Good, Good Father

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Thaddaeus had found a stick twice his size and was using it to lead the way for me through the brush and dead trees to the creek. He came upon one of his usual entrances down to the water’s edge, but the creek had risen in the middle of the night and there was no way to walk across to the other side, apart from swimming. Apparently he didn’t feel like a dip in the middle of January, so he turned from “the mountain” as he called it and took me another way. A much gentler decline, I followed as he hopped down the muddy and sandy bank, still carrying the staff. This way was easier and happened to be one of my favorite views of the creek that runs through our property. The stream flows shallow here and you can jump across the creek at the bottom, or just walk through with rain boots. I looked around at the moss-covered banks and up at the trees, some still yellow and gold, most bare and dormant, a few evergreens. The water trickled peacefully and Thadd led the way through to the other side of the bank, still on our land.

And I couldn’t help myself but quote Psalm 23 aloud to my shepherd son and to the winter trees, waiting for the rebirth of Spring:

The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not be in want. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he restores my soul.

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He guides me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.

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You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cups overflows. Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.

I am here to testify that God has been good to us.

We have been living just outside the small town of Madisonville, TX on 16.7 acres for almost one month now and our lives are entirely different than they have ever been before. He has given us above and beyond all that we have desired. The details surrounding the selling of our house and the purchasing of this land were astounding and the timing impeccable. It was just like God.

As we look back on this last year at all of the changes, all of the heartaches we have endured, and the ways that God has proven Himself faithful again and again, as we see how well he has shepherded us, we can proclaim, with all certainty:

Our Father is good. And we can trust Him!

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Waiting for the Harvest

One week before school started we put our house on the market. There were a few reasons we waited for this unusual time to try to sell our house. We had to wait for our foster daughter to go home before we could get ready to move. We also had to wait on God to impress upon us just when we were to move our family. We have wanted for some time now to move to the country, but we needed to know that it was God’s timing and His plan. Exactly one week before our house was officially on the market, Jason finally told me that he had heard from God and that now was the time to go.

This last month has been a hurricane of activity and work as we have painted and packed and fixed up our house to sell. Three days after it had been listed, we had a contract and we were looking to close on September 22. It all seemed like God was moving and things were going so smoothly.

Until the day we drove out to Madisonville to look at a property we were interested in purchasing. On the way there, we got the call that our buyers were backing out of the contract.

Jason had to pull over on the side of the road as we decided whether or not to go ahead and look at this land, even though we couldn’t put an offer on it anymore. We were shocked and disappointed, but decided that since we had come this far, we should at least see the property, so we continued.

And fell in love.

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It’s been two weeks since our house has been on the market again and those two weeks feel like an eternity. We are in the waiting again and every time, no matter how many times God has proven Himself faithful, it is unbearable to wait on Him.
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The other day I was hungry. Being at the tail end of the shopping week, there was hardly anything to eat in the house. Well, hardly anything that this paleo mom could eat anyways, so I found myself in the garden desperate for something to fill the void. The remaining figs weren’t ready yet, the tomatoes were green, there was okra galore, but I was getting tired of okra. What I really wanted was for the three gigantic cantaloupes to fall off the vine. Hadn’t I been waiting all summer for them? One of them was yellow and heavy, but the vine still clung to the fruit with a death grip that meant it just wasn’t quite ready yet. But I didn’t care. I reached out and wrestled the fruit from the vine, struggling and twisting it until it tore free. I brought it close to my face and inhaled, but it wasn’t sweet. I smelled earth, but not the fruity aroma it was supposed to have. I took it inside, washed it off and brought it to the cutting board. I cut into it and the fruit was the right color, a deep orange, but it was hard to slice and even cutting it produced no aroma whatsoever. I knew I had done this fruit wrong, but I was hungry and it was too late now. I made the best of it, sliced the rest of it up and ate a bowl of no-taste cantaloupe.

