang to the Lord the words of this song

when the Lord delivered him from the hand of all his enemies and from the hand of Saul.

He said: 

“I love you, O Lord, my strength.

The Lord is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer:

My God is my rock, in whom I take refuge.

He is my shield and the horn of my salvation,

my Stronghold.

I call to the Lord, who is worthy of praise,

and I am saved from my enemies

And this David that learned to praise, was born through a family line.

The family line of Judah.

David was a king and carried an earthly scepter, but it was not the scepter promised to Judah those hundreds of years prior. No, he was still looking ahead to the One who would carry an Eternal scepter, and because of his love for God, his heart that was after Him, God promised to bring the One who would carry that eternal scepter through his family line, too.

So you see, son, your name,

Judah David

really represents…..

……double praise.

Judah David represents…..

…….a double promise.

Judah David represents…..

……a double pointing

to a Savior who would come. A Savior and King and God who humbled Himself and came through families, Judah’s and David’s.

Have you ever heard of something so wild?

The story of a God, who does demand, but rather demeans Himself to the point of ugly death on a cross, just so he could derive a NEW family line out of the mess that Judah and David were entrapped in, the mess called sin.

And just as Judah…and David….and your mommy….and your daddy….were called into that new family, we pray you will be called into it as well.

But the prayer and the promise doesn’t stop with just your life, son.

No, just as Judah, and David, were chosen to be part of a family line that points to Jesus in future generations, .

your life is called to be a double praise, and a double promise and a double pointing of others to Jesus so that generations after you will get a chance to see Him,

because of Jesus living in you, and flowing through you,

and a whole family of Judah (all those you impact) will find themselves a part of the Eternal Family of God, sweetly being ruled under the mighty and loving Scepter of King Jesus.

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Dormant Prayers and New Growth that Emerges

It was like they had all laid dormant.

But then finally growth begins to emerge where simple seeds of prayer had lain buried in the soil of the will of God.

You see, I had met Tahra, a Muslim Bangladeshi woman about my age,  last December, while I was trying to coordinate hosting international students in people’s homes for Christmas. Her English teacher had told me she was really struggling with the recent death of her mother, and caring for her 4 year old paralyzed son, and the four year wait for her husband to be able to join her from Bangladesh.

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Bangladeshi women are always beautifully clad. The women that are able to immigrate to America are so thankful to be here, rather than there, generally. In Tahra’s case, her son would not still be alive if she had not had access to American healthcare.

So I called her up and asked if I could come visit her and bring her some food.

I remember pulling up to the small house, the one that housed not only her but several other Bangladeshi families, with all my kiddos in-tow, and saying “Lord, I’m nervous, but I’m showing up. You’re going to have to take care of the rest.”

We ended up having a great conversation, as I know well the overwhelming loss she was experiencing, and I prayed with her and promised to come visit her again soon.

Two weeks later, I found out I was pregnant.

I eeked out enough strength to make a couple more visits, even getting to read Scripture to her and pray it over her son, who lay there hooked up to breathing treatments.

But those visits were few and far between.

Most days I was just barely surviving, without even the strength and energy to feed my own family, much less reach out to Tahra and stay connected in her life.

The guilt pressed in, but the prayers bled out as I laid there on the couch, or bed, or floor and thought about her, and all I wanted to do for her.

Prayers from afar was all I had to offer her.

And in those long months of growing a child, those prayers seemed to lay dormant.

And I asked the Lord, “How is she ever going to know the love and power of Christ, if the people with the Presence of Christ never show up in her life?!?”

And those prayers mingled with guilt and frustration continued to be planted until…

until life started to sprout out of those dormant prayers…

In the slower-paced summer months, I started to regain some strength so I tried to reach out again.

One afternoon’s text: “Hi Tahra! How are you doing? I’m sorry I’ve been so out of contact with you!”

Her response sent my heart soaring….

What church do you go to?

was all she said.

“What?!?!“My mind started racing… “Why on earth is she asking THAT? What have you been up to, Lord?!?”

I quickly found out that she had actually gotten a driving ticket and needed to do 20 hours of community service and needed to find a church to do them at.

I most certainly did have a church where she could do them.

It wasn’t quite what I was hoping for, but I would take it!

