Monday, December 8, 2014

Holy Joy

We hosted our small group from church in our home last night. The day had been filled with events and errands all the way from home to the city and back again, but when we got home, just 15 minutes before we would fellowship with friends, our hearts settled into the quiet hopefulness you have just before sitting down with intention to know God more deeply. My home was still cluttered with the things that make up our lives, hair ties, blankets from a friend's recent stay at our house, dishes from the potluck dish I had just made, but more than all those things our home was filled with the Spirit of the Living God. From our very first apartment to my husband's business offices, we always spent time praying for the Lord to dwell with us, for His presence to be felt and known. Once our friends arrived the sounds of laughter filled the rooms. So much in fact that it was hard get everyone to stop their chatter for more serious conversation.

As we talked about the recent sermons and our lives a friend told us a little about her visit to a third world country where she adopted her son. She said that the orphan children prayed for her, "may the Lord's blessing's be upon you, the blessings of Jesus!" These little ones had nothing. Nothing but Jesus himself. Through Him, however, they had joy. In America we think of blessings as things, sometimes they are, but the truest blessing is more of God Himself. More of Jesus. Because at His right hand are pleasures forever more. In His presence is fullness of joy.

I was reminded that God's joy is always available to us. It can be easy to fall into the mindset of being happy when things are going well, when you have money for all the tasty foods you want, or you've reached some new level of success. Sometimes I think I'd rather live in a monastery where all of my days would be devoted to knowing God, and experiencing Him in richness and clarity. Tonight I was reminded that I don't need a cloistered life to meet with God. I walked into my two year old's room to lay her down for bed when I realized that this moment wasn't for her. God was with me, in a tangible sense, in that dark room as held my daughter. I closed my eyes and let the Spirit speak. I sang a quiet secret hymn to Jesus and experienced a taste again of his joy.

This joy, this peace, this love, this GOD, the Holy Spirit, is always available to us. And I am thankful for sweet reminders.

 Lord, meet with us more. Teach us your grace and fill us until we burst forth with yourself. 

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Clean Eating in Small Town Western PA

Its not easy bring green. - Kermit the Frog

Living in a small town, a solid hour away from the big city of Pittsburgh, it can be hard to procure all of the foods and cleaning products we'd like to lead a clean, green, lifestyle. It's not always easy but I have spent hours of my life scouring labels, searching through stores, and keeping my ears open for any real food I can find!

Friday, October 31, 2014

So, I [might] Love Food

If you know anything about you me, or my family, you know that we love food.  We spend hours shopping for the right ingredients, more hours laboring over the cooking, sometimes waiting days for things to ferment or soak.  Food is kind of our thing. We love making it, eating, and sharing it. Food is kind of our love language. If you want to show me you love me you'll buy sushi grade salmon and pocky sticks. Or maybe you'll buy me a food dehydrator, juicer, and knife sharpener all in the same year.

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.

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.

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."

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.