Tuesday, September 30, 2014

One Foot, Two...

"Is Mommy a woman of her word?"
They answered, "Yes."
My question and their response rang out into the thick of the battle between angry siblings in the car on the way to church.  "If we cannot be ladies and gentlemen, speaking life to each other, then we will walk home!"  The words escaped my mouth, fully aware of their power, challenging me to the core.  I lamented wearing high heels!

Sure enough, my favorite two hours of the week, spent in church, were not to be.  One of our precious crew, who refused to be kind, held onto his anger, and reacted in violence, watched my actions as I handed the car keys to my girlfriend, clasped his hand and together we left the building!

We trekked up the steep hill from the parking lot where the wide, sloping road met our eyes.
"Wow," he exclaimed, hoisting a stick into the air like a knight ready to charge, "this is going to be fun!"  He leapt ahead, teetering on the raised asphalt divider, along the embankment.  He asked for photos of everything, posing for a few to send to Daddy, on a weekend trip with Malachi, and big brothers Gabriel and Elias (who remember a similar, though much shorter walk in their younger days, when no one could think of a reason to be thankful).  In a two sentence summary titled, Why are we here?, I made sure my adventuresome counterpart knew this was his 'consequence'.  He nodded enthusiastically!

After the first hour, several good friends and strangers, driving back from the service, or on their way elsewhere, asked if we were well, broken down or needed help.  My pretty purse, pencil skirt and patent leather shoes must have indicated something was amiss.  When a sweet friend offered to swap shoes, holding her Toms to the window, I realized the pain of the high heels was necessary, strange as this may sound.  Our delighted boy's hand, holding tightly to mine, became sweaty.  We stopped several times to shake stray gravel bits from our shoes.  Finally he looked up at me, though I'd made no other mention of our reason for walking, and asked, "Why did I choose to be so naughty?"  I smiled at him wearily, and we kept walking.

Around 100 meters from the house, he dropped my hand and took off running to tell his siblings, who'd passed us in the car on the way, all about our two hour journey.  I hobbled in the door to the tender reception of my girlfriend Andrea, who always wrestles adventures in life well, and Magdalene, who compassionately poured me coffee.

I peeled off my pumps, examined my feet and related the conclusion I needed to voice.  I hope our boy will remember this lesson, but even if he doesn't, I will.  As we walked, I'd thought of struggling brothers and sisters in other countries, fleeing their homes, walking for days, unsure of where their road will lead.  In my pain, after the first hour and a half, I also thought of the road Jesus walked for me.  I imagined His suffering along the way to Golgotha and His sacrifice on the cross and of course, his guiding hand of grace.  Yet all I was doing was walking out simple consequences with our feisty child!  On this sometimes rocky road of parenting and living in general, whether the rough terrain is due to my own choices or someone else's, and in the wider, far more serious torment of fellow citizens on the streets of our planet, I know the Truth; God will never leave us or forsake us.  He is with me, our boy and you.  These daily lessons keep me grounded, encourage my prayers and draw my eyes up to the goal, far from this temporal journey.  For now, hand in hand, its one foot in front of the other!  

Wednesday, September 24, 2014


Elias joined Joy, our beloved director of Adoption Ministry YWAM, on her excursion to Ethiopia, four months after our adoption of Emmaus and Ezra.  Joy invited him then, because she and he knew that the events surrounding the meeting of and departing from his siblings' birthmothers, would rip his heart to threads, yet he too, longed to see their country.  As became evident, during his adventures with Joy, preserving any piece of the fragile heart of a compassionate lover of people is impossible.  The heart of man, when brimming with love for those whom Jesus asks us to care, will be crushed and strewn, as seeds on fertile soil, to produce an eternal harvest of joy.  The crushing is brutal, but the light of love shines from the follower who sacrifices self.

Transporting babies, visiting orphanages and meeting the brave men and women who step into the gap for vulnerable children, moved Elias deeply.  One of many miracles during his travels was the saving of a newborn found in a jungle area, alone and helpless, still attached to the placenta.  How they and we grieved for the mother, who must have believed this was the only way out of her hopeless situation.  (That baby boy was eventually adopted!  Hope overcame.)

