Monday, September 28, 2009

God at Work

Since sharing about "the activity" in our neighborhood we have been greatly challenged and greatly encouraged.

Before getting on with the update though I must exhort you, if you are married and in a similar situation, to be on guard for how the Enemy of your soul can attack your marriage. By God's grace, our trial was not long but it was scary. William and I never argue. Well... rarely. So last Sunday after our quiet times with the Lord found us feeling terribly , terribly alone and distant. Why? Satan truly wanted to divide us. We were struggling with hopelessness (William) and caring too heavy a burden (me).

Yet, in the midst of our sin and struggle, one of us encouraged the other we needed to be at church and the other made certain we found a pastor to speak with. We KNEW we needed the help of the Body.

Ever been there? Urgh. Going to church when in conflict... But, praise God, He so gives grace to the humble! Thankfully, our struggle only lasted a few hours. One of the most helpful things our pastor reminded us of was our marriage covenant, the WE were in fact ONE flesh.

That said, here's the rest of my report! (And if you are just tuning in, go the end of THIS post to be filled in.)

~ The kids (at least 2 or 3 times a week) yell, "301 Fifth Street!" over and over till I come to the door and send Joshua out to pick up all the trash they have gathered.

~ I baked cookies and was preparing to give them to the middle school kids (even though in my heart I didn't want to because they actually turned out real good!) but only one girl was at the bus stop. I wrapped one up in a paper towel and sent Joshua (yes, our fear-fighting Joshua) out to deliver it.

~ The following week they were repaving the concrete sidewalks and I KNEW that would be a terrible time of temptation for the kids as soon as school let out. And so I became Psycho lady on the corner yelling out my window... again. But the walks look good!

~ The girl we gave the cookie to asked me as she was handing me trash one day, "You got any more of those cookies?" I told her I'd have something on Friday. Well, my week didn't go as planned and more struggles emerged (these on the lines of self-condemnation and failure feelings - I'll post about that another time, maybe). The only thing I had ready on Friday were these muffins that I wouldn't even eat. They were very nutritious but... HEAVY and weird. Anyway, I saw it was raining so I yelled out the window (my trademark by now) that they could stand on the porch as they waited for the bus.

I had the kids at the dining room table coloring and writing with markers and Paloma was down for an unusually long nap. Could THIS be my opportunity? I had to seize it.

I went out on the porch with the kids, who by now squeezed their large bodies in to my kiddos little chairs which tempted me, and I said, "I don't have any cookies but I do have some muffins you are more than welcome to but do not taste good. The only thing is this. You cannot throw them away here. Understand?" By this time the crowd was about 4 girls and 1 guy. I got some paper towels and the muffins and passed them out.

As they were eating I could not think of anything to ask them other than, "So how are you guys doing in school?" This led to them asking me if I "played school" with my children (they were peeking through the window at our Schoolroom), how many bedrooms do we have, are they all my kids, am I married, does my husband live with me, etc. God was kind to keep the conversation flowing. I asked if they went to church and then that led to the Holy Spirit having me say, "That is THE most important thing! Knowing Jesus!" I told them I wanted my kids to learn and become good readers simply so they could read God's Word for themselves and know Him. The one guy, Marcus, is a bit afraid of me, I think. He won't give me any eye contact and he has been the one I've yelled at the most. I made certain to tell him, as the sole male representative, he was to look after the young ladies.

Then I felt God prompting me to go back inside to my kiddos and let them finish on my porch alone.

~ I have had not very good contact with the police in our city previously but saw an opportunity on Saturday. William took us all to the Fall Festival down the street and one of the 1st booths we came to was for the City Police! What to say? What to ask? Just as we were about to stroll off I turned to the 2 officers and said, "I've got a weird question for you. We live in an... active neighborhood." They interrupted and asked where. When I told them the female police officer turned to the male officer and said, "That's your area!" HALLELUJAH! Only God would have that be the case! Anyway, he immediately knew where we lived and, in fact, even called out the house number of one of the 2 homes in which we're suspecting illegal activity. So, we got a little info, a big confirmation, encouragement, and a NAME in the department! What a difference a name can make!

