Jesus Came, and Was Called Salomé.

This year, my daily morning prayer goes something like this: ” I’m all yours, Jesus.  I trust you.  Fill me afresh Holy Spirit.  Empower me to be love.  Whatever, Papa God, whatever you desire today.  Whomever you send to me today. Wherever you call me, I’ll go. Whatever you ask of me, I will give. Let me live not out of my soul-ish flesh, but out of the awakened spirit, utterly dependent upon You, my very life. I belong to you.”

It has taken me nearly 4o years to come to this place of surrender.

Many years I awoke with my fists clenched, ready for the fight or to create one.  Many years I awoke with simply a plea for help to make it through another day caring for babes.  Many years I awoke with hurling my anxieties upon my Papa God, wondering how we would eat that day and pay our rent that month.  Many days I woke determined to change the world, come hell or high-water.  Many days I awoke with what felt like the burden of a thousand souls on my back. Many days I awake and need to re-learn the Gospel all over again.

I have been dealt mercies upon mercies.  

I remember well the first time I heard the languished words of Rich Mullins in 1993 as he sang these lyrics to “Hold Me Jesus“.  I was 17, alone in my room when the words drifted out of my tape player and I wept:

Surrender don’t come natural to me
I’d rather fight You for something
I don’t really want
Than to take what You give that I need
And I’ve beat my head against so many walls
Now I’m falling down, I’m falling on my knees

And I wake up in the night and feel the dark
It’s so hot inside my soul
I swear there must be blisters on my heart

And this Salvation Army band
Is playing this hymn
And Your grace rings out so deep
It makes my resistance seem so thin 

So hold me Jesus, ’cause I’m shaking like a leaf
You have been King of my glory
Won’t You be my Prince of Peace

It became my spiritual alma mater, this song.  Twenty-two years later I can hardly sing along without the pages of my days mentally opening before me and showing me how much he has become my Prince of Peace.  And how surrender has finally set me free. 

Free to say, “whatever my Jesus, whatever.”  Free to not feel undone and overwhelmed when  walking down the stairs this past Sunday night into my living room to find a young woman, holding her baby wrapped in blankets, shaking like a leaf and tears running down her face.

Larsen, my oldest son and my husband had been driving back from the small town of Trinidad, through Puebla when my son spotted her.  She was standing on a street corner, worry and confusion mixed into her tears.  They stopped and made inquiry. On impulse, they brought her home. I John 1: 3-7 had tugged on their hearts: “But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him?” and “Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God.” (Hebrews 13:16).

I rushed to her with motherly affection, wiped her tears, oohed over her baby and led her to a comfortable chair. Her pants like thin pajamas and her tiny rubber shoes like from a dollar store, roughened callouses pushing out the sides.  We listened to her story, observing her intonations and word choice, watching her movements and expressions.

We are not naive to the fact that sob stories exist.  But this young woman, she seemed different.  Obviously  young and indigenous, her understandings and logic were simple, almost from another time and definitely another place.  She nursed her baby bare-breasted as the mothers from the villages do and spoke:

“I come a village deep in the hills of the Sierra Navada (about 3 hours away, but an 8 hour bus ride).  I think I am seventeen years old.  Last year, I got pregnant.  The boy left our town immediately when he found out.  My parents kicked me out of the house so I have lived with my aunt.  When I gave birth, I did not know it but there were three babies that had grown in me!  Two girls and a boy.  This is my daughter Salome.  I am named Salome too.  My other two babies were born connected by skin on their backs.  They had to have a surgery, but they lived.  They are in a clinic near my village.  They will always have bad scars.  My village loaned me money for the medical care, but I must pay it back very soon or they will beat me and throw me in jail.  My aunt got me tortilla making tools so I can work to earn money, but they were taken as collateral.  The doctor at the clinic told me I have to pay to get my babies out soon or he will call the DIF (child and family services in Mexico).  I got so scared that I took all the money I had and got on a bus and came to Puebla.  I started knocking on doors to look for work, maybe I can clean houses. Other girls I have heard do that here.  One lady took me in for work.  She asked me about my life and I told her.  She got very upset and called her friend who works for the DIF.  Her friend came and I had to repeat my story.  She told me if I did not get back to my other babies by the next day she would drive to the clinic and take my babies. She was so angry!  When they were talking, I ran outside and got on a bus, any bus.  It took me to the street corner where you saw me.  I don’t know what to do.  I have to go back to my town with money and I have to get my babies.  I can still live with my aunt, but I have to be able to get my tortilla making supplies back so I can earn money.  I don’t know what to do! I must get back to my town, to my babies!”

