Finding Joy in Him

Through Every Season

Tag: Answers to Prayer (page 2 of 10)

My Heroes of Faith

Mike and I have struggled recently with a couple of our favorite TV pastors. They are what might be called “Edutainment; God loves you and wants to bless you.” kinds of pastors. And we like that or maybe liked that. We enjoy learning about our loving God from pastors with joyful hearts and still believe much of what we learned from them.

But through our time of suffering, their happy messages have fallen short of our reality. Their formula of great faith equals an easy life in this world fails to resonate with us. Our definition of what a hero of faith looks like seems to have diverged from theirs.

Jesus, first and foremost, the author, finisher and example of our faith:

Hebrews 5:7-8 “While Jesus was here on earth, he offered prayers and pleadings, with a loud cry and tears, to the one who could rescue him from death. And God heard his prayers because of his deep reverence for God. Even though Jesus was God’s Son, he learned obedience from the things he suffered.”

I am pretty sure that like Jesus said:

“The student is not above the teacher, nor a servant above his master.” – Matthew 10:24

Part of our recent adventure in Tennessee.

The apostles, who were followed by many signs and wonders, also suffered MANY trials: boiled in oil, beaten, put in prison, fed to lions, crucified…

Heroes of faith from the old testament suffered, too. Able was murdered. Abraham’s wife, Sarah, was barren for decades. Abraham had to send his eldest son away never to see him again, was asked to sacrifice his promised son, then lost Sarah. Isaac went blind. Jacob lost his favorite son Joseph when he was sold into slavery by his brothers, then lost his beloved wife in child birth.

Hebrews 11:35-40 says: “Women received back their dead, raised to life again. There were others who were tortured, refusing to be released so that they might gain an even better resurrection. Some faced jeers and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. They were put to death by stoning; they were sawed in two; they were killed by the sword. They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and mistreated— the world was not worthy of them. They wandered in deserts and mountains, living in caves and in holes in the ground.

“These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised, since God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect.”

Three more verses into the next chapter:

“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

These chapters don’t say if you have enough faith you’ll live the good life. Well, actually they do. But not while on earth. “These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised..” They had to wait for “God had planned something better…”

These chapters encourage us to endure; not grow weary and lose heart; to fix our eyes on Jesus who endured the cross for the joy set before him. Jesus, who had to go through suffering before He “sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”

There would be no temptation to grow weary and lose heart if our faith could protect us from:

“In this world you will have trouble.” – Jesus’ words in John 16:33

Back up a little farther in Hebrews 11:

“All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance, admitting that they were foreigners and strangers on earth. People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own. If they had been thinking of the country they had left, they would have had opportunity to return. Instead, they were longing for a better country—a Heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them.” (verses 13-16)

We are foreigners and strangers on earth.. longing for a better country – a Heavenly one. We are not home yet.

We gained a deeper understanding of the sign as we traveled up the single lane, switchback, mountain road.

Jesus says in Matthew 6:19-21,

“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in Heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

I still believe that God’s heart towards us is to bless us. His presence with us is the greatest blessing I know. If I didn’t believe that He was working everything.. and I mean EVERY THING together for our good (Romans 8:28), I wouldn’t make it out of bed each morning.

I don’t believe that Jesus came to create Heaven on earth for us.. at least not yet, but soon. I do believe:

“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.” 2 Corinthians 4:17-18

Jesus said in

John 14:1-3 “Don’t let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, and trust also in me.  There is more than enough room in my Father’s home. If this were not so, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you? When everything is ready, I will come and get you, so that you will always be with me where I am.”

And that is where I continue to land. Bad things happen. Life can be unbelievably hard and sweet and wonderful. Trust God. Breast cancer diagnosis. Trust God. Youngest son murdered. Trust God.

Trust. Pray. Cry out. Stand. Wait. Listen. Obey. Repeat.

Jesus is returning for us. This life is not all there is. “There are far, far better things ahead than any we leave behind.” -C.S. Lewis. God is working ALL THINGS together for my good. Trust the almighty, all knowing, all understanding one who’s love is stronger than even death… (Romans 8:31-39).

My heroes of faith are not those who believe that great faith produces an easy life. My heroes of faith are those who have continued to trust God in the midst of great suffering; those who are blessed because they are poor, morning, meek, hunger and thirst for righteousness, merciful, pure in heart, peacemakers, persecuted. Those who have a great reward in Heaven. -Matthew 5:3-12

My heroes of faith are those like David who have not tried to hide their suffering or whitewashed it, but have bared their souls to us and shared with us what they have learned… the comfort that God has given them.

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

My heroes of faith are those like Abraham who never denying the truth of their situation, believed against reason that God would keep His promise, grew stronger in their faith through their suffering and give all the glory to God. – Romans 4:19-20

Trust. Pray. Cry out. Stand. Wait. Listen. Obey. Repeat.

Romans 12:12  “Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.”

Isaiah 41:13 “For I am the LORD your God who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear; I will help you.”

Much love,

Jenny

Following Jesus

Now an angel from heaven appeared to Him, strengthening Him. And being in agony He was praying very fervently; and His sweat became like drops of blood, falling down upon the ground. -Luke 22:43-44

The angel strengthened Jesus.. THEN in agony He prayed more earnestly.. and His sweat became like drops of blood falling to the ground.

There have been times in this journey when I have wondered at His grace. It wasn’t what I thought it was. Stupefied by the intensity of my grief, I have thrown myself before His throne of grace, cried out in anguish for mercy and, “Please, MORE grace.”

As I read the verses above this week, I felt a little like Job:

I had only heard about you before, but now I have seen you with my own eyes. -Job 42:5

Now my eyes see Him in His suffering for me. I see that the Heaven sent strengthening preceded, but didn’t prevent His agony. I see that even Jesus’ fervent prayers didn’t mitigate the suffering appointed to Him.

Every breath, every day forward is an act of defiance against my will. Everything in me wants to run back and rescue my Joel, tear out the pages of the story God is writing and rewrite a much happier middle. It is all I want, even when I see with eyes of faith that the redemptive story God is writing is the right story and much better than any story I could imagine.

A few weeks ago I began meditating on:

Anyone who loves their father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves their son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. Whoever does not take up their cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life for my sake will find it. -Matthew 10:37-39

I have obeyed this verse before. Left father and mother and everything I knew to follow Jesus to the mission field. In comparison, it was an easy walk in the park. It is not a verse that I ever wanted to apply to losing Joel, but one Holy Spirit has been speaking over me.

