Tuesday, May 5, 2020

Sleeping On the Job

Right now I am sitting on my sofa in a dimly lit living room with two babies sleeping on the nursing pillow.  I could get rich on the number of adorable pictures I have of these two in funny positions, falling asleep on the job. It is their ONLY job.  Eat, be satisfied, grow!

The other day, as I expressed into their mouths, the milk dribbling down their slack jaws, I thought, "God doesn't force feed us, does he?  If we don't want anymore, does he keep trying to get us to eat?"  I was looking for an excuse to just stop and go to bed probably.

Then it hit me, "No, he doesn't force anything, but even if we are "sleeping on the job" when we are supposed to be craving nourishment from him, alert and ready to enjoy all the good things he gives, he doesn't stop making his abundant life available.  When we get lazy, God still gives us all we need, longing for us to thrive!"

That's grace.  I'm listening to Desiring God by John Piper, and he quotes CS Lewis from his book "Weight of Glory,"

Indeed, if we consider the unblushing promises of reward and the staggering nature of the rewards promised in the Gospels, it would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased. (25–26)

I'm so thankful God continues to offer abundant life and sweet fellowship with himself to us.  Now it is to pray that we are not too easily pleased, but have an insatiable hunger for more of him! 

Thursday, April 30, 2020

It Takes Two

I like the number 7.  I like the sideways mountain, and long slant coming down.  I like that it's odd. I've always found higher levels of math frustrating, and therefore numbers have brought me a lot of angst, unlike my husband who gets great thrills out of a well-made graph or a page full of statistics to wade through.  In our family, the number seven has arrived by twos. To someone who doesn't do numbers that well, four times two, making seven, sounds just right.  Let me explain what "It takes two" means.

It took two...I met Zach in Dallas in 2010, and we were both working in West Africa.  Happy as can be to serve and love and live but when we decided to get married in 2012, it took two to establish a home where many neighborhood children were welcomed and loved.  Where single guy friends of Zach's could bring their future spouses to talk about relationships, where two becoming one could shine God's light in Nigeria.

It took two...Mariama was born in 2015 in Jos, Nigeria.  Three weeks later, Daso came to live with us. She was nine at the time. It took the two of them to stretch my heart in many directions, giving me a capacity to love that I never knew.  Daso introduced me to the world of primary schools and a new insight into Nigerian children and their needs.  I stumbled through ushering her through adolescence, and demonstrating what Godly womanhood could look like.  Mariama introduced me to a community that embraced my children and humbled me through continual advice and constructive criticism. This sweet duo showed me how families are built, how discipleship starts at home as I discovered their spiritual needs were similar though at different levels of complexity.

It took two...Lydia joined us in 2017.  Mariama and Lydia were the two babies who had entered our family through my womb, and they are so different!  It took two to show me what I already knew; God masterfully knits each creation uniquely. Giving one child a powerful, husky voice, bubbling laughter, and contented zeal, and another an explosive imagination, slender limbs, and articulate vocabulary.  It takes the two of them daily to draw out creativity and laughter, bringing me to tears of frustration and mountains of rejoicing in a single stride.

It takes two...Acacia and Olivia, surprising me with their arrival two months early, the every-three-hour feeds, they bombard me with need, sound, smiles, cuddles...I am surrounded.  Without my life erupting with babies and diapers, I wouldn't have experienced the intense times with God while they were in the NICU.  I would have missed out on the community that has gathered around us to care.  I would still be struggling more desperately with the idea that God's love is linked to my ability to serve him.  But I have been emptied two by two, and then filled back up.  A continuous refreshing cycle of losing myself and relief in finding a renovated me in the tides of this life rolling over my heart.

Me + Zach,
Daso + Mariama
Mariama + Lydia
Acacia + Olivia   = 7 individuals who have joined to become family, each giving from the wealth that is in them to enrich the others. Now that's my kind of math!

Fuzz and A Name Change

I wash Olivia's little hands, so silky soft, creamy pink in my hand, reaching to remove the fuzz that gets absorbed into her little creases.  I have always found it fascinating how infants have these perfectly formed hands and feet, full of potential, yet they are gathering fuzz, lint, the occasional hair. For lack of use, they fuzz up! 
Do you ever wonder if you're the kind of follower of Jesus who gathers lint in your hands and feet?  I did yesterday while I bathed my wiggling girls.  Here we are, empowered by the Almighty with the same power that rose Jesus from the dead, to extend our hands to go with our feet to those that need love and light, peace and hope, but maybe we are gathering fuzz.  We are fully functional souls, many of us having experienced the nurture and love of our Father for many years, yet still infants in our lack of use.  I do not want to gather fuzz any longer.

"Lydia, come here please!" I called to my vivacious 2 year old.
"I'm not Lydia, I'm Uncle Josh!"  She exclaimed.
"Okay, Uncle Josh, come here and get dressed."
"Okay, Mommy!" she replied.
I'm always surprised that someone who can so confidently claim the identity of another does not change at all in her character, her relationship with others or her actions.  She remains the same jumping, jolly little person, while trying to convince me she's my older brother (who is also quite jolly).  This continues throughout the day, and it makes me wonder if I'm a bit like Lydia.
I have taken on a new identity in Christ.  I'm a new creation, and yet, is there a change in me that is more than a name change? I do hope that with the name "Follower of Christ,"  that his character, the way he asks me to relate to others, and his actions permeate how I live my life.

So often we ask you to pray with us about something, but I have the joy of sitting while nursing babies many hours in my day.  I have time to pray for you, and I'd like to do that.  Please let me know how you're doing using your hands and feet to ward off the spiritual fuzz and impact your world and what your identity change looks like in this season.  This will encourage my heart, but also help me to pray for you. If you're struggling to think of how you are having impact or clearly showing your life in Christ, I will be happy to pray for you or listen!

