Finding Joy in Him

Through Every Season

Year: 2016 (page 1 of 2)

A Psalm of Jenny: December 7, 2016

God, thank you for tears.. for the creative way you designed us to release emotion. Like a refreshing rain, they release my soul from the muck and mire… mostly because I know that You give them audience. You listen to the prayers I can’t pray. You listen to my tears.

Thank you for collecting them in Your bottle.

Thank You for giving them audience.

God, I need help. I am desperate for help.
There is so much I don’t know..
How much more sorrow is left?
How I am I supposed to face it?
How much more will you ask of me?

I’ve had to let go of so much this year. I’ve had to trust you through such a weighty fog.

It’s hard.. you’re asking a lot.. but I see the proud gleam in your eyes that says that you ask so much because you know I love you that much.

Thank you for speaking to me with your eyes.. for letting the fog dissipate a little.. giving me a glimpse of Heaven.

Lord, I don’t know how much I love you. I really don’t. And it bothers me. I wish that I knew deep in my inner being that I loved you with all of me.

All, Lord? The truth is that losing Joel has taught me that I know very little about what is deep inside of me. My inward parts are so much larger and more unfathomable than I ever imagined.. an abyss.

Consuming love, fierce longing, profound sadness and fountains of joy all fit inside of me? Sometimes, it frightens me.

I possess so little of my heart, soul and mind.

Who can offer or even hold so great a possession?

So much of me is shattered. I don’t know what part will function from day to day. I am continually faced with walking so precariously close to this confounding precipice.

Rope? What rope? There was a rope?

Is that why you asked us to love you will all our heart, soul and strength? To cause us to look inside and be amazed at how little we control.. even inside ourselves?

I am learning to push away the care and worry of this journey. I am freer because you’ve taught me that all I can do is continually:

Put my hope in You..
Fix my eyes on You..
Lean in..
Press up against Your wings..
Cast my burdens..
Come to the only One who has living water for the weary..
Remember that You are good..
that You are holding me..

God! You must be so BIG!

SO, SO BIG to hold so much.. so many!

Lord, I know that it’s good to count the cost.. and that You are asking us to do that now.

It’d be easier to wrap ourselves up in a little bubble. Just the two of us.. off on romantic getaways.. or maybe with friends who like to talk and eat.

Lord, it sounds so nice. But in reality it is shallow.. a broken cistern that holds no water.. a dirty, dusty shadow of a well that can never satisfy the abyss of longing in my soul. Food, friends, talk.. can never be enough.

You are asking for more.. and offering more. It is costly and rewarding. It’s so strange to think about.

I don’t even know what You are asking yet. I only know that it’s going to cost more of me.. more than I possess. I only know that it’s going to mean drawing near to the hurting, hurting with them (compassion – “suffer with”) and comforting (“strengthening”) them with the comfort You are giving me.

Matthew 13:45-46 “Again, the kingdom of Heaven is like a merchant seeking beautiful pearls, who, when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had and bought it.”

Lord, thank you for creating us with this incomprehensible worth and loving us so extravagantly. We are truly fearfully and wonderfully made and loved.

Thank You for giving up everything to come..  for being moved by compassion.. for humbling Yourself.. for not counting Your position.. or even Your own comfort as something to be grasped.

Thank You for becoming flesh to comfort us.. to “suffer with” us. Thank you for laying down Your life to redeem us.

Thank You for coming as a babe and for Your promise to come again so that we can be with You in Your Father’s house where He will wipe away our tears and sorrows.. where mourning and death will be no more.

Thank You for being our strength… our comfort.. our joy.. our salvation. Thank You.

Lord, when I meet You face to face, I want to have given all of me freely. I want to obey.. to follow in Your footsteps.. to be conformed into Your image.. to love like You.

Lord, I don’t know.. can’t fathom.. what I have to give, but I want to see it redeemed and used for Your glory. Redeem what is left of me. Work every thing together for good as You promised. The promises that You are working and will return are the promises that consume me with longing. My eyes strain to see them fulfilled.

Lord, help me to remember that the I that I used to be no longer lives. Help me remember that I was crucified with You on that cross.. and that it’s You that now lives in me. Help me to see with Your compassionate eyes and love out of Your extravagant love. Help me to let go of the false comforts that my flesh grasps for, so I may receive the much greater comfort of You living in and through me.

Be with us today.. and every day.. as we are missing Joel and he is celebrating 4 years of living in Your house.

Held together only by Your love,

Jenny

Postcards from Heaven: Thanksgiving 2016

This was our 4th Thanksgiving without Joel and our first since launching our earthbound kids into adulthood and moving 700 miles for a new assignment.

The Lord answered our prayers and the kids were able to get off work and drive up together for their first visit to our new home. It will probably be awhile before we get to see them again, so I try to enjoy them as much as I can when I do.

In March, our oldest plans to move over 1,600 miles to start his first job after earning his masters in biology. We are all excited for him.. and sad, too. I’ve been working hard at accepting God’s plans over my dreams for our family.

We had a nice visit. The most important things were unpacked. Cooking Thanksgiving was made more challenging by our recent move. It took me more than a few tries to find where I’d put all those special pots and pans.