I had always thought of death as something between an individual and God. In my mind, God numbered your days and when your race was over you were extremely happy to go Home. I rarely gave a thought to the wreckage death left behind.

I prefer to think of Joel’s death in that way, too.. something separate from the wreckage.. as something between Joel and God alone. The moment when Joel entered the joy and rest of the Lord (Matthew 25:23). The moment planned from before Joel was formed in my womb (Psalm 139:16). One of the many moments God was working all things together for Joel’s good (Romans 8:28). Precious in His sight (Psalm 116:15).

The wreckage part.. the part I prefer not to think about.. is that the same good purposes God has planned for Joel in Heaven now require us to live bereft of him. Our callings and purposes are not separate. They are intertwined.

The cross is where you lose your life. In losing Joel, I have lost much of my life.. of who I was.. of who we were as a family. There has been a wreckage.. a dying in me. My deepest instinct is to run back and save my life, to beg God for another way.. to rescue Joel from his appointed promotion to Heaven.

And He withdrew from them about a stone’s throw, and He knelt down and began to pray, saying, “Father, if You are willing, remove this cup from Me; yet not My will, but Yours be done.” -Luke 22:41-42

There is no running back. There is only forward. There is only “take up your cross and follow me.” My love for Christ.. My desire to follow and obey Him has to run deeper still.. Deeper than my deepest instinct. Deeper than the agony of the wreckage. Deeper than my concern for how God’s purposes for me may effect my mother or father or son or daughter.

Grace has given me eyes to see and strength to obey and endure but it has not removed the suffering appointed to me. There is still a daily “taking up of your cross.” There is still agony, fervent prayers before the throne of grace and there is still suffering.

But I am not alone in my suffering and I am not without hope:

I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. Before long, the world will not see me anymore, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live. -John 14:18-19

I will see Him.
And because He lives..
I will also live.

Love,
Jenny

Finding Relief in the Truth of My Weakness

I had a really long, unusually packed holiday season beginning with the death of our dog, Sally, on Halloween and ending Sunday with my baby girl’s 21st birthday. With Joel’s Heaven day in the middle, two week long trips and my oldest, Joshua, graduating from college it couldn’t help but be packed.

I’ve read that the second year after losing a child can be much worse than the first. The fact that shock begins to wear off and reality begins to sink in is enough to make it true. Add a felony case in the mix. It was really hard. I am so thankful for my friends and family who continue love and accept me through it all.

Last September and October were especially hard. The cooling weather felt like it was dragging me under to the unusually warm December day that we lost Joel. I didn’t have that experience the year before. Maybe the shock protected me from it. Learning how to navigate these new waves is difficult and sometimes frightening.

On my good days, grief takes a lot of journaling and emotional energy. I tell myself many times a day, “Keep moving! Do the next thing.” Most of the time I am able to keep those thoughts inside my head. When I hear my out-loud voice talking to me, I know it’s a really bad day. On those days, my wordless prayers are expressed in sobs and wails.

One day, late in September, after hearing about the sudden death of a friend, I was washing dishes when I heard myself say, “I am doing all the right things; reading my Bible, keeping the worship music turned on, reaching out and encouraging others in the midst of it all. I am normally a strong person with a healthy outlook on life. I am going to make it through this.”

I heard God respond with one word, “Pride.”

My first instinct was to repent. A good instinct for when God confronts you with your sin. I repented several times on different levels as my thoughts raced through what He might mean. I struggled for days. Was it really God? I knew that it was. Could it have been the devil? Was encouraging myself wrong? I didn’t know how I was going to make it. I was trying to give myself a little hope that I could make it through the year, through the depression and post traumatic distress, through the death of my friend and the future deaths I would have to face.

I questioned. I prayed. I repented again. When I got up the courage to journal about it, 2 Corinthians 12:9-10 finally came to mind:

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.

I had tried to convince myself that I had “strong constitution” instead of acknowledging the truth of my weakness. I was putting my hope in spiritual disciplines when God wanted to give me experiential knowledge of His strength in my weakness. I wanted that too.. but in my weakness I was failing to be faithful in the waiting.

From Gill’s Exposition of the Entire Bible:

my grace is sufficient for thee; the Lord always hears and answers his people sooner or later, in one form or another, though not always in the way and manner they desire; but yet in such a way as is most for his glory and their good…

…that the power of Christ, says he, may rest upon me, or “tabernacle over me”; he considered himself as a poor weak feeble creature, and the power of Christ as a tabernacle over him, as the power of God is represented as a garrison about the believer, 1 Peter 1:5, sheltering, preserving, and protecting…

I am starting to understand that being confronted new and confusing waves of grief is going to continue to be apart of the journey. Understanding and accepting that fact is helping. That last week with Sally, I decided that I wasn’t going to worry about them any more. If I am experiencing a wave of grief and I am sad, that’s okay. If I am experiencing joy, I am going to enjoy the moment while I can. Accepting was a turning point for me. That one word “Pride” had stung and cut, but it had also given me the grace to surrender what I never had control over. I am weak; He is strong.

I had the grace to put on a brave face for the holiday celebrations while swallowing down stabs of the grief and pain. I wanted to celebrate family, friends, Thanksgiving, Joel’s Heaven day, Josh’s graduation, Christ’s birth, and I was determined not leave out Judi’s 21st birthday; the day she turned a year older than Joel was when he went home.

With the coming of the new year came the fear of taking off my brave face. I wanted to continue experiencing joy, but I knew my heart needed time to grieve. Sometimes it screams at me in my dreams, “I don’t care how many times you say everything is going to be okay.. it is NOT okay!”

I have felt so conflicted and I didn’t know how to navigate that wave. I didn’t know how to allow myself to grieve even though I knew I needed to. I found the grace to decide that I wouldn’t worry again. Conflicted, sorrowful, joyful.. it doesn’t matter. God will be with me in the midst of the waves. He will give me the strength and the wisdom I need to navigate them as they come. This has become my new self talk along with, “Soon, Jesus will come and rescue me.”

I grieved hard yesterday. I didn’t understand why the wave chose to come that day until after 4 PM when I remembered that it was the 7th; two years and one month since Joel went to Heaven. I had forgotten, but my heart always remembers.

So here I stand in the midst of sometimes overwhelming waves.. coming to terms with my weakness; my inability to make the waves any different than they are. Knowing and accepting that I am weak is actually bringing relief. “For when I am weak, then I am strong.”

