Books · Christian biographies

Elisabeth Elliot and an Introduction to Wildflowers Girls Magazine

IMG_9002I cannot remember the first time I sensed the Lord calling me to full time ministry, but I do remember the moment He put in me a passion for missions. A fourteen year old teenager, I had traveled to Mexico with my family and church. We set up our camp, Canadians and Americans, in a farmers field perched high atop the hills of Tijuana. But nationality and citizenship counts for little when you are a citizen of Heaven.

We found unity and camaraderie among the group of about 60 Christians who had gathered in this field to set up our tents and trailers and camp out for the week while we drove in and out of our mission site to build a home for a family. Showers were in areas blocked with black plastic tarp nailed to a framed makeshift room with wild blue sky above. We gathered our one bucket of cold shower water from the large communal pool each day, dunked our heads in the water to wash our hair and rinse off by pouring the rest over our heads.

Each morning as we drove into town, we would be chased by cheering children to our work site. In an area surrounded by a cycle of poverty that was restricted by a complicated governmental system to work within, we set to work assisting a family in adding two rooms to their already deteriorating two room shack. Then one morning as I saw several young adult missionaries in their twenties jumping into their jeep and driving down the dirt path, it was that moment that I knew God was giving me a new passion in life.

What followed was years of working with various churches in various roles, short term missions trips, Bible college, long term ministry, and a desire to encourage and build up missionaries on the field. My heart was being reoriented in a specific direction by the Lord. It is no wonder then that my favorite genre of literature is missionary and historical biographies of which I have been reading since I first picked up the book Bruchko at a Bible school in Texas. This was also where I first met, in the pages of her book on purity, beloved modern missionary, Elisabeth Elliot.

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Earlier this year, I had the privilege and joy of writing a biography of Elisabeth Elliot, missionary to the Auca tribe in Equador for a new girls magazine called Wildflowers. I felt honored to be able to pray, research, and write an account and short biographical sketch of her life, to pass on her story to a new generation of young girls, and to be a part of the thread that ties Elisabeth’s story to these young girls’ stories.

Elisabeth Elliot remains one of the most powerful contemporary examples for Christian women, and thousands of women, young and old, have been discipled by her through her books and radio broadcasts. Through the trials she endured, her resolute trust in God and her love for Christ Jesus inspires vast numbers of women to live their lives in faithful surrender and obedience to God no matter the cost. Wildflowers, pg 12

Being the first issue of the magazine, the theme was Spring, new life, and getting outside to see the miracles that abound. My soul was in desperate need of spring this year. After a very long winter in the midwest, spring only lasted for about a week before turning into the heat and humidity of summer, though very beautiful indeed. I didn’t really get a normal spring this year. In fact, the winter was more like a rough and rocky dirt path. But the Lord encouraged my heart this morning to remind me that this is where wildflowers grow.

Sally Lloyd-Jones writes in her most recent newsletter,

“Don’t you love it when flowers start preaching? It’s the long winter, the difficulty, the struggle, the hard ground that draws beauty from the soil. And one day—everywhere you look there is life and you’re overtaken by wild flowers. What hope!”

The Lord reminded me of wildflowers again this week while on a lovely walk beside the Bay as I found my own favorite wildflowers along a stony path that have been preaching to me for years. As in Elisabeth Elliot’s life, the Lord takes our times of pain and struggle and brings forth beauty, not only in our lives but in the lives of countless others and like Sally writes, suddenly there are wild flowers springing up everywhere. May these essays be like seeds in young girls lives to bring about gospel hope, truth and beauty… everywhere!

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And now I must close this off and tell you where you can find this lovely magazine for young girls, because the summer issue is about ready to be released, and today I get started on my research for the next biographical sketch for the Fall issue.

To purchase your copy of the Spring issue of Wildflowers, click here. Wildflowers was created by my friend Maegan Keaton and is a creative collection of stories, book reviews, photography and DIY projects for girls ages 8-12! Just the perfect first magazine to give to my now ten year old daughter!

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Testimony

Woodland Hollow – A Memoire of Our Life and Years at Seminary

I remember the exact spot along the main street of our town where my husband mentioned to me that he was thinking of going back to school to get his Master of Divinity degree. My eyes widened and I took a deep breath. It was 2014 and we had just had our fourth born child. My husband was already seasoned in church ministry and as a worship and missions pastor, and we were just starting to feel settled two years into our new life in Eastern Washington. The idea of a monumental move to seminary life was both exhilarating and overwhelming. We kept talking and dreaming, researching and praying. A year of preparation later, we were on the interstate driving to our new home, a place I had never been, in St Louis, Missouri. (This post here reflects on many of my thoughts and process as we prepared for this new adventure and what God did in my heart throughout that time.)

