Finding Joy in Him

Through Every Season

Tag: Answers to Prayer (page 1 of 10)

Trusting that God Has Done the Math

In the first few days and weeks after we lost our youngest son, the fact that I continued to wake up each morning bewildered me.

It seemed like the world should have stopped. Oh, how I wanted it to stop and let me get off. The world as I knew it had ended. I didn’t understand how or why I continued to live. Breathing was hard and involuntary. Giving it up would have been a relief.

After a while, it dawned on me that the reason I kept waking up was because God’s purposes for me on earth weren’t completed.

God spoke to me through Psalm 139:16:

You saw me before I was born. Every day of my life was recorded in your book. Every moment was laid out before a single day had passed.

I knew the verse well. It comforted me to know that God had planned out Joel’s days before he was born. He is never taken by surprise. He has planed out every moment of our lives; the ones on earth and the ones in Heaven.

Suddenly, I realized that if God knew all of Joel’s days and all of my days, He must have done the math.

How precious are your thoughts about me, O God.
They cannot be numbered!
I can’t even count them;
they outnumber the grains of sand!
And when I wake up,
you are still with me!
Psalm 139:17-18

God knew I was going to continue to live on earth after Joel went Home. He had planned out the days I was going to live as a bereaved parent before I was born. This was comforting because I didn’t know how to live those days. I had no plan.

I have a God who knows me.. has known me from my mother’s womb.. who knew I would live on the earth longer than my youngest son.. has planned out a path for me to walk.. a way for me to live. Every day I wake up.. He is still with me.

Getting this revelation was a small victory; a step towards living the life God planned for me.

The journey towards life and healing is not a sprint; it’s a cross country marathon. It requires LOTS of patience, forbearance and longsuffering. These are fruits of the Spirit that can ONLY be produced through spending TIME WITH JESUS. The small victory of revelation came through spending time with Jesus, meditating on His Word, pouring out my heart to Him, and quieting myself so that I could hear His Holy Spirit speak to me through His Word.

I’ve learned to celebrate these small victories as milestones in my journey. There is something about celebrating small victories that releases healing and even more victory.

Zechariah 4:10 says,

Do not despise these small beginnings, for the LORD rejoices to see the work begin…

The LORD rejoices. He sees small beginnings and He rejoices!

He watches infants grow in the womb. He probably sees an eyelash begin to form and leans over to Jesus and says, “Look at that! An eyelash!”

The very hairs on our head are all numbered. (Matthew 10:30) His thoughts about us cannot be numbered. We are always on His mind; never hidden from His sight.

We serve a God who celebrates small beginnings. When we celebrate small victories, we are joining in what God is doing; we are aligning our hearts with His and releasing power for more victories. Recognizing and celebrating small victories in the middle of our valley infuses our inner man with strength for the road ahead and propels us forward in our journey towards life and healing and the final victory.

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There are still days when I wish the world would stop and let me off. I work hard at keeping my eyes on Jesus, at hearing His voice, at obeying His instructions AND I STILL STRUGGLE through valleys.

I don’t believe I am alone in this. All my favorite Bible heroes and saints (including Jesus) are my favorites because I know their stories of struggle.

During the days of Jesus’ earthly life, He offered up prayers and petitions with loud cries and tears to the One who could save Him from death, and He was heard because of His reverence. Although He was a Son, He learned obedience from what He suffered. Hebrews 5:7-8

The journey towards life and healing is not a sprint; it doesn’t follow a straight line. It’s more like a cross country marathon that winds up and down craggy mountains and through dark valleys.

If there were never any mountains to climb or valleys to struggle through, where would we win the victories that God longs to celebrate with us?

Even in the darkest valleys, I can trust that He is choosing the best path to life and healing for me.

Even in the darkest valleys, every day I wake up.. He is still with me.

Even in the darkest valleys, I can keep my eyes on Him and I can trust that He has done the math and has a plan for me.

