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Hope

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An incredible story to give you hope this Christmas season

 

 

The bus swerves on the mountain road and I look straight down from my window seat to see sheer drop. Nothing but mist lies beneath us. We are mere centimeters from death.

Mountain climbers call this exposure, the condition of “being on high vertical rock with full consciousness that nothing exists between you and the distant ground but thin air.”

And there are times in one’s life when you come into full consciousness, when you know nothing exists between you and death but the invisible sustaining of God….

 

The orphanage juts from the side of the mountain and as we climb the steps to enter, I see faces of children peeking out from behind doors.

We spread food out on tables. Children run up to snake packages of cookies, crackers, and candy into their pockets. Some sit down to eat the fried chicken we brought, others just horde, waiting for their own private feast.

All the children but one has special needs. The healthy children get adopted out to homes around the world. The rest stay behind.

“If you have any language ability,” the director of the trip tells us, “please spend time talking with the children.”

That’s me. I’ve worked hard to learn this difficult language. The thought crosses my mind:

“What if I’ve learned this language for a time such as this? Just for today, to communicate the love of Christ to children abandoned up the side of some mountain in the middle of nowhere?”

So I approach child after child, see mouths of rotten teeth and clothes with holes in them. I offer warm arms and warm words and I pray Christ takes broken pieces and words and nourishes the hungry soul anyway.

Then…

I’m standing by the director of the trip when she says to the group, “There is one child that hasn’t come out. The child is tied up in the room next door.”

A child tied up? Mercy. My heart starts to pound.

“They told me the child can come out if someone takes the child and does not leave their side.” The director says this and I see raw panic in the eyes of our group. So does the director. We all want to run from what we can’t predict, what we can’t make sense of, avoid what is risky and unknown.

The director turns to me. “Arabah, will you take this child?”

I stammer out a “Yes, of course,” and follow the house parent to the room where the child is tied.

It’s a girl standing at the window. 

Her hair is chopped short and it’s hard to tell if she’s a girl or boy with her clothing, but I look in her face and I see the spirit of a girl, the feminine beauty mirrored in my own heart.

I want to cry.

The window is open, even in this cold, and she is tied to a security bar at the window. Her eyes are bright and I take her hands into mine. They are freezing.

I look in her eyes and speak softly, asking if she wants to go outside for awhile. The rule is that I must keep her on the “leash,” a thick strip of fabric tied around her torso, and that no matter what, I can’t feed her.

I soon find out why.

She rushes the food tables and grabs trash off the floor to eat it. She smacks snacks out of other children’s hands and tries to stuff food and debris down her throat.

I adjust to this child. A child with food issues. I smile inside, thinking of my Little Bit. I can do this.

I steer her away from the food tables, but not before grabbing a wrapped bun. The house parent told me not to give her any food, that this little girl who lives tied up had already eaten.

I don’t listen. I’m sorry, I can’t.

I give her the wrapped bun and she tries to eat it, only to realize it is secured by packaging that she can’t open.

“Wo bang ni,” I tell her. “Let me help you.”

I want her to receive food from a stranger, to know generosity, to realize there is kindness. After a life of abandonment and abuse and pain and isolation, I want to move her one step closer to trust. She needs to know there is hope, there is a good future. There is a Maker who is also a Father.

Is this not why we go in His name?

It seems preposterous for me to try to communicate to her that she doesn’t have to self-protect and look out for her own interests. Me of all people, and she who has lived in a dog-eat-dog world. This is a stretch for sure that seems better left undone.

But I try anyway. I get down on her level, face to face, and repeat the words to her again and again, “I can help you. I will open it for you. You are so special and so beautiful. Slow down, everything is okay.”

She glances up at me quickly. Amidst the rush around us, somehow that inner need for survival is overpowered by trust. She looks at me. Finally, she hands me the bun.

I rejoice at the victory. I open the package and give her the bread.

She devours it.

We repeat this over and over until she’s had chicken, buns, cookies, crackers, juice.

I spend an hour with my little friend, oblivious to everything else going on. At the end, she finds a shiny gold ornament that fell off the Christmas tree. She picks it up and for the first time, she smiles. She speaks. She holds the ornament and rolls it around and around in her cold hands.