Thursday, February 13, 2020

Two on Sunday?

Written February 10th 2020
I didn't know how soon they'd let us go
Something in me cried, "so soon, oh no!" 
Two little girls to care for and feed?
Two wee ones with many a wee need?
With Acacia tomorrow Christy will board
Staying in hospital, trusting the Lord,
That by the end of the week, Olivia too
Will go home, and we'll all start anew! 
Staying in Indiana to get ourselves adjusted,
Next week to Michigan, God can be trusted! 
Thank you for praying and standing with us
Glory to him who will be, who is, and who was.

Updated February 11th 2020
God has heard my praise, my prayers, my fears 
And we trust him as "coming home day" nears.
An alarm today for Acacia has changed it all, 
But our anchor holds, into his grace we fall,
It only lasted a few seconds and she's fine,
So five days more on hospital food I'll dine.
Maybe Olivia got my competitive gene,
For her day is Thursday, February fourteen.
Please pray with us that by the weekend,
Our babies will be home, family time to spend.

Updated again Feb 12th
A bed at an angle, when it should have been straight,
Makes another delay that works out just great.
Acacia and Olivia are now set for Sunday.
We would really be delighted to keep it that way.
So pray the alarms will all stay away!

Expected discharge date: Sunday Feb 16, 2020.

Saturday, February 8, 2020

Acacia is on her countdown!

Thank God with us! We are approaching the day when Acacia gets to go home. If all goes well (she has no alarms, keeps eating, and keeps gaining weight) then she gets to go home on Tuesday (Feb 11).

Olivia still needs breathing support so it will be a little longer until she can go home. Thank you for praying with all of us!

Acacia, Daddy (Zach), and Olivia

Tuesday, February 4, 2020

"Go home."

 She stepped into the room with a big smile and warm greeting.  Dr. Constantine immediately had my attention. We spent three days working to get my little girls to nurse and take a bottle. They stepped up to the challenge, but eventually they (and I) were getting more and more tired.
One night as I headed home after 14 hours of the joyful struggle to eat and sleep and pump, Dr. Constatntine built up my spirit, encouraging me that I am the best my babies have, and that I was doing a great job.
The next day was Friday, and I woke up thinking, "Oh, tomorrow is Saturday so I'll get a bre...no I won't, mothering doesn't get a break."  But Dr. Constantine at the close of Friday said, "I want you to go home, and not come tomorrow.  They need to rest, and you need to rest.  You can't help them if you're exhausted. Take advantage of the fact that you can rest now because when they come home, you won't get a chance."  I was surprised, resistant to the idea, but I listened.  I rested most of Saturday and even Sunday evening.  I slept in and went for a bike ride with my family.  I had better milk supply, and felt lighter. So thankful for a doctor who prescribed rest not only for her patients, but for her patients' mommy.
As I reflect on this experience, I recall all the times over the last year or more, where God has put the word upon my heart to rest.  Scripture, books I read, my mother, husband, friends all speaking into my life that I have a problem with over-business.  I actually have it in my mind that the more I do, the more fruitful I will be.  I have had a struggle with milk supply for two babies and I have done everything on the list and everything everyone has told me to do...except rest.  When I did, the milk came in better.  I feel this is a really clear illustration that God wants to use in my life.  It is so humbling to rest and NOT DO, but it leads to life bubbling up in me and a reservoir that can flow into others.  Please pray for me as I continue to learn this humbling fact and trust God when enough is enough.  Pray for our family and ministry, that through God teaching me this, we will all flourish.

If you struggle with being too busy, I'd love to pray with you or for you! Just let me know.

Monday, February 3, 2020

Something Big is About to Happen

When we were packing up our house in Nigeria, my mother was telling me of how ladies from the church in Michigan were making a herculean effort preparing our house for our return.  On the day I was giving away food in Nigeria, feeling badly that I had bought food and not used it, wondering if I should sell or give, I found out that my refrigerator and cupboards in America had been stocked.  This fostered generosity in me, and I joyfully gave.  I was feeling so blessed and loved by God as his body reached out to care for us before our arrival.
At that time, Kirstin, Zach's sister said, "Makes you feel like something big is about to happen, doesn't it?"  I agreed with her, feeling some uncertainty in the prospect that God may be sending us down a rough road in the future, but preparing our hearts with his tender love so we could remember his faithfulness when it wasn't so clearly seen.

Auntie Kirsti with Mariama

Our family table before we returned to the United States

We didn't know what was "about to happen", but this season may be part of the challenge God was preparing us for with his love.  Acacia and Olivia are little, but their arrival 2 months early is "something big" that has happened.  I'm so thankful that God doesn't send us into stormy weather without a knowledge of his presence and steadfastness that will sustain us when the waves threaten our little boat.

Please continue to pray for Olivia and Acacia's growth.  In spending lots of time with them, I have had the joy of seeing them start to drink on their own without a tube, hold their own temperatures, gain weight over 5 pounds, and fix their eyes on me.  Before they go home, they have to do all their feedings by mouth and have no alarms for five days.
Please pray for Mariama and Lydia as they are far away from mommy (they are in Michigan with Zach).  They are going through lots of transitions too.
Please pray for Zach as he is far from his two babies and daddying the older two.  Pray he will find a time to rest.

Saying good morning to mommy on watsapp

Mariama in her mud kitchen at school!

Sleeping On the Job

Right now I am sitting on my sofa in a dimly lit living room with two babies sleeping on the nursing pillow.  I could get rich on the numb...