the intentionality of gentrification (+ an interview with Leroy Barber)

A few years ago, on the block behind us, a low-level developer purchased a quaint two-story yellow wooden house with a perfect-for-Miami-nights screened in front porch. She promptly removed the doors and welcomed the elements and critters of South Florida, creating an intentionally uninhabitable environment. Eventually the city condemned the once perfectly livable home, and approved a permit for demolition. I stood in front of the house last month, weeping as it was knocked to the ground.

house2 house3 house4

I’ve written previously about the mass evictions that took place last summer (and continue) on the main strip in our neighborhood. Over 200 units owned by a slumlord who intentionally let his buildings fall into disrepair once again prompted the city to deem them uninhabitable – “forcing” him to evict everyone living there. Each of those individuals now bear the unnecessary burden of an eviction on their record, and future landlords care little if it was their fault or (clearly) not.

Overwhelmingly, most landlords simply have a policy not to rent to folks who have been evicted. Application denied.

The same slumlord boarded a few of those buildings while people were still living in them. The tenants previously refused to leave because of the injustice of the situation – they were still paying rent after all – and because frankly they had no where else to go.

Another slumlord in our neighborhood has been raising the rent of his African-American tenants every one to three months for years. He refuses to let them sign leases, then charges an extra $100 a month for not having a lease. He only accepts cash as a from of payment and does not give tenants receipts for the rent paid. The Latino/a tenants are not subject to this same treatment.

It’s important to note, my neighborhood is quite small, encompassing only a 10×10 square block area.

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Two years ago, I was shocked by the intentionality with which my neighbors were being displaced. I have come to learn gentrification is always intentional.

I realize some of you may not be familiar with the term, and unfortunately even the definition offered by Wikipedia falls woefully short, but for the purposes here, I am defining gentrification as the intentional displacement of low-income residents due to government entities and developers catering to and prioritizing housing for and the quality of life of more affluent residents.

In his book How to Kill a City, Peter Moskowitz states, “In every gentrifying city – that is, in every city where there is a combination of new coffee shops and condos, hipsters, and families struggling to hang on – you can usually trace the start of that change not to a few pioneering citysteaders but to a combination of federal, local, and state policies that favor the creation of wealth over the creation of community. Usually the policies come in the form of deregulation and privatization of urban services: transportation, education, and especially housing. By the time the hipsters arrive, the political and economic forces that paved the way for them have been at work for years.”

In my recent Upside Down Podcast interview with Leroy Barber, he says developers receive their green light to begin investing in an under-resourced community from the government itself. Moskowitz obviously agrees. Both men have visited numerous US cities to uncover the causes of gentrification and to hear directly from people who have been displaced by those causes.

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The community services building in our neighborhood is owned by Miami-Dade County. Out of the large, open space built in the late 1970’s, services such as food stamps, energy assistance, and emergency food are offered from makeshift cubicles. On most evenings, it houses meetings where seventh and eighth generation Afro-Bahamians gather in dingy orange chairs around folding tables to discuss the future of their beloved community.

In 2015, the County put out a Request for Proposals “from experienced developers for a mixed-use development.”  This was the signal – one of many – from the government to developers and investors: Drop your dollars here. We are making a way for you.

The fundamental component only discussed behind closed doors and in hushed phone calls is what will become of the people currently inhabiting and utilizing those spaces? As one county employee here said, there is no plan for those people.

In a city where two-thirds of our low-income residents do not have adequate housing, our government has no plan for them. In making a way for developers, whoever is in the way will be displaced. This is not happenstance. It is personal. 

With local government and wealthy developers acting as accomplices, it is incredibly difficult to get in front of gentrification. Often, as Leroy explained, by the time sidewalks are installed and landscaping is “beautified,” ten-year plans are already in place to completely flip the neighborhood.

In other words, by the time the doors come off, it’s usually too late.

As a person of faith, I am compelled to ask where is the Church in all of this; the answers are uncomfortable. The Church has far too often been on the offending end of displacement. While I am ill-equipped to speak deeply on the subject, we only have to do a broad overview of the history of Christianity in our country (Although a much deeper look is necessary and the responsibility of any Christian.) to be reminded it was in the name of God that Native Americans were slaughtered and African-Americans enslaved. We, specifically white Christians, have a dark and deep history of being the oppressor and it continues today.

Many would argue the intention of white Christians is not to oppress our brothers and sisters of color, however, intentions matter little when our complacency in the face of systems of injustice and oppression and the effects of our behavior are completely out of line with Jesus.

When I asked Leroy about this, specifically why the Church in America is not doing more to prevent to displacement of people of color, he said at the end of the day, we still don’t see African-Americans as human, as actual people. I wish I could say everything I have seen and heard in the last two years of living among people of color invalidates his point of view, but I cannot.

How else do we explain tolerating policies and economics that permit people to be boarded up inside molding apartment buildings just blocks from our clean, safe, dry church buildings where we sit sipping gourmet coffee?

The American Church at large seems to be just as liable as the political system for it’s complicity in valuing the creation of wealth over the creation of community and it is costing our low income neighbors their lives. If we believe they deserve better, what are we doing about it?

If we are to resemble Jesus, we must listen to voices from the margins. We must acknowledge and repent of our complacency and contribution to their dehumanization. We must not settle for Americhristianity. We must not conform to the systems of this world – we must resist them and renew our minds with the transforming power of Jesus. Because the good, pleasing and perfect will of God is surely safe housing for all.

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I do not know what your individual context is – I am still learning mine – but as Leroy points out in our interview, we are unfortunately, for many, still in the awareness phase of gentrification and displacement of communities of color. As equally unfortunate, there are very few adequate resources on the topic, particularly from a Biblical worldview. Three I can recommend today are Peter Moskowitz’s book already mentioned, my interview with Leroy on the Upside Down Podcast, and D.L. Mayfield’s article “Church Planting and the Gospel of Gentrification” in recent issue of Sojourner’s magazine. I would also recommend listening to any interviews by Propaganda you can find on iTunes and listening to his new song “Gentrify.”

As I said in the closing of the podcast, you will not trip into this work of creating a more liveable planet – you will need to be intentional. But it is never too late to start. 

 

 

thoughts on housing, scarcity + roots

patio

This morning I sat on the driveway-turned-patio of our new house and tried to read a few Psalms. The Bahamian immigrants who settled the street over one hundred years ago originally named it Evangelist Street. As more and more Bahamians put down roots and homes and gardens here, they requested the city put in an actual road. The city declined, so they built the road themselves. Now here I sit, getting bitten by bugs and confused by the words of David.

Evangelist Street, now known as Charles Avenue, connects the affluent neighborhoods on the west and east of us. Red BMWs, white Mercedes, and black Maseratis speed down our block, from one stop sign to the next. I grow angrier with each passing car. I have noticed there are no speed limit signs on our street, five blocks long. I have noticed just around the corner, where the rich people live, there are speed bumps what feels like every twenty feet. I have noticed my disdain for the rich growing like the anger in my chest, racing like fancy cars down the street.

evangelist street

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We moved in last weekend and I am still not sure what to think of it. Wise people I trusted told me God knew we stood in solidarity with our neighbors in their struggle for safe housing, he needn’t put us through it ourselves. But then he did. (Of course we experienced a pasteled version of the struggle.)

We were told the house we lived in for the last year and a half and planned to buy was no longer available to us. We became the ones with not enough money and not enough power to obtain the house we’d made our home. We became the ones in need of safe housing. 

Despite Miami being one of the nation’s toughest housing markets, we quickly found a new place that was a great fit for our family. Large living space for meals and meetings, large yard for kids and dog, large garage-like room for building furniture. We signed a lease and put down a deposit because even though we have committed to living life among the poor, we are not poor ourselves and deposits are something we can do.

Weeks went by and the great fit house underwent renovations. Then one day they stopped. We learned through our housing advocate friends permits had not been applied for. The renovations would not be complete for our move in. Our move that was supposed to take place five days later.

We found another house. It was not great for a family of seven. But we could make it work for twelve months. It was rich in mangos and my kids are troopers and we could walk to the park when the space inside felt too small.

We were in the process of securing the house rich in mangos when my husband ran into our neighbor Seven. Seven was evicted in January. The slumlord who owns his building let it fall into disrepair, at which point the city condemned the building, forcing the slumlord to evict his tenants. This is known as a “constructive eviction,” meaning the cause was at the fault of the slumlord, but future landlords do not care about this. They see “eviction” on a potential tenant’s record and deny them housing.

The owner of the house rich in mangos does not run background checks or credit checks or any kind of check as long as you can produce the rent check. Seven was also in the process of securing the house rich in mangos.

This is the intersection of incarnational living and gentrification. Our family can pass a background check and a credit check and we can write a first, last and deposit check to secure safe housing. A lifetime of privilege allows for those things. While our housing options are severely limited due to our neighborhood choice and family size, Seven’s are nearly nonexistent.  

We passed on the house rich in mangos. Seven didn’t get it either. Now we live on Evangelist Street/Charles Avenue and Seven is between housing. I am tempted to think there is not enough housing for all but this is a lie.

The famous Ghandi quote about there being enough for everyone’s need but not for everyone’s greed is palpable here. It burns my nostrils and threatens to choke out hope. The vacant lots, fields as my neighbors call them, number over 200 in our small 10 square block neighborhood. Developers are sitting on them, waiting for the Bahamian descendants to be displaced completely so they can sell off to wealthier developers or build luxury condos only the richest of the rich can afford. While developers wait for this, our neighbors are forced to leave the streets built by their ancestors.

I sit in front of our new house and beg God to show me the Kingdom coming here.  I jot down thoughts about scarcity being a lie. I pray for Seven to find safe housing. I try to figure out what it looks like to put our roots down into people and not houses, relationships not places, eternity not temporary.

I have more questions than answers.

 

housing for all

housing_for_all

I attend a monthly community meeting. It use to be in a fancy building with glass walls with a clear view of new playground equipment and fake grass. The other half of the building is an upscale restaurant. The waiters wear all black as they serve people sitting at little round tables lining the sidewalk.

The first time I attended this particular meeting last spring, the council discussed a new ordinance preventing coconut trees from being planted near sidewalks. A coconut could fall on someone, you see. They can be dangerous. Some people sitting behind me in the glass room were not happy about this, they wanted to know if coconut trees already planted near their sidewalks would need to be removed.

That same week, there was a drive by on my street. The kids who live here couldn’t play outside because a bullet might land on them.

I am sure that none of you would want to rest content with the superficial kind of social analysis that deals merely with effects and does not grapple with underlying causes.

There can be no gainsaying the fact that racial injustice engulfs this community.

Lamentably, it is an historical fact that privileged groups seldom give up their privileges voluntarily.

A thing you should know about my neighborhood is: it is HIGHLY segregated. As in, a segregation wall still stands. It divides those the world labels the “haves” and the “have nots.” It divides socio-economically, racially, and in just about every other way you can imagine.

The people concerned about coconuts falling on their heads don’t have to worry about bullets.

Another thing you should know is: there is a housing crisis on this side of the wall. My neighbors will tell you there has been for some time, decades even. Developers buy up singe family homes and apartments – some in disrepair, some not – level them, and sit on the land. The vacant lots are referred to as “fields.” Many of them have been sitting empty for a dozen years. There are several on every street.

field

Currently, landlords are selling their apartment buildings by the block. They refuse to sign leases with their tenants so when the buildings sell, they evict with 15 days notice. Another common practice is to let the buildings run down to unsafe and uninhabitable, at which point the city steps in and condemns them, forcing the tenants to move out with little-to-no warning.

