The Woman Who Came to Dinner

Observe and Understand His Lovingkindness

I saw her standing there with the baby strapped safe to her chest, snuggled in, on that cold afternoon. Her small son stood beside her, in his little black hoodie, looking well cared for and loved. Standing beside her man, like we women do, for better or worse, we do. Most of us anyway, those “unenlightened” ones of us. She stood there beside her man who was holding a sign. I couldn’t see the sign, but I could see them. Sometimes that’s all that’s desired, to be seen, truly seen.

I considered buying her dinner, drove right through KFC and considered it. There was a pause as the man waited for the rest of my order… don’t buy them food, they aren’t homeless, invite them to dinner. “That’ll be all, I don’t want to order anything else.”

Invite them to dinner. I don’t invite my friends to dinner, I can count on my two hands how many times I’ve invited a friend to dinner in the last 15 years. Invite them to dinner.

I didn’t feel safe inviting them to dinner myself, call it wisdom, call it fear, I don’t care much what you call it. I was getting that feeling, you know the one where you know that you’re about to be swept away in the will of God and you best just go with it?

So, I drove home. I went to my husband who was studying for his sermon the next morning. Minutes are critical on Saturday, I’ve blocked them off, considered my husband gone on a retreat every Saturday morning until Sunday afternoon. But, I was a woman on a mission.

“There was this family… they were holding a sign…”

He knows me. This man who has walked with me for 15 years, he knows me.

“You think I should go down there?”

“Yes, or something. I’m about to make chili… there will be enough… if you feel like you should, you know, invite them to dinner.”

So off he goes with our daughter to see this not homeless family in front of Taco Bell.

Shortly after, I received a phone call, they’re coming, 30 minutes. They’re coming to dinner. Ok.

The kids jumped into action, this was all of our routines and schedules in action, this was in large part, why we do all of these things. The ministry of availability, this was it.  Make a salad, add chairs and leaves to the table, make room, pick up, put away those electronics, bake a batch of brownies! They were champs, I praised them for it afterwards.

These kids, they too were caught up in the random adventure that God laid out for us. We didn’t know what He had in store, but we were being obedient. “Loaves and fishes, loaves and fishes” they kept repeating it and giggling. Loaves and fishes, a cry we learned from my friend Melissa, a wild cry for God to extend our hand of giving and provide in a wild way.

Then she came.

She brought her little one year old daughter, her son, the child she carried within her, and her husband. She came into my home and ate my food. We cared for our children, we fed them, corrected them. When her daughter took my daughters cup, she made her return it. Often, we would look across the table at each other and smile, nod, laugh a little.

We invited our friend and he came to join us. He came after being woken up from a nap, this friend who has never been to dinner at our house, this friend whom we’ve talked to only a handful of times. On this night, he was a welcome protector, rescuer, friend. Forever after this night, he is a dearly beloved brother.

After a while, she went home. She took her little family and went to her apartment home 2 miles away. I looked her in the eye, I hugged her. We were women. Wives. Mothers. We’d shared a meal together, lived a bit of life together. With this hug I wanted her to know that I saw her not as a woman asking for a handout beside her husband, but as a sister who came to share a meal, a moment of life together.

We hugged and she left.

Our dear brother stayed and talked for a while, there was a comfort, knowing we had done this thing together. There was no physical reward, no grand stories of redemption, there was just the deep, lasting fellowship that comes when believers gather in His name.

And that’s what happened when the woman, a real, live, self proclaimed gypsy, came to dinner.

Advertisements

Seen & Heard: Random Phone Photos

wpid-0127141616.jpgThis guy got new glasses on Monday. Every time I looked at him, I laughed out loud. That made him self conscious, sorry about that. :/ The truth is, I love this guy and wouldn’t be the same woman without him.  I sometimes blame all of our issues on his wild passion for God, but ultimately I know that he seeks God wildly and I would be so frustrated with anything less. 🙂 Love you honey, and your new glasses too!

wpid-0127141652a.jpgWe went to the park, we’ve been stopping in at the park for an hour here and there more often these days. The poor 3 year old at the end of this clan hasn’t had enough park time and we all do better with some fresh air. These two brothers are discovering some commonality as one is finally old enough to engage in the pursuits of another. They still keep a safe distance, but they are finding their way. God works in all things.