The next two weeks, the Lord filled a tired, pregnant mamma with supernatural energy to make phone calls, give rides, and help Tahra her get all her community service hours done by the two week deadline.

It was her two week crash course on being a Christ follower.

Through a school supply outreach, she learned why we Christians serve the underprivileged…not because we are earning points with God but because He served us in the Person of Jesus Christ who went to the underprivileged and showed them who God really was, and then died for them so that they could know Him for themselves.

Through helping out with the kids program, she learned that we teach our kids very similar morals to those that her Muslim faith holds dear, but for a different reason….because those morals exhibit the holiness of God, and if His Holy Spirit lives in us, then those will be the morals that come out of our lives as followers of Him .

Through the helping at the food pantry for the neediest of our community…we spoke of our neediness being the best thing for us.  We can only truly know God if we bring him our neediness, not our best efforts.  Jesus died for sinners in need of salvation, not sinners in need of better rules to follow.

Through working with other Christians at a church dinner, she learned of the kindness of the people who claim Jesus as their Lord.

Through helping with a church service, and she sat and listened to Randy Pope explain how we can listen to God and why we can listen to God-because Jesus lives to intercede between us and a Holy God.

And she witnessed us taking communion in that church service, and as I ushered my kids up to go receive it, I whispered to her that I would explain it all later.

And I did.

But not just to her.

That night as I ate their post-sunset Ramadan meal with them, I got to share the reason Christians partake of communion, the Lord’s supper. with her extended family in that Bangladeshi bungalow. (it was all women…the husbands and fathers were at work)

Starting with the very beginning, in Genesis we talked of the need for death of animals to cover Adam and Even’s nakedness in their sin, then went on to the story of Abraham and the death of the lamb instead of his son, Isaac (not Ishmael, as the Koran says), to Moses and the passover as God delivered them from death and slavery. We talked of the night before Jesus’ death, as he celebrated the Passover with his disciples, and his declaration that all those hundreds of years that the Jews celebrated that feast, it was really all leading up to, pointing to HIM.  The Passover Lamb.  And we Christians continue to eat of that feast, to remind us, that none is worthy. That we need a sacrifice for us to replace the life-debt we owe for our rebellion.  That Christ was that sacrifice, but because He was God and man at the same time, he rose again from death, therefore conquering it once and for all, for those who trust in His Name.

We spoke of the difference between the Koran and the Bible, and the commands that Mohammed gave verses the salvation that Jesus freely offers.

I sang those women the Scripture song I made up for my children.

“Romans 3:21-24”

But now a righteousness from God, apart from the law has been made known, to which the law and prophets testify. This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe-there is no difference… For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace, through redemption that came by Christ Jesus.

 

And after our three hour discussion, I left that home, rejoicing in the power of prayer to a Living God.

Those prayers had lain dormant for a time.

But, God was waiting.

Waiting for a driving violation.

Waiting for a judge to assigned 20 hours of community service at a local church.

Waiting for some renewed strength for me, so I could show up again in Tahra’s life.

Waiting for the season that He ordained, for the message of his salvation and love to be planted in not just Tahra’s life, but her family’s life as well.

So, while those prayers seemed to lay dormant,

God was working all along.

Waiting for spring, when new life would emerge.

Prayer, too, has its seasons.

Follow the Cloud

“…the Lord your God, who went ahead of you on your journey, in fire by night and in a cloud by day, to search out places for you to camp and to show you the way you should go.”

 Deuteronomy 1:33

He did this very thing.

My husband had been telling me to write a book for the past three years.

I just laughed at him.

“About what?!?”

“What do I possibly know enough about to actually write a whole book about?”

Well, as my plans to return to Newark, faded into the upcoming move to Atlanta last spring, Danny kept saying,

“I really think this might be the season for you to write a book.”

Still, I had no idea how that would play out.

Then late May of 2013, my friend who was living in Swaziland, contacted me:

“I know this sounds crazy, but as I continue to pray for you, I can’t help the feeling that we are suppose to embark on some sort of writing project together.”

Ok, Lord, I get it,

And the cloud started moving.

So after we moved and got settled in Norcross, GA we started scheduling time to sit and listen to the Lord and ask Him what sort of writing project we were to embark on and what it was suppose to be about.