Even in the darkest valleys, I can trust the God who knows me, the One who saw me in my mother’s womb. I can trust that He sees and knows my heart, my joys and my sorrows. His thoughts about me can’t be numbered.

HIS THOUGHTS ABOUT ME CANNOT BE NUMBERED!!

HE HAS DONE THE MATH!

HE HAS A REDEMPTIVE PLAN FOR MY LIFE AND HEALING!

In the darkest valleys, the atmosphere is so heavy that it’s nearly impossible to breathe or think or move. The darkest valleys can feel like backward steps, a failure or a waste, but with God nothing is wasted. He works everything together for our good. (Romans 8:28)

We know this because God took the worst thing that ever happened on our planet (the crucifixion of His Son) and resurrected it into the best thing. That’s what He does. It’s His thing. He has this amazing way with math and planning. We can trust Him with it. Every painful, awkward step through the valley is a step towards life and healing in disguise.

James exhorted:

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. If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. James 1:2-5

And this is the thing.. when we understand that God is this amazing mathematician with a carefully planed out path for us that sometimes goes through valleys that lead to victories, we can rejoice in middle of the darkest valley.

We can rejoice because God sees us and His thoughts about us cannot be numbered. We can rejoice because we know that steps through valleys are small beginnings that lead to greater victories. We can rejoice because we know that God watches over those small beginnings.. not with an eye to despise them, but with a heart that rejoices over them. We can rejoice because everyday we wake up.. He is still with us.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. Hebrews 12:1-3

In the valley, it’s easy to forget the things you learned in the light. It’s easy to forget that God has done the math and has a redemptive plan. In the valley, the father of lies says things like: “You must have really messed up this time because God has obviously turned His back on you, forgotten and abandoned you.” His words echo in the darkness and it’s hard to see through to the light. His lies are against not only our hearts but God’s. His accusations cause stress, guilt and feelings of inadequacy and distrust. His lies INTENSIFY the pain and struggle.

There are times when we need to get loud and declare the Way, the Truth and the Life to our darkest valley. There are times when we need to SHOUT OUT OUR PRAISE to the One who has seen us and known us from our mother’s womb and carefully planned out paths to life and victory for us. There are times when it takes a big, joyful celebration of a small victory to drown out the lies of our enemy and give us a taste of the victory that is coming to keep us going. There are times when we need to stand on the fact that every day we wake up.. He is still with us. There are times when we have to lean in and trust God’s heart and redemptive plan for us even when we can’t understand His ways.

Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. 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. 2 Corinthians 4:16-18

Yes, my soul, find rest in God; my hope comes from him. Psalm 62:5

The LORD himself goes before you and will be with you; He will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged. Deuteronomy 31:8

The steps of a man are established by the LORD, And He delights in his way. When he falls, he will not be hurled headlong, Because the LORD is the One who holds his hand. Psalm 37:23-24

A bruised reed He will not break, and a smoldering wick He will not extinguish, till He leads justice to victory. In his name the nations will put their hope. Matthew 12:20-21

The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. Psalm 34:18

Even to your old age and gray hairs I am he, I am he who will sustain you. I have made you and I will carry you; I will sustain you and I will rescue you. Isaiah 46:4

My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand. I and the Father are one.” John 10:27-30

Three Spiritual Truths in Your Cup

Sweetness overwhelms bitterness:
Exodus 15:26 Then he cried out to the LORD, and the LORD showed him a tree; and he threw it into the waters, and the waters became sweet.

Proverbs 4:23 Guard your heart more than anything else, because the source of your life flows from it.

When bitterness springs up, let the LORD show you the tree:

Light overwhelms darkness:
John 1:5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

Life overwhelms death:
John 11:25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me will live, even though he dies. 26 And everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die. Do you believe this?”

Revelation 1:18 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.

Love,

Jenny

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I Stood at the Door and Blocked

I am allowing myself some time to grieve today. I need it. Pushing myself forward isn’t always the healthy thing to do. Ignoring grief doesn’t make it go away. It only builds under pressure.