Instead of a foolish hope in my own strength, I am free to turn my hope to the One who is sovereign over us. I can cast my cares on the Almighty, who has promised to show Himself strong in my weakness. I can trust that my Strong Tower will “tabernacle over me;” that His power will be a “garrison” about me “sheltering, preserving, and protecting” me, carrying me through the next set of waves.

1 Peter 1:3-9 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. 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. Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls.

Love,
Jenny

My Good Samaritan

One of my most prayed prayers since losing Joel has been that Jesus would come be my Good Samaritan; that He would bind up my gaping wounds and pour in the healing oil of His Holy Spirit into my crushed heart.

Sometimes I feel Him take my hand and the warm oil of His Holy Spirit rushing in, others I feel like I am drowning, alone in a sea of tears.

The LORD is close to the brokenhearted;
He rescues those whose spirits are crushed.  Psalm 34:18

In the beginning… God introduced Himself as Creator. It’s such an important concept; one the enemy of our souls has fought so hard to take from us.

He created us
In His own image.
He KNOWS us.
He LOVES us.
We have purpose.
The Eternal One has
Breathed us to life.
We were created for Eternity.

No one KNOWS us like our Creator does.
To love someone you have to know them.

Jesus
came
incarnate
to know
to make Abba known
to experience our suffering
to transform it into redemption.

One of the things that has brought healing into my life has been creating; making quilts, needle arts, drawing, painting signs, scrapbooking, and digital art. There is something about taking time to see and to touch created things while listening to my Creator and allowing Him to create something new through me that is healing.

One of the first things that I created after losing Joel was a bracelet. I made it using beads from a broken necklace and two bracelets I seldom wore. Something new created out of brokenness. I call it and another bracelet that I made and now wear often my chains of hope.

This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, a hope both sure and steadfast and one which enters within the veil, where Jesus has entered as a forerunner for us, having become a high priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek.  Hebrews 6:19-20

My recreated bracelet wraps around my wrist like a tourniquet representing the tourniquet my Good Samaritan is wrapping around my wounded heart.

The stone and glass beads create a band of color that reminds me that there is still color in the world after all the color leaked out of my broken heart and all that was left was gray and muddled. I only recently noticed how muddled even it’s colors are.

For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known. 1 Corinthians 13:12

There is key on one side representing the key to my heart given to my Lord and a guitar pick on the other (for my heavenly guitar player) decoupaged with portions of

Psalm 84
How lovely is Your dwelling place,
O Lord Almighty!
My soul yearns, even faints.
for the courts of the LORD;
My heart and my flesh cry out
and sing for joy to the living God…

and

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.”

Together they create a set of wings for my soul.

Oh, that I had the wings of a dove! I would fly away and be at rest. Psalm 55:6

Late last summer, I felt the Lord drawing me to start painting as a creative way to heal. A short time later, I learned about a new Facebook group started by Shanna Noel of shannanoel.blogspot.com that is creating worshipful art journaling in the margins of their Bibles.

It has become my happy place. 7000 members who love the Lord and His Word and purposely set aside time to prayerfully meditate His word and express their hearts to Him in art. 7000 members and growing. Many tell prodigal stories of reading the Word for the first time.. and others share what they are now teaching their children; happy joy.

I bought myself some watercolors and pens with my birthday money. And yesterday I created my first painting. I amazed myself, and that doesn’t happen often. James was impressed and encouraged me to include my bracelet in my painting because it is “me.” Judi said I needed lessons. Ouch. With that repeated, I won’t be pointing out my mistakes.  🙂

“Deeper” by Delirious? had been on my heart for several days. When I first heard it over 10 years ago, it inspired me to take the kids down to our neighborhood pool, face my fear, and jump off the diving board into the deep end of the pool.  Not exactly the smartest thing.. because I really “don’t know how to swim” but how I long to dive deeper into God.

It’s a painting of what I am choosing to believe.  Mostly what I feel is the drowning and the trying without success.. not a lot of the holding, and lifting, and saving.

Although, I had imagined Him rescuing me many times, actually painting God’s arm was a truly spiritual experience.

I felt His presence;
His flesh pushing through the heavens for me.

Painting was an act of lifting up my colorful chains of hope.. of pointing the wings of my soul towards my Help and He responded by giving me a little deeper revelation of Himself.

Psalm 63
1 O God, you are my God;
earnestly will I seek You;
My soul thirsts for You;
my whole body longs for You
in this parched and weary land
where there is no water.
2 I have seen You in the sanctuary,
beheld your power and glory.
3 Your steadfast love is better than life,
so, my lips will praise you.
4 I will bless You while I live;
I will lift up my hands in Your name.
5 You satisfy more than the richest feast.
I will praise you with songs of joy.

6 I lie awake thinking of You,
meditating on you through the night.
7 Because you are my helper,
I sing for joy in the shadow of your wings.
8 My whole being follows hard after You
and clings closely to You;
Your right hand holds me securely.

Thankful for my Creator Abba, Who so loved me that He sent Jesus to became flesh and rescue me.

Love,

Jenny

Christmas Letter

Dear Family and Friends,

Praying that you are in good health and good cheer. We are very excited to have a new college graduate in our home this week, even though he has several more years of school left before he has his masters and possibly doctorate. 🙂  We are very proud of Joshua.  It’s been a long hard road.

It’s been a hard year for us.. missing Joel.. pushing through the heartbreak.. searching for and choosing to trust God in the middle of it all. And I know that it’s been a hard year for many of my friends and family who are going though their own hardships this year.  You are in my heart and prayers.  I love you dearly.


I came across a poem I wrote a couple of days before the sentencing of the young man who murdered our Joel while praying about what to write this year and felt a tug on my heart to share it with you:

Come
Tuesday April 9, 2013

My old friend, the Morning, now stings with
Reality that I so long to see erased.

Lord, Jesus, come.
Be my Sun.

Tuesday, only Tuesday, how the days drag on.
When will I see your face?

Lord, Jesus, come.
Be my Sun.

Tears and more tears; sorrow clouds Joy.
But is not It’s undoing; only hate.

Lord, Jesus, come.
Be my Sun.

Lord, Jesus, you alone are my hope, my joy, my song,
The Morning, that I so long to see dawn.

Lord, Jesus, come.
Be my Sun.

Only Your loving kindness can make my heart,
my soul, my mind new.  Come.

Lord, Jesus, come.
Be my Sun.

Come with Your peace.
Come flood me with Your joy.

