Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Short posts are overrated.

Let me begin by saying, this is a long one.  Go grab a Diet Coke and get comfortable...

A couple of Sundays ago, an article came out in the Dallas Morning News about our family.  I knew it was coming because, well, the reporter interviewed me for it, sent a photographer to my messy house, and I bought new concealer, extra-strength.

Anyway, we've had some pretty kind responses to the piece and I'm thankful to all the people who have called, emailed, and written with encouraging words.

Nonetheless, we did get a couple of notes that were not so sweet.  One in particular made me really mad because it was, 1. snarky and 2. anonymous.

It said - in big block letters, typewritten -

"Regretful to see a father (and mother) put their precious children, especially two young girls, in such peril and harm's way."
Sincerely,
You suck.

They didn't really sign it that way, but it's sure how it felt.  I had so, so many reactions to this that I'm kind of thankful there wasn't a return address.  Some of them were not so nice.  I may have cussed.  I wrote them out.  Wanna see?

Oh, I kid. 

Anyway, then, two days ago, I received an email offering warning, from experience, to be watchful of all the kids coming in and out of the house.  It was not anonymous, it was full of grace and exhortation and so what I thought was this...

A lot of people are thinking it, some have said as much to my face over the years, and so, since nothing overtly funny happened in the hood today, it might be worth talking about.

So, here's the deal - of all the things that made this move really hard for me, it was the thought of bringing my children into a place where they were anything but totally safe.  At the time we had three - Sadie was still cooking - and their innocence delighted me in a way I can't really explain and I wanted to protect it.   So did Trey.  But to not come to a place we were really clearly called would be disobedient  - even if it seemed out of line with what common sense would have us do.  If our example is Christ, common sense kind of gets trumped by the whole, "Come, follow me." thing.

We had to look long and hard about what the Bible said about safety, protection, what it looks like to follow Him, and our own prejudices.  And we got lots of counsel.  My favorite was from a dear pastor in our church, Paul Settle, who looked across his desk at me one day and said, "You know, Melissa, a quarter of an inch deep, we're all the same."  And he reminded me that our propensity to do really bad things to one another was a heart problem, not a race or economic problem, and without the hope of the Gospel, we're all on the wrong side of eternity.

So we moved with eyes as wide open as possible.  I believe we're beyond careful with all the kids and the friends that come in and out.  That being said, my hope rests in the One who is their Ultimate Protector, who will command his angels concerning them, and who upholds them in His righteous right hand.
Those are the promises of the One who called us in the first place and nothing can happen apart from his divine will.  Do I always sleep great at night?  No.  Do I worry about the worst case scenario?  More than I should.  Do I sometimes fantasize about living in the really nice neighborhoods with gates and lovely people who don't hurt children?  Every day.

The reality, though, is in this day and age, nowhere is Mayberry.  We wouldn't let our kids play with closed doors, etc., etc., anywhere.  I had an exceptionally bad run-in with one of those All-American boys in high school and no one would have suspected him to be capable of what he tried to do; especially his wealthy parents in their safe neighborhood, surrounded by people who looked just like them because we believed the outermost quarter of an inch meant ideal, college-bound, and safe.

I'm a mama bear and feisty as all get out when it comes to my kids.  And when I say that, I mean all six, not four.  We have to constantly remind ourselves why we're here, and that above all, we are to be still and know He is God.  Ps. 46:10

FOR THE LOVE OF PETE, SOMEBODY PLEASE TELL A JOKE!!!

Ok, one more thing and then I'll wrap this up.  Providentially, just around the time the article came out, and the subsequent questioning of our wisdom as parents and the ability to care for our own children, I started a book called Radical by David Platt

One of the things he says was particularly convicting to me as a believer and reassuring at the same time.  I'm gonna write it out so it will make this post painfully longer that it should ever be on a blog such as this but it does help affirm that our lives will often look differently that what appears right in the world's, and frankly, even some believers' eyes.

...go get a Diet Coke refill...

Radical, pp. 73

"We take Jesus' command in Matthew 28 to make disciples of all nations, and we say, "That means other people."  But we look at Jesus' command in Matthew 11:28, "Come to me all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest," and we say, "Now, that means me."  We take Jesus' promise in Acts 1:8 that the Spirit will lead us to the ends of the earth, and we say, "That means some people."  But we take Jesus' promise in John 10:10 that we will have abundant life, and we say, "That means me."

In the process, we have unnecessarily (and unbiblically) drawn a line of distinction, assigning the obligations of Christianity to a few while keeping the privileges of Christianity for us all."

