like men who dreamed.

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“Don’t be afraid; just believe, and she will be healed. She is not dead but asleep.” He took her by the hand and said, “My child, get up!” and her spirit returned. Her parents were astonished.                                  {luke 8:50,52-56}

Our friends are moving to Lebanon. Dealing with the reality of refugees, of crisis, homelessness, trauma, and death. Death, dying, buried. Words we use freely when talking about the gospel. We spent time in prayer together, asking God to provide the needed funds, thanking Him their teenagers also felt a desire to go to the Middle East.

As we said goodbye, Gert glanced around, asked, “Where’s Eden?” Instinctively our eyes went to the back gate. It was open. I ran outside, a quick survey of the backyard and no Eden. The pool gate was open. I ran to look, seeing nothing at the pool, ran inside the house to check the other rooms. Then came the desperate screams. Etian held his sister in his arms. She was limp, blue, and hanging like a trail of ivy over a brick wall. From his arms to my arms to Daddy’s arms.

From the daybed, I hear “Step one, step two, step three. Step one, step two, step three.” I searched for the emergency number, but no one knew what it was. Finally we connected with ER24 but when they asked me, “Where is Kuils River?” I knew they wouldn’t be our heroes that day.

‘We are not going to lose a child today,’ were my only thoughts.

I couldn’t watch as Eden lay on the bed. Verbalising what we were all thinking but didn’t dare to say, Evangeline wouldn’t stop…”Eden die? Eden die?” Cold and blue.

We directed the kids to another room. They obliged. Finally, a pulse, and low, guttural, reflexive groans.  Go time-to the hospital. Our friend Michael drove him to the ER, and the kids and I waited and prayed in the Spirit and prayed Psalm 91 and refused to fear disaster and refused to despair.

I pleaded with our friends to pray. I got to the ER, and caught a glimpse of a towering heavenly figure standing at the head of Eden’s bed. My husband was very much in charge, with shocked eyes wide and red-rimmed. He spoke gently, matter-of-fact.  Eden lay sedated, white, on oxygen. Her X-rays were cloudy, lungs filled with fluid. Nothing felt real.

They said she’s going to be okay, but there was a possibility of brain damage. We don’t know how long she was under. I reconciled with the possibility of brain damage, and all I could think is that she is alive. Our pastor and his wife appeared, and Gerhard took Gert on a walk while Marinda and I went to the ICU with Eden.

‘Mom,’ Gabrielle told me later, ‘the day Eden fell in the pool was the worst day of my life and I’m glad its not that day anymore.’ 

We were confronted by a powerful enemy. Death. On the day of our disaster, God spoke:

He reached down from on high and took hold of me; 

he drew me out of the deep waters. 

He rescued me from my powerful enemy, from my foes, who were too strong for me.

They confronted me in the day of my disaster, but the Lord was my support.

He brought me out into a spacious place; he rescued me because he delighted in me.

{psalm 18:16-19}

All over the world people prayed. God wasn’t done with Eden yet. Her generation would see greater things than this. The dead shall be raised. She would live to declare the beauty of the Lord, and walk in close communion with him. The Lord said she will come through perfect. No damage, no lasting effects! She will live and declare the glory of the Lord.

God spoke to us through Isaiah 51:3 that she would be called Eden Joy. I remarked to my sister that she was not the easiest of babies, and with a middle name of Joy, I had thought she would be the epitome of happiness and contentment.

We brought her home from the hospital on Friday, and suddenly I knew why her middle name is Joy. When the Lord brought back the captives to Zion, we were like men who dreamed. Our mouths were filled with laughter, our tongues with songs of joy. Then it was said among the nations, “The Lord has done great things for them.” The Lord has done great things for us, and we are filled with joy. {psalm 126:1-3}

I asked Evangeline (3years) what happened to Eden that day. She replied, “Eden fell into the pool, and then she went to sleep.” You see, Evangeline has changed her story. Her reality has come into alignment with the power of God displayed for our family to see.

Eden was not dead, she was only sleeping.

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Stay Open to the Graces

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Jerry Sullivan greeting Daisy

The Grim family lost a dear friend this week. The kind of friend you are lucky to ever have, even once in a lifetime.

This man, known as Brother Jerry, walked a path of Christlikeness few people ever find. He was that figure in my childhood that led me to understand Christ’s mercy, His friendship, and His sacrificial love: From the way he treated animals to the way he treated the mentally-ill alcohol-addicted wanderer to the way he was a father to Indian children starving for love and attention on the reservation where we lived.

