Stay Open to the Graces

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

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)

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?”

Why Submitting to Your Husband Gives You the Upper Hand


I believe in the biblical principle of wives submitting to their husbands as to the Lord. This was not always the case.

My wordly views stemmed straight from our corrupt culture. That a strong, independent woman would think for herself and submission meant being meek and insecure and dominated by a man.

Yet as an 18 year old, the truth of the gospel slowly unfolded before my eyes and a new image of submission appeared. One that grew into a spectacular cathedral of thinking.

Husbands are to love their wives as Christ loved the church. Wives are to submit to their husbands, as husbands are the head of their wives like Christ is the head of the church.

I love the way The Message paraphrases Ephesians 5:22-28.

Wives, understand and support your husbands in ways that show your support for Christ. The husband provides leadership to his wife the way Christ does to his church, not by domineering but by cherishing. So just as the church submits to Christ as he exercises such leadership, wives should likewise submit to their husbands.

Husbands, go all out in your love for your wives, exactly as Christ did for the church—a love marked by giving, not getting. Christ’s love makes the church whole. His words evoke her beauty. Everything he does and says is designed to bring the best out of her, dressing her in dazzling white silk, radiant with holiness. And that is how husbands ought to love their wives. They’re really doing themselves a favor—since they’re already “one” in marriage. (Ephesians 5:22-28 MSG)

So when I submit to my husband, I am doing so in obedience to God, and thus it is an act of faith. I am entrusting my well-being to my husband, and in doing so trusting in his obedience to God to love me and do what’s best for me.

If I put my money on myself, and choose to do what I think is best rather than allowing my husband to lead, then ultimately I limit my experience of the sacrificial love of Christ evidenced through my husband.

This may or may not make sense to you. But God continues to challenge me with just how far I will take this concept of submission. Because the little things do matter, they add up, and bigger things are on the horizon.

Early in our courtship, a friend also in a cross-cultural marriage relayed this wisdom to me: “Remember, you are a team, and you are on the same side.”

So we are on the same side, my husband and I, and I believe in marriage God can use husbands and wives to do things together that they cannot do separately. But this is contingent on his leading, her following. Often I am glad the burden of leadership and can we say decision-making doesn’t fall on my shoulders. You don’t want to know how long it takes me to figure out what to order in a restaurant or what toothbrush to buy!

If my husband is actually willing to lay down his life for me, what do I have to lose by submitting to him? If he loves me as he loves himself, he will give me nothing but the very best. As he seeks out direction from God, he has my best interest in mind. As I honor him, respect him, and submit to him, the door opens for God’s abundant blessing and provision in my life and marriage. In humbling myself through the act of submission, God can raise me up through the nobility of a husband fulfilling his call to protect and provide.

I’ve had a recent struggle with submission. After a series of moves in 2013 I said something to the effect of “I am happy to die right here in this place, I shall never move again.”

That sounds like a song. Maybe I sang it.

And then I hear the words I scorn. I resist hearing them. I am sarcastic and unyielding as I know what he wants. To move.

From my point of view, it doesn’t matter that this other house is just 5 minutes from where we live now. Ocean view, shmocean view. I’m not impressed. So what if we will save money or that the house is being renovated with new carpet, paint, and backsplash as we speak. I can think of nothing good to say about another move.

I can feel the anger boiling under my skin and suddenly I’m sure he is just thinking of himself. He just wants that stupid view, I say to myself.

But didn’t I ask the Lord, way back when we contemplated a move to Cape Town, for a view of both the sea and the mountains? Nawhh, I don’t think so. I look around at our current home with rose-colored glasses, not seeing the broken tiles and fixtures and leaking tub and postage-stamp yard.

Since I promised to pray about it, I grudgingly go before the Lord and pour out my pitiful case, certain the Lord will stroke my pride and say I’m right and my husband is being selfish.

But as I pray, I clearly hear God telling me to submit. I think I actually stomped my foot! How embarrassing.

