Sunday, May 24, 2015

To Stay

It felt a lot later then it was when I woke up in the dark last night. It was only silent for about 10 seconds before the quick succession of 6 gunshots rang out in the street out front of our home. Everyone else around me slept; a mirace I don't take for granted.



I prayed in the tense moments afterwards, waiting for sirens while I asked for silence, knowing that the quiet would mean no one was hurt.

The only sounds in the aftermath were the wind chimes carried on the breeze below our window and one of my 4 murmuring in their sleep.


I've been asked often in the days since the shooting if there is a for rent sign in our yard; if this was the wake up call we needed to move us on and get us out.


But I know where the real battle lies.

Yes, there is very real danger here.

Tony and I were gifted with a few hours alone this morning and sat across from one another while we talked over summer plans and I shared how I had hoped to have a niece come and stay with us for several weeks and how I wanted to assure her mama that we would never place her in a dangerous situation.

He looked at me with the most tender smile and said, Kimberley, I think we need to admit to ourselves that where we live is dangerous. We can't change that or call it anything different.

So yes, here, right here in the street in front of me and the neighbourhood all around me, we face danger that is real and present.



But the danger I have been most aware of and the most affected by in the days since the stray bullets and the dented fence posts has been one that Peter warns about: Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. 1 Peter 5:8

I have felt it and known it in these last few days, as though choosing to not run and instead trust Christ has put a target on my back. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places (Ephesians 6:12). The temptation has not been to give in to fear, but instead to allow the Enemy ground. Instead of abiding in Christ and being in prayer, to be distracted by mindless and mind numbing things.

There was a quiet turn around in the heat of the afternoon, as we pulled up to the little community garden we have joined and I began to turn over the dirt and get it ready for the tiny seeds. As my restlessness began to slow and little hands opened up and held potential life hidden within packets before dropping them into the dark of the earth.  As I turned on the water and sprayed it over the marked out mounds I realized that even this, this claiming this box and planting it and watering it and having my kids run all around the rows is an act of defiant worship. By planting life into a desperate area, we are mirroring what Jesus has done in our lives. What He is still doing and will continue to do in our lives until He calls us home.



What Satan sets out to destroy, Jesus instead brings beauty and life through the submitted lives of His own children. What an amazing privilege and honor to be a part of His plan.

I curled up on my comfy green chair when we got home this evening and pulled out my bible and sat down to read. That blonde curl of Zeruiah's still clinging to the armrest  from the nap she took here just a day or so ago, and it was these words that I turned to:



We put no obstacle in anyone's way, so that no fault may be found with our ministry...but as servants of God, we commend ourselves in every way; by great endurance, in afflictions, hardships, calamities, beatings, imprisonments, riots, labors, sleepless nights, hunger; by purity, knowledge, patience, kindness, the Holy Spirit, genuine love; by truthful speech, and the power of God; with the weapons of righteousness for the right hand and for the left... 2 Corinthians 6:3, 6-7

It's right there, can you see it? We do all things for God's glory by His power alone. He is the One Who keeps my fear at bay, the One Who gives me peace and gives me all I need for righteousness in my right hand and in my left. 

This evening, in the fading light, a girl just a little older than Lyla called across the street to me and asked if she and her little sister could come over and play. While their laughter filled our yard and I rocked in his dad's chair on our porch, a gang leader came riding up on his bike and leaned against the fence talking with Tony and giving Elias a high-five.



We have been given a holy privilege to serve Jesus here, to be a safe place, if even for an hour or so for those who desperately need it. Yes, it is dangerous here, the risks are great and the cost could be high. But He is worth it in all ways, always.

So I'll turn out my light and lay down on our bed and know that through the night, no matter what may happen outside of these walls or within, the One Who holds this spinning globe and names each star surrounds our home with His Presence, and we are held in peace. 




Friday, May 15, 2015

Bulletproof

The laundry is spinning and drying again, another load tossed in and another one folded.  The monotony of the mundane has been what I've craved in the last 24 hours...as though I'm afraid to run out of dirty clothes because if I do, things won't feel normal again.



The sarcastic part of me sighs, really? Run out of dirty laundry with 4 busy little ones? But I push that voice down and strip sheets off of beds and turn that dial while the panel sings and I get lost in the rhythm of bending and sorting, pulling wrung out cloth to be dried while folding the clean pants and shirts - sorting once more into piles for little hands to take up those stairs and tuck into drawers before getting dirty again.

Zee presses her tiny nose up against the glass of the washer and I stand and watch her for a while. 



