Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Grace Through it All

Its been a year of coming to the end of myself again, and again. Just when I think I've reached the very end of me... God takes me farther. A year ago in October I felt the Lord asking me to go to Asia and work in an orphanage with special needs children for about 2 weeks. I had spent the year prior to that call praying for orphans in China by name, sponsoring them and sending gifts. I grieved as some of them died from complications of their special needs, and I laughed and rejoiced when things went well, like liver transplants in tiny babies' bodies. My heart was broken for these children and when the opportunity came to serve them with my own hands, I was excited and ready. I cried out to God, I will go Lord! Send me.

I think that's about when everything started. My family was so decidedly against my serving in Asia that they assaulted me publicly on social media. They called me horrible names and accused me of terrible untruths. My husband was made out to be an idiot for "allowing" me to go. I can't articulate the intense pain I felt by being hurt and abandoned by my family. I wept, sobbed, vomited, from all the hurtful words, from the pain of hearing that my serving orphans meant I didn't love my own children.

In this time my husband and I felt God speak again, honestly it was my husband more than me. He felt that God actually wanted me to bow out of my commitment to serve in Asia. Devastated. I was devastated. I had only been part of the Asia team for a month but I'd sent support letters, announced it, & more than that, God had worked on my heart. Even as I was in so much pain from my family's reaction, God was molding me. Asking me how far I was willing to go for Him, and cultivating a desire to be a servant, not only to orphans to those who serve the orphans themselves. More body wracking tears. More questions. But then... peace. I completely trust my husband, he wasn't influenced by family, or fear, he just felt God say I need you to change plans. So that's what we did.

Several weeks after deciding not to go to Asia we told our families. About a week after that we were approached by a friend asking if we were interested in hosting a chaperon through a Christmas orphan hosting program. We both felt clearly that this is what were supposed to do. If I had still planned to serve in an orphanage just a month after Christmas we would have said no to this offer.

Presented with a list of names and ages we chose a woman a few years younger than us to stay in our home over the holidays. I can tell you beyond a shadow of a doubt that THIS was what God was working my heart towards. The beautiful and lovely woman we hosted, whom I now call friend, was herself an orphan. Her past influenced her to work in the orphanage in Latvia to help others.

I learned that God did want me to be His hands and feet, He was calling me to be a servant, to orphans and to one who serves orphans! I don't understand all of God, but He asked me if I was willing, I said yes. Obeying God means continuing to say yes when plans change. His way is so much higher than mine. The chaperon hosting opened up doors for us to love other orphaned children. This summer we hosted both the chaperon and an orphan girl who needed re-homed. Oh, we loved on her, and even if my impact seemed insignificant, I know that my prayers are not.

After the Christmas holidays I worked toward forgiving my family. That winter I went months without anyone from our church reaching out to us and those whom I reached out to didn't reach back. The baby girl my heart wanted so badly to be my own was adopted. My husband worked long hours away from me and the kids. The stress of his job, the sadness of loss, the aloneness I felt was overpowering. I am not typically given to weeping, but there were days and nights of crying. Again, I was brought to the very end of myself. With few local friends, a husband who had to work too much, and family relations that were still strained, I pressed into Jesus.

My days were spent worshiping. Crying out to God to meet me, and sustain me. My children often found me in the kitchen kneeling, just praying. Jesus was the only person available to me. The truth is, while I wept, and sang, and prayed, my relationship with Jesus changed. It became more and more fulfilling. My heart and spirit more dependent on Him than ever before. The hurts of the world, of the church, of family, they were real, and the Lord held me as a I worked through them. I have learned that to pray in the Spirit isn't just praying in tongues, but speaking to God from the depths of your soul, with tears, groaning, declarations of His worth and goodness, a simple song, and sometimes its laying face down by the kitchen sink asking Him to fill you with more of Himself. It's been a time of breakthrough. Through sadness I have experienced more of God's joy, and my relationship with my husband is richer and deeper. We are truly enjoying being heirs to the grace of life together, through tough times and easy ones.