Cooking has never been my thing, but Thanksgiving is the kids’ favorite holiday. They love to eat, so I’ve worked hard to learn how to make their favorite foods.

I always miss Joel a great deal while cooking for Thanksgiving. Just a couple of weeks before we lost him, he came in the kitchen with his chin up, took in a big whiff of all the pleasant Thanksgiving smells, nodded his approval and asked, “How is everything coming?”

Joel’s nod meant a lot to me. It was his way of playfully saying that he loved and appreciated me. I bantered back by enlisting him to set the table. He was a willing helper.

This Thanksgiving, I positioned one of our favorite photos of Joel on the mantle, so I could look up and feel like he was with us in spirit. When we circled up in the living room to pray before dinner, I imagined Joel smiling and praying with us.

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The kids stayed for several days. It was so nice having them here. Our new house is 1000 ft smaller, yet didn’t feel too crowded. Moving away from the kids has felt so surreal that I wasn’t sure how their visit would feel. I was pleasantly pleased that it wasn’t strange at all, but familiar and almost right (still missing the one who has gone ahead to our real home in Heaven).

I saw a quote by Randy Alcorn the other day. In it, he quotes a verse the Lord gave me when my children were small. It’s a verse I have leaned into a great deal. My favorite version says:

“All your children will be taught by the Lord Himself and great will be their peace.” Isaiah 54:13

As a homeschool mom, I knew I wasn’t enough. No matter how much I taught them, there were going to be things that they could only learn from God Himself.

More than anything, my prayer has been that God would give my children a hunger to know and love Him. That He would be their all in all. That He would give Himself to them and supply them with love, wisdom and strength to face the storms ahead. That He would surround them with His peace.

When we lost Joel, my heart was crushed and I felt like God had blasted me with a resounding, “No!” My ability to pray for their safety was shattered. It “ting, tings” against a delicate, glass ceiling in my heart even today. One day, I hope that I will be able to pray freely again. For now, I continue to pray for them to be taught, strengthened and loved by God Himself.

Randy Alcorn has helped solidify Heaven for us through His books; giving us a more eternal perspective. When we first lost Joel, Heaven felt so ethereal that it was hard for us to imagine. Randy from his Heaven book:

How glorious it will be for grandchildren and grandparents—and great-grandchildren and great-grandparents who never knew each other before—to enjoy their youth together in the cities, fields, hillsides, and waters of the New Earth. To walk together, discover together, be amazed together—and praise Jesus together. “All your children shall be taught by the LORD, and great shall be the peace of your children” (Isaiah 54:13).

The Bible instructs us to set our hearts and minds on things above:

Colossians 3:1 Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. 3 For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.

.. To fix our eyes on the unseen:

2 Corinthians 4:16 Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. 17 For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. 18 So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.

Things seen for me: Joel shot to death by a stranger with an AK-47. Joel’s body in a grave; separated from us.

Things unseen: God working all things together for good, Joel alive in Heaven, Jesus in our midst, His return, our bodily resurrection, our happy reunion, an eternal glory that far outweighs our earthly troubles, everything in Heaven and in the New Earth to come.

My eyes are often weary from all the peering through this present darkness to things unseen.

Now we see things imperfectly, like puzzling reflections in a mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity. All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God now knows me completely. 1 Corinthians 13:12

Ever so often, Holy Spirit will drop into my heart a snapshot of the unseen things Joel is enjoying in Heaven to cheer and encourage me. It’s a little like getting postcards from Heaven.

The very first image I got was of Joel receiving a fiery chariot for his first Christmas in Heaven. Have you ever imagined never having another car payment or repair bill? That’s the dream Joel is living now.. And his car can fly! I could see him taking it out for a joyride with no fear of danger, just pure joy and freedom. car-postcard

Sometimes Holy Spirit will drop the name of musician like Larry Norman, Bach, Johnny Cash or David on my heart. I can see Joel jamming with them, learning how to play new songs and cords, worshiping and praising Jesus and our Heavenly Father.

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I can see Joel hiking in Heaven. Enjoying it’s beauty. I can see him walking on water with Peter and looking at me like “It’s a cinch.” I can see him dancing wildly with Jesus. Once, I got a snapshot of Joel fishing with his great-grandfather. I can see him hanging out, telling stories, toasting something better than marshmallows and laughing around a campfire.

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We went with the kids to the Chickasaw Cultural Center Saturday and learned how their dances are prayers to their creator who will return one day from the East. Mike and I danced and prayed with them. We have one great, great, great grandparent each who was Native American. I can almost see Joel with his Native American family in Heaven, learning and performing their dances/prayers around a fire, calling out in those high yells and low groans.

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My heart isn’t ready for Joel’s upcoming Heaven Day or another Christmas without him, but Holy Spirit is such a good and kind comforter. He knows just what I need… to see the unseen, to set my mind and heart on things above. He will be with us in the storms to come. My eyes will be fixed on Jesus and He will surround us with His peace.

 

Love and prayers,

Jenny

Remembering: Fuel for Hope

“Suffering makes us want to go there [Heaven]. Broken homes and broken hearts crush our illusions that earth can keep its promises, that it can really satisfy. Only the hope of Heaven can truly move our passions off this world … and place them where they will find their glorious fulfillment. Suffering hurries the heart homeward.” – Joni Eareckson Tada in “Heaven, Your Real Home

I had a good dream last night. Our whole family moved into a new home together. Joel was there helping me clean floors as he often did. Some of the kid’s friends came over and our home was overflowing, loud and busy. I was very happy.. in my element.