“It’s yours,” I tell her. “You can have it.”

I speak words of love over her and when it is time to go, I ask the house parent to take her. ”No,” she tells me, “You must go tie her back up.”

It’s one of the hardest things I’ve ever done in my life… tying a child up.

And then leaving.

The words are even hard to write.

But as I get ready to leave the room, I notice I’m the only adult there and many of the other children have returned. They are lined up in wheelchairs and every single one of them is staring at me, with hopeless eyes. I touch each one and try to speak words they can understand.

They don’t. Their eyes tell me the words are meaningless. They stare at me dark and hopeless and empty, so I speak just one word. Just one word again and again and again. It’s the only one they need know, really.

 

Jesus.

 

“Don’t forget,” I tell them. “Jesus, Jesus, Jesus.”

It seems such a pitiful attempt in the face of such pain and hopelessness. When the dark emptiness stretches endlessly before them. It seems so meaningless, so impractical. Why bother? Why pretend that it matters, that it is somehow significant?

When I return home, I cry with Jackson and Jackson tells me the headlines of death and loss and devastation. And we all wonder why?

Hearts wrenched and wounded and this is why we self-protect and just look out for ourselves and quit believing in Good. This is why our hearts grow numb and we die that way and why we don’t bother with the small attempts because what’s the point, really?

But there’s that one word, that Name, that God-man who left heaven and came down for the express purpose of entering into our pain.

He’s called the “Man of Sorrows and acquainted with grief.”

And He didn’t have to be. He could have stayed far removed. He didn’t have to climb the mountain and untie the sash and speak the good news to a broken world and make Himself bread and become the Lamb who took stripes for us and now promises to never, ever leave us … He didn’t have to do all that. But He did.

He wept and He didn’t run from the hopeless, evil, dark pain of our lives stretching out endlessly before us but instead entered into it so that He could overcome it and give us our heart back.

We really can believe there is Good. There really is a future and a hope. Life really is worth living. 

Where is God? we wonder.

And I have no answers but a word: Jesus. Emmanuel. Bread of Life. Freely Given. Shepherd and Savior and Close to the brokenhearted. Binder of wounds. Healer. Sustainer. Weeper and Empathizer. Comfort. Light in our darkness. The Way, Truth, and Life. Redeemer. Overcomer. Victorious One. The Pearl of Great Price. Lamb of God.

He’s everything and He’s right here with us.

And I realize it, that in our moments of exposure, when all the safety nets and securities are removed,  in that place where we understand how close we really are to thin air, we can see Him.

 

 

 

 

 

Putting Down the Gun

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I’ve been totin’ a gun.

It’s actually been part of my daily garb for many years,  tucked away just out of sight.

But I have a little problem. You see, I’ve been trying to get rid of the gun. How do you ditch a gun? I mean, I could just put it in the garbage, but that doesn’t seem safe or practical. Plus, you don’t just put guns in the garbage unless you need to be arrested for something.

Perhaps a couple of monks can help you understand my predicament. These monks live in Snowmass, Colorado at the St. Benedict’s Monastery and one day, an unnamed monk was working alone in the vegetable garden.

A second monk happened upon the first and tells the story: “I squatted down beside him and said, “Brother, what is your dream?”

He just looked straight at me. What a beautiful face he had.

“I would like to become a monk,” he answered.

“But brother, you are a monk, aren’t you?”

“I’ve been here for 25 years, but I still carry a gun.” He drew a revolver from the holster under his robe. It looked so strange, a monk carrying a gun.

“And they won’t… are you saying… they won’t let you become a monk until you give up your gun?”

“No, it’s not that. Most of them don’t even know I have it, but I  know.”

“Well then, why don’t you give it up?”

“I guess I’ve had it so long. I’ve been hurt a lot, and I’ve hurt a lot of others. I don’t think I would be comfortable without this gun.”

“But you seem pretty uncomfortable with it.”

“Yes, pretty uncomfortable, but I have my dream.”

“Why don’t you give me the gun?” I whispered. I was beginning to tremble.

He did, he gave it to me. His tears ran down to the ground and then he embraced me.”