It filled my belly, but there was no delight in eating it. 
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I received an email from our realtor, the same one who had shown us the property in Madisonville. He had been responding to an email I had sent him, asking him to pray for us in this process of waiting on the Lord once again. He encouraged us that he and his wife were praying for us and he proclaimed that we could trust our Daddy, that in His KAIROS timing, He would make a way for us to sell our home and purchase what He had for us.

Kairos is the Greek word meaning, “fitting season, opportunity, time.” (Strongs Concordance) It is used many times in Scripture to tell of the time of the harvest.

Do I believe that His timing is kairos? Do I trust Him?

Most days it doesn’t seem like it as I fret about the inconvenience of keeping the house in pristine, show-ready condition. When I read about the financial crisis about to hit our nation and despair that the house will never sell. When I start to doubt that maybe we missed His voice or didn’t do everything we were supposed to do.

But then, I return in surrender to the One who has proven again and again His faithfulness to me. The One I know I can trust. The One who speaks to the depths of my being that He longs to give me the desires of my heart. Me!

I can choose to trust that His timing is nothing short of perfect.

I decided to wait to let the cantaloupe actually fall off the vine before I took matters into my own impatient hands again.  When I did that, I discovered that waiting until a fruit is ripe and in season is the best way to enjoy it.

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It smelled divine and tasted even better.

Why Am I Afraid to Love?

I had just pulled the big, white Suburban, full of kids, into the driveway. It had been the second day of Vacation Bible School and I had volunteered. The baby had fallen asleep immediately, even before we had pulled out of the church parking lot and I intended to keep her asleep and transfer her into her bed as soon as we got home. I opened the rear passenger door to get her out, unbuckling the seat belt as gently and quietly as I could. I lifted her up and turned around and almost bumped into my neighbor, Richard. He had come over and was standing right outside the door of the SUV, waiting to talk to me. It was a little past noon and already I could smell the alcohol on him.

“Just give me one minute,” I pleaded, hoping the interruption would not wake the sleeping child in my arms.

“How many kids do you have now?” he remarked as I frantically grabbed at my keys and opened my front door and swept upstairs to put her down to sleep, wondering all the while what in the world Richard had come to talk to me about and if I could accomplish my task of keeping the baby asleep and then gather my boys and their best friend, whom I had left unprotected in the car.

I came downstairs as the boys wrestled and laughed their way inside. I noticed my purse and the diaper bag inside the house and Richard just outside my door.

“I brought your stuff inside,” he said to me, motioning to the bags on the floor.

I panicked, but recovered quickly and apologized for leaving him  as I explained the importance of making sure the baby stay asleep. As I talked, I walked outside and closed the door behind me. The midday sun beat down upon us and the windless humidity and smell of his intoxication hung heavy about us.

Richard began by telling me that his daughter (with whom he lived in the house across the street) was moving to a different house and that he needed to get rid of some of his things and he had a wood lathe that he wanted Jason to have. He said he couldn’t sell it, but needed to get rid of it, or else it would be thrown away.

I told him I would talk to Jason about it, but that we did not have a truck to move it and that we were trying to get rid of some of our things in order to simplify our lives. Then I asked him where he was going.

And his answer has broken my heart.

“To a shelter,” Richard said, worn eyes looking down. “My kids are done with me and this is the end of their help.”

I stood there silent. There were all of these churchy answers floating around my brain, wanting to come out like, ‘Just trust in Jesus,’ or ‘God will heal you, just ask him.’ But I couldn’t say any of that. Maybe he didn’t want to get well. Or maybe he had already asked for healing and healing hadn’t come. And I don’t have answers for an alcoholic.

I said all I could think to say. “I’m so sorry, Richard.”

After telling him I would talk to Jason, he squared his shoulders and walked as dignified as a broken man could walk back to his daughter’s house.