He lived a humble life as a carpenter, fasting on Fridays, keeping dominion over the earth through his garden and attempts at growing grapes to make wine. His occasional stutter only enhanced his ability to tell a good joke–usually involving a Catholic Priest and an Irishman.

As a child this man appeared to me as nothing short of a complete wonder. Who else brings an industrial sized doughnut machine to a dilapidated tavern on a poverty-stricken Indian Reservation and turns the place into a family activity center? Or hides cute little puppies in boxes on Easter Sunday for children to find and bring home to their unsuspecting and unenthusiastic parents?

He always had time for me to visit after school, for a card game or weeding in the garden or letting me tag along in bringing communion to shuts-ins. In my childishness I remember being a little jealous when he met this beautiful woman named Ilene and got married, thinking he wouldn’t have time for me anymore. Little did I understand how one’s capacity for love only grows when you are in Christ. Along with Jerry’s life, I am thankful that he met this gentle woman, Ilene. She added a richness and depth and grace that brought him so much joy and completion and it is a testimony to me how they served the Lord together.

Jerry finished his life well. He kept the faith; he fought the good fight. He pursued righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance, and gentleness. He took hold of that eternal life that God calls us to. I rejoice that he is with our Savior now yet my heart aches for his absence here with us, and especially for his wife.

Jerry brought the Kingdom to Earth. He rested in the grace of God and as he frequently reminded me, he stayed open to the graces. Many people strive to live great lives, attempting great things for God. Every other person is hailed as some kind of hero these days. But few men walk in true godliness, masculinity, humility, and quiet servanthood as did Brother Jerry. Living next door to this great man of God shaped much of who I am today. I am so thankful for his life.

Dining With the Greats of God’s Army

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Photo by Susie Squirrell

We are excited to announce the upcoming arrival of no. 6! I am happy and feeling good and we embrace this new life and addition to the family. Yet with each new child comes a crisis of faith. Is God really asking more of me? How can I handle another baby? Can he provide for this one when it already seems we are stretched to the max?

And then I need another dose of vision. Of the why. Of the high calling. Of the purpose. I’d like to share with you this poem, which does exactly that.

I am a Woman

My willingness to carry life is the revenge, the antidote, the great rebuttal of every murder, every abortion, and every genocide. I sustain humanity. Deep inside of me, life grows. I am death’s opposition.

I have pushed back the hand of darkness today. I have caused there to be a weakening tremor among the ranks of those set on earth’s destruction. Today a vibration that calls angels to attention echoed throughout time. Our laughter threatened hell today.

I dined with the greats of God’s army. I made their meals, and tied their shoes. Today, I walked with greatness, and when they were tired I carried them. I have poured myself out for the cause today.

It is finally quiet, but life stirs inside of me. Gaining strength, the pulse of life sends a constant reminder to both good and evil that I have yielded myself to Heaven and now carry its dream. No angel has ever had such a privilege, nor any man. I am humbled by the honor. I am great with destiny.

I birth the freedom fighters. In the great war, I am a leader of underground resistance. I smile at the disguise of my troops, surrounded by a host of warriors, destiny swirling, invisible yet tangible, and the anointing to alter history. Our footsteps marking land for conquest, we move undetected through the common places.

Today I was the barrier between evil and innocence. I was the gate keeper, watching over the hope of mankind, and no intruder trespassed. There is not an hour of day or night when I turn from my post. The fierceness of my love is unmatched on earth.

And because I smiled instead of frowned the world will know the power of grace. Hope has feet, and it will run to the corners of earth, because I stood up against destruction.

I am a woman. I am a mother. I am the keeper and sustainer of life here on earth. Heaven stands in honor of my mission. No one else can carry my call. I am the daughter of Eve. Eve has been redeemed. I am the opposition of death. I am a woman.

By Christianna Reed Maas

Why We Have 5 Children (and are open for a 6th)

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Sweet baby Viola, proud mama Kristen Brooke

An interesting question came up in our small group discussion Monday night.

How can we influence our culture?

“If you don’t pro-actively influence the culture, the culture will influence you.” (Jim Anderson, Unmasked)

This is known as The Influence Principle. We want to be part of a movement leading the way to true revival!

While there are many effective ways to influence the culture around us, the most significant for me right now is through our family.