Yesterday, Lyla fell off the picnic table back near the basketball courts at Madison House. Her fall connected chin to cement and arm to wood and she came running home because I was still here with the littlest. For whatever reason, I didn't send her back after I checked it out and deemed her whole, but asked her to wait while I put shoes on me and Zee.



I was just saying those words as I walked from dining room to living room as that loud metallic boom began.

The words were out of my mouth before I could think, 

Get down on the ground, Lyla. Lay flat. Don't move.

...5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10...

I waited for the 11th gun shot, but it never came...only silence.  Coming right behind our house, I didn't even think anyone across the street would be affected.

I didn't know that the crossfire happened towards Madison House, that in aiming for the ones in the backyard of a house, bullets went flying haphazardly towards the playground.

I wasn't there when Elias went running by his daddy and Tony felt the distinct impression to pray for his son's safety moments before the chaos began.



I didn't hear the voice of one of our older kids yelling for the little ones to get down on the ground. I didn't hear his voice telling them when to start running into the building.

I wasn't there when Livie grabbed the hand of another scared little girl and they ran towards the safety of Madison House together. 



I wasn't there when someone mentioned hearing metal on metal while he was counting the number of shots.

I was only there in the aftermath of scared children and a panicked Liv who couldn't find me and thought I was dead.

I wasn't there...



Sometime during dinner and the calming down of little ones, Tony and a couple of the older guys walked the playground and the perimeter of the fence searching out the source of the pinging sound that was heard.

They found it.

They found them, actually.



When Tony first took over Madison House almost three years ago now, he felt a nudge to raise money for a fence - a sturdy fence. One that was hard to scale and could lock up tight and so he began a Fund a Foot of Fence campaign. 

The fence was put in within the year.

The smaller posts are maybe an inch in width, if that. They are strong, but not wide.

But God doesn't need much width.

As Tony went searching he found two indents on two separate posts, 2 inches of metal stopping 2 flying bullets.



One was in line where Lyla had been only minutes before.

The other was near where my other two had been playing.


I walked home a little early and placed my finger in that impression,

and I touched grace.



A little over a year ago we moved into these walls and a new way of living began. I wake up now in the dark to hear gun fire in the distance and I've had the police in my house at 2AM.

The cycle of laundry however, is the same here as it was there - wherever there has been.

And maybe that's why I keep finding myself near the neatly folded stacks throughout today. Not because I'm scared...though, I've cried. I've cried at the so close's and the what if's. I've cried at the one more loss of innocence in the eyes of my older 3. The tears marking the grief I feel at the hatred people have towards one another, the disregard of life - any life - and how quickly weapons are pulled.



No, the laundry pulls me close today because it reminds me of each step Jesus used to prepare my heart for here, because while laundry was being folded, while little ones have been growing into not-so-little ones, while seasons have passed and warm clothes have been changed out for cooler ones, He has been working on this heart - pulling my mundane into the middle of His will.

Those sheets on our bed that I've changed out today, they've held me in sleep in the "safe part of town", but now I know deeply of what the Psalmist wrote, In peace I will lie down and sleep; for you alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety. Psalm 4:8


I still remember in the days leading up to our move here on 4th Street, when my heart trembled at all the unknowns, Tony's younger sister wrote me the simplest of notes, filled with the words her pastor had shared from the pulpit that Sunday, and it was this:

You are bulletproof until God calls you home.

Two inches of fence proved the profound truth of that statement this week. 



So, I'll continue to sort and fold and wash, allowing my mundane to become my worship of Jesus, trusting that no matter where I am, for however long I am, He will use what I offer up to Him for His glory.





All family photos by the amazing Allison Davilla Photography



Thursday, April 2, 2015

A New Journey

He tells me in the quiet last night that there are words to lay down behind the words I had just spoken.

That, Kimberley, you need to write about that.


His dad, the one who wore that leather hat and had that gentle smile - he was the one I would turn to with these questions I was voicing...I always would turn to him, almost like I couldn't remember what he had said only a few months before. Remind me again, please - how do I forgive? What does it look like again?

But someone else answers his phone number now, I'm sure - his eyes have taken in the glory of God and he has joined those around the throne and worships fully and completely. And the words that he spoke long ago have slipped away like the years have done.


I folded myself up on the kitchen counter this past week, knees against my chest and I faced two choices - I knew which one I wanted to choose. It seemed easier and safer.

But easy and safe - it doesn't seem palatable anymore.

It could be because Christ's path doesn't seem like it should be easy and safe anymore.  Taking up a cross and losing my life for HIs sake doesn't sound like it is supposed to be easy.