Mind you, we were in different countries, different continents, different time zones, different hemispheres. And the same cloud that moved in my heart, moved in hers, and we started piecing together what this book might be about, what it might be called, how it might be formatted.

And little by little, piece by piece, a book began to be formed. Lots of listening, and journaling, and scribbling on little notecards was engaged in. We recruited prayer warriors.  We spent time on our faces.  We spent time listening to Jesus on the cracking phone line because making phone calls from Swaziland isn’t the easiest experience.

I popped in another Veggie Tales movie, when I should have been homeschooling my 4 year old and monitoring my 3 and 1 year old, and I typed.

And I stayed up until 3 and 4 am at least once a week typing away, studying away. The Cloud was saying “move!” push forward, write every spare minute, move forward. And I did.

And it came together, our book called,

Radical Tabernacle

God came to dwell among us. That He might dwell in us. That we might dwell among them.

A discourse on the elements of the Old Testament Tabernacle, the ways they were fulfilled in Christ, and how they continue to be fulfilled in and through us, as Christ lives in and through us.

In January,  we had gotten 90% of the book done, when a literary agent asked for a book proposal. We scrambled to even figure out how to write one, then put it together to present.  That’s when we got our first rejection letter, due to too small of a platform.

And now, due to a very challenging pregnancy, it has taken the past three months to finish this last 10% of the rough draft.  The Cloud has said , “camp” simply through a body and foggy brain that can hardly get three meals a day ready for five children, much less stay up late to write a book. I am so thankful that the Cloud said move hard, move fast last fall, and that I followed, for at this point, and this pace, this book would NEVER have been written.  But God, in a certain window of intense availability and energy, He prompted us into this adventure.  May I never miss another prompting, simply for the the miracle I have seen Him bringing about in this process.

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But here we are now, ready to enter into the heavy editing phase, and the Lord has kept bringing us to Scripture about the consecration of the Tabernacle and the rededication of the Temple (the permanent Tabernacle).

Take the anointing oil and anoint the tabernacle and everything in it; consecrate it and all its furnishings, and it will be holy. Then anoint the altar of burnt offering and all its utensils; consecrate the altar, and it will be most holy. Anoint the basin and its stand and consecrate them. Exodus 40:9-11

and then in 2 Chronicles 29:15-17, after a long rebellion of the Lord, the people reconsecrate, clean out, and anoint the elements of worship in the (now permanent) tabernacle

When they had assembled their fellow Levites and consecrated themselves, they went in to purify the temple of the Lord, as the king had ordered, following the word of the Lord.  The priests went into the sanctuary of the Lord to purify it. They brought out to the courtyard of the Lord’s temple everything unclean that they found in the temple of the Lord. The Levites took it and carried it out to the Kidron Valley.  They began the consecration on the first day of the first month, and by the eighth day of the month they reached the portico of theLord. For eight more days they consecrated the temple of the Lord itself, finishing on the sixteenth day of the first month.  2 Chronicles 29:15-17

And now we clean up, we reconsecrate our manuscript, we listen long, and sort through and we ask the Lord, “What stays?” “What goes?” and “What is still needed?” We pray over and ask for the anointing of the Spirit of God over each element of this manuscript. And we would ask for prayer as we enter into this task.

Nicole, my co-author, has blogged about prayer requests as we enter into this phase, if anyone is interested in helping pray us through this process. And for all of you who have been praying, and cheering us on,

Thank you.

And may each of you continue to follow the Cloud of the Presence of God as He leads you and prompts you, the thrilling adventure that awaits is never a dull one….and never an easy one.

I’m praying for you; A Letter to Our Child.

You’re Daddy made this video for me, on our fifth anniversary. I pray you will be in the pictures when he makes one for me for our tenth.

