Saturday, January 11, 2014

Restoration House on Broadway

 
               I believe that when we engage in a relationship with Jesus, we cannot expect him to do everything for us and if we do things just right –somehow Jeremiah 29:11’s great plan is magically sparked and instantly Jesus will usher us into.   I used to believe this way, that we have no control over what happens and God has all the control.  Over my journey with Jesus, I’ve come to realize that the problem of him not answering my prayers and feeling alone has very much to do with my misunderstanding of how I am to interact with him and what He wants with me.  He wants me to participate with Him, he wants to do life together, to create together with him, and with others.  He wants me to understand that I do have more control over what happens than I thought I did and I don’t have to pray in a structured devotional time every day or more than once a day out of fear of missing it.  It's okay to have devotional times, I'm only saying I don't fear having it or not having it any more. I am not afraid of connecting with God through new means now. And for me, prayer is no longer a quiet time, devotional time, whatever you want to call it that I have to be religious about keeping, For me, it’s ALL the time.  

Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders
Let me walk upon the waters
Wherever You would call me
Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander
And my faith will be made stronger
In the presence of my Savior


               I am NEVER alone, I cannot be alone because Christ is always within me.  He and I are inseparable.  My thoughts and internal ponderings and questions and even my conversations with my children, husband, & friends –these are all prayers because Jesus is always speaking to me, listening to me, always moving my heart, He is with me always, even to the end of the age.  I don’t have to try so hard to connect with him and worry about not connecting with Him enough: I have come to think that is a silly idea because He says I am always connected to him, nothing can separate me from His love.  I don’t have to be afraid and always be trying so hard.  I am enough for Him, and He is enough for me, and I can get to know Jesus through endless sources.  He is trustworthy to show me the way however he wants to show me His way. I don’t have to go read my bible for a hour to make up for not intentionally connecting to him enough today (that’s the gospel of try harder, he’s not already delighted and pleased with you).  My believing that He and I are one and in love NOW, and not something to be achieved, has ushered me into quite an unforeseen adventure of trusting Jesus to show himself to me through a large family and sharing my life with them for a period of time:

            The last two weeks, BJ and I have had a family of 15 living with us.  And we’ve invited them to come back this summer!  I think if I heard myself saying that two years ago, I would have said, Ash –you’re crazy!! Really, though, it has been life-giving and wonderful.  Our guests have brought a beautiful loving emotional and spiritual climate into our home.  BJ and I have always wanted to have tight community living with people, and when we lived in intentional community before in 2008-2010, we didn’t know if we’d ever be able to do it again because it felt like the  community we created with others failed our expectations in many ways. This time around in 2013/2014, we talked with this family about our many fears and anxieties at the thought of hosting them as our guests for any length of time.  They assured us that they did not want to be guests hosted by us, they wanted to live with us and be around the real us, and they wanted to offer us help.  Projects around the house, making meals, doing dishes, watching our babies for us so we could sleep and go on dates, and get to know one another better.  We all agreed on having good communication together throughout our experience, and if we could tell each other when something bugged us or a boundary needed to be set, etc, then we could do this.  Let me tell you a bit about our friends who are now like family to us:

            Tonya and Dave Roper are in their mid forties and have 12 children (and a family friend) between the ages of 19 and 2 and they live out of an RV and a pickup truck with a trailer.  God has called them away from living the secure life they were living outside of Abbeyville, KS.  Dave was doing sheetrock and all sorts of handyman work, and Tonya and the kids were running gardens, and milking cows, tending chickens, goats, lambs, horses.  They had a stocked pantry and plenty of money coming in every week.   And one week, through a series of unexpected events, Jesus told them it was time for them to leave their place in the care of friends and begin to travel.  Over the last few years of traveling off and on, they have enjoyed traveling around the United States, building friendships and community with people while sharing in their possessions and laboring together.  Dave offers healing using homeopathy, massage, prayer, acupressure, essential oils, etc.  And he and his boys do handyman work for people.  And this is how they put food on the table and gas in the truck so to speak.  God takes care of them in their obedience to Him and the adventure they create together.  Just like He promised.

Tonya & Dave Roper
           What was this like for me, for us?  Well, we usually worry about all sorts of things in our home.  Energy is one, privacy is another, food and possessions, how time is spent.  We set up some clear boundaries well before they came, knowing what things would likely irk us. And we let go of some things that we didn’t want to have to deal with anymore, internally.  I heard myself saying aloud to Tonya and kids, Oh, Riviere is learning to share, she’s not used to having others play with her toys.  And His voice within me chuckling says, YOU’RE LEARNING TO SHARE!  Our family experienced FREEDOM from some of these internal vices and patterns of interacting that we could not achieve without the help of healthy loving community. 

        I didn’t wash a dish in the two weeks they were here.  I didn’t make a meal. They provided most of the food.  I got to take naps, go do yoga, hang out without much concept of time.  We got to benefit from Dave’s healing gifts as he helped each of us heal from emotional, spiritual, & physical issues.  He spent time helping me grow in my healing gifts, man to man time with BJ.  Their children hug all of the time.  I think I was hugged a minimum of three times a day by each person.  My children were kissed and hugged and played with. 

Making soaked wheat pancakes together, Nourishing Traditions style

There were a few moments that particularly touched my heart.