I am doubtful of my ability to communicate the severity of this situation to you in mere black and white, letters on a screen. You, Dear Reader, are likely unable to comprehend the fear and helplessness an eviction notice carries. That’s because 73% of white folks own a home, compared to 45% of black folks. Statistics do not exist for my neighborhood, but I need to look no further than my own block to know hundreds of people are living in buildings being sold right out from under them.

I cannot fully comprehend it either.

The housing crisis is not just that developers are sitting on empty lots OR that people are facing imminent homelessness and displacement with just a few weeks notice; the situation is exacerbated because there is literally no where for people to go. For every 100 extremely low-income renters in Miami, there are only 33 affordable units available.

We know through painful experience that freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed. Frankly, I have yet to engage in a direct action campaign that was “well timed” in the view of those who have not suffered unduly from the disease of segregation. For years now I have heard the word “Wait!” It rings in the ear of every Negro with piercing familiarity. This “Wait” has almost always meant “Never.” We must come to see, with one of our distinguished jurists, that “justice too long delayed is justice denied.”

Perhaps it is easy for those who have never felt the stinging darts of segregation to say, “Wait.”

There comes a time when the cup of endurance runs over, and men are no longer willing to be plunged into the abyss of despair. I hope, sirs, you can understand our legitimate and unavoidable impatience.

Last month at the community meeting we didn’t talk about coconuts. We talked about housing. I would say the issue has finally reached a tipping point, but I suspect the conversation has ebbed and flowed over the years. I suspect those on the other side of the wall have always pushed down the voices of those on this side. I suppose, when men and women, grandmothers and mothers, fathers and sons asked those behind the microphones to do something, they have always been told to “wait.” But really, I don’t just suspect it, it’s fact.

The council responded to my neighbors who came to the meeting with lots of words. As I sat there in my seat I struggled to understand them. There was talk about zoning, and incentives for developers. FEMA and a special housing summit. The housing summit will happen at the end of January, they said.

I left the meeting in tears. I could not sleep. I said a lot of cuss words. I could not get the words of Martin Luther King, Jr out of my mind. I prayed. The problem with this paragraph is every single sentence begins with I.

but the white moderate, who is more devoted to “order” than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says: “I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action”; who paternalistically believes he can set the timetable for another man’s freedom; who lives by a mythical concept of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait for a “more convenient season.” Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection.

That was two weeks ago. Since then, the Lord gave one of our neighbors and mentors an idea, a method of direct action that involves setting up camp on these pieces of land. A prophetic act of protest against displacement and for the beauty of community when all are invited in. Starting today, we will physically stand alongside our neighbors as together we demand Housing for All.

So the question is not whether we will be extremists, but what kind of extremists we will be. Will we be extremists for hate or for love? Will we be extremists for the preservation of injustice or for the extension of justice? In that dramatic scene on Calvary’s hill three men were crucified. We must never forget that all three were crucified for the same crime–the crime of extremism. Two were extremists for immorality, and thus fell below their environment. The other, Jesus Christ, was an extremist for love, truth and goodness, and thereby rose above his environment. Perhaps the South, the nation and the world are in dire need of creative extremists.

We have been meeting for months about the housing crisis, discussing which neighbors had been given eviction notices that week, wondering where they would go… I don’t think any of us really knew what could be done. There are so many powerful people playing this game of displacement. The city and county seem to be complacent at best and complicit at worst.

But we know we cannot sit idly by while our neighbors are treated unjustly, displaced at alarming rates, and the oldest neighborhood in Miami (some historians say all of Florida) becomes extinct. We cannot do nothing while the “haves” tell the “have nots” yet again, to wait.

The Lord has brought together attorneys, activists, government officials, neighbors, and police officers as we have planned in the last couple weeks. We are grateful and humbled our neighbors trust us to stand alongside them in their efforts to seek Housing for All.

There are several ways you can get involved and stand with us from afar:

FIRST, you can pray. As there will be protestors on the lots 24/7, we want to cover them in prayer 24/7. You can sign up to pray here.

SECOND, you can donate. We are in ongoing need of supplies such as fliers, signs, tents, water, snacks, etc. to make this happen well. You can give to our CRM Grove Team Fund here or through GoFundMe here. (Giving via CRM is tax-deductible, giving via GoFundMe is not but gets the funds to our team quicker.)

THIRD, you can spread the word on social media. Please follow and share on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. The power of social media could allow our campaign to gain national media coverage with the help of people like you!

LASTLY, you can buy a Housing for All t-shirt! These are unisex small – XL shirts. $20 + $7 shipping. To purchase a shirt, please Paypal your money, size(s) and address to wallacemastiff@yahoo.com.

Please be praying for our neighbors. Some are ready to fight for their right to safe housing, and some are very very tired. As we have been researching the unjust housing practices in our neighborhood, we are deeply saddened for the way they have been treated for the last 100 years. Pray for God to move on their behalf, to make his love for them known, and for us to affirm the dignity he has placed in each of them.

[The quotes in this post are from Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Letter From a Birmingham jail. The letter is King’s response to the white clergy who call on him to “wait,” suggesting King should trust them to move the civil rights movement forward. You can read it in it’s entirety here.]

one year ::: here and everywhere

“There are years that ask questions and years that answer.”
― Zora Neale Hurston, Their Eyes Were Watching God

Today is the one year anniversary of our family arriving in Miami, and if I had to say one thing about this first year, I would say it was a year that asked questions.

Where are you God?
How do I use my privilege?
Is one enough?
What is the goal?
What can we do?
What in the heck are we doing here?
Are we too late?

Over and over, I asked questions. Big questions, small questions, hard questions, flippant questions. 2015 was a year that answered, and I had grown comfortable with God responding in tangible ways. 2016 was uncanny in its contrast. It caught me by surprise and took my breath away. Transition and culture shock hooked up and threatened to take me down. PTSD crept in, then spilled out all over the place.

On day 365, here’s what I know: Jesus is here and God is everywhere. Here on streets where bullets fly. Here where our neighbors are displaced at alarming rates. Here where children raise themselves. Everywhere His image bearers reside. Everywhere His breath gives life. Everywhere Light shines. Everywhere Love wins. Everywhere.

At the end of this first year, I am sure of little else, but I am learning that here and everywhere is enough.

[If you’ve been following along, cheering us on, praying us up, and/or supporting us financially THANK YOU. Truly we could not be here were it not for the support of hundreds of people around the globe. The Kingdom of God is on display through this incredible tribe of people who have loved us well.]

one is enough

Most days, my life is relatively quiet. Ok, actually, I have five kids. My days are never quiet. Most days, my life is relatively simple, straight-forward. I wake up, run or read or write, school my kids, do laundry, walk to the library, watch a bunch of kids ride bikes, read a book, drink some tea, and go to bed. (There’s a lot of preparing and eating food in there too.)

oneisenough3

Other days however, the sheer volume of people and needs in our neighborhood bring me to my knees. Days when there are more people than I can count. Days when culture shock rings deafening in my ears. Days when Satan pounces and tries to steal the meaning of it all.

Days when I hear his “Did God really say… ?” lies.

Did God really say he would use you here? Do you really think you can make a difference? Can’t you see the darkness? Really, all these people and only a few of you? Nah, there’s not much you can do around here…

And I start to believe it. I start to question what we’re actually accomplishing and how it will ever amount to anything and what difference will it make in a sea of poverty and oppression and injustice?

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In Luke chapter 15, Jesus tells three parables back to back to back. You’re likely familiar with all three: the story of the lost sheep, the story of the lost coin, and lastly, the one that prompts visions of felt boards, the “Parable of the Lost Son.”

There are obvious take-aways from this triad; something was lost, it was found, there was a celebration. As I studied these passages I couldn’t help but notice what often isn’t preached: the one that is enough.

We’ve heard about repentance and the lost coming home. We’ve heard about the faithful Father, but we aren’t often encouraged that the one is enough.

The one is enough to go after.
The one is enough to search for.
The one is enough to celebrate.

Luke 15:1 says, “a lot of men and women of doubtful reputation were hanging around Jesus, listening intently.”  He was speaking to the outcast and marginalized, the ones who had been told they were unworthy and unlovely. Jesus shared this message of the one being enough with the one’s society had deemed “not enough.

Jesus spoke a message of enough over them because He was on a mission to do whatever it took to bring the one home. He put on flesh and blood and moved into the neighborhood for the one. He wanted them to know the search for the one is warranted because of their immense value to Him.

The never stopping, never giving up, always and forever love of Jesus will move heaven and earth for the one.

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Maybe you need to hear that you, Dear One, are enough. His unstoppable love flows all the way to your broken heart and offers healing. He is seeking your wholeness and will stop at nothing to reveal it to you.

Maybe you’re living in a place busting at the seams with need. Maybe you’re surrounded by the very people Jesus spoke to in these stories, only problem, you ain’t Jesus. You are finite. Your love has boundaries. Your body grows weak and your heart is approaching its limit.

Good news: one is enough.

The one he’s placed in front of you? That one is enough. No need to save the masses friend, that was never your job. That is Jesus’ thing. Your thing is the one.

Go after the one.
Do whatever it takes to bring the one Home.
Throw down for the one.

Because one is enough.

 

gray

Cars raced down the street last night as our kids and their friends ran through the neighbor’s yard, dodging a myriad of rusty vehicles, wielding sticks as swords and pretending to be pirate warrior beasts, or something like that.

Six months ago we made our 1,100 mile descent; left home for home. Driving away from my parent’s house as the sunlight spilled onto the rolling bluegrass, I stopped to wipe tears from my glasses and snap a few photos, sobbing for the first thirty miles or so.

The skyline brought every memory from adult life into focus.

 

I could feel the hot and humid summer air hitting my 19-year-old face, whipping my hair around as my sister and I drove over the Ohio River for our illustrious lifeguard jobs.

I could see the crisp autumn leaves crushed beneath our tires as my husband and I rode our bikes down the streets, newly engaged, free of responsibility that would soon come.

It was a life-flashing-before-my-eyes kind of experience, not because I was loosing my life, but choosing to give it away. I realize the sound of that can hum towards prideful, and truth be told there’s a hint of it there, but mostly it’s something I white knuckled over to Jesus with each passing mile.

People often ask, “Do you like Miami?” and I’m more unsure of how to answer than anything else I’m unsure of, which is quite a lot things.

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I turned thirty-five in January, two days after finally moving into our house. I had plans to write a witty “Thoughts on Thirty-five” post; instead I ugly cried in public about a dog and overflowing toilets and a defunct washing machine and missing boxes and culture shock. I didn’t like much of anything that day, or many days following that one.

One thing I would’ve written in that post about turning thirty-five is, I’m coming to find out very little in this life is black or white, right or wrong, good or bad. 

There’s simply a lot of gray. The lines of life are blurrier than most of us are comfortable with. We can’t pinpoint a God who speaks oceans into being and breathes life into the dust of our lives. We can’t nail down Love that buys back his prostitute wife or nails his son to a cross.

We can’t corner Light that shines on streets where bullets fly, we simply can’t. 

So we do our best to rhyme with the majestic vastness of God, as Father G says, and it can’t be defined by mere words.

Do I like it here? I suppose I do, in a gray sort of way. One thing I am sure of, God is here, in these blurrier-than-we-are-comfortable-with-spaces, carrying exactly what we hand him with each passing mile.

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slow work

/// This the the third post in our LBF:Book Club series on Tattoos on the Heart: The Power of Boundless Compassion by Father Greg Boyle. See posts one and two here and here. ///

slow_wait

“How do you know when to move on?” My friend asks about one of our neighbors, only half expecting an answer, letting the question float into the steamy Miami atmosphere. It lodges in my heart, jagged and sideways, not sitting quite right.