My precious child,
I’ve been praying for you. I don’t know what you will look like. I don’t know what skin color you’ll have. I don’t know what family history you will come from. I don’t even know if you’ve been conceived yet. But I’ve been praying for you.
Darling, the Lord started putting you on my heart five years ago now, shortly before your big sister’s first birthday.  That’s when I first started praying for you. Your daddy and I decided we would start looking for you. But then God put Katy-Grace in Mommy’s belly, and told us to wait. And then a year an a half later, we thought we were suppose to start looking for you again, we recruited prayer warriors, and God put another big brother for you inside Mommy, and He told us to wait.  Then your Daddy went to seminary and we didn’t make enough money to start looking for you, and God told us to wait (and in the meantime you acquired a third older brother…lucky you!).
Yes, we’ve waited and prayed and waited and prayed.  And cheered and helped others on as they ran after their own sweet children.
Now, though, now we’re coming for you. God has started opening the doors, and all that praying, and all that waiting, its like a pent up flood ready to rush towards you. And now, because of all that waiting, you’ve got five older siblings, that wouldn’t have otherwise been there,all  so incredibly excited to welcome you into the family, to love on you, enjoy you, and teach you “all they know.”
Sweetheart, I love you, not because God put you in my womb, but  because He put you in my heart, and I’ve been pregnant with you for these five years passed.
And some brave mamma out there is going to choose to allow you to grow in her belly, unlike so many of her peers.  I’ve witnessed firsthand in Newark how scary and daunting and selfless that decision is for those brave few who don’t opt for the “easy” way out. That’s why I’ve been praying for you, for that womb, for that young woman, for her life lived which led to your conception.   And I’ve been praying for that brave decision she will make. Too many of your peers have been wiped out, destroyed for their lack of convenience, silenced before they’ve been given a chance to cry out. A wise man once said, “Do for one, what you wish you could do for all.” I can’t save all those babes, but I have been praying for, and preparing for, and planning for one…for you.
I’ve been praying…and now I’m coming, sweet pea…Coming into that woman’s life, coming into yours.  We’ve got a mountain to climb, to get to you…stacks of papers to fill out, numerous appointments and meetings to make, and thousands of dollars to raise.  And while I pray for you, and survey the mountain needing climbing, I think of the One who prays and intercedes for me…and for you….and for your birth mother continually…THAT praying One climbed a mountain far bigger than a homestudy and the cost of adoption.  That One climbed Calvary, climbed right up on that cross, and descended down the other side into hell.  All that He might adopt me. and you. and the millions of His enemies  that were sought after, sacrificed for, and loved into becoming the Father’s children. Beloved children.
I’m praying for you, to the One who is praying for me, the One who is propelling us towards you. And one day, your Daddy and I are going to hold you in our arms, and we’ll get a picture.
And we’ll frame that picture, frame it in Hannah’s words spoken thousands of years ago because she herself prayed long and hard for a much-waited-for child.

For this child I prayed, and the LORD has granted me my petition that I made to him. Therefore I have lent him to the LORD. As long as he lives, he is lent to the LORD.”  I Samuel 1:27

And our prayers will continue for you…that you will be lent to the Lord, your Maker.  The One who sets the lonely in families.
The One who sets you in our family.
For HE and I have been praying for you.

“…but because Jesus lives forever, he has a permanent priesthood. Therefore he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them. Such a high priest truly meets our need—one who is holy, blameless, pure, set apart from sinners, exalted above the heavens.”  Hebrews 7:24-26

“Sing to God, sing praise to his name, extol him who rides on the clouds- his name is the Lord- and rejoice before him.  A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in his holy dwelling. God sets the lonely in families, he leads forth the prisoners with singing; but the rebellious live in a sun-scorched land.”  Psalm 68: 4-6

Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute.” Proverbs 31:8

Would you like to join us in this adventure? Or rather, would you like to join God in His adventurous business of setting the lonely in families? You can partake of this communion with God in the following ways:

~subscribe to this blog to receive updates on the adoption process

~commit to being a prayer warrior for this endeavor

~start the adoption process yourselves

-sign up to become a foster parent

~fulfill the call to care for the orphan, by financially giving towards those in your life who are opening their homes to babes and children needing families.

 

How to really be where you really are.

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A husband deliriously ill.  A set of children who needed to get to school, who would have gotten there by that aforesaid husband, who now needed a wife to run the carpool and hunt down a doctor’s appointment.  The one year old is half eating-half finger painting oatmeal over kitchen table.  One kid is still deep in slumber, another having just stirred due to wetting the bed from such slumber. A quick dash out the door with school kids and oatmeal boy (now wiped up), hoping the groggy ones won’t reap typical destruction in the forty-five minute time it will take me to return. The trash is overflowing…sick husband can hardly lift his head, much less it. Oatmeal bowls towering precariously, oatmeal artwork crusting away on table, wet bedsheets, and the doctors calls all await my return.