We can’t pick and choose which emotions we feel. Pushing down painful emotions suppresses the good ones as well. If I want to “feel” loved by God, I have to work through my painful emotions to get there.

Recently, I’ve slipped back into stoicism and found myself unable to feel. Twenty moves may have something to do with my practice. I’ve learned to gird myself against the loneliness of moving to a new state, against the sadness of leaving friends and this time precious children behind, against the fear of not knowing who I can and cannot trust with my fragile heart.

Just learning my way around town and where basic staples are located in local stores can be a daunting task that demands more mental strength than I possess. Town? Stores? Who am I kidding? I couldn’t find my way around my own kitchen while preparing Thanksgiving dinner. Door after cabinet door was opened before finding the things I needed. Add to that the downsizing we’re doing and I can’t remember if or not I still own the thing I am searching for.

Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. – Matthew 5:4

Mourning with a humble heart before the Lord puts us in a position to receive God’s comfort.

His “com” from the Latin word meaning nearness – “fort” from the Latin word meaning strong.

His strength near me; fortifying me.

Pushing through while pretending that I am okay denies not only the mourning, but also the comfort my heart so desperately needs. Insensibility makes it nearly impossible to sense His nearness and receive His strength.

Sitting humbly with the truth of my mourning makes room for the Comforter and Spirit of Truth to lead me into all truth (John 16:13).

Psalm 119:28-29
I am overcome by sorrow;
strengthen me, as you have promised.

Keep me from lying to myself;
give me the privilege of knowing your instructions.

I am always asking God to speak His truth to my heart. I am always listening for His still small voice spoken through the truth of His Word.

One of the more powerful ways that God speaks to me is through pictures. One picture is worth a thousand words. A story or a picture can speak to my heart for days on end.

A few weeks ago, God showed me a picture of myself. I was standing at the door of my heart. The door was cracked open, but my foot was barring the door; blocking Jesus from coming in. “I stand at the door and knock” echoed through my heart though all I could “see” was my foot barricading the door.

Much like the church in Laodicea, I was neither hot nor cold. My fear of being overwhelmed by emotions had stifled them.

The first emotions I let in after “seeing” myself and my foot barring the door were anger and frustration.

Cold. It was something. I was feeling again.

Revelation 3:14“To the angel of the church in Laodicea write:
These are the words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the ruler of God’s creation. 15 I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! 16 So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth. 17 You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked.

I desperately WANTED and DIDN’T WANT Jesus to come in. I was at the door. It was cracked open, but barred. I wanted to remove my foot, but I didn’t know how. I wanted Jesus to comfort me because I was wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked. But the position of my foot said, “I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing. Who, me, Jesus? I am good. I’ve been doing this grief thing for awhile now. I’ve done this moving thing SO many times. I am pushing through. I don’t need to feel right now; not grief nor comfort. I’ve got this.”

I’ve got nothing.

I am wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked. I am weak and vulnerable. I am afraid. I am easily overwhelmed. I am not the person I was before. My heart is shattered and broken. I miss the old me. The blissfully ignorant me. The me that knew nothing of being wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked. I miss the me who was confident in her unshaken faith. I miss the me that didn’t needed time to mourn so that she could find comfort.

Verse 18:

I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, so you can become rich; and white clothes to wear, so you can cover your shameful nakedness; and salve to put on your eyes, so you can see.

How do we “buy” gold refined in the fire?

19 Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest and repent. 20 Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me.

We receive the love of God in the form of a rebuke and discipline. We repent earnestly. We change our minds by renewing them in His Word and allow Him to transform our hearts.

In this way, we become truly rich.

We listen to His voice and open wide the door to our hearts. We invite Jesus in and “sup” (KJV) with Him. We eat His flesh and drink His blood (John 6:56).