Again, I feel that Jesus has me by the hand asking me to step out of the boat and into the water with Him. I feel Him speak to me, "This seems insane, trust me. You're scared. Trust me." Frankly, I feel like telling Jesus I would very much like to sit back on a cruise ship and leave the water walking to others. But I know with Him is safety. I know with Him is fullness of joy. I know with Him is what is best for me. And I just, I do love Him so much.

So my prayer is, "Lord, I believe, help my unbelief."

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Stella's Family

I am so excited to share with you that I was looking at the New Day Foster Home blogroll of families last night and I came across Stella's Family's blog! Though we have been sad that we weren't called to be her family we have been praying through it. (My post about the sadness of that is here.) I have been worshipping God in new and powerful ways. A lot of that prayer time (even over the last year plus) has been devoted to asking Him to place her in a Christian home, with a loving family, and for the Lord to make the transition from orphan to beloved daughter a smooth one. How wonderful that I can now see how richly the Lord has answered our prayers by reading their blog! Go check it out and pray for them! GOD IS SO GOOD!

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Backyard Sugaring!

This year we tapped our maple trees for syrup! Last spring we learned how easy it was and that we had an abundance of maples so, being the doers that we are, we did it this spring! Let me tell you, its easy, its fun, and its delicious.

Here is the basic how to of this process.

The freeze thaw cycles that we enjoy in our area from February through March cause pressure changes within the trees which cause the sap to be pushed out when you drill and spile the tree. This doesn't hurt the tree and after the sap stops flowing the tree heals right up.

1. First determine if you have maples. Ask a friend, do a google search, but make sure. Both sugar maples and regular maples can be tapped for syrup. If you don't have sugars you need to boil down the sap a bit more, but it still makes sweet nutritious syrup.

A captive audience
2. We ordered plastic spiles and tubes from and bought a few food grade 5 gallon buckets from Lowes to collect the sap. We started by drilling into the trees, then hammering in the spiles. We connected the tubes to empty milk jugs at first but they filled too quickly so we upgraded to the buckets.
Don't worry Peeta, I'll get the water for you!

3. The sap spoils in warm weather so after about a week we started boiling it off. This should probably be done outside but with four littles we did it inside, 5 gallons at a time. It took about 7 hours, using just one pot and adding to it over the course of a day. It was really easy. I went about our day and school, but added more sap every time the pot got half way boiled down. We cracked a few windows and just considered the added humidity as good for the skin.

Boiling down
4. We don't can in our house. We're just not the kind of people I would trust to get or keep anything sterile. So we cleaned some mason jars and filled them, waited for it too cool before we capped and keep them in the fridge. I have had no problem keeping maple syrup open in the fridge for months.

5. Finally, we enjoyed the sweetness of our very own, home grown, all organic, maple syrup. I've grown corn, tomatoes, flowers, and pumpkins but there is something really specially about holding a jar of my very own syrup.

5 gallons of sap for this much syrup
If you have maple trees I totally suggest giving this a try next spring. Our children loved every part of it, especially the tasting parts.

For more information check out I'm not affiliated with them in anyway but they had good information beyond the basics.

Professional Encourager

My husband is the most important person on this Earth to me and I view my role as his wife to be my most important calling. I serve God by serving him. One of the biggest parts of my job is to encourage him. My husband is an incredible man. He's gifted, brilliant, really. He can play the organ, sing with perfect pitch, cook a curry, and shoot straighter than most marksmen. But this world is rough, it beats down the best of us. So today, after a rough weekend, I knelt down in my kitchen with my children and prayed a desperate prayer. "Lord, fill me up with you, Lord light a fire in me, fill me with you. I am empty of myself, fill my children, fill my husband with your Spirit, Jesus."

After that the Lord spoke to me a few words of encouragement for my husband, myself, and probably someone else out there.

