life and death – and more life

imageJudah’s round baby hand – short fingers and dimpled knuckles – reached for the yellow-brown leaf.

This fresh, plump hand and this dry, withered leaf – like life literally touching death.

And in that moment, I gasped a little.

My heart ached as I was immediately reminded of my friend who’s father just died and another friend who traveled a state over to bury her favorite uncle.  And then there was my uncle.

There have been somewhat expected deaths and sudden deaths – but no easy deaths.

About two weeks ago, I rode in the backseat of my parents’ car leaving the funeral home, telling them how thankful I am for them and for their health . . . but then thinking deep down, “What if?”, knowing I could be the next one receiving heart-ripping news of a parent or a child or a beloved family member.

Judah crinkled the dry leaf in his hand, and it crumbled. He looked at me, almost surprised at how it felt.

I returned the look into his eyes and immediately wanted to cry – thinking about how safe and controlled his little life seems now – carried in my arms wherever I want him to go – but how one day parts of him will crumble and pieces of him will die, things I cannot control and circumstances outside of my own grasp.

And in that instant, my mind gave way again to “What ifs?”

Those sad, hard thoughts – those worst fears, really.  And I looked up through some bare branches, pleading that those things would never come to pass.

But, thankfully, Truth rescued my wandering mind.  Like a lasso, it reigned me in, and like a life preserver, it pulled me back to safety.

The safety of the reality of truth that EVEN IF my “what ifs” become real –

EVEN IF I have to stare them straight in the face one day –

there is TRUTH.

There is that beautiful promise of ALL THINGS –

ALL THINGS for my good; ALL THINGS for His glory.

Yes, there has been news of much death around me lately.  And here we are, right in the middle of fall – a season of death.  There is much dying that takes place, yet it is my favorite time of year.

In the death, so much more is seen –

rich, deep colors, true forms of trees, and more light shines through.

In this season, I am reminded that death, indeed, gives way to life and to light . . . and that hurting and dying precedes deep joy and real living – in this life and in the life to come.

Judah put a part of the broken leaf in his mouth and pursed his lips shut.

He retracted to avoid my swift finger-swipe, but I insisted . . . because I knew that he would regret that decision.

“Trust me, Judah.”

And then I smiled peacefully, giving thanks for my Trustworthy Father that knows Best.  Amidst all of the death and confusion, He is Good.

His timing is perfect and so is His plan – and His plan is not to leave us on this broken, dying planet.  But He will one day speak peace and put all wrongs right and breathe life and make all things new.

Yes, I smiled a smile of rescue as I held my baby close and remembered how He holds us all even closer.

. . . . .

photos of fall and a brief family update here

pieces of lately

We have been back in the States now for a week shy of three months.

Yes, we are missing Malawi, but we are also really enjoying the things that we missed while we were there – namely family . . . and friends . . . and FALL.🙂

I wanted to record the pieces of lately that have been filling my heart with joy and gratitude and – in a much needed way – rest.

As usual, not pictured are the unphotogenic parts of the real day-to-day.  But there are always those moments that urge a person to pull out some sort of device to record the parts of the now that he or she doesn’t want to forget.

Here are a few glimpses of those for me via phone photos.

 

. . . . .

Since we have been back, David has had quite a few opportunities to preach – Sunday mornings, Wednesday nights, a youth fall retreat – that have been refreshing and energizing and worshipful for him.  He has also started a temporary job at UPS loading packages on trucks and then getting to start driving a truck of his own come Monday.  I don’t know anyone who doesn’t get excited to see a UPS man at their door.😉

The kids and I are enjoying a lot of down time and getting to school at home again.  After being on the other side of the world – and our kids stepping out the door and spreading their wings in a new culture and new schools – having them back in our little nest during the day has been a gift to me.

We are currently living in my parents’ home, which has plenty of room for all of us, and we’re enjoying time with them that we haven’t had over the last year and a half.

Judah is on the brink of his 11-month mark, and I am about 25 weeks along with our newest nugget, little Lottie Caroline.

There is so much growing and changing and transitioning going on around us, but – by the means of God’s mercy and the prayers of faithful intercessors – God is graciously granting much gratitude in this shifting season . . . a season where we can rest and refresh and recharge, waiting with excitement for whatever the Lord has in store next.

missing Malawi

Fourteen months is a drop in the bucket on the eternal scale of time, but it is no small amount regarding it’s weight of internal impact.

