Monday, January 24, 2011

Thoroughly & Completely

Whenever the rain comes down hard enough to start bouncing on the pavement, I remember what it felt like to live in a flood zone; holding my breath that the pummeling rain wouldn't turn into a cresting river.

This morning as the rain poured out the side of our gutters creating a waterfall feature, I was realizing again how many life lessons and analogies I have from my time in a bizarre old farmhouse. (If you want to read more about the events of 911 Hampton here.) One of the lessons I learned was how God thoroughly and completely answers prayer. We had prayed for Him to provide a way for us to remodel our 1936 farmhouse. He did. Thoroughly and completely. He didn't just "send a check in the mail" so we could have our dream. He used a Ford Explorer crashing through the kitchen, a flood, and fantastic insurance. He used our remodel to teach us to trust Him as our True foundation. We learned to run to Him with our fears, that our earthly dreams can be broken in a moment and only things built in Christ will last. Ultimately the things we learned in process were more valuable than if we
had been handed the keys to an end product.
But oh, it hurt! My favorite teacup shattered along with our computer and a favorite desk in the 'hit'. All the sheetrock we worked so hard on had to be ripped down along with my freshly painted rooms. For months I cringed when I heard a car driving fast next to any house. Clean up after the flood was so overwhelming that we procrastinated for months. The cost was high, but our remodel was thorough and complete. Done any other way would have only scraped the surface.
This past year God has answered my prayers in the same fashion: unexpectedly and painfully. For example, for years I prayed that S. would take wise leadership in our finances.
Hooray- God has been answering!
Argh- He's done it by bringing us to nothing and then convicting S. to prudence and leadership. In the process He hasn't forgotten what I need to learn; dependance on Him, relinquishing control, that it won't kill us to eat cheap meat for awhile.
As I whine I am reminded, "Thoroughly and completely. The Lord is answering thoroughly and completely."

Most of my prayers in the past year have been answered with a brutal "thoroughly and completely" or with a "no". I know without doubt I will look back at this season and see God's big faithful handprint on it. However, in the midst I've felt like "God's going to do what He's going to do. I don't even want to ask." Then I resort to cowering under my gold 'quiet time' chair instead of sitting, praying boldly, on it. Somewhere along the way I didn't even want to pray anymore. When I did, it was only words like " gracious...mercy!" that emerged.

Last week I read Isaiah 37 and 38. They are about the king of Judah, Hezekiah, and two separate requests he makes of the Lord. Specifically, the one that spoke straight into my soul was as Hezekiah was on his death bed and begged the Lord to let him live. The Lord had already told him through Isaiah that his life was ending. The Lord answers "yes" and adds fifteen years to Hezekiah's life. He then leads Hezekiah through a process of acknowledging his own sin and inability to save himself- bringing God glory and showing to the nations that the God of Judah is the God able to save. Thoroughly and completely.

Even though I already know God answers prayer and even though I've experienced these things... I had fresh eyes after cowering in exhaustion. The relief in Hezekiah's prayer: going from desperation to the amazement that God was about to restore him somehow became my relief. It is my relief that God does answer thoroughly and completely. It is my relief that God "has heard my prayer and seen my tears" (Isaiah 38:5). It energizes me to know that He has changed course because of the prayers of His own.

I've been expectantly waiting for the Lord to bring me to this place. Foolishly I thought He would accomplish a turning in my heart by turning my circumstances. Instead, He used His Word- piercing me in a way that words, unfortunately, can't do justice. You'd think my thick head would wrap around the fact that He doesn't merely work in circumstances or skim the surface...He works thoroughly and completely.

Friday, January 21, 2011

A Little Disturbing

From what I know about explorer Francis Drake, I would have disagreed with him on at least 2 counts: I have nothing against Spain and I like Catholics. However… I stumbled on a prayer he wrote as he ventured out to the west coast of South America and it resonated deeply with me:

Prayer of Francis Drake, 1577

Disturb us, Lord, when

We are too well pleased with ourselves,

When our dreams have come true

Because we have dreamed too little,

When we arrived safely

Because we sailed too close to the shore.