I wish I could tell you a happy ending to this story. But my fear got in the way of my love. A couple days later I noticed a pickup truck in their driveway and the hustle and bustle of packing and loading. When we came home from VBS that afternoon I could see Richard sitting in his garage, amid cardboard boxes and a mattress leaning against the wall. I deliberately parked the car, got all the kids out on the opposite side of the driveway, so Richard could not see us and I ushered the kids inside the house quickly. I even scolded Thaddaeus for hanging back on our front porch, looking for a toad he had trapped earlier that day.

I was afraid of Richard.

I was afraid to even wave at him and acknowledge his presence.

I was afraid of his brokenness and so I hid inside my house.

This morning I opened up the garage door to take a walk and I noticed that Richard’s car was gone. He had moved and my last chance to say goodbye had been wasted because of fear. I wept as I prayed and repented for my lack of love. And then I remembered something that had happened last year. I remembered my daughter, Addie, had written a bunch of notes that had said, “Jesus loves you,” and she and Jeremiah had run around the neighborhood ringing doorbells and leaving the notes, to the infuriation of some neighbors and to the blessing of others.

I remember one evening being outside with my husband as our boys rode bikes on the street with the neighbor kids. Richard had come out of his house and walked over to Jason and had told him, in a choking voice, just how much that note that Addie had left meant to him. Jason asked him, in the sincere and strong way that he has, how Richard was doing. Richard’s eyes had filled with tears and he said, “Not good.” But then he squared his shoulders and walked away back to his house.

Why am I afraid to love? I think it’s because I believe the lie that in order for God to love me, I must be perfect. When I see the vagabond and the addict and the homeless man, I start to believe that love is dependent upon the wise choices we make. They have not made wise choices and therefore are below me. Not worthy of my time or my attention or my money. Not worthy of my love.

But I forget that I am the ragamuffin. I am in desperate need of the love of God and He loves, oh He loves me, not based on anything good that I do or any good choices that I make!

As Brennan Manning, one of the men most humble and secure in his own brokenness and belovedness in the Father, has written:

Our trust in Jesus grows as we shift from making self-conscious efforts to be good to allowing ourselves to be loved as we are (not as we should be).

You see, my daughter had it right when she wrote the notes with the cheerful and uncomplicated message.

Jesus loves you.

When I allow myself to believe that this is true, it casts out my fear and empowers me to love others.

 

 

 

 

Behold the Love!

I have the privilege of sharing my story on my dear friend, Kelly’s blog today. I have written for those who have felt unworthy of the Father’s love and for those (like me) who did not even know their need for it. May it stir us to begin the journey of beholding the unfathomable love bestowed upon us by our good Father.

It was ten years ago, when my oldest daughter was but six months old, that I began the journey of knowing the love of the Father. We were at Maranatha Bible Conference, a family camp along the shores of Lake Michigan that my mother’s side of the family has been going to for almost 30 years now. The missionary focus that year was Mission India and the speaker was John DeVries, the kind of man who just radiated the love of God like no one I had ever seen. He instructed us to pray the Word of God and gave us an assignment that week to use the passage of 1 John 3:1 and each day take only a couple words and pray that God would reveal them to us in a great way. Unbeknownst to me, in the instruction to pray the Word of God slowly and thoughtfully, he was teaching me the ancient discipline of lectio divina.

To read more, click the link below.