This is her story, though her actual words were not as fluid.  We wrote down the various possible spellings of her town to find it on a map, but she could not read or write to help us identify it. We welcomed her to sleep in our home for the night and talked about options of help we could offer the next day for long term benefit.  We assured her she was safe with us.  But, she was frantic to find a way back to her town to be sure she beat the DIF worker.  We assured her this was probably an empty and cruel threat for many reasons, but she would hear none of it.   She was young, her thinking was simplistic and her fear evident.

My husband and I talked and we prayed.  We came up with a plan to help her.  It was now midnight.  Benjamin figured out bus routes to get her near her home destination.  He called a taxi to get her to the station.  I ran upstairs and got her a warm coat, stuffing the pockets with socks.  We gave her all we could financially.  Benjamin wrote a clear note attached to the gift so there would be no doubt where it came from.

As we waited for the taxi, I held her baby. We told her about the Gospel, we told her how precious she is and how loved by her Papa God are she and her children.  She listened, wide-eyed, an occasional tear flowing down her brown face.  We told her all we were doing for her was because of God’s love expressed to us.  All those mercies…

The taxi came. I wrapped a little purse around her neck and showed her how to stuff it into her shirt for safety.  Benjamin ran upstairs and got two audio bibles, giving her a quick lesson on their use.  She stared at us, no words but relief falling down her face.  I bent down into the taxi and kissed her baby’s head and her cheek, reminding her she is loved and valued.

The taxi left through our gate and the two Salomes were gone.

We locked up our house, looked at the chair where she had sat — the same chair I had nursed my own babies in, in another time and place — and walked upstairs to bed.

It was as if Jesus had come to us.

Then they also will answer, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to you?’ Then he will answer them, saying, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’” – Matthew 25: 44-45

Salome means “peace” in Hebrew.

The old and dear lyrics came back to me:

So hold me Jesus, ’cause I’m shaking like a leaf
You have been King of my glory
Won’t You be my Prince of Peace

 

All these years you have held me, I whispered to Jesus.
My King of Glory, my Prince of Peace.  Now, you have let me hold you.
Salome.  Shalom.

 

 

 

A Scroll of Remembrance.

After the birth of our now 14-year old Larsen, I experienced several years of secondary infertility.  Losing our first babe and then the miracle of our oldest son, we wondered if perhaps we would have only one biological child.  I remember those years.  Lars would lay his little hands on my tummy and pray, with that breath-taking faith of a child, that a brother would come forth.  It got to be so the sight of a pregnant women would cause a pain in me that would start in my chest and radiate out to my fingertips.  I wanted to hold a baby of mine again; I wanted our family to grow.  My husband and I both had the feeling, when we sat at our tiny supper table, that someone was missing.

Every month became a let-down with our desire on the tip of our minds.  It is strange to feel a loss for something you have never had, but the grief was real.

I poured myself into nurturing Lars and to finishing my BA degree.  We believed (and still do) orphans are very near the heart of God, the idea of adopting out of US foster care appealing to us both.  We decided we wanted a Latino boy, not much younger than our son.  Through the mom of one of my husband’s music student’s at the time who worked for an agency, we began to fill out paperwork for our home study.  A little boy we saw online, through the foster care system in Texas, caught our hearts.  The two of us began to pray for Joseph every evening after we tucked in Larsen.  We prayed around the world for this little boy, into his past, his present and future as we laid hands on the computer screen.

One weekend, in the early spring, we visited Wheaton College, past Chicago where we had met back in 1995.  I gathered up information and spoke with professors about attending the next year and earning my masters.  We had it all figured out:  Lars and hopefully Joseph would attend a little school together, Ben would work for the college and I would take classes.  We had a plan!  Our family would move forward!

Ten years later, I chuckle.  Sometimes it is a good thing we cannot hear the chuckles of God.  I’d rather hear His patience and see Him in the circumstances He weaves together.