          Feeling worried about my daughters toys being lost, misplaced, or broken at times, and I traded these thoughts out for letting other little girls enjoy them to their fullest, they are easily replaced. Additionally Riviere went from screaming MINE every time she saw a kid with her toy to not even noticing by the end b/c sharing her things was normal and she got good at it.  I was thankful for this as she had been doing this MINE thing with 9 month old sister.

Jude, Felicity, Orianna

Riviere, Autumn, Eijah, Summer
       One night some musician friends came over, and everyone took turns singing and playing instruments.  It was glorious.  Banjos, guitars, harmonies, clapping, truths were sung, worship was had, it was magical.
Paul and Lezlee Fowler singing their hearts out

Paul, Lezlee, Orianna, Ash, BJ, Rachel, Noah, Caleb, Sam

Jessica Rozof and Aaron Lee Martin bringing it
        Not fearing things getting broken.  In the last few days one child was responsible for breaking two things.  This child felt terrible even though Dave and Tonya made sure the items were fixed or replaced right away.  As I was sitting at the kitchen on the last day, Tonya was making the lunch, this same child accidentally broke another item, and fell to the ground, crying.  At first I thought they were hurt, but then I realized they were so embarrassed.  So mortified that they could accidentally break so many things of someone else’s and feeling horrible. Tonya held this child’s head in her lap as they wept. Oh, sweet little precious compassionate child. I reassured them as deeply as I could.  We have to keep remembering that people are more important than possessions.  

       The Ropers sing all of the time.  Often with instruments, often without.  Also, they will affirm one another and friends by someone loudly exclaiming, "ALL HAIL ________ (insert names of people hailed here, such as BJ and Ashley" Everyone immediately exclaimes in unison, " HAIL BJ AND ASHLEY (or whomever is hailed).  It's incredible to be hailed. 
Gabe, Seth, Levi


        A dance party we had and mostly grown husbands were dancing and being silly together with us women floating in and out.  Kombucha punch and paleo foods were had.  

Tonya, Ashley

        Chief football games being watched.  Funny movies being watched for the first time (the older Roper kids had never seen Dumb and Dumber for instance) Watched is not the word.  If I liked football I would never want to watch it with anyone else.  I always thought watching funny movies was awesome with BJ b/c he's the only one I knew who laughed out loud.  The Ropers laugh hard, and easily.  They cheer frequently.  Watching football and funny movies is so uplifting when you are with them! 

Watching Chiefs, crowd is getting loud!

       God’s kindness leads us to repentance.  One night I became very upset Orianna had gagged on something, and when BJ finally got it up, it was a little piece of foil that had fallen to the floor.  I was angry and took it out on Tonya: she is not easily offended and felt terrible that it happened, genuinely apologized to me twice.  Later Dave approached me and apologized too.  I was sheepish.  As if my baby wouldn't have choked on a piece of trash when just the four of us were here. I realized that they responded to me so graciously, and if they had not, I may have become defensive and not learned much in my blaming and reactivity.  Their kindness and not being easily offended humbled me greatly.  I realized their unconditional love for me in my humanness did not breed entitlement whatsoever. Their response out of their true selves elicited my true identity in Christ, eventually.  And this is the same thing I saw in how they interacted with their children throughout our stay together.  We later had a talk about it that I initiated and processed through it more for further healing within our relationship.  I do not feel guilty, only glad for loving friends who I can be real with and for the expression of forgiveness.

        I remember Faith and Mercy carrying my Orianna around in the baby Boba carrier. 15 year old Caleb slow dancing with Orianna for many songs.  Constant invitations from all the kids for Riviere to join them in whatever they were doing, everyone always including. BJ getting lots of guy time was awesome, there's normally a severe imbalance around here with three ladies to one manly man. 

Gabe, Levi, Elijah, Jude, Seth, Caleb BJ and Orianna

       I love that healing was happening in our home everyday for friends, family, and acquaintances.  It still is occurring as long as the Ropers are in town.  This house is The Restoration House.  My husband is physically restoring this home’s beauty.  And love, community, and wholeness is happening here and abounding more and more each day.  I am proud. 

Dave and Caleb doing healing touch and prayer with Rachel

Mercy, Tonya, Faith

         The Ropers believe in who they are in Christ, and they live out of that place, literally.  When we believe, we act, if we don't act on what we believe then it is not belief at all.  They are certainly not perfect people but they are honest and they are loving. I learned a lot from them about parenting, about giving, hugging, not being afraid, and especially about believing.  I am thankful for these new friends who are like family and future adventures together.  I am grateful and filled up and more my true self for having these friends stay here for a short time.  And eager for them to join us again.  If you want to meet the Ropers while they are in Wichita (or if you live in another part of the country you can request a visit!), they plan to be here until around January 23rd 2014 if places to stay/people to stay with continue to unfold.  If you would like ot have them over for a meal or a few days or a week or just want treatment or nutritional program from Dave at my house or some handyman work, sheet rocking, etc, let us know and we’ll put you in touch.  Be encouraged and remember you are not alone, you are loved and we believe in YOU.  In Christ, the Brockus’ 

Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders Let me walk upon the waters Wherever You would call me Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander And my faith will be made stronger In the presence of my Savior (Hillsong United - Oceans (Where Feet May Fail) Lyrics 