Early on in our marriage, I had a terrible fear that was actually quite rational. I was afraid I would get pregnant! I felt so inadequate and certain I would be a terrible mother. I felt clumsy and awkward around babies and little kids and although I knew I should want to be a mom, I was terrified. I hoped someday I would be “ready” but that day wasn’t in sight.

Yet I was reading passages like “…Sons are a heritage from the Lord, children a reward from him. Like arrows in the hands of a warrior are sons born in one’s youth. Blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them. They will not be put to shame when they contend with their enemies I the gate.” (Psalm 127)

Clearly we decided to step out in faith and say yes to the blessing of children. Each pregnancy required a new level of faith and obstacles to overcome. We had three miscarriages; especially difficult times of mourning the loss of life right after we embraced it. We didn’t set out to have five children! I’m the type of person who needs to take things one step at a time, and knowing we would have five would totally overwhelm me.

Most people now look at us, stop and count our kids, ask if they are all mine, comment on only one boy, etc. I usually don’t mind at all and look at it as an opportunity to speak words of life over the vocation of motherhood and the blessing of children.

It was when we packed up to leave the beach one day I knew we are influencing our culture through our children. Someone thoughtfully left a condom for me on my diaper bag, as if to say, ‘don’t you know you can do something about this?’ After I recovered from the shock of it, I recognized the flurry of lies so prevalent in our culture today.

The earth is not overpopulated. We are not running out of resources. The world will end when every nation, tribe, and tongue has heard the gospel, NOT before, no matter what the global warming alarmists preach. God has given us a mandate to raise up a righteous generation, to be fruitful and multiply, to pass on the knowledge of his glory and goodness to the next generation. Motherhood is a task worthy of laying down my life for. It is not a waste of my talents or a drain of financial resources. It is a High Calling and my job is to live a life worthy of this calling.

This is where my faith meets my reality. Can I trust God to provide for the children he’s given us? They are his, aren’t they? My faith-reality is that he can provide for them far better than the best of planning and even unlimited financial resources could do. He has a destiny, a calling, a purpose, and a plan for each life that is a powerful force to be reckoned with.

It is a colossal responsibility to be a parent, it takes a huge amount of faith and sacrifice. I’ve never heard anyone say they regretted having more children. But how many times have I seen the look of longing in a mother’s eyes saying, ‘I wish we’d had one more.’ Or from an older woman saying, ‘I just didn’t think we could handle another, but after they grew up a bit, I realized we could’ve had one or two more.’

I didn’t set out to be a voice of influence in our culture through our family, but here we are, like it or not. The question to ask is, “How can I influence the culture around me?” And maybe the harder question…”How have I been influenced by the culture?”

Coping with Drought, Dry, Hard Times

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We know life is made up of seasons. As I’ve mentioned recently, our family went through a hard season of transition in moving from a comfy, quiet life in the Midwest, United States to living smack in the middle of a couple million people in Africa. But as I reflect, our comfy, quiet life in the Midwest wasn’t easy, either. It was full of long, exhausting days raising little babies, days of being a single mom while my husband pulled long 48 hour shifts with the EMS, dealing with smothering heat and suffocating loneliness. There were many times of wondering what I am doing here, feeling stuck, waiting to feel God’s anointing again.

It felt like Moses living in the desert, tending sheep, learning the value of hard work, walking out the blessing of family and marriage… but all the time wondering what the nagging feeling of destiny was all about. I knew God called us to be where we were, no questions about that. Often I went back to that place of certainty. But even my walk with God felt sort of dry, and my prayers like pebbles rolling around on dusty, hard ground. I grew in perseverance, and day by day grew in understanding how to raise my little family and enjoy our quiet life in the woods. During this time of about five years, I do not recall many great answers to prayer. I do remember many times of calling out to God, dry and desperate. Walking around our property listening to the leaves crunch under my feet, packing a baby on my hip, and trying not to get knocked down by our rambunctious Labrador, all the time searching for the presence of God. Trying to get excited about my butterfly bushes or lavender or irises that refused to respond to my half-hearted attempts at gardening the rocky, clay filled, hard, soil.

In fact, my attempts at gardening felt like my walk with God during this time. Full of rocks, clay, insects and squirrels undoing my hard work. Starting over the next day after the dog dug up my plants. Finally getting my flower box beautifully filled with lovely foliage and blossoms, only to have a week of blasting heat come and wither it to brown leaves. Trying to create beauty but fighting the land.

One of my favorite verses is from Psalm 1 which says, ‘He is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither. Whatever he does prospers.’