The truth is, even after I give the A-Okay to my husband on this move, I am still pouting. It comes out in my attitude, in a subtle hostility and undermining way. When God told me I needed to submit on this one, he didn’t mean go talk to my friends and tell them how much I’m dreading this move. He didn’t say go email your mother and sister and get them to feel sorry for you.

When I am confronted with my unpleasant attitude, then I see the disparity of it. I have been playing the martyr.


Instead of rising in my posture and position as a much-loved woman, by my God and my husband, I sulked in the ashes, not seeing the full blessing God wanted to release to me through the desire and will of my husband.

And then, I get the revelation of a truly biblical attitude toward submission.

“I am trusting the Lord that there is a reason for this move {my act of submission}.”

What I cannot see, I trust God for. When I am called to submit, it is an act of faith in the goodness of a kind and loving God. No sooner than these words are out of my mouth, I feel the anger dissipate. And when we arrive back to our house after 2 weeks away, my heart is in an entirely different place. A new song of praise is living there, and I am excited to move, to make another house into home. And I realize that all along I have been holding back, knowing that we are not really settled in the house we live in now.

So while the world scorns humility and submission, God celebrates it. It is another chance for him to radiate his supernatural grace through the covenant of marriage. Submission is beautiful and holy and evidenced in Christ himself as he lay down his life for us. And, as I now know, God will not be fooled into thinking you are submitting when you are not! Neither will your husband, for that matter. Submission is a matter of the heart.

Photo courtesy of
Thank you Todd & Dezi for sharing your amazing photo with us!

Though it Linger

We are back in our home in the beautiful Western Cape of South Africa after two weeks traveling with our 5 kids to a missions retreat. It was a hairy ride up and a beautiful one back. Sometimes I feel like we barely survive traveling with kids (read about our trip here) but you know I will be doing it again! Grace and short-term memory loss help with the thought of such future travels ;-).

I’ve been wanting to share this post with you for a few weeks. I’m excited for two reasons. One, Oswald Chambers captured my attention with this deep and potent word, and I am still stirred by it. Two, our friend Janelle Willis took this amazing picture and when I saw it, I knew…Habakkuk 2:3. If she had hurried the photo, the colors of brilliance would be weak. The timing was just so. Thank you, Janelle, for sharing your stunning photo.


If we lose “the heavenly vision” God has given us, we alone are responsible—not God. We lose the vision because of our own lack of spiritual growth. If we do not apply our beliefs about God to the issues of everyday life, the vision God has given us will never be fulfilled. The only way to be obedient to “the heavenly vision” is to give our utmost for His highest—our best for His glory. This can be accomplished only when we make a determination to continually remember God’s vision. But the acid test is obedience to the vision in the details of our everyday life—sixty seconds out of every minute, and sixty minutes out of every hour, not just during times of personal prayer or public meetings.

“Though it tarries, wait for it . . .” (Habakkuk 2:3). We cannot bring the vision to fulfillment through our own efforts, but must live under its inspiration until it fulfills itself. We try to be so practical that we forget the vision. At the very beginning we saw the vision but did not wait for it. We rushed off to do our practical work, and once the vision was fulfilled we could no longer even see it. Waiting for a vision that “tarries” is the true test of our faithfulness to God. It is at the risk of our own soul’s welfare that we get caught up in practical busy-work, only to miss the fulfillment of the vision. Watch for the storms of God. The only way God plants His saints is through the whirlwind of His storms. Will you be proven to be an empty pod with no seed inside? That will depend on whether or not you are actually living in the light of the vision you have seen. Let God send you out through His storm, and don’t go until He does. If you select your own spot to be planted, you will prove yourself to be an unproductive, empty pod. However, if you allow God to plant you, you will “bear much fruit” (John 15:8).
Obedience to the Heavenly Vision, Oswald Chambers

These words resonate soundly in my spirit. Do you have a vision from the Lord? God sent us to very southernmost place in Africa, Cape Town, with a dream and vision to disciple, train, and help lead a generation of young adults in reaching the unreached. You know what is odd in a wonderful sort of way? We are finally old enough to be ‘fathers’ and ‘mothers’ towards the younger crowd. We are at that age when we can be more than just a few steps ahead but really influence a younger generation. I love it!