I don't really know how to wrap this one up except to say, I get it.  I would have thought the same thing so many have thought, wondered, and written in anonymous letters we opened wearing HAZMAT uniforms. I think the discussion is good but, if we're going on gut instead of Gospel, I'm fairly certain resolution is impossible.

Good night.

42 comments:

Laura Johnson said...

Melissa,
My son and I live in your old 'hood of Lake Highlands, and we had a drunk neighbor (who come to find out has a prison record) show up at my house and cause a big old stink and scare us half to death last week. He was arrested but was back home the next day. You are so right that nowhere is Mayberry these days!

Erika Marie said...

bravo! i've been reading your blog for about a year now (call me a blog stalker, thats fine) and i am still in awe of the Lord in your family's lives. you live out the great commission every day. if people can go to Africa and be "safe in the Lord's hands" then you can go where He is calling you and be safe, too. I commend your ministry and continue to pray for you. Thanks for being real, funny, and a light in the world for all to see. You deserve more milk duds. =)

MacNicol Clan said...

Amen. Amen. Amen. For what it's worth, I think your children are safer in your neighbourhood than when they are on Central Expressway. And God's protection is a mighty thing. I know all 8 of you are surrounded by prayer from many people everyday! So GO Melissa GO! You are a MIGHTY example of the Lord! Do not be discouraged. Press on and thanks for the continued lessons!

Jess said...

Oh, thank you for writing this. I was telling someone about your blog and ministry and got an interesting comment one time. Of course, it was about this same subject matter: your kids, their safety, etc. etc. I just responded that how can you trust the Lord with certain, comfortable things, but not want to trust him with the uncomfortable stuff? I'm guilty of it every.single.day. I am so glad you wrote this and so very glad I got to read it. :)

little miss can't be wrong said...

thank you for your post. you, your husband, and your children (yes, all six) are an inspiration to families everywhere. i have been sharing your story (and your blog) with friends and coworkers here in philadelphia.
thank you for writing and sharing your message.

Becca said...

I love everything about this post - because that's the first thing EVERYONE asks us about moving downtown :-) which, by the way, is coming so soon! Anyways, thanks for your response and your heart - I just love you guys!

emily said...

Ok, before you got to the Radical part, I was SO thinking-- "send copies of Radical to these people, assuming they were brave enough to leave return addresses!" Then you brought it up, and seriously one of my favorite parts too- how we take this and apply it to EVERYONE and then others and assume it is for select few---convicting!!!

We need a bottle of wine to go over this book!!

Love that you are daily displaying the gospel for your precious kiddos and others. I see the T, O, G and S love the kids in west Dallas and that is a gift! Wish that meanie could spend 5 minutes with D and D- see their hearts.

kaseye said...

Once again, you said just what I needed to hear at the perfect moment. Just yesterday, our house was full of kids and I thought about how much had changed. How taking my kids from their supposedly well maintained world to a 'hood and what that had done to them. The main thing I have noticed so far is my sons now say "I have to use it" and have a gained a deep understanding and appreciation for people and their struggles. That and we don't say the "b" word or "omg."

We have gotten the same response from friends and some family. I also struggle with support shown to missionaries in a foreign country yet we seem to be crazy to move in our city.

Your response was great and I might just memorize it for the next time someone asks me that question or gives that look.

Praying for you girl,
Kasey

P.S. That series, Radical, that David Platt preached changed my life. God is using his book to peal off even more layers.

Lauren said...

Melissa,

I found your blog through Becca Stanley, and I am amazed at how the Lord has called you both into similar ministries. It is so infuriating that people are STILL convinced that safety relates to race. You are safe because you are living where you were called to be. Thank you for stepping into the unknown...you and your family are living in a ministry that most of us wouldn't have the guts to do.

Lauren

Lea said...

Love it! I have Radical on order at the bookstore and can hardly wait to read it!! We rec'd so many of those same type of comments from "well-meaning" people when we took in the girls 4 years ago. Our comments came mostly verbally--face-to-face--instead of publicly in a newspaper since I'm no writer. (May I just interject here that I HATE face to face conflict?) Each unsolicited comment was always wrapped up in the guise of really caring about what it would "do" to our own children and had we really prayed this through. So frustrating--I wanted each time to prove how much we had prayed, how much counsel we had received (and continue to along the journey). Living out our faith in ways that Jesus calls us to is rarely safe, neat, or fits into my wiring. But when He calls, we want to be children who follow, who obey. And we want to act on this faith that we proclaim to our own children, that they may "...see our good works and glorify HIM who is in heaven!" Mt. 5:16 We will do it far from perfectly, but strive daily to please and obey the One who asked us to do it. Thanks for writing...a morning treat to read with my diet coke. Have a great weekend! Lea

The Rowlands said...