One of the most significant interactions of the two weeks of Elias' journey took place in a coffee shop.  Elias met David, a Sudanese man with a smile as bright as the morning sun.  His invitation to chat could not be refused and his mesmerizing life story, will never be forgotten by any of us.  Elias related to us that the machete marks across David's arms, back and face were profound.  David described the day his wife and family were killed brutally through genocide.  He explained that his escape was miraculous.  When Elias asked if David would ever marry again, the jovial man laughed, 'My wife is with Jesus in heaven, and someday it will be my greatest joy to meet them there, but until then, I wait, as her husband on earth.'  To find such commitment, delight and freedom in one who'd suffered so much, can only be described as otherworldly, and is a product of his faith and trust in the Sovereign God.

When I consider our brothers and sisters in Syria, Turkey, Iraq and throughout the Middle East today, who are facing genocide, I feel paralyzed.  The spreading of the Ebola virus in many countries in Africa overwhelms me.  When I think of many of you, living in countries where the fragile balance between good and evil seems to be tipping dangerously towards ultimate destruction for all humanity, I anguish.  It is then that I remember David, whose name means Beloved.

When our close friend Pastor Paul Schroeder threw a ball of yarn across the church, asking each member to hold a fingertip of thread, then continue tossing, an intricate web quickly formed.  Beloveds, that is who we are, an intricate community, designed to love sacrificially, united under our mighty Savior.  We are light bearers, connected across the globe.  With many threads of story and life woven between us, we call with a united voice to the One who Is the Great I Am!  He is here, He is willing and He asks us to turn our hearts and lives to Him.  No man can rescue us from ourselves, man's inhumanity to man is sourced from Satan himself, but the battle is the Lord's.  Come Lord Jesus...and while we wait, we love with hearts surrendered, pray without ceasing, encourage the faint of heart and love fearlessly, as brothers and sisters do!  

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Team NWB

Her jet black hair, swept into a french twist, framed her lovely, chiseled face. She wore pencil jeans, a loose navy sweater and ripped canvas shoes.  Three of her four children sprawled across the cement walkway, playing a game.  Her cardboard sign read:
I lost my job
4 kids
need money for rent
God Bless You.

Salomé pleaded with her big, brown eyes.  "Shall we buy her groceries?" I asked, in answer to her silent question.  "Yes!" came her exuberant response.

We borrowed an hour for the errand, one I didn't think we could spare, until the sign drew us from our tasks.  As we approached the foursome, I held one bulging paper sack in each hand, while Salomé carried steaming coffee and sandwich wraps.  I lifted each bag as a sign of offering and her youngest boy ran to us.  He struggled to lug a bag to his siblings.  I gave her a hug and said, "I'm so sorry for your hardship, I'm Grace...I love God, and you'd probably do the same thing for me if we switched places.  Caring for children is tough...we have eight. We'll pray for you..."  I turned to the boys and thanked them for being obedient to their mother.  She smiled and introduced herself, then said, "God Bless you!"

Back in the car, Salomé asked from what country she'd originally come.  I was unsure, but her accent reminded me of a Pakistani friend I once knew.  "Does she mean God Bless You or Allah Bless You?" Salomé wondered, in reference to our home school studies of the Middle East/Asia and Islam.  Our conversation on the way home was packed.  Most importantly, I expressed that though we knew very little about the woman, it didn't matter.  She communicated a need and we had the opportunity to help her along the way, as a result of Salomé's kind-hearted look!  Whatever circumstances drew her to stand on the street corner, the details were not ours to pursue.  But serving her?  That we could do!

In our mailbox, late this afternoon, we found a mailing from Doctors Without Borders, containing a marvelous map strewn with pinpoint circles of all the places in which they minister.  It is a perfect example of what we hope our crew understands.  In their young lives, we begin teaching them to love people by attempting to be Neighbors Without Borders.

Yesterday,  Emmaus said, "God made each of us able to do different things, so that we could have teamwork!"  Exactly!  When he asked to be in this picture, I remembered his words.  Between us, our crew, you and yours, we are an excellent team of N.W.Bs!

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Love Does This

Good Morning!  The sun is rising somewhere on his own perfect schedule.  Soon he will arrive here and infuse this day with illumination, but I seek awakening in my spirit from the source of his Creator first.  The sunshine alone hasn't the strength to fuel this day.  Prayer and the Word are the bright lights we need.