Come let Love begin It’s healing work
On the ache from deep with in.  Come.

Lord, Jesus, come.
Be my Sun.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how glad I am that it’s not our place to judge or as Mike said, “or to even ‘fix’ people.” Our ONLY job is to LOVE them. Mike and I were thankful for the roles the justice system, the judge and the district attorney played in our case. We didn’t want the responsibly of judging or deciding the sentence. None of that would have brought Joel back. Our only roles were to love and to offer the forgiveness that Jesus extended to us and we were thankful for the grace God gave us to enable us to do just that.

I’ve also been thinking about the way Jesus loved us.. by entering into our world.. into our suffering and SUFFERING with us. It’s that kind of love that keeps me going each day. Seeing Jesus strip off his glory, put on humanity and submit himself to suffer and die for me.. it.. woos me. It’s a whole new kinda of glorious. It’s a beautiful, crazy kind of love with abandon like none else.

He didn’t judge us or fix us first.. He SO loved us.. “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8

I read a devotion last week about Jesus’ bold love for Zacchaeus.  He was a scoundrel, a liar and a thief. Not only that, he was one of the ringleaders. Jesus never even mentioned any of those things to him. He led with, “Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today” (Luke 19).  He called him by NAME and invited HIMSELF in.

The crowd was horrified,

“All the people saw this and began to mutter, ‘He has gone to be the guest of a sinner.’”

But look at the results!

“But Zacchaeus stood up and said to the Lord, “Look, Lord! Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount.”

“Jesus said to him, ‘Today salvation has come to this house… for the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.’”

Jesus’ bold, uncondemning love rocked Zacchaeus’ world. All the years of hatred and scorn from his peers did nothing for Zacchaeus. Jesus’ seeking and loving and climbing onto His own tree did it all. That’s the kind of love.. the seeking.. saving.. glory shedding.. mind-blowing.. sacrificial kind of love.. that heals us and makes us whole.

“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” John 13:34

That’s what I am in training for. I am broken. I miss up a lot. But I am learning to see Jesus looking at me not with disapproval, but with the kind of love that rocked Zacchaeus’ world. And I am learning to see the way He looks at the broken, hurting people around me.

“For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.” John 3:17

We need saving. We need His love. We need the Healer of the Brokenhearted to come and make us whole.  He is our only hope. We can not fix things.. especially ourselves. All we can do is trust and wait and obey in the waiting.

Isaiah 30:18-21 Yet the Lord longs to be gracious to you; therefore he will rise up to show you compassion. For the Lord is a God of justice. Blessed are all who wait for him!

People of Zion, who live in Jerusalem, you will weep no more. How gracious he will be when you cry for help! As soon as he hears, he will answer you. Although the Lord gives you the bread of adversity and the water of affliction, your teachers will be hidden no more; with your own eyes you will see them. Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, “This is the way; walk in it.”

Much love and prayers..
and wishing you a Merry Christmas.

The Colemans

Life Verses Life Lessons

I woke yesterday from a residual bad dream with a desire to find a new life verse.  I have had a few. When I was a struggling in my role as a young mother, the Lord directed me to

Titus 2:5: “To be discreet, chaste, keepers at home, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God be not blasphemed.” Through holding on to those instructions, I learned to value a calling that I never imagined would be my own.

For many years, I struggled through the lessons of

John 15:4-5 “Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me. “I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can don’t nothing.”

Then sometime before we moved to Alabama, the Lord began speaking to me about my need for the gift of joy and Psalms 16:11 became my verse:

”You will show me the path of life; in Your presence is fullness of joy, at Your right hand there are pleasures forevermore.”

I am thankful for preparations that the Lord has worked in my heart through those verses and years that have helped me through this nightmarish season.  Joy has been the backdrop for all the sorrow that I have experienced through losing Joel, and I acknowledge it as a precious gift from God.

There have been moments and days where the pain overwhelmed the joy and I wondered at God’s word to Paul that His grace was sufficient.  On those days, I held on to these verses:

Psalm 37:3 “Trust in the LORD and do good. Dwell in the land and feed on His faithfulness.”

Romans 12:12  “Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.”

James 1:2 “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, a whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3 because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. 4 Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”

A few of those things I felt like I could do:

Trust in the Lord..
Feed on His faithfulness…
Be joyful in hope..

– I learned to trust that He would carry me through to the promise of Heaven.

Dwell in the land..
Patient in affliction..
Let perseverance finish its work…

–  The tougher set, but the hope above made it possible.

Faithful in prayer..

– There have been many days where the only prayers I could pray were groans and cries…

I won’t pretend that I was able to “Consider it pure joy.” There have been a few trials that I’ve been able to face with the joy of being made more like Jesus, but not this one.  I am not sure the death of your loved ones was meant to be included in “trials of many kinds.”  The Bible says that “Jesus wept” at the tomb of Lazarus.  He had hope: “I am the resurrection and the life.”  He knew that in a few minutes he was going to raise Lazarus from the dead.  And still “He shouted for joy” at Lazarus tomb. No. Still “He wept.”

The kind of life verse I was longing for when I woke up from my nightmares yesterday was the kind that contained the word “SOON!”  Soon we’ll see Jesus and He will wipe away all my tears and all the wonderful no mores will become reality because this old I am experiencing will have passed away.

Hebrews 10:25 ..but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day approaching.

Revelation 22:20 The one who testifies to these things says, “Yes, I am coming soon!” Amen! Come, Lord Jesus!

“Soon!” is the word that the Lord has been using to encourage me.  He endured the cross for the joy set before Him, and I endure my cross with the same hope for joy at His appearing. As we near the holidays and the second anniversary of Joel’s first day in Heaven, “Soon.” is the whisper that keeps me persevering.

Soon, I need to get off this computer and start cooking Thanksgiving dinner, but before I do I would like to share some pages I made for our family to read aloud together on Joel’s Heaven Day.  The verses speak of soon, and Jesus and of clouds and crowns.

I learned something new in my reading yesterday. Many scholars believe that the verses that speak of Jesus coming in the clouds are speaking of “the great cloud of witnesses.”  It opened my eyes to see past the puffy white things in the sky to something much greater surrounding my soon returning Jesus.

I had a coupon for half off a photo book at Walgreens that expired last night. You can find coupons like that often but with Joel’s day just around the corner, I rushed to finish it in time.  I am not completely happy with how they came out, but they will have to do for this year.  The photos were taken by my parents and I in the Tennessee mountains.  Feel free to use them to make your own Heaven Day book.