The day planned for all the laundry and those extra chores, and three errands, and that appointment, and a hoped-for chance to exercise, that day that had been laid out in a mind distracted from the present to the future dreamings of “all she was going to get done”…… now that day rearranges to revolve around getting ill husband to a doctor, with three small kids in-tow.

During the drive-to-school- turned-Scripture-memory-time, we sang and resang the passage we’ve been working on. Until…until the looooong line of traffic was noticed.  Not in front of me, but rather to the left of me, the entire route that would take me back home, to a 4 and 3 year old under the care of a sleeping,  feverish, delirious husband. The questions and chatter from the kids in the car were tuned out. Suddenly mother was transported, transported to sitting in traffic, stressing about hurrying home, agonizing over how long it was taking. Shoulder’s tense, the priceless moments with chatty children are escaped, escaped into a stressful scenario not even reality.

And she was no longer present in the present.

Her mind carried her to a future, predicted, imagined moment not yet happening, or maybe never to happen.

“Whatever is true….think on these things.”  Philipians 4:8 
 
What is NOW is what is real. What is tangible. What is enjoyable and savorable. But this is not what I was living in.  I was living in the imagined stress, the conjured prediction that i would be sitting in traffic for an hour just to get back home again.  But it wasn’t real.  It wasn’t true. And the opposite of truth, are LIES. The hurry of my heart and mind, keep me there, bound by lies of anticipated future and unable to savor and receive the present.
Sitting in a car with children ripe for receiving attention and heart probing questions…THAT was real.
Getting time with the older ones without a whining three year old and a complaining-about-her-seatbelt four year old…THAT was true.
A chance to sing together, or laugh together, or tell a funny childhood story…THAT was a reality.
An opportunity to really ask questions about the passage of Scripture being memorized…THAT was truth.
But all those, they slipped by…I exchanged the truth for a lie (Romans 1) and meditated on the imagined annoyance of having to wait in miles of traffic while little kids and husband needed me.  Where I was, it wasn’t true, it wasn’t real. And those kind of lies bring death, and steal, and kill, for they are from the one, that ancient serpent, whose purpose is to do such.
It was a death of opportunity.
It was the stealing of my moments.
It killed my joy.
As what was REALLY happening, crystalized in my mind- what was real came into focus again.
And Mamma was present in the present again. So, long hugs were lingered over and heartfelt prayers poured. And life and courage and approval were spoken over, into those children instead of a hurried, “Bye, honey, have a good day!” so i could rush off to the anticipated reality that was not yet.
And He, gentle Teacher, and Loving Father gave me a picture, to lead me into worship and prayer.
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Under a sky like that, traffic time can be prayer time and therefore productive time. Joyous time. Time in the PRESENT.
And lo, and behold, that long line of cars had already begun to dissipate by the time my faithful minivan drove up to join the ranks of sitting.
All that worry, stress, and missing LIFE….all over a LIE.  Something that was not, nor ever would be TRUE.
…whatever is TRUE, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.   Phillipians 4:8
….and tonight, my husband played THIS for me….an expression of the same heart lesson, much more poetically communicated….

From the Mouths of Babes…

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No request is too small, with a Savior that put human skin on.  For the God-man who himself had to be potty-trained at one point, a busy Mamma’s and a curly headed three year old’s  askings for help is not too trivial.  Simple requests for remembering to “go potty in the big potty” are not beyond His scope of influence.  And those requests were answered, in a week’s time.  Much to that busy Mamma’s thankfulness….and relief.

And in the mean time, curly headed Benjamin said some pretty funny things.

Like, when we were finishing our business in the bathroom before Daddy was going to pick us up to go somewhere.

“Hurry, Benjamin!  I just heard Daddy pull up!”

“Moooommmyyyy! You so silly! Daddy not wear pull-ups!! Daddy wear unduwahr!”

And, when we were past the pull-up stage and he marches out in his oh-so-fine superhero underwear…and says matter of factly.

“I Superman. I ha Superman unduwahr.”

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And then, today….I’m in an important meeting and I get a text from the nursery worker…

“Did you know that Benjamin doesn’t have underwear on?  We’re going to put a pull up on him, if thats OK…”

Sigh.

You win some.

And you lose some.