http://thesobieskicrew.blogspot.com/2015/06/behold-love-by-kristin-brown.html

A Mighty Rushing Wind

I met an old man from Bangladesh the other day. He had bright white hair and only one tooth in his mouth. I was drawn to him. He asked me about the baby I pushed in the stroller. The baby that looks nothing like me, with her deep brown eyes and jet black hair,but who has belonged to me for these past nine months. I tried as best as I could to explain to him what fostering meant, and maybe he got it a little, but it was apparent I could not communicate exactly to his understanding. But that encounter that morning was no accident and I could feel the Holy Spirit within me pushing me towards him. I could sense the love that God had for this precious Muslim man. So I asked him if he knew that Jesus loved him. “Oh, you mean Isa?” he asked. “He is one of our prophets.” “Yes!” I cried. “And Isa loves you!” And he began to speak to me that he did not believe that Isa died, but was taken up to heaven. And then he told me that he believes that Isa is coming back to fight alongside militant Islam. And I told him, with great joy, “Oh yes! Isa is coming back. I believe that too!” And as I spoke so briefly with this Muslim man, I stood before him and I held out the good news of Jesus’ love. This. This in the face of the grand scale persecution going on throughout the world of militant Muslims against my own Christian brothers and sisters. Today is Pentecost Sunday. The day the Holy Spirit came upon the believers for the first time as they waited and prayed together for that power that Jesus had promised would come over them.

Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them. Acts 2:2-4

Jews from many countries were gathered in Jerusalem for their pilgrimage to the Feast of Pentecost. Jews from the nations, speaking different languages, heard the good news of Jesus being preached to them in their very own tongue. Peter preached from the Hebrew Scriptures and they were convicted and responded to the message. And three thousand were baptized and added to the church. The Jews knew Pentecost or “Shavuot” to be a festival of the first fruits of the wheat harvest. This came fifty days after the festival of the early first fruits of the barley harvest. In this feast of Pentecost, the first of the wheat harvest was taken from the earth and baked into two loaves of bread and waved before the Lord in praise for the promise of a greater harvest at the end of the season. In Jerusalem, when the disciples received the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost, God was fulfilling the meaning of this festival harvest by a harvest of souls. But not just for the nation of Israel. For all the nations of the world.

May God be gracious to us and bless us and make his face shine upon us, that your ways may be known on earth, your salvation among all nations. Psalm 67:1-2

This morning I awoke to the most violent wind blasting through my backyard. I pray that the Holy Spirit would break out upon us in a mighty rushing wind. Oh church, let us rise up and proclaim the rich message of salvation, through the power of the Holy Spirit, so that all nations will come to King Jesus. Let us get down on our knees and pray that God would send us out to the fields, white for harvest. The time is now. So that one day, we will hear every nation, every language, every tribe declaring the praises of Jesus. And I hope to hear that man from Bangladesh, with the snow white hair and the one tooth, declaring the praises of Isa.

When Jesus Prays for You

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It is lent and I wake up dry as old bone.

My alarm went off at 5:30, but I shut it off and rolled over. It’s now 7:30 and the kids are awake and my youngest comes into the room, desperately hungry. So I get up slowly and try to gear up for a day of serving my family and teaching my children, but I realize as I look at myself in the mirror that I have nothing to give anyone today.

The one thing I want is the thing I forfeited when I decided to sleep in this morning. I want time alone with Jesus. I need time alone with him today. Because my heart doesn’t seem to be working right. I’m needy and I have been for a while. And now, with the recent news I received of my loved one (the kind I can’t share details about) I’m in angst and my sadness and anger dodge and twist within me.

I’m faithless today. And along with that, I’m joyless.

But it is an absolutely gorgeous day today. Spring seems to have broken through. The birds are rejoicing outside and the blinds spill golden light into my bedroom.

I walk out into the living room and my boys have opened up the blinds already and Jeremiah smiles proud and shows me the table he has set for breakfast all by himself. Thaddaeus hops up and down expectantly as I survey everything. They are full of springtime.

So I make them breakfast and they eat and then Addie comes down and she eats. Then I make breakfast for Jason and I as my husband comes in to help me and I can’t stay inside, so we eat outside. And the warmth of the sun and the cool, fresh breeze and the garden beds prepped and ready for seed and the smell and the sounds of new life, all of this begins to awaken something deep within me.

We gather the kids outside for morning devotions as Jason pours us each a glass of home-brewed ginger ale. I pass the Bible over to him and ask him to read, for I need to hear it this morning.

