Thursday, May 30, 2013

Green Pastures Beside Still Waters...

For all the sunrises and sunsets between August 29th, 1982 and  May 17th, 2013 --------- there's been a place of "green pastures beside still waters" for us in Georgia.

So when God made it clear He was calling us to the other side of the world ---- we had to work our fingers a bit to make them loosen the grip they had on the place we had always called home.
When God said, "lay it all down, walk away, follow me, i'm moving you..." it took our hearts a few months to let go.
We are proof of God's good patience.

Beginning February 3, 2011 my dear Steve and i began praying for two things we'd never prayed for before.
We began praying...
1 - for the family that was going to come live at 6355 Mockingbird Road.
2 - for a place on the other side of the world for us to lay our heads.
Specifically, we prayed for a place of "green pastures beside still waters" chosen by God for us in Kenya.

So we prayed and asked and waited and watched...

Two years later answers came.

On May 1st, God answered the second prayer ---- like this...
In late April we flew to Kitale, Kenya to prepare for our relocation. We needed to get serious about finding a house where we could live.  Shortly after we arrived, Steve became very sick (not something that happens often). There were so many people to meet, things to learn, and places to become acquainted with. We were overwhelmed. Steve was not well enough to house-hunt until several days after we arrived --- time was growing short. Then on May 1st we spoke at a morning devotional time for students and staff at ATS; afterwards we were to go house-hunting. The principal of the seminary had made some phone calls trying to find possible options. We learned that when homes in the Milimani area come available, they are occupied quickly. It's a safe place to live --- it's in high demand. So, at first there did not seem to be many (if any) options. The principal of ATS  called another friend asking if she knew of any possibilities. We held our breath...
She told him she was so surprised he had called her.
She said her husband and she had just talked the night before---- and faced the reality ---- they needed to rent their home for a year or two. A weak economy and disappointing business transactions had put them in a fragile situation. She wondered if we would be willing to consider renting her home? We had not seen her home, but had been told it was a beautiful place on a large plot (we instantly wondered if it would be within our budgeted price range). We had seen a few options --- but nothing that fit us. One place looked like the perfect "out of Africa" setting but inside the floor literally swayed down when we walked across it and bat guano dripped down the walls. Oh Lord, please no... 
So as we drove out to see her place, we prayed. Please Lord, bring us to Your green pastures beside still waters where YOU will restore our souls and let us lie down and rest... whether it's this house or another --- let us be led by You Lord.
We drove through the gate and held our breath. It was lovely.
A two story home sat on a spacious 2 acre plot surrounded by flowers and fruit trees. A smaller home sat behind the main house --- an annex/guest house. Then in the far back corner was a smaller one room "house", where the night guard-gatekeeper-gardener lives.
As we walked through the house --- the fullness of their story slowly came out.
She is a Christian ----- her husband is not (yet).
He has been very successful in business --- but has recently suffered several losses.
He has been diagnosed with diabetes, and is beginning to lose his eyesight.
Steve spoke with their daughter who has just graduated college in the States, is home for just long enough to help her parents transition through their financial challenges and is then moving to the States for work. He expressed our concern over her parents situation. They wanted to rent their beautiful main-house and they would move into the annex house. "Won't it be so hard for your parents to see us in "their" house...???" She reassured Steve explaining it would be a wonderful blessing to them ---- they would not have to lose the house all together. She said they will know you are actually helping them save their house.
Then we wondered what the monthly rent might cost. For a house this size and this lovely, we were preparing ourselves for a price far above our monthly budgeted allotment. We sat and talked as Steve and i silently prayed -- "Lord, please have us be where You want us to be".
When they shared with us the amount needed each month ---- our mouths dropped open. It was less than what we had expected (and budgeted) to have to spend. We asked for clarification -- thinking we must have misunderstood. But we had heard correctly. They were a couple in need, we had been sent to them by a God who cares deeply for them. One of them knows Him ---- the other, is being pursued by Him --- and He is moving us in right beside him.
We walked through the beautiful lawns counting avocado, mango, banana, and macadamia nuts trees and i whispered to Abba, "You've done it Lord --- i'm walking through "green pastures" on the other side of the world... no need to worry over the still waters Lord..." just as we rounded the house i saw in the back yard a tall tower holding two huge black water tanks ------- and surely God smiled as i said aloud ---- "still waters..."
The house is much larger than anything we had hoped for or even imagined ----- and it will cost us less each month than what we expected... God has gone before us... we are amazed.

