Let me introduce you to some people who are pretty important people in our world. Around our house, they are affectionately known as the “BK Team,” but in the real estate world, they are known as “BakerKatz.” These are the people who make our lives run and keep everyone (i.e. Jason and all of his women) afloat.
Well, let me put an addendum on that. Really I should say, Traci and Jennifer keep our lives afloat. Because let’s face it BK Boys, if you take away the BK Women, you pretty much don’t have BakerKatz. They are the ones who keep Dana and Sus sane, Jason focused, Kenneth culturally updated, Neil hilarious, Lunden Italian, and Ben willing to stick around. And…this is an important one here – they keep snacks in the kitchen.
Last December, BakerKatz celebrated 10 years as a company, so Traci master-minded this incredible video to show as a surprise for Kenneth and Jason at the company holiday party. I interviewed my three girls (we only had three at the time) for the video, and here is Caroline’s response…an official commentary on what’s important in the BKOffice:
Let’s go back to that keeping Sus sane thing. Both Jennifer and Traci are something I am not: resourceful. And they don’t dissolve in a crisis in a puddle of tears. (No wonder Jason likes them so much.) They figure it out. Jack Bauer style. While everyone else is sleeping, I’m pretty sure Traci and Jennifer are up, figuring out how to save the world.
They can figure out how to do anything at any time with any budget from any point on the globe. Need to figure out how to get from the rural Indian countryside to a major city airport in a rickshaw? No problem. Need to figure out how to purchase a building, prepare LOI’s, and keep clients eating out of the palm of your hand? Done. Need to figure out how to review a document from the middle of the hills in the Lake District where there’s no internet reception? Got it. Need to figure out how to get a refund on tickets when Continental merged with United and it takes you four days to get from Houston to Scotland and you are stranded with three kids, without luggage, on the floor of the airport in Frankfurt, Germany? Piece of cake. Need to figure out how to add an adopted kid to your insurance policy whose official name is still LingYu Xu (the name, apparently, of a famous Chinese pop star), but her adopted name is Mia Grace Baker? Easy. Kid’s stuff. Need to figure out how to wade through all things paperwork and birth a baby through notarized documents, FedEx packages, certified checks, and official copies of birth certificates, social security cards (I still don’t know where my husband’s is), marriage licenses, and proof after fingerprint proof that YOU ARE NOT A CRIMINAL?!? Not a problem.
I can say with utmost confidence that if Jennifer and Traci were not around, there is a strong possibility that Mia Grace would not be around either. I would have plunged off of the paperwork face of the earth and shriveled up in a hole somewhere to die a slow death.
So that’s why, when we returned from China with Mia Grace safe and sound in our arms, some of the very first people I wanted her to meet where her BK Family. They had skin in the game, so to speak, just like Jason and I did.
And, of course, Mia Grace took to the BKWomen like a rat to a cheeto…literally. She was won over by the snacks…and, of course, the huge smiles on their faces and tremendous love in their hearts.
BakerKatz, the Baker Six couldn’t be more thankful for each of you, and of course, for all of the SNACKS!!!
Remembering can be a painful thing. Sometimes it’s hard to think about certain phases or seasons of our life because it feels like nothing good lies beneath that particular blanket of the past. Either other people hurt us too deeply or we messed up too royally for there to ever be beauty that lies underneath the ashes.
But that’s not what God’s Word tells us. Throughout the pages of Isaiah, Jeremiah, Joel, and Hosea, He promises His people that not only does He redeem their past, but He restores their past, weaving it back together from the torn and broken fragments lying around them.
Sometimes we do not see this redemption or restoration until we are with Him in our eternal Home, but sometimes He lets us see glimpses in the here and now. And when we do, we stand amazed. Astonished that anything good could come out of such ashes.
Kenneth Bailey says it this way in his book The Good Shepherd :
“Jeremiah asks his readers to remember the Lord who returned them from ‘the north country.’…How much they had suffered was not forgotten, but neither was it their primary focus….What mattered was their redemption and their Redeemer, not their suffering” (p. 73).
I don’t know what suffering you have in your past, but I do know that the same Weaver who wove a Suffering Savior and Redeemer through the pages of Israel’s history can weave that same Savior through the pages of your history. My prayer is that He gives you eyes to see and thankful hearts to receive the blanket of beauty He is weaving.
I took time this morning
To peer under the blanket of my life.
The hues, they astonished me,
In all their darks and brights.
I found treasure underneath
The rough texture on the top,
I found treasure underneath
That had grown and never stopped.
So take time to peer beneath
The blanket of your days,
And what you find is waiting
Is the weaving of your ways
With threads of goodness, threads of beauty,
Threads of hidden joys,
Woven while you slept on a loom of faithful love.