I cried when I woke up to reality: Joel in Heaven, empty nest in a new state, far from my kids. As I surveyed my dream, I wondered if spending time in nostalgia was wrong. I don’t normally leave space for nostalgia, so now my subconscious seems to have found it’s own time for it in my dreams.

I am still unpacking and that has me pushing forward through a mire of grief as I choose which things must go to make room for this new life Mike and I are beginning.

I want to live in and enjoy the present. I want to live content and expectant of what God has for me… even when it includes sloshing through grief and letting things go.

In the present, eyes on the line ahead.

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Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on Earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory. Colossians 3:1-4

C. S. Lewis in Mere Christianity:

If you read history, you will find that the Christians who did the most for the present world were just those who thought most of the next. The apostles themselves, who set on foot the conversion of the Roman Empire, the great men who built up the Middle Ages, the English evangelicals who abolished the slave trade, all left their mark on earth, precisely because their minds were occupied with Heaven. It is since Christians have largely ceased to think of the other world that they have become so ineffective in this.

I press on for that…

“Well done, good and faithful servant.. Enter into the joy of your master!” Matthew 25:23

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I was thankful this morning (as I’ve been many times) when I opened my email and read today’s devotion by Joni Eareckson Tada. In it, she described how she uses her sweetest memories to “inspire hope.”

She urges,

Let your memories be your handhold on heaven. Do you have memories of better times, happier days? Use those to help you look forward to when God will wipe away every tear; to when sorrow and sighing will be no more, and to when joy will overtake you.

(Her full devotion can be read here.)

In recent weeks, a theme song has been playing through my days. It’s been a while since I’ve had one. I CHOSE this song by Chris Tomlin:

You’re a good, good, Father.
It’s who you are.
And I am loved by You.
It’s who I am.

You are perfect in all of your ways to us.

He is perfect in all of His ways.

Allowing pain, suffering and death after the fall is one of His good and perfect ways whether or not I like or understand it.

Sending Jesus to suffer, die and rise again for our redemption. – His perfection and goodness on display.

The return of Jesus, the death of death and pain and sorrow, and a new heaven on a new earth. – His perfect goodness to come.

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A big part of the battle of persevering through trial is REMEMBERING that all His ways are good and perfect and that He gives good and perfect gifts.

Did you hear that?

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And yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope… Lamentations 3:21

Reading devotions, choosing theme songs, meditating His goodness and hiding His Word in my heart helps me to remember, to press in, to feel loved, accepted, and cared for in the middle of my suffering; to see the bigger picture beyond my current circumstances.

Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him. James 1:12

Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. James 1:17

Sweet memories of little ones huddled around me, sweet memories of days like my last one spent with Joel, sweet memories of a house overflowing, loud and busy are good gifts from a good, good Father.

His Word, the fellowship of His sufferings, His promises to never leave or forsake me, and to work all things together for my good are perfect gifts from a good, good Father.

REMEMBERING His gifts… the gift of His Son, and of His Comforter, the gifts of time spent with family and friends past and present, the gifts that come with each new day, and the gifts of forever in Heaven.. can fuel my hope and help me persevere through trial.

The bitterness of losing Joel has given even my sweetest memories an aftertaste. My dreams were shattered. My heart still feels broken, battered, and bruised. There is a great divide between the me before losing Joel and the me that I now wake up to.

Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. James 1:4

Sometimes it seems easier to forget the tainted sweetness of the past and to just keep pushing through to the unending sweetness to come, but I won’t be truly whole until I am able to love God with my whole heart and allow Him to use my whole story for His glory.

Part of my heart lies listless, but I believe that hope can help mend it, so I continue to remember and to pray to the One who came to heal the brokenhearted My Year Long Prayer:

Teach me Your way, Oh LORD, that I may walk in Your truth. Give me an undivided heart that I may fear Your Name. Psalm 86:11

If keeping my eyes on the line can make me more useful on this earth, persevering through trials can make me mature and complete, and drinking from the cup of sweet and bitter memories can be used to fuel the sweet hope of Heaven, then they are goals worth pursuing.

Lamentations 3:

13 He pierced my heart
with arrows from his quiver.

18 So I say, “My splendor is gone
and all that I had hoped from the Lord.”

19 I remember my affliction and my wandering,
the bitterness and the gall.
20 I well remember them,
and my soul is downcast within me.
21 Yet this I call to mind
and therefore I have hope:

22 Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed,
for his compassions never fail.
23 They are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.
24 I say to myself, “The Lord is my portion;
therefore I will wait for him.”

25 The Lord is good to those whose hope is in him,
to the one who seeks him;
26 it is good to wait quietly
for the salvation of the Lord.

My Things Above Book

A couple of years ago I created a book on “Things Above” to encourage my family to look up as we travel this journey. I shared about looking up and how it has helped us in my last post. Now I am sharing the photos my parents and I took in the Smokey Mountains and the verses from my book below. Feel free to use and enjoy them in your own “Things Above” book.