We came home from the weekend (our old car broke down twice on the road and we hobbled home to Michigan) and that week found out Benjamin had lost his job.  And our medical insurance.  Our home study was scheduled for the next week.

A few days later it was April Fool’s Day.  I went to a dollar store and bought five pregnancy tests.  Driving to the house that some friends had just purchased where Ben was helping with the trim work, I handed him the bag. He grinned, the ever-optimistic man now without a job.  I took them all and, as has been our custom for I cannot stand to look myself at such things, he did.  All five of them were positive.  I looked at them all lined up and did not know whether to laugh or cry.

We had made a plan.  Now, this was not a part of that plan.  I had relinquished pregnancy.  And it was April Fool’s Day of all days!  Now what?

We canceled our home study.  We prayed another month or so for Joseph, but now felt we were to pray  for his future, apart from us.  Prayers are never in vain and sometimes God has an unusual way of calling us into an intercessory assignment and just as quickly bringing us out.

That May I walked the isle in Chicago to receive my diploma.  A 4 1/2 year old boy raised his arms up in victory when he saw me look up at him in the balcony.  Six-week old Anders was nestled and growing, like a wonderful secret in my womb, as I walked with tears in my eyes (this had been a ten-year journey, but that is another story).   I remember having a vision of the long arms of the Lord, rolling up His sleeves and hearing the words, “Oh my child, I have just begun!”

Indeed.

The end of that summer found us riding our 1973 classic tandem bicycle we had purchased on our honeymoon (we had to sell it to move here to Mexico), pulling 5-year old Larsen in our bike trailer.  He held in his hand a sealed enveloped containing a card which the ultrasound technician had indicated if our baby was a boy or a girl.  We stopped at our favorite little Mexican restaurant and sat down to order.  None of us could wait much longer.

Ben opened the enveloped, read it and announced with pride, “Our baby is a boy!”.  Larsen instinctively stood up on his chair, held out his arms wide and exclaimed, “This is the best day of my life!” It was a celebration I have never forgotten.  Dear reader, that is how God feels about your life, about your birth.

I would hold a baby boy again.  My son would have a brother.  My husband would get to yell “C’mon boys” when it was time to go.

Larsen started school in the fall.  My baby went off to kindergarten while a new one continued to grow within me.  I had heard the Spirit instruct me, shortly after I graduated, to start writing a book.  So every morning while Larsen was in school, I drove to a little coffee shop and wrote.  It seemed crazy to write a book when I had no idea what I was doing, only that I was to obey.  So I prayed more than I wrote, listening in to the Father’s direction.

Most of my life I had not known what I am doing, only to listen, to trust and to obey.

We kept our baby’s name a secret, promising Larsen he would be the first one to learn his brother’s name.  And he was, though it took him weeks to remember it.  We had to pin it to his shirt so every time people at school would ask him, he could point to the note and smile.

Anders was due the week of Thanksgiving, the week of my father’s birthday, but he was a week late. We had some help putting up a wall upstairs to make him a little room and to pass the time of the waiting, I had painted bluish-colored fish around the top border of the wall and carefully folded and re-folded every tiny article of clothing that had been given to us.   I remember sitting quietly in that room, in that little house on the edge of the highway that Saturday morning, praying for our new son.  I had not felt him move in a few days.  I sensed the Spirit whispering, “It is time to go to the hospital, go now.”

Strange.  I was not in labor.  I called Ben who was working a job and told him what I believed I had heard from the Lord.  He came home and we drove immediately to the hospital, which was 45 minutes away.  As soon as I stepped through the doors, labor began.  An hour later and a snowstorm hit the area, so bad that no car could have safely driven the distance we had come.

Anders Ezekiel Blycker was born after midnight.  The lights were dimmed in the darkness and snow fell outside the window next to my bed like bits of white confetti celebrating something wonderful.  My amniotic fluid was quite low and the cord was wrapped around Anders’ neck three times.  His heart rate was irregular and falling, so they monitored it with three wires in his little head.  He will never grow hair in those spots.  Benjamin cut the cord and handed me our son.  I remember holding him up and we looked at each other eye to eye.

Love at first sight is more than possible.