Teilhard de Chardin wrote that we must “trust in the slow work of God.” Ours is a God who waits. Who are we not to?

It takes what it takes for the great turnaround. Wait for it.

I’ve come to realize I thought I was done with waiting. Our six-year international adoption is complete. Our sons were freed from foster care and are now legally ours. We made it to Miami. Seven years of waiting for monstrous life changes; over.

Only now, I find myself waiting for life change in others. This waiting rubs against my humanity, much in the same way my own waiting did. Waiting isn’t a posture of the human heart capable of muscle memory.

My friend’s question is valid, I suppose, when we think of our finite time and resources. When we consider successful outcomes and potential returns on investment.

But, I’m coming to realize, it takes what it takes. For healing. For wholeness. For the great turnaround. And when we wander into the jurisdiction of God, we’re reminded of the slow work of God, and our only response: to wait for it.

//

I think waiting and hoping are two sides of the same coin. One doesn’t wait without hope, and there is no hoping without the slow work of waiting.

When you’ve chosen to stand where Satan threatens to steal the meaning of it all, the challenge then is to make meaning of it, even in the midst of waiting. To live in the already-not-yet of the Kingdom is to hope when hope feels futile from within and looks foolish from outside. It is a slow, often misunderstood, work.

Like Pedro, my hope can only come from being intoxicated by the dream that light is better than darkness. And when we are drunk on light, we encounter a God who waits. For us. For our neighbors. For the whole broken world.

It takes what it takes.

Wait for it.

What we ought to believe.

Not much in my life makes sense outside of God. Certainly, a place like Homeboy Industries is all folly and bad business unless the core of the endeavor seeks to imitate the kind of God one ought to believe in. In the end, I am helpless to explain why anyone would accompany those on the margins were it not for some anchored belief that the Ground of all Being thought this was a good idea. – Gregory Boyle, Tattoos on the Heart

Before we lived here, I didn’t understand this quote.

tats2

 

I first read Tattoos on the Heart last summer. We were in the thick of packing up our earthly belongings to move across the country. We used adjectives like “at-risk” and “under resourced” and “poor” to describe the neighborhood we were joining.

That was before we lived here.

Now, I agree with Father Boyle; not much in my life makes sense outside of God.

We left our hometown with five little people and nowhere to land.
We live on a street where bullets fly. 
I home school my 23-year-old neighbor.

It’s all foolish and poor financial planning to live on the gifts of others. It’s reckless choose this neighborhood. It’s absurd to be stubborn about hope.

Unless.

tats4

 

Unless the core of it all is to imitate the God we ought to believe in.

But can I let you in on a little secret? Sometimes it’d be easier not to believe.

This God says we’re standing in the right place if we’re with the poor. With those who mourn. The hungry and thirsty. He says if we are persecuted and lied about and pushed around; we’re in the right place.

There’s not a one of those things the world can make sense of. Stand with the poor? Move into someone’s broken heart? Join the parched and the weary? You’ll know you’re with me when you’re lied about? Pushed around? Really Jesus?

Really.

The God we ought to believe in, He hasn’t so much promised the things this world counts as important. Or wise. Our even just a decent enough idea. Imitating Him is swimming upstream the whole dang way.

That bit about being helpless to explain these choices? I get that part now too.

tats3 tats5

 

Last summer, one of my friends who lives among the marginalized in London told me this is her favorite quote from the book.

I secretly thought maybe she was a little cruel. Like somehow she had been a mean girl in high school and hid it really well as an adult, or maybe my judge of character had started to slip.

Yes, yes, in some Church circles choosing to stand with the marginalized is sexy business. Until you do it. Until it isn’t.

tats6

 

I was recently interviewed for a podcast and, of course, the host asked me about safety in our neighborhood. I gave the standard Christian answer, you probably know the one, something about the center of God’s will being the safest place to be.

Here’s the thing: I have lots of thoughts on the topics of safety and wisdom and privilege and laying down our lives, but at the end of the day, I’m helpless to explain it outside of God thinking this is a good idea.

Helpless.

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Are you reading along with us? What quote(s) impacted you? Was there a homie’s story that brought you to tears or made you laugh out loud? Leave your words in the comments OR meet us tonight on Facebook at 8:30pm EST. If you’re a blogger, you can link up your own post below as well.

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When souls shake.

I sat in church when I got the text: several shots fired outside our house. Then another text. And another. Everyone ok. No one hit. The house shook. The house shook. I never thought about gunshots shaking a house. I imagined they could shake a soul but I no longer imagine it. The images of violence in our nation are no longer part of my imagination. Because I chose it. We chose it. And I wonder, why, again, did we chose this? Here where bullets fly on streets as children play? Our children and our children because, remember, there are no other people’s children.

when_souls_shake

It’s enough to shake your soul.

I sat in church when I got the text, not for a sermon, no, for Joseph and his amazing technicolor coat. My big boys sandwiched me, eyes open wide as the lights dim low.

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I closed my eyes, drew back the curtain
To see for certain what I thought I knew
Far far away, someone was weeping
But the world was sleeping
Any dream will do

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I tried to enjoy it. Tried to be present. I tried not to think about the fact that for the first time since moving here, I didn’t want to go home.

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I wore my coat, with golden lining
Bright colors shining, wonderful and new
And in the east, the dawn was breaking
And the world was waking
Any dream will do

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The concession stand ran out of pizza two people too soon. We inhaled our Cheetos and candy bars before the lights laid low again, and all I could think was how my husband said he “laid low” with our three kids at home when he saw the muzzle flash. What the hell is muzzle flash?

We slipped back into our seats for Act II of Joseph’s story.

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A crash of drums, a flash of light
My golden coat flew out of sight
The colors faded into darkness
I was left alone

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The lump in my throat grew as we approached the corner where the shots were fired just a couple of hours earlier. I expected it to look different from when we left. It didn’t.

Two neighbors stood outside, their porcelain smiles bright across ebony skin, a light in the dark evening sky. A couple of kids rode croggy on a bike.

I sent the big boys off for jammies and teeth brushing. My husband gave me a brief rundown of the night’s events. “What kind of gun shakes a house?” I ask, not because I don’t already know the answer, but because I don’t want to know it.

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May I return to the beginning
The light is dimming, and the dream is too
The world and I, we are still waiting
Still hesitating
Any dream will do

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The crashing waves of violence-prayer-violence-prayer-violence-prayer are as familiar to our team as the waves of the Atlantic. The push and pull of Light and darkness is ever-present here. A couple of years ago, as a battle raged on the streets and in the heavenlies, one of our neighbors smashed his semi-automatic with a sledgehammer on the sidewalk. An outward expression of inward heart change.

It is in prophetic moments like that one my hope to dream is renewed. After all, it was God himself who said Light would shine out of darkness. 

And when you dare to dream, you bear witness to the Light.
When you dare to dream, families are made whole.
When you dare to dream, weapons are laid low.

And when weapons are laid laid low at the foot of the cross, that majestic and scandalous place where the last are first, where the poor inherit the Kingdom and where boundless compassion swallows our fear? That’s when the shalom of Heaven touches Earth and the Kingdom come is here and now. That’s when the beatitudes break through like the scorching Miami sun.

When we dare to dream that the God of the Bible really is who He says He is and actually is already doing what He says He will do, our souls shake for an altogether different reason. We get to participate in Kingdom work we would never even be able to see otherwise.

Courage is our nature in Christ friends, may we not allow fear to stand in the way of walking in it. 


 

tatts_onthe_heart

If you’d like to explore this idea of boundless compassion, I invite you to join me in the first ever Light Breaks Forth Book Club! Starting next month, we will be walking through Tattoos on the Heart: The Power of Boundless Compassion, written by Father Greg Boyle. Father Boyle has lived among gang members in LA for over twenty years, showing them the boundless compassion of Christ. This book is one I continually come back to in my quest for loving others unconditionally and with joy. All the details can be found here and the book is on SALE on Amazon for less than ten bucks!!! I hope you’ll join us!

 


 

 

 

Birthdays and Neighbors

I caught a glimpse of myself in the bathroom mirror, the one I don’t usually have time to stop and look into. My sun-kissed shoulders reminded me we’re in Miami. Sometimes I forget. A few days ago I walked outside from an overly air-conditioned Starbucks, bracing myself for winter only to be met by luke-warm 70 degree air. Oh, right, I thought to myself.

 

We celebrated our oldest’s birthday last weekend. Each year I am reminded by how intrinsically wrong it is that I wasn’t there on his actual birth day and how intrinsically wrong it is that the one who birthed him isn’t here on this day. It’s the tension we hold in this broken and beautiful world. 

We’d only been in our house for 11 days when his birthday rolled around and we had three extra kids for the week while their parents were out-of-town so a “party” wasn’t really planned or necessary.

We fell in love with our house because, not only is it the perfect size and layout for our family, it’s also locationally dreamy. As we walked outside with our cooler and circus on wheels, I lost count at 14 kids on our short block. It felt wrong to walk past them with a cake and a cooler full of ice cream but I knew we didn’t have enough for everyone.

Our son had asked to invite one of the boys across the street but we weren’t sure how to do that without inviting the whole block. I felt conflicted – invite them all and pray for a fish and loaves experience, or invite no one and keep our birthday goods to ourselves?

birthdays_and_neighbors

By the time William unchained the bikes/scooters/skateboards, there were only a few kids left in front of our house. So I asked them if they were allowed to go to the park alone. One nodded yes with a bit of hesitation. Another ran into the street and shouted across, asking for and receiving permission.

So we were off toward the park; eleven kids, a cake and a cooler full of ice cream.

I sat the cake down on the picnic table, as far away from the bird poop as I could. We slid eight candles into the icing but the wind only let us light one. We sang Happy Birthday, our neighbors unsure of whose birthday it actually was and passed out cake and ice cream as fast as we could.

Screaming children are a trauma trigger for me. I tried to block out the little one across the park, crying his brains out on a bench while his dad played basketball. I tried not to think about what need he had that wasn’t being met in that moment and all the other moments leading up to this one. I tried not to judge his father for choosing to play ball over consoling his boy. I tried not to imagine how long he could scream for.

Most of the kids gulped down their cake and quickly moved on to the playground. The birthday boy lingered at the table a bit longer for an extra slice. I was just sitting down for a bowl of rocky road when he interrupted my first bite, “This is better than I was expecting.” I was a bit taken back by how observant he was. How did he know his cake came from a box this year? Before I could inquire he added, “I didn’t know our neighbors would be here. I’m glad they’re here.”

I second-guessed myself all evening and I’m sure we did a dozen things wrong. It was just three neighbors. It was just cake and ice cream. It was just a birthday party at the park. But it was the beginning and I’m glad we’re here.

a weary world rejoices [when bullets fly]

When bullets fly, suddenly everything you said about safety being an illusion becomes a mirage you actually want to see. Just tell me what I need to take to hallucinate safety. Cloak my family in that illusion, please-and-thank-you, because I don’t much care for the sight of police cars and caution tape.

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We spent our last year in Louisville “raising support” – meeting with potential financial and prayer partners. With the help of a Powerpoint presentation, we shared our family’s back story, the history of our Miami neighborhood, statistics about poverty and people unreached by the Good News.

As a picture of an AK-47 flashed on the screen, we narrated a shooting that took place last summer. “It’s not a particularly violent neighborhood” we would say, “there is some targeted violence…” (As if bullets contain some sort of global positioning system) “toward people involved in things they shouldn’t be.” (As if somehow being involved in those things makes a bullet intended for those people acceptable.)