Sunday, June 23, 2013

Kids in the City of God

Sometimes I feel crazy being Riviere's mother.  I have actually taken a leave of absence from church on Sunday mornings because of this craziness.  Riviere wants to walk around the whole time and say hi to everyone, touch everyone, and just generally yell happy things all the time.  And when we go to church, she is not supposed to do any of these things.  She is supposed to sit in a row.  Quietly.  Not talk to people or touch them until the designated time.  This doesn't work for her.  So, as you can imagine, no new toy can distract her more than a minute, she's trying to leap over my arms, go under my legs, scream her way into the crowd of people so she can be with them.  Then comes the mama guilt and worry.  Guilt for others around me being too distracted to worship.  Guilt for not being a good mama during these times.  Worry that others are judging.  Worry that I'm crushing my daughters spirit somehow.  Where's BJ in all this?  He's either at work (every third Sunday), leading worship, or running sound.  She has a tendency to excitedly yell "DADD-YYYY!" from the back row when she hears him singing over the speakers. 

When we go to the park across the street from our house, Riviere is walking up to the children.  She is touching the beads in their hair, the Dora on their shirt.  She is grabbing their hands to play ring around the rosey, or trying on their shoes.  Riviere is yelling "Hi Every-BODY!" to people who walk by our porch, people we pass in the grocery store, and people at the pool.  She is vivacious and she loves to connect.

Our girls are named out of Psalm 46:4-5:

There is a [Riviere] river whose streams shall make glad the city of God,
The holy place of the tabernacle of the Most High.
God is in the midst of her, she shall not be moved;
God shall rescue her, just at the [Orianna] break of dawn.

We believe that for our daughters, this scripture foretells of their journey with Jesus and with one another.  Riviere is a healing river and she loves the city of God.   A year ago, we asked our dear friend, Bethany, to paint a picture of this scripture for Riviere (not knowing that Orianna was a part of this as well).  This is what she painted in April 2012:

Prior to this painting, I had never seen the city of God when I imagined the scripture in the context of my daughter.  Two vital parts to this scene are the city, and the color gold, Or, that covers everything --infuses everything with light, with life. My children belong here in the city of God, these babies are meant to grow up here on Broadway, amongst the people of God.  Riviere and Orianna are meant to be here, and this is coming to life for me more and more each day as we engage the city of God all around us. 

If you (and your kids if you have any) would like to connect with us here in the neighborhood, you are welcome to come hang out on our porch and drink tea, go to the waterpad across the street at Lincoln Park, or join us on Monday Nights (through July 22, 2013) from 630-730 for our Growing Together Community Garden Kids Night with Godly Play, Games, Crafts, Snack. There is even an organic produce stand with delectables grown & sold by our employed at-risk-youth.  Please feel free to share any insights you have about the scripture or painting or how God is at work in your life, or through your children in the comments. 



Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Banquet on Broadway

Since the idea of owning this house came about last April, we’ve had many dreams of hosting people in our home.  Not just hosting you and friends and family though. We dream of spending lavish incredible hospitality on the peoples who are unnoticed, ignored, and poor. Friday night, Dec. 6th, we hosted a banquet, designed after the Great Banquet in Luke 14.  This banquet was not at all what we expected, though.  We thought it was going to be fairly easy to throw a fancy dinner and that everyone would be fighting to come.  Even though that’s not what Jesus’ parable says happened in the Great Banquet, we just thought ours would be different. 

You know, that I was a better event planner I guess (which I am too detailed to be).  Or that I had better relationships with the people I invited than in the story He told.  Throughout my telling of our banquet on South Broadway, I will be sharing of the Great Banquet from Luke 14 as the two stories intertwine.  Even if you know the story, I encourage you to read it, as it gives meaning and understanding to what we experienced last Friday.  

This was a life changing experience and I couldn't edit out any more of our story of this Broadway Banquet.  That being said, please feel free to skip to subtitles in BIG BLUE LETTERS if a part of our story is failing to capture you, I understand completely.  Please also feel free to share our story with anyone who may be encouraged by it in any way!

PLANNING THE BANQUET:

12 Then Jesus said to his host, “When you give a luncheon or dinner, do not invite your friends, your brothers or sisters, your relatives, or your rich neighbors; if you do, they may invite you back and so you will be repaid. 13 But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, 14 and you will be blessed. Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.” Luke 14

This is the core scripture that influenced BJ and I as we decided that we weren’t just going to ‘talk about’ hosting a banquet, or wait for a time when we were ‘less busy.’  We had many conversations with each other and the wonderful college group we facilitate.  And since none of us grew up in a culture where fancy dinners and banquets were common, we were trying to figure out what throwing something like this could look like in order to live out the scripture. 

After weeks of discussion and prayer and listening, we came up with a way we were going to make this happen.  9 people from our group, 11 people from the streets: a 20 person banquet.  We hired a wonderful catering company, Blue Moon, to bring in one of their top menus which included (for each person) Pepper Rubbed Grilled Beef Tenderloin, Southwest Grilled Salmon with Lime Dill Sauce, Herb Grilled Chicken with Peppercorn Sauce, and so many sides, salad, bread, cheesecake and apple pie, and bacon and brie appetizers that we couldn’t even begin to devour all that we wanted to.  We had hot coffee and cider to warm up all who had been out and about in the cold. 