We are not the same people we were when we cautiously walked down the steps of that small plane and breathed Malawi air for the first time.

Not only has our family grown in number, but we have been stretched and strengthened in ways unforeseen and unexpected from the time we first crossed the ocean.

We made a home in Malawi, and for over a year we shared life with new and wonderful people around us.

Deep down in our hearts and souls, it was no small thing.

. . . . .

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. . . . .

The sun would rise each morning, along with a culture waking with eagerness to earn enough kwacha to satisfy stomachs for the day.

The birds would sing their native tunes.  And then there were the crows.

Rosie would lie beside the porch swing, her ears twitching and swishing troublesome flies as her belly would rise and fall fast, still panting from chasing those crows.

She was determined to catch one and clearly believed she could.

Claire would whiz by with new-found confidence and skill on her two-wheeled bike, while Karis’ tricycle would ride heavy on the cement as she peddled hard with her face focused – and adorable.

There was an elephant made out of tire that hung from a backyard tree by a long, strong rope.  It would swing high and free as no-hands, eyes-closed squeals swirled and made a mama nervous.

John David would walk the yard, kicking dirt and making his Croc-clad feet dirtier than one could imagine.

Life was challenging in Malawi.

There were frequent, long power outages, water shortages making every shower (when “shower” was an option) a race against temperature and water pressure, language barriers, cultural differences, and the constant mindfulness of mosquitoes and malaria.

But life was good.

It was slow and weighty.  Yes, the stresses of the day weighed heavy, but so did the meaning of what we were eternally grateful to be experiencing.

And just because we are back in America doesn’t mean that we are not still connected in some small way to what God is doing there.

It’s just different.

And I’m missing Malawi today.

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what’s going on

We prayed and cried and talked and talked and cried and prayed . . .

and then David wrote this letter.

imageone month ago today : August 19, 2016

Our heads are spinning a bit, our hearts are on two different sides of the world, and life is a little fuzzy right now.

But what is clear is that God is good.  He is faithful.  He will not abandon us, and – by His preserving grace – we will not abandoned Him . . . nor His mission to love and serve the world He came to redeem.

Though we expected to be in Africa for at least our first three-year term, we did not expect to be back in America after 14 months.  But here we are.

We are unsure what our next step will be, but I am so thankful that we are at peace – as a couple, as a family, as children of God in the palm of His Sovereign Hand and as participants penned onto the pages of His Grand Story.

imageour last Sunday in Malawi : August 14, 2016

imageour first Game Day in Alabama : September 10, 2016

 

a letter from David

Greetings dear faithful prayer partners,

When we landed here in Malawi a little over a year ago this was definitely an email that we did not anticipate writing at this point in our journey. Though it will, no doubt, come as a shock to many of you, and perhaps even a tremendous disappointment to some – we are announcing our resignation with the International Mission Board.

This is not a decision that has been reached hastily, nor is it one we make lightly or detached from the awareness of all the various ramifications involved in such a decision. It is, however, a decision we feel the Lord’s pleasure in and have His peace on as we make it.

There were basically two primary elements involved in this decision making process: calling and timing.

This has been a tremendous year of almost daily wrestling over the call of God on my (David) life. In short, our year here in Malawi has been used by God in so many ways (many of which I am sure we will not be able to discern until the consummation as we gather around the table of the Lamb in collective marvel at all His surprising workings through His saints). One of the intentions of the Lord, however, in sending us here for this time was, we believe, to crystallize His calling on my life to Pastoral ministry.

I know it sounds strange, (‘The Lord led you to Africa so you could hear with crystal clarity a call to Shepherd in the States?”) – yet it would not be the first time the Lord has used the “go and I will show…” way of guiding His people on the providential path He has marked out for them. Admittedly, that divine providence is at times difficult to read. But we know for sure that this time has not been a waste! There is so much that we have learned and lived as a family. There are so many relationships that have been forged with African believers and church leaders. There are so many fellow missionaries that have sweetly lodged themselves into our hearts as genuine family for all eternity.

We feel that we were following the Lord’s lead in coming here. We feel that we are also following the Lord’s lead in continuing to press into the mission of Jesus in the context of a shepherding role back in the states. To put it plainly: God has made me to be a pastor. We had come to this resolution a few months ago, but had determined that unless something unexpected happened to speed that pastoral pursuit on quicker then we would finish our first 3 year Apprentice term with the board.