We REMEMBER Christ broken and crucified for us; just as the bread was broken and the wine poured out for us (Luke 22:19). We rejoice “inasmuch as” we “participate in the sufferings of Christ” so that we may be “overjoyed when His glory is revealed.” (1 Peter 4:13)

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

 

Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. – Matthew 5:4

Not blessed are those who never suffer, who never mourn, who never need comfort.

We remember:

In all their distress He too was distressed, and the angel of His presence saved them. In His love and mercy He redeemed them; He lifted them up and carried them all the days of old. – Isaiah 63:9

In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. 7 These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. – 1 Peter 1:6

I shouldn’t miss her. I should count her crucified with Christ. I should count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ, my Comforter, who now lives in me (Galatians 2:20, Philippians 3:8).

I should joyfully embrace the new, refined me that is coming out of the fire with a proven, genuine faith which is of greater worth than gold. The one not made “rich” by her own failing strength or “clothed” in her own failing righteousness… but in His.

Partaking of the suffering that I have been called to in Christ, welcoming His comfort, is becoming a salve to my eyes so I can see.

Truth spoken to my heart is this: I’ve mourned a me that I believed was a stronger and happier me, but who in truth was wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked. Unproven.

It’s only through trials that we can buy what is genuinely real; of greater worth than gold. Untested faith is not proven faith. Genuine faith, real strength comes through the fire when our pitiful, human strength is consumed and we learn to draw from His supernatural strength and comfort. It’s only there that we learn that His grace IS sufficient. It’s only there that we learn that He will faithfully and lovingly carry us through ALL our days.

But He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”

Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.

That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong. – 2 Corinthians 12:9-10

Before losing Joel, I thought grace was the power to float through life. I believed grace was the gift of self sufficiency.

I am beginning to see that grace is the “gift” of sharing in Christ’s suffering. It’s the gift of finding the end or our own strength and sufficiency and the beginning of His. It’s the gift of a “thorn” that keeps us from becoming conceited.

2 Corinthians 12:7b Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me.

His strength in my weakness far surpasses the strength I thought I had before I suffered. His glory far surpasses any fading human glory.

My heart struggles to see how tragedy can bring glory to God. I used to believe that the kind of life that would bring the most glory to God would be one where His children lived fairytale lives; free from weakness, insults, hardships, persecutions and difficulties. I believed that was the kind of life God most desired for His children.

But I am beginning to see that fairytale lives produce an arrogance; a self-sufficiency that says, “I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.” They produce a blindness to our wretchedness, pitifulness, real poverty, blindness and nakedness. Fairytale lives fail to produce a proven faith and strength that can only come the desperate need to draw from God’s real, tested comfort (near strength).

The people who I have always most admired are people like Corrie Ten Boom and Joni Eareckson Tada who have been deeply broken and have found God to be their source of continual strength and comfort. I see more of His kindness, mercy, empathy and goodness in them. I see a deeper faith in the broken; roots that have dug in deep and grown strong through terrible storms. I see a glory and a radiance that can have only come through the testing of their faith; Christ residing in and strengthening them.

So this striving against my brokenness …against my weakness; this longing for my old, less tested faith; this pining over a the loss of a more “fairy-tale-ish” life has to come to an end. I must consider it all as loss. I must let the truth sink in.

The truth is every good fairytale is filled with danger and hardships and every hero emerges out of difficulties and testing.

I must offer my struggle as a sacrifice. I must mourn. I must submit to my need for God’s comfort; my need for His nearness and strength.

The secret of contentment with weakness and vulnerability?

“I have strength for all things in the One strengthening me.” – Philippians 4:13 (Berean Literal Bible)

The only way I can remove my foot from barring Jesus’ entrance through the door of my heart is by embracing this new, broken me; embracing my weakness, my need to mourn, and my need to receive His comfort.

My weakness opens the door for His Spirit of Comfort and Truth.; makes way for His glorious strength.