Because the past is not the past
As you remember or you’ve made it.
The past is the Weaver’s
And underneath is all His blanket.
Our past is set upon His loom
And mended with His Hands
And heals in beautiful, mysterious ways
While conforming to His plans.
So set aside the lens of dark
And seething bitterness,
And put on the lens of a thankful heart,
Watching for His hope.
What you will find waiting
Beneath every blackest sorrow
Is the Shepherd and the Weaver
Who has never ceased to follow
The rhythms and the patterns and the evils of your days
With covenantal, faithful love
Bought back from all your sorrow.
~Susannah Baker, September, 2015
“The God before whom my fathers
Abraham and Isaac walked,
The God who has been my shepherd
All my life to this day,
The angel who has redeemed me from all evil,
Bless the lads;
And may my name live on in them…”
Last week was our first week of starting back to school. (I know, I know – the rest of the world has been back in school since July. Trust me – I was counting down the days until I could wave good-bye to everyone at 8am. I tried not to look too gleeful as I dropped them off in their classrooms last Wednesday morning with the knowledge I wouldn’t see their knee-highed legs again until 3:30pm that afternoon.)
It was a “soft start” kind of a week since they were only in school for half the week. We go to a school where my kids attend school on campus on Mondays and Wednesdays, and I home school them on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Fridays are “free days”, where good home school moms take their kids to places like museums, historical markers, and the original log cabin where Laura Ingalls grew up. By Friday, I am usually laying on the couch in a comatose state attempting to take a four hour nap while my kids are left to entertain themselves in the house with art projects left over from the summer. I am in full support of Jessica Trozzo’s statement, my friend and fellow homeschooling mom, that “our kids have really fun lives; I don’t feel the need to entertain them every Friday.” At least, that’s how I comfort myself when I lay down on the couch on Fridays.
Anywho, last Thursday was our first home school day and Friday was “free.”
So this week is official – we are really back in school. Yesterday was our first Tuesday home day, and I have to be honest, I had forgotten from last year what long days Tuesday are. Thursdays we have a little more breathing room. If we didn’t have time to fit Grammar in, or we forgot about Science, we can squeeze it in over the weekend. But there is no squeezing on a Tuesday; everything has to be crammed in to be turned in and ready to go for a campus school day on Wednesday. And by yesterday evening, when Jason walked in the door, I didn’t even have words left to tell him how the day was. All of my words had been used up by 3pm, and all that was left was silence or an occasional grunt.
I wish by the end of the day on Tuesdays I felt tired like I had run a really good race or completed a really good workout. But it’s not that kind of tired. It’s a tired like someone has taken me to a woodshed out in the backyard, laid me over their knees, and given me a good, sound spanking. I know that might sound strange, but to put it another way, at the end of a Tuesday, I never feel like, “Wow, that was a hard day but it was a GREAT day! I just excelled in my role as a mom; what a fabulous mom I must be!” It’s more like, “Wow, I can’t believe I blew it THAT MANY TIMES IN ONE DAY.” And if I have any words left, there are usually spent in saying “I’m sorry,” as in “I’m sorry for yelling when you dropped your peanut butter and jelly sandwich on our newly washed rug.” Or “I’m sorry for yelling when I was reading to you about the planets and you lunged for our cat so you could play with her and act like I wasn’t doing my best to educate your brain about Pluto (which isn’t even a planet anymore, by the way, according to a vote by some astronomical board! I felt robbed, cheated of my knowledge of the planet line ups when I was in third grade. I always felt like Pluto was nice little dot at the end.)” And “I’m sorry when you whined for the hundredth time about having to learn to write the letter “A”, I told you if you did that again, you would spent the rest of your life in time out because this is simply part of pre-K; I already finished pre-K and know how to write my letter A’s.”
Are you getting the picture? We’re not exactly the Brady Bunch over here on Tuesdays and Thursdays. I feel more like a circus master running a four ring circus.
It doesn’t help, either, that I am teaching Sunday School for the first time on Sunday since getting back from China. Which means every morning at 5am I drag myself out of bed and stumble downstairs to sip on a cup of coffee while I try to put coherent thoughts about the Bible together in my brain and on paper. I love trying to put coherent thoughts about the Bible together; what’s tough about teaching, particularly this week, is that to teach a good lesson, you have to live a good lesson. You have to hold your own life up under the bright light of the Word of God and let it convict, challenge, and change you if you don’t want to be a hypocrite when you stand up there on Sunday morning.