Three years later, this May, my husband graduated with his Mdiv from Covenant Theological Seminary with honors. He did it! We did it! God did it! These three years are so full of life, provision, friendship and growth… and Hebrew translations! I told someone that I could write a book on our time at seminary, because God did so much!

IMG_7940Our little apartment on campus has been such a blessing. At only about 900 square feet of livable space, our family of 6 has lived life to the full. Birthday parties, holiday potlucks, men’s campfire nights, prayer nights with the ladies, and coffee with friends, our small kitchen and dining area has hosted over 15-20 children and 12 plus adults at once. We don’t believe in letting the size of our home dictate how many people we welcome into our home. The Lord provides the space and the food fills the tummies.

Surrounded by a Viburnum “Korean Spice” flowering bush, we found delight in our  patio, a sanctuary from the hustle and bustle of community life. A place to be still and quiet before the Lord and a place to watch the sun rise just over the hill as rays of light streamed in through the windows in the morning. The Lord knew exactly what we needed for our family of six. My husband constructed 5 garden boxes where we did a little gardening, although Ferdinand the Squirrel was caught red-handed with a cucumber in his mouth!

We grew flowers, and grew our imaginations as little woodland friends (pet substitutes) joined us on our patio every day. Perhaps the critters felt that we needed to share the space, after all, Edith Schaeffer would have welcomed them with her hospitality! I remember one bold chipmunk running between my feet to scale the wall as I watched the birds and hummingbirds one summer afternoon! Lizzie the Lizard hasn’t been seen for ages, but she made a comeback in our lives when my Kindergartner made a toilet paper roll replica of her reptile-likeness.

The natural surroundings on campus have been a place of great imagination for the kids, making tree forts and pretending to be wolf children in the snow with their friends! One December turned out to be a lovely warmish day and the seminary kids congregated on our hill and played in the sprinkler like it was summer! At other times, it wasn’t unusual to see a seminary dad and his kids sledding past my window on an early winter morning.

IMG_7824God has provided for us in so many ways, financially, with our health, and in relationships. There were an abundance of trials that went along with this very sweet season of life for our family. We had to continue day by day in faith that God would provide the work and finances that we needed to get by. We were at times inundated with health issues and at other times, completely illness free for months. We watched the Lord provide as checks would come in the mail at just the right time, and we watched God work through our circumstances to push and prod us in certain directions.

There were times where we felt strong spiritual attacks and several times when I would wake up in the middle of the night speaking the name of Jesus aloud as I woke up and bolted upright. I would pray through the night and speak the Word of God aloud.

There were other times I felt the Lord’s presence so strongly. And there were days I didn’t know how I would make it through with all the responsibilities that were on my plate each day and the various needs of our young family. But like a gentle shepherd, Jesus cares for those with young and He carried me through this season that He called us to.

He tends his flock like a shepherd:
    He gathers the lambs in his arms
and carries them close to his heart;
    he gently leads those that have young.
Isaiah 40:11

IMG_7872When we first set out for seminary, there were many who had concerns if this was good for our family. What we found was, there were many families just like us who were doing just what we were doing, living by faith because of God’s call, taking up our crosses to follow Him into the unknown and trusting that He would sustain and provide. We are so grateful that this season of life is a part of our story.

Woodland Hollow is what I named our little patio and home on the beautiful sprawling campus of Covenant Seminary. There was beauty and friendship, kindness and compassion, prayer and healing. There was sidewalk chalk and “science experiments”, mud pits and basil-snatchers, fresh sweet tea and read alouds by the campfire, and conversations with expectant mothers as a birth doula. The ebb and flow of life, changing seasons, tornado warnings, summer storms, fireflies and spilled birdseed.

When I think about my favorite places in St Louis, I immediately come up with three:  the Missouri Botanical Gardens, my bedroom desk corner that looked out towards the pine tree along the path behind our building, and our living room couch where I gazed out the window to watch our children, the flowers and the birds as they grew from season to season and year to year in our special corner of St Louis.

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Thank you, Lord Jesus, for all You have done!

Books · Discipleship · Motherhood · Rooted in Christ · Testimony

Finding God’s Speed – Living Slow

Siestas in Mexico, teatime in the Swiss Alps, or foamed milk with honey in the Northwest. Taking time out of our days, to savor the flavors and relationships in our lives has taught me to slow down in different seasons of life. When my husband suggested I watch a recent short documentary called “Godspeed: The Pace of Being Known”, I found myself retreating into the rolling green fields and woodlands of Scotland as I listened to the story of a preacher who had to relearn what it meant to know and be known.