He has counseled us to buy from Him gold refined in the fire so that we can be truly rich and wear the white garments of His righteousness and strength and have salve to put on our blind eyes so we can see.

2 Corinthians 1:3 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, 4 who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. 5 For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ.

Love,

Jenny

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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 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

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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

Finding Comfort in the Maker of the Mountains

In my hardest, darkest days the only thing that comforts me is meditating on who God is.

Psalm 121
A song of ascents.

1 I lift up my eyes to the mountains—
where does my help come from?
2 My help comes from the Lord,
the Maker of heaven and earth.
3 He will not let your foot slip—
he who watches over you will not slumber;
4 indeed, he who watches over Israel
will neither slumber nor sleep.
5 The Lord watches over you—
the Lord is your shade at your right hand;
6 the sun will not harm you by day,
nor the moon by night.
7 The Lord will keep you from all harm—
he will watch over your life;
8 the Lord will watch over your coming and going
both now and forevermore.

When “I lift my eyes to the mountains..” I remember “the Maker of Heaven and earth,” my Helper and Watcher over me. The majesty of the mountains remind me of the Lord.. the Maker of the mountains.. God’s majesty.. the wonder of how the mountains came to be. The same Maker who formed the mountains is the Maker who watches over me.

When I lift my eyes, I find comfort in who God is; in His Glory.

Psalm 19:1 The heavens declare the glory of God;
the skies proclaim the work of his hands.
2 Day after day they pour forth speech;
night after night they reveal knowledge.

God’s glory is all around us.. in the spring rains.. in flowers.. in creepy crawlies.. under the microscope.. through the telescope.. throughout the universe.. in every person created in His image. His glory is there.. you only have to see.

I lift my eyes to the mountains.. and remember the force that caused the mountains.. that that force.. that POWER.. wielded with the same LOVE that held Jesus to the cross.. is the same power that raised Him from the dead… and now dwells in me. It is the same power that helps me.. strengthens me.. that is a shade for me, and watches over my life, and keeps me from all harm. The Maker of Heaven and earth watches over both my coming and going.. now and forevermore.

I can’t say that I don’t stumble over the “keeps me from all harm” part. Harm has come to me.. through breast cancer and other ailments… and through the worst kind of harm… the murder of our youngest son. But God has been with me. He has been my shade. He has been gentle  and loved me tenderly and spoken the truth in love when I needed it. He will never ever leave or abandon me. He is Love, Faithful and True. That same majestic power that formed the mountains will carry me safely home to no more death, mourning, crying or pain. When I lift my eyes to the mountains, I get a glimpse of God’s glory. The Glory I long to behold and reflect perfectly.

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 (NLT)

I am known. I am loved as I am. I am watched over by the Maker of the mountains. I am comforted by His nearness. Praying you will lift your eyes and find Him as near as His glory all around you.

Much love,

Jenny

The Lesson of the Stinky Boy Socks

A verse that caught my heart and I was able to teach my kids from an early age was:

2 Corinthians 9:7 Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.

“The answer to the question you are pondering is, “Yes, Ma’am (or Sir). When Mom or Dad asks you to do something, you should do it quickly and with a cheerful heart.” It was a kind of obedience that I had to teach my own heart to submit to, too.

I am not sure how it happened, maybe it had something to do with moving to a new house in a new state, but in the middle of our homeschool years I suddenly found myself surrounded by stinky boy socks. I felt like they were stocking me. Too punny? Everywhere I turned, no matter how much I complained there on the floor was another abandoned, stinky, boy sock (and sometimes even stinkier boy shoes).

I went to the Lord and prayed an exasperated prayer asking (possibly demanding) God to tell me how to make my kids remember to pick up their socks. He answered, “You pick them up.”

I was shocked. It was not the answer I expected. I thought that every responsible parent taught their children to pick up after themselves and that one day all my training would pay off in grateful son and daughter-in-loves. “Pick up dirty boy socks??”