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John 11:25-26 Jesus said, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will still live, even if he dies; and every one who is living and is a believer in me shall never, never die. Do you believe this?”

Mark 14:61-62 The high priest asked him, “Are you the Messiah, the Son of the Blessed One?” Jesus said, “I Am. And you will see the Son of Man seated in the place of power at God’s right hand and coming on the clouds of heaven.”

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John 14:1-4  Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me. In My Father’s house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you. And since I’m going away to prepare a place for you, I’ll come back again and welcome you into my presence, so that you may be where I am. You know where I am going, and you know the way.
6-7 I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you really know me, you will know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him.

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Revelation 1:3 Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear it and take to heart what is written in it, because the time is near.
5 … All glory to him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by shedding his blood for us. 6 He has made us a Kingdom of priests for God his Father. All glory and power to him forever and ever! Amen.

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Revelation 1:12 …I saw seven gold lamp stands. 13 And standing in the middle of the lamp stands was someone like the Son of Man. He was wearing a long robe with a gold sash across his chest. 14 His head and his hair were white like wool, as white as snow. And his eyes were like flames of fire. 15 His feet were like polished bronze refined in a furnace, and his voice thundered like mighty ocean waves. 16 He held seven stars in his right hand, and a sharp two-edged sword came from his mouth. And his face was like the sun in all its brilliance.
17 When I saw him, I fell at his feet as if I were dead. But he laid his right hand on me and said, “Don’t be afraid! I am the First and the Last. 18 I am the living one. I died, but look—I am alive forever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and the grave.”

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Revelation 4:3 The one sitting on the throne was as brilliant as gemstones – like jasper and the fiery sardius, And the glow of an emerald circled his throne like a rainbow.
4 Twenty-four thrones surrounded him, and twenty-four elders sat on them. They were dressed in white and had crowns of gold on their heads.
5 Flashes of lightning, thunder, and voices came from the throne. In front of the throne, seven lamps were blazing. These are the seven spirits of God.

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Revelation 22:12 “Behold, I am coming soon! My reward is with me, and I will give to each person according to what they have done.”

2 Peter 3:9 The Lord is not slow concerning his promise as some count slowness, but is patient with us, not wanting any to perish, but all to come to repentance.

James 1:12 Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him.

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Philippians 2:12 Dear friends, you always followed my instructions when I was with you. And now that I am away, it is even more important. Work hard to show the results of your salvation, obeying God with deep reverence and fear.
13 For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him.
14 Do everything without complaining and arguing, 15 so that you may be blameless and pure, children of God who are faultless in a crooked and perverted generation, among whom you shine like stars in the world.
16 Hold firmly to the word of life; then, on the day of Christ’s return, I will be proud that I did not run the race in vain and that my work was not useless.

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Joel 2:28 ”I will pour out my Spirit on all people.
Your sons and daughters will prophesy,
your old men will dream dreams,
your young men will see visions.
29 Even on my servants, both men and women,
I will pour out my Spirit in those days.
30 I will show wonders in the heavens
and on the earth,
blood and fire and billows of smoke.
31 The sun will be turned to darkness
and the moon to blood
before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord.
32 And everyone who calls
on the name of the Lord will be saved…

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Mark 13:26 Then everyone will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds with great power and glory. 27 And he will send out his angels to gather his chosen ones from all over the world—from the farthest ends of the earth and heaven.

31 Heaven and earth will disappear, but my words will never disappear.
32 “However, no one knows the day or hour when these things will happen, not even the angels in heaven or the Son himself. Only the Father knows. 33 Watch, keep alert, and pray; for you don’t know when the time is.

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1 Corinthians 15:51 Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed— 52 in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. 53 For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality.
54 When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: “Death has been swallowed up in victory.”…
58 Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.

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Ezekiel 1:25-27 And then, as they stood with folded wings, there was a voice from above the dome over their heads. Above the dome there was something that looked like a throne, sky-blue like a sapphire, with a humanlike figure towering above the throne. From what I could see, from the waist up he looked like burnished bronze and from the waist down like a blazing fire. Brightness everywhere!
28 Like the appearance of a rainbow in the clouds on a rainy day, so was the radiance around him. This was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the Lord. When I saw it, I fell facedown, and I heard the voice of one speaking.

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Daniel 7:9 As I looked, thrones were set in place, and the Ancient of Days took his seat.
His clothing was as white as snow;
the hair of his head was white like wool.
His throne was flaming with fire,
and its wheels were all ablaze.
10 A river of fire was pouring out from his presence.
Thousands upon thousands attended him;
ten thousand times ten thousand stood before him…
13 I continued watching, and there before me was one like a son of man, coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient of Days and was led into his presence. 14 He was given authority, glory and sovereign power; all nations and peoples of every language worshiped him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed.

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Psalm 27 One thing I ask of the LORD, this is what I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD and to seek him in his temple.

Psalm 84:10-12 Better is one day in Your house than a thousand anywhere else! For the LORD God is a sun and shield; The LORD gives grace and glory… Lord Almighty, blessed is the one who trusts in you.

Hebrews 6:19-20 This hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure, reaches through the veil into the inner sanctuary; where Jesus, who went before us, has entered on our behalf.

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1 Corinthians 13:12 Now we see things imperfectly, like puzzling reflections in a mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity.