“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

Running for that crown..

Love,

Jenny

The Lost and Found Lamb

One of the oddest things for me about losing a child is how we as bereaved parents obsess over the lost one… doesn’t matter how many surviving children we have… the lost one is the one on our minds and hearts 24/7.  I’ve struggled with it… fought it.  I’ve tried to honor and enjoy the kids I still have here while I can… and yet the obsession hasn’t gone away.

When my kids were really little (I had 4 in under 6 years) and I took them all to the grocery store with me, I would continually count them… 1, 2, 3, 4… to make sure one hadn’t wondered away.  Often when one had wondered off, Joel was the one who was missing.

We lost him in Target once when he was four.  Have you ever lost a child in Target before? Your heart races.. you are in a panic… almost in tears… I can’t tell you how terrifying it is. Four minutes feels like a lifetime. We found him amongst the Christmas trees marveling at the bin of ornaments. He has always loved Christmas.

Another time we were coming out of HEB (our all time favorite Texas grocery store) and 1, 2, 3…  4 (Joel) was standing in the parking lot with his hand held up to the approaching cars like he had some crossing guard superpower and could make the cars stop for us to cross.
Again.. terrifying.

That’s where the obsession comes in… at terror. As a homeschool mom I was continually counting them at home, too: Josh is at the kitchen table doing his math, James is on the computer writing a paper, Joel is sitting on the couch reading his history book, and Judi is on the floor practicing her grammar.  1, 2, 3, 4.

As my four grew into young adults they chose to live at home, work and go to college locally (happy me). Counting grew a little more challenging: Josh is doing a lab, James is on his way home from work, Joel has to leave for work in an hour and Judi is teaching swim lessons.

1, 2, 3, 4.. all accounted for.

I had this 1, 2, 3, 4 thing so much in my mamma heart that I always hated pictures of only three of my kids …now all I can take are pictures of three. In those pictures one was missing.  Two kids in a picture was okay because the missing one wasn’t by themselves.

This is the last picture I have of the three boys together.  Josh and James are glad to be home with Joel and are telling him all their news.  Judi is teaching swim lessons at the Y.  I was so caught up in the joy of the boys enjoying each other that this photo never bothered me

I am counting them still. Sometimes I am halfway through before I realize what I am doing… and it’s too late to stop.

When I get to Joel now, I account him as happy in Heaven.

It’s been a little over 21 months since his first day in Heaven… and some days the thought brings me joy and others tears.

Lately, I have been struggling with what I am calling “frustrated love.”  I have opportunities to love the kids who are still with me.. cook for them.. celebrate their accomplishments… buy them clothes and little gifts, but I keep searching for Joel. He is missing… and I am longing for a way to show him that I love him.  If I am really honest, I am feeling somewhat jealous of our Heavenly Father.  He gets to be with Joel, to see him every day, and to shower him with gifts that I could never afford.

The day these feelings began pushing from my subconscious into my conscious the Lord reminded me of the story of the lost sheep:

Luke 15:4 “Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Doesn’t he leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it?”

That part of the story has always bugged me… HE LEFT THE 99?!  What about them?  Are they wondering where He is?  Are they okay while He is gone?

I love the next verse though:

Luke 15:5 “And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders.”

I want to be that sheep… the rescued one.

I want to see the joy on His face and rest on His shoulders.

I felt like God was saying to me through the story, “It’s okay.  You don’t have to feel guilty about obsessing over your lost lamb.  I AM like that, too.  I’d leave 99 at home and search for the one.  You are created in My image. And it’s okay.”

Some bereaved parents find comfort in the fact that their children aren’t really lost. They know their child is Heaven and refuse to use the word lost when referring to them.  I understand, but my heart counts 1, 2, 3, and then comes the terror … FOUR!!  Where is FOUR?  He is lost to me… no longer in my possession..  for now.  My heart searches endlessly for him even though my head knows that I am powerless to recover him… and that if I could, it would be wrong to take him from his happy joy in Heaven.

Until the day I join him there and the terror is washed away, I will ever be teaching my heart to rest in my search secure in my hope in Heaven, in His joy and upon His strong shoulders.

Love,

Jenny

 

Arrows Deep into My Heart

In the early mornings as I study the Word and worship, the Lord gently reveals places in my heart that are still broken; places that need healing that only He can give.  I journal them through quiet tears in an exercise of placing Brown Paper Packages (older post) all wrapped in string at His beautiful feet.

Once everything is journaled out, I am released to go about my day accomplishing the things I have the grace to do while continuing to worship with IHOP.  There were many months where the devastation of my heart was so wide and so deep that I spent whole days journaling and searching the Word for comfort, understanding and healing.  Not journaling meant leaving all those anguishes circling in my head like buzzards picking away at my brain and heart.

When I am in the solitude and privacy of my car, the true intensity of my suffering often shows itself. At home, I am rarely alone and even the brick walls are too thin for the piercing cries of my heart.  There are times when I am afraid to be alone in my car because I know somewhere deep inside that the pain is going to be overwhelming.  There have been times when I thought I was okay, focused on things ahead, and once down the road in my car the grief has jumped out in ambush.

Driving alone to church has been especially difficult.  There is the dreadful desolation of my heart lurking; waiting in the car for me, and then the “How are you?” greetings once I am there. It’s crazy how a casual greeting can pierce a grieving heart.  How do you answer a casual, “How are you?” in the normal 5 second allowance with red swollen eyes after just having an emotional meltdown in the car?  “Trying to hold it together long enough to get through the service.  Thank you?” When another grieving parent asks, it’s different because they understand that “Okay” means “Not falling apart at the moment.”

It has been important for me to not to pretend that I am something I am not.  When you are grieving, you feel a million emotions at once and not one of them is “Fine.” My desire has been to communicate honestly so that when others suffer they know that I can relate and I am willing to love them through it.  How can we help heal each other when concealing our suffering?

There were a few times when I was putting so much effort into just attending a service that I was caught off guard by the casual greetings. I would find myself trying to self evaluate and come up with an honest answer, my 5 seconds way past up, and think, “I was doing better before asked.”  Just recently, there was a day when it was all I could do to smile and nod.  It was awkward, but opening my mouth would have opened the floodgate of sobs. Once someone greeted me with, “It’s so good to see you.” and I thought, “Really?” and so wanted to just melt into their arms.