 

~~Monk story from Ruth Haley Barton’s book Strengthening the Soul of Your Leadership: Seeking God in the Crucible of Ministry“~~

 

Ruth Barton goes on to say, “Most of us have a gun- some way of protecting ourselves and making ourselves feel safe, hidden, under the robe…Holding on to our self-protective patterns is one manifestation of our unwillingness to surrender ourselves to God for the journey that is ahead.”

I know it. I mean, I really know it.

My gun, my self protection, is what’s hindering God’s work in and through my life.

And though I’ve been a Christian for a long time…even taken some risks… left home to live my life working overseas...I still carry a gun.

I’ve known the problem of my self protection for some time. In fact, the monk story has been sitting in my drafts since 2/25/12, waiting for the right moment to be shared.

I’ve struggled hard to put the gun down.  The sad truth is that I’ve not been willing to take the risk required. Give up the control I hold so desperately to.

Maybe I’ve been waiting for some dramatic moment, some monumental point of decision, like when God touched the blind man’s eyes and he was healed of his infirmity.

Self protection is an infirmity.

Some of us know that. Some of us see how the disease has manifested itself in our relationships.

It isn’t pretty.

But Jesus didn’t always heal the same way. For these, he told them to go. Go in obedience, in faith, taking one step after the other in the direction of holiness. They were healed, not instantaneously, but as they went.

And I’m pretty sure that’s where God wants for me to go. Down the foot path. One foot in front of the other, pushing through the fears, doubts, pain, one step at a time.

I’ve been putting it off long enough.

It sort of reminds me of Pikes Peak. I’ve been there a few times. I’ve driven up the thing and for a girl from the flatlands, it was a frightening drive to be sure. I’ve taken the tram up. Beautiful and scenic. But I’ve never walked up. That’d be hard. Risky, even. And certainly not quick. The view at the top is the same either way. But for those who’ve climbed, the scenery is sweetened by the victory of the journey, the sense of accomplishment, the fellowship, the win.

I could get the workbook on overcoming self protection. I could do the bible study, take the tram up. And I could laugh shallow and say I’ve been up Pikes Peak.

But I do believe God is gracious enough to tell some of us there isn’t the direct route plan in our trip agenda. There is no instantaneous healing, no quick fix. The is no car, no tram.

There’s something better. There’s ownership. There’s a hard climb and each step is a victory and there’s this sharing in his cross and crown.

Yeah, there’s fellowship.

Maybe that’s what the self protective heart needs more than anything.

Intimacy. Finally.

So I’m on the journey, the difficult foot path. And my loving husband told me, “Why don’t you take Complete and do the 21 day journey and apply it to this area of self-protection? I’ll help you.”

And at first I balked because that just would be over the top and what if I can’t? And what if it doesn’t work? What if it’s too demanding and how will I know what to do? And a thousand other what ifs. Can you believe that? How audacious I am?

Of course I must do it!

Last night Jackson and I stayed up late talking about it. Self protection is THE thing that is standing between me and my promised land. I simply cannot run from it any more.

So friends, I’m doing something very scary. I’m publicly declaring war on the giant in my land. Yes, I’m trembling in my boots. When it comes down to it, I’m no Caleb. And yet I do know without a doubt that the Lord has given me this land; and not only that, He has graciously given me a battle plan specific for this: Isaiah 58.

If I’m sporadic around here over the next few weeks, it’s because I’m camped out on the mountain somewhere in the wild. Living this thing out with God. Battling the giant. Living Complete.

It’s time.

Oh, how it’s time.

{I anticipate having lots to share~ wink~}

Weekend Reading {A Love Story}

 

 

 

 

“I’d like to tell you a love story.

I could tell another story instead. I could recount a gruesome, premeditated murder. I could describe unspeakable acts. I could take you behind the scenes into the shielded private world of my Amish neighbors as they mourned the horrific losses of their daughters, granddaughters, nieces, sisters, and friends. I could speculate about secrets deeply buried in a troubled heart. I could attempt to decipher the clues of brokenness and irrational, twisted thinking as the man I loved, the man I thought I knew, descended into a silent madness.

I’ve been asked to tell those stories time and time again. But those stories are not mine to tell.

