Wednesday, November 4, 2020
Monday, November 2, 2020
This morning I woke up with 25 minutes to get my family out the door to church.
groggily sat up and started doing his Bible memory verses. I
protested, "Honey, we have 25 minutes!" I left him in the bedroom,
feeling a bit annoyed as I headed toward the sounds of my happy little
girls who needed dressing and hair brushing. Ten minutes later, I got
my African dress on I had reserved for the conference and quickly
reminded my husband working on his memory verses that we now had 15
minutes before we needed to leave, once again leaving in a huff.
As my mostly dressed children were eating breakfast, I put on some blush over pale cheeks and reached for the mascara. At that moment a question pricked my heart. "Why do you think that you putting on make up prepares you better to go to church than Zach memorizing verses from Matthew?"
Point taken. My husband was focused on preparing the
place where love, joy, power, and peace flow from a satisfied-in-Christ
heart. I too often am focused on the things in the periphery of the
heart of God. When I think of my little girls and those observing my
life, where do I want them to put their most devoted attention, invest
their most precious moments of demanding days? I would really love to
say with Paul, "Follow me as I follow Christ," instead of "Follow Daddy
'cause he is following Christ." I want them to see me investing in the
things that last forever because only those things bring true joy and
Friday, October 30, 2020
Thursday, October 29, 2020
The first thing to pray for is my family. In 2020 nearly all the prayer requests on this blog have been for our family so far, so why yet another one? I love to read fiction by Randy Alcorn, and during this retreat I read about two thirds of his novelization of the movie "Courageous". I was surprised that even when the movie comes first, the book can still be better! The movie made me laugh and cry when I first saw it, and the book made me laugh and cry, too. It also prompted me again to think about eternity and about my role as a father.
When I have heaven's resources just an ask away, why don't I pray blessings over my children more often!?!? I found myself delighting in lifting my family up to God one by one, and I want this to become a habit. Please pray that it will become a habit, and if you choose to do so, make a habit of praying for our children, too!
Friday, September 25, 2020
After thinking about ministry and interruptions being the "real stuff of ministry" (See Interruptions part 1), I considered what my every day in Nigeria looked like before I returned to the United States. I pictured with awe, like a slideshow before my mind's eye, the startling truth of how God has been revealing this truth to me over the years.
Here are some of those slides for you:
Interruptions slide 1:
|I'm behind the camera.|
See a group of young men, gathered under a tin roof eating ramen noodles with eggs prepared by one of their friends with layered flats of eggs, loaves of white bread, and boxes of different kinds of ready to cook noodles (we call it Indomie). See the three white ladies with a little toe-headed girl who have arrived to eat. The oldest of the three white ladies asks the guy next to her what his language is. Upon hearing it, she quickly glances through the list of audio Bible's on her husband's phone, which she's borrowing because her own stopped working. She's a bit clumsy, but when she finds the language, she presses play and the young man looks at her stunned as his language speaks God's words to him. He takes the phone from her and listens before passing it on to the other guys around the Indomie shed. They smile, humming in pleased agreement before passing it on. When it gets back to me, the older white woman in this case, the young man asks if he can get it. With his help, I figure out how to use the app and send him as much as will fit on his phone. He excitedly tells me he'll give it to the others. I have yet to follow up to give him the rest. May God be planting his seeds in this young man's heart.
Interruptions slide 2:
|Children going home after Bible study. |
I finally have a moment to think about the Bible lesson for the evening's children's Bible study when the intercom phone rings and our guard, Daniel, on the other end tells me there are 5 children there to see me. I ask for their names before telling him to let them in. In less time than it takes me to wrap a skirt over my shorts, I have happy greetings at my door. I welcome my little friends in, cut them a watermelon, and ask them what they learned in school. They ask if they can go play. They race to the swings, but one lingers to tell me how they are not understanding social studies in school, and could I help them. We look at her homework outside on the picnic tables while her friends squeal and giggle on the swings. They all pile in the car 2 hours later and we head to Bible study together...I've looked over the lesson, and gathered my materials hastily on my way out.