What does “Fine” mean anyway?  When anyone asked before losing Joel, I would mentally think through each of my four kids… if they were all healthy and doing okay, I was actually “Good.”  It didn’t matter that I’d lost my breasts to cancer and was still dealing with residual pain, or that I was having another allergic reaction to some unknown something, or that I was in that wonderful time of life where pre-menopause and PMS meet.  I was “Good” as long as my four were good.  Now I get halfway through my list and one is dead (has moved to Heaven).  I don’t even know how to evaluate any more.

At one point, I wished I could just hand out a picture of what my heart looked like in answer to the casual greetings and actually googled “broken heart.”  To my dismay, I basically found pictures that look like this:
Torn paper heart
Is that what most people think a broken heart looks like?!

It doesn’t even begin to describe the brokenness of my heart.  Torn paper doesn’t express the shatteredness; the shards of what was left of my heart with their sharp, painful edges; the muck and the mire of it; the literal breaking we felt in our hearts wave after wave.

 He shot his arrows deep into my heart.
The thought of my suffering and
hopelessness is bitter beyond words.
Lamentations 3:13

I have had to learn a whole new set of terminology in order to describe the state my own heart.

mire   mīr/
noun
1. a stretch of swampy or boggy ground.
soft and slushy mud or dirt.
synonyms:  mud, slime, dirt, filth, muck
2. a situation or state of difficulty, distress, or embarrassment from which it is hard to extricate oneself.

When we first lost Joel, Mike asked me how my hope was?  I answered, “What hope?” I didn’t even know what the word meant anymore.  At that point, I was still holding on to the fact that God loved me and thankfulness was pouring out of my heart.  I was thankful that Joel was the only one that died at the birthday party.  Josh had been shot at 4-5 times with only a scratch.  Judi had been invited but decided not to go.  I could have easily lost all three that night. Hope had been deferred till Heaven and my heart was close to death (Proverbs 13:12).  Along the way, questions about “Love always protects… Love never fails” from 1 Corinthians 13 found their way into my heart; akin to the devil’s “Is God really good?” questions in the garden.  I am sure.

Thoughts like: “This was not loving.  This was not protecting.  How can God be love and allow things like this?” were my constant companions.  The pain of my own inability to protect Joel was deafening.  My heart was so, so broken it could no longer produce even it’s essence; the thankfulness which had been it’s fragrance when first broken.  I so wanted to “give thanks in everything,” but how can you squeeze thanksgiving out of a heart that no longer feels loved?  How can you feel loved when you feel so unprotected?
lavendar vase
My heart before was filled with the fragrant joy I found in Him:
“Life is good!  God loves me!  God has good plans for our lives. I have a hope and a future. I am so thankful!”

My heart after:
“Life is hard; crushing; unbearable!  This does not feel like love.  ‘Hope,”good,’ and ‘plan’ are all four letter words tearing into my heart.  My only hope for a future is in Heaven. Why am I still here?”

brokenheart
From my journal on February 6th, 2014:

“I am in a very dark place near where Joel died.  Part of who I’ve been.. part of what I have believed.. part of what keeps me from remembering and believing this awful truth is also part of the reason Joel lost his life.  I trusted God implicitly with the lives of my family.  My whole life was a prayer of faith and trust and intercession for my husband and kids.  I basked in God’s love for me; lived a life of thanksgiving and praise and adoration for all He had given me and I taught my kids to live a life trusting that God in His goodness would lead and direct their paths and show them what to do and give them a good, abundant, long, meaningful life.

They believed me.  Joel believed me.  They believed God.  Joel believed God.  He trusted God.  He lived a life listening to and submitted to the Spirit.  When the young man came to the birthday party with a mask and an AK47 and shot at everyone at the party, Joel didn’t run because he wasn’t afraid.. because he was so full of God’s love for him that he didn’t believe that someone could be so hateful and irreverent of life.  He thought the shooter was playing a practical joke that he wasn’t using real bullets.  He didn’t run even just in case.. he believed implicitly.

The truth that I believed and trusted and taught.. that Joel believed and trusted and died is too unbelievable.. too horrible to believe.”

I still wonder if I had taught Joel to be more cunning and less trusting …if it would have saved his life.  We don’t know if there was a moment before he moved towards the shooter that he realized that he was using real bullets and had to be stopped.

    God’s way is perfect.
All the Lord’s promises prove true.
He is a shield for all who look to him for protection. 2 Samuel 22:3

The one good that I have hoped would come out of my suffering was that I could be honest about my struggles and learn how to offer comfort and encouragement to others who are going through hard things. I wanted to learn how to persevere and have hope, peace and joy while going though trials …how to love and feel loved in the midst of suffering.  And I was failing miserably on the feeling loved part.

O thou who dry’st the mourner’s tear,
How dark this world would be,
If, when deceived and wounded here,
We could not fly to Thee!

The friends, who in our sunshine live,
When winter comes are flown’
And he who has but tears to give
Must weep those tears alone.

But Thou wilt heal that broken heart,
Which, like the plants that throw
Their fragrance from the wounded part,
Breathes sweetness out of woe.

When joy no longer soothes or cheers,
And e’en the hope that threw
A moment’s sparkle o’er our tears
Is dimmed and vanished too;

Oh! who would bear life’s stormy doom,
Did not thy wing of love
Come, brightly wafting through the gloom
Our peace-branch from above?

Then sorrow, touched by Thee, grows bright
With more than rapture’s ray’
As darkness shows us worlds of light
We never saw by day!

~ Thomas Moore, 1779-1852

We learned to transfer our hope from this world to the next and choose “Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him.” Job 13:15.  Our choices were to choose to be content and trust Him where we are, or choose a very dark place of not trusting.  Choosing to trust, to believe we are loved when it doesn’t feel like love, and to keep an eternal perspective, has been our battle… And I believe it is the battle we all face in this world.

We have to choose to believe:

Our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.  …We hope for what we do not see, we eagerly wait for it with perseverance.  Romans 8:18, 25

The constant cry of my heart has been that God would be my Good Samaritan, bind up my wounds and pour in the oil of His Holy Spirit into the broken places in my heart.

   The Lord gives healing to the brokenhearted and binds up their griefs.  Psalm 147:3

In the midst of my brokenness, God has continually reminded me that He is a wounded healer, that He understands our pain and suffering, and that our suffering is not ours alone but apart of the fellowship of His.  It so encourages me that when Jesus faced His time of suffering that He said things like, ”My soul is deeply grieved, to the point of death.” and “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me.” And that the one who said, “He who has seen Me has seen the Father.” also said, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

    The LORD is close to the brokenhearted; He rescues those whose spirits are crushed.  Psalm 34:18

For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are–yet he did not sin. Hebrews 4:15

He will give a crown of beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair.
They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of His splendor.  Isaiah 61:3

It took REALLY long time before I started feeling like God was healing me. I have so much more healing to go, but I am encouraged by even the smallest progress worked in me and thankful that He is walking with me through my hard days.