This is the man who takes his delight from the law of the Lord. Who purposefully removes himself from the counsel of the wicked, the way of sinners, and the seat of mockers. Someone who meditates day and night on the law of the Lord.

Our years on Cedar Bluff Ridge were a time set apart from a corrupt culture, where God trained me how to be a mother. They were a difficult, dry time when my spiritual roots had to go down quite deep to find water. They were a lonely time when I longed for intimate friendship and instead learned how to release my loneliness to the Lord and run to him. He created special times of connecting with kindred spirits along the way and those were like wells of sweet water.

This blog, DeepRoets, sprung up from that time. It is during the times of drought when a tree’s roots grow deep and strong. The deeper the roots the more drought resistant a tree is. The idea is that you want the water to soak in deep, forcing the roots to likewise have to go deep to get the water. If you water frequently and shallowly, the roots never have to go down deep to get water. Be sure that if you are going through dry time in your walk with God, he will provide times to quench your thirst and in doing that, water your roots.

Dry times in our lives force our spiritual roots to grow deep. To become anchored. So we can be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of his splendor.

Do not despise small beginnings, or dry, hard times. God says to consider it pure joy in trials when our faith is tested because we are developing perseverance! Perseverance must finish its work so that you will be mature and complete, not lacking anything. God has a plan to create a mighty display of his splendor through your life. It will stand the test of time and be a haven for life and produce fruit in season.

Why Your Gut Might Be Wrong

As soon as I saw her come round the corner into the living room where I sat with our baby, I knew something was really wrong. Her eyes were swollen and puffy, face bloated from crying. “What happened, Hope?” This was not the face I expected to see, the joyous heart normally filled to the brim after an evening surrounded by church friends.

“I got hit in the face with a pipe-soccer-net thing (still not sure what this is…) and I think my tooth is chipped.” I quickly glanced in to see the extent of the damage, and noticing a piece missing, I swallowed hard. “And they wouldn’t let me go to Daddy!”

Now my mommy-fierceness made the hair on my neck stand up straight. My daughter sat for who knows how long, crying, not comforted, with a broken tooth, needing her Daddy, and we didn’t know.

Then comes more bad news. We take a flashlight and see a crack running sideways across the width of her permanent front tooth. A crack and a chip.

Have you ever had a dream your teeth were missing? I’ve had this dream several times. Always, I awake with considerable anxiety and feel around my mouth just to make sure it was only a dream. Someone once told me a dream about missing teeth can mean you are lacking wisdom. Interesting, isn’t it? But back to the events at hand.

So me being the type to (as my dad says) ‘prepare for the worst but hope for get best,’ I begin to make a plan. Except the main problem being, we don’t have dental insurance and last time I saw a dentist bill, it had several digits behind it and that was just a cleaning and consultation.

I prayed and cried and imagined my beautiful daughter growing up as a missionary kid with just one front tooth. I reminded God that these are HIS children, and well, he better take care of them. By this time it’s my turn for the red, swollen eyes and I give her some ibuprofen and tuck her in with prayers for a healed tooth and a kiss on the forehead.

Meanwhile thinking…what are we going to do?

Now I must tell you this very day, my husband and I had an interesting discussion about the baseline emotion of a Christian. Did you know that our baseline emotion as a follower of Christ should be joy? The joy of The Lord is our strength. While we experience a broad range of emotions in life…from pain to sadness to anger to loneliness….the baseline that we return to is (or should be) joy. The speaker we listen to asked us…How long does it take you to return to your baseline of joy? When you are derailed, disappointed, hurt…how quickly can you go back to your baseline?

“Truthfully,” I told Gert, “it takes me three days.”

“I know,” he replies. It takes him maybe a half-hour, just enough time for a good cup of coffee.

Why does it take me so long? I have been chewing on this all afternoon. So when Hope comes home, I immediately recognize my joy is derailed.

The next day, I am still trying to get back to my baseline of joy…after all, who wants to wait three days? But it’s hard to break patterns of behavior. That gut reaction…maybe for me it’s fear or anxiety or denial…just might be the wrong response to situations.

So I pray and smile but am not fooling anyone.

I insist we take Hope to the dentist, just for a consultation, to see what needs to be done. Gert is home, so he takes her in. They return in an hour, and Hope tells me, “Mom, they glued my tooth!”

The chip was cemented, crack repaired, x-rays showed only a superficial crack.

For $65.

Heyyyy, what?

God’s way of showing me he will look after us.