Interruptions slide 3:
|The lady I usually buy vegetables from. |
I have finally arrived at the market with Mariama at my side and Lydia on my back. Aunty Victoria (my friend and helper) walks alongside me. She has taught me the importance of greeting everyone and not just getting down to business. She has also taught me to speak in Hausa, how to bargain gently (not like we did in Cameroon), and how to hide frustration, remaining joyful throughout my market experience. Everyone greets me by name "Sannu Mama Mariama!" and I reply. They ask: "How's the family? How did you sleep? How's work? How's the cold?" I smile and reply. This happens approximately 30-50 times every time I go to the market. I think it's what Jesus would do...only he'd know each of their names, stories, life history, and maladies. So, I have a long way to go, but at least I have minor interruptions! That counts, right?
Interruption slide 4:
I am heading home from a 7am
teacher's training, and I hear a child screaming. I step in. Things
change for that child.
Interruptions slide 5:
|Aunty Mary Jane being cheeky.|
We just sat down to dinner, and my dear friend Mary Jane and her sister arrive. Yeah (Their presence always lifts our hearts)! We all sit down again to eat together. We talk about highlights of the day. We share frustrations. We all laugh and cry a bit. We do family devotions. We walk them out, talking about important life "stuff"
Interruption slide 6:
|Mariama's special daddy-daughter date hair. |
I'm zippy around the house, getting ready for guests arriving that evening. Mariama says, "Mommy, can you play with me?" Mariama has just received paper dolls from her Aunties in the United States. We sit down on the floor of her room and enter into a different world together. A world that is controllable, joyful, elegant, and everything beautiful that we want it to be where we can ride horses and eat blueberries in a picnic next to a glistening lake. We feel full and free together.
Interruption slide 7:
We are driving in the United States, and we see a girl walking along the road. It is starting to rain. "She looks cold and sad," I say so to Mariama. She says, "Mommy, we are going to pick that girl up, right? We have to help her." I turn the car around, and offer her a jacket that fits perfectly (someone happened to give me a bag of clothes that day). We give her a ride, find out she's an addict, pray for her as a family. Never hear from her again, but I learned that my daughter knows what we do when we see someone who is hurting.
The real stuff of ministry, the spontaneous, out-of-my-plan stuff happens daily and I pray I don't despise but welcome them!
Sunday, September 13, 2020
Today we talked with my mentor in Scripture engagement in Dallas, Wayne Dye, via zoom. He and his wife Sally have greatly influenced my life and ministry. Stories of God working in Nigeria that I've told many times on zoom calls and in person since we've come back to the United States last December felt new as Wayne and Sally resonated and teared up at the thrill and joy of people rejoicing in the Words of life with us.
I feel so far away from those stories these last few months. Sometimes it's hard to believe those stories were my life, and God is still calling hearts to himself and growing the seeds that have been planted by so many through the years in Nigeria.
I have started school activities with my two older girls. With the twins on my back, in my arms, or on the floor finding strange bits to stuff into their drooling mouths and Mariama and Lydia engaging at their own levels with various activities, I feel every moment consumes all of my energy. I do sometimes wonder if God has given me the joy of twins to help me see my weaknesses, and learn to depend on his strength!
I realized why sometimes motherhood has taken me by surprise as I shared with Wayne and Sally. When you prepare to train a group of people, you study the manual, perfect your presentation...and BAM...you see the words or ideas impacting the participants. It is thrilling! We know we're bringing something that is wanted and needed, and it is received with such joy!
Raising children is not like that! It's totally unpredictable. Now, very few trainings in Nigeria ever go how I planned, so there is THAT. BUT, while an explanation of why we don't run through huge mud puddles on the way to church made perfect sense to child one, it sends child two into a tizzy, running straight for said puddle only to fall with a splash, initiating shrill shrieks of despair!