I was not at the crime scene. I was not privy to murderous plans. I cannot violate the privacy of my beloved Amish neighbors who showed me nothing but tenderness and grace when their own hearts had been shattered. I did not know there were dark secrets inside my husband, Charlie, nor did I know there were clues to watch for. And I simply cannot fathom the darkness that invaded Charlie’s head or heart.

The only story I have to tell is my own. Although an unspeakable tragedy invaded my life and thrust me into a sudden storm of darkness, my story always has been and continues to be one of miraculous love…”

Marie Monville, One Light Still Shines: My Life Beyond the Shadow of the Amish Schoolhouse Shooting

It isn’t very often that I buy a book full price anymore. I’ve learned that if I wait long enough, I’ll find it on sale eventually. But when I read the excerpt of her story, her tragedy, loss, and tenacious, redeeming hope, I spent the $7.99 to read her journey.

I wasn’t planning on doing any more posts on the blog this week, but as I began reading this story, I knew I had to share it. It isn’t very often that you find a gem. This is one and you need to know about it.

Just lean in and listen… {If you’re reading via email, click over to watch the video}

Read her story here: One Light Still Shines: My Life Beyond the Shadow of the Amish Schoolhouse Shooting

What a Broken Person Has

 

 

 

“I happened to be in the courtyard when it happened.” He said it quiet. Reverent.

“About sixty missionaries were driven in and herded together, awaiting execution. What impressed me most of all about these people was their amazing fearlessness. There was no panic, no crying for mercy. Roman Catholic and Protestant alike… they awaited death with perfect calm.”

He stops for a moment. Tears fill his eyes. “I’m convinced that there can be no salvation for us sinners except through the Redeemer, Jesus Christ. This terrible massacre has led me to look into the Scriptures.”

Then he tells the story of a thirteen year old girl.

Just before the carnage began, the golden-haired girl stepped out and went to stand before the governor. “Why are you planning to kill us,” she asked.  Her voice carried to the farthest corner of the courtyard.

“Haven’t our doctors come from far-off lands to give their lives for your people? Many with hopeless diseases have been healed; some who were blind have received their sight, and health and happiness have been brought into thousands of your homes because of what our doctors have done.

“Is it because of this good that has been done that you are going to kill us?” The governor’s head was down. He had nothing to say. There was really nothing he could say.

The golden haired girl continued. “Governor, you talk a lot about filial piety. It is your claim, is it not, that among the hundred virtues filial piety takes the highest place. But you have hundreds of young men in this province who are opium sots and gamblers. Can they exercise filial piety?

“Can they love their parents and obey their will? Our missionaries have come from foreign lands and have preached Jesus to them, and He has saved them and given them power to live rightly and to love and obey their parents. Is it then, perhaps, because of this good that has been done that we are to be killed?”

By this time the governor was writhing. Each word seemed to touch him to the quick. It was far more than a defense, that brave speech, it was a sentence. It was the girl who sat in judgment and the governor stood at the bar.

But the drama only lasted for one brief moment.

A soldier, standing near the girl, grasped her by her golden hair, and with one blow of his sword severed her head from her body. That was the signal for the massacre to begin.

“I saw fifty-nine men, women, and children killed that afternoon,” went on the gentleman. “Even in the moment of death every face seemed to hold a smile of peace.

“Is it any wonder, therefore, that such marvelous fortitude should have led me to search your Scriptures and to have compelled me to believe that the Bible is in very truth the word of God?”

 

~Testimony taken from a firsthand account written by missionary to China, Jonathan Goforth 

 

 

 

And how can we live Christ if we are living for the approval of man? And how can we eat Christ if we eat the world’s fare? And how can we walk the narrow road if we are too caught up on the broad path leading to destruction?

Before God, I repent.

Some things in life are worth dying for.

Some things are worthy to be set apart unto.

Many, many things are worthy of nothing but to be left behind, set aside, turned away from. Our very selves are considered as nothing… when we have The Pearl of Great Price, the Treasure worth giving everything up for.

May I die to all else, big and small, in living and in dying, each day, every breath. Jesus, may I live it true: All I have is CHRIST.