Melissa,
Well said and you all are such an amazing example to our family. thank you so much for your vulnerability in sharing and know we are praying for your sweet family of 8!

Joyce said...

Wonderfully said...we like to think there are neighborhoods of complete safety but truly the world is not what it may once have been...I suspect even Mayberry had its secrets.

I love reading here and that you are a do-er of the word. So glad you shared this today!

Anonymous said...

AWESOME! There is no SAFE place except for in the wings of our LORD. Evil is everywhere it might look different in the hood than in mayberry but it's real and lurking. We have to trust where the LORD leads us.

XO
Tracie

Chilly said...

Melissa, Here is the Radical series mentioned David preached a while back that Kisses From Katie turned me on to: http://goo.gl/0WGI

Excellent for sure and goes deeper than the book if you're interested and have time to listen.

Also something Josh McDowell taught me a while back when we worked together: "Never read letters that are anonymous. Skip to the bottom and if they don't sign their name, then don't read it. Never." I was always curious and had to read them, but Josh said good or bad, if someone doesn't sign their name, then they aren't committed to the message and so it has no value. And for me to give value in responding emotionally good or bad is not a healthy response. The man knows from getting more than a few no name letters.

Keep on truckin'. We're behind ya.

Legally Fabulous said...

"You know, Melissa, a quarter of an inch deep, we're all the same." And he reminded me that our propensity to do really bad things to one another was a heart problem, not a race or economic problem, and without the hope of the Gospel, we're all on the wrong side of eternity.

Wow. That really spoke to me. Truer words have never been spoken. What you do is amazing, and you inspire me!

Jen said...

Amen. Amen. Amen.

I could go on and on about this topic but I won't. :)

He is not safe, but He is good.

Paul and DeeDee said...

Thank you for writing this. We are a young family with two preschoolers about to become missionaries in Ethiopia and we know that some people have been wondering why we would take our young kids to Africa. Trusting in Him to provide us strength when things are not comfortable is a lot harder but also more rewarding and more glorifying:)

The Huffstetlers said...

This post speaks volumes! I read a previous post a long time ago you did very similar to this. But not because you got hate mail. It breaks my heart that in this day and age we still judge based on the color of our skin or economic background. Whether you're living in a gated community or the ghetto, there will always be ugly people.

Jennifer said...

Thank you for writing this post. It's difficult to be so transparent. People thought we were crazy for living in Africa, but somehow think living in the inner city is worse. I'm not quite sure why overseas missions are so much more "approved" by some than mission work in your own neighborhood. People are people, no matter where they live or what color happens to grace their skin. I'm sorry you've had to deal with such criticism.

Sarah said...

"Risk is woven into the fabric of our finite lives. We cannot avoid risk even if we want to... All of our plans for tomorrow's activities can be shattered by a thousand unknowns whether we stay at home under the covers or ride the freeways...Security is a mirage. It doesn't exist. The tragic hypocrisy is that the enchantment of security lets us take risks every day for ourselves but paralyzes us from taking risks for others on the Calvary road of love." (Don't Waste Your Life, Piper)
Grateful God did not share your anonymous friend's view of protecting one's Child...

Missy @ It's Almost Naptime said...

Oh, Melissa. It must be the week of ugly attacks. Simpatico right here, sister.

I think it's kinda tacky to post links to your own blog on other people's comments but I'm about to be tacky because what I wrote this week just goes so well with this post. Don't hate.

http://itsalmostnaptime.blogspot.com/2010/05/blessed-to-be-weirdo.html

Zan said...

First of all, I want to hug you. I LOVE your family and you belong exactly where you are! FEAR cannot keep up from doing what the Lord has called us to do. I am dumbfounded by the things said about us wanting to add older children to our family...(sigh)
Thanks for a new book recommendation. Keep them coming! I have a running list. I need school to be over! Can I please keep Sadie?

Coneymama said...

Be not discouraged Melissa! I believe tha people who write snarky, judgemental letters to people and refuse to own it and put their own stamp on it do so because all they put on you is what they fear themselves. They are too afraid and have no idea what it means to step out in faith...not obeying God's calling to your ministry would have a much more dangerous and profound effect on your children than living in the hood. Those kids...all 6 of them will be better people, better warriors for Chis b/c of it! God bless the whole, big, Jesus-Lovin bunch of ya!