Disturb us, Lord, when with the abundance of things we possess

We have lost our thirst for the waters of life;

Having fallen in love with life,

We have ceased to dream of eternity

And in our efforts to build a new earth,

We have allowed our vision Of the new Heaven to dim.

Disturb us, Lord, to dare more boldly,

To venture on wider seas

Where storms will show your mastery;

Where losing sight of land,

We shall find the stars.

We ask You to push back

The horizons of our hopes;

And to push into the future

In strength, courage, hope, and love.

I have been disturbed. It is uncomfortable. It keeps me up at night, contemplating what He calls me to. It sacrifices my comfort. It involves a level of breaking, loss, and empathy that I would never choose for myself.

Yet, if I were comfortable, complacent, self-satisfied, or in love with my life...well, that alternative is much, much more frightening.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Martin Luther King, Jr. Day

At the library this week I dug up three children's books pertaining to Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. One paralleled Martin Luther King Jr. with Abraham Joshua Heschel, a Jewish man who came to the United States shortly before his family was killed during Hitler's invasion of Poland. One book is the story of Rosa Parks, and I was especially glad to find an easy reader book from Ruby Bridges' point of view telling about being the first black girl in an all-white school.

My kids have never known that some people are discriminated against. With an armful of books and new concepts... we began reading. Then we stopped reading. Repeatedly. Because they fired questions at me in bewilderment. "Hitler really killed people because they were Jews? Did he know them?" "Where is the drinking fountain for brown skin people? What do they DO if they can't use a white bathroom?" "Why did Ruby need U.S. Marshals to go to school with her? Who would hurt her?"

They were appalled and confused. Later that night we began to connect it to our world- if we lived separately from people of other colors, what would that be like? They named their friends in Sunday School who have different colored skin- each time making mention that they would miss them if they couldn't share a classroom with them.

"What if Gage and Jude couldn't go to McDonalds with us?" This was the closest to home example. Darla particularly couldn't imagine anyone not loving her cousins just because they have brown skin. "Don't people know that Ethiopians can even teach us a new language?!"

I am very thankful that my kids are learning that all people are created by God in His image. I am thankful that it comes as a surprise that not all people believe the same. I am thankful that they are learning now that some things are worth fighting for (or...participating in peaceful activism for...) Their response sobered me. The history I shared with them is familiar to me but triggered fresh passion and 'fight' in me for those that are passed over, looked down on, or persecuted.

With a completely different tone- my boys were delighted to get some toys of different color for Christmas this year. Hudson tells me this is Gage and him:
And, if you can see the resemblance, the following is clearly Jude and Everett:
I'm sure the super heros are just preparing for a peaceful protest...

Friday, January 14, 2011


One of our daily routines is "tuck-in time". All of us Taylors sit on the floor and take turns praying. Then the little Taylors crawl in bed, and S. and I make the rounds kissing and talking with each kid.
Most of the time as all five of us take turns praying there is also reprimanding as kids elbow, nudge, or pull at each other. "Quit kicking the wall. Making faces is not respectful! Shhhh, Darla is praying!" and other such instruction becomes essential. Often the kids rattle off their 'regular' prayer without reflection and S. and I nearly catapult them to beds in attempt to start our own quiet evening.

Then, on occasion, the heavens part and we see something deeper. Tonight was one of those, and unfortunately S. is speaking at a middle school retreat and missed it! I was the only one to witness three small children with eyes closed, hands folded, quiet. Actually quiet.

Hudson started off with "Dear Jesus, thank you for bats, iguanas, and scarlet macaws, and strawberries, and blueberries, and all those things you make. Keep helping it to rain so everything you make stays alive. Help be with ALL the people. Amen."

Darla was next: "Jesus, help Dad as he talks to students- help him say what you want him to say and help them listen. Also help the person that needs the ambulance we saw. Comfort them and talk to them. Provide for them and put on them your love. And help me not to have bad dreams. Amen."

The ball was rolling and Everett was up: "Jesus, Thank you Diego, Mommy, Daddy, Bruthy, Darla, and Mom let me watch Diego. Amen."

My prayers included a huge thank you for the blessing of my kids.
Then I gave kisses and tucked them in. Then I went back to bring them water. Then I fetched a cough drop. At some point Hudson needed a band aid. Then Everett snuck down the hall with an excuse that I don't believe was even in English.