As I expressed how unqualified I feel in this task, remembering that this is a season we are learning through, Wayne said, "Sometimes we think the interruptions disrupt ministry, when the interruptions ARE ministry." He encouraged me by pointing out that the most memorable moments in Jesus ministry were unplanned. Ah, may I be like Jesus in this beautiful wonder...He allowed the interruptions of ministry to reveal God's character, inviting his world into relationship with the Father who makes the most of every person and every opportunity. To use the unexpected moments as Jesus did, and reveal the Father who is never too busy to listen, engage, divulge, bend, hold, and heal. May I consider this season a time for spontaneous ministry opportunities, welcoming the interruptions with grace and wisdom.
Monday, August 3, 2020
|Me and Lydia, McCormick's Creek 2020|
|Maman and Papa Gado with Mariama 2017|
He also invites me and you to listen as he "delights over you with singing" (Zeph 3:17). I imagined the dragonfly seeing my face over and over with it's thousands of lenses in his tiny compound eyes. What information was he processing about my frazzled hair and tired eyes? I imagined God seeing me over and over, and the unchangable truth that runs through his mind every time my face appears before him is delight and joy because of Jesus! What an impossibly beautiful thought! My flawed being, living out my life like a vapor in the wind, is treasured by the Creator and when he sees me over and over he never gets tired of me! He never wishes I was any different in the fabric of my being than the beautiful one he created. This is so incomprehensible to me for I get tired of myself daily! He is making all things new, including me, but not to destroy and recreate a different person altogether, but to renew in relationship with him. Why would he want that? Why do I matter so much to him? The Psalmist asked the same thing in Psalm 8, and then says, "you created him...and crowned him with glory and honour." This doesn't explain extravagant love, it just adds to the wonder and mystery of the heart of God, the King of the dragonfly, and the King of my heart who becons me to his throne gazing into the eyes of a dragonfly under rustling Indiana archways.
Tuesday, June 30, 2020
I (Zach) often feel refreshed when I am in the woods. Sometimes it is a walk, sometimes a run, and sometimes a run with my two precious babies! Nature, anywhere, has become a place of refreshment and prayer.
Tuesday, May 5, 2020
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!"
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 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 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!
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
Saturday, February 8, 2020
|Acacia, Daddy (Zach), and Olivia|
Tuesday, February 4, 2020
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
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!|
Thursday, January 30, 2020
friends in our lives who get down on their knees
lift us up before the King of Kings!
We all need sheltering trees" -Newsong
"They shall be oaks of righteousness,
a planting of the Lord for the display of his splendor" Is. 61:3
Kirstin made me lactation cookies and cleaned my room, mom Yoder put out the herbs for mother's milk tea, Julia gave me basil oil and fenugreek, Pat gave me chocolate, several ladies at church gave me their experience about bringing in milk supply, and I get texts every day asking me how my milk is coming in.
|Dad Yoder has read countless books to the older girls.|
|A gift box from a family we've never met but who know Zach's brother.|
|Hot chocolate from our gift box!|
|Bridgit, soon to join us in Nigeria, came to visit!|
These people are our sheltering trees, the "oaks" that have displayed the Lord's splendor to us. One night in tears I said to Mom Yoder, "Why is everyone so kind! I understand when we've come back from Nigeria after serving for a couple of years, but I'm not even doing anything and they are showing such love!" Then I got a prick in my spirit and a thought in my mind, "That's what my grace looks like, Christy, you don't have to do anything. That's what I've been trying to teach you." What a beautiful God that loves us in our weakness, and doesn't demand we please him before he blesses us. We're overflowing, feeling so full at a time when we "should" feel empty.
That's God's economy of grace.
|Sweet girls looking forward to meeting their little sisters! Pray for them as they are in Michigan with daddy for a couple of weeks.|
|I get to spend about 14 hours a day sitting by these sweeties cribs, on call if they want to nurse or need a change!|
I wrote this when we first arrived...I'm getting used to things happening at a different pace. Dear ONIT*, I know you, my local power...
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