I close my eyes and Jason reads John chapter 17. It is Jesus’ prayer for himself and his disciples and for those who would believe in him in the generations to come. It is his prayer for me. These are Jesus’ last words to his friends before he is betrayed into the hands of evil men and condemned to die on a cross for the sins of the world. For my sins. These were the last words recorded by John, Jesus’ beloved friend. And as Jason begins to read and the kids sip ginger ale, I am overcome with the intimacy of this recorded prayer for all who would believe in Jesus.

Jesus was praying over me. With hands outstretched and eyes looking to the heavens, he prayed all those years ago thinking about me. He prayed protection and unity and holiness and mission and nearness and love. But what really got me was verse 13. “I say these things while I am still in the world, so that they may have the full measure of my joy within them.”

A tear slips down my cheek as I inhale the meaning of these words. Jesus wants me to have joy. Even now. Even though all is not as it should be. Even though those I love are hurting greatly. Hadn’t he just said it in John 16? “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

Jason finishes the chapter and we all sit in silence in the golden morning. Addie says that devotions should as well be over because when Jesus prays for you, that’s about as good as it gets.

“Thank you, babe,” I whisper to my husband. “I so needed that.”

The kids skip away to play, taking advantage of the fact that I am in no hurry to start the homeschool day just yet. I sit in the sun and let myself come alive at the reality that Jesus offers me full joy today. And all I have to do is receive it. He doesn’t force himself on me, but lets me choose if I will allow myself to be loved today or not.

Today I choose to receive.

Fullness

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Life is full these days. The good kind of full, the push your plate away from the table and sigh kind.

After several years of trying to just survive, it has been so refreshing to breathe and to invest time and energy into this season of fullness. The biggest investment has been in bringing my children home from public school and beginning to homeschool. Fourteen weeks into it so far and we are all loving it.

Due to my own lack of documentation of the process, I struggle to even attempt to recount our homeschooling experience. So I will do what a wise person once suggested in this dilemma: write out simple declarative statements from snippets of life.

Maybe this will paint a picture of what fullness looks like in the Brown household:

Addie declares the very first day of homeschool, “I want to be known for something one day. Kind of like Benjamin Franklin or the Wright Brothers.”

Our whole family drives downtown to Houston’s inner city Third Ward on a Monday morning every month to deliver sack lunches to Generation One Academy.

I have Thaddaeus and Jeremiah take turns running up and down the stairs 20 times as a study break in the middle of the day.

I step out in faith and play guitar every Tuesday for devotions at our weekly Coop meetings.

The kids make new friends. And so do I.

We do our read-alouds in a magnificent Magnolia tree on the Houston bayou one afternoon.

One of my children sometimes doesn’t want to do their reading.

One of my children sometimes doesn’t want to do their math.

One of my children stands on the chair to do their work.

Sometimes I have to get the principal to talk to them. 🙂 aka Daddy

Sometimes the principal has to do the math lesson.

We get to care for a litter of five baby kittens.

We bury one of the kittens and I hold my oldest son as he grieves long.

Jason teaches the kids woodworking in the garage.

Everywhere projects abound and cardboard and scotch tape disappear fast.

Addie warms our home with her piano-playing.

Legos are always everywhere.

Thaddaeus uses all things as percussion instruments.

We go to the park when the other kids are in school.

We finish school by noon.

We watch bees make honeycomb in the bee hive Jason built.

We read lots of books.

We pray together.

Jeremiah prays over a sack lunch with a name on it from Generation One Academy. He prays that this girl will grow to love the Word of God and be bold to tell others about Jesus. Thaddaeus lays his hands on another sack lunch and prays protection over the child.

Addie tells me that it should be our family’s job to tell others about Jesus and she tries to come up with ways to get a whole bunch of people all together in a room so that can happen on a grand scale.

And I laugh and I cry and I love my kids so hard my heart hurts and some days I have to text my prayer-warriors because I do not feel like even looking at my children. But at the end of a day, I am full with the conviction that I am doing exactly what I have longed to do for so long and that God is blessing this season of togetherness.

It is good.