...and now, in this moment, my prayers include a thank you for sleeping kids.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Fruitful Fields

I've been camping in Isaiah 32-34. I landed there because it's required for my Bible Study. I stayed there because it's the encouragement and hope as an ugly year ends and new one starts fresh. In Isaiah 32:15 Isaiah prophesies a time where the Lord will bring justice and relief: "Until the Spirit is poured upon us from on high, and the wilderness becomes a fruitful field, and the fruitful field is counted as a forest."

When you've spent time in the wilderness- the craving to see it transformed into a fruitful field becomes pretty intense. My trip through the wilderness in the past year has given me a much deeper hunger for the things that only my God can accomplish.

Isaiah goes on to say, "Then justice will dwell in the wilderness, and righteousness remain in the fruitful field. The work of righteousness will be peace, and the effect of righteousness, quietness and assurance forever. My people will dwell in a peaceful habitation, in secure dwellings, and in quiet resting places, though hail comes down on the forest, and the city is brought low in humiliation. Blessed are you who sow beside all waters..."Isaiah 32:16-20

I know that the promise of peace, quietness, and blessing that Isaiah is talking of won't completely come to pass until this world is over. Yet I am also thankful that He gives me small little pockets of this as He sustains me in this life.

A year ago we were in nasty terrain but beginning to hear the Lord in a new way. It reminds me of God allowing the Israelites to wander for 40 years so that in the desert He could teach them to hear His voice, reveal Himself, and establish them as a nation. He has definitely been doing those things in us (although I think we'll stick to just being a family and not make a nation out of it...)

I am hoping for pockets of God's rest and graciousness this year...and have been noticing some tufts of grass popping up in what has previously been desert.

One of these blessings has been a new office for BIG OAK. S. had been praying for a very cheap option as he has been working hard to be a faithful and frugal steward of the resources we've been blessed with. He discovered a beautiful office in Lynden and only pays $100 a month. I am incredibly encouraged by the doors the Lord keeps opening when S. has been obedient, prayerful, and responsible. As he is faithful with a has increased. December was by far the best month financially for BIG OAK and many times I was brought to tears by the people moved to contribute.
S. has quite a few speaking opportunities within the next 2 months, including speaking to over 100 middle schoolers this weekend.
He is also working with a Bible software company as we try to make a;life a curriculum for students to use on mobile devices. There are some cool ideas floating around and this year we get to meet with people who can put feet on them.
I am constantly astounded that it's been a year since we had an official "job" "benefits" a "savings account" that was building and not draining... and yet I paid my mortgage and got groceries this month. We've scraped the bottom of the barrel but even though we are down to one car and one less bank account, the Lord has given us wisdom in what we do have. By His grace (and some generous family members) we even had an abundance of Christmas gifts! To me that was an unexpected oasis.

After 4 months of being sick I made it to the gym last week. I certainly never knew that an upper body workout could make me emotional! I'm still on my third round of antibiotics and I still do have coughing fits but I am able to sleep solid nights and my energy level is improving. I'll take what I can get.

S. took this following picture one morning as he pulled out of our neighborhood. You can see that in no way are we in a literal desert!
I know the deepest longings of my heart will only be satisfied in my relationship with Christ and only completely when all the filth of this world is wiped away, but in the meantime I am enjoying these sweet glimpses of His hand.

Friday, January 7, 2011


As a mom I feel like I should say, "I can't believe my baby girl is already six!" but I can. In fact, I often wonder if I missed a year because she has always seemed about a year ahead of her age. She is my kindergartner who is having no problem with her first grade curriculum. She is an avid reader; passionate about science and history. Her ability to be uninhibited in her question asking and exploration leads to quick knowledge and by the grace of God- a dose of wisdom to accompany it.

Last month she brought her brothers and a jar outside to collect sap while S. put up Christmas lights. S. said, "Darla- that sap will make a huge mess."
"But Dad, we need to collect it for animal food."
"Darla, no animals eat sap."
She raised her eyebrows and said, "Yes huh, Dad. Pygmy marmosets eat sap."
"What are pygmy marmosets?"
With an I-can't-believe-you-don't-know-this sigh she said, "The smallest monkey!"
Which was followed by S. giving me the I-can't-believe-she-knows-this-stuff look.
I returned the look when she made up a song about a butterfly hair clip in the bathroom and one of the lines had to do with "hiding from a predator- this butterfly doesn't want to be prey."