wpid-0127141802a.jpgWe were having dinner and I was thinking what a blessing it is to have the entire family together at the table. This is a common occurrence these days, but I know it won’t always be the case. I took this to capture the normal moment of “dinnertime” and they all thought I was strange. That’s ok, they always think that.

wpid-0128141919a.jpgOn Tuesday night we celebrated this guy’s 7th birthday with my mom and no cousins.  It’s a new normal and we miss our cousins, but we are taking full advantage of having grandparents all to ourselves!!! 😛

wpid-0128141333.jpgThis guy wisely removes himself once a day to swing on the swings by himself. He’s done this everyday for years and years. It’s for all our good, I need to find my own swing – for the good of all!

wpid-0130140701a.jpgThe three middles successfully made it a night in their new tent. It’s so fitting that all of the gifts that Maury chose this year were things he could do with his brothers, he loves and adores them.

wpid-0129140933.jpgOur baby boy turned 7, he loves to make people laugh and he’s good at it. 🙂

 

wpid-0129141900b.jpgWe have great friends that come over every week for community group. It’s been neat to watch the kids bond and grow to love each other as they spend time week after week. Look at those guys back there standing right in front of the TV…!

 

wpid-0130141216a.jpgThis girl’s reading level is higher than mine was at her age, a book and a tree, is there anything better?

That’s a week in our life in random pictures. 🙂

Happy Friday!

A Light in the Darkness: Hope

wpid-0119140642c.jpg

In the month of January, I light a candle every morning. It started as a thing on a list of to-dos. “Light a candle first thing in the morning” A reminder to be a light to this household; to remind this household to be a light. It turned out to be a shining light of hope and a light to my early morning reading in the dark.

I’m talking to a friend and she’s sharing how difficult life is, how it hasn’t changed the way she expected. My other friend encourages, she speaks the words clear, words of hope: “Yes, but the difference, now that you are in Christ, is that you are not without hope.”

You’ve encountered trials, but you are not without hope.

I see a man sitting near the street, in front of a gas station. He isn’t homeless, I can see that, his baseball cap and Seahawks shirt, his jeans and his bicycle with a wooden trailer attached don’t speak of rags or riches. He’s not homeless, he’s just down on his luck.

The empty water jugs in his make-shift trailer, a sign of his hope for income.

Where is his shining light of hope? Where does he find his peace?

I see it there in his hand, sitting there in front of that fueling station, cars humming past him on the busy Monday morning commute. The world around him is getting back to work, getting back to life – he’s trying to just make it by. Hope held in his hand.

I think of my own hope. I wonder how to keep this closeness, how to remain connected to the vine when the schedule is off, when the “quiet” times are drowned out by the loud ruckus of life.  So often, I’m trying to find the peace from without, forgetting that this Immanuel, this God with us, this Prince of peace, this God come to dwell in us, carries all the quiet my thirsty soul needs to survive.

In his hand he holds a ticket, his ticket of hope. He’s scratching this ticket, scratching, scratching, scratching. Methodically scratching away all his cares, laying all his hope right out on the side of the street.

Scratching for hope.

I drive on. Wondering about that man, wondering if those tickets brought disappointment, wondering if he has enough empty jugs to make ends meet. Wondering if all this scratching for hope is bringing him peace,

or just more emptiness.

I keep lighting my candle each morning, keep reminding myself to be a light, keep reminding myself of The Hope. I’m scratching at the idea that it’s not about setting aside times to be with God, it’s about abiding in the One who goes with me, even to the ends of the earth. I can scratch and claw for things that will fill these gaping holes, or

I can rest in hope of His glorious light.

Exposed

wpid-0106141545b.jpg

The day is bright, the sun is shining with all the hope of Christ Jesus.

You’re living in the light of His glory, set apart, made free, washed clean.

Like an unforseen summer storm, the darkness shadows you.

Words pour down, wash over; submerge you in their flood.

Words meant to cut.