And yet, He is incredibly tender and merciful - He sees the fear and the weakness that mark this step, this unfolding of my very quiet, yes.

Thomas Watson, hundreds of years ago, he penned these words,

Jesus Christ was once bruised on the cross: "it pleased the Lord to bruise him" (Isa 53:10). His hands and feet were bruised with the nails; His side was bruised with the spear. A bruised reed is a member of Christ; and though it is weak, Christ will not cut it off, but will cherish it so much the more...See, then, the gracious disposition of Jesus Christ - he is full of clemency and sympathy. Though he may bruise the soul for sin, he will not break it. The surgeon may lance the body and make it bleed, but he will bind up the wound. As Christ has beams of majesty, so he has a heart of mercy. Christ has both the lion and the lamb in his escutcheon; the lion, in respect of his fierceness to the wicked (Psalm 50:22), and the lamb, in respect to the mildness to his people. HIs name is Jesus, a Saviour, and his office is a healer (Mal 4:2)..How full of mercy is Christ, in whom all mercy meets! Christ has a skillful hand and a tender heart. "He will not break a bruised reed".

And maybe this right here is the very first step - trusting Jesus. Not mapping out each path or turn that could be taken, but trusting the One Who sees the outcome from here. Who planned out the ending before the beginning even began...


Thursday, January 29, 2015

Dear Lyla, {A Birthday Post}

I sit huddled beside you on the stairwell in the dark. 

Your last day of being eight has ended with tears and big emotions that leave the both of us surprised.

And that's okay some days, I think. Not all days will end with smiles and laughter...some nights will come and leave you aching for a do-over. Some nights will leave you broken and wanting to somehow be better, leave you wanting to run away and leave all the mess around you behind.

I get it. 



But I want you to know, I love you. I love you and each hard moment you face.

I love you for crumbling and letting the hurt you felt out. 

I love you for being brave and for the way you apologized though your tears.

I love you for wanting to hide and for all the almost-9-year-old emotions you are feeling.

I love you as you stand on the edge of leaving the little girl years behind. 

I love you as you wrestle through these days and yet still long to be held as though you were still small.

Sweet girl, I love you.

This past week, I read of Joshua sending out the spies and how they came to the door of a woman named Rahab.  She made a lot of mistakes too, Lyla. Many of them by her own choosing.  I can relate. And as you keep getting older, you will too. Yeah...it won't get any easier.

But this woman who was once an almost-9-year-old like you, she grew up to be a woman who heard about God. The same One you hear about too. And this Rahab, full of mistakes and regret and probably a lot of embarrassment too...do you know what she did?  

She believed. 

She didn't just believe, Lyla, she risked being vulnerable with her faith. 



Faith does that to us, it makes us vulnerable. This in itself is a risk. She had heard about God, and she didn't know if she would be accepted by Him, but she held out her faith in sin-stained hands and the rope that she used to lower the spies out of the window became her very banner of salvation. God knew all the wrong she had done, sweetheart, but it was her heart that He drew near to. Her vulnerable faith moved His heart and Lyla, He saved her. 

She wasn't courageous because she was brave. Rahab was courageous because she depended on the Only One Who could rescue her.

Tomorrow you turn 9 and there are moments I feel like I can't breathe. So many moments that I want to live over, to fix...to have a bit longer to linger over. You are such a joy and these years that started with your heartbeat unknown within me have completely undone me in such good and hard ways. As you get older, as your heart grows more tender...as you whisper prayers alongside me...I am learning that strength of being vulnerable. Of holding out my faith in sin-stained hands  and trusting that Jesus will take what I offer and somehow make it beautiful. 

Tomorrow you turn 9 and we are at the halfway mark before adulthood dawns and a season of motherhood will quietly change. 9 more years to live life together daily and hold out the beauty of the gospel in imperfect ways as our faith stretches and grows.

You cried today and maybe there will be tears again tomorrow, and that's okay. But don't get stuck there, Lyla Mae. Like Rahab who took the rope, her faith, and used that to save the lives of others, let your life become a bridge of sorts, a line that points others to the beauty of Christ. Don't get lost in the longing of regret...use your failures to press you in closer to Jesus. Lean on Him, precious daughter and find that in doing so, you'll be strengthened to risk your life for Him.

Tomorrow, you'll wake up and your breakfast birthday cake will be on the table and I'll try and smile brave as the baby who first filled my arms now is the girl whose face whispers of the woman you'll be. Tomorrow morning we'll sing over you as this mama prays over her daughter - that you'll be courageous like Rahab and lost in love with your Savior.



Happy birthday, my sweet Lyla. *You* are the gift of this day.

I love you always.