And four of our beloved guys, Nathan Borton, Dan Overholt, Luke Gilstrap, & Alex Sharp –they are each extremely talented jazz musicians.  They decided they wanted to fill our home and hearts with jazz Christmas music all night long.  Saxaphone, Drums, Cello, Guitar.  It was the best live music I have ever heard.  
video


We had all the Christmas trees up and lit, candles everywhere, linens, and antique china (some of which was my Great Grandma Helen’s—I think she would have liked how Libby and I were using it). 

We had 5 servers: 2 hired from Blue Moon and 3 volunteer students, Libby Derby, Mary Beth Byers and Cassandra Williams. They welcomed our guests, took their coats, got them drinks, made them comfortable, and labored tremendously all night with washing dishes, serving all of us at the table, preparing and plating food.  It’s humbling for me to even describe how beautiful they were as they loved on each of us in all these ways throughout the evening.

THE INVITED GUESTS:
And now the part you are all wondering about: our guests. Well, we decided to make 20 tickets, and they were color coded, numbered and had names on them.  The college students and Legacy Ministries Staff we invited we asked to only accept the invitation if they were 100% committed to bringing at least one person from the streets that they knew or felt called to invite through intentional encounter the week prior to the banquet. 

We knew that if 9 of us were committed to each bring one person then the responsibility would be spread out among us.   We believed that there would be a number of guests from the streets who would not show up because they are not people of the calendar/clock.  We had decided that we’d each pick up our guests at 530, and then if they weren’t there, we’d go find more people on the streets as dinner would be served at 630.  We chose this order because it followed the order in the scriptures.

This didn’t seem like it would be a problem as we live on S. Broadway and have as much foot traffic in front of our home as any other downtown area.  By Friday, the food was paid for in full, we had made the appetizers and desserts, the table was set, the candles were lit, the music was on. 

15 When one of those at the table with him heard this, he said to Jesus, “Blessed is the one who will eat at the feast in the kingdom of God.”

16 Jesus replied: “A certain man was preparing a great banquet and invited many guests. 17 At the time of the banquet he sent his servant to tell those who had been invited, ‘Come, for everything is now ready.’


UNWINDING OF CAREFULLY LAID PLANS:

Foreshadowing: 
Two people who were committed to the banquet table asked before committing if someone else would bring a guest for them because they were serving at the banquet through music and food.  This was cool with me because another person asked for extra --taking a total of three tickets. All nine of our spots were filled until the day of the banquet.  Until the day of. 

I was so busy with preparation the weeks prior, the Lord knew I would have trouble finding time to bring someone in off the streets night. I had been earnestly asking him for weeks about who my guest would be, where to go to meet them, should it be a friend or stranger?  Wednesday morning, the Lord reminded me of our friend Charlie.  He’s 80 years old, a well known window washing nomad around town. If you want any window washed, Charlies your guy.  He’s been our friend for 4 years, we met him at the Grade UMC Neighborhood Meal and he has always come over to wash windows at our house, get a drink, or ask for a ride to a friends house.  You always know when Charlie’s come over because he rings the doorbell urgently at least 10+ times.  After remembering Charlie, I was discouraged though, because I had no way to reach him.  I hadn’t seen him for about 2 weeks.  Later that night, during college group, Charlie rang the doorbell.  I gave him a ride, and he accepted a ticket to the banquet.  I was soaring at how the Lord had orchestrated all of this and revealed it in my heart earlier that morning.  I knew that everything was going to come together as it was meant to, He was showing unfolding His banqueting table right before our eyes.  I just forgot that promise when Friday afternoon came. 

The day of the banquet, I was in an emotional tangle.  I had had back to back events I was running with legacy ministries Wednesday, Thursday, and then the banquet was on Friday on top of seeing clients those days.  Riviere had gotten a 24 hour bug on Wednesday night ALL night long with a 103.5 degree temperature and vomiting starting at 3am.  All day Thursday she was  an exhausted mess and so needy for her mama.  I was busy making cookies, and lists, and putting together table settings, re-arranging furniture and lining up the rugs.  Collecting chairs and candles and I didn’t have time to sit down and read books more than 5 minutes at a time. 

I guiltily turned on Sesame Street just to keep her tiny hand from pulling on my finger while I was trying to finish one project.  Once she does that, I can’t do anything but follow her to whatever she wants to play and she knows it.  I didn’t get one of the pies made or any of the appetizers in advance.  I had no idea I was needed to orchestrate the invitees and flow of the banquet so much, I thought my time could be spread out cooking and doing my usual thing in the kitchen until it was time.

18 “But they all alike began to make excuses. The first said, ‘I have just bought a field, and I must go and see it. Please excuse me.’

19 “Another said, ‘I have just bought five yoke of oxen, and I’m on my way to try them out. Please excuse me.’

20 “Still another said, ‘I just got married, so I can’t come.’


One thing this scripture emphasizes is the lame-ness of the invitees juxtaposed with the anger of the master of the banquet. It seemed like it was written this way just to prove a prove a teaching point, until it actually began to happen, just like the story.