Shards of hate

They slice

Tear

Shamed

Broken

Weak

Stripped

Alone

Naked

Exposed

In a moment, you’re reduced to a state of paralysis.

The ghosts that haunt you emerge from the shadows.

The words that taunt you descend upon your heart.

The condemnation and guilt ravage your mind,

tear your heart,

threaten to wound your soul.

You come to me torn, broken; tattered.

You speak of the skeletons in your closet.

Your guilt

Your Shame

No, my sister, you’ve been washed.

Made clean.

But if you only knew the truth. Of what I was, of the damage done.

If you knew the truth, your eyes would drop.

Cloud.

Look away.

If I told you of my guilt, you may find me guilty.

I look at you, broken before me.

I wonder what could possibly wound you so deeply, strip you so quickly?

You’re strong, you shout the praises of Jesus with exuberance.

What about your past do you think He hasn’t covered?

What about your past do you think I’m going to see

through the flood of the grace of His blood flowing over it?

We sing of being washed, whiter than the snow

We sing of the wonders of being made whole.

You aren’t alone.

I’ve been there too.

Exposed. Ashamed. Not enough. Never enough.

But I’m just a friend and a bad one at that.

How can I help when the enemy strikes so strategically, so precisely, so tenaciously?

When I find you stripped, broken, exposed,

I ask, Why God?

She shines the light of your glory so brightly.

Why?

That she might know she is washed.

That she might be made whole.

It’s true, I don’t know your stories

Haven’t heard tales of your deepest, darkest secrets.

If you speak them, I’ll listen.

Listen for the scarlet thread of redemption.

Listen for the jubilant exposure of God’s abundant grace flowing throughout your days.

I pray for you, friend.

For your healing, protection, for salve for your tattered heart;

pierced conscience.

Don’t carry the weight of your guilt.

Jesus has already carried it for you.

When the accuser drips with lies,

Lies disguised in some truth of your guilt – He holds illusions before you.

That sin that shames you?

It’s covered in blood.

Don’t heed these lies.

I know better,

You know better.

You were washed.

You were sanctified.

You were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.

You have been made whole.

Who can separate us from such love?

Battle for the Souls of Men

soldier

Battle for the Souls of Men

Go forth, valiant warrior of the King
Answer the noble call
Take up your sword and fight
He’s given freedom for us all

The warriors are few
The courageous fewer still
Sound the Battle cry!
You fight in His will

 Gird yourself in armor
Leave everything behind
Stand firm in His power
He brings healing to the blind

 Victorious is the warrior
That rises again and again
Rise up valiant warrior
You battle for the souls of men

The story: God gave me this poem for my husband as he embarked on pastoral ministry. He had an experience with a man who was demon possessed and as he prayed over him, he sensed this spiritual battle. It was then God cemented in His heart this desire and call to “battle for the souls of men.”  I thought this was an appropriate reminder as to what and whom we fight for as we enter into this new year.

Seen & Heard: A Year of Grace & Stashing Treasures

There are so many things that happened in this past year that can’t be spoken about yet. The situations are too fresh, too near, so – unresolved. These things can be wrestled with, spoken about, cried over, before God in prayer. I think that’s the way He plans it. Quiet dependence on Him.

January

18120This year was definitely a lesson in dependence and 30 days into it, I was already Arguing with the Almighty.  My family dynamic had changed, the neat and tidy had been thrown off and I was struggling to line all my ducks up in a row again. I never did get those ducks lined up, but I learned a lot through that trial/blessing.

T&J

February
The stress of 2013, the decisions to be made, huge, greater than us, philosophical, moral, life-altering decisions had to be decided and we didn’t always see eye to eye. February 14 rolls around and a day that’s supposed to be full of love – wasn’t. Learning to live out Marriage in the Trenches was difficult, 2013 marks our hardest year of marriage so far.

March
FAMILYWORSHIPBy this time, we had started to gain our bearings a bit. Books certainly have an impact on me and Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s Life Together made huge impact in how I view community and family life.  Out of it came the Family Worship Experiment, a practice that didn’t stick, due to life schedules, but was fruitful in the trying and I suspect will surface again.