John 13:12-17 When he had finished washing their feet, he put on his clothes and returned to his place. “Do you understand what I have done for you?” he asked them. “You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am. Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. Very truly I tell you, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.

My heart was pierced. I didn’t grow up with brothers. I was just learning how stinky boy socks can grow in the hot, humid, Florida summers. Stinky enough to make your eyes water.. and worse. And now, I had to submit. I had to obey. I had to pick up stinky, boy socks without whining or complaining. My only answer was, “Yes, Sir.” I had to follow my Lord’s example.

Philippians 2:5-8 In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death— even death on a cross!

It took a little while before I learned to be cheerful about it, but I did. I learned to apply the principle to other chores, too. I learned to enjoy the warmth of soapy dish water. I learned to thank the Lord for my children’s safety as I mopped up wet foot prints off slick tile floors. I learned to sing worship songs while vacuuming and while cleaning bathrooms. I learned to pray for wisdom and direction and safety for each child as I searched for matching clean socks and hung their clothes fresh from the drier. Every act from dusting to homeschooling became an act of cheerful worship. Each moment serving my children was lived out as a precious gift. And it all started with choosing to cheerfully pick up stinky, boy socks.

This Easter weekend it dawned on me for the first time that God loves a cheerful giver because He Himself is a cheerful giver.

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. (John 3:16-17)

Yet the LORD was pleased to crush Him severely. (Isaiah 53:10a)

The opposite of a cheerful giver is one who gives grudgingly. God found pleasure in giving His Son freely and without condemnation.

Hebrews 12:2-3 Fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider Him who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.

Jesus endured the cross for the joy set before Him. It wasn’t easy. It wasn’t done with out tears and pleadings for another way. But the moment the cross became an act of obedience, He gave His life for the joy.

This lesson of the stinky boy socks did something wonderful for me. When Joel was suddenly taken from us, I found that I was free from regret. My time with Joel had been sweet. I had spent most of it as an act of worship, grateful for the gift of our time together rather than resentful and fighting over stinky boy socks. Our relationship wasn’t without fault, but the cheerful, sacrificial love we shared made it very good.

John 15:9-13 As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.

Fighting to continue that cheerful service has been where some of my fiercest battles have been waged. Without a word, the stinky socks disappeared as suddenly as they had first appeared. I don’t remember seeing a stray sock or shoe since giving away Joel’s last pair. I know not all the stinky boy socks belonged to him. I would give anything to cheerfully pick up his freshly made stinky socks again.

I remember washing dishes the night after Joel was gone. The weight of dirty dishes had diminished noticeably and I found myself in a battle against feeling frustrated with Joel for not being here to dirty his share. Craziness.

Just a little while before we lost Joel, Holy Spirit encouraged me to prepare my heart to take over Joel’s trash duty. I thought I was preparing for when Josh and Joel moved out together. Adding to my list of ways to engage in cheerful service had become a common occurrence by then. We (Holy Spirit and I) decided that each time I took out the trash I would use the opportunity to be thankful for Joel. That little exchange with Holy Spirit has been a comfort in the midst of many battles.

I didn’t realize just how much wood and tile floor we owned until Joel was no longer here to sweep for me. It was honestly too much. I couldn’t take his place and sweep where he had swept week after week, where he was no longer playing his guitar, or near the front door where I so longed for him to run in. Tears would pour out onto the dusty floors and it took all I had not to collapse into them. We bought a Roomba. Joel must be thinking, “Now, you buy a Roomba!”

The bitterest, most exacting battles have been fought in my laundry room. Years of cheerfully washing, drying, matching and folding stinky boy socks while freely bringing every care for their owners to my all loving and all knowing Lord had transformed my laundry room into an altar.. a holy place where I entered boldly into the throne room to petition His coveted mercy and grace.