Let Downs 1,2,3, & 4: 
I got a phone call about 3pm.  My good friend who took 3 extra tickets, 4 including herself, called to say she had woken up ill that morning.  She’s been battling illness for over a month now, and we had just led a caroling event together the night before.  All day she’d been praying and trying to decide if she should come or not, so she called me to get my input.  Unfortunately, my listening spirit--my right brain, it was turned off at that moment.  Which I relayed to her and let her know I was not going to be able to help her, and that I was now in a position, since she hadn’t found anyone yet to fill her guest seats, to have to find 4 people in her stead if she didn’t come.  I kind of knew in my heart that this was what was going to happen.  I wanted my friend to do what was best for her, but on the other hand, BJ and I had invested so much time and money into this banquet, and I was feeling the pressure of the growing empty seats.  She quickly called me back and texted me a few minutes later letting me know she was too ill to come, and was extremely sorry about the consequences of this decision for the rest of us.

The Delayed Help:
My sister Libby had come over right after class that day, and was in charge of putting to work the other two helpers who were to get there at specific times.  Neither one of them came on time.  Both were an hour or more late, I am not sure why, I couldn’t bear to ask, and by looking at my disappointed face, I don’t think they wanted to say why upon arrival. 

CHRIST'S COMFORT INCARNATE:
All day, in line at the store, counting out the silver, moving furniture, I kept engaging with Jesus in my heart.  I kept turning over to him these pressures, pleading with Him for peace and joy to replace the stress.  He kept telling me, tenderly, “Ashley, I love you, you are my baby, you are my girl, all is well.”  At my breaking point, there was a knock at the door.  One of my mentors and a spiritual mother to me, Meme came over.  She said God told her to come over this afternoon as she was rolling up her sleeves and ready to help.  She took me aside and hugged me and I just cried out all my disappointment and stress I had been feeling.  She said to me all the same things Jesus had been saying to me all day long, she was God incarnate to me for those few hours.  I didn’t have much to say to her, she just knew that’s what I needed.  Then Libby put her to work setting the rest of the table, with candles, polishing silver, etc.  She hummed Christmas carols and kept reassuring BJ and I and the others that God was in this, and He would fill up His banquet table. 

I came back in the kitchen sniffing, but feeling more connected to God and went back to work.  Until the next call came in, from one of our committed guests, telling me they and another committed guest hadn’t found anyone and wouldn’t have time to find anyone to bring to the banquet because of something very important.  They’d be there, but they wouldn’t be able to bring anyone. 

BJ and I sat down and strategized.  We reorganized our table map, who was coming, who had guests coming.  At this point, we were back up to 9 committed guests, but only BJ and I had one guest each coming, only 11 people were going to be coming at it was 4pm.  Dinner was to be served at 630. 

ROOSTER:
I knew Charlie would come, he wouldn’t forget something like this, that's what I told myself anyhow.  BJ went to go get our friend Rooster, who we’ve known for about 2 ½ years.  We’d been praying to find Rooster and bring him to this dinner for over a week. He used to live at the community garden down the street from our home on Waco.  And then later went to rehab and lived with Matt and Catherine, Myrna and Merle out in Augusta.  But sadly, he returned to alcoholism and has ended up back on the streets.  That morning, when Rooster and his buddy Kenny were asking for loose change on the Riverwalk in front of the Hyatt, a man gave them each a $100 bill.  This was not good in the longrun.  When BJ tracked them down that morning on the streets, this had just happened.  Rooster excitedly bought BJ a cup of coffee and they spent some quality time together.  BJ took them and their things to a motel they were going to get for the night, and dropped them off.  After that Rooster probably called BJ 4-5 tiems to make sure that dinner was still on for that night.  Kenny didn’t want to come out of embarrassment of still being drunk from the night before and got more and more angry with Rooster the more he asked.

When BJ arrived at the motel room around 5/515, they weren’t answering the door.  He kept pounding and pounding because he knew they were in there, Rooster wasn’t answering his phone.  Finally Kenny answered in a stupor and Rooster was passed out on the bed.  They had used the remains of the well-intentioned money to booze up.  BJ shook Rooster until he woke up to say he was ready to go, he sat up and then passed out again back onto the bed.  BJ left, called me and was so hurt and angry. 

21 “The servant came back and reported this to his master. Then the owner of the house became angry and ordered his servant, ‘Go out quickly into the streets and alleys of the town and bring in the poor, the crippled, the blind and the lame.’ 

22 “‘Sir,’ the servant said, ‘what you ordered has been done, but there is still room.’

23 “Then the master told his servant, ‘Go out to the roads and country lanes and compel them to come in, so that my house will be full. 24 I tell you, not one of those who were invited will get a taste of my banquet.’”

HUNT FOR FINAL GUESTS:
At 530pm, we sent out three teams onto the streets, 2 in cars, and one on foot.  I walked outside as they all took off in different directions in a flurry.  I began prayer walking up and down the street in front of our home.  I was wearing a cardigan, shirt and jeans.  In front of our home, a man pulled over in a newish truck, asking, “Are you all right miss?”  “yes,” I told him, “This is my house right here.” He responded, “Uh, huh, you want a ride anyway?” Disgusted that I would be solicited for sex in this time of prayer, I turned and walked up the driveway.  Libby later reminded me our dear friend, Theresa Briscoe, who has opened up our eyes to the realities and evils of prostitution and sex trafficking had taught us that pregnant women are often sought out. 