God is stirring up my dreams. Dreams I had when I was 19 and 20 that were either just begun and then put on hold or stayed in the seed form altogether. Honestly I let some of these dreams die. It was easier that way, especially in the harried season of birthing babies and diapers and nursing and sleep deprivation.

It is exciting (and daunting…) to be reminded of dreams and vision again. Some days I feel like there is no way I can be of any use to anyone, not even knowing if I should start with the laundry or the dishes or getting myself dressed before lunchtime. And homeschooling? What grade are my kids in again??

Can you relate to this?

But then there is the storm of God, when God sends you out, and decides it’s time for you to be released. I love how Chambers says we must live under the inspiration of the vision until it fulfills itself. God has a way of working in us as we wait it out, of planting desire in our spirits and then as we work out our salvation he waters those seeds and they sprout and begin to produce life.

How has it happened in your life? Looking back on the last 15 years, I have changed and grown so much. But it’s interesting to note that my dreams and vision have not changed but rather matured. Much like that rock hard avocado I bought the other day. After what felt like a generation of waiting, it was finally ripe and perfect for our favorite food…guacamole!

I am still in the early to middle stage of raising our children, of being a homemaker, of learning how to love my husband and build the nations of the earth through our family. This is my first calling, focus, and passion of my heart. I suppose 95% of my time and energy is spent on being the keeper of our home. Yet God in his brilliant goodness can anoint all hours of the day, even in the life of a stay-at-home-missionary-homeschooling-wife-and-mother to bring forth fruit and fulfillment.

Be encouraged that God can cause us to dream dreams again! I am thankful for these words of wisdom today as we carry on raising our 5 disciples but also walk forward with a vision to tear down darkness in our culture and build up sons and daughters from all nations of the earth.

A Series of Unfortunate Un-adventures

Let me tell you a little story. Once there was a family who, bold, brave, and optimistic, packed their belongings tightly in their well-travelled mini-bus and headed north to a far-away place, on their way to a missionary retreat. Their foresight allowed them the prudence of departing one day later than planned, as to allow their sweet little children one more day to recover from a tiny cold. Long before dawn, five chirpy children nestled cozily into their car-beds laid out carefully by their daddy, their duvets, sheets, and pillows piled high. Eventually nodding off to a long-winded sermon CD, they slept soundly over a mountain pass and through an extraordinary tunnel carved through the mountains. Then one little head popped up and said, “Daddy, my tummy hurts.”

The mildy concerned but still optimistic mommy and daddy said, “Oh, don’t worry little one, you’re just a bit carsick. Sit up, and look straight ahead.”

They drove on, comforting this little one when she emptied out the scarce contents of her tummy. A few hours passed and it was time for breakfast, when the mommy noticed she didn’t feel so well. When she passed up an anticipated steaming hot Wimpy coffee, her husband compassionately asked if she is pregnant.

NO, I’m not pregnant!” came the disagreeable response.

The poor mommy turned green and ran for the bathroom.

Later, after consuming many snacks and yogurt drinks, after many construction delays and routine police checkpoints, the little boy started howling from the backseat. He, too, experienced the effects of what this bold, brave and no longer optimistic family realized was the sudden onset of stomach flu.

Again and again this unfortunate little boy headed for the side of the road, his daddy learning just how quickly he could pull over and hit the brakes while passing coal trucks and other inspired African vehicles.