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Seriously, Mom? You’re gonna talk about my potty training on the internet?!?

And the Children Came…

A Part II of Let the Children Come

“WHY am I doing this?!? Why did I think running a kids club by myself was a good idea?!?” I wonder as, 30 minutes before Kids Club is supposed to start, I am cleaning up INCHES of water in my bathroom due to the kids climbing on the sink to fill water balloons, bursting a pipe, and continuing to fill the balloons, with the bathroom filling with water far faster than any balloons are.  I was, once again, running behind on preparing for the afternoon (there’s never enough time to get done all that I want to) and instead of gathering the materials I needed for the lesson that day, I was sweeping those inches of water into a bucket, and very testily lecturing my kids about not climbing on the sink, and the need to come get mommy about the water spilling before INCHES of it have accumulated on the floor and under the sink.

My home is still recovering from having children rampaging through it, and I am now two weeks behind on household chores (except, of course, for the bathroom floor which got mopped up on Friday afternoon).

So, WHY did I do this?  Cram more into my schedule when I don’t feel like I’m even doing what I already have well?  Why did I collect more kids and more chaos when I really could have used those afternoon naptimes to do get stuff done, order my world better, or get a chance to exercise?

Well, this is my answer….

1. God led me to do it. I had every intention to spend the first two months settling in and tending to “setting up house and schedule” after we moved in. But one morning it came to me in my quiet time, that I should do a kids club, and all the lesson plan ideas started rushing over me. And my job is simply to be available and obey the promptings…even if they don’t make sense.

2. It was a building block. We now have a well established relationship with many of the neighborhood families  since I was banging on their door every day for the past week and a half. One Grandma even joined in the effort by making cupcakes to match the day’s lesson plan on Friday. We now have several people interested in our weekly Bible study in our home, and interested in going to church with us. (see below)

3. My children (plus Jamar) and I had the opportunity to partner together, plan, pray for and implement an event to reach out to neighborhood kids and families. These little disciples are learning intentional community in the process.

4. Saprina, my newfound friend and neighbor who has started going to church with us, and I got to build a friendship as she came over every day to help. (Can I just say that being friends with Saprina is so refreshing, she makes me feel like I’m back in Newark, with all those inner city women who have so much spunk and energy)

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NOT crazy about this picture, but Trinity captured it and its the only one I have of Saprina

5. I was humbled through it.

6.  Janki. And her story. Thursday we went around to knock on all the doors again to gather the kids, and Karishma had not been able to come any of the days thus far (her grandfather always cracked the door open and said “She sleep. She sleep.”  Hesitant to keep harassing them, I ventured to knock again.  This time Karishma opened the door and her grandparents willingly sent her along. After her young mother, Janki, got off of work, she came by and ended up hanging out for an hour after kids club was over.  She.has.a.remarkable.story. She came to Christ three years ago-out of Hinduism,and a whole bunch of other obstacles, (maybe one day I’ll get to share her story…)but hasn’t gotten plugged into a really good church.  She was very interested in going to church with us and joining our weekly Bible story.

Katy-Grace and Karishma playing dress-ups after kids club while the mommies talk

Katy-Grace and Karishma playing dress-ups after kids club while the mommies talk

7. Cray and his mom and brother. He, too, hadn’t answered the door all week, but on Friday Jamar went and banged on the door and they were actually home. His mother was wary of letting him come over but we got to talking about Danny being a pastor and she said “Ah, yawl go to church? Yah, I been needin to go to church.  I need to go wit yawl sometime”.  So there we go, yet another searching soul, on this kingdom-strategic street that I prayed for all those months.

8.  The heart-to-heart with my kids Friday night. in which I confessed my anger towards them for not listening well and being a distraction during the lesson.  The sin. The repentance. The reconciliation. The cycle. of it all, with the children, seeing all the ugliness in my heart spilling out, and the beauty of them realizing they’ve got it spilling out of theirs also.  And that we all need a Perfect Savior to cleanse it all. And change it all.  The responses and the softness of the kids toward the confession time, made all the rockiness of the previous hours worth it.

9.  The joy of watching kids delight in a hose and water balloons and hot summer sunshine.

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10. Jamar and Armani (and my kids too) seeing Scripture tie together as something we were reading for family devotions that night referenced back to what we had learned about during kids club that day.  The lightbulbs that go off, are beautiful to witness.