Our aim was to calm the nerves of loved ones, to somehow communicate that even though we think safety is an illusion, we’ll be “safe” there, in that neighborhood with “targeted” violence…

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I was warned about culture shock; no one told me it would be this hard to b r e a t h.

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When bullets fly you wonder, Do I really have the power to push back darkness? The spiritually correct way of saying this is: you “question the call.”

But what I’m really questioning is, Do I even want to? Do I want to be light in the dark when streetlights are overpowered by strobing red and blue on every corner?

Do I want to?

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Counting the cost is no one time event. It’s a minute-by-minute decision to choose the margins over the mainstream, the center of God’s will over the illusion of safety, dependence on Him over a steady paycheck.

When the water stops running and groceries are hard to come by and you can’t read the street signs and you find a lizard in your hair you ask…

Do I really even want to be in the center of His will if it’s on the margins of society?

It’s tempting to think plumbing problems and internetlessness and driving miles for groceries and lizards in the bathtub are things that make you a “real missionary.”

I’ve seen the looks on faces as people struggle to understand a missionary on domestic soil. But there is no such thing as a “real missionary” because Jesus didn’t distinguish between Jerusalem,  Judea, Samaria, or the ends of the Earth.

And frankly, anywhere bullets fly on streets where children play, that is the end.

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My friend Liz says this Advent is basically saying, “I’m going to be more stubborn about hope than you. I’m going to be more stubborn about possibility than you. I just am.”

The thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices…

How in the world does a weary world rejoice? I’ve been asking myself all week, or all month, or all year. I’m not sure how long…

weary_world5

But I am, I am, stubbornly believing Christmas is the shadow of a reality that’s on it’s way.

I’m rejoicing not only because Jesus came once on a scandalous night in Bethlehem, but because HE IS COMING BACK.

And when he does His sword will stop bullets.
His justice and mercy will drown out darkness.
His tattoo will read “KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS.”
Oppressive leaders will get on their knees.
Those on the margins will be welcomed in.
The weary, the tatted, the bruised, the poor, the hopeless and those at the end – He’ll wipe their tears and put death to death.

That is t h r i l l i n g Good News. It is the hope-giving, rejoice-worthy reality I’m setting my weary soul down on.

And it’s big enough for the whole weary world.

(I came across the below video after having written the first draft of this post. It made me feel right at home and I think it might do the same for you. I dare you to get through it without tears.)

When God Says No

Miami’s tree game is on point.

Good parents say no.

Good parents say no.

Good parents say no. Good parents say no.

And my kids are in. heaven. They have been climbing all the trees since we arrived on Halloween.

Good parents say no.

While we wait for the Lord to show us some permanent housing, we’re graciously being hosted on a working fruit farm. Basically, if it weren’t for the fact that they have to eat, I could go from sunrise to sunset and never see my children. They are enamored with the land, the trees, the fruit, the coconuts (also, fruit? Uhm…) and the neighbor’s dogs. They have never had this much land or freedom, and likely never will again.

Earlier this week, one of them shared that an unnamed Brother climbed a tree all the way up to the roof. And then got onto said roof to walk around, you know, 25 feet above the ground.

Good parents say no.

When I explained to Brother that climbing on the roof was not allowed (which we had previously discussed, because BOYS) he was D E V A S T A T E D and could not comprehend, why in the world of fruit farms, I would deny him such a basic human right as playing on the roof.

Commence weeping and gnashing of teeth. 

I tried explaining that his life is more important than fun. That safety holds a higher priority than breaking limbs. Let’s just say… he didn’t see it that way.

I told him No, and he didn’t get it. His little brain couldn’t comprehend it.

But that’s what good parents do. Good parents say No. Because good parents know more about life than their children do. Good parents know what is good for their children and what will bring them harm.

Good parents say No, and God is a good Father, so sometimes He says No to his children too.

Sometimes there’s something we want – in my case, a house – and He says No because He knows better. But we don’t always see eye to eye with the Almighty, so we do some weeping and gnashing of our own. We stomp our feet and cross our arms and shake our fists at the Heavens.

WHAT DO YOU MEAN NO? That doesn’t make any sense! Have you thought about this? Have you considered that? What exactly are you doing up there anyway?

Matt Chandler has said we have no right to shake our fist at the Heavens, and while I love almost everything that comes out of his mouth, I don’t think this is a situation of “rights.” I think it’s about relationship. And in my realest, rawest relationships, I sometimes shake my fist. I sometimes stomp my feet. I sometimes cross my arms (and ok, roll my eyes) and I let the real emotions flow out unhindered.

I think God’s ok with that. I think He can handle that. I even think He welcomes it. Because He’s a good Father, always on the lookout for teaching moments. Besides, He knows that junk is in my heart, what’s the point in tidying it up for Him?

When someone we love gets a No from God, the natural human response is: Surely something better is just around the corner! 

To which I say, Eh, maybe.

Maybe you didn’t get that job because a better one is coming.
Maybe that relationship ended because a better one is on the way.
Maybe that medication didn’t work because a miracle is coming down the pike.

But maybe not.

Maybe the answer is No and something “better” – by our finite worldly standards – isn’t around the corner. Maybe the answer is No because God is a good Father and He knows what we need and what we don’t and He can see eternity and we can see none of it in comparison and maybe, when God said in Isaiah that His ways are higher than ours, that’s actually what He meant.

His ways are higher, His thoughts are greater. Does that make them better? Yes. Does that make the No easier to swallow? Eh, sometimes. 

sidewalks

sidewalks

Our Louisville neighborhood was the most diverse in the city. People from 80 nations made their way to our long blocks and tree-lined streets.

It wasn’t unusual to see women in traditional Somali dresses walking down the sidewalk with laundry, bags of groceries, or even a coffee table on their head.

Our neighbors catty corner across the street celebrated many marriages in their yard, complete with Vietnamese decorations and fireworks. Red and white streamers with flecks of gold confetti littering their yard the next morning.

There were groups of teenagers – sometimes two, sometimes ten – who walked down the middle of the street, as if the sidewalks didn’t exist. They looked odd – and too old – for navy blue pants and uniform red polos. I imagine they didn’t like wearing such clothes. I wouldn’t.

If I’m being honest, their not-walking-on-the-sidewalk bothered me.

Why walk down the middle of the street? Can’t they see we have sidewalks? The street is for c-a-r-s.

I surmised maybe they didn’t have sidewalks where they came from… That’s what it means to give someone the benefit of the doubt, right?

One afternoon, a group of them were particularly loud, and I feared they would wake my sleeping babe, so I scowled at them out the window. Most of them scowled back and shouted words I couldn’t understand but interpreted just fine. One of them kicked over our garbage can, just in case anything was lost in translation.

After they passed, one boy came back. He picked up the garbage can, shot me a smile, and ran to catch up with the group.

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Once we ate lunch at a Mexican joint in a different part of town. We didn’t eat out much, and I don’t remember why, on that particular day, we stopped for Mexican. There were no tables inside large enough to seat our family so we pushed together a few wire patio tables with matching chairs outside on the sidewalk.

Our waitress was nice. Slow, but nice. I think all waitresses seem slow to moms of five small children who are near death by starvation. Glory spilled water on her shirt so I let her take it off. After all, we were sitting outside and it was warm. Early summer I think.

We cut the boys off on chips and salsa so they killed time by catching beetles on the sidewalk. They knew the type of beetle. They had read it in a book about bugs. It had a green iridescent shell. I don’t know it’s name.

“Do the sidewalks in Miami look like this?”
“Like what?”
“Like this, with cracks and weeds. All broken.”
“Oh. I don’t know, why?”
“Because it reminds me of where I use to live. I don’t like sidewalks that are cracked and broken.”

At the age of seven he’s already been told the sidewalks we walk on reveal something about us. He assumes if the sidewalks in your neighborhood are cracked and broken, you must be too. He knows people treat you differently if your sidewalk is jacked and the weeds are growing through. He knows appearances really do matter and his is not the right one to have. He knows sidewalks are concrete mirrors.

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It’s amusing how landlords and listing agents try to hide the fact that a particular house is in an at-risk neighborhood.

A stones throw away from… someplace better.
Walking distance to… someplace better.
Near… someplace better.

Before arriving in Miami, I would occasionally come across a house online close to our price range and family size and send the link to friends already in the neighborhood. They would respond with something like “too expensive” or “too small”, but usually it was “that street is gentrifying…”

Once I found what seemed like a good fit, but the listing didn’t include an address. A good sign, I thought, another way of hiding the location of the house. I texted a picture to my friend to see if she recognized it. She didn’t.

Her only response, “There are sidewalks. Our neighborhood doesn’t have sidewalks.”

And so we go.

“The Lord said to Abram:
Go out from your land, your relatives, and your father’s house and
go to the land that I’m going to show you.”
Genesis 12:1, emphasis mine

So Abram went… and so we go.

Each week my husband and I alternate attending our daughter’s class with her at church. Yesterday I joined a small group of two and three year olds in tiny wooden chairs to eat raisins and recap last weeks story. After recounting a surprising number of facts about the tower of babel, we sat criss-cross-applesauce in a circle on the floor. While my friend of over a decade opened up God’s word, there was the occasional rolling around on the rug, taking off shoes and chatter about owies and boo-boos, yet somehow she made it through the story of God sending Abram out.

 We acted out a fun little poem that depicts in four lines God sending Abram:

Time to go,
You must leave the place you know.
Abram traveled with his kin,
To the place he’d soon live in.

In an effort to encourage my daughter to participate, I stood up and tapped my wrist, where a watch would be if I wore one. It’s time to go! the class shouted in their small but boisterous voices. You must leave the place you know, they trail off, pointing out ahead with their chubby fingers. We march round the room, pretending to be Abram and his kin, to the place he’d soon live in, we say, making an a-frame roof with our hands.

The kid’s lesson revolved around moving – have you ever moved? How did it feel? What did Abram take with him?

While my friend discussed these things with the little people, God was teaching me a different lesson. Abram and his family moved, yes, but my head and heart were fixated on the fact that not only was God sending them away from what they knew, He was sending them to a yet-to-be-revealed land. God knew where he was sending them – He’d known from the beginning of time – but Abram? Abram had no clue. 

I don’t really have to imagine what Abram’s conversations were like with his friends and family as he prepared for this move; I have experienced my own version in the past few weeks. As our departure for Miami draws near, I’ve explained dozens of times that Yes, we are leaving for Miami on Thursday but no, we do not (yet) have a home.

People are concerned and confused – a diagnosis of crazy implied in their well-meaning follow-up questions. Where will you stay? What will you do with your stuff? How will that work with five kids? My answers are a hazy shade of Genesis 12:1. God said it’s time to go, and to be patient in housing. He knows what we need, he’s brought us this far, he will not leave us homeless now…

I’m not arrogant enough to think God’s specific blessing for Abram transcends to my individual family, but you know all those stars in the heavens Abraham couldn’t count? Well, those starts are us Friend; me and you and our families.

The offspring Abraham couldn’t count and no doubt couldn’t wrap his mind around, the offspring that included Isaac and Jacob and Jesse and the God-Man, roll out all the way to us. We are those countless stars in the sky, set in the expanse of the heavens to give light to a dark world. Our job isn’t much different today than the assignment given to those physical stars all those thousands of years ago. 

And the God who hung them, well, He is faithful to fulfill his promises. He’s done it already and he’s still doing it in the not yet, in the land he is going to show us.

So Abram went… and so we go. 