The other story you didn’t hear about but need to

 

 

 

When the hidden moved and the earth shifted violently and the buildings shook, we did too. And I remembered 2008 as we quaked on the third floor like birds perched on a shaking branch. Without wings.

On behalf of us all, I begged for mercy. Little girls pressed close, still in their pajamas.

Sometimes you are shaken apart and nothing … nothing … can put it back together again. And you want to pretend everything will be fine, that tragic dark won’t touch you, won’t mark you. But the tremors keep coming and sin’s after shocks remain and there really is no denying it. It’s part of living in this fallen and sinister world. The pain, the death, the unspeakable, it happens.

A friend calls to say he’s trapped in a broken city and can’t get out. Roads are blocked and lines are down. His entire apartment building disappeared into a dusty heap.

Where do you go from broken?

Preliminary reports say it could be bad, very bad. That the 7.0 quake combined with shallow depth means greater potential for damage.

And when Adam and Eve took that step, it was bad, very bad. There was no going back and no undoing it and the world’s entire future had one sure word hanging over it: death. 

 

How do you live with death?

We get outside of shifting cement  and rub shoulders with people. I tell the kids that’s what we are here for: to use the bodies we have and the minds we’ve been given and the time, that fleeting gift of time, to spend it all on someone else who has none of these things.

I know one day it will be me. I’ll be out of time. But until then, I pray for a way in. Let me be hope for someone today.

When the sun begins to go down on the day’s ruin, I can’t escape those rocked by tragedy. They fill my mind and capture my heart. I partake of their despair. But then I remember something. I remember the earthquake at the cross.

I remember that which rearranged someone’s life, upended their whole world, is the very thing that showed the way to God.

The broken places ripped the veil in two and made the way to God.

In the earthquake,  God is on our side. He is re-writing the story.

The breaking open is not the only news. The earthquake, the fire, the Boston bomb, the storm, the chemo treatments, the funeral notice.  These are not the only stories.

There’s always the ripped veil, the revelation of God. There is always another story. In the midst of the shaking, quaking mess, there’s the splitting of death tombs, the bringing forth of new life.

There is the way to God.

We must never forget!

As we prepare to shut down for the night, Jackson checks email one last time. “God’s people are there,” he says, reading from a colleague’s note. “Within 4 hours local believers had convened and were on their way. With them were tents, blankets, water, food… and hope. They’ll be there throughout the night.”

This is the story the world needs to know. In the dark and in the doom there’s the way to God. The broken has ripped clear through to heaven.

Always.

Today, be part of this story. 

{And pray for us as we are part of it here?}

When you are looking for the resurrected life

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When my arms opened and I pressed that Little Bit of a girl against my chest for the very first time, I’d no idea how my life would change. I’d no idea how a heart could bleed ragged after it had learned to protect itself so thoroughly.

There are some discoveries in life you’d rather not make.

I’d no idea that learning to trust God for the resurrected life… that Easter hope… would mean entering the darkness of the broken one first, that the two run side by side.

I had no idea that when we found the marks of abuse on our daughter it meant our stories would be written far different than I had hoped. And you are invited to read part of our broken story over at Not Consumed today… and more in the days ahead.

There are some days I just can’t do it any more. Even so, His story tells me death does not have the final say.

His Book tells me all authority resides not in cancer or abuse or statistics or predictions. All authority rests safely with the One is faithful to complete what He started in me. In us.

There are days when my choices add to the shattering. I fail miserably and struggle to find my footing once again. Yet once again He speaks. He says He is faithful not only to forgive, but to cleanse from all unrighteousness.

He intends to raise the dead to life.

There are times I slip in the darkness and falter blind and wish our stories had been written differently. But then I remember to focus the gaze on this: He is able to keep me from stumbling and will present us, the  broken ones, faultless before the throne… with great joy.

And this month, our memory verses remind us that He is faithful to take the small and grow it; faithful to strengthen us when we turn to Him; faithful to provide seed for sowing;  faithful to give us a way of escape in the midst of temptation.

Always, always, it comes back to Him. HE REMAINS FAITHFUL.  O ye of little faith!

This month, Amy has crafted this beautiful bracelet to wrap us in. For the moments during the day when our faith falters, we have a reminder that in all these things, He is faithFUL.