April
Some time in April, I joined a book club. I’ve never been in a book club before, this one was good for me, until I made the mistake of reading someone else’s blog post on a chapter before I read it. It was talking about making furniture out of leather. That was more than I could bear, I’ve made unblogged progress in this book, but sadly, it is on the 2013 unfinished books list. I’ll finish it, I will, it’s too good not to.

Mayjojo
I was still reading The Hidden Art of Homemaking in May, blogging through chapters 3 & 4, who knew there was a Hidden Art of Doodling Prayer? This really was a good exercise for me, blogging through that book, maybe I’ll pick it up in 2014.  A better picture of what has had an impact on my own life and more specifically in 2013 is the post Child-rearing: It Takes Community. A special thank you to those very important adults who have impacted and poured into my children.

When your child hits a wall and turns their ears from you, when there is no way to get in, get through, make way. Then, friendship steps in, community steps in, life on life daily living kicks it up a notch and makes paths where the brush and weeds and thorns were too thick to pass through.

June
wpid-2013-06-11-16.56.08.pngAre you tired yet? It was tiring to live this year! We celebrated 15 years of marriage in June, moved in June, our hearts broke in June, I can only pray that in time God will restore and heal all broken things. So Life Goes On…

So I take my boxes and those dear to me and I venture out with all the exhilaration and hope that comes with new life. A fresh start. With all confidence in the One who has been faithful, and will be faithful again, I smile.

I embrace the future.

July2013-07-26 13.27.02
In July the struggled continued. 2013 was a year of changes and rediscovering who we were. It was as if the rug was pulled out from under us and we just couldn’t gain a steady footing. These two posts this month are very dear to me. One was the passing of a dear girl Amanda Wright and the other was regular life with kids, but as I look back now I see that we were making specific and pivotal decisions during this time that we’re reaping the blessings from now. God does that, He takes you through the pain to bring you to the joy, sometimes it just takes time.

August
I was studying for our Women’s Conference in August and I had biblical womanhood on my mind in The Old Worn Soapbox.  Being on the other side, I find myself tired of talking about this. We’ve gone through the teaching stage for now, it’s time to start living some of these things. I’ve been praying about how to provide opportunities for women to live out their call  in the body. We’ve made progress, God’s not done with this yet.

September
wpid-20130906_151341.jpgGuess What? In September, I posted my first Seen & Heard post. They’ve come to be my favorite, I love to act silly and say whatever I want in them. Sometimes I have too much to say because something has gotten me all fired up, but mostly I try to keep them light and funny and not LONG like this one. I also began blogging through The Church Planter’s Wife, a book that has been good for me, another book not completed in 2013. (Grace, Grace!)

October
I began blogging twice a week, on Wednesdays and Fridays in October. Yeah, I know, it’s a lot of Julee in a week. I have to live with me all the time so just be glad you can close your browser and walk away.  There were funny moments of Identity Crisis, moments where God spoke in A Still Small Voice, just reading books with the kids in Wrapped up in Rhymes, there were even battles over Halloween. The instance that had the greatest impact on me and greatest response from women was A Call to Connect where I discovered: “It’s possible to crave community yet also crave privacy.” I learned that it’s ok to have a small circle I’m close to, I don’t have to extend deep friendship to every person that seeks it. I scratched the surface on a topic (friendship) that is the cause of ache and hurt in  many women, it was interesting to see the response.

November2013-11-01 09.04.52
We’ve almost made it through the year. If you’ve made it this far in this post, you’re a trooper. I honestly don’t expect you to read the linked posts (Not even my husband or my mother would do that), but it’s been a great exercise for me to look back through this lens of written word. I can see God’s hand in all of these difficult days and in the great days too. November 2013 brings a look at my Unconventional Life a dream In Visions and Dreams that I thought was for one situation, but as it played out, was for another situation.

I also wrote about The Dark Thoughts of  a Mother, I understand not everyone has been to this place, which is why it needs to be written about. If you haven’t parented a child like this, you just can’t know what it’s like. I wanted to give the mothers that have, some relief.

December
I wrote two posts in December about a boy who was killed for his faith. I understand that a rich christian man losing his reality TV show job is more important, but this still burns in my heart. Dear America, This is Not a Game and Dear America, Actually  were like the Dark Thoughts of a Mother post, me saying what I really think and have lived. Both posts were misunderstood by some, that’s ok.