If you’re the praying type, would you pray for us to be faithful in patience as we wait for the Lord to show us the home he has already set aside for our family? Thanks friends!

resetting

Eight. That’s the number of times I have scrubbed our toilets in the last two and a half weeks. No doubt a world record in this house.

Trusting God and resetting my prayers.

We have two toilets which means I have scrubbed 16 toilets in barely as many days. The first dozen or so times, I prayed as I scrubbed, “Lord, please let these people buy our house. Let this be the last time I have to clean this house. My feet hurt. I’m exhausted. I don’t know how many more times we can do this. Please just let these people be The. People.”

But, they weren’t. And in addition to wanting to gouge my eyes out with a toilet bowl brush, I began to feel a tug from the Lord, reminding me of what I’ve sensed all along – I have no need to be anxious about the houses on either end of this 1,000 mile move. He’s got it. He’ll send a buyer to us when He determines we are ready for Miami and He’ll open up the perfect house for our family there – on His hand-picked street, with hand-picked neighbors – when we need it.

The funny thing about tension is, sometimes you have to lean into it to feel secure. It’s exactly the tension in a slackline that allows you to move from point A to point B. That’s a lesson I’ve been avoiding for the last month or so. Which, by the way, avoiding lessons from God is a laughable endeavor. Kinda like when my three year old “hides” by covering her eyes with her hands…

Yeah Lord, I know you’ve been telling me all along not to worry about this, but that feels a little weird, a little arrogant, a little like I wouldn’t have anything else to do but, I don’t know, TRUST IN YOU. So, I’ma go ahead and pray like you haven’t told me to cool it all along and act like a maniac everytime we have a showing. If you could just hurry up and bring The Buyers already, that would fit in with my We’re Moving in October timeline, MK?

I’m often tricked into thinking confirmation from the Lord will come in the way of His timing matching up perfectly with mine. The Lord will have gotten my Google Calendar invite and respond with “Yes, Child, I will be there because you have impeccable planning and timing skills.”

But often, He doesn’t. And actually, that has happened zero times.

What does it look like to lean into the tension of trusting God in the midst of the unknown? You guys, I’m still figuring that out. I’m still trying to reset my expectations, reset my prayers, and reset my everyday-living-life to reflect my trust in Him. It started at the toilets. Instead of praying for This and Now and what I think my preferences are, my prayers are more along the lines of, Lord, help me trust fully in your goodness and your timing. Help me lean into the tension of trusting you, knowing you know what I want and what my family needs. Help me enjoy this season, these days, these people and this city. Amen.

Face-to-Face with Jehovah-Jireh

Late that day he said to them, “Let’s go across to the other side.” They took him in the boat as he was. Other boats came along. A huge storm came up. Waves poured into the boat, threatening to sink it. And Jesus was in the stern, head on a pillow, sleeping! They roused him, saying, “Teacher, is it nothing to you that we’re going down?”

Awake now, he told the wind to pipe down and said to the sea, “Quiet! Settle down!” The wind ran out of breath; the sea became smooth as glass. Jesus reprimanded the disciples: “Why are you such cowards? Don’t you have any faith at all?”

They were in absolute awe, staggered. “Who is this, anyway?” they asked. “Wind and sea at his beck and call!” – Mark 4:35-41, The Message

When we encounter “storms” in life, our tendency is to wonder where we went wrong. When did we get out of step with the Lord? Where did we misinterpret Him? But in this story, Mark is clear: Jesus said to the disciples, “Let’s go across to the other side.” It was his idea. Jesus planned their journey across the lake, knowing full well the storm that lay ahead.

There’s a lesson in this for the American Church, where the prosperity gospel and our consumeristic-play-it-safe-insurance-laden culture threatens to blind us to Jesus’ upside down Kingdom. Numerous sermons have been preached on Jesus’ action of sending the disciples, and by extension us, into the storm. The old adage “God doesn’t give us more than we can handle” is annihilated by this story, among many others. Clearly He does. Would we need a Savior otherwise?

But those things are not what struck me about this passage when our friend and pastor preached from it earlier this summer.

What struck me then and sticks with me now is this: Jesus will get us where he wants us to go. It might not be the route we’d have chosen, or in the timeframe we’d planned for, but if Jesus has called us to a place, he will get us there.

As we continue to share what the Lord has called us to in Miami, I am staking my claim there.

We currently have 78% of our budget being given by ongoing supporters, and with single gifts consistently receive above 90% each month which means… WE”RE MOVING!!! (As soon as our house sells. Lift that up if you feel led.)

We are still in need of several more ongoing supporters to be 100% funded and, to be completely honest, we are not sure where the remaining amount will come from!

At times we are terrified. (Still.) Likely not in the same way as the disciples, after all they feared for their lives! But mentally and emotionally we struggle to keep our heads above water. “Where’s it gonna come from Lord?” is a regular prayer of my heart.

At times it is exhilarating (still), much in the same way as flying. I’ve never been on a small boat in the middle of a hurricane, but I have been on an airplane. I feel immeasurably small above the clouds, looking down on the vastness of creation. I also feel a tinge of fear. It’s a sense of… This is incredible, but I’m scared. If this goes bad for me, I’m probably going to die.

clouds

Flying brings me face-to-face with the majesty of God. Awe‑inspiring, while at the same time imposing on my humanity; forcing me to rely completely on the Lord.

We feel much the same way about this final stage of raising support. We are face-to-face with Jehovah-Jireh. He is awe-inspiring and imposing on our humanness, our inability to do this thing on our own.  He is calling us to rely completely on him. Thankfully, and unlike the disciples in that sinking boat, we have the entire New Testament, as well as God’s testimony in our lives, as a reminder of who God is. He is our Provider. Promise Keeper. Deliverance Supplier. Grace Giver. Mercy Extender. Unfailing Lover. Blessed Controller. Unchangeable in Character. Unlimited in Power.

I suppose we could have continued to share our plans for raising the remaining $1,552 we need each month to be fully funded. That would have satisfied my fleshly “we got this” attitude. It would have suppressed my “what will our supporters think if we don’t have a strategic plan?” fears. But, there’s no way to bring God glory when we’re trying to take it for ourselves. And we don’t want to take part in anything that isn’t pointing to Him. (Not to mention, when you commit to being a Truth-Teller, you don’t get to just tell the easy parts.)

What brings God the most glory is being honest about where we are. We are 37,000 feet above Earth, relying solely on Him to help us land this thing. We are 78% of the way across the lake, trusting in the Lord to get us to the other side. 

But here’s the good news I preach to myself each day: God is going to take us where He wants us to go! There is nothing between Louisville and Miami that can keep God from completing what He started in our family. Nothing. The same is true for you, wherever He is taking you.

We know He will make a way; He never calls us to something and bails 78% of the way there. God is going to accomplish His agenda, not ours. Our agenda was to be in Miami by now. His agenda is to teach us a lesson about trusting Him when we can’t see over the waves.

So we continue to share, in faith. We pack boxes, in faith. We put our house on the market, in faith. We look for rental homes, in faith. We plan the kid’s new school year, in faith. We cast our cares on Him because He cares for us. (1 Peter 5:7)

And, with holy expectancy, we ask Him to land us safely in West Coconut Grove.

Where is God taking you? Are you in your own boat of faith, learning to fully rely on the only One who can get us all to the other side?

A Story, a Cycle & an Invitation

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There once was a young girl whose father was absent. Whether it was addiction, apathy or another woman, he was nowhere to be found. Her mother was unable to care for her because of her own brokenness so, after years of witnessing violence and experiencing physical and emotional abuse, she and her siblings went into foster care.

A nice-enough woman showed up one day along with a couple police officers. The young girl was placed in the backseat of a police car and watched through tears as her house got smaller and smaller and smaller… until finally she couldn’t see it anymore.

She entered “the system”. Scared. Heartbroken. Bruised.

A home able and willing to care for her and her all of siblings could not be found so they were separated. The young girl carried a garbage bag filled with her belongings up the steps of a house she had never before seen, and walked numbly into the living room of complete strangers.

Alone. Scared. Heartbroken. Bruised.

She stayed in that home for a little while but, for reasons her young heart couldn’t understand, they “couldn’t keep her.” So, she packed up her garbage bag and moved to another stranger’s home. And then another. And another. And another.

Alone. Scared. Heartbroken. Sometimes, still bruised.

All of the sudden, she’s a teenager and labeled as “too much”, among other things. She found herself in a “Residential Treatment Facility” with other teenage girls. Dozens of them with similar stories. Stories of abuse and abandonment and loneliness and broken families.

She got better. Went to therapy. Took her medication. And went back into a stranger’s home.

Then she got pregnant. And became a statistic.

{Teen girls in foster care are more than twice as likely
as their peers not in foster care to become pregnant by age 19.}

Soon she dropped out of high school. And became another statistic. 

{Roughly 50 percent of the nation’s 500,000 foster kids won’t graduate from high school.}

Then she “aged out.” Left the foster care system. Alone. Scared. Heartbroken. No support system. No one to help her find an apartment. Or a job. Or a car.

Her baby was born and though she loved her, she had no idea how to care for her. How to nurture her. How to show her love. Because she had never experienced it herself. In nearly two-dozen foster homes, she had never experienced healthy family. So she couldn’t create it.

And because she had no one to help her navigate the real world, she became homeless. Another statistic.

{Nearly a quarter of foster youth are homeless within a year of leaving care.}

She surfed couches as long as she could. Stretched her food stamps as far as they would go. Made some bad decisions. Made some mistakes.

And then, another pregnancy. Another baby she loved as much as she could, in the ways she knew how. But it wasn’t enough.

One day, an all-too-familiar social worker showed up at the homeless shelter. Says they got a call. Says she’s not keeping her kids safe. Says there’ll be a court date soon.

There she sits. Alone. Scared. Heartbroken. Bruised.

Her kids entered “the system”. Alone. Scared. Heartbroken. Bruised. And the cycle repeats itself. Again. And again. And again…

I wish I could say this story is fictional, but it’s not. I have witnessed similar versions play out over and over and over again in the foster care system.

Friends, THIS is the reason we are moving to Miami. We simply CANNOT stand by while this cycle, this epidemic, repeats itself.

More than 20 million children live in a home without the physical presence of a father.  Millions more have dads who are physically present, but emotionally absent.  If it were classified as a disease, fatherlessness would be an epidemic worthy of attention as a national emergency. – National Center for Fathering

We MUST come alongside at-risk families as friends and a support system. We MUST model healthy, biblical family for those who have never seen it. We MUST work for healing broken families. We MUST give them the skills and tools and resources to stay together. 

How do you break a cycle? One Father at a time. One Mother at a time. One Family at a time. One conversation at a time. One prayer at a time. One day at a time.

One Partner at a time.

Would you join us in this urgent and important work of breaking the cycle of broken families? Would you to commit to giving $10 a month for the sake of advancing Gods Kingdom in Miami? 

$10 may not feel like much. Or maybe it feels like a lot.

But here’s what we’re learning about Kingdom Economics: God takes all of our small things together and makes them BIG.

For more information and to join us check out our current #smalltogetheristhenewbig campaign.

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The effects of broken families and fatherlessness are immense, but together we CAN make a difference.

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#smalltogetheristhenewbig

I love community. You could say we were made for it, this whole big human group of us. And I love this online space where we can connect with people on the other side of town, in the next state and even across the world. People who we feel down in our marrow were cut from the same cloth, but who, if it weren’t for the internet, we never would have encountered.

We’re stronger together and the internet allows our togetherness to be BIG. We can lock arms with one another and say “Let’s do this thing”, becoming part of something BIGGER than ourselves. And it’s awesome.