 

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If you are looking for a special gift for a mother, daughter, sister, friend, Amy’s scripture bracelets are perfect! She hand crafts each one to size and thoughtfully gift wraps before sending. Use code Love316 at checkout today and get the “God is Faithful” bracelet for $17. Wow!

 

Resources for your Monday:

April’s Scripture Memory Cards {printable, thanks to Stephanie!}

Entire Collection of Scripture Bracelets

Our Story at Not Consumed

 

Rest in His faithfulness today!

 

 

 

 

The Coin

 

 

It was eighteen years ago that she gave us the coin.

That was before she accused Dad of running around with a young woman at church. Nearly split the church wide open. Dad came home with a shot gun and the counselor had to intervene and they’ve been seperated ever since.

But eighteen years ago was before all of that happened. Before tongues wagged and hearts broke and tears fell and things were never the same.

We were sitting at the supper table after church, Jackson and I. And Mom, she handed us a Canadian Maple.

“You’ll face hard times together,” she said. “Here’s something for you to put away for a rainy day, for when you just don’t have anything else.”

She slipped us the coin and we tucked it away and for eighteen years of marriage, while we traveled the world over and back again, that coin stayed in the attic, tucked away in its plastic sheath.

Until recently.

Jackson took it out.

He opened the safe where important documents are kept and he slipped the coin out and he looked at it.

“We need groceries,” he said.

I knew what the words cost him. I knew the pain of a hardworking man not able to fund a trip to the grocery store. But I also know something else about him… that walking the path of the Lord’s will is more important to him than anything else.

“The Lord’s going to take care of us,” Jackson continued. “He always has.”

He looked at me as he fingered the coin. The clock ticked and the fridge hummed and four little bodies lay tucked in their beds, oblivious to the choices of their parents.

It’d be a shame to just spend this.” He said it thoughtful. Slow. The processing of a man intent on what’s best for his family.

I thought of the growing grocery list: bananas, bread, jelly, toilet paper, trash bags. I thought of the empty cupboards and the empty bank account and I knew they would stay empty.

I want to invest it,” he says it slow, sure, sacred- like; an act of worship.

 

“What do you think about us selling this and giving the money to feed the Nuba people in Sudan?”

I choke back the tears and say YES! What better way to invest than in another person?

We get down on our knees and pray. “Thank You, Jesus,” I pray. “Thank You we get to be part of this, part of ministering to Your body. Thank You for the chance to give our best.”

The next day, Jackson goes to sell the coin. He returns home with $1500 cash, 15 crisp hundred dollar bills.

My man, he knows how to invest.

 

That Sunday we slip the bills into an envelope and write “Sudan” on it and we listen to the guest speaker, a Sudanese pastor.

“We take trip to Sudan,” he tells us. “We buy grain and take it into the Nuba mountains. My people are starving. They are hiding in caves and are being bombed every day. Life is hard. I cannot forsake them.”

And on this side of the world, brothers and sisters, an entire association of churches, pledge to help. We send two men with our Sudanese brother into the mountains of Sudan.

The mission is dangerous. Sudan is in turmoil and these men are entering the war zone.

The team gets stuck in Cairo. It takes days, then weeks, for the money transfer to go through. The rains are forecasted to begin any day in Sudan and when that happens, they will not be able to travel.

The team encounters one difficulty after another…they get sick, they can’t locate drivers who are bold enough to trek into the war zone, the money still won’t go through…

The team contacts us and asks everyone to fast.

We all feel the spiritual warfare of this mission. We know we battle not flesh and blood.

The call to fast goes out and we stop eating. At dinner time, the kids ask why I’m not having meal with them and I explain about the Nuba people and the need for God to provide a way. Jackson is working late…but fasting. Friends text to let each other know we are in this together.

All over our little town, we call on the Lord, asking Him to move His mighty hand. We pray for our brothers and sisters hiding in the Nuba mountains.

The Lord hears.

I get the message on a Monday morning:

“Team Nuba were able to get up the mountain, get the grain/oil/supplies to the people, and even pick up 500 refugees on the way back and safely transport them to a camp near the border.