In reflecting on Darla's year and her character...I've realized that much of who she is came out in the party she planned for her sixth birthday. She decided that one of the important components of her party would be a "breakable doll party" with girls because for Christmas she received her first porcelain doll- a very big deal.

The week before the party Darla said, "We'll have it in a flower garden."
"Uh...Darla? It's January. There aren't flowers and there's no way we can sit outside in fancy clothes."
She was disappointed so we set to work making a flower garden. She was proud and I'm thinking it might be awhile before I can take it down.
The morning of her birthday, Darla chose one of her gifts to let her brothers open for her. She can be bossy but this little girl loves her brothers and can't stand it if they feel left out.
One of Darla's birthday requests was that she could have 'special time' with Beppe (my mom) to get her ears pierced. My mom took her the afternoon of her birthday and Darla sat on her lap, squeezed her hands and later told me, "I only cried for 3 seconds."
Darla loves food. We've worked hard with her this year to help her evaluate, "Do you really want a third bowl of oatmeal? What is your tummy saying?" Finally, she will stop herself in asking for seconds, cock her head as though she's listening to her stomach, and then inform us, "I think my tummy wants just a little more."

Cupcakes are standard for our birthday parties but Darla requested "chocolate cake with pink frosting and a 6 on it." She is also very affirming and told me, "Mom- it's the prettiest cake I ever saw."
Darla told her girl cousins to come to her 'breakable doll party' the morning after her everyone-inclusive McDonalds party. She said, "They can wear the fanciest dress they have at their house. They should get their hair "fanced up" and wear jewels if they want. Tell them to bring a breakable doll."
Darla's outfit of new tennis shoes with her dress perfectly depicts her personality- girly with a streak of tomboy.

After everyone left and just Darla and I were left in the house, we flopped down at the table. I said, "Wow, Darla. What a party. I'm wiped out."
She said, "I could go for more cake."
My "no-to-more-sweets" was on auto-pilot but I recanted, grabbed 2 forks, and kicked off her year with cake for lunch.
Last year I prayed that Darla's creativity would flourish, that she would not fear taking risks, and that her heart would be tender to the Lord.
I am thanking the Lord that He clearly answered all of those prayers. Her creativity has been at the forefront through her birthday celebrations. It was a risk to throw her into first grade without doing kindergarten, ballet, and a busy schedule. She's been courageous and willing. This year she asked the Lord to come in her heart and has taken her commitment very seriously.

My prayer for Darla's next year is that God would continue giving her sensitivity to Him. I pray that she will know His voice, pour out her heart to Him, and see Him working in her life.

Happy Birthday, Darla Jules!

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Happy New Year

In thinking about 2010, my "hymn of the year" comes to mind. Much of "How Firm a Foundation" has applied to my life in the past year, but specifically this week I was humming these verses:

"When through the deep waters I call thee to go,
The rivers of sorrow shall not overflow;
For I will be with thee thy troubles to bless
And sanctify to thee thy deepest distress.

When through fiery trials thy pathway shall lie,
My grace, all-sufficient, shall be thy supply.
The flames shall not hurt thee; I only design
Thy dross to consume and thy gold to refine."

Dross is defined as:

impurity: worthless or dangerous material that should be removed; "there were impurities in the water"
slag: the scum formed by oxidation at the surface of molten metals

This year has been defined by flames consuming "scum". As a result...we are being refined. Also as a result... I am beyond ecstatic to see 2010 come to an end. In fact, all month I had an urge to burn something. Every time someone said, "I can't believe 2010 is almost over!" I thought, "Let it burn."

So on New Year's Eve in an inspired moment I took a lighter outside with my 2010 calendar (it would cause less damage than some of the other things I considered burning).
When S. came home to find me in the backyard in a burning lost love for the past year...he laughed and cheered.
At midnight, we sighed relief.

Happy New Year!