Green pastures beside still waters in Kitale, Kenya

On May 17th, God answered the first prayer --- get ready, take a breath, you're about to see "the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living"...

During the many months of trying to sell our house on Mockingbird Road there have been deep running, mixed emotions. Excited over all that God has been doing, but also very tearful over leaving a place we had loved. Still we knew, God was serious about His call to us; we went through all the necessary motions --- and prayed.
We prayed daily for the family who were being moved to Mockingbird Road as we were being moved away. Not knowing their names, not knowing where they were coming from or what they were experiencing --- we prayed diligently for them. God urged us to pray fervently for them. Surely something was happening in their world that would propel them to move from wherever they were to this peaceful place. We knew ---- God loved them ---- and He was moving them to one of His sanctuaries.
As the months passed by with no buyers ---- we pressed ahead and prayed. What was going on in their lives?  We were ready to go (we thought), What was taking them so long...? no answers, and so we prayed.
Several offers were made, none that we felt were right. We waited and prayed.
We missed the "personal" element we had wanted to have with buyers ---we wanted to know them and bless them. We had asked God to give us a God-story in the selling of the house. I had often said, "When we are in Kenya and those tough days come along, i want to be able to stand firm on the fact that God had moved us". I wanted to have a beautiful story to lean into on those hard days. Please Lord, show us Your hand in the selling of our house.
Our real estate agent was distant, there was no relational, warm story, it all seemed so business like and cold.
Then an offer came.
We countered.
They accepted.
The appraisal came in at the exact amount we were asking.
Inspection passed.
The house sold.
But ---- no story.
Then 3 days before the closing, we received a message asking if we would be willing to let the couple come meet us at the house on the morning of the closing. We agreed. They were coming at 10AM.

We were weary from packing and sad that it was all so "professional" and lacked any personal touch. But when they arrived ---- their faces glowed, their smiles warmed, their joy was contagious, we melted.
Shortly after the initial greetings, we told them we had been praying for them. Steve and the gentleman went one way; the lady and i went another. As stories were shared God's gift wrapped "story" came clear.
She asked, "When did you begin praying for us?"
I said, "The day after we knew we were called to move to Kenya, on February 3, 2011..."
She smiled so sweetly and said ------ "you were praying for us before we even knew Christ"... (what? what did you just say...?) she repeated, "neither my husband nor myself were believers when you began praying for us... we accepted Jesus as our Savior on Mother's Day of 2011... and while our son had been born several years before, we had not met our beautiful foster daughters when you began praying for us. Six months after we accepted Christ as our Savior, we got the call that two little girls needed a safe haven. We went from a family of 3 to a family of 5 overnight." Her parents live just 7 miles from Mockingbird Road --- but they lived a long 2 hour drive from their other home. So after the little girls came, they wanted more than ever to be nearer Grandparents.

Oh Lord... You were hearing our prayers... You were moving in mighty ways... You saved them and increased their home and are moving them now to be closer to family. Oh Lord... what a lovely story of your goodness and faithfulness.

I've wept over the fullness of the story.
The very thing God is asking us to give up ---- He is multiplying in this dear families world.
He has given us a Sanctuary on Mockingbird Road all these years. Now, He is moving a family with two little girls into His Sanctuary --- a place where the girls and their older brother can grow surrounded by peace and family and love. 