Tracy said...

I'm very thankful for this post. Your faith is an encouragement. I am also glad to see I am not the only one who needs a joke every so often!

You have also reminded me my copy of Radical is late in coming from Amazon.... I can't wait to read it!

Blessings,
Tracy

Anonymous said...

God bless you and your family.

Carly said...

So all of the responses so far have been supportive... I'm gonna have to mix it up!...

Ok, NOT REALLY!! I am SO thankful to have you and your husband to follow after in Dallas. You both have taught me a lot in word and action (and blog). ;)

Lastly, to those who send things anonymously- They are cowards. And should dig into their beliefs a lot more, if they claim Jesus. We all should, but especially those who have Idolized safety, security, and comfort over him. Idolatry. That's what it is.

Love you

Kim said...

God knows the number of hairs on our heads and the hours of our days and He is sovereign. Put those together and, bottom line, all that is and was and will be, is by the grace of God.

When my husband was a youth pastor and we felt called to spend a year in Africa, we struggled with whether it was right to up and leave our "kids". AND whether it was wise to take our then 14-year-old daughter to live in the bush. I think we all have doubts about the big decisions like that. (I have doubts about the little decisions like should I make brownies or no bakes?) But I loved what one mom in our home church told me, "It's more important for our kids -- your kids, my kids, all our kids -- to see your obedience to God's call. They will learn more from that than any lesson you ever teach."

You just keep following the Lord and leave the rest up to Him. And as my hubby is fond of saying about those Debbie Downers, "Consider the source."

Sitesx6 said...

God bless you for not always playing it safe, but for taking a chance on God's people.

I needed to hear this post, because I will be going to Haiti July 17-31 to do medical relief work with Samaritan's Purse. I'm going to a VERY large and dangerous slum area where gang violence is very high. There are 300,000 people living in 2 sq. miles. I'm going during the rainy season (high Malaria risk) and hurricane season. Haiti is having a huge problem with Malaria, Dengue Fever, and other tropical disease. I'm leaving my husband and two young children at home, to go where I really feel God is calling me to go.

I need to NOT play it safe-but trust God and do His work, even if people say I'm crazy to put myself in danger.

God bless your word sister!

Claire said...

Thanks for sharing this! My husband and I and our son just moved to Denver to beging working with church in an inner city community. Our goal is to eventually be able to buy a house in the heart of the neighborhood we'll be serving in & there are times I can't wrap my human understanding around WHY would someone's goal in life be to live and serve in an area that many people would avoid. But then I remember my human understanding has never gotten me very far and the answer is BECAUSE God's leading us to. I've alsways believed you're safer in God's will no matter the location than outside of God's will. Thanks for reminding me He is the Protecter in EVERY neighborhood!

These Three Kings said...

and the church says..Amen...

thank you for living out the scriptures..as we are called to do...not everyday you see Christians REALLY living like christians..

wow.

colecrew said...

Yuck I am so sorry. As we have been processing and praying through moving to WD that was a main, and very loud 'case' which was presented to us as a reason not to move to WD. We went straight to Scripture to see what He says. This what we found and wanted to encourage you with His Truth...
"for the Lord is your security." Prov 3:26
"for I find protection in You alone." Psalm 31:4
"But all who listen to me will live in peace and safty, unafraid of harm." Prov 1:33
"For the Lord protects those who are loyal to him...So be strong and take courage, all you who put your hope in the Lord!" Psalm 31:23-24
And my all time favorite....
"Feed the hungry and help those in trouble. Then your light will shine out from darkness, and the darkness around you will be bright as day. The LORD will guide you continually, watering your life when you are dry and keeping you healthy, too. You will be like a well-watered garden, like an ever-flowing spring. Your children will rebuild the deserted ruins of your cities. Then you will be known as the people who rebuild their walls and cities." Isaiah 58:10-12
Gosh, don't you just love His promises?!:)

Deidra said...

Debated about whether or not to comment, but then decided to go ahead and throw this out there:

Our ministry is kinda like yours, but in reverse. We are an African-American family who moved to the midwest to pastor a church in a college town that has historically been middle class and White. Interestingly, we don't get questions about why would move our children to this middle-class, well-established neighborhood where the deeds of many of the houses still have covenants from earlier times forbidding anyone who was not White to live in them, our tires have been slashed, our home has been burglarized, and the "n" word was spray painted on my husband's parking sign at the church. You are right, no place is Mayberry. Your pastor was right...we are all the same just below the surface, and that is a heart problem.