Mama

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

The Naming of the Fifth

Babylon is all around me - clamoring loud and reeling me in. The many voices speaking their many thoughts and all those thoughts pointing out different views that sound right and good and true...

And it is so easy to get sucked in and stuck there - from Chailles to Voskamp to Bessey to Held - they all speak. They all have platform - they all read from the same Word I do, but all have come away with such different thoughts, beliefs, convictions. Empires are built and divisions crack wider and it is all. so. overwhelming.

What happened to just hearing and speaking the truth of the gospel? Of seeing my life, my moments not as separate and individual, but as a part of a daily offering, lifted up to the One Who created me - being shaped by the transforming truth of the gospel, not the political climate around me?

I sit tucked into the corner of the coffee shop, unnoticed by the couple beside me. They are strangers and she all but pleads with him to notice her - to pursue her. He can't help but notice the offering and he teases - offers hope. Until his phone rings and his head ducks. He turns his face towards me, head and voice low so she can't hear. But I can't help but overhear him promise the one on the other end that he'll be home soon. That he loves her. 

And my heart aches for all 3 - a trio of hurt sitting to my right.




For a month I take myself off of Facebook - I need some quiet from all the noise. 

It's amazing how loud a white screen can be.

I thought I would feel caged, trapped - lost without knowing what was going on in the lives around me.


I didn't realize I would feel freedom.

That my interactions with those around me would become intentionally personal because I wouldn't be assuming anymore that I knew what was going on - and I had missed that.

I slipped back on last night and it felt hard to breathe as so many opinions and articles slipped noiselessly beneath my thumb - as though I was swiping a millstone around my neck.

I didn't sleep well.

And I wonder, what would happen if instead of being tossed about by a never ending wave of FB news feeds, my hope was actually grounded in the beauty of Jesus Christ Himself. 

The truth of the matter is, I can say all I want to that my hope is found in Him alone, but when I find myself storm tossed and overwhelmed by all the chaos on a screen held in my hand, I prove that my words hold no weight. Christ is not my anchor or my harbor and I am adrift on a churning, ugly tide of opinions clamoring and fighting to be right.



The startling truth though, is that 


There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,

    the holy habitation of the Most High.
God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved;
    God will help her when morning dawns.
Psalm 46:4-5

This river isn't a passing one, full of changing, tossing thoughts rushing past and knocking my feet out from underneath me - this is the Living Water of Christ - completely satisfying, bringing joy and peace.

Despite the mess of me, the sinfulness of me, I have incredibly become the dwelling place of the Most High. In the midst of me is His very Presence and my life, my very soul is upheld and strengthened.

It is here with the firm foundation of this truth that the many voices can be heard, but not absorbed. I am not shaken when God's truth is what cups and weighs all else.

They call to us, luring us with the false promises of other gods and saviors...and in their very midst, we remember Jesus, the firstborn of the new creation and delare that we live for another King and another kingdom. - Rhythms of Grace

When His hesed has been experienced deeply and when His love surrounds a year faithfully (all years actually, but so deeply known in this one) I move forward unafraid to have my soul strengthened because joined to Him Who is utterly steadfast, I cannot fall even though I may fail.

If all my life is worship, a living sacrifice - if my soul is set aflame but not consumed - the year spread out in front of me blazes with His grace as the surety of Him becomes that very Hope to set my anchor on.



I've lived numb I think, to protect myself from feeling vulnerable, from feeling overwhelmed and unsure. So many days have had just get to bedtime as the goal. 

I have forgotten Whose I am - I have forgotten how to enter into the mundane parts of my life fully.

This year marks 5 years since the first time God named my year ahead of me - before naming the years became popular and books were written on it - Jesus prepared my heart days before my world was completely ripped apart by suicide and brokenness through just one small word, Abide.

And every year, around summertime, I begin to look expectantly and He never fails to give me another word that ushers in a deeper knowing of Him.



This year, a phrase - a trio of words.

His Hesed, in shocking and beautiful ways became my sure foundation this past year and so it only seems natural that resting on that would be the very name of this blog and the verse that it stands on;
this is the year of In the Midst. Because God is in the midst of me - I will not fall. He will help me when morning comes.



And until He calls me home, morning always comes. 

He's faithful like that.




Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Jericho

It's while I'm sitting across from a friend that I look out the front window and see Tony on the sidewalk across the street walking slow with one of the kids from the mission. He's one of the first kids I ever met in those early days - one of the first to welcome this family so obviously not from this area.



We've entered into our third year here and three years deepen voices and grows up inches and three years hardens tender hearts who witness so much pain.

