Thursday, November 19, 2015

The Pastor's Pew.

She came to the door about 6 months ago,her hair coiffed and graying. She knew the family that had built this old house and her husband had hung a light fixture long gone in the entrance way near the stairs.

I just wanted to see the old house, she said, and I was wondering if the fireplace was still there.

I forgot, for a few moments, how strong memories are and how dear. 

To me, the fireplace is one of the most amazing things about this aging home, and so I threw the door wide and welcomed her in.

Only, this home isn't the home that she remembers.

The life that fills it now doesn't look the same as the lives who loved and breathed and filled these places when she was young and the shock came out in words of hurt over so much that had changed.

I wish she hadn't left so quickly. I wish I could have asked about the ones who dreamed up this space. - The ones whose faith marks it so deeply.

It's called a Pastor's Pew.

I had never heard of it, and haven't seen another like it.

But like the pew benches that held me when I was small in that quiet little church that was like a second home, I am wrapped in a feeling of familiarity when I curl up in the corner.

I am held in peace.

There is something sacred about a space used for worship.

Back when doctors still made house calls as frequently as the local pastor, this foundation was laid. And when the cold winter winds would howl and the wise would stay home, there was a fool for Christ who would brave the chill and walk up the front steps to pray with the ones who lived here.

This alcove, flanked on either side by the age old symbol of church and prayer and that one sweet gramma singing off key, it has held the voices of the ones laying their hearts down before the Risen Savior and these pews have held the tears and laughter and words of those no longer here.

The fire may have warmed chilled bodies, but there is rest to be found for weary souls here in the quiet of this space.

I received a text in the dark as I was making my way home.

Just two words with no other explanation and my heart raced in fear with all the possibilities:

Please pray.

Was it my children?

Did something bad happen?

Are you hurt?

I asked all the questions instead of just doing what the text said.

I didn't know that while I had been out, one of our older Madison House kids was in our home. This kid, angry and troubled, was breaking apart and he showed up here, on our front step, cold and undone.

My 3 older children, recognizing his pain, raced to help their daddy get hot cocoa to warm his insides while Tony fed the fire to full blaze and then invited this young man to sit on one of the pews.

And here, on wood that has been prayed over for more than a century, two souls sat opposite one another; one seeking answers, the other holding the Answer.

I walked in to hear yelling. 

To hear the broken sobbing of pain,

while my older three all snuggled together in the school room, completely at peace and unafraid.

Mama, they whispered, you need to pray. The boy in there is *really* sad.

And as the questions raged, I heard Tony's calm, sure voice speaking the Name of Jesus, inviting him to come and find Peace.

All I could do was pray. 

All I could do was stand in the kitchen, hip against counter and pray.

It was the silence that caught my attention, and it was the two of them kneeling before the fire in the space between the two pews that pulled me to the doorway as I witnessed the holy moment of a fatherless man tenderly lead a fatherless boy to the heart of the Heavenly Father Who will never turn either away.

In the past few days, this home that was ours to rent and then wasn't and then was ours again - this home that God wouldn't allow us to live in until all of my dark had come has become ours officially.

I don't know why it has in the way that it has. I'm overwhelmed at all the ways this has come together, but I am so incredibly grateful at the way God has shown Himself again as Father at the beginning of a season when this word is filled with so much pain.

Our prayer since the beginning has been that this home would be a light in a dark place. That refuge would be found here; that in the middle of chaos and confusion, the clarity of Christ would be seen most clearly.

I think of that family who first saw this plot of land and drew up plans for this house and in the heart of these walls placed a refuge for their souls.

They couldn't have known that all these years later, a lost boy would be found by the One Who knew him before all of time began right in the middle of where they themselves gathered.

The world seems to be spinning out of control. News channels and social media scream fear from all sides and terror turns us wild, devouring one another with words and opinions behind the safety of a screen. Everyone wants to change the world and the views of another.

But, right there, outside my own front door is a young man who needs a Father and a homeless woman stopped with her cart across the street talking with me about Jesus over a cup of water and a granola bar.