CARMELINA:
BJ came back shortly with a man and woman he had encountered walking downtown in front of Fidelity.  I recognized the woman as she got out of the car, we had met the night before when we caroled her!  Carmelina had been caroled by us, and then joined us with her two little nieces and we had been singing together around the Legacy house the night before.  Apparently, 2 of our friends on Legacy Staff had both asked her to join us for the banquet but she had turned them down.  Because Rivi had been sick, BJ hadn’t gone caroling and didn’t know Carmelina, and she didn’t know him.  She was afraid he might be a serial killer until she got to our home and I greeted her at the car with great surprise!  Two nights in a row we met this woman on the streets.  It was amazing.  The whole evening, she kept taking pictures of the banquet to send to her boyfriend because she knew he wouldn’t believe her if she told him about the banquet.  She ended up coming to our church on Sunday morning and connecting with many people, telling everyone how God had answered her prayers through us and come to her through all of these encounters.  Pray for Carmelina as she is homeless sometimes and coming up on a challenging time of one year of sobriety.

MIKE:
My on foot team Kenzie and Briana called and said they found a family of four who was going to come, but the parents were going to go home and get the sons.  Sadly they never did show up and we had four seats that our fabulous jazz ensemble humbly filled.  The on foot team  brought back with them Mike, a man who seemed about 45-55 in age.  He was….paranoid…. to say the least when he came.  He said the only thing that brought him here was Briana’s smile.  He walked around the main floor a lot, checking things out, especially lingering in the kitchen to see if we were poisoning food or making special Kool-Aid.  Almost everyone we asked to come to the banquet had said no, because they were too suspicious or afraid to believe that we would truly invite them to a fancy dinner.   Mike wouldn’t say much, at first, about where he came from or what his story was.  He was too busy interviewing us to make sure we weren’t going to kill him.  Slowly over the whole evening, Mike warmed up to us until he was like a long lost uncle.  He shared with us that he was living out of storage unit.  He sat next to us at dinner and talked about things he was comfortable with, like our heating system and other heating systems that he knew of.  He couldn’t stop thanking us for the meal and wonderful candlelit evening.  Mike was the last one to leave, taking plates and cups and anything he could to the kitchen, munching on leftover beef tenderloin every time he went in to drop something off.  We sent him home with as much leftovers as he’d take. 

ALICIA:
My other car team, Nick and Hannah, were continually being refused and rejected.  Finally, on N. Topeka by the Shirkmere, they met 27 year old Alicia.  She had just walked out of  her boyfriends house from a fight and was glad to get away.  She held her bookbag close to her, but laughed all through dinner, enjoying the company and meal.  At the end, she tearfully came to me, afraid to go back out onto the streets that night.  Alicia was a good reminder that we had failed to think about this part of our banquet in a major way.  The people like Alicia, Carmelina, and Shannon who had no where to sleep that night, how do we just turn them back out?  Carmelina and Shannon asked to be dropped off at a warm vent by the library and for some blankets, which we gave out of our stash.  We weren’t prepared.  We found a women’s shelter that would take Alicia, but Hannah ended up inviting her to sleep at her apartment because they couldn’t find it that night.  The next morning, Hannah took Alicia to a shelter that would take her early on in Newton. 

TIGER:
BJ called me at 550 telling me he was bringing his new friend Tiger over from the park, who was from Sudan, and had just gotten out of jail two days prior with a bruised and cut face.  Tiger had been sleeping in the park across the street from our house, he was a really tall, African man, BJ said he saw Tiger’s shadow in the park before he saw Tiger.  Once Tiger saw him, he started walking away quickly, BJ started yelling for him to wait up.  Tiger asked him if he loved Jesus, and BJ said yes, and Tiger said, “I knew it!” in his accent.  Tiger was quite the storyteller at dinner as you can imagine.  He shared an incredible prayer to Jesus before dinner began, and shared stories of how God had been protecting him over his life.  After the banquet, we were able to set him up in a motel for the evening, but not with out a lot of effort.  Sadly, most of the motels on our street refused to take him in, even though BJ had called a few in advance and when a white American was calling they had plenty of openings, until they saw Tiger, then they were “full.”    After some searching, one took him in. 

JEFF DANIELS:
Ethan came in with his guest, Jeff Daniels.  He was also an interesting fellow.  My favorite part about meeting Jeff was his toast at the banquet.  We were kind of nervous when he stood up and started clinking his glass.  His toast was all about paying it forward, and how this was the beginning for each of the guests to pay it forward to others.  We all cheered and raised our water glasses to celebrate together.  This was quite ironic for Jeff to swig his water as he’d been asking me for alcohol several times prior to the meal.  Later during the main course, he picked up BJ’s guitar while the musicians were eating and played for us for about 20 minutes. 

CHARLIE:
Charlie showed up right on time at 6pm.  He had gotten his hair cut and was dressed in a collared shirt and khaki pants for the occasion.  He grabbed a chunk of brie in pastry when he arrived and sat and ate it like a sandwich with his cider. He ate and drank as much as he could that night, saying he was going to stop but then couldn’t resist the next course.  