Romans 8:18 Our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.

Romans 8:25 We hope for what we do not see, we eagerly wait for it with perseverance.

2 Corinthians 4:17-18 For our light and momentary troubles are producing for us an everlasting weight of glory, far beyond any comparison. So we do not focus on what is seen, but on what is unseen; for what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.

Psalm 37:7 I will be still, trust and rest in You as I wait expectantly for You.

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Revelation 21:1 Then I saw a new Heaven and a new Earth; for the first Heaven and the first Earth passed away, and there is no longer any sea.
2 I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband.
3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God.
4‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”

5 He who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”
6 Then He said to me, “It is finished. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. I will give freely to him who is thirsty from the spring of the water of life.

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Much Love,

Jenny

Heaven Days: Looking Up in Wonder

As a child, I visited a zoo where you could hand feed giraffes from a bridge. As high as the bridge arched across their habitat, they were higher still and had to stoop down to eat. Giraffes are huge like dinosaurs. If you want to see more than just their ankles, you have to look up.

There’s a wonder that has captivated me from my childhood; the wonder of looking up. Giraffes, grizzly bears, mountains, towering trees, sunrises and sunsets all fill me with wonder. They dwarf my  frame and elevate my eyes in wonder of One who created them.

Another wonder that causes me to worship is how a small, yet complete person is knit together in their mother’s womb then birthed into this world. Holding a newborn child, gazing into their eyes, watching them stretch and take in deep breaths of air fills me with wonder. Birthday celebrations are full of delight. I love making my family members their favorite foods, letting them know how special they are and how thankful I am that they are here. The wonder of them causes me to look up in wonder at our awesome Creator.

One year, when our kids were small, I was reminiscing the day that Judi gave her heart to Jesus and thought how wonderful that was, and how “Re-birthdays” should be celebrated, too. So we created our own rebirthday traditions. We made a special paper crown for the rebirthday child, read verses about the precious gift of eternal life that Jesus died to give us, talked about our eternal, heavenly home and, of course, had a special dinner with desert to celebrate. It was great fun and I wish we had celebrated more of them.

Now that we have a child living in Heaven, we have another day of remembrance. We call it Joel’s “Heaven Day” because although it was the worst day of our lives, it was the first best day of his. It was the day he met Jesus face to face. A day filled with wonder beyond what we can imagine.

Heaven Days and birthdays (and every day) spent missing someone you love are hard. For our family, it’s too sad to cook Joel’s favorite food (ever) or to eat desert or to celebrate his days, so we honor him and our Creator by turning our hearts with thanksgiving and in wonder of “things above.”

Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Colossians 3:1

We bought a special candle.. well, actually a decorative chess sculpture that reminds us of Joel’s love for life and fun and of the crown he now wears in Heaven. I put a candle in it and named it Joel’s candle.

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On the first anniversary of Joel’s Heaven Day, the kids were out doing their own things, and I was at a loss as to what to do to honor him. At the last minute, I remembered our rebirthday celebrations and gathered together some verses on Heaven and Jesus’ return. Mike and I lit Joel’s candle and prayed together. We thanked God for the light that Joel’s life has been to us and for his joyful way of being excited about everything (he never lost his boyish wonder) and asked God to help us to be joyful like him. We closed our prayer by asking Him to reveal the height, depth, width and breath of His love to us and to help us love each other as we look toward the day of His return; that wonderful day when we will hold Joel in our arms again. After our prayer, we read aloud from the verses and wondered at our heavenly hope. Looking up with thanksgiving and in wonder helped us on what had been a very difficult day.

For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. Therefore encourage one another with these words. 1 Thessalonians 4:16-18

The following year I took all my favorite “things above” verses and had them printed in a scrapbook along with some photographs my parents and I had taken in the Smokey Mountains. I spent part of Joel’s Heaven Day putting up Christmas decorations much like I had the day we lost him. That evening everyone’s schedule allowed us to gather after dinner and take turns declaring Jesus’ names as we added our ornaments to the tree. (More about our ornaments here.) Afterward, we moved into the living room, lit Joel’s candle and thanked God for the light that Joel’s life has been to us. We ended our time together by taking turns reading aloud the verses in the “Things Above” book I’d created.

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This turning of our hearts with thanksgiving and in wonder of “things above” has been very healing in our journey. Whenever I am feeling low, my husband encourages me to have an eternal perspective; to look up, and remember that we have a loving, heavenly Father who is working all things together for our good. Visiting the mountains, giraffes and grizzly bears at the zoo, making time to wonder at far-reaching trees, sunrises and sunsets and their Creator… all of this looking up in wonder has helped us.

I shared the pages from my “Things Above” book the year I made it here. I’ll share the verses and photos separately in my next post.

Much love,

Jenny

My Year Long Prayer

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Mike and I celebrated our 30th anniversary and moved into our 20th abode this summer.

Since the beginning of this new adventure last August, I’ve prayed one prayer:

Teach me Your way, Oh LORD, that I may walk in Your truth. Give me an undivided heart that I may fear Your Name. Psalm 86:11

Twenty-two moves into my life, I am still learning to lean into the brokenness that leaving friends, family and now children behind brings. Moving is hard. This move, especially, has been full of long, arduous days.