Said they haven’t had sleep in 70 hours but they were in very good spirits. Their plan is to get rested up today and start the journey home tomorrow.
PLEASE DO NOT STOP PRAYING NOW!”

 

I fall to my knees and thank God. I ican see those faces, the mommas. The babies. All the blank stares.

But this time, I see the smiles.

It is such a sacred thing to be a part of, there is such a deep intimacy with the Lord. It is an hour before I can even call Jackson with the news.

All day, I break out in random song. When I pick oldest up from school, I excitedly tell him the news and we hoot and holler in the car.

 My Nuba sister is hiding in a cave somehwere with her children. But tonight, she will have food to give them. Tonight, she knows that the world hasn’t forsaken them, her brothers and sisters living in houses with heaping plates…well, she knows we care.

Tonight, she knows that her God delivers.

Jackson eats with us tonight, and he breaks the bread:

“Share with God’s people who are in need.

Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat. I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me…

Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for Me.

And if anyone gives a cup of cold water to one of these little ones because he is my disciple, I tell you the truth, he will certainly not lose his reward.

So do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased.”

 

Jackson and I just look at each other.

We both feel it, the pleasure of God.

And as we eat our simple meal, we enter into our inheritance.

And I’m so full, I’m just about to pop.

Come back tomorrow, Thursday, June 21, for an update on the Sudan mission!

 

Invest means “to use, give, or devote (time, talent, etc.), as for a purpose or to achieve a profitable return.”

Sometimes when you need something the most is when you *need* to give it away.

We can spend a life or we can invest one.

“But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ.  What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ.” Philippians 3:7-8

 

Linking up with Ann today

When it feels impossible

I remember when it happened.

It was Christmas Day 2006 and since China doesn’t officially celebrate Christmas Day, it was also the log in date for our dossier. And it was the day I found out I was pregnant.

I stood in the shower crying. “How am I going to do this, Lord? How am I going to have an adopted child and a bio child at the same time?”

I was scared to death.

That’s when He reminded me He only gives gifts. And He had chosen Christmas Day for it all to come down just so that there would be no question about it in my mind. These babies were good gifts from the Father above.

And then the two girls came, 4 months apart in age, and I was officially *overwhelmed*. I learned that God’s gifts are not synonymous with ease and comfort and happy go lucky.

By the time our fourth child arrived, the third within 23 months, I was having some serious conversations with the Lord. “I know these children are gifts, Lord. But I can’t keep up. What You have given me, under these circumstances…well it is just too much for me.”

{That was another shower conversation.}

And right there while I was washing my hair, He said, “You’ve asked Me for more love. For more joy. To know Me more. You’ve asked Me for a deeper surrender to My Spirit and more power in your life.”

Do you not recognize the answer when I give it?”

I was quieted… although it did not make anything easier.

Slowly, ever so slowly~ because I am pigheaded~ I began to understand the ways of a Savior.

He sends you into the storm to show you that He controls even the elements.

He allows your faith to be tested so that its object is Him alone.

He gives strength in weakness to remind everyone just where strength comes from.

Silly me. To ever think I could do anything to begin with.

Motherhood became and remains a daily exercise in faith. Some days I exercise well. Other days I skimp on the workout, wishing for an easier way.

I’m His disciple, among the crowds in Mark 6:35-37:

“By this time it was late in the day, so his disciples came to him. “This is a remote place,” they said, “and it’s already very late. Send the people away so that they can go to the surrounding countryside and villages and buy themselves something to eat.”

But he answered, “You give them something to eat.”

 

And oh, how motherhood puts us in the dusk of the day, the remote location, the late hour, our greatest time of need.  

And Jesus, He turns to us and says, “You give them something to eat.”

Seriously? He’s kidding, right?

But then we remember the ways of the Savior, how He doesn’t ask that we come up with our best shot…He invites us to bring all that pathetic absence of sufficiency to Him and watch Him do the miraculous.

He invites us to play a front role in the miraculous provision.

Yes. This is motherhood.

And at the end of the day, we gather up the excess.

Friend, I don’t have all the answers. Most days I wake up and feel the impossible pressing in. But I do know this: The impossible is an inviation to the miraculous.

So it’s good.