Friends, consider this your invitation to be part of our BIG thing. To lock arms with us. Because, #smalltogetheristhenewbig.

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You might’ve heard, we’re heading to inner-city Miami with InnerCHANGE, a Christian order among the poor. InnerCHANGE communities of missionaries live in marginalized neighborhoods around the world – places most people want to avoid or ignore.

The Lord has taught us many things in the last eight years, the overarching theme being this – orphans do not exist in a vacuum. And if we want to combat the orphan crisis in a holistic and Godly way, we must enter into and seek solutions for the tragedies creating orphans and vulnerable children in our own backyard and around the world.

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And YOU can join us!

In order to focus completely on family preservation, we will be fully supported by people just like you. People who get it. People who believe in a holistic model of ministry. People who believe children deserve to grow up healthy and carefree and as part of a family. People who have seen Jesus do amazing things.

We’re asking you to commit to giving $10 a month for the sake of advancing Gods Kingdom in Miami. Could you give up a couple lattes or an album on iTunes or a tank top from Target?

Sometimes it’s hard to feel like our small thing is enough to make a difference right? So we don’t offer it. We tuck it away until it can be a big thing on its own.

But here’s what we’re learning about Kingdom Economics: God takes all of our small things together and makes them BIG.

He takes the two coins we have and calls them Enough. He honors our hearts and our obedience and our seemingly small steps of faith. Because, #smalltogetheristhenewbig… but God’s been doing it all along. If our God can take two fish and five loaves of bread and feed thousands, He can also take your Hamilton’s and make Himself known in inner-city Miami.

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But there’s more! When you support us financially you are not just sending us to Miami; you are very much joining us. You’re making family preservation happen in a neighborhood where healthy intact families are few and far between.

You are saying you won’t stand by while another generation of at-risk kids sell drugs and sling guns. You’re saying you won’t be silent while teenage girls become statistics, raising kids as single moms who have never even seen healthy family. Whose kids are destined, the system says, to become single moms themselves. You’re saying “Not on my watch” will Image Bearers grow up in oppressive poverty in our own country without hearing of the healing redemptive power of Jesus.

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You’re acknowledging that through Him, you CAN do something. That God can and will use your small thing to do BIG amazing miraculous things. Satan wants you to believe the lie that your small thing isn’t enough. But our God is the God of the mustard seed, the God David trusted to slay a giant with a stone, the God who used an empty jar of oil to make food for days, the God who sent a tiny baby into the world to save it.

Our God delights in small things.

Will you take your small thing and join us and dozens of others in advancing the Kingdom in inner-city Miami? Join the #smalltogetheristhenewbigmovement here.

(If God lays a dollar amount other than $10 on your heart, please go with that. Because, duh, He’s God.)

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On Being Vulnerable

Since last fall we’ve been busting our humps to get fully funded and onto the mission field. Most experts say this will take 18-24 months. We’re hoping to do it in under twelve so… we have a LOT of meetings.

When we first began raising support, we compiled a list of everyone we know. Literally. Friends from high school. Our old church. Past co-workers. Family members. Facebook friends. You name it, they went on The List.

And then we asked if we could meet with them to share what God is calling our family to, what’s He’s already doing in Miami and our financial support goals.<—– And that’s when the awkward begins. Because who wants to talk about finances?

Talking about money is weird for most of us. No one likes doing it, which honestly I’ve never really understood because Jesus talked about money a lot…

I cut my teeth in the non-profit sector so I learned to confidently ask for money a long time ago and yet, I learn something new and enlightening e’ry day.

Here’s the most incredible thing I’ve learned so far:

Vulnerability begets vulnerability.

Because finances and monthly budgets are not something often shared with others, it automatically sets vulnerability as the tone for the conversation. And you know what happens when vulnerability is the aroma in the room? People engage in it. They inhale it like the first day of Spring. They dip their toes in the water of openness to see if it might feel like acceptance.

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It’s no wonder we’re programmed against vulnerability. The dictionary has this to say about:

vulnerable

[vuhl-ner-uh-buh l]
adjective

1. capable of or susceptible to being wounded or hurt, as by a weapon

2. open to moral attack, criticism, temptation, etc.
And I concur that is often the feeling of opening up to another human being. Whether you’re sharing your heart or your grocery budget, we are capable, in that moment of openness, of being wounded or hurt. And no one wants that.

 

But in contrast, when we are truly vulnerable, emotionally naked in front of another human being, and they speak L I F E over us? They build us up instead of tearing us down? When instead of attacking and critiquing they offer prayer and encouragement? Well it just makes the whole messy yuck of being scared and afraid and naked worth it.

 

Many people we’ve invited to join us financially in the work God’s doing in Miami have blessed us with their own vulnerability.

 

That thing they’ve been carrying around behind closed doors is now out in our living room. It’s bouncing off the walls and our hearts and we never would have known about it otherwise. More importantly, we never would have been praying about it otherwise.

 

Some of them, in the midst of their own messiness, still joined financially in the work God’s doing in Miami. And some didn’t. But they didn’t have to tell us their story; they could have politely declined without letting us into the deep places of life. They chose to let us in.

 

The giving money part? It didn’t matter either way. There were no weapons drawn or attacks made. Webster is dead wrong on this one. Being vulnerable does not always lead to hurt and betrayal. Sometimes it lends itself to unity and love and compassion and prayer. Webster doesn’t get the last say on vulnerability. Jesus does.

 

And what has really been rolling around in my head is, Why aren’t we vulnerable with one another all the time? What is stopping us from this kind of community, this kind of oneness and intimacy available with other Image Bearers?

 

I’m not sure. But the challenge to us is this: Let’s start being vulnerable. Not from behind our computer screens in staged squares of flowers and bibles and journals. In front of actual people. With actual stuff mucking up their hearts. Let’s uncover our worlds and let others in. Dip our toes into the water of openness. Might you get wounded? Yeah, you might. But you also might find solidarity and and compassion and a co-laborer to hold you up when life is weighing you down.

 

Who might you be vulnerable with today? 

On sagging pants + sideways hats

Several months ago, not long after sharing our big news with the kids, our oldest walked up to me with his pants hanging down past his bottom, Ninja Turtle undees in full view.

“Mom, can I wear my pants like this?”

“Buddy, I don’t really want to see your underwear but as long as you love Jesus, you can wear your pants however you want.”

<excited perplexed look crosses his face as he turns his hat sideways>

“Mom, can I wear my hat like this?”

“Sure bud.”

“You know people who dress like this? Do they love Jesus?”

Just a couple of weeks earlier we watched My Hope with Billy Graham. I asked if he remembered hearing Lecrae’s testimony, how he use to be a thug but now he knows Jesus and tells other people about Jesus.

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He remembered.

“Hey Mom! Maybe I can tell people who dress like this about Jesus!”

“That’s a great idea buddy!”

<cue the tears>

One of the most common questions we get about moving into an at-risk neighborhood is “What about the kids?”

What will it be like for them? How will they be affected? What about our boys whose life before us so closely resembled the lives of our neighbors? Will they take to the streets screaming “My people!”?

I don’t know. I didn’t know. They could. We have our prayed-over-and-somewhat-scripted answer: We know moving into an at-risk neighborhood will require us to VERY intentionally parent our kids. We know it will not be easy but we believe it worth it to show them God loves the least of these and they are worth risking our comfort.

But what God showed me through a short conversation about sagging pants and sideways hats is He is going to USE my children in ways I can’t even begin to imagine. He’s going to use them to reach people I could never reach.

He’s going to give them influence over their peers I will never have. Kids in our neighborhood with sagging pants and sideways hats will hear about Lecrae and Jesus because of our kids.

This doing-ministry-as-a-family-thing is not just about risking our comfort for the sake of Jesus’ name in the Grove, I’m learning, it’s also about Jesus showing up in our family and showing us how great his plans are for our kids and the way he plans to show up in their lives too.

We knew he would.

This has always been about doing ministry as a family, but to see glimpses of what that will look like is such a sweet gift. God assured my heart that day and has reminded me many days since, “Lindsy, they are mine. I’ve got them. What about the kids? I’ve got bigger and better plans for them than you could ever imagine.” 

#givingtuesday is here!

FINALLY!

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#GivingTuesday is a global event inspiring personal philanthropy and encouraging greater generosity during the Christmas season.

There are three ways you can take action with and for us this #givingtuesday so we can get. to. Miami!

GIVE

Today I’m giving you the opportunity to join us in advancing Gods Kingdom in West Coconut Grove, to come alongside us as we enter into and seek solutions for the tragedies creating orphans and vulnerable children in this at-risk neighborhood.

We are not asking you to give money to us, we are raising support for the work God is already doing in the West Grove. We’re simply asking you to be a part of that work.

God has invited us to GO, is He inviting you to SEND?

You can take 60 seconds right now to sign up at the secure online link. It’s virtually painless. Thank you for helping us reach our goal of ten new monthly partners today on #givingtuesday! {NOTE: You cannot use the Safari browser to give. Please use Chrome or another browse of your choice.}

We’re moving to Miami! from William H. Wallace II on Vimeo.

Maybe you’re knew here and all this is making your head spin. If that’s the case, this video is for you! Who knows, maybe God is calling you to support His work in Miami?

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SHARE + CONNECT
Would you share our video? This is a great way for us to make new connections!

Are you part of a small group, bible study, church, etc.? We’d love to share with them too! Please comment or email me lindsy.wallace AT gmail.com!

If you’re into social sharing, share the video link and copy and paste: “Check out this video of my friends the Wallaces! They’re moving to inner-city Miami to shine the light of Jesus into at-risk families and make His name known among the poor. #givingtuesday”

Friendship

I’ve gone back and forth over what to call this post, how I could somehow fit it into my #write31day study on followership. How do I connect these two sweet ladies and this opportunity?

F R I E N D S H I P

First, my lifelong friend Jen. Jen and I have been buddies for over twenty years. We lost touch after high school but reconnected thanks to, you guessed it, Facebook. Back when I was selling jewelry for our adoption Jen offered to pay the shipping so I could send her a box of goodies. She took it to the school where she works, sold a bunch, and mailed the rest and the moolah back to me… Friendship.

Now Jen is selling Jewel Kade (have you guys seen his stuff? It’s pretty neat!) and has offered to give 25% of all sales on the following one-of-a-kind items to our #miamiherewecome fund!

JK
  in me you may have peace.
In this world you will have trouble.
But take heart!
I have overcome the world.
John 16:33

Let us hold fast the confession of our hope
without wavering,
for He who promised is faithful
Hebrews 10:23

From William’s cancer to the brokenness of the foster care system to the injustice of international adoption… these two phrases have been uttered from my lips over and over as I have preached to myself and others.

 

Take Heart – He has already overcome. There will be trouble, yes. But the battle has already been won.

 

Hold Fast – He is faithful to keep His promises. We have this hope as an anchor for our souls. Hold fast.

 

Click here to purchase one of these items and help our family get to Miami!
Maybe you have someone in your life
who needs to be reminded to “Take Heart” or “Hold Fast”?

 

Second, my kindred-spirit friend Lauren. Lauren is a fellow writer, entrepreneur, mom, Jesus lover, and justice seeker. I fell in love with Lauren the moment I laid eyes on the “This Place” page of her blog, Mercy iNK. Fast forward a couple years and we now text regularly, and occasionally sneak in an actual phone conversation! (And all the moms said Amen.)

 

Lauren and I sat together in an Indianapolis hotel room when the DRC announced they would be suspending exit letters to adopted children. We sat teary eyed in the offices of congressmen and senators on Capital Hill this past June and, one day, we’ll have a family get-together with our Congolese cuties and our gaggle of kids running wild and free and talk about those days, far off in the distant past… Friendship.