Each moment, each place I put my foot has the potential to be a space to build a Pastor's Pew, a meeting place to seek Jesus and the good of another. These moments, where we drop to our knees side by side place us on level ground. There is no scrambling to find our footing here, there is only utter dependence on the graciousness of God.

The fire is burning brightly still in the early hours of this morning as the pews wait expectantly reminding me that there is no one to far gone to come to Jesus, 

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Why Are You There?

On this street that we live on we hear the rumors,

the whisperings of the ones who carry danger with them everywhere they go.

It's said quietly and hushed,

Avoid them, at all costs. Stay away if you see him (or her) coming.

Tony, he drives home in our car that is blue in a territory that is clearly marked red and he drives towards this one man as the sun is setting in the late haze of a summer evening; while the setting sun is blinding the other man's eyes who hesitates because he can't see clearly who is driving.

I was standing on the front porch spray painting desks when I watch his hand reach under his shirt into the back waistband of his jeans...while he begins to walk slowly towards the car my husband is in.

Tony, calm and sure, reaches his hand out of the rolled down window and calls out his name, says hi as though it's no big deal and diffuses a tense situation.

But it confirmed in my heart that truth we had been told,

This man is dangerous. Stay away.

October passed in a whirlwind of days of anniversary, ocean, birthday, and visiting.  We come home from the beach and I turn and prepare for 2 weeks of company and finally tackle the leaves that are building a fortress on our front steps.

There is that pile of dirt, stubborn and resilient that I can't quite get to budge out of the corner of the third step up and I'm more focused on that then I am on the street behind me. Barney, our dog, makes an odd sound as Tony steps out onto the porch and I turn and look toward the sidewalk and pause.

He is slowly approaching us on the other side of the fence, his eyes locked on mine while he asks if our dog will bite.

I don't know how to answer...mostly because I don't know how Barney will react. But I don't know why he's asking and so I say so,

I don't really know.

I turn to look at Tony because I know we are to avoid this man, and he whispers quietly, urgently,
Get. In. The. House.

Not fully comprehending, I tried to finish up what I was doing, not wanting to look panicked or make the wrong move when I realize this man has lifted up the gate latch and is walking up the front walk towards us.  As Tony steps around me, whispering again for me to get in the house, I quietly slipped in through the front door and sat down and began to pray.

There is always the possibility, no matter how small, when we have a member of a gang come by and sit on our porch with us, that an opposing gang could drive by and open fire.  For the most part, I have come to peace with this. And while I know how foolish this may sound to those around us, I firmly believe God has His hand on us and He will protect us. After all, as I was told before, we are bulletproof until God calls us home.

But there was something in the air that afternoon that had me shaken, and I didn't know what it was. So I prayed. And then I was able to listen.

I'm not sure how much alcohol this man had consumed, but it was enough to slur his words and open up his heart.

I have heard brokenness before - I've felt deep brokenness in my own life before, but I have never, in all my life, heard such all-consuming hopelessness in the voice of another.

Alcohol was making his mind wander, but Tony kept drawing him back to Jesus in the most tender and gentle of ways.

I'm too far gone.

I can never come back.

When he called Tony "good", Tony would quickly and confidently say,

No. I am a horrible man without Jesus. He makes me good. Without Him I would do horrible things.

I sat there as I listened to his words and thought of the apostle Paul - murderer, persecutor, cruel...

No one is ever too far gone when Jesus enters a life.

He stayed and listened while Tony presented the gospel to him and he didn't say much, but as soon as Tony started to read the words of Romans 6:23, he got up, shook Tony's hand and wandered away.

I felt torn over the next few days. He had shared much with my husband and I wrestled between the fear of, what happens if he thinks he said too much and tries to hurt Tony?, and He heard the gospel, please Jesus, let the seeds planted take root.

I'm grateful for the prayers of those around us, who were aware and prayed for peace and protection because the fear I felt lifted and my prayers for him have become stronger.

But it begs me to ask the question of myself,

Why are we here?