As we stood in the front yard talking, and wiping our eyes, Maggie arrived back home from classes that day. She walked out to greet the lady and welcome her to her new home. And when i shared with Maggie their story, i said, "So Maggie, that means the youngest little daughter will be living in your room, all safe and secure within the walls that have held you so safe and secure all these years." Maggie reached for the lady, they cried together, big tears.
Maggie's heart had been hurting over leaving her sanctuary.
Her heart could now joyfully give it up at the thoughts of a little girl moving in who needed the beauty of those walls around her.

Later that same day, the closing went smoothly --- smiles all around.
Afterwards we prayed with the new owners of 6355 Mockingbird Road.
They asked us to come by the house one more time that evening to meet their children and her parents.

That evening as we walked through the empty, echoing rooms ---- little children ran 'round us, playing hide-n-seek in closets and corners. The house was filled with so much joy ---- just as she had been so many times before with our squealing little ones. I stepped into the kitchen one last time to be sure i had gotten everything out ------ and paused.
I thanked the wooden shell for being such a good place, such a safe haven, such a place of peace in a noisy world. Without words but in my heart i felt her response ---- "it's been wonderful, thank you for sharing your children and your life inside my walls, i've loved every minute... but now... do you see these sweet little ones?... i've got so much to do again. i'll never forget... but i really must be attentive to them now... thank you for obeying God and moving aside so i could hold little, laughing children again -- they need me now ......... goodbye dear donna..." (peace)
Green pastures on Mockingbird Road... ready for another family

And so --- the Lord gives, the Lord takes away, and He gives again... Blessed be the Name of the Lord.

Two prayers -----
both answered-----
Men can not do things like that, not even on their best days.
God can.
He did.

©2013 Donna Taylor/Reaching for the Robe

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Focus, Ascend, Take Courage ---- Dive... and loop...

Rusty wire with barbs every 6 inches, the blue jay sat precariously there.

The wire was nailed to the old fence post that held a weathered birdhouse, a wooden, hinged roof, 4x4 box that had given safe haven to new bluebirds for over a decade of Springs. A place my eyes had been drawn to for just as many years.

Blue-jays are pretty birds. Colorful and almost majestic looking in the way they hold their heads so high and move with such confidence. But my Papa James taught me years ago ----- they are bully-birds. They steal and kill, not because they need to, but just because they're mean. Once in my childhood i watched a blue-jay snag a tiny wren baby from its nest. No feathers on its pink fragile skin. The old blue-jay picked it up in its merciless beak, flew away ---- and dropped the babe. I ran trying to catch it, cringing when the tiny ounce of flesh crashed onto the road. Death was the mean birds only objective. There is meanness in this fallen world.

During our last week on Mockingbird Road, Steve and i sat on our front porch drinking in the view and soaking in the feel of this white-post-framed sanctuary ----- and on this particular morning we watched the blue-jay on the wire.
We knew there were babies inside that wooden box beside him, but we also felt confident he could not reach his big head in the tiny hole fitted perfectly for petite little Mr. and Mrs. Bluebird. Still we watched closely and Steve sat ready to frighten him away if needed.
Then the lesson came ---- from Abba.

Two tiny bluebirds began swooping and diving, attacking without a touch, speed and teamwork on their side as they focused all their energy on the intruder; their sole purpose was to protect what had been given to them. Their little ones huddled inside the wooden box just inches away from the cruel beak of the blue-jay, the mom and dad bluebirds were fierce. The blue-jay was three times the size of either of the blue-birds. He was bigger, meaner, and cared nothing for the ones they were willing to give their lives to save. We were mesmerized as we silently watched the battle between good and evil happening in front of our eyes.
The bluebirds seemed to almost be dancing with each other as they worked together, each responding with perfect timing to the movements of the other. When one dove to swoop close to the intruder, the other was high and turning to begin its dive. The old jay had little time to regroup himself after one fly-by before the next was upon him. It was intense ---- in the world of birds.
i thought of soldiers all over the world --- the battles they face, never seen by those of us tucked away in our safe houses --- rarely aware of the danger others have worked so hard to save us from. I'm so thankful for the many good, upright soldiers i know. Warriors without wings.