 

Lauren has a super cool print shop where she sells prints, jewelry, t-shirts, and notecards. They are SO so lovely. Here are a handful of my favorites:

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Each month Lauren donates a portion of all sales in her shop to a “Cause of the Month” and guess what this month’s cause is? That’s right, #miamiherewecome! I’m behind my game this month, so you only have ten days left to shop and support our move to Miami as well as Lauren’s sweet biz!

 

Head on over and start some early Christmas shopping (those prints above are on my list;-) or treat yourself to that adorable tee or a necklace!

 

Do you have friends who’ve followed you throughout life or
recent friends you just completely cherish?
Consider gifting them one of the items above
to let them know how much you love and appreciate them!

 

Linking up with Chantel! 

Drive-bys, Peacocks, & Prayer

Today’s post comes from my friend, business partner, and co-laborer in Miami, Erika Philip. Erika and her husband Michael planted the InnerChange Miami team over nine years ago and have spent their adult lives living and loving amongst the poor in Rwanda, Uganda, and Miami.

Early Saturday morning I laced up my shoes for a long run, kissed the girls on their foreheads, walked past Isaac’s room while he was sleeping soundly, and let Michael know I was leaving. “Whats your route?” he asked and I told him my normal route. “Ummm, Erika that is right in the middle of it. Maybe you should drive to another place to run.” I nodded and walked through my back yard to Kristy’s home (my co-worker) to let her know Michael wanted us to drive to a safe spot instead of run through the neighborhood. She agreed it was the wisest thing to do; but did we really have to do this in daylight?

On the way out of our neighborhood, we talked about the events of the week and shared our sadness, anger, fear, and thoughts about the murder of an 18 year old boy in broad day light only blocks from our homes, the subsequent retaliation drive-bys, and our kids’ school code-red lock down because of a shooting a block away. ALL IN ONE WEEK!

We drove across the “color line” into the wealthy side of the Grove, turned the corner, and had to stop in the middle of the road because a peacock was taking his time crossing. I made a joke about the irony of conversations about drive-bys and peacocks. What a strange world we live in.

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Even though I made a joke, I was actually really wrestling with questions of injustice, inequality, racism, and violence. Issues blaring on many of our TV’s shout from my back yard and the street corners of my neighborhood.

The further I travelled into wealth and safety, the angrier I became. Though I enjoy peacocks and the vast amount of incredible natural beauty that surrounds AND encompasses our tropical, urban neighborhood, today these peacocks were a symbol between the haves and have nots.

Respectable people were out on their patios enjoying coffee and the sights and sounds of peacocks, parrots, and lush gardens, while just a few blocks away, respectable people were rising from another sleepless night, restless, afraid and shaken, preparing to tell their children they couldn’t play outside yet another day because of the uncertainty of impending gun violence.

I put on my headphones and started running.

I was mad and restless. I listened to soft, peaceful worship music hoping to find some solace in the lyrical rhythms. Half way through my run it wasn’t working so I turned on a little “Holy Hip Hop” as we affectionately call it. Lecrae it is.

And indeed I found solace in the beats as he poured out his heart about the boys on our streets, as if he knew them by name, in his song Just Like You.

And my heart broke. Sweat and tears were dripping down my face as I remembered the cry of the fatherless – the very cry I heard when I was called into missions 21 years ago.

Broken, I called out, “Lord, I hear the cry of this fatherless generation. Break my heart, take away my fear, and fill me with compassion. Come, Lord Jesus, come. Bring your Fatherhood to the fatherless.”

I entered back into my neighborhood deeply stirred in my heart… changed.

Finally be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.

Therefore take up the whole armor of God that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication.

To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints, and for me, that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains, that I may declare it boldly, as I ought to speak.

Ephesians 6:10-20

After nine years of ministry in Miami one thing continually brought into focus is this: prayer must precede before we proceed. We must claim the promises of His Word and He will release blessings upon our community. I cannot remember a time in the last several years this has felt more urgent. It is born out of desperation, palpable throughout our neighborhood, an urgency in our hearts that comes with the immediacy of death and eternity. As we have been praying about how to respond to the violence and general hopelessness God has been making it clear that IT. IS. TIME!

It is time to stand up and be counted, time to step forward in faith, to volunteer not only in theory or word or concept but to bodily and boldly move into the spaces that Satan has long held and claimed as his own. It is into those places that God has been calling us to…take…one…more….step.

Yes, prayer in silence and solitude is valuable and powerful and real but God is not calling our Miami team to remain there. He wants us to take the initiative, and new ground, in His name and for His glory. We want to respond to this, we do not want to live in fear, we must walk in victory or our sacrifice becomes empty and our so called obedience dry and brittle.

So what does this look like? Short answer: we don’t know exactly.

What we know for sure is the Holy Spirit is prompting us to pray, actively and aggressively, and He will lead us into more and deeper transformation in ourselves and in our community.

This calls not for a static type of prayer done in private. (Though that will and does play a vital role.) This calls for us to go on the offensive in prayer. We must devise new ways to take prayer to the streets, to the homes of our neighbors, and into the hardest places of our neighborhood in a new and bold way.

For our team in Miami this means we will be prayer walking, going out in prayer teams to key homes, calling for large gatherings of public prayer, and even simply praying for and blessing individuals whenever and wherever we meet them. This means we will “pray on-site, with insight”.

For the last 5 evenings we have been sending prayer teams of 2-3 into homes to pray peace over our neighbors. And guess what? God has shown up!

We plan to go next into well known spiritual strongholds in our community and pray in force. We plan to continue this every night for at least another week (or until God tells us otherwise) in addition to our regular prayer times and random prayers of blessing on people as God prompts us.

Not only do these actions give us amazing prayer interactions, it also opens up opportunities for Christ to be made real to people. Many of our neighbors have said they want to believe in God but it is so hard because they cannot see Him or touch Him – one of the mysteries of the gospel. But if we take Him at His word then we are His Body, and an actual representation of Christ in the flesh. When we join other neighbors who are Believers it deepens the texture and beauty of this physical presence even more and invites others to experience God in an authentically fresh way.

As we have responded to God’s prompting He has answered. People we have prayed with have reported back that God has provided financial relief, deep penetrating peace has come over their homes and persons, courage has been increased, and people are passing it on to others. Prayer has increased and God is on the move.

10 Things I Learned in Mexico

Our family spent eight days in beautiful Mexico earlier this month for our mission organizations WorldWide Conference. The first introduction to our new extended family – nearly 700 missionaries (including about 150 kids!) from 30 countries – was an incredible experience.

The theme of this years conference was “The Movement of God. In us. Among Us. Through Us.” and as a delayed processor, I’m still processing BUT here are 10 things I learned in Mexico.

1. My kids are w.a.y. better fliers than I am.

first

meadow

airplane Canaan escalator2. Jesus commands us to consider the lilies and the birds.

3. Mission Kids/Third Culture Kids can grow into some of the most thoughtful, amazing, beautiful, well-rounded, grounded adults I have ever met.

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4. I have a previously-unknown affinity for mango daiquiris and fish tacos.

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canaansmile

5. Holy ground is never private property.

6. Marriage is a mirror. Motherhood is a magnifying glass.

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dinner

7. God is the most accessible person in the universe.

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8. Anonymity is only a liability if we’re trying to make history for ourselves.

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9. The language of heaven is Spanish.

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10. This group of missionaries adventurers we are joining are the quirkiest Jesus lovers I have ever met. And we fit right in.

fam pass#miamiherewecome

 

How You can Partner with Us

A quick recap on this week’s post:

Monday we shared Our. Big. News. and God’s plan for our family to join InnerCHANGE, a Christian order among the poor. InnerCHANGE communities of missionaries live in marginalized neighborhoods around the world – places most people want to avoid or ignore. We seek to live out the good news of Jesus among the poor, both with words and deeds.

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On Tuesday we shared some FAQ’s about our move to Miami – the when, where, why, how, and how long.

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Because palm trees don’t shout B R O K E N E S S !, Wednesday we dug into Why Miami

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Yesterday I shared that When God Writes the Storyyou don’t always get a preview copy. If God had let me proofread, a lot of things would have gone differently. I would have edited out the very things that have prepared us for this good work He arranged beforehand.
bold

///\\\

Let’s get the awkward on the table: We will be “self-supported” missionaries. That term is really a misnomer since A.) it is God who sustains and supports us in every way, financial included and B.) We are raising all of our personal support, so none of it actually comes from “self.”

Today I’m giving you the opportunity to join us in advancing Gods Kingdom in West Coconut Grove, to come alongside us as we enter into and seek solutions for the tragedies creating orphans and vulnerable children in this at-risk neighborhood.

We believe this is God’s calling for our family. And friends, we are crazy enough to believe we can make a difference in the world. Specifically in preserving families in an at-risk neighborhood, not because we are awesome or talented or skilled, but because it is God’s calling for us and it is significant to Him

Is not this the fast that I choose:
    to loose the bonds of wickedness,
    to undo the straps of the yoke,
to let the oppressed go free,
    and to break every yoke?
Is it not to share your bread with the hungry
    and bring the homeless poor into your house;
when you see the naked, to cover him,
    and not to hide yourself from your own flesh?
Then shall your light break forth like the dawn,
    and your healing shall spring up speedily;
your righteousness shall go before you;
    the glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard.
-Isaiah 58:6-8

Experts say I’m doing it wrong, that making a big public vague appeal like this doesn’t work. That if you give people the option of praying or giving, they will choose to pray. And if you ask a big group of people, they probably won’t do anything.

But I think I know you better than that – I think YOU GET IT. I think the Lord has been teaching you many of the same things He’s been teaching us. You’ve come to see that orphans do not exist in a vacuum. You believe that if we want to combat the orphan crisis in a holistic and Godly way, we must lean strong and steadfast into our belief that the Gospel can heal broken families. We must step out of our comfort zones and into the brokenness and oppression of poverty.

We are not asking you to give money to us, we are raising support for the work God is already doing in the West Grove. We’re simply asking you to be a part of that work.

God has invited us to GO, is He inviting you to SEND?

If so, there are two ways you can send us:

First, you can give to our ministry. We are seeking monthly commitments and one time gifts to get us onto the field as soon as possible. And friends, no gift is too small. I know many of you reading are single income families with a least a couple kids or you’re working your butts off fundraising to get your kids home. We get it. No amount is insignificant.

For example:

Twenty-five people committed to $10/month,
Twenty people committed to $25/month,
Fifteen people committed to $50/month,
Fifteen people to $100/month,
Ten people to $150, and
Five people to $300…

We would be fully funded and leave tomorrow. (Well, almost tomorrow.) Each amount adds up!

If you feel a tug on your heart to partner with us, pray over what that amount might be and ask the Lord to guide your decision. After all, you’re giving it to Him.

{To give use this link and click the blue “Give Now” button. From there you can enter “Wallace” in the search field and select “William and Lindsy Wallace.” Note: CRM is InnerCHANGES “parent” organization, which means they manage all of our funds, and is why you are giving on the CRM website. CRM “empowers leaders to go to the unreached and unchurched, bring transformation among the poor, and mobilize the Church for mission…so that disciples are made among the nations.” Good stuff.}

Second, you can pray for us. If you’d like to be added to our newsletter, leave your email address in the comments or shoot me an email at lindsy.wallace AT gmail.com and I will add you to our prayer partner list. I promise not to spam you (Nobody got time for that.) but will do my best to send out monthly emails letting you know how you can partner with our family in prayer over the work God is doing in the West Grove.