All that to say, this week’s lesson has been particularly challenging because it’s on the parable of “The Great Banquet” that Jesus tells at a dinner party in Luke 14:16-24. I always find the toughest, most challenging lessons to teach are on the words of Jesus Himself. His words are just so – hard. And difficult to understand. And I always find myself so lacking underneath the weight of the words of this God-Man who came and flipped the world upside down with His justice, mercy, love, and grace. Particularly during a season when I am struggling to give grace to my kids, much less to a waiting, hurting, groaning world.
I won’t go into all the details of the parable, but what has given me hope this home school week are the three groups of people invited to the banquet Jesus outlines in Luke 14. The first group represent the religious elite, the people who sit in the pews, who know the Word of God backwards and forwards, who have grown up in church, but do not know Jesus Himself. They are hell-bent on making their own rules and regulations to the Great Feast and Table of the Lord, and Jesus, with all of His grace, is messing up their guest list. With tax collectors like Zaccheus. Prostitutes like Mary Magdelene. Blind beggars like Bartimaeus, truth seekers like Nicodemus, blue-collar, uneducated fisherman like Peter and demon-possessed Gentiles like the man from Gerasene.
Not only do they dislike Jesus, but they are doing everything in their power to completely stop the banquet from even taking place. So they refuse to come. No show at the last minute in a deliberate attempt to publicly humiliate the host and bring him shame and dishonor.
So how does the Host respond? Does He go out and wreak havoc on all of those who have rejected His invitation to His table? Quite the opposite. In the words of Kenneth Bailey, “The host reprocesses his anger into grace” and begins to invite to his banquet all those who could never pay him back. He tells his slave, “Go out quickly to the streets and lanes of the city, and bring in the poor and crippled and blind and lame.” This second group of invitees represented the lost sheep of Israel that Jesus came to seek and to save, but it also represents you and me. It represents all those who are outcasts and who have been on the outskirts their whole lives but now, according to the lavish mercy and grace of God, have been invited in. I know because I have one of these invitees who sits at my table on a daily basis. She has black hair and brown eyes and the cutest little dimple over her right cheek you have ever seen.
She is a daily reminder to me of GRACE. Of the grace that sits at our table and the grace that is the only ticket to sit at the table to come. And her story of being outcast, abandoned, forsaken, and then brought in to a family and to a table is a reminder to me of all of our stories. Sometimes, though, it’s easy for me to forget my story and my need for an invitation in. Because let me tell you, more times than not, I am in the first group. The religious group. The group that thinks I have no need of the Savior’s table or can make up my own rules and set my own table. And then Jesus’ grace undoes me and I move from outside the door to take my place at the table with all of the rest of the broken invitees. I know that once I yielded to Christ as Lord I have never lost my place at His table, but I sure do have the tendency to get up and move around at lot.
Yesterday, I took Mia Grace to a long time friend and gifted photographer to have her picture taken, an official portrait for the Baker Girl Wall of Fame. Cindy had never met Mia Grace but was well aware of her story and how long we had waited to bring her home. As soon as she saw her, she started to weep. And throughout the photo session she wept. After every few pictures, she had to put her camera down to wipe away her tears.
I have discovered that Mia Grace has this effect on people. In the midst of our everyday, day-to-day, rat race and craziness, Mia Grace is this burst of…grace. A reminder of our invitation to the table. A reminder that we, too, are invited in. To sit down. To pull up a chair. To be called family. To know and be known. And to feast. Not in spite of our brokenness, but because of our brokenness. And because of the Host who died to make us whole.
So today, whoever you are, whatever your brokenness looks like, whatever your past or present, and wherever you’ve been, keep the feast, accept the invitation, and sit down. You have a Savior who is waiting.
When I was little, my mother NEVER let me look at Barbies, much less play with them.
So why in the world would my daughter come home with this book from the local public library used book sale with THIS in her hands, bouight for her by her grandmother??
Gotta love grandmothers…and we sure do love ours!!!
I know I haven’t posted in a while…and for that, I apologize. After all of the adrenaline and excitement involved with going to China to get Mia Grace and coming home to introduce her to her new “normal”, all of the words just…left me. That’s not entirely true. The words were still there, circulating beneath my thoughts and our days; it was just that I was too weary to let them out. I think both Jason and I discovered that while we were prepared (at some level) for food issues, sleep issues, attachment issues, language issues, what we were not prepared for was the issue of…weariness. Attaching to an 18 month old you have never met, is from a different country, is used to a different language, different food, and whole different way of doing life is plain ol’ exhausting. So Jason gave our family a gift that was a blessing beyond words – a week at the beach.
The big girls don’t start school until after Labor Day (today in fact!), so we packed up our swim suits, flip flops, and t-shirts, and spent a week in Florida.
It was heavenly to do nothing but sit in a chair or in the sand and look out over the wide expanse of sand and sea and simply soak in beauty while enjoying the company of one another’s presence without any other demands. Our biggest decision of the day was when to go frequent our favorite snow cone trailer truck in the little town close by, just a bike ride away.