I pray:

Teach me Your way, Oh LORD, that I may walk in Your truth. Give me an undivided heart that I may fear Your Name. Psalm 86:11

I am broken. Again. I lean in. It’s hard. I pray. Praying exposes my brokenness.. all my brokenness.. the brokenness of leaving and of being left. I am overwhelmed. My heart is silenced. Paralyzed. It can not feel; not pain, nor sorrow, nor joy, nor love. I can’t pray.

I mouth the words again:

Teach me Your way, Oh LORD, that I may walk in Your truth. Give me an undivided heart that I may fear Your Name. Psalm 86:11

I cry:

“Help. God. Please, help. Help me to lean in and not away. Help me to enter in with my whole heart. I can not gather all the broken pieces of my heart together. They are sharp. The pain is deep. Help!”

My desire to lean into the brokenness and pain is a desire live fully in the here and now. The pain and brokenness overwhelm me; knock me to the ground. I am so tired of being overwhelmed. I am tired being cut off from my heart.

I want to love with my whole heart. Brokenness and all. It’s important to be present.. to listen.. to live and give myself fully in each moment. I know that living this way is what afforded me no regrets when we lost Joel. I know that this is the way God calls us to live. I know that I must treat myself with grace, kindness and acceptance.
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I do what I have the grace to do in each moment and try not to think about what it’s going to take to get through the next moments.

I remind myself of Jesus words and pray again for an undivided heart:

“No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.” Luke 9:62

The fields I plow have been torn apart. I am not omnipresent. I am in one field one day and in another another. When I drive to Oklahoma, part of my heart is left in Alabama and when I drive to Alabama, part of my heart is left in Oklahoma. And truthfully in other states and countries, too.

And in eternity, too.

I have to trust my loving Father to watch over the fields I cannot see.

Elizabeth Stone wrote, “Making the decision to have a child – it is momentous. It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body.”

A huge chunk of my heart has been walking around Heaven’s golden streets for three and three-quarters years now.

I don’t have possession of my whole heart or my whole self. Grief ambushes, and in an instant I am reduced to tears. I STILL don’t want it to be true, though I can no longer deny it. There’s a gaping chasm in my heart that I can not close.

When I suppress the truth (the pain), it haunts me in my dreams. I wake myself up wailing, and can not console myself by saying that it was only a dream.

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it is only a small part of the story. It’s only a small part of my story. God’s nail scarred hands are tenderly holding all the pieces of my broken heart; the parts scattered here on earth and the parts up in Heaven. One morning, this nightmare will be forever over, and He will bend down and wipe away the last of my tears and I will be fully, wholeheartedly me.

I often pray:

Psalm 39:4 “Lord, remind me how brief my time on earth will be.
Remind me that my days are numbered—how fleeting my life is.

5 You have made my life no longer than the width of my hand.
My entire lifetime is just a moment to you;
at best, each of us is but a breath.”

7 And so, Lord, where do I put my hope?
My only hope is in you.

Remembering that this life with all it’s heartache and trouble is short gives me hope. I’ve another, much better life waiting for me. My brokenness will not last forever.

I am comforted when I remember Jesus’ promise:

“I will not leave you as orphans, for I will come to you in a little while.” John 14:18

I am encouraged when I remember:

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. Romans 8:28

I may not be able to see all that God is working together now, but one day I will.

As I drive from one state to another, I sing Christ for the Nations’ “Running” song and try not to press too hard on the gas:

“I hear the voice, the voice of the one I love,
He’s calling my name.
I hear the voice, the voice of the one I love,
He’s calling my name.

He’s saying, come up higher, you’ll hear the angels sing.
Come up higher my beloved,
Come up higher and leave this world behind.
You’ll find me to be beautiful

I AM RUNNING, RUNNING AFTER YOU,
YOU BECOME MY SOUL’S DELIGHT
I AM RUNNING, RUNNING AFTER YOU,
HERE WITH YOU I FIND MY LIFE

One thing have I desired, this will I seek after
To dwell in Your house forevermore
Now I’m running after, the thing that really matters
You’ve become my joy and song.”

Pressing in as He enables, and finding all the pieces of my heart hidden and faithfully guarded in Him,

Jenny

Save

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Surrendered Longing

I am longing to be found faithful in small things…

Things like turning my heart to God in surrendered trust each day.

His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Enter into the joy of your master! – Matthew 25:21

I am longing to be found faithful in each storm that blows my way.

I am longing to hear the words, “Well done, good and faithful servant!”

I am longing to enter into the joy of my Master.

I am longing for His appearing.

And to throw off the shame I feel in the confessing of it.

Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day–and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing. – 2 Timothy 4:8

A crown of “RIGHTEOUSNESS” for those who long for His appearing;

Not one of shame.

Lord, Jesus, I long for You to come; to enter into this dark world with Your love and light; to return and reign in all Your glory. I long for the no mores of Heaven; no more death, or mourning, or crying, or pain. I long for the new Heaven and the new Earth where You have wiped away all our tears and will dwell among us. I long to live in Your joyful presence forevermore. Free me from the false shame I feel when I confess my longings for Your return. In You alone, will my soul be satisfied. In surrendered longing, I will find hope and rest.