That leads to the timing issue. Many of you will remember that we just welcomed our fourth child, little Judah, into the world in December. Well, we certainly did not expect that just a few months after his first birthday we would have to start calling him ‘big brother!” When we found out that we were expecting our fifth so soon we really sought the Lord’s face and in the seeking we felt that this news was the lever that the Lord was using to speed up our timing in pursing the pastorate again.

We want to thank all of you for being so faithful, not only in interceding for our family, but in the prayerful partnership in the gospel that you have joyfully yoked yourself to. Our desire is not to abandon the work here on the African front. We hope to be able to engage it from another angle, namely by mobilizing a local body to develop passionate partnerships with our IMB personnel and African church leaders. We hope that you will continue in this work as well.

We also hope that you might hold us up in prayer in what is another difficult transition for our family. We have no idea where the Lord might allow us to serve. All of us (kids included) are grieving having to say goodbye to Africa (which has become home) and will continue to grieve in some way I am sure. Could we ask you to once again bathe us in your prayers during this time?

Thank you. We are humbled and honored to be serving together with you in this great enterprise of seeing the Living Word be heard by all those who are desperate for good news.

Held Fast; Holding loosely,

The Kizziahs

(David, Katie, John David, Claire, Karis, Judah, and ?)

on pregnancy

We will never understand this side of Heaven why so many things happen . . .

and why so many things don’t.

Like pregnancy, for instance.

No doubt this word carries with it a huge gamut of emotions for women.

Some hear the word and they long for it, waiting and praying their time will come.

Others hear it and fear, remembering when it was and then it all too soon was not.

Then there are those who dread, knowing their hands are full and couldn’t imagine adding another to the mix.

Meanwhile, many are confused, wondering why it happens for those who would destroy life and why it doesn’t happen for those who would lay down their life for another.

All of that to say, “pregnancy” is a loaded word, and I am fully aware and very sensitive to the fact.

So, as I sit here typing, finding out just a few days ago that the Lord has placed another life inside my womb . . . (yes, another baby, and yes, that’s right, we just had a baby) . . . my mind cannot help but scroll through the spectrum above and think about how others feel.

Not that I am implying that I think others care that deeply about my life personally.  However, I do know when any woman hears the news of any other woman expecting a baby, their mind immediately links to some kind of tender, deep, personal emotion – good or bad, happy or sad.  And I care about that.

For David and me – in the midst of our head-spinning and heart-spuing, celebrating and rejoicing that God has graciously given us another precious, priceless life, all the while feeling crazy and ridiculous, wondering if we can really handle FIVE children – we are aware (and also unaware) of so many women that are walking a hard road.

One day, for those who are in Christ, we will stand before the throne of God and say, “Ah, yes.  Now I see.  Now it all makes sense.”

But until that day, there is so much pain in this life, mixed with a lot of confusion and a lot of questions.

Yet there is also so much JOY in the Story that God has authored before time began.  Each person is a unique part of that beautiful work, and God is a good, good Father.

All the while, I pray for grace to say that and live like I believe that, no matter where I find myself on any given spectrum.

my FATHER

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Thank you

For All The Happy mEmories shaRed

For All The Hours of Energy pouRed

For All The Heavy Emotions caRried

For All The Humble prayErs pRayed

For All The Humor wE Remember

For All The Heartfelt Encouragement tReasured

For All The Hugs Each moRning

For All The Hot aftErnoons on tennis couRts

For All The Hundreds of milEs tRaveled together

For All The tHousands of milEs you tRavel to see us now

Yes, thank you for being and continuing to be this FATHER (and so much more) to me –

and to the rest of us!

 I love you, Dad

Happy Father’s Day

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praying to pass well

“When the cares of my heart are many, Your consolations cheer my soul.”

[Psalm 94:19]

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“Security is not about where you live, but where you dwell.”

[Kevin Rodgers]

…..

“LORD, You have been our dwelling place in all generations.

Before the mountains were brought forth, 

or ever you had formed the earth and the world, 

from everlasting to everlasting You are God.”

[Psalm 90:1-2]

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“When God moves us out of our comfort zone –

into places that are way bigger than us,

places that are difficult, hard, painful . . .

We are being given a gift.”

[Ann Voskamp]

We find ourselves praying for grace to be ever-aware of this [ofttimes disguised] gift.  Behind all of the uncomfortable, we are being convinced it really is.

. . . . .

It was last Monday (May 30th).  We were sitting around the dinner table with candles lit from the third power outage of the day.

Thankfully this amount has been infrequent as of late.