If you’re local and would like to hear more about what God is doing in the Grove and how you can join Him, please let me know that as we’d love to meet with you individually.

 

When God Writes the Story

Our own adoption processes have brought us face to face with homelessness, mental health issues, single mothers/absent fathers, the brokenness of the foster care system, lack of clean water, human trafficking, poverty, lack of maternal health care and drug addiction.

Through it all, God has given us a fierce desire to step into this brokenness and be the hands and feet of Jesus to at-risk families and their children, creating a safe home life and keeping families together whenever possible.

pre·serve [pri-zurv]

verb (used with object), pre·served, pre·serv·ing.

1.to keep alive or in existence; make lasting.
2.to keep safe from harm or injury; protect or spare.

 

As I mentioned yesterday, the mission of our West Grove Team is family preservation. To come alongside our neighbors as friends and support to keep the family unit together. 

Our first year in Miami will focus on building relationships with our neighbors and adjusting to our new neighborhood and culture. We’ll eat together, play together, walk together, do life together.

We will become neighbors and friends and family. We will invite our neighbors into our life. We will model healthy family, biblical fatherhood/motherhood, and healthy parenting.

We will lean strong and steadfast into our belief that the Gospel can heal broken families. We will step out of our comfort zones and into the brokenness and oppression of poverty, be willing to share our own stories and the suffering we have endured, as a testimony to the healing work of Jesus.

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I have to be honest, this is where I’ve been lied to. After our visit in March, I heard the same whispers Eve heard in the Garden.

Did God really say He could use you?
How will you model healthy family?
Didn’t you yell at your kids this morning?
Didn’t you get into an argument with your husband last night?
Isn’t your ministry here going to miss you?

The snake may be sly but he has only one act. His slimy, slithering, belly-on-the-ground words always sound the same, “Did God really say…?”

Lies. Devouring lies from the enemy of family.

Just as we know the Light that can permeate bright and sunny darkness, we know what Jesus said about us:

You are the salt of the earth.
Matthew 5:13

Jesus didn’t say we should be salt, or we could be salt, or if we get it together and stop screwing up we would be salt. He said we are the salt. Already. He declared it.

In Hebrew culture salt was used for many things, including as a preserving agent. There were no deep freezes back then so meat was preserved with salt. Kept safe with salt. Kept healthy with salt.

And Jesus declared that of us to the world. If He believes it about us, I can believe it about us too.

bold

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During our second year in Miami we’ll discern the best way to move forward in preserving families. This could include implementing a Safe Families for Children program, and/or creating opportunities to engage youth and teens with the gospel through filmmaking workshops or a CrossFit -style fitness league.

You see, when God is writing your story, you don’t always get a preview copy. If God had let me proofread, a lot of things would have gone differently. I would have edited out the very things that have prepared us for this good work He arranged beforehand.

Research has shown that growing up in poverty effects a child’s brain much the same as trauma, abuse and neglect. So every. time. we had to take another training class because our home study expired, or because we became a Safe Family, or because the state wouldn’t accept the previous 100 hours of training we had (true story), I rolled my eyes and shook by fist.

But God just smiled. He knew we would need that training for a purpose greater than what I could see. He was writing further into the story than I had read.

{This post is the fourth in a weeklong series on our families move to the mission field. You can read Our. Big. News. and Miami FAQ’s and Why Miami to learn more.}

Why Miami

{If you’ve wandered here haphazardly, you may want to read Our. Big. News. and Miami FAQ’s before going further.}

I have to say, when conversations of moving to Miami first began, I wasn’t all that excited.

For starters, it’s hot there.

REALLY hot. I much prefer scarves and pants and cool weather and crisp leaves and pumpkins and hot tea over sand and sun and salt water.

Also, I really LOVE Africa. (Yes, I know it’s not a country but I haven’t met anyone/read about/seen photos of/documentaries on any part of it that didn’t capture my heart. And I also know it’s hot there too.) If I’m going to pack up these people, let’s just get THERE.

But the more we prayed the clearer is became, Miami is where He wants us.

groveOur new Miami neighborhood is West Coconut Grove. Again, if you’re thinking of the ritzy-Neiman-Marcus-Mercedes-Benz Coconut Grove, we’ll be on the OTHER side of the tracks.

The side where Bahamian sailors settled as the first black residents of South Florida in the 1880s. The West Grove is still predominantly Afro-Caribbean. Remnants of an old segregation wall still stand, physically dividing Coconut Grove into what society would clasify as the “have’s” and the “have not’s”.

Income inequality in Miami is the third-highest among US cities – evidenced by the vacant lots, boarded homes, and empty storefronts – juxtaposed against Neiman Marcus and Mercedes on the other side of the old-yet-symbolic segregation wall. While Miami’s poor lives on as little as $11 a day, just a few blocks away homes sell for millions.

Poverty in the West Grove is not immediately apparent. Palm trees don’t shout B R O K E N E S S ! For the most part, the homes are brightly colored Bahamian style shotguns – drenched in the ever shining Florida sun.

trees7812Look closely and you will see it. Boarded homes. Bar covered windows. Abandoned lots. Bullet holes.

Listen and you will hear it. Slurred words. Late night shouting. Little ones crying a little too long.

The soul-poverty is most apparent in it’s youngest victims. The ones whose families have been torn apart by oppression and addiction, depression and eviction.

The sun and it’s vitamin D are not enough to restore family. Preserve the unit designed to protect a child, provide for them, nurture them. But there’s a greater Light who can.

I have come into the world as light, so that whoever believes in me may not remain in darkness.
John 12:46

The mission of our West Grove team is family preservation. To come alongside our neighbors as friends and as family support. To be light in deceptively bright and sunny darkness. Not because we have it all figured out, but because we know the One who purposed every. day. for them.

We know the One who knit them together and called them by name. The One who sent His son into poverty and brokenness to set the captives free. We know Him because He freed us.

And free people free people.

My short visit was long enough to observe what I already knew; my new neighbors have a lot to teach me. How to be courageous. How to neighbor well. How to grieve again and again and again. And how to throw down a mean BBQ.

Tomorrow I’ll share more of our teams mission of family preservation, our involvement, and how we feel God has uniquely equipped us to do life in the Grove. Stay tuned!

 

Statistics can be found here, here, here, and here.

 

 

 

Miami FAQ’s

Yesterday we announced our BIG news and today I’m following up with the most commonly asked questions about said news. Thank you for caring about our family and wanting to know more of what God has planned for us! When are you moving? As soon as we are 90% funded. We are raising all of our own support and are about 25% of the way there. We would love to be in Miami this fall-ish.

How long are you staying? The short answer is we don’t plan on leaving, like ever. At the end of our first year we will get one-month off for discernment to decide if InnerCHANGE and/or Miami are right for our family. In theory, we could move to another location at that time but don’t foresee that happening.

Where exactly in Miami are you moving to? West Coconut Grove. I’ll be sharing more about the Grove tomorrow – it has a rich history as the oldest African-American neighborhood in Florida. READ: Half of our family will be in the minority.

If you’re thinking of the ritzy-Neiman-Marcus-Mercedes-Benz variety of Coconut Grove, we’ll be on the OTHER side of those tracks. Literally.

Is it safe? That depends on your definition of safety.

We are not naive and realize the statistical dangers of moving into an at-risk neighborhood. We intend to be wise and prayerful as we mitigate those dangers but please hear me, I am more afraid of my children growing up in privileged middle class affluence where there is no obvious need for God than I am of them seeing a drug deal on the corner. More on this Thursday.

Why Miami?/Why not Africa? InnerCHANGE has teams all over the world. After deciding InnerCHANGE was a good fit for our family, we began praying about where in the world we should go, taking into consideration we can’t live just anywhere with the needs our kids have/will have.

The simple answer is this: God has not called us to Africa. He’s called us to Miami.

Tomorrow I’ll be sharing more about our neighborhood but here’s why we personally chose Coconut Grove:

1.) Our good friends planted the Miami team nine years ago. Many of the logistical questions I had regarding raising a family (particularly one including kids from hard places) on the mission field were answered after a few conversations with our friends.

We believe these logistical inroads to be the Lord lighting our path to Miami.

2.) We also want to be wise stewards of the little people the Lord has/will bless us with. Because our friends and team have established, trusted relationships with their neighbors, we can move in under their safety “umbrella”, so-to-speak.

3.) Also noteworthy: our friends have been praying for another family for over eight years. (Not coincidentally since the time William and I got married.)

What do your kids think? They are excited about being close to the beach and being able to catch lizards. They’re kids after all. They are still processing what it means to be a “missionary”.

Just last week we were out hiking and stopped for a snack. We talked about why we are moving to Miami and a little while later another hiker passed our picnic table. Malachi yelled out “Do you know Jesus?!”

While that’s not exactly what we had in mind, we’re thankful their little minds are pondering on it and we believe The Lord is preparing them for the work we will do as a family in the Grove.

We know moving into an at-risk neighborhood will require us to VERY intentionally parent our kids. We know it will not be easy but we believe it worth it to show them God loves the least of these and they are worth risking our comfort.

What about Glory? Glory can home to wherever “home” is when her adoption is finalized. In an ideal world, she would come home to Louisville and we would have time to settle in as a family of seven before moving.

We don’t feel God leading us to stay put until she is home and, given that our adoption has taken over five years up to this point, it doesn’t seem logical either.

{If you have general who is called to be a missionary, what does it mean, how do you know, etc. type questions I HIGHLY recommend the Life. On a Mission. series from my blogger friend Kerri. She does a beautiful job answering those questions and more.}

Do you have other questions? Please leave them in the comments!

Our. Big. News.

Hi friends! I am SO excited about today’s post. I’ve waited months and months to share some BIG news here. That may sound a little weird but I truly love and value my online community and actually like being transparent on this weird wide internet.

Let’s just spill it – We’re going on the mission field.

 

kids

If you’ve been reading for a while you likely know a bit of our story. It goes something like this – marriage, bio kids, start adoption, heart-broken for the least of these, cancer, continue adoption, become foster parents, heart-broken for the American orphan, continue adoption, adopt from foster care, continue adoption, etc., etc.

What you probably don’t know is, William did a lot of short and midterm missions before we were married. And four years ago we interviewed with a mission organization for a film position in Africa. A FILM position in AFRICA. And we decided it wasn’t a good fit. What the what?

So we put those ideas and dreams on the shelf. Our adoption was a train wreck about then and a little while later we became foster parents, tying us down to our ol’ Kentucky home for an unknown period of time.

Over the last year there’ve been a series of conversations, prayers, book studies, phone calls, interviews, psychological evaluations and the like, all of which culminated in our family being invited to join InnerCHANGE, a Christian order among the poor.

logo

InnerCHANGE communities of missionaries live in marginalized neighborhoods around the world – places most people want to avoid or ignore. We seek to live out the good news of Jesus among the poor, both with words and deeds.

Our family will be living and serving in an at-risk neighborhood in inner-city Miami. The InnerCHANGE Miami team is made up of one other family (our good friends and my business partner Erika and her family) and three singles.


M&W

We visited our new team and neighborhood in March and cannot wait to get there. This week I’ll be sharing why we’re going, what we’ll be doing, and how you can partner with us. For starters, we’ve created a Facebook Group open to anyone who wants to follow our journey.

The Lord has taught us many things in the last eight years, the overarching theme being this – orphans do not exist in a vacuum. And if we want to combat the orphan crisis in a holistic and Godly way, we must enter into and seek solutions for the tragedies creating orphans and vulnerable children in our own backyard and around the world.

I hope you’ll follow along this week to learn more about what God is doing with our family in Miami!