And by here, I mean here, in this house, in this neighbourhood.

I keep hearing the cliches, the prettied up sayings,

Just Free-fall into Faith.

Jump and the Lord will catch you.

And I get it, because I believe that the sentiment behind these sayings is true - but am I doing it?

Am I trusting the Lord so much that I will share the truth and beauty of the gospel with those around me, no matter what I have heard of them?

Now, I know that there is wisdom in listening to the counsel of those that Christ has placed in my life to guide me and who know this area and gang culture better than I do...


I almost allowed fear of man to close my mind to the possibility of the salvation of another.

And that's why I have to ask myself,

Why am I here?

Do I believe that the most difficult child in my classroom can be redeemed, or will I just roll my eyes and pray their 20 minutes in tutoring will pass quickly,

or will I come near and pray that the Holy Spirit will make Himself known to this restless child who experiences more horror at home than I will ever know, grateful that I can used by God in this moment?

Why are you where you are?

Have you thought of this?

I guess this isn't the normal blog post, because there isn't a neatly wrapped up bow in the end. We haven't seen this man since that windy afternoon last month. I don't know if or what he remembers, I don't know if he is still alive or not.

That little one in my tutoring room is still just as disruptive, still refuses to listen and sit still.

But my heart is changing as I ask for new eyes to see.

And you, the one reading this, may the Lord bless and keep you;
{may} the Lord make His face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; 
the Lord lift up His countenance upon you, and give you peace.

And may you come to know deeply why Jesus has placed you in this place where you sit, and may He open your eyes to the deep need around you and strengthen you to act.

Friday, September 4, 2015

For When it's September 1st

My dad's birthday was on the 1st of September.

Same day as his father's all those years ago.

It's been close to 40 years since he last heard the sound of his own father's voice and  over 5 years since I've heard the sound of his own - since our relationship reached the breaking point and everything crumbled and fell apart.

And I want to hold these words carefully and tenderly because I haven't always done so.

I write these words as a marking.

As a recognizing.

Not to shame or point fingers, but to hold what is wounded to the Light.

I spent years leading up to the first babies wondering which day would mark their births - what ordinary day would become extraordinary that I didn't know just yet...and so dates on the calendar hold weight for me. They always have.

I don't expect that to change.

There are days that heave with grief, and ones that fairly explode with joy and those square boxes on the pages of the planner in front of me are more than just blanks to hold words and names and appointments that I pen in. They hold deep emotions that mere ink can't convey while tears evaporate, leaving only wrinkled blots behind.

Elias, he sits behind me in the van around 10 this morning asking a hundred questions in 60 seconds and I smile as I try to keep up. He asks me if we are going to Madison House today. And then he asks when we are going to church...when our next day off is. When Christmas will be.

And I listen to him as he processes his days.

It's all so innocent.

He's not aware of the wars that are raging, of the people who are fleeing and the little ones who are dying and washing up on shore.

He's not aware yet that the news is hard to sit in front of, that the never ending stream of words sinks fear deeper and deeper into air already so emotionally charged.

He just knows that Sunday is church and Friday is for incentives at Madison House and Saturday mama really, really wants to sleep in.

This past week, as the air has been getting cooler and dark clouds mark the sky above us, our yard has been full of little ones after the Madison House doors have closed for the day. I've sat inside near the big front window to keep an eye on the craziness of the "restaurant" that has set up residence on our porch. Everything is whirling in the middle of their play and I miss the quiet conversation happening just down our front steps.

There's a little girl who has latched on to my oldest girl and they sit and whisper secrets and learn what it means to speak from the heart. This little one, her daddy has died and there are a lot of fears that rip at her heart and this is what she shared with my daughter.

Lyla, who has only ever known the presence and love of a father, she asks quietly if her friend knows who Jesus is.

There's only a small shaking of the head.

So, in her soft way, Lyla offers to pray with the one sitting beside her, offers to help the fatherless find her Father and while the air is full of yelling, a little one opens her heart up to the Love of Jesus and she is no longer lost, but found.