My heart now crushed. My deepest, most primal heart’s desire for Joel’s safety answered with a pulverizing “No.” I stood, sometimes doubled over and wailed, in my place of prayer and struggled to utter more than “Please, HELP!!!!” The grace I’d always believed would made the hard things easy just didn’t. Much like the Heaven sent strengthening preceded, but didn’t prevent Jesus’ agony in Gethsemane. Losing Joel, then opening the most vulnerable part of my heart to the One who had allowed it to be so incredibly broken was inexpressibly hard. All I could see or hear was the resounding “No.”

My kids need a praying mom. I’d seen the fruit of my cheerful service. I was severely aware that at any moment I could loose another child. I didn’t want to leave room for regret. I desperately wanted to be the cheerfully praying and serving mom that I had been, but all I could do was hang empty clothes in wordless sobs. As was constantly confronted with my inability to be faithful in my habit of prayer, I found comfort in Romans 8:26-28

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 with groans that words cannot express. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God’s will.

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.

A few months ago I tried to coerce a prayer. The words came out strained and weak. When I got to Joel (he is still my kid and still on my list), I felt worse than futile; frustrated, so confused and helpless. How do you pray for a child in Heaven? What could they want or need? Wisdom? Direction? Safety? Has even this one small act of loving service toward Joel been striped from me?

Then a couple of weeks ago, Holy Spirit met me at my altar and suggested that instead of praying for Joel, I could give thanks for all Joel is now enjoying in Heaven. I have offered thanksgiving for those things before.. in my journal, while on walks and in other holy places, but not in that very broken place at my laundry room altar. Learning that I could give thanks in my place of prayer was small victory in my struggle to continue in cheerful service. I plan to go back over the things I have learned about Heaven, make myself a more concrete list of things to be thankful for.. for Joel and for hope.. and hang it in my laundry room as a visual reminder.

Since you have been raised to new life with Christ, set your sights on the realities of Heaven, where Christ sits in the place of honor at God’s right hand. Colossians 3:1

Much like when I struggled to find safe things to be thankful for “My Cautiously Thankful When it Comes to the Temporarily Temporal Heart,” I am still fighting to find ways that I can pray for my surviving children and not be crushed a second time, if answered with a “No.” It’s not that I no longer pray big faith filled prayers. I still pray often for Joel’s resurrection. Not for the one I know we will all experience one day, but for the one where Joel walks in the door where my Roomba sweeps now and we are elated to welcome him home.

I am learning to ask believing my Cheerful Giver will answer with His best for us.. even if that includes sharing in His suffering. “Lord, please, heal, protect, give, lead, resurrect.. all according to Your will. Please, give us the strength to trust and obey in a way that honors You with cheerful service no matter what You allow.”

Luke 12:4-7
“Dear friends, don’t be afraid of those who want to kill your body; they cannot do any more to you after that. But I’ll tell you whom to fear. Fear God, who has the power to kill you and then throw you into hell. Yes, he’s the one to fear. What is the price of five sparrows—two copper coins? Yet God does not forget a single one of them. And the very hairs on your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are more valuable to God than a whole flock of sparrows..

32-34 “So don’t be afraid, little flock. For it gives your Father great happiness to give you the Kingdom. Sell your possessions and give to those in need. This will store up treasure for you in Heaven! And the purses of Heaven never get old or develop holes. Your treasure will be safe; no thief can steal it and no moth can destroy it. Wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will also be.

35-38 “Be dressed for service and keep your lamps burning, as though you were waiting for your master to return from the wedding feast. Then you will be ready to open the door and let him in the moment he arrives and knocks. The servants who are ready and waiting for his return will be rewarded. I tell you the truth, he himself will seat them, put on an apron, and serve them as they sit and eat! He may come in the middle of the night or just before dawn. But whenever he comes, he will reward the servants who are ready.

Did you catch the overwhelming cheerfulness of our Father described by Jesus in verses 32 and 37?

“I have come to set the world on fire, and I wish it were already burning!”  ~Jesus in verse 49

Love,

Jenny
of the smoldering wick (Isaiah 42:3)

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