I remembered a Family Circus comic strip i had saved years ago when our children were little. I had clipped it from the paper, laminated it, and taped it on our kitchen cabinets ---- it was a reminder, that i should never forget or take for granted... In the first frame, the mother knelt beside her child's bed for bedtime prayers. The view was from the outside of the house, looking through the window at the touching scene. Next frame, the child asked the mother, "Do you really think our prayers make a difference mom?". Next frame, a masked man is lurking outside the same child's window, in the darkness. Last frame, the police are cuffing the would-be burglar carting him away-- the little child sleeping peacefully. 

Rarely do we see the many times we are being saved.

The little baby birds inside their wooden world had no knowledge of the masked burglar clinging with long claws to wire just inches from them.
But mom and dad bird knew ----- and they were brave.

It did not matter to them that the enemy before them was triple their size. It did not matter that he was stronger or meaner. They knew he could snap them with his long jay claws ---- but their focus and passion and teamwork were steadily smothering his schemes.

And their battle tactics were so effective. They worked together, each held their position, the enemy was being thrown off balance by their perseverance and diligence. They worked in perfect timing and with mirror like movements. Their assault to the intruder came constantly from above ---- that was important. They did not swoop to the side --- the jay could have seen them coming then and prepared a claw to receive them in the seconds before they arrived. Wisely, the tiny troopers attacked from above. They found courage from heights far above the invader below.

Steve noted ---- their willingness to fly high above the jay and attack from over his head was what gave them the greatest advantage. But this meant that after each wave they made, they had to be willing to work their wings to ascend again. Nothing about what they did was easy or simple --- but it was completely beautiful and effective. Two ounces of tiny, sky-blue feather covered warriors had us transfixed.

And tears came again as i realized we were spending out last Tuesday morning watching blue-birds care for babies on the fence post across from the "nest" we'd cared for and guarded for 31 years.

There's rusty barbed wire all around us isn't there Lord. We live in this fallen world don't we --- for now. But, there are mighty, tiny battalion commanders right in front of us. They battle for all that is innocent and pure and weak and in need. They work together --- they fight fearlessly --- they have their minds set on what is right and good and noble and excellent --- what is beautiful and lovely and admirable and praiseworthy. You made the little fragile baby birds and You made the ones who fight to defend them. You are over it all. And when we keep our focus and ascend regularly to take in what only You can give us, we will take courage for the next dive, the next battle, the next move you call us to. 

You give us "wings" -- 
so we can fly daily, 
swoop when needed, 
and work together with the winged ones around us.

And You promise us we will always be able to find shelter under Your wings. (Psalm 91: 4)

Lessons from little ones --- You use the simple... --- how is it Lord that You can be so completely Holy, Majestic, Perfect, and Powerful and yet You will still pause to teach us so patiently.

Last week we left Mockingbird Road.
I thought it would likely crush me somewhere deep inside.
But --- there are singing birds everywhere --- there are warriors of Light all around --- i can ascend to You from every address found on earth ---- You, great God, are not limited by our location --- You are over it all, accomplishing Your goodness in all places --- watching for Your children to spread their wings, ascend high towards You to gather more strength for the day, and keep steady at the work You have called us to.

If the fragile blue-birds can battle so valiantly on Mockingbird Road ----- then may your children walk with a confidence that has the aroma of YOU at every address, on every street, in every "nest" you carry them to.

Ascending again today --- with wings spread wide ---- thankful.

Steve and i on the shores of Lake Turkana --- such a long way from... Mockingbird Road...

©2013 Donna Taylor/Reaching for the Robe

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Neither gripping nor griping...not clinging or complaining...

Windows in a church in Kitale, Kenya

I sit here tonight --- in silence.
Except for Steve's soft snores – and the cricket sounds outside. Occasionally a motor runs in the distance, likely a generator. Power is out, again.