In these fleeting morning moments, it refreshes my spirit to also think of you.  Sometimes I battle the thought that my words are jabber, released into a noisy planet that wishes I'd cease my incessant interrupting.  Yet, then I notice that you have read this.  Ours is a fascinating world in which our dwellings do not limit our building of community and ability to draw encouragement from the network our likemindedness of spirit provides.  The scripture I just read is from Psalm 36: 5-9 (NIV),
"Your love, O Lord, reaches to the heavens,
 your faithfulness to the skies.
 Your righteousness is like the mighty mountains,
your justice like the great deep.
O Lord, you preserve both man and beast.
How priceless is your unfailing love!
Both high and low among men find refuge in the shadow of your wings.
They feast on the abundance of your house;
you give them drinks from your river of delights.
For with you is the fountain of life;
in your light we see light."

In this broken world where we must cling to the hope in our souls and trust that joy follows sorrow after the Lord himself finally wipes our tears, we have fellowship.  We are loved by our mighty God and we have each other!  The grip of compassion rooted in the love Jesus Christ poured forth on us through his death, resurrection and forgiveness provides strength for this very day to change the world!  We can do it, with our Savior in the lead, equipping us to love with action.  Love changes everything Dear One, and it is in you to lavish in unending supply over and into this precious globe we share!  It is what love does!

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Round Table of Mercy

A Middle Little and a Little decided to make dinner.  A delicious smell of scrambled eggs and toast drew the rest of us from the schoolroom to the table, set with all the necessities including the remnants of last night's salad.  A lone voice broke through the thankful murmerings, "I hate eggs!  I don't like toast!  I'm not eating that for dinner!"

I yanked the arm of the hollering Little and called to the others, "Start without us, we'll be on a walk!"  I felt furious and stalked ahead calling back for him to grab his sneakers and catch-up!  We talked of all the things mothers say to children who refuse to eat or display an entitled spirit of ungratefulness.  It is ironic in our house to talk of starving children in Africa, since some actually were, at one time.

When we returned home, the boy ran ahead to humbly apologize for his screeching and unthankfulness.  Salomé graciously handed him his plate, but before his first bite, I swiped it out from under him.  I had decided during our vigorous conversation around the neighborhood, while he continued to fire back defiant words, that he would not be eating dinner, but nor would I, since solidarity sometimes softens what hard hearts might feel are unfair consequences.  All four siblings stopped mid-fork, wide eyed at my choice of the natural result of his naughtiness.  They seemed to feel the weight of justice.  Their eyes begged me to reconsider as the jury sat on the edge of their seats.  I gave them the floor.  "I see you wish to give your brother mercy.  If you can defend the reasons why he deserves it, I will allow him to eat."  And so the round table began with each offering their reasonable argument for mercy.  By then, my stern outward demeanor served only to hide my softened heart over the grace displayed through thoughtful words of kindness for their brother.

I handed down my verdict by replacing the plate in front of the boy.  He looked around with his head slightly bowed, like a gentled colt.  "Thank you," he voiced, quietly, then began to shovel in the cold eggs and toast.

By the time I could finally begin eating, the crew was focused on a game beside the table, their own version of Bananagrams, where each spelled the words they knew.  I asked a stragglier at the table to pass me the salt.  Twelve year old Malachi slipped four tiles on the table beside my plate.  The word read SALT.  I laughed.  What a perfect ending to our rough evening!  Jesus asks us to be salt and light to our world.  At our own table, our round table of mercy, the children displayed the rich addition of the most powerful seasoning in our lives, grace.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

My Question to You

From my inside-out...
I wrestle with words, tangled again and again in their grip of rebellion. When the sentence finally submits to me it is nothing like the thing with which I first battled. In truce it is so much more. I believe I have mastered each word, but the danger of becoming captivated by their willfulness and sucked into their universe of expression is ever present. In uninhibited spilling, they fall, float or fly as I fight to hold my ground amidst their multitude. They believe it is I who must be subdued, for in the end I wield the power for which they vie. Once released by tongue or hand, it is I who must ultimately bear the consequence of their voiced opinions. Have I spoken life or death? The crowd of Webster's subjects do not care, they only want to say something. Have I welcomed those of noble definition to lead? Are they my gift to you or my weapon? This is for you alone to decide. With a deep breath and a fresh sheet of possibility, the dual for the next sentence begins.

Monday, September 8, 2014

I Dub You

Yesterday, Ezra asked, "May I dub you?"  I knelt down beside her and she laid a tiny stick on my shoulder, then lifted it over to the other, "I dub you Sir Mommy Princess."  I smiled wondering where her imagination might take us.  "Mommy, did you know princesses can fight?  If the King asks them to."  She smiled back at me, then raced away to rejoin her brothers on bikes.