Revelation 21:3-5 
And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying,
“Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and He will dwell with them.
They will be his people, and God Himself will be with them and be their God. 

‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes.
There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain,
for the old order of things has passed away.”  

He who was seated on the throne said,
“I am making everything new!”
Then he said, “Write this down,
for these words are trustworthy and true.”

Lord, I thank You that You are not slow in keeping Your promise, but patient.

2 Peter 3:9-10 The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.

But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything done in it will be laid bare.

I surrender again today to Your will and trust that You will be faithful to walk with me through each and every moment. Let Your faithfulness and nearness strengthen me with steadfastness that I may be found faithful even in the midst of the severest storms.

Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain. – 1 Corinthians 15:58

James 1:2-4 Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.

Lord, I thank You that with You by my side the storms and things that You call me to be faithful in are small, that when I am weak You are strong in me.

I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world. -John 16:33

And, Lord, I thank You for the gift of Your Holy Spirit, our Comforter.

Romans 8:16 The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. 17 Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.

18 I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us…

22 We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. 23 Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies…

26 In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. 27 And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God.

Thank You for sending an Encourager and Helper to be strength in and for us, to groan with us and for us in the midst of our surrendered longing.

Thank You for the hope that anchors our soul through every storm until You return.

Hebrews 6:17-20 Because God wanted to make the unchanging nature of his purpose very clear to the heirs of what was promised, he confirmed it with an oath. God did this so that, by two unchangeable things in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled to take hold of the hope set before us may be greatly encouraged. We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain, where our forerunner, Jesus, has entered on our behalf. He has become a high priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek.

I will take hold of hope.

I will turn to You again and again in surrendered trust.

For You are faithful.

You will be ever with me to strengthen and encourage me in the midst of the storms.

You will keep Your promise.

You will return.

Longing will end.

Joy will remain.

Thank You.

Love,

Jenny

How I am Facing Hard Days

DSCF4617-2My next two Sundays are going to be challenging. This Sunday (May 1) Joel will be celebrating his 24th birthday in Heaven. And next Sunday, Mother’s Day, I will be spending in a new state where we are in the process of moving 675 miles away from our three yet earthbound children.

I’ve been praying and scheming for weeks now, and asking myself how can I face these days with an eternal perspective and find joy in Jesus through them so that they are less tearful.

DSCN2375This is what I have so far:

a) hope to visit a grocery store bakery and pay for someone else’s birthday cake before they pick it up on Saturday (idea from my While We’re Waiting Facebook group)

b) hope to visit the zoo too, buy 2 adult and 2 children’s tickets and pass them to someone in line behind us. When the kids were little we used to do something similar at Sea World. It was a blast and the memory still brings joy.

c) hope to visit two different churches, one each Sunday, where no one knows us.. and I can smile with grace and not worry that no one knows the brokenness I am hiding

CIMG4642Mother’s Day, since losing Joel, tends to draw attention to the ache and deep longing of my brokenness. This Mother’s Day.. my first with an empty nest, I am trying to turn my thoughts in a positive (thankful, hopeful) direction. So I’ve been looking for the good gifts God is bringing out of my brokenness and I am beginning to see:

a) Part of our hearts are in Heaven now.. and that is giving us the gift of a more eternal perspective. My husband is so kind and faithful to remind me: “We have to have an eternal perspective.” Three years of hearing that now, and I am finally starting to get it. I am starting to see with acceptance that this life is short and full of trouble; and see with hope that the next one is eternal and beautiful and full of joy.

b) My brokenness has spoiled me for this world.. only the next will satisfy.. only Jesus will satisfy me now. When I am thinking straight, Jesus in me.. Jesus in others.. Jesus in creation.. is what moves me now. Jesus is the joy that helps me run with perseverance. Having all other desires striped away gives the gift of seeking and finding more of Jesus.

c) In my brokenness, I no longer hold any delusions that I can do anything in my own strength. My brokenness has made me entirely dependent on His strength in me. Learning to allow God to use my weakness is a gift “that Christ’s power may rest on me.” 2 Corinthians 12:9

d) My brokenness has given me the gift of opportunity to comfort others with the comfort I’ve received from the Holy Spirit with genuine empathy. Jesus did this for us. He came as one of us and suffered for us, learned obedience through His suffering and became that great high priest who understands our weaknesses, so that we can draw near to His throne of grace and receive mercy and find grace to help in our time of need. (Hebrews 4 – 5)

I am still growing in all these things. I am pressing in. I have so much more to learn.

2 Corinthians 1:5 For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ.

1 Peter 2:21 To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps.

Romans 8:18 I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.

 

Abiding in His love ,

Jenny

Precious Gifts: Sweet Purfume

I have been privileged to meet and hear the stories of many bereaved parents since losing Joel. Although I would have never have willingly chosen to join their ranks, I am thankful for the bond we share, the friendships we’re forging and the things I am learning from each of them.

Weeks ago I ran across a quote that said, “A friend hears the song in your heart and sings it to you when you forget the words.” I thought it perfectly described the small group of bereaved moms who have been meeting me at Panera for a little over two years now.
*Panera MomsOur friendship has been a safe place to be honest about hard days, to discuss how we can keep moving forward, and to seek prayer. Sharing our stories has been healing and helps dispel the isolation of being a bereaved parent.