I wish I could say that at the end of all of these 2013 posts, I didn’t need to write and work through ObSoLeTe – The Pain in December, but I did. There are still pictures and Facebook posts and memories that remind me of the sting. It is what it is. My prayer is still this:

And I know I shouldn’t care
If I’m out or if I’m in
Cause if I am dismissed
Oh you always take me in

Take me in God. Take me in and shield the pain of what was, the pain of what could have been. Take me in to the next year and close the chapter on all that once was.

Take me in your love and heal me, make me new.

After writing that post, it stings less, just a bit less. Most the time.

On to 2014
Congratulations! You made it to the end! Now it’s time to start 2014! I’ve gone back and forth about studying the book of Nehemiah this year, but after writing this wrap up, I see that it’s time to begin purposefully rebuilding the city.One foot in front of the other, here we go. We go with grace, hope and peace – We go with God.

He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High
will abide in the shadow of the Almighty.
I will say to the Lord, “My refuge and my fortress,
my God, in whom I trust.”

 (Psalm 91:1-2, ESV)

Seen & Heard: Bad Christians

wpid-PhotoGrid_1386953889858.jpg

This Christmas has been an odd one for us. We haven’t broken out an advent book, haven’t lit a candle. We set up a tree in our living room, threw a bunch of ornaments on it, discussed at great lengths what star to put on top and called it Christmas. There have been no trips to look at lights, or to any festive places.

I suppose we aren’t very christiany Christians.  Certainly a pastor and his family must live more spiritually than this?

Last night, the kids and I watched Bedtime Stories. Tony asked how it was later in the evening. I told him it had crude humor, “You know, so that’s always funny.” I rolled my eyes as I said it, remembering the reason I didn’t let the kids see this movie in the theaters.  He asked, “Were there a lot of people slipping and falling down like Home Alone?”  “No. There was a guy named Butt-kiss. They loved that.”  We don’t do this.  There are countless children’s movies my kids have not seen. Last night, they watched Bedtime Stories. There. I said it.

I think they’re going to be ok. I really, really do.

We haven’t done anything Christmasy and we’re watching movies with crude humor. Great.

My friend asked me about children’s bibles yesterday, what’s on your bookshelf? We’ve read all of ours. Umm… The Action Bible? We had the Lego bible but it talks about rape and kids way to young were asking about that so we put that away. We have children’s books on Augustine and great leaders of the faith… surely that counts for something?

I used to be so strict, so careful. I haven’t lost that, but now that I’m the ripe old age of 33, I’ve loosened up a bit. You know how the babies in the family are always allowed to do more than everyone else ever was? Yeah, I think we’re there. I don’t plan on watching more crude humor, but if my 3 year old says Santa is bringing her a candy, I don’t sit her down and give her a good talking to.  She plays with Barbies. I know, it’s wild around here.

There hasn’t been a strong feeling of Christmas cheer, but there’s been something else. There’s been a distinct feel of family, relationship, connection.  We’ve had friends and family in, we’ve talked, laughed, shared life together. My friend showed up at my door the other day and a few days later, I sat down in her kitchen. We laughed, we talked, we shared hardships. The other night, I had the opportunity to go out for dessert with a group of women very special to me. Another group of believers talked and guided me through a difficult test in my life. The kids, all of them, have been hanging out together. Meeting each other in the halls, in bedrooms, on swingsets and spending time together.  There’s been laughing. Lots of laughing.

I had the opportunity to sit down to talk for 2 hours with my 14 year old the other night.  He just kept talking, sharing his heart, his dreams. I just kept staring straight into his eyes, asking questions, smiling, laughing.  What’s more merry than that?

We’ve been praying for people. People who are visiting our home, people we hear about, people we care about.

We actually filled up an Operation Christmas Child box this year! Two of them! That is an accomplishment for this family! 🙂

That’s 13 days of real life in December in our household, it’s not much, but God is here, alive and moving among us.

Happy Friday!  or Merry Christmas if that makes you feel better! 🙂