The ground all around us is holy.

I don't know how long it's been now since I first came across these words, but something deep resonated inside of my soul when I first read them.

Each month, I print out the pages and I place them up on my wall and when everything starts to tilt, when fear creeps in and I find myself overwhelmed, I grab onto the words of who Jesus is.

It was on that last day of August that I reached for the paper still warm from the printer and as I picked it up, my breath caught -

Beside the 1st of September were the words, My Daddy.

The day marked already by so many emotions, I stopped.

It's a day marked by the birth of a man who carries the title of father,

and son,

and the tears of a daughter who sits in front of that large front window wondering.

And Jesus, in His tender, merciful way calls to the deep in me that feels as though it is sinking and causes my swirling thoughts to slow, to recognize this day and this man as created by a Holy God - and then to turn my heart to the One Who calls me child because of wholly undeserved grace and kindness.

I think of the unfathomable-ness of God - how Isaiah trembled over the vision of Him and the train of that robe that filled the temple. How he crumpled to the ground because he couldn't bear the weight of such glory...this is Who calls me daughter. This is Who calls me to love and serve outside of what makes me comfortable.

This is He Who marks my days, both the ordinary *and* the extraordinary, not merely with words, but by His very presence.

Each day should bring my eyes to this fact first - God Himself is my Father and everything else rests on this foundation.

It's Friday today, which means a late evening with loud games and louder laughter filling the halls of Madison House before we head home for the weekend and rest.

But in the middle of it all is One Who is drawing us all to Himself,

and all the sons and daughters are finding their way Home...

Grace and peace to you from God our Father
and the Lord Jesus Christ.   Ephesians 1:2

Sunday, August 30, 2015

For When the Changing Seems Hard

The clouds rolled in during the quiet of the early hours yesterday. While it was still dark, the rain fell and the air that has been so filled with smoke cleared and lifted.

Zee still refuses to put on her shoes.

And that's okay.

Tony received an email this past week while the air was heavy and thick. While my eyes were burning, he sat down near me and read the words that marked and recognized his time at Madison House. August 27th marked 3 years since he stepped into his role, 3 years since he brought me with Zee all curled up in my belly and the older ones pressed close as we walked up the front steps, unsure of what to expect, but wanting to receive all that God would give.

School started this week. We pulled down our books and brought out our pencils and while the school buses drove the ones living just down the street to their classrooms, we gathered in our own small school room and we entered into this new year with new hope.

September is it's own version of New Year's I think. There isn't a counting down at midnight, or fireworks exploding over our home, but it's a new leaf full of new possibilities and for everything that we've removed from our schedules and our purposefulness in going smaller, these days ahead feel ripe with expectancy.

I sat on the front steps of Madison House at the beginning of the week, I watched as the kids started returning with backpacks slung over shoulders and fresh new haircuts and shy smiles as they walked by me into the front doors.

As faces that I've loved for three years now come into view, I feel that familiar ache press close into my chest. It's one I've been feeling all summer, I think, but as Fall quickly approaches, the ache is getting deeper and it's time to acknowledge what it all means.

From the time I was small, I wanted to be a wife and a mama. That's all. Some may think that it's a small thing to aspire to, and that's okay. I never had grand dreams of grand jobs, I just wanted to make a home cozy and warm for the hearts I would love. And when one is 10 years old, this dream and this wish seems like a lifetime away.

Now, I stand on the other side of the dreaming. It's no longer a hoping, but a fulfilling. My home is full of a good man and crazy kids, but this body that has cocooned my five babies holds no more and my breath catches at the suddenness of it all. Warm newborn skin no longer folds up into my neck as a new one breathes deeply in sleep...instead, arms and legs sprawl and clamor for space, as though my once-little-ones haven't caught up to the reality yet that our space is transitioning.

My heart is aching.