Being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. Philippians 1:6

I’ve learned that it is really important to stay “rooted and grounded” in God’s love; feel it or not, to keep an eternal perspective, and to hold the Word up to the devil’s, “Is God really good?” questions because:

    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

I pray that from His glorious, unlimited resources He will empower you with inner strength through His Spirit. Then Christ will make His home in your hearts as you trust in Him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong. And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep His love is. May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God. Ephesians 3:16-19

So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in Him, rooted and built up in Him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness. Colossians 2:6-7

Still “Finding Joy in Him” (Really.),

Love,

Jenny

Good Friday: His Stunning Suffering Love

I’ve been stunned by Jesus’ humility this Passover/Lent season.  I think I am just beginning to understand that the Creator of the Universe put aside all of His majesty and glory to suffer along side of us… to die the horrible death of the cross for us… to really love us.  He couldn’t demonstrate His love towards us while sitting on His throne in glory.  He had to humble Himself… to draw near to us… to suffer.. in order to really love us.  LOVE could do nothing less.

One of the first things I learned after losing Joel was that we grieve deeply because we love deeply.

Isaiah 53:3 He was despised and rejected by others, and a man of sorrows, intimately familiar with suffering; and like one from whom people hide their faces; and we despised him and did not value him.

Love requires humility and suffering.  When God asks us to love Him with all of our hearts, all of our souls and all of our strength and to love others as ourselves, He is inviting us to enter into His suffering heart.  He is asking us to abide in His love which was humble and lowly and which willing suffered the death of the cross for us.

His love is truly stunning.

Philippians 2:3 Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves,
4 not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.
5 In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:
6 Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
7 rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.
8 And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death— even death on a cross!

 

Hebrews 2:17 For this reason he had to be made like them, fully human in every way, in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, and that he might make atonement for the sins of the people.

Coleman pew

Jesus asked us to partake of Passover in “remembrance of Me.”  When we drink the wine, we are to remember the blood that He poured out for us.  When we eat the bread, we are to remember His flesh given for us.  The flesh that He took on so that He could draw near to us.  His flesh that was despised and rejected, beaten and spit upon and yet carried that heavy cross up to the mount of the skull for us and suffered and died for us.  When we eat and drink of Him we are communing with His suffering and we are to remember that He is communing with ours.

Then comes Easter Sunday when we celebrate His Resurrection.  We are celebrating not only our new life in Him but also our future resurrection with Him and the death of death.  All things will be made new!  How I long for that day!

1 Corinthians 15:54 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.”

A couple of weeks ago, the plea bargain agreement that the young man who murdered Joel asked for was presented to Mike and I.  Although Joel was the only one killed that night, the case was much larger than just us because he (Tim) had shot into a crowd of kids; injuring several others, also.

We decided that for our part that we were willing to agree to the plea bargain as an act of mercy towards Tim.  God has given us so much grace this whole time to forgive.  Our only hearts desire has been to:

“Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.”  Ephesians 4:32

Last Thursday afternoon, we were told that he would be sentenced the next morning.  A good friend asked if we had written a Victim Impact Statement.  No one had really talked to us about one.  It was our opportunity to honor Joel; to show that he was more than a case number and a name on a sheet of paper.

God gave me grace to sit and write the things on my heart that afternoon.  When Mike came home from work, he was able to write what was in his heart; completing what I was unable to put into words.  It was truly a miracle of grace that we were able to write it so quickly.

Two of my girl friends dropped everything to meet us at the court house the next morning.  I am so thankful for them.  Their presence gave me so much strength and courage.

The court room was loud and busy; twenty or so inmates had just been seated to wait for their motions, plus their lawyers and others signing papers, walking in and out and back and forth across the room.  We were unintentionally seated just one row directly behind Tim.  It was Mike and I’s first time to see him in person (Josh’s second).  We watched as he signed papers and read our Victim Impact Statement.  He looked young and vulnerable next to other inmates in the room and I felt for him; so much loss that night.

Judge Smith put our case at the top of his agenda so that we wouldn’t have to wait long.  The noise and busyness of the court room made it difficult to hear, but when the District Attorney began reading our Victim Impact Statement before the judge for us, the room was quiet for just a moment.  I pray that it has some small effect on everyone that heard.

Tim pleaded guilty to four Class A Felonies: one murder and three attempted murders, and was sentenced to 25 years in prison.  He will be eligible for a parole hearing in 15 years from the date of his arrest according to current Alabama state laws.

Our Victim Impact Statement will be included on his record:

Victim Impact Statement
from Joel Manuel Coleman’s parents
Thursday, April 10, 2014

Your Honorable Judge Smith,

It would be impossible for us to describe to you the depth of the pain and heartbreak that we have experienced since losing our precious son, Joel Manuel Coleman, on the 7th of December, 2012.  It would be as impossible as it would be to explain the joy we felt the first day that we held him in our arms, or as impossible as it would be to explain the depths of our love for him through the 20 years that we were given with him on this earth, or as impossible to explain as the great pride we felt about the young man he was growing to be.  The only thing that comes close to the depths of our heartbreak is the depths and the heights and the widths of God’s love demonstrated towards us when His Son, Jesus, took on human form and died on the cross for us.

Joel had started college and was just promoted to a shift manager at his work.  He was beginning to realize some of his hopes and dreams and was becoming a prolific guitar player.  Joel was a best friend to each of his siblings and a loving and devoted son to us.  He was loved deeply by his grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins and friends.  He lived his life humbly, honorably, and to the fullest.  He worked hard, studied hard, and played hard.  He loved hiking, nature, making people laugh, playing his classical guitar, and playing with our pets.  He treated everyone he met (young and old) with love and respect, listened to their joys and sorrows, put his arm around them, and made them feel like they were his best friend.  We miss him terribly each and every day.  The pain we feel will never completely go away as we continue to realize the lost opportunities of Joel’s life on this earth and miss his fun and joyful presence.