Jamar and Armani are our part-time kids...joining us for a lot of our days or evenings

Jamar and Armani are our part-time kids…joining us for a lot of our days or evenings

11. Morgana. (yet another “motherless” child on our street…lives with her dad, but does have an awesome grandma who comes and stays with them when Dad is working) And her eagerness to help with the kids or help me in the kitchen.

Morgana and Jamar

Morgana and Jamar

12. I got to witness answered prayer.  Prayers for my neighbors and their kids. Prayers for divine appointments. Prayers for the kids to meet Jesus. Prayers for Jesus to show up and “do the heavy lifting”, even when I didn’t have my act together. THANK YOU to all those who prayed for the week!  I love getting to record how God keeps his promise- “Ask and it will be given”…

More "ebenezers" added to my prayer journal as to ways God provided and orchestrated events

More “ebenezers” added to my prayer journal as to ways God provided and orchestrated events

13. And since a picture is worth a thousand words…These are the rest of the reasons…

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**A HUGE shout-out to my friends, Amberly and Emily who volunteered to go shopping for me and collect craft supplies and all the snacks for the whole week.  They couldn’t come with their kids (they would have brought nine more kids between them) but they helped me out so much by collecting the supplies.

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?

Blessed incubation

There I was, buried in the trenches of a fierce war…
Against eggs microscopic laid by
Pinworms.
(Sorry if this is too much information), but the battle consisted of washing all bedding, towels, and clothing in hot water every.single.day. Not to mention the vacuuming and bathroom cleaning every.single.day. The battle rivaled that of battling thrush, except every member of the family had them, and therefore was spreading them. Every waking moment was spent on staying on top of the battle.

Cleaning the toilet again, Clorox in hand, I told Him.

I told Him, “Lord, you know I would much rather be building those relationship with the moms at the public school, so they can come to know You. I would much rather be leading Bible Studies. I would much rather be reading to my kids, or accomplishing that great unit study in our homeschool curriculum. I would much rather be accomplishing something significant for your Kingdom, but I’ll be broken here, cleaning the toilet AGAIN. And sanitizing the bed AGAIN. And washing those towels AGAIN. And while I do it, I will intercede. I will intercede for the hearts of the women I have started to get to know. I will intercede for those missionaries in closed countries. I will intercede for the many friends I have who have left home and comfort to share the good news in strange lands. I will intercede for the hearts and lives of my husband and children. And in all this tedium, it will become not just the work of the home, but the work of prayer.”

And during those weeks of tedium, those prayers offered up, were in a state of blessed incubation.

For when the time was right, my crossing guard-turned-friend brought it back up while I passed her in a fluster, trying to get four little ones across the street and to the school before I was late again to pick DJ up….she brought up the little booklet I had asked her to go through with me weeks and weeks prior.

“I finally finished that booklet you gave me. We can meet to talk about it this week, if you want.”

All those weeks of feeling like I was failing to follow through. All those weeks where the “only” thing I could do was pray. All those weeks of feeling like giving up trying to reach out to anyone.

He DID hear all those cries, while scrubbing toilets and carting laundry up and down the stairs!

And then, on a whim, I asked the acquaintance who had recently confided in me about her painful separation, if she would like to come over and join us.

And she said, “Sure!”

And then my other friend whom I had tried to do the study with last fall, said she would be willing to come over to do the study as well!

And hearts are ready for the sweet, blessed adventure of studying the Word of God together. Ready to allow the soul to be satisfied by the feast of Words spoken to us by the Living God. Ready to allow those words to draw us to THE WORD.

Ready to meet the One Whose humiliation and sacrifice paved the way for the mundane to become a holy rite, a place of Kingdom Advancement. For His sacrifice made me clean, clean enough for the Holy Spirit of God to dwell in me. Clean enough to have that Being enter in with me as I do the mundane, and clean enough to offer prayers up which are heard. Clean enough to be a vessel and instrument of intercession. and I learn that prayers offered up are never unheard,
They just may rest in blessed incubation for a time.
Maybe just in time for pinworms to be gone.

We must win them.