It’s all good.

 

When you want to scrap it all and start over…but you can’t

**Updated to include video at end.

 

For months now it’s sat in a box, right there on top of the bookshelf.

And when I take it down one night after the kids are in bed, my friends stop over for a look.

They even help glue a piece or two on before telling me, “The rest is a lost cause. You best scrap it and start over with a new one.”

And I don’t have the heart to tell them that this broken pitcher represents me…

…that one day I knew God was breaking me and I needed something tangible to represent what He was doing and so God and I, we had a ceremony. We went to purchase a pitcher.

We brought the pitcher home and went out on the patio and dropped the pitcher on the hard stones and it shattered.

I collected all the pieces and wondered how it could ever go back?

But we all know that God mends the broken-hearted and even though we can’t ever go back to the way things were before the break, we can be healed.

Right?

So I tried to put the pitcher together again.

Except I couldn’t.

And friends stopped by to help.

They couldn’t put it together either.

The best advice they could give was “scrap it and start over again. It’s too shattered.”

So the pitcher that represented me went into a box and sat in pieces up on the top shelf.

For months and seasons and a year plus of mornings and evenings, it sat.

It gathered dust.

And I wondered what the purpose was? What do we do with our brokenness?

Until one day I realized I had learned the first lesson: a lifetime of trying and effort and striving can never fix me. Neither is there a person on the face of earth who can fix me.

I can stop trying to piece the broken together.

So I started to live broken.

Then this:  As I lived broken, I began to embrace broken.

Bit by bit, when life pounded and I shattered, I let it.

I stopped resisting.

And when old temptations to fight back and avoid brokenness creep in, ancient words whisper across my heart, the story of another pitcher that was broken, shattered. Except this pitcher contained a torch and could it really be me?

“(Gideon) put trumpets and empty pitchers into the hands of all of them, with torches inside the pitchers.

“And they blew the trumpets and smashed the pitchers that were in their hands.  When they broke the pitchers, they held the torches in their left hands…” Judges 7

And aren’t I a jar of clay with the treasure inside

And can’t that precious light only be seen when the jar is broken… When there is nothing to hide it under? When the shell of self is shattered and broken away?

Brokenness is necessary for the glory that resides within to be seen without.

Brokenness is working glory for me.

Brokenness, therefore,  can safely be embraced.

After all, God promises to break but not destroy.

Isn’t this how Paul came to boast in weakness? In trial and distress and insult and difficulties and persecution?

He went from asking God to remove the hardship to exulting in the difficulty… because he learned  that through these very things  the power of Christ dwelt in him. (See II Cor 12)

And if he learned it, I can too… and you.

Oh, the power of Christ dwells within us. It’s never of question of “if.” The question is “how.” How does the life of Christ move from within to without?

When the clay pot is hammered, day after day, week after week. When month after month, the jar stays broken and shattered… and no effort is made anymore to try to put it back together.

When the pitcher is shattered and the torch is taken up in the hand, then Christ’s life can be raised high.

What is cracking your pitcher?

Can you see the wondrous purpose of the breaking?

And some days it is hard. The breaking hurts so bad. And I wish there were a sister nearby to stoop near and come alongside and say, “Remember the clay pot? I see the glory shining through!”

But there is none and I fall to my knees, wet hot lava dripping. It is true that we grow in dark, silent places. The seed breaks and births in it’s dark cave while the world carries on above.

There seems to be nothing celebratory about the breaking.

The babes see the lava, come to my side. “What’s wrong, mama?” And I hold them and say, “It’s okay, sweets. It’s good. It’s good.

And I force the words through the lips, even when the insides resist: “Thank You, God. Thank You for this breaking. Thank You that the life of Christ is manifest in me. Thank You that Christ is in me, Oh! The hope of glory!”

And I pray for these babes that see so much. I pray for others who may look on. I pray for the life trail I am leaving behind. May they see a broken woman, a shattered mama, one that manifests the glory of God.

For when the broken clay pot gets swept into the trash bin, the glory will remain…

The Glory will always remain.

Through suffering, our bodies continue to share in the death of Jesus so that the life of Jesus may also be seen in our bodies.  II Cor 4:10 NLT

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