It's that deep ache that settles in as I watch these kids who have found such deep places in our hearts walk up the front steps I'm sitting on. 3 years ago, they seemed so small, so young and now I look into the faces that are changing into young men and women in front of me. There's one young man whose hair was all shaggy just a year ago, he was the first one of the MH kids to hold Zeruiah just a year and a half before that, he sits across from me all quiet as he tells me about his first day of school. This kid, who just yesterday wasn't it when he was mouthy and hurting? He looks me in the eye and says, "It was a good day. And yeah, I'm in the top grade, but that means I'm a leader this year. I'm going to be a good leader."

The moving of time is a good thing, I see and know this...I do. I just haven't been prepared for how quickly the transitioning would happen. As though the letting go of one stage and moving into the other should be more gentle, more slow.

Back during the blur of Liv's first year of life, when she was awake more than she slept, when she screamed more than she was quiet, when all I saw was the neverendingness of where I was at, Jesus gave me a verse in the dark one evening, in the dark of my emotions, and it was this:

He will tend His flock like a shepherd;
He will gather the lambs in His arms;
He will carry them in His bosom, 
and gently lead those that are with young. 
Isaiah 40:11

This past week, when I was wrestling through all that my heart was feeling, I looked out the window at the big maple that hangs low over the fence. The leaves are just starting to turn colour on the edges, just enough to let us know the air is changing and soon a new season will be here. And there was, in the hundreds of leaves spilling off that old branch, one lone leaf caught in the glow of the sun.

I'm not sure why it pulled at me the way that it did, but for just a few moments, it reflected the glory of the sun off of it's surface...the deep green no longer seen, but instead transformed into a bright dazzling gold in a sea of shadow.

I don't know how long on this earth I have...the weight of this thought has been pressing in on me harder this year, but the One Who formed the dust I am made of, He has set me here, has given me all that I have here. And for a brief span of time in light of eternity's length, He has set His gaze on me here...and I can turn my life to reflect Him here, so that it's not me that is seen, but Him.

I think of that green all transformed into gold before winter's wind comes barreling in and it is no longer...and the words of Isaiah, they burn in my heart and as September comes nearer, it's a call I want to answer for me and for our children who have grown under my heart and for those who have become a part of my heart,

O house of Jacob,
come, let us walk,
in the light of the Lord.
Isaiah 2:5

We have a Savior Who promises to lead the way...

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Dear Olivia {A Birthday Post},

It dawned on me last week, that I had you all wrong.

As though the world was flipped upside down and I could finally see all that I couldn't before.

It took 8 years and 9 months short of a week to see and there have been so many times in the last 7 days that I wish I could go back and make up for all that I didn't understand.

I wasn't ready for the gift of you.

I remember the pink positive sign and the tears of fear I cried, feeling wholly inadequate to be a mama to two children under the age of two.

I remember the miles the midwife had me walk, pushing your sister in the stroller, trying to navigate old and broken sidewalks in tandem with trying to navigate old and broken fears while you grew strong under my heart. Your quiet and small flutterings belied the powerhouse you would be.

It was during that time, when we found out you were a girl, that the name Olivia was mentioned. And loving words the way I do, I looked up the meaning to discover that it meant peace.

I craved peace.

I honestly craved quiet both in soul and surroundings and I thought that was what peace was...quiet.

So when you, Olivia, turned in all the wrong ways came bursting into the world on your very own terms and screamed your way through life for the first 2...3...6 years of your existence, I was convinced that we had named you all wrong.

That you weren't peace.

And in naming you such, you...and I...would always be reminded of that fact.

Oh, sweet Liv.

I've been so wrong.

So, as I sat in a conference last week while you were in the classrooms above tracing maps and coloring pictures and keeping an eye on your brother (to help your teacher, I'm sure. :) ), my heart was getting pried open and my eyes were beginning to see clearly.

The word Shalom gives a strong glimpse into the beauty of your name...and into the beauty of you. This greeting, said as a blessing, means this: You will have no lack, you will have peace and rest because you have everything you need.

Your name is a blessing.

Which means, when I call you, when I talk to you...when I talk about you, I am speaking a blessing over you and over those around us. May this very thought stop me in my tracks when our emotions run high and we both misunderstand the other.