We had just finished going through Barnabas Aid’s prayer guide for the persecute church.  Nearly every single prayer plea was for Christians suffering in the hands of Muslim persecutors. That’s when Dave called to tell me he found an international student that needed a room to rent, and would it work out for us to rent ours to him?

“Yes! We’d love to meet him and see what we can work out.  Where is he from?”

“He’s a Muslim young man from Libya.” I hear on the other end of the line.

And I’m embarrassed to confess the very first thought that flashed through my mind.

“He’s going to bomb our house.”

It’s true.  It’s the very first thing that came to my mind, and in light of last weeks events, and the many worldwide ones, and 9/11, it probably runs through yours as well.

Fear of radical Islamist and their slow, strategic infiltration of countries throughout the world, including our own, haunts me. Fear for my children, and fear for their children haunts me.

But not for long. Because, just as I had to remind myself of the truth when my first thought was that this Libyan man who ended up becoming like a family member was going to bomb our house,  I also have to remind myself of which Kingdom I belong to. And where my Hope and Security rests.

For persecutions, nail-embedded bombs, and crashing towers are a temporal thing, and I serve a King whose Kingdom lasts far longer, and has far greater power than the encroaching power I see entering into this temporal “Land of the Free”.

And I serve a King who did not run and hide from those that would crucify him, but who entered into their midst that He might win the few whose hearts would open to a love and forgiveness and truth found in Him.

And I serve a King who even today has not turned His back on the 1.6 billion Muslims who have been told lies about who Jesus is, and who live, and work, and play, and raise children in a darkness yet to be infiltrated by the Light of the World.

And I serve a King who told us to love our enemies, and pray for those who persecute us.

Because He Himself did so.

He even loved me.

And because I was once an enemy of the Living God, declaring jihad on anything or anyone who got it the way of fulfilling the god of myself, and he didn’t ignore me.  He didn’t move away from me.  He did not hate me.  He died for me.

So our family moved into a place of personal death of fear, death of stereotypes, and death of pride.

And we extended our hearts, and our home, to a man from the religion that licenses the killing of my brothers and sisters in northern Africa, and the Middle East and throughout the world.

And OUR world opened up. We got to know quiet, thoughtful Adnan whose smiles were brought forth most frequently when seeing our children play. Which led to meeting his friends, and celebrating their graduations, birthdays, and births of new babies. Which led to the joy of getting to know “James and John” through a Christmas hosting program. Which led to adopting our next very Muslim, Libyan tenant-turned-family member, Nader.  Which led to his entire family, including his parents come to stay with us over the course of the next few weeks. Which has led to a whole new view on Muslims.  The Muslims who DON’T make the news because they are busy working, and taking care of their children, and having parties for their friends, and living a quiet, humble life, just like we are. How do I know?  Nader’s mother, Wafa, brought me a stack of old pictures from Nader’s childhood (brought from Libya to be put in a slideshow at Nader’s upcoming wedding).  And they could have been a stack of my own family’s pictures…Vacations to the beach, toddlers running around in diapers, siblings playing dress ups, trips taken to other countries, Boy Scout events (yes, they have Boy Scouts in Libya), birthday cakes, and smiling faces pausing in the middle of life’s joys to be captured on camera. And they stop to say their prayers, and they memorize the Qaran, and celebrate their religious holidays, JUST LIKE US.

Except.

Except, they do it without the Light of the World reigning in their world.  They do it, having a truncated view of the real Jesus, Isa or Yesu, and therefore live in ignorance of Who He Truly is, and the wonder and joy of knowing Him. They do so always trying to obtain a righteousness, good enough for Allah, when a Righteousness has already be paid in blood, and given freely to them to receive as a gift, not as an earning,

IF

SOMEONE

WOULD

JUST

TELL

THEM.

AND SHOW THEM. AND PRAY THEM INTO THE KINGDOM OF THE KING OF LOVE.

What better way to reach a people who have been so unreachable for the past several decades.  We are hindered from going THERE.  But they are coming HERE.  And we cannot ignore them, or hide from them, or fear them or fight them…… we must win them.

Win them with love. Win them with hospitality. Win them with generosity. Win them with forgiveness.  Win them with prayer. Win them with the TRUTH.  For Truth Himself, won us, and now lives in us, and He is strong enough to overcome every hint of fear, stereotyping, and pride in our hearts, if we just offer up to Him ourselves.

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