We understand each other’s struggles and have patience for each other’s grief because we know we need it ourselves. The humble words of wisdom we offer each other is hard fought for and easier to receive.

The most healing thing for me this year has been the laughter we’ve shared. We each know the cost of and the deep sadness in the laughter. There are no expectations whatsoever that laughter is a sign that we are “over” the deaths of our precious sons. This deep knowing we share makes the pain and the laughter more bearable and frees us to laugh more deeply and more often.

Having a group of moms who are committed to following Christ and encouraging each other through such a difficult journey has been a lifeline for me. Their influence has made me stronger and wiser. I am forever grateful for them.

Two of our little group are moving to different states this year. 🙁 I created this little multi media art canvas as a small memorial depicting how God has worked through each of us to encourage the others. I hope that it will help us remember the words to our songs.
DSC03526I dressed each mom in boots because the road bereaved moms walk is hard and dark and requires a determination and commitment to travel.

Our arms are linked showing the steadied, strength we’ve found in traveling this road together. The crowns on our heads depict the joy that we bring to Jesus as we hold tenaciously to His promise that although the road is dark and hard now, one day it will end with a crown of joy:

“The LORD’s ransomed ones will return and enter Zion with songs and everlasting joy upon their heads: joy and gladness will overtake them, and sorrow and sighing will flee away.” Isaiah 35:10

Each of us brings different gifts to the group; each sings a different song. One offers a candle of hope; another, a voracious reader, the admonition to keep trusting in the Lord; a third shows us by example how to hold on tightly to God’s faithful love towards us and a fourth has girded herself with the truth that this road we are traveling requires faithful perseverance.

The words on the faces, arms and knees of each mom are the verses that each gift embodies:

Hope: 2 Corinthians 4:16 Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. 17 For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.

Trust: Proverbs 3:5-6 Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take.

Faithful Love: Psalm 143:8 Cause me to hear thy lovingkindness in the morning, for I have put my trust in you. Show me the way I should go, for to you I lift up my soul.

Perseverance: Hebrews 10:23-25 Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds.. encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day approaching.

These three friends have shown me how to be an alabaster jar, broken at the Lord’s feet, bringing sweetness and healing to others not despite their brokenness, but because of it. Their transparency has been a healing balm to my heart. Proverbs 27:9 is the verse to the right of the canvas:

“The heartfelt counsel of a friend is as sweet as perfume and fragrant oils.”

Thank you, Jill, Lisa and Cyndi for giving me so many encouraging gifts in the journey. I love you all.

Jenny

Seasons Change

DSC02767 I have a folder full of half written post from last year. My brain has not been very cooperative. I’ve had so much on my mind and heart that I find myself easily overwhelmed and unable to process it all.

I lost a dog, 7 friends, and had two friends lose children in the past 16 months. So many that it’s felt like I am missing the rapture. But the real rapture won’t be experienced in this slow painful way. It will be in a “twinkling of an eye.”

1 Corinthians 15: 51- 54 Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed -in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality. When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: “Death has been swallowed up in victory.”

“Then” it “will come true.”

For now, death still stings.

I have heard many “cliches” meant for comfort since losing Joel.

One of my least favorites is to look for “a new normal.”

I don’t want what I am experiencing to be “normal.”

My new normal is that at any moment one of my children could be murdered.

That my world can be turned upside down again and again.

That there is an empty chair at the table,

An empty bed.

And an empty place in our hearts.

I don’t want murder to be considered normal.

I don’t want losing 5 or more friends a year to be normal.

And how is labeling living in the wake of  death  “normal” supposed to help heal my wounded heart?

When you minimalize real pain, it goes under treated and can grow into something much worse. Minimized grief can cause complications such as suppression, guilt, anxiety, anger and depression.

Jesus didn’t come to minimalize our grief. He came to experience it with us, to weep with us, and to give us hope and joy in the midst of it. That is how you heal a wounded heart.

I recently found a word I like better: a New Season.

Seasons change.

Season speaks to the temporariness of it all.

Season allows for a season of healing,

Season allows for a much greater season of Heaven.

This life is temporary. It’s a vapor. Here today gone tomorrow.

There is an eternal life that waits ahead where there is no more death, no more mourning or crying or pain (Revelation 21:4). Our real pain can be legitimately minimized by the much greater glory it is producing in Heaven. (2 Corinthians 4:17).

A new normal on earth isn’t something I can stake my hope on.

The unspeakable joys of Heaven – that’s a New Normal I can look forward to.

This hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure, reaches through the veil into the inner sanctuary; where Jesus, who went before us, has entered on our behalf. He has become a high priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek. Hebrews 6:19

And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” Revelation 21:5

Joel so enjoyed newness. He loved learning and exploring and discovering new things; whether it was art, music, history, nature, math, science or innovation. Each new day held a sense of wonder for him. He must be overcome with joy in the face of all the beauty and newness of Heaven he is experiencing now.

For now, in this season, on this planet, death still stings.

But I can grieve with hope in the promises of a new season in Heaven (1 Thessalonians 4:13).  I can hope, trust and obey as I am enabled by the One who has gone through suffering before me to our Heavenly Sanctuary.

Love,

Jenny

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