In my hand I held a Decision Magazine published by Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, which I had been reading while watching our children play.  I'd just been immersed in a heart breaking article on the torture of innocent people whose cruel enemies treated their own followers violently.   I'd been thinking of those who currently wield power using fear and murder to seek to satisfy their hunger under evil's influence. This is not God's way.  I'd let my mind wander from the picture of two perpetrators to imagine those two men as newborns. I asked myself, What happened to them between that first day of their lives, as precious babies, to this one, where killing is what they choose to do?  Were they ever loved?

I read that many of the followers have come from the edges of society throughout the globe where they were frustrated or angry and now suddenly they are strong!  The power of violence has gripped them in its drunken rage of destruction.  And who suffers from mans' inhumanity to man?  The weakest always feel the brunt of the blow!  The fragile, the sick, the old and the children; those who can't defend themselves are often Satan's target and we who are strong wring our hands and wonder what to do?  Where is God?

Late in the evening, I couldn't shake my hopeless feeling.  I'd finished the first step in a lengthy rewrite of a fictional novel I'm working on called The Color of God.  I lamented over the idea of writing a book when the world is falling apart around us.  "Who cares about a fictional story of an unwilling florist and a dying Christian woman, when real disasters and death are everywhere!"  I asked my sweet husband.

"If you can say that," he answered, "then who cares about heart surgery?  I help dying people become well.  If everything is hopeless why bother?  You do the thing God has equipped you to do with excellence and to His glory.  We need each other and whatever we've been given to do, we do!  You must write and I need to operate and together we will raise this crew."

My husband is wise.  We are here to serve in the spaces in which we dwell or along the path on which we are led, God is with us and love is stronger than hate.  There is a job to do and a face in front of each of us to love.  God gives us the powerful weapon of prayer.  As King, He asks His children to care for the widows and orphans, our brothers and our sisters.  Do you know what dub means?  Dub is defined as: to invest with any name, character, dignity, or title; style; name; call.  Perhaps revival is waiting for us to live in the way Jesus asks, following His call to care for the least of these, and to fight against the spiritual forces of darkness. We are to love sacrificially those who are persecuted and those on the edge of choosing evil.  We represent King Jesus!  He is the way, the truth and the life, those who believe in Him will not perish but have eternal life.  We fight for souls of humanity by the power of His love.

Saturday, September 6, 2014


The troops flood the breakfast remnants ever-ready for defense of the coveted sugar cubes.
"Who is who?  Is someone winning?" I ask six-year-old General Zion who steadies a trembling plastic private.
"Not yet Mommy," he answers, "first I have to finish getting everybody ready for battle!"

I know you know that our house is sometimes its own battlefield.  With our combination of strong wills, driven leadership instincts (all adopted babes are first borns from their maternal biological families), and rebellious hearts like mine; conflict resolution takes creative strategy! Yet I often find myself in the midst of chaos before I have a plan!  I cling to the hope of peace and flourishing lives submitted to selfless choices, but sometimes these parenting desires feel far out of reach.

I am happily awed by the consistent lessons our children teach me through their straight forward outlook in the moment.  My own heart must prepare for success in the battles we all face!  Between their words and through a peek into the garden, I hope to offer some encouragement for the day!

Come check on my experimental idea on the sunny side of the house.  I planted tomato shoots early in the summer amidst the roses.  Initially, it looked industrious and savvy but by this first week of September, the roses seem weary and the entangled mess appears to be a failed experiment.  I lift the branches as something red catches my eye.  Low and behold, fruit glances up at me; a merry party of healthy tomatoes dangle, delighted to have their secret existence discovered!  There is fruit from hard work, not because I am the best gardener, no, not at all.  The fruit exists because the Master, who planted the idea in the first place, has poured His grace over my endeavor.  And so we focus back to the most important subject, the humans.  God's precious children placed into our lives are His!  The tedious labors of the day inside and outside might look like a mess, but God's love and sovereign plans are good and overflowing, up from the soil, in the deepest places.  Seeds planted from the love of God produce beautiful fruit from His merciful hand.

The only real strategy I've got is to walk closely with God.  When battles rage or the view before you looks like a mess of your own making, God is creating something beautiful through you, His precious child...trust Him for the outcome!