The night of the 7th of December is a nightmare that we sometimes cannot believe really happened.  We wouldn’t want any parent to experience the depths of pain and heartbreak that we now feel.  Our only hope is that those who’s life’s were spared on that awful night, including Timothy Goldsmith, will turn their hearts towards God and live in such a way as to honor God and share His love with others. Nothing can change what was done to our son Joel or the pain we have endured.  Only God’s grace and the expectation of being reunited with Joel in God’s Kingdom can help us to get through the great loss we are experiencing.  It is not for us to determine what anyone’s fate should be, so we trust God and this court to ensure whatever justice is required is delivered.

Sincerely,

Joel’s parents

My prayer for all of us this season:

Ephesians 3:14-21 For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name.  I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.

Now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us, to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.

Love,

Jenny

Save

Listening for His 1,2,3 And

“But I will leave among you A humble and lowly people, And they will take refuge in the name of the LORD.  Zephaniah 3:12

The Lord has been speaking to me a lot lately about humility, patience and childlike faith.  I am SO THANKFUL for His instructions…  So thankful for the Fear of the LORD in my heart.  It’s a gift.  It’s a great blessing.  I want to get.. to remember what He is teaching me.  I pray He engraves it on my heart.. that it becomes a part of who I am.

Last month, I mentioned how since losing Joel on the 7th I’ve had remember to be nice to myself on the 7th of each month.  This 6-7th of March, I had a breakthrough.. at least I think it was a breakthrough.  It may not sound like a breakthrough to you, but for me it was a breakthrough and a fresh breaking of my heart.

There are different kinds of losses; each one effects us differently.  Our family has moved quite a bit and every move has been a kind of death; a letting go and an opening up to what God has next for us.  Moving away from Texas… from family… from home the third time was a big one.  I had to let the part of me who loved being “Aunt Jenny” die.  It was harder than when I’d left before only as a daughter and sister.  I cried for a solid week over the miles that would separate us from our family in the years to come.

Before losing Joel, losing my mom’s mom had been the hardest loss for me.  She always made me feel so loved and cared for.  She and my Granddad read a chapter from the Bible every evening before bed.  It so impressed me.  My Mamalene loved to play hymns on the piano and the organ and helped instill in me a love for Jesus and worship and discipline and beauty.

I inherited her piano, china and china cabinet among other things when she died.  A for weeks after they were all unpacked, I felt like they were screaming at me: “Your grandma is dead.  Your grandma is dead.”  Screaming; forcing me to believe the heartbreaking reality that I would never see her again this side of Heaven.

Last week, I had a similar experience… I don’t think I can bring myself to write… My head knew, but my heart just learned what it couldn’t even begin to believe… what just couldn’t be true.

I heard the Lord speak to me over and over this week.  I need to be still and rest and know that He is God and trust that He’s going to keep me.. to work in me.. to walk with me step by step.  Holding on to humility, patience and childlike faith are not new struggles.  How I’ve struggled with being patient and waiting on the Lord.  I’ve struggled with the lack I see in my life and with knowing there is more lack I don’t see.  I’ve struggled with putting on humility and trusting Him with childlike faith.

One day this week, He pointed out to me the childlike faith of a dear sister in Christ in a way that said, “Isn’t it beautiful?”  I was humbled.  I so want to choose to walk in that kind of faith.  I want to stay tender, hold on to my innocence, and keep a childlike trust even as I pick up my cross and follow Him through the darkest valleys and up the most treacherous mountains.

He reminded me this week how He’d taught me while homeschooling to lead my children with gentleness and patience at their own pace.  I’d so wanted to hurry them, but His hand stayed me with Jacob’s words to Esau:

Genesis 33 13 “My lord knows that the children are tender and that I must care for the ewes and cows that are nursing their young… 14 So let my lord go on ahead of his servant, while I move along slowly at the pace of the flocks and herds before me and the pace of the children…”

Then He showed me in Isaiah how He is leading me the way He’d taught me to lead my children:

Isaiah 40:11 Like a shepherd, He tends His flock.
He gathers the lambs in His arms,
carries them close to His heart,
and gently leads the mother sheep.”

Who is Like the LORD?
12“Who has measured the waters of the sea
in the hollow of His hand
and marked off the heavens
by the width of His hand?…

13Who has fathomed the Spirit of the LORD,
or as his counselor has taught Him?
14With whom did He consult to enlighten
and instruct Him on the path of justice?
Or who taught Him knowledge
and showed Him the way of wisdom?

He is wise and able to lead me where I need to go.  No need to rush.  He is holding me close to His heart and gently leading me at a pace that is right for me.  It’s not up to me.  It’s up to Him.  Christ in me is the Hope of Glory.  My job is be still and wait on the LORD; listen and obey as He leads at the pace He has designed for me.

Psalm 31:9 Be merciful to me, Lord,
for I am in distress;
my eyes grow weak with sorrow,
my soul and body with grief.

14 But I trust in you, Lord;
I say, “You are my God.”
15 My times are in your hands..

I feel like God is inviting me into a dance with Him; wooing me with slow, soft, graceful music, that I must strain to hear over my deceitful heart’s loud, contorted cries compelling me to “speed up the pace.”  The struggle in my heart leaves me stressed and confused and stepping on His toes.  Be still, Oh my soul, trust in wait for and rely on the Lord!  As good friend said,

“It’s hard to figure out how to let him lead…I guess just keep hanging on and leaning into him…”

I am so thankful for His faithful leading.. teaching.. wooing.  I am so thankful that He is Wisdom and knows just the right pace for us.  I am so thankful that He carries us close to His heart… that we can lean into Him.  I am so thankful that He renews strength, hearts and minds.. that He keeps them as we focus our trust on Him.

Isaiah 26:3 You will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on you: because he trusts in you.

Our last move created in me a longing for roots.  Roots in my family hall of faith.  I hung pictures of our grandparents who’ve gone before us as a cloud of witnesses on the wall of my prayer room.  This one of my Granddad and Mamalene is one of my favorites:

The Lord your God is in your midst.
He is a mighty savior, a victorious warrior.
He celebrates and sings because of you.
He takes great delight in you.

He will quiet and refresh you with His love.
He will rejoice over you with shouts of joy
and delight you with His songs.  Zephaniah 3:17

I am honing in my focus, listening for His “1,2,3 And.”  I am trusting that as I humble myself and trust Him with a childlike faith that He will sweep me off my clumsy feet and continue to be faithful to teach me His slow, graceful, beautiful ways.

Abiding in His Love,

Jenny

Older posts Newer posts

© 2018 Finding Joy in Him

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