Better stop there. It's late/early and I should be sleeping.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

The Sacrifice of Suffering

William found a John Piper sermon on the Desiring God site to encourage and exhort us in loving our neighbors that I found very helpful. The article can be found HERE and is called The Sacrifice of Suffering. It was given to his church, Bethlehem Baptist in Minneapolis almost exactly 20 years ago.

Would you check it out?

Then let me know how it has stirred you up! I so want to update you (whoever is reading this!) on how kind God has been in regard to our situation. Yes, God is active and so involved. If only we could see clearly. But, then, we wouldn't be as dependent on Him. Or at least I know I wouldn't.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

THIRTY-FIVE!!!!

THIRTY-FIVE!

Joshua wet the bed last night (not a big deal at this point as one of the bigger three ALWAYS seem to wake us up with news of "I'm wet!" each night)... wait... that wasn't last night. It was just an hour ago. Anyway, I'm awake now! I just put a load in the dryer and another load in the wash and thought... it's quiet. Why not blog? And that's when I saw the number... 35.

I'm now 35 weeks pregnant. But I'm also only 35 days away from Baby #5 arriving. (And I have yet to hit a due date.) And I'll be 35... soon.

It may be weird but I love my birthday and don't mind sharing my age. I think it's just another testimony to God's great transforming power. My life should be so different. But, He's so kind and merciful. And slow to anger. And abounding in steadfast love. O how He doesn't treat me as my sins deserve...

But I am still aware of 35... time is MOVING!

Not only have I been occupied (or is it preoccupied?) with preparations for Baby #5 arriving, there's a few other things that the Spirit has placed on me (and I know William would say him too) in growing proportions. Last week William finished reading the book of James and his summary was good, I thought, "Let's get to work."

Well, as I see 35... that's what I'm thinking. I need to get on with doing what the Holy Spirit is clearly telling me.

What is that? (Are you ready for a really long blog post?)

Be bold for Jesus. Open your mouth. Step out in faith. Let's get to work!

Our neighborhood, where has sovereignly placed us, is in need of the Gospel. At church on Sunday we sang a song with the line, "by grace I'll preach Your gospel till my dying breath." May that song be true for me, Lord! Help my unbelief, Savior. Grant me the grace to love others by seeing them as I was... and am: sinners in need of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

We've got some illegal activity going on between 2 homes right out our window. One guy in particular I've nicknamed "Bulldog." He's ALWAYS on his porch and walks back and forth between the other house constantly. There's got to be drug activity. But I don't know for certain. What I have been convicted of is my wicked heart toward him. A couple weeks back I felt the Lord prompting me to bring him some fresh tomatoes from our garden. Well, last week God provided an opportunity. Now I know his name, Javier, and I cannot call him "Bulldog." I see him and my heart hurt as I see him running to Hell. But hope fills me because until the age of 22, that was me! Anyway, his "brother" (or who I call his brother because I don't know his name) was arrested last night just around dinner time. (Joshua saw the paddywagon and asked if he was going to jail.) That just confirms some of my suspicions but it still shows greater how they need Christ!

The 2nd neighborhood happening is because we're on a corner and popular bus stop, I suppose, we get the middle school kids from down the street to wait after school at our house. Not a biggie, right? Well, as I am trying to be faithful in home schooling this has posed a new challenge as I and the kids get very distracted by their presence. The kids are LOUD, curse, pull on the trees in the parkway, throw their trash, and more and all outside the two windows in the room where I home school. The sin in my heart was welling up as one of the girls decided to bounce her body on our fence so hard that the pickets would all move. Urgh!

What to do? What to do?