The strange thing is, my old pattern of behavior wanted to still be anxious about her tooth, even after it was fixed! I am so accustomed to stress, I had to verbally release myself to get back to my baseline of joy.

God is working in me, restoring hope in him, a hope that does not disappoint. Romans 5:5. I want my gut reaction to life to be hope in him who does not disappoint. God is using this crack, running sideways in a tooth, to break off an big iceberg-sized flaw in my soul. I do not have to endure three days of muck. My joy is increasing, and feels like an unclogged stream of fresh water. It is liberating.

How long does it take you to return to your baseline of joy? Have you considered this concept before?

It Pleases God to Make You Strong

I’m relieved.

Relieved 2013 is over.

I am astounded we are in such good condition. There were new lows in our marriage as my husband and I wrestled with upside-down and different roles. Instead of him out of the home as a pastor and paramedic 72+ hours a week, he was working from home. Oh wait, first we had to define ‘work.’ What is a missionary raising support supposed to be doing, anyway? Such a strange time. We figured out a clunky system of sharing the homeschooling responsibility, sharing support-raising (mostly me wanting him to do it all), me taking care of my dreamy-eyed baby girl, and him managing much of the household (used to be my job). Yes, it was a weird time. I battled post-partum depression like I’ve never experienced before—the cold, dreary winter making it worse. Our (then) 7- year old daughter developed stress-induced insomnia and started sleep-walking. Then my husband left for a month to South Africa to get some answers to big questions about our ministry. All of this was done with minimal sleep, minimal income, in a falling-apart doublewide with a sketchy gentlemen’s agreement for rent. And this was just the first 5 months of the year.

I guess I’m feeling honest today.

If I can share my best memory of 2013, it is of my dad walking in from the cold to our linoleum-floored kitchen with freshly baked cranberry muffins. His bike parked outside, glasses all fogged up, our kids bouncing up and down and rallying for attention from Grandpa. Pretty much every memory I have of myself is holding a baby in my bathrobe. That’s why I secretly hate Skype, by the way. Somehow we were always on Skype in 2013, with a huge audience…either my sister-in-law’s busy household in S. Africa or in front of our dear church family in Missouri. And I’m in my bathrobe, with coffee in hand, spit-up on my shoulder and big raccoon eyes…or, I’m cleaned up but worried one of my kids is picking their nose live on screen in front of our church!

Which brings me to Jurassic Park. You know how John Hammond created dinosaurs from mosquito DNA, and the dinosaurs who were at first cute and novel became an uncontrollable force with a mind of their own?

Lately I’ve felt my husband and I created our own version of Jurassic Park. We have 5 amazing, energetic gifts of life with minds of their own who make a noise best classified as varying decibels of roar. We are responsible to guide and steer them in the right direction, while keeping cautious boundaries in place. It is a daunting, colossal task. Our kids are growing up. Just as I started to feel rather overwhelmed, God provided food and direction for my soul as a parent through one of my favorite authors, Sally Clarkson. We are praying and writing down 5 ways to leave a legacy for our children, and then practical goals in how to implement our plan. I am excited as we figure out who we are as a family and what our values are.

So I’m relieved 2013 is behind us and 2014 has begun! I am shedding an old, dead skin of flesh. God is stretching me in new ways. I feel like we have an open road ahead of us, and in many ways, that we are equipped for whatever lies ahead. Not to say it will be easy, because our faith is really being tested. Since I am being honest, it is still really hard for me to not have a normal job with a steady paycheck. Don’t every romanticize missionary life! This is part of the shedding process. Today, God probed my heart…do I want Him more than gold or silver? Is He the one who can satisfy me? Does my heart long after him, or after other things like the security of a ‘normal’ life? But this is the life he has called us to, and he is building Jurassic strength in me to take on the challenges.

I sure miss you all. I would give anything to drink an extra-hot, Grande, Toffee-Nut Latte with half the syrup from Starbucks with you. Or to hear the sound of my parent’s clock chiming again. Or to see my kids playing with their cousins in the States. I miss that feeling of belonging somewhere.

2014 is going to be a great year. Thanks for letting me share some of the real, grueling parts of last year with you. Raising kids, building faith, and following the Lord is messy business. But as I was reminded recently, God is transforming us from glory to glory (2 Corinthians 3:12-18). As Matthew Henry says, ‘we should not rest contented without an experimental knowledge of the transforming power of the gospel…bringing us into a conformity to the temper and tendency of the glorious gospel of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.’

It pleases God to make us strong. This is my word for the year. Keep pressing on!