We've watched it happen to him - this kid who stands on the edges of being a man - who feels lost on these edges and hides his hurt with anger.

I get it.

I've done it too.


So while my friend sips her coffee, I watch Tony walk the permiter of the field outside our window - this wide open space in the middle of the ghetto and I think of Jericho and those walls...high and strong walls and the slow and patient walk of those many feet.



I know the edges of my man - I recognize the way his head bends as he listens, the steady rythym of his steps as he stands strong beside the boy lost who is grasping for something sure. Hands in his pockets, I know he is praying and I know that as they walk that perimeter, God is doing something unseen.

Last night, we lit the second candle and spoke of Peace - of the Prince of Peace. We read of Abraham and Isaac and a father's love and the hints of the coming Messiah. We listen and sing of Emmanuel and our hearts long for His coming as we circle the perimeter of this life we are given day after day, step by step.



Faith - it propels us forward...it keeps us circling the Jericho in front of us. Whether it's an angry kid or an unsteady future or a restlessness that won't go away.  Faith propels, but trust in the goodness of the God who has called us keeps us in motion. It's a knowing that it isn't my footsteps that will bring down these walls, but the very hand of God. It isn't my will that keeps me walking, but it is the presence of Jesus - the very One Who is Peace that keeps my heart steady.

So these days grow darker, but these candles, one by one, grow brighter, and like the slow and steady walk of those praying down walls we keeping moving forward, keep pressing into the One Who is with us in all the broken mess.




Friday, November 28, 2014

When Thanksgiving Doesn't Look the Same.

The sun is setting so much earlier now - the dark settles in long before the little ones are ready for it to. We light candles and flip switches, forgetting how powerful the pull of light can be.



I witnessed the truth of it last night in the aftermath of turkey and stuffing, in the reminding myself that dinner would happen and there was no time frame and family was here and friends were here and hearts were more important than perfection.

His face appeared at the door, oddly misshapen and hamburger-like, as though someone had pounded it raw.

They had.

Three sheets to the wind and terrified, he saw the light on and an open door and he walked in. He knew he would find safety here.



And Tony, he came near, stood near to the overwhelming stench of alcohol and terror and he turned and grabbed a plate and began to heap it high of warm food, good food and his gaze finds mine. I know it now, deep in my soul, I know exactly what this is - and I fumble for more, desperate to give because this man is more that what he appears. He bears the very image of the One I love and if serving him means I am really serving Jesus than let me give him pumpkin pie - let me heap it high with ice cream. Let me love in the small ways that I can.

The ground underneath an intoxicated ex-gang member becomes holy - the air in the hallway is sacred, I want him to see Jesus somehow through his haze.

He leaves before I can give more.

In his wake though, come three small ones. Shy smiles and sweet dark eyes. They come in and play quietly in the hall - content it seems to play in the corners until ice cream is mentioned. The one little boy, he holds out his plate for seconds and I see this for what it is, another opportunity to love Jesus, another way to serve Him, another way to brush up against the Holy. So when this little one asks for maybe a pickle too, I want to give him the whole jar. I want to give him everything on the loaded counter. If the breaking of my heart means I can see more of Jesus, then shatter it completely - I want to give Him my all.



We slip on coats in the dark of the night and this little one, he races ahead of us - thin cotton covering even thinner arms. We walk behind him and I reach for Tony's hand. This boy, he is so small, how can no one be out looking for him? But I remember, there is One Who see him too and maybe he came to us so we could be the safety he needed - we could be the ones making sure he got home. 

There is a rythym here that I am learning - a weight that leans heavy on my soul. Gun shots are fired in the night and I wait for more but am met with only silence. The clouds are dark in the west.

I read this morning of the ugly-made-beautiful and I nod along with the author's words. I've witnessed it and I don't want to lose the wonder of watching God move. I didn't know that I could love a broken area in this way that I do, but maybe now that my own broken places have been exposed, that they have seen the Light and are finally finding healing, my eyes search out evidences of Him more -  and He meets me here. He shows me His beauty and glory and His image transforms the faces around me.



I wrote it on the chalkboard above my sink, hours before the guests arrived and Olivia began to heave, I placed it as a lockscreen on my phone because I need the reminder as the days grow dark and I could forget His truth and fall back on fear and I need it infront of my eyes because I want His Light to blaze here in this home, in my life, 

I will give thanks to the Lord
with my whole heart;
I will recount all of Your wonderful deeds.
Psalm 9:1

This Thanksgiving was marked by the beauty of His presence, transformed by the beauty of His grace. He extended our family and let us love Him through the loving of others. How could we ever stay the same?