I thought peace meant calm and quiet and when you weren't, I was blindsided. But peace, according to the woman speaking over us, it means that there is no area of lack. She spoke of A Plan for Peace, mentioning that it started with being in Scripture...because the word Peace is like a guard dog at the front door.

It makes me think of your insatiable desire for the Bible. How you keep the Scriptures right under your bed so that you can grab it before you go to sleep. How when you sense me growing frustrated you ask for us all to stop and pray. You long for the presence of Jesus and you desire to sense Him near.

I learned, in the back row of that conference, that peace isn't passive or quiet, but it is active and it moves with purpose and passion.

8 years and 4 months ago, when I saw you moving on that black and white screen, when you were named with a wrong understanding, Jesus knew that this name was the very right one for you and for all of the very right reasons.

This morning, just as the sun is coming up over the horizon, before it even has the chance to heat the air into the furnace it is supposed to be, in those early hours you will slip from being 7 and become a brand new 8 year old with all the flair that marks your every movement.

And I will have your breakfast birthday cake on the table and as you walk all sleepy into the room, I will pull you close and whisper your name into the air around us, inviting the One Who is Peace to come near because with Jesus, Liv? We really do lack nothing. I'll fail you in so many ways, but when we have Jesus, we are made whole and the blessing that we speak over one another becomes words of worship to the One Who created us.

8 years ago, I held you in my arms having no idea how my life would change.

You have changed it for the better, sweet girl; our family lacks nothing with your addition and we have been abundantly blessed.

May this year ahead grow you deeper and wiser - may it find you falling even more in love with Jesus. May you see that with Him, you lack no good thing always. Always. 

Happy, happy birthday, dear Olivia Grace. I love you so very, very much.

With all my love,



Thursday, August 6, 2015

For When Everything Changes

It keeps spinning, regardless of our circumstances. I know the truth of this. But there is a small part of me that wonders at times if there is a slight stuttering in the moments that matter, that form and change us...those moments that move us from one direction to another.

I guess the world would stop turning all together with all our many moments that bear the weight of change and notice, so I know it must keep orbit, held in the hand of the One who formed it. The weight of these moments instead lay deep in the heart, where He alone sees us most clearly.

It flashes in time with the blue and red lights filling the street just down from our house in the middle days of July, in the aftermath of bullets that fly from that rolled down window and enter the house just across the street from our front door. As officers tape off the road to block traffic and my phone rings with the number of a visiting dear friend. While she wraps her arms around me and calls out to Jesus for help as tears run down my face from not knowing if it was the house of one of our kids...from not knowing if someone we loved was hit.

In this circle of prayer, as we call out to the One who is Peace Himself, I find my footing in the anchor of His Name.

He hears us in the middle of chaos.

We leave for the unhurried craziness of camp in the hot heat of July. We leave the confines of wifi and cell service for the freedom of play and we find rest there, even as physical exhaustion sets in.

The second week that finds us in the height of trees and the cool of mountains, while the full moon was rising high and the field was full of the night game and teens, I slipped out of the lodge to walk in the fresh air. I wasn't expecting to hear the guttural scream or feel the tension of the next moments before the rushing and the call for 911. I see Tony's face and I know it's bad. Arms reach out for Zeruiah and I run with him in the dark on a dirt road so that we can direct the ambulances and emergency vehicles. I reach the field as it begins to fill with swirling lights circling around one of the most dear women I have come to know. This woman who retired just one week before coming to counsel a cabin full of teen girls and point them to Jesus was now laying on the ground with a leg twisted in all the wrong ways and there are times that tears are the only answer to the moments that don't make sense.

And as everything is tilting from the weight of pain and confusion, as her broken body is lifted up in pain onto a stretcher, the rest of us lean into the presence of each other as we hold the hands of the ones beside us and lift our voices up in prayer.

In this tender place, as we call on His Name, we find Him and He sets our feet on the truth of His presence. And He is there as the moon climbs higher and the smallness of us is deeply known.