 

CONCLUSIONS:
We started the banquet right on time.  We had empty seats, which our musicians filled during the main course.  I am confident that the King was pleased with His banquet.  He was most pleased with his children.  After all the guests were taken back to their requested location, BJ and I sat with our college students and legacy staff to debrief.  We laughed and talked about the conversations that happened.  People shared how they had felt attacked all day about the banquet, considering not coming. Some confessed they had felt like the people making excuses.  BJ and I shared our experience of how we felt angry at some points like the masters, and unexpectedly so. 

In the parable, it seems that Jesus is revealing God the Father as the master of the banquet.  That night, we laid in bed and talked about how our Father was specially revealing his heart to BJ and I.  He chose for the banquet to go this way to show us Himself in a special way.  Because we opened our home, invested our time most and our money, we were the only ones in this circumstance who were the masters of the banquet.  We know His heart more deeply because of it.  I am still understanding His heart through this experience, I felt deep joy and laughter.  I felt anger and betrayal.  I felt waste of good food and a fine evening and longing to bring people who just wouldn’t and couldn’t come in, into my warm music filled home with good food to eat and warm drinks to drink.  To offer them a comfortable safe place to sit, and be at peace in loving community.  And was refused over and over and over again.  I understand all the excuses, reasons, and rejections.  They all make sense to me.  There will be a feast, and it will start right on time.  We are all invited to come, and after this feast, we won’t be returning to our vent on the cold street or storage unit.  We will stay in the loving community of the Trinity.  To come to the feast, we must allow the spirit to groan within us, to allow Christ’s intercessions of prayer come through us, and the fragrance of His covering love to emit all about us.  He will draw them all in through us.  This feast reminded me of the battle that ensues for our souls, those of us who claim him, and those of us who don’t.  We all belong to Him, we all belong at the feast.  But that doesn’t mean we will all choose to come when dinner is served.  I want Him to break my heart like His is broken.  I would rather experience this passionate heart of our Papa than experience numbness and mundane, predictable life that threatens to comfort me.  We want to live with the King all of the way.  This banquet dedicated our home to this.  Our guests who prayed and toasted to our feast and at with us dedicated our home to the way of the people of light.  All week prior to the banquet, the Lord brought us into the scripture following the banquet scriptures:

8b “For the people of this world are more shrewd in dealing with their own kind than are the people of the light. I tell you, use worldly wealth to gain friends for yourselves, so that when it is gone, you will be welcomed into eternal dwellings.

10 “Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much. 11 So if you have not been trustworthy in handling worldly wealth, who will trust you with true riches? 12 And if you have not been trustworthy with someone else’s property, who will give you property of your own?

13 “No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.”


We loved using all my earthly dwellings to gain friends for eternity, praise God for all our new friendships!  May we continue to use our home as people of the light, and be steward off all the things Papa gives us to use as He deems good and wonderful!  May all of our earthly things continue to draw us into His heart!!

Saturday, September 8, 2012

From Waco to Lawrence Part II

             Many of you may have been wondering  how everything has continued to play out in our re-location journey.  You'll understand why this post has been so delayed once you read on.  Everyone said, especially our realtor, that it would be a miracle to sell our house at top of the market --for 85K-- in our neighborhood.  There were no comps, the housing market is still slow, our neighborhood scares some people. 

             Within 5 days of putting our house on the market, a young 23 year old engineer put an offer for 83K plus we pay closing costs.  We were elated!  First person to look at our house wanted to buy it!  Interestingly enough, BJ instructed me not to start packing just yet, he had a feeling about this guy falling through.  And he did, on the 9th day--right before we would have gotten the earnest money, he gave a silly excuse and backed out.  It was clear to us that he was fear driven by his responses to us wanting to work with him.  So the house went back on the market.  I was so sad about this.  I remember going to the community garden that night for our garden kids program, dejected. And that night, only like, 10 kids came and I had about 15+ volunteers.  It seemed clear to me that there was an incredible group of volunteers that would like to gather under a tree with me and pray.  There is something so beautiful and heavenly about praying in a garden on the river in the middle of an abandoned inner city neighborhood.  I just cried and told the circle of 8 ladies about how mad I was at this guy.  And how I didn't want to be mad, but I just was, tearfully so.  And they lovingly encouraged me, put hands on me, prayed over me.  My friends Catherine Mutheey & Tammi Crook especially nurtured me in the Holy Spirit, and I was able to get up from under that tree with a heart clean from a bitter spirit.
              Two days later, a pair of enthusiastic realtors previewed the home and loved it, loved meeting BJ, myself and Riviere.  It was fun for us to get to show them our house in a way that no realtor could.  One of them, Jim Sullivan, brought over a beautiful young girl, Alisa, who later wrote me an email after putting an offer on our home for 85K plus closing costs:     
 
Hi Ashley,
The moment that my family and I stepped into your home, it took our breath away! The blood, sweat, and tears that you and Bryan have put into your home truly show with the immaculate work that you have done! It is so comforting to hear that you and your family love the neighborhood and feel safe there as that is very important to us! I absolutely fell in love with your decorating style throughout the house and I was curious as to where your favorite places are to shop for furniture and home decorating items. I know this is kind of a silly question, but we loved everything that you have done and we would like to emulate it somewhat!  Thank you so much and God bless!