While on such a stop, another little girl popped up and said the now much dreaded words, “Mommy, I don’t feel so good.” Her devoted but barely standing mommy quickly handed her the second-to-last barf bag. Then the brave oldest daughter burst into a puddle of tears. “I don’t want to throw up!!!” she wailed, “Why does this have to happen every time we go on a car trip?”

It was then this mommy and daddy realized they were three for three with road trips and the flu.

Time for some prayer! That is not God’s blessing…and his word says he will watch over all our comings and goings! So they prayed and broke any curses off their travel time. Unfortunately the sickness still had to run its course.

The tired, nauseous, and edgy family finally arrived at their half-way stopover for the night. They phoned ahead to forewarn their lovely but temporarily crippled aunt of the sudden onset of stomach flu and asked to be quarantined immediately upon arrival. Unfortunately that was not to be the case as guests were already occupying her bed and breakfast rooms. So while the family tried to be polite and sit around the dinner table with an exquisite homemade lasagna and salad, events were not to move in a positive direction.

The high-context Afrikaans culture of the daddy’s family dictated a table set with china, a delicate table-cloth, wine glasses, and conversation with the former Dean of Theology at the University of Bloemfontein involving the merits of studying Latin.

When suddenly, while the mommy with bloodshot eyes tried to feed lasagna to her fussy baby, this sad fussy baby became the last child to serve projectile-vomit all over the dinner table. Both of them covered in vomit, the humiliated, weary, and queasy mommy quickly excused herself to find the recompense of a hot bath and bed for herself and sick baby.

The next day she awoke feeling much better after sleeping for eleven and a half hours straight to the greetings of an amazing, healthy, considerate and hard-working husband who took care of the baby and all vomiting children through the night.

Enjoying a ride in Tannie Amanda’s walker as she recovers from knee surgery

Van scrubbed and disinfected and vomit-covered duvets, sheets, pillows, and clothing bagged for laundering they stopped for some Power-Aide and finished the drive to their destination, passing spectacular fields of blooming cosmos along the way, without further ado.



The End.



photo credit

I Will Give Them a Crown of Beauty

As I write this, it is Gabrielle’s 5th birthday, and a new tradition is begun. We take turns with each of our kids to have a special “date” with dad. This ranges from a trip to the grocery store (special to be alone when you have four other siblings vying for this privilege!) or out for a milkshake. Once it even involved shopping for clothes at a Thrift Store.

But today, on her birthday, it’s G’s turn. I fully expect her to in be in complete princess regalia as she goes out to breakfast with her Daddy. As the news spread through our home that G is going out for a birthday breakfast with Dad, each child smiled and commented wistfully…”I want to do that.” It certainly helps that our favorite restaurant in South Africa gives a voucher for a free kids meal on their birthday!

It is so important for Dads to make a habit of filling up their daughter’s hearts with words and actions of love, affirmation, affection. It’s easy for me to smother my kids with love and kisses. Yes, they need that too. But something different happens when their father kneels down and looks them in the eye and says, “You’re beautiful.”


“A father-daughter relationship is the God-ordained birthplace of true beauty in a young woman. Just as God spoke words into a formless void and the world came into being at creation, a father’s words create beauty, security, and confidence in a daughter. When words of blessing, looks of love, and pure touch have gone forth from a father and done their work in a daughter’s spirit, she is not drawn to the other voices that may want to lure her. She is not dependent on those other voices to validate her because she has already been securely validated in her beauty through her father.

There has been a lot of talk about spiritual warfare in recent years. If you want to fight hell and the powers of darkness that seek to destroy the hearts of our daughters, I know a type of spiritual warfare that creates value in a daughter’s spirit. It is called “Taking your Daughter out for Tea” or “Going to Her Soccer Game,” and it works in direct opposition to the agenda of hell and darkness that wants to destroy their lives. They need our time, attention, questions, and interest.”

Jim Anderson, Unmasked, pgs. 44,48

We are so thankful for this princess, this daughter of the King; for her delightful spirit, easy smile, and way of bringing out the best in people.