It's here on this night, this night filled with so much brokenness and confusion, that a girl who knocks on my door back home and draws maps of imaginary places for my girls, who smiles shyly when I point out her's on this night that she hears the beauty of Jesus and how He makes the broken beautiful and she says yes and makes the decision to give her life to Him alone. She gives Jesus her yes in the hours before her counselor gets rushed to the hospital and we could see how God uses all things, good and bad, for His glory.

For whatever reason, I think of the story of the Good Samaritan and the brokenness he embraced. How Jesus used the unlikely to open our eyes to the beauty of mercy and calls us to a life that comes near to the hurting and tender places in another.

That's the key, I think. We may be afraid and uncertain, trying to feel our way through the dark and unseen, unsure of how it is all supposed to look. We can choose to stay back from what we don't understand, feel ill-equipped to handle, or even of what we are afraid of. We could, and it would be understandable. But Jesus pointed out the beauty of the most unlikely to a lawyer who looked the most likely in order to reach his heart.  The Samaritan, who was considered "Bad" by the ones who hated him most, came the closest to the wounds of  the broken in front of him. He didn't just come close, he gave of his time, his comfort, his resources - he gave of what he had and God called him "good".

Tony and I sit in the aftermath of these weeks at camp in our coffee shop chairs that still smell of caffeine and pastries and we ask the hard questions of each other that we had been praying over and seeking direction for to find that sometimes the greatest gain in our lives means the giving up of what feels safe and familiar. Realizing the small ways that I've been relying on things or "this is the way we have always done it" rather than on the faithfulness of Jesus.

I've been afraid to go smaller and simpler, afraid of what it would mean for our family and schooling and ministry. But if I look at the model of what Jesus put forward, I see a man who let go of what he had in order to add to the care and benefit of another.

The hearts of my children matter no less, the beauty of our family demands that Jesus and what He is asking come first. Letting go of the known for a season opens our hands to receive the gift of the unknown, trusting that every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of Lights. Letting go of the much allows us to give even more to the ones that He brings into our lives - we give from a place of trust and find that the stuttering moments have only just changed the orbit of our lives. Where we once focused on what was we now find our lives lined up next to the I AM and there is rest here.

Only half of the moon showed her face last night, she orbits and her face shows less then it did in the dark of a field surrounded by towering trees just one short week ago, but I'm not afraid of seeing the smaller picture anymore because I know that we are all seen by the One who spoke our days into existence and we are safe here, for we are always under the watchful eye of our good God.


Monday, July 6, 2015

When He Remembers

I'm reaching for a pair of her pajamas when I hear her yelling from the other room. She's become a yeller, the smallest one of mine. Loud indignation pours from her lips over any injustice she sees, real or imagined.

Tony comes around the corner, smile barely contained and shoulders shaking.

Elias grabbed something from Zee, he quietly tells me, and when I asked him, "Elias, did you take that from her intentionally knowing that would make her scream?", the lines around his eyes deepen as he starts laughing, Without missing a beat, Elias grinned at me and said, "Yes!".

Earlier, in the kitchen, after a dance party in the living room, he turns on one of the songs that I love to hear him sing and he holds out his hand and offers me a dance. Gently swaying on the tile, he pulls me close and I lean into the strength of him.

Kitchens can be incredibly romantic.

Olivia joins us within moments and starts chanting, Ewww!!! Brody!! Brody!!! Guys! Mom and Dad are kissing!! Brody!

I wait for a few moments for the song to end before I turn my head slightly to whisper that "Brody" is a boy's name...the word she wants starts with a "gr".

Oh...she grins, I'll remember for next time! and runs off to another room.

Even with the song over, the magic still hangs in the air and I don't want it to end.

The dishes can wait, can't they?

This past week has been record breaking heat-wise, temperatures soaring 20 degrees above normal and plants and people begin to wilt under the blanket of it. Last Monday, we escaped the furnace of Madison House and brought out the dishes and pans and served dinner out on the front lawn for the kids gathered for Sports Camp. The heat only seemed to intensify hunger and plates were heaped high.