                The Lord knows what He is doing!  He had Alisa in mind all along, a believer!  That is what we had been hoping and praying for for years.  The inspection was great, the house appraised for 85K by a very conservative FHA appraiser, everything that needed to happen, happened.
                
               I found myself exhausted running around after Riviere, packing, cleaning, working part time, and all the normal mom stuff like laundry, diapers, meals, grocery shopping, etc.  Too exhausted.  And I was feeling depressed about not wanting to do anything at all.  Sometimes, when no one was around, I would just sit and stare or mindlessly watch old episodes of Grey's Anatomy. There's something about the wounded character, Meredith, that I am drawn to in times like these. That's usually a pretty good indicator to me that somethings going on.  And then one morning-- it occurred to me what was really happening within me.  I secretly handed Riviere something she wasn't supposed to have, which she immediately turned away and excitedly took off running with. Then said to BJ, "Quick honey!!! Rivi's got something she's not supposed to have, grab it!"  He did and looked up at me wide-eyed: "You're pregnant!!!??" And picked me up yelling with excitement and we high-fived.  
              
             I had always said I was excited to have another little babe, just not move during the first trimester because all I want to do is sleep and sit and stare.  I don't pretend to understand the timing of Jesus, but it seems to be no accident that our second child was coming along with this huge shift in our lives.  we are  3 months a long now, due sometime around March 23rd.  It has been a real challenge for me to function lately but as I begin to enter into my 2nd trimester, I feel my energy returning in little spurts, feeling more like my normal self.  I feel bad for BJ who has felt pretty alone in the last 2 months of moving, cleaning, etc. 

             BJ and I had the most marvelous help from family and best friends who are like family moving in all our furniture and boxes.  It is vulnerable to move, to receive help from others who are giving up their time and strength.  We felt so loved.  Not only did they get us moved in, then started unpacking and organizing.  Normally I love organizing, but with all my strength gone, I just sat, watched and thanked the Lord for His love through each of them. It felt strange, but lovely.

             Since then, BJ and I were led by Jesus to do something that seems slightly crazy.  Now that we live in this huge Victorian house we had no excuse not to do something that we'd been discussing for about a year: facilitate a group of college aged students who wanted community together with Jesus.  And with school starting and all, we realized we had to start too, so our first gathering with them was August 14th.  We have met every Tuesday night at 8 since then, and its been so life giving and incredible.  It seems like right after they left that first night Jesus assured us that we need not be overwhelmed with the opportunities to love those all around us here on Broadway, He has brought us an incredible group of college students full of energy and desire to join us in this.  

              Speaking of the broken people walking, riding their bikes, and driving by our house all the time.... One recent Saturday, August 25th, I went to Theresa Briscoe's "Workshop," with four of my beautiful college girls, Tammi Crook, and Lauren Hoppock.  It was life-changing for me.  Please friend her on Facebook to learn more about how God is working through her, or visit her website at: http://www.significantothersministries.org/ 

            You can read about her story on there.  My next blog entry will continue in sharing more about this workshop with my friend Theresa, as well as what it was like last night to go out on the streets with her with some of my beautiful college girls.  We've lived on Waco, and now Broadway (orignally known as Lawrence St.). In 1887, during Wichita's boom time, these two streets were known for their mansions and wealth.  Now they are places of abandonment, poverty, slavery, and addiction.  God has allowed our family to bring the great wealth of His Presence, His love, His light into this place, please join your hearts with us in agreement and prayer as we live with Jesus here and now. 



Here are some highlights from this portion of our adventure:
Riviere investigating the sign in front of the Waco house, only God can sell a house with golden brown grass.

                               Riviere helping mama clean the refrigerator, every time I turned my back she was finding a new way to help me, haha!



From Left, Bryan Brockus, BJ Brockus, Ryan Clement, Justin Shurtz, & Michael Peterson, BJ's best friends who helped us move.  Not Pictured: Craig Beebe, Shawn Brockus, & Mason Castro- BJ's brothers who helped move a few days prior.  Thanks for your incredible muscles, energy and time guys!!



These are pictures of our bedroom.  It was covered with a 1990s mauve carpet, which we promptly removed.  Our house was a boarding house in WWII, and the floors tell the story of how this room used to look a lot different.  BJ is in the midst of restoring these floors, these are the before pictures, after pictures will follow someday. 







 Above, BJ and our neighbor and wonderful friend Larry are talking about how to fix the window on the 3rd floor.  Larry is 10 years into restoring a 1904 home around the corner and has been an incredible help to BJ as he learns about fixing up old homes.

 July 28th, Move in Day!!


 Riviere and Meme Overholt in her first piano lesson.  It was an incredible sight and sound to watch Rivi match Meme's piano playing motions and volume.  She loved playing with Meme on this 1915 player piano our friend Dale Churchman refinished and left with this house for us--an incredible gift. 
Great Grandma "Gigi" Derby and Great Grandpa giving Riviere her first wagon ride during their recent visit.  Riviere loves her great grandparents and playing with them. 

My husband works tirelessly on scraping paint. He's been working until he can't see any more (note the moon) scraping paint, fixing old wood, and applying a special linseed oil mixture.  He's ready to finish this section soon and begin applying new colors.