This film reminded me of the joys I experience when I intentionally live slowly, to sit in and smell the fresh cut green grass as winter fades into spring, to lay down in the middle of a mountain stream and immerse myself in its refreshing currents, to watch the birds bounce from branch to branch outside my window. Years ago, I was living in Scotland working at a church. It was common for me to walk down the main street of the village to the train station, jump on a train to visit a town just a few villages away along the west coast of Ayrshire. I didn’t have a phone to look at and scroll through, so I looked out the window and took in the beauty of the woodlands and the old stone flats. Perhaps I would listen in on the conversations of other passengers. Arriving into one of my favorite villages, I ordered a latte at the cozy coffee and gift shop, and wrote in my journal for a couple hours, took walks through the town’s shops or took a ferry to a nearby island. Life was slow.

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And in the years of starting a family, it was the walks in the pine forests with my husband and kids, or the walks along the boardwalk breathing in the ocean air, as they fell asleep in the stroller, or exploring a canyon, or sitting at the park while they excitedly climbed and chased and played. It was the afternoon feedings that brought stillness to my soul and caused me to slow down. As my children are now all in the school age years, I am noticing this phenomenon of how fast the years go by every time I stop to observe how tall my children are – they are growing up fast! Each one so precious, so loved, such a treasure! I want to take it all in. I want to observe every special moment and lock it into my memory. I want to walk slowly, read aloud, and drink tea. My kids are all tea drinkers… that makes my mama heart happy.

I’m taking a break from writing on my blog for a while. We are about to enter into another season of transition as a family and it is time to put this little writing space to rest for a while. But before I go, I want to share four resources that have really blessed me lately. I hope they bless you too!

First, this video called “Godspeed: The Pace of Being Known

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Second, this little classic book I read when I was just 19 years old. Andrew Murray’s little book on Humility is a treasure and was part of our discipleship training that I was a part of when attending His Hill Bible School in Texas many, many moons ago. This is by far the most incredible teaching I have ever read/heard on the much needed topic of humility. (A paperback version can be found here).

Third, this podcast on Identity by Journey Woman. This is an episode I will go back to often as the struggle to put our identity in Christ and not the things of this world is a battle we face every day, and we need these truth reminders every day.

Fourth, the podcast Emotionally Healthy Leader is an excellent encouragement for anyone wanting to live an emotionally healthy life.

In Christ alone,
Jen

Holidays · Music · Rooted in Christ · Vignettes & Poetry

The Perfect Easter Morning – Some Day

On a perfect Easter morning, I imagine that I would wake up with the sun shining its rays through my window after a full night’s sleep. My Easter lily that sits on my kitchen table would have opened and bloomed already. I would have my paska bread already baked and awaiting the finally decorating stages. My children’s clothes would be neatly washed, dried, and ironed, and no stressful moments trying to get out the door to church.

On a perfect Easter morning, my friend’s 10 month old baby would still be alive. My dear elderly friend would greet me and the kids at church as she sat beside the coffee table with the warmest smile as if she had been waiting just for me. Its how she greeted everyone she knew. She would still be with us. I would have woken up with no anxiety, no depression. On a perfect Easter morning…

But its not a perfect world, which is why we needed a Savior. It is why we needed a Rescuer to purchase our freedom from sin and redeem us. It is why we needed a King to defeat death itself.

Resurrection Sunday is a day of rejoicing that our Savior rose from the dead. It is a day of rejoicing, and yet I still feel the darkness. I still feel the sadness of loss and grief. I still struggle with a depression that I can’t explain. It is a day of rejoicing and rejoice, I do, with all my heart. Every word that is sung, sung with passion. I sing the songs of my freedom, purchased for me by my Savior. I love Him more than ever before and I have loved Him that deeply since I was seven years old. I look to the sky and remind my four year old as we look out the window at the rising sun in the early morning, that Jesus is coming back one day.

The light in the darkness, the hope in the sorrow, the joy in the pain. The Lord walks with us in our weakness and His grace is sufficient. His light pierces our darkness. I tucked in the corners of our patchwork quilt as I made the bed this morning and sang,

Because He lives, I can face tomorrow
Because He lives, all fear is gone
Because I know He holds the future
Life is worth the living, just because He lives
-Kristin Chenoweth

I look forward to the day when Jesus returns, when there will be no more tears, where there will be no more suffering. While we remain, the Lord is present with us and we continue to speak truth and light into the darkness, and continue to seek His beauty, with eyes to see and ears to hear, we sing the songs of our freedom. That perfect Easter morning is coming and some day will be.

Some day my earthly house will fall,
I cannot tell how soon ’twill be,
But this I know, my All in All
Has now a place in heaven for me.

Some day the silver cord will break
And I no more as now shall sing,
But, oh, the joy when I awake
Within the Palace of the King.