I wasn’t sure how Mia Grace would respond to the texture of sand or the wide expanse of the sea, but to my surprise and delight, she loved every minute of it. She loved running the tiny grains of sand through her fingers and loved the feeling of sand poured over her toes. She dug in the sand for hours with her small shovel and pail underneath the brim of her big pink hat.
And she loved being held out in the blue waters with daddy, her big brown eyes wide as she slowly took everything in, including the salty waves.
More often than not, Jason and I are mountain people. We love to hike, conquer a peak, conquer a trail, and soak in mountain air and mountain views. The majesty of the mountains moves both of us in ways the ocean sometimes does not. But this week, instead of the mountains, we both instinctively knew we needed the beach. It took me getting there and looking out at the view multiple times before I finally understood why.
While the mountains represent the glory and majesty of God in my life, almost a mysterious calling to go up and beyond to new heights and new adventures, the ocean represents, to me at least, the love of God. It is as if this wide, warm blanket is spread out over the earth, stretching as far as the eye can see. And with each wave that the tide brings in, the words are heard in my heart and soul, “You are loved…you are loved…you are loved.”
I think that’s what Jason and I and the girls needed to hear. Because after weeks of learning to love this new little person in our midst, we needed to hear that we were loved as well. We were cared for under the blanket and tender care of God’s love while pouring out love on another.
A picture of this came so vividly and beautifully the last morning of our trip. Well, let me back up. The first morning of our trip, we gathered up all of our beach gear, lathered everyone in sunscreen, and headed down to our spot by the water. We were still getting situated when the guy under the umbrella next to us said, “Look! There’s a dolphin!” We looked up to see a family of five out in the surf with a five to six foot long, dark shape gliding in the waves just a few feet from them. It didn’t take long to realize from the fin on the back and the angles on the body underneath that was no dolphin…it was a shark. Apparently, the family in the surf realized the same thing and made a bee-line out of the waves back onto the safety of the shore.
For the next thirty minutes or so, not one shark, not two sharks, but five or six sharks made their way to the edge of the surf, coming so close to the shore you could almost touch them.
If you are like my husband, Jason, then seeing sharks that close up in the surf just about makes your day. He was so gleeful, so excited, he waded OUT IN THE MIDDLE OF THE SURF to try to get a close up view. Geez. Ever since I’ve known him, one of his life aspirations is to go down into the shark cages off of the coast line of Australia or South Africa to get a close up view of the great whites. No thank you. No sir. Not me. Just the mention of the word “shark” sends a cold feeling down from my spine into my toes. Not only was I up on the shore at first mention of the word “shark,” but I stayed up on that shore for the next two days. I like the safety and security of the sand between my toes more than the possibility of a shark nibbling on them.
We never saw the sharks again after that first day (thankfully), and I eventually did get in and enjoy the water, but every time I was in the water, there was always a near by thought that the sharks COULD reappear. But at some point, the decision had to made to resolutely forget about the sharks, or the possibility of them, if the water was ever going to be enjoyed.
So the last morning of our trip, I was on an early morning run on the beach. Not many people were out, and if they were, they were walking or running along the shore like me. But along our stretch of beach, only two people were in the early morning waters – a daddy with his little boy who couldn’t have been more than 18 months old, blonde curls bobbing on his head, and his orange pacifier still in his mouth. They were enjoying the vastness of the ocean, just the two of them, probably trying to beat the heat of the day.
It was such a beautiful picture – a big, strong daddy holding his young son safely and securely in the waters. And all of a sudden, the reasons for our trip became crystal clear. “You know” the Lord whispered to my heart, “that’s why I brought you here. Out in the ocean, anything can happen. Anything can swim up. There is so much to fear. But not when you are in My Arms. In My Arms, you are safe and secure, you have nothing to fear, and the rhythm of life is the rhythm of the waves, ‘You are loved…you are loved…you are loved.'”
The past two months with Mia Grace have felt a bit like that first day on the beach with sharks in the water. There has just been so much unknown. Anything at any point could come up and grab you taking sleep, taking rest, taking security, from her mainly, and from us as well.
But our time at the beach was a reminder that in the unknown, the love of the Father holds us, comforts us, and gives us the ability to take delight in the process of loving and being loved, no matter what may come.
Underneath that blanket of love and thankfulness we rested and came home, ready to start the school year, ready to continue through the new normal with Mia Grace. Sometimes that’s all we need – not another adventure and not another activity – just another reminder of His arms, holding us close in the vast expanse of His love.
Praying you know that same, good, holding kind of love today,
The Baker Six