When he was cleaned and we were left to ourselves, Benjamin took out his guitar and sat on the bed and quietly sang worship songs over us.  He then took out a small vial of oil, made a sign of the cross on Anders’ forehead and anointed him, telling him what his name means, “Courageous disciple of Christ, strengthened by God” and then bestowed on him his life verse:

As for me, I will always have hope; I will praise you more and more. 

My mouth will tell of your righteous deeds, of your saving acts all day long—though I know not their measure.

 I will come and proclaim your mighty acts, Sovereign Lord; I will proclaim your righteous deeds, yours alone.

Since my youth, God, you have taught me, and to this day I declare your marvelous deeds.

Even when I am old and gray, do not forsake me, my God, till I declare your power to the next generation, your mighty acts to all who are to come.             -Psalm 71: 14-18 

The doctor that delivered him came in shortly after, she also a follower of Jesus.  “I came to pray over this little guy, may I?  I believe the Lord has a special calling on his life.”  I wish I could remember her words, for the blessing moved me and confirmed in me what I had felt I already knew about our son.

So, our Zeker, the only one of us born in the winter, in a snowstorm.  He moved to Florida when he was just one and to Mexico when he was seven; he does not have any memories of snow that falls from the sky and piles up in great cold mounds.  One of his longest and dearest hopes is that he can go back to the place of his birth, where his grandparents and aunt still live, in the winter to make snowballs, taste snow and go sledding.

He told me just today when we were studying the story of Joseph in school together, “Yes Mom, God does work all things for His glory and our good.  Could it be for His glory and my good that someday when I am still a boy I can go to Michigan in the winter, even maybe have a white Christmas?”

Yes, my son.  You just might have to wait a bit.

But it’s all for His glory and our good.

Anders turned nine years old last Thursday.  Meet my Master’s Degree:

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Make Me Ignitable.

I have not written in over a month because in many ways I have been in a pit. Sick, exhausted, vulnerable, doubting, hiding, feeling fraudish, pulled in many directions and utterly agreeing with the enemies arrows that have sought, yet again, to keep me down and quiet.

But there has been a lifting.  Victory is becoming to a redeemed child of God.  

And the message that has been burning within me while I have felt so suppressed is one that I believe is to be delivered to many of God’s people today: revival.  This literally means “to live again”.  It is a period of unusual blessing and activity among His own, completely dependent upon the Spirit.

In the struggle not against flesh and blood, I have grappled to articulate that I want to know God not just in His omnipresence but in His manifest presence. You and I are made for this. The Kingdom, through each one of us, IS to come to earth.  And we settle for so much less. Day after day. We say it is because we are busy being mothers, wives and career women. 

How we cheat ourselves and our families.  How we are lulled to sleep. And how we will never make an impact on this world my sisters, going broader if we refuse to go deeper.

Wake up! 

Let’s live in the reality that God is to be tangibly perceived, transformational and personal.  This manifest fiery (I Kings 18:24) presence is available to God’s people.  Persistent prayer and  radical obedience is required.  And when His presence comes, it will put you in your place as well as the enemy, even as it  puts God in His.

“Father, send us the Holy Spirit.  Send us the wind of spiritual life and the fire of unconquerable zeal.  You are our God.  Answer us, of God, by fire.  Send us the wind and the fire and then we shall see You to be God indeed.  The kingdom comes not and the work is flagging.  Oh that You would send the wind and the fire and You will do this when we are all of one accord, all believing, all expecting, all prepared by prayer.

– Charles Haddon Spurgeon, 1842

“Am I ignitable?  God deliver from the dread asbestos of ‘other things’. Saturate me with the oil of the Spirit that I may be a flame.  But flame is transient, often short-lived.  Canst thou bear this, my soul-short life? Make me thou fuel, flame of God.”

 -Jim Elliot

The Presence and the manifestation of the Presence are not the same.  There can be one without the other.  God is here when we are wholly unaware of it.  He is manifest only when and as we are aware of His Presence.  Our pursuit of God is successful just because He is forever seeking to manifest Himself to us.  If we cooperate with Him in loving obedience, God will manifest Himself to us, and that manifestation will be the difference between a nominal Christian life and life radiant with the light of His face.”    

– A.W. Tozer