When we have no power over something, rather than focusing on it over and over, we need to focus on who God is. And who is He?? He is the one who flung the stars into the sky. He is the one who knows me. He is where my help comes from.

When the problems of the world grow too heavy, and frankly, they're always heavy, I will choose to focus on God. I will lift my eyes to Jesus. The maker of Heaven and Earth. I can fill my thoughts and words with worship and scripture. This is how we keep the mind of Christ. This is how we know peace. We fill our thinking and our words with the greatness of the love he has bestowed upon us freely. We fill our thinking with His power. He is worthy of our every thought, in good times and in bad. 

I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help.
My help cometh from the Lord, which made heaven and earth.
He will not suffer thy foot to be moved: he that keepeth thee will not slumber.
Behold, he that keepeth Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep.
The Lord is thy keeper: the Lord is thy shade upon thy right hand.
The sun shall not smite thee by day, nor the moon by night.
The Lord shall preserve thee from all evil: he shall preserve thy soul.
The Lord shall preserve thy going out and thy coming in from this time forth, and even for evermore. Psalm 121

Saturday, March 22, 2014

All Things Beautiful

I'm writing this post to encourage anyone who has experienced the jagged hurt of sexual assault or abuse. 

There is healing in Jesus. 

There are a few things in the world that are so ugly and horrible they seem unredeemable. Sexual assault has to top that list. Pain, hurt, shame, brokenness, ugliness, sin, vile, penetrating hurt.

Yesterday, for the first time since the incident I saw the man who caused so much pain in my life. I was at a conference when I saw him. I did double take, my stomach dropped, my hands started to shake. I pulled my husband away and immediately said, "thats the guy. The guy who did that to me."

We walked back to our table and right there, in front of friends we barely knew, Michael laid hands on me and prayed. He prayed one of those absolutely necessary in the moment heaven shaking prayers and God met me. He washed me again with his Spirit and I was given clarity and peace. My feelings towards this man weren't anger or rage, but worry that he would hurt someone else, probably has. I felt for those women.

We left for lunch and when I came back I knew I needed to tell my new friends why I was upset. I felt the creepings of shame. The creepings of being a wounded victim, someone who should be ashamed and hide. I know that is not who I am, and I spoke the truth aloud to myself and my friends.

I told them, "At 17 years old I was sexually assaulted and the man who did it is over there. Thats why I was acting strange. But I am not ashamed. I did not ask for what happened to me and I will not own this shame today."

Their faces dropped. And then with perfect God timing one of them asked me, "what was it that helped you to heal after something like that?"

"I went through gestalt therapy, I went on a week long heroines journey, I tried a lot of things and nothing brought healing... I was made whole when I realized how much Jesus had forgiven me, and because of that I can forgive too. I prayed for God to help me forgive him, and myself, forgiving myself was actually harder. But Jesus has given so much to me freely, and He made me whole. I am not ashamed, I am not broken, He made me whole through forgiveness." And in that moment I knew more than ever that it was true. One of my friends looked so upset that she was going to cry. I actually held her. She said, "I should be comforting you! I just feel things for people so deeply." And as I let go of her embrace I told her again, Jesus has made me whole, He is so good.

And then, we all prayed, YES, we prayed, for God to protect women from being hurt by him. The other friend used Jesus' name, And then I prayed, for God to redeem this man, to change his heart and save him.

It seems impossible, but God has made even this beautiful in His time. I stood, radiant with the Holy Spirit, as Jesus was glorified by sharing the truth of what He does. He saves, He transforms, He binds up the broken, He makes us whole. He makes beauty from the ashes. AMEN and amen.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Someone Else's Star

I shouldn't feel this way. How many times do we tell ourselves that when uncomfortable emotions keep coming up? I shouldn't be sad about this, its unreasonable! Everyone else won't understand, and really these are stupid feelings.