The girls were singing all 10 verses of “10 little ducks went swimming one day” (actually, I think it’s just 5, but they didn’t hesitate to double!), and they never once let up on their enthusiasm.

Judah – snug in my lap after just finishing his bottle – was working hard to join in with the singing.  He is discovering his voice (which I never want to take for granted), and it is darling.

John David grabbed an extra dinner roll as he excused himself from the table and the performance.

Not too far from the quacking concert, he walked the living room floor, taking big bites of bread and, no doubt, dropping crumbs sure to allure the all-too-frequent but entirely unwelcome visiting ants.  Things are very dry around here now, and critters are fiercely on the hunt for water and food.

He was still wearing his school P.E. uniform from the day – and a cap, of course – along with David’s running shoes that he had discreetly slipped on.

It seems John David’s feet multiplied in size overnight, but I’m relieved to know it’s not quite time for he and David to share sneakers.  But it is crazy how much he has grown since we moved here almost a year ago.

John David’s steps made louder by oversized shoes seemed to be in sync with the ticking of the clock . . . reminding me all too loudly of how quickly time is passing.

This was John David’s last day as an 8-year-old.

And these are the treasure moments –

the singing, the laughing, the baby squeals, the 8-year-old long-legged boy pacing the floor in his Daddy’s shoes, us all around the table together . . .

the moments that make me want to scream, “Freeze!”

So, I don’t want the busy that surrounds us to bombard the beautiful –

or the stress and strain to sweep away the sweetness of these fleeting moments.

I want to drink it all in and savor each second with a thankful heart,

knowing we will pass this way [this place, these people, these children, this season of life] but once . . .

where I found myself today

For me (Katie), Thursday afternoons consist of joining my friend, Laura, and gathering with a group of dear ladies at my language teacher’s church in a nearby village.  We pray and sing (and sometimes dance😉 ), study and discuss God’s Word, learn Bible stories, and then pray that the Holy Spirit will accompany us as we seek to share His love and truth throughout the village.

This week we were learning the story of Jesus calming the storm, and the women had fun incorporating some drama.

But where I found myself today, I felt much like the disciples in the boat . . .

. . . . .

As soon as I see the water ripple, the internal wrestling ignites.

Waves begin to rise around me, forming fear that seems to shadow solid faith and forces me to double over with doubt.

All too quickly I feel vulnerable and helpless.

Every remark in my direction – like wind over an open wound – causes me to cling and cringe, reminding me of how inadequate and incapable I am.

In the moment, it is as if I can do nothing well and nothing right.

But I can cry.

So I do – streams of struggle and words of wanting . . .

Yet, Jesus, You hear.

You are awake, and You are wise.

You listen, and You love.

And You raise Your hands upward and speak powerful words, calming the storm in me before calming the storm around me.  Because only You make it possible for internal peace to precede external calm.

You see that my faith is so small, and You graciously give me the gift of one ounce more as You steadily remind me of Who You Are.

I hear Your words of power, and I see the winds and the waves obey You.

And I know that – by Your grace – I can obey You, too.  And I can trust You – fully and completely.

When my boat shifts and shakes, twists and turns, it is You who turn the pages of this Story You authored before the beginning of time.

I look to You, and I look around.  Everything is calm . . . for a moment.

And when the moment is over, and the ripples repeat and the waves rush,

I pray I find myself remembering that You, again –

with strength in Your hands and power in Your words and kindness in Your character –

will graciously grant another fragment of free faith that will, in turn, give flight to my fears.

Oh, may I never forget each rush of wind that triggers my heart to relish my Redeemer.

And may I embrace the ridiculous reality that this is truly a preferred place to be . . . a place of undeniable dependance on the One who has rescued me.

For when the question is asked, “‘Who is this, that even the wind and the waves obey Him?'” (Mark 4:41), by Your mercy, I will know.

And I will herald Your hard-pressed faithfulness that has never wavered and that has patiently preserved.  Moreover, I will be able to recount with wonder each and every storm that You have stilled in my worn and weary yet revived soul.

five

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What will your favorite color be?

Or your favorite bedtime story?

What will make you smile with pride?

What will make you run and hide?

What will make you jump for joy?

What will be your favorite toy?

Who will be your closest friend?

And for your sails, what will be the wind?

What will be your life-long dream?

Or your favorite flavor ice cream?

There is so much about you that we don’t know!

As the days pass on, time will show.

We have many things to discover, my son.

Our adventure with you has just begun.

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