Some day, when sets the golden sun
Beneath the rosy-tinted west,
My blessed Lord shall say “Well done!”
And I shall enter into rest.
Some day – till then I’ll watch and wait,
My lamp well-trimmed and burning bright,
That when my Savior opens the gate
My soul to Him may speed its flight.

-Fanny Crosby, Some Day

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But on the first day of the week, at early dawn, they went to the tomb, taking the spices they had prepared. And they found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they went in they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. While they were perplexed about this, behold, two men stood by them in dazzling apparel. And as they were frightened and bowed their faces to the ground, the men said to them, “Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen. Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, that the Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men and be crucified and on the third day rise.” And they remembered his words, and returning from the tomb they told all these things to the eleven and to all the rest. 10 Now it was Mary Magdalene and Joanna and Mary the mother of James and the other women with them who told these things to the apostles, 11 but these words seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them. 12 But Peter rose and ran to the tomb; stooping and looking in, he saw the linen cloths by themselves; and he went home marveling at what had happened.
Luke 24:1-12

 

 

 

Discipleship · Holidays · Music

Good Friday – Songs of Freedom

When I woke up this morning and the kids were all huddled around the tv watching Star Wars Rebels, awaiting the promised pancake breakfast I was about to prepare, I opened the blinds in our living room and watched as squirrels were feasting on the spilled birdseed I had set on the patio step and of course, forgot about as its been raining forever out here, and necessarily, everything that gets left on the porch gets forgotten about! As our woodland friends scattered, I opened the door and felt the sun immediately upon my face. I stood there, enveloped in golden sunshine, muddy garden off to the side of the patio, little green buds of hope on the branches and a mess of spilled birdseed to clean up. I wanted to linger, as I smiled and let the warmth minister to me. It is a beautiful concept to me to think on how God’s created order can bring health and healing, even in a fallen world. Everything is affected by the Fall, by sin, but the created order is still good, very good, and Jesus is coming back to make all things new.

It is Good Friday. We are Christians. We celebrate Good Friday in remembrance of our Lord’s sacrifice for us. This morning I shared with my kids a video clip from The Bible Project to explain, once again, the historical events of Holy Week and what that means for those who believe in Jesus Christ, the Son of God.

As I shared with my kids in our devotional time this morning, my son asked a very good question:

Why is it called “Good” Friday?

I read them this answer from one of my husband’s professors which was a contribution to his latest album by Gateway Hymns:

Why Good Friday?

Follow, poet, follow right
To the bottom of the night,
With your unconstraining voice
Still persuade us to rejoice;
With the farming of a verse
Make a vineyard of the curse,
Sing of human unsuccess
In a rapture of distress;
In the deserts of the heart
Let the healing fountain start,
In the prison of his days
Teach the free man how to praise.
(From In Memory of W.B. Yates by W.H. Auden)

It is good to celebrate Good Friday. Not because the events of Good Friday are good in themselves. No, we will receive no real comfort in the darkness of the tomb. We will find ourselves alone. It is good to celebrate Good Friday not because suffering is good, but because the Cross is inevitable. And the God who is good is nonetheless there in the dark.

We must practice getting to the bottom of darkness, because that is where we are all headed. In life, we are in death. We have need of knowing the darkness. Of getting acclimated to the arid landscape of our lives. So that we won’t be frightened. So that we will know that there—God is even and especially there.

It is in the midst of Friday that we must confess the goodness of God. It is in our imprisonment that we sing the song of freedom.

Dr. Robbie Griggs

As we remember the day of our Lord’s sacrifice, and prepare our hearts for Easter Sunday to remember and celebrate His historical resurrection, we sing the songs of our freedom.

He comes to make His blessings known
Far as the curse is found…
-Joy To The World

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Holidays · Music · Rooted in Christ

Holy Week – Gateway Hymns

The bare branches outside my window have waited a long winter for their spring dressing. It has been a cold winter and every day the cold lingers, we long for spring and we hope more deeply. Even though I can’t see all the evidence of spring yet, there are hopeful signs all around. The red cardinal and his brown feathered mate have been spotted by my kids as we’ve huddled inside from the rain, peering out the window. A little brown house finch has been perching on the branches from time to time and buds are growing on the trees. We wait for them to unfold their glory.

In a way, I am welcoming spring by faith, with a steadfast hope, knowing that this season will manifest itself in all its evidence soon enough, in time. I need the spring, and the beauty of new life. It has been a long winter.

In the span of several weeks, there has been great loss and sorrow. Supporting others in their losses, and now this past week, walking through the loss of a cherished friend, so dear to me. The Lord was so sweet in giving me one last moment with her several weeks ago. Special moments I treasure in my heart. Last week, I got to hold her hand one more time. Now she holds the hands of Jesus. We have walked a long winter.

This week, I am