I heard her voice before I saw her, insistent and pleading she kept calling out to see if she too could have some food.

Above the faces I was bent over serving, I looked up to see her face pressed up against the fence, hair wrapped up in a scarf and a face weathered and worn. She looked into my eyes and asked again, Could I get some food, please?

I looked over at Tony beside me and he smiled wide, Yes! Of course you can!, and I grabbed a plate of food and began to pile it high.

She stayed pressed up against the fence watching, remaining on the outside.

I look at her and I see Jesus as His words start running through my mind,

For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty
and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was 
naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me,
I was in prison and you came to me.    Matthew 25:35-36

Tony, he's acting before the words are done rolling around in my mind and he is inviting her in, encouraging her to come near and get food.

And there is joy as she is telling us about the food she had smelled down street, how she had searched it out and found it here and as I ask if she wants tomatoes and jalapenos and onions and salsa, she just laughs and tells me that she'll take it all.

And I want to pile her plate higher.

Because yes, she's a stranger and a little quirky and yes, she had a little more than water to drink before she came across us, but she is made in the image of God and because of that alone, she has beauty and she has worth.

She takes that plate in her hands and smiles again and says a loud thank you before heading back out the gate and on down the street. 

I think of her today, after I tuck small ones into bed and listen to them giggle...I wonder if there is a mama out there somewhere missing her. If there is a mama who holds memories close to her chest and aches over everything that seems lost.  I wonder if there is a mama who had tender dreams for her girl and wonders over all that seemed to go wrong.

I wonder over her as a daughter and where she lays down to sleep tonight. I wonder if somewhere in the haze of what clouds her mind if she longs for home. I wonder over the choices she made and what path led her to us, if even for a moment.

I curled up in my green chair this morning before church and let the verses in Psalm 78 press hard into my soul, and I can't seem to get away from verses 38-39,

Yet He, being compassionate, 
atoned for their iniquity
and did not destroy them;
He restrained His anger often
and did not stir up all His wrath.
He remembered that they were but flesh,
a wind that passes and comes not 

  He remembered, and still remembers that we are all but flesh...that we are but a moment in light of eternity and that we only come this way once.

How beautiful that this stirs up His compassion towards us, us in all our sin and brokenness. It doesn't repulse Him,

it stirs up His kindness.

I think of my children, the ones who need me to remember this the most - to remember their frailty in the middle of mistakes and messes.

I think of the opportunities that He gives us everyday as we walk in the doors of Madison House, to remember His love for us as we see pain and fear and beautiful joy in the ones we get to serve.

I think of the sidewalk outside our home, the one that brings dear friends and gang members-turned-dear-friends and everyone in between up to our front door. I've purposefully marked the porch with reminders of love, not for beauty but for our hearts to remember why we are here.

We are here to love deeply, to see the image of God in each person we interact with. We are here to speak of His grace and His sacrifice to those around us. We are here to serve even the stranger because we are really serving and loving Him; seeing the unlovely places transformed to beauty because His love has been freely given for us.

He dances with me on kitchen tile and keeps his hand on my lower back while we sway. There are children scattered throughout our home yelling and reading and drawing and watching the way a husband loves his wife.

These are moments that are fleeting, moving so quickly, barely allowing my heart to catch up while bringing me one step closer to breathing eternity's air, and I don't want to waste them.

So, I'll love the ones that made me a mama and live alongside of me each day. I'll love them and serve them point them to Jesus, and when I mess up ~ which I do so very often ~ I'll point them to the wonder of grace and the beauty of the cross.

And for the ones who wander, who are lost and forgotten, who have a mama somewhere...or not; I'll love and I'll serve in the gaps where Christ allows, I'll love for the mamas who can't. I'll choose to see Jesus in the hardest of places and watch with faith to see Him bring beauty and healing.

And I'll keep dancing with that man of mine in the kitchen, until the wind of my life blows me Home...