And Jesus is right about being the One who can heal our hearts.

Karin Katherine said...

I used to get anonymous notes in our old neighborhood for dumb stuff (garage cans too close to the curb, a child's toy in the driveway etc.) and I often thought that if people cannot sign their name to something THEY wrote and stand behind it, then why should I even bother to read it?

Oh dear bloggy friend, We are not of this world and What He commands, no one can quite comprehend.

I'm about to shake things up in our little gated community thanks to a little encouragement by a man named David Platt and a book called the Holy Bible.

If I need to go in the witness protection program can I come hide out in your hood?

Amy said...

I've been checking in on your blog since the DMN article ran, and I had to read parts of this post aloud to my husband. It will always seem like foolishness to some, 'losing our life' to find it but ours is the greatest joy! I also thought about about the verse that promises that His eyes search to and fro throughout the earth for hearts that are loyal to Him that He might show himself mighty on their behalf.

dkt said...

AMEN!I LOVE this post!

We are immortal until the day the Lord chooses to bring us home! ;-)

dianna

God and Ponytails said...

My heart breaks at this. Fear rules our lives. We are afraid to take risk- get out of the box- get messy because of fear. And you aren't even afraid- this is other people's fear! It makes me sad for them and excited for you that God is your master, not fear.

To God be the glory great things He has done.

thehecticeclecticgirl said...

I love the comment that said security is like a mirage... so true!
Besides, ALL of your children (and ALL children, period) are worthy of protecting - not just some.

Keep up the god work (and the good work, too!)

Holli said...

PREACH IT SISTER!!!
God has blessed me so much through you and this blog! And I am sure 100's of others- I can't imagine how much you have been a BLESSING to your neighbors and REAL people you come in contact with EVERYDAY!
May the LORD BLESS YOU IN EVERY AREA!!!
Oh and can you stop bringing up Diet Coke? I have been off the bottle since October.
;)

Elizabeth and Corey said...

Melissa, I'm from West Dallas. Yup! Went to Sequoyah Learning Center 4-6, then to Edison, then to Pinkston for 2 years. I graduated from SMU in 2003. A LONG way from home! I applaud you for choosing to live in the hood. My fondest memories are of a household, my mom's house, where our friends, the neighbors, could walk in and out of each others houses after school and during the summer. You sometimes have a better sense of security in a neighborhood where everyone knows everyone else. Our house was never broken into in West Dallas. When I moved to Garland, TWICE! You make of the neighborhood and of your surrounding what you want it to be.

Jennifer @ Conversion Diary said...

Wow! I just discovered your blog and am so inspired by what you and your family are doing. I look forward to reading more from your blog!

Mama D.'s Dozen said...

Just found your blog, and so look forward to reading more.

God does not call us to a life of comfort and safety. No. He calls us to obey Him and to go to the ends of the earth to proclaim His gospel. The "ends of the earth" even means to go to the "unsafe places".

We have not raised our children to seek after safety. We have raised them to seek after the Lord. Our 5 young adult children have traveled to Iraq (2.5 years of deployment) and to the following countries for ministry opportunities: Mexico, Costa Rica, Argentina, Chile, Haiti, The Gambia, Senegal, India, Bangladesh, Germany, and the Czech Republic. And, no, those are not all the safest countries in the world. But, God has done amazing things in my children and through my children as they have sought the Lord's protection, in the midst of unsafe situations.

You are setting a wonderful example for your children, as you seek the Lord's protection in your everyday lives.

Oh yes ... I read the Radical book last weekend. Wonderful book! I'll be recommending it to all of my Big Kids, so that they will continue to be encouraged to do radical things for Him.

Laurel

Dianne said...

Hi - I'm a new blog reader and I love it!

We recently became foster parents and the conventional wisdom is to have foster kids younger than your biological kids. Well, we would of needed to wait years to become foster parents, and we felt the call "now" when our kids were 3 & 5.

So, while part of our journey included moving to the country (15 miles from the grocery store type country) which should be "safer" we have invited the "unsafe" directly into our home. Yes, our kids have learned a few words I would prefer they hadn't, and learned how to properly throw a temper tantrum, among other things, we are where we are supposed to be right now and we do our best to protect ALL our kids (we have 6 total right now).

I can't imagine doing anything else right now!