The kids are just taking it all in, running from window to window to watch them more and more. Fear in me getting bigger and bigger. Thoughts of, "What if I say something to them and they come back and spray paint all over our fence?!" kept coming to mind. When they decided to go in to the church's garden and trample all over it, I had enough and KNEW the Holy Spirit was saying, "GO!"

Quickly crying outloud to God, "Help me, Lord! Help me, Lord!" I opened the door and went outside. And you know what, it wasn't terrible! They responded to my plea. Oh- I basically said, "You know, this is our neighborhood. Let us treat our neighborhood better than this. That tree you're messing with is not mine but it is in my neighborhood. How you're treating it is not helpful. Messing up the church garden? Don't do that! That's not kind. You guys are here everyday and my kids are watching you and you just throw your trash on the ground. I live here. I don't mind throwing your trash away. Knock on my door. You know who cleans this corner up? We do."

Without any instruction they ALL (and I'm talking a group of maybe 10-15 kids) picked up their trash and handed it to me.

Last night I felt God telling me that I need to bake some cookies or something and be outside on Thursdays or Fridays and to interact with them. We'll see how the day goes and whether I get a shower in before 3:10pm when they arrive!

FINALLY... the pastor-neighbor next door asked me to come outside the other day to show me something. (She often calls at night when she leaves late so that William can escort her to her car.) She wanted me to be aware of a man who attends her church and who is a convicted sex offender. Then last night she called me and this hopelessness just seemed to hover over her words. Then I realized I had a gospel-opportunity. She is a pastor but does not believe in sin or the Word of God. This was a moment to speak Truth. And to remind her of God's sovereignty and great power.

Oh Lord, our neighborhood... needs You! 35 days till this next baby is due and I'll be locked up inside running between blow-outs, teaching school, baking bread, training kids not to choke their sibling, and wiping up potty-accidents. Help me to care about the people You are sovereignly placing outside my door, literally. Grant more opportunities for me to step out in faith (and wisdom, of course!) and share Your great love. May this witness to our kids how You care about souls. Use us in this neighborhood!

Sunday, September 13, 2009

A Prayer Request and Recommendation

Freeman and Jenny have friends going through some tough times. Their newborn baby is fighting to live. I've been checking their friends' blog since I found out and found THIS POST, like all of them, a testimony to this couple's faith. Check it out and pray for Baby Asher and his parents...

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

A Day in the Kitchen

I was not the best Mama yesterday as I spent most of my time in the kitchen. Seriously, Paloma escaped and was chillin' upstairs alone doing something in the Clothes Room! I regret being so distant from them but just wanted/needed(?) to plow through and get as much done as I could before I had to freeze my recent meat purchases (which would've made another step later in trying to cook for post-Baby time). And I tell you, I was worn out by the end of the day!

I made an early and quick dash to the store to buy some chicken breast that was on sale only to find it not restocked for the day! Urgh! Yes, 6:30am is not the time to shop at Meijer. So I made an impromptu decision (generally not a good idea for me!) and got ~6 pounds of ground beef and ~7 pounds of pork ribs. Shortly after breakfast I cooked all the ground beef and browned all the ribs really well. Joshua came into the kitchen and asked if I was making bacon!!!

In the freezer I was able to add 2 containers of browned (not fully cooked!) ribs, four containers of cooked ground beef, 1 container cooked ground beef with onion, zucchini, & garlic, 2 big containers of a slightly altered with lots of extra veggies pizza casserole (which should have a different name as we generally don't prefer casseroles!), a batch of dough (made using the Bosch!) to be used for Dinner Rolls or Cinnamon Rolls.

Note: I used some of the dough to make the Dinner and Cinnamon Rolls last night and WOWEE! They were the BEST rolls I've ever made. And I started late in the day. The machine really, really makes a difference! Or maybe it's the recipe book that came along with it that makes the difference. Either way, Mama's happy, Papa's happy, and the kids are happy when they can still help! God is kind to us!

I'm taking a break from cooking/baking tomorrow and focusing on sorting through lots of clothing!!!!