The only light in our room is this computer screen.
The time on it shows 1:42PM --- but that's Mockingbird Road time --- as I have not been able to access internet since we arrived. Here, it's 8:42PM --- and all is dark and quiet and I am “alone”.

Alone with this computer and this sleeping man ---- and Abba.
I've been sitting here reciting scripture from memory --- no power needed to do that. Then a song rolls through my thoughts --- “All the way my Savior leads me... who have I to ask beside --- how could I doubt His tender mercies... who through life had been my guide? All the way my Savior leads me....... cheers each winding path I trod--- gives me grace for every trial – fills me with the Living bread. … (my heart presses in to sing loudly in my silence)...You lead me, and keep me from falling, You carry – me close to your heart --- and surely your goodness and mercy will follllll-owwwww me.”...

On this computer are thousands of pictures of precious moments --- past. Proof of all the times He has led me --- and carried me --- and poured out His tender mercies on me.
Sitting here in this dark place ---- I cling to what He has done, and require myself to look ahead to what He will surely continue to do. For He has brought me to the place of this complete knowing --- I – can – not – do it without Him. I won't try. I can not do “it” except for Him.
I will remember the deeds of the Lord; I will remember your miracles of long ago.
I will meditate on all your works, and consider all your mighty deeds...” Psalm 77:11-12(NIV)

If i'm honest, I want to run as fast as I can back to 6355 Mockingbird Road, and huddle there with the dream I held for many years. Children and grandchildren in and out of my doors with cookies always in the oven and flowers always abloom.
But if I get deep-down-real with myself ---- what I want most of all ---- is for my first moments in front of Him at the end of this life – to bring rejoicing over what He allowed me to learn and do and give. Joy over completion of the transformation, not regret over atrophied flesh-self. No whimper over disobedience or stubbornness or distrust. And so --- living now for what will be ---- requires surrender and trust and a brokenness that craves His paths.
I remind myself, often. I say it to myself over and over again.
I must...
for the deceiver works to deceive me.
We must be diligent to stay on the wall. I remember the words that came from Christ's lips, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross, and follow me. If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake, you will save it.” Matthew 16:24-25 (NLT)

I want to look back and remember sweet moments with our little ones (now big ones). And I will. Our life together – it has been and still is beautiful.
It will be different in the days ahead.
Different can still be sweet.

I want to draw them near to me, and cling to what He has given me --- it has surely been more than enough Lord.
--- to stay there (in body or mind) would be dishonoring and self-centered and frightening.
For just as easily as you gave ---- you can take away.
Much easier it will be to let it go, lay it down, and honor You through the surrender for the goodness you have shown me...
---- than it would be to try and cling to what is familiar and comfortable to me, and feel it slowly but surely slide from my grip.
Nothing living likes to be gripped. (When we are gripped, we tend to gripe.)

...your grace has soaked me through...

And so, I commit Lord, I have, I will, I do, I choose to ---- let go of what I treasure, to daily lay them in your lap.
No gripping or griping allowed.
No gripping my hands around my wants – and no griping over what you have placed my hands upon.

I trust you.
I want more of you.
I want them to see more of you in my life.
I want them to see more of you in their lives.
I want to see more of you than of me ----- in their lives Abba.
I want to bless and give and serve and help and love and ---- for now --- that means “go”.
I trust you much more than myself.
I know the frailty of me.
I know the greatness of you.
I will remember...

Please multiply Your goodness in their lives ---- it will go far beyond any cookie filled, flower adorned, peace-soaked place I dreamed of. Instead may their days ahead be blessed more proportionately to who You are... human dreams seem so tiny when eyes are set firmly on Your greatness. Oh yes... “I will remember the deeds of the Lord; I will remember your miracles of long ago. I will meditate on all your works, and consider all your mighty deeds...”
Psalm 77:11-12(NIV)

(written our second night in Kitale)

©2013 Donna Taylor/Reaching for the Robe