What then what do we do with those emotions that we decide we shouldn't have? I guess we try stuffing them somewhere. But that doesn't work. Issues and emotions are slippery things, they seep into other areas and accidentally pour out when we're not expecting them.

Its obviously best to talk about the things that make us upset, but sometimes, like in my case, you feel like you have no one to talk with it about. Certainly, we have many friends online, but its not the same when you can't sob snotty tears into their shoulder. Most of the time I share my heart with my husband, who I love and cherish but my husband has been working a lot. A lot actually doesn't even come close to explaining it. He's been working for weeks with breaks only to sleep and occasionally eat. I knew that the hard work would come, I know that taking over the world is a daunting task, and I support it! But it has left me feeling alone in a time when I needed fellowship.

There was a little girl in an orphanage in China who I fell in love with. Her English name is Stella and last year I randomly chose her photo from a listing to sponsor and pray for her. I didn't choose her because she was beautiful, or I had any certain affection for her. I just picked her. Maybe because I like the name Stella. As time went on we got monthly updates about her development and photos. My heart started to fall in love. I asked my husband many times, "if she's not adopted when we turn 30 we need to come for her! I want to rescue Stella and make her my daughter." This was the cry of my heart and my prayers for almost a year.

At the start of this year I began talking friends who work at adoption agencies and seeing if I could get access to the shared list so I could find out if she was available and what her special needs were, could we really support her in our family? My heart was jumping far ahead of my present circumstance. But I know that fundraising and paperwork can take a year. It made sense to start working now.
New Day Foster Home

In His mercy, after only a week of seriously pursuing this child, I learned that another family had chosen her, was coming to rescue her; the little girl that I have never met but somehow love so much. Sure, I was supposed to be happy, but I wasn't. I'm not. That night I cried almost to the point of throwing up. My husband was working, it was mission critical stuff, so he would periodically come in and hold me, then I would send him off to work more.

I just need to cry. 

But in the weeks since then, I haven't cried much, but I want to. I am now, as I tell you, Internet.

And, even as I cry, the voice in my head says, "this is stupid, Jennifer. She was never yours. You're not even called to adopt." I can't explain why I'm so sad. I can't say that it makes sense, or that I should be feeling this way, but I do. I AM SAD. And I really want to sit and cry for a long time.

I spent hours, days of my life, imagining Lucie and Stella as "twins." Two little girls, one who's name means Light and the other Star. How perfect, I thought. But she was never mine. And she won't be. She is someone else's star.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

A Five Year Old's Response to Coke Ad

Unless you live under a rock you've probably seen the "controversial" Coca Cola commercial featuring America the Beautiful sung in many languages. I do kind of live under a rock and only saw the ad this morning when a friend posted this article that highlights the amazingly angry response viewers had. After watching it I showed my children, who live in a rural small town, without a television set, and asked what they thought. Here is the response of my five year old twins, to a song about America being sung in languages other than English:

What do you think of this commercial?

E: I like it.

K: I like their singing.

Did you notice that they sang about America in different languages?

K: Yes.

E: I didn't notice too much.

How do you feel about them singing in their own language?

E: Its nice. Some people speak different languages. I think its really cool.

K: Yeah, all languages are really neat.

Why do you think all of those people were not speaking English?

E: Maybe something bad happened in their old country, thats why they came here. And now they love America too.

How do you think God feels about all different people coming to America?

K: I think He feels happy, and I think its nice that they come to America. America is an amazing place.

Why do you think other people didn't like the singing in other languages?

K: Maybe because they don't love Jesus, maybe because they don't love anyone but themselves and their [own] friends. Which I don't like, because I don't think thats nice of them.

E: Because maybe they don't like other languages, maybe they only like their own. They should like other languages. They can't just care about themselves.

I'm not despairing at the hate of many because many more of my generation are raising bright, loving children, who view all of God's people as the same. Human beings, who are only made more beautiful by their unique differences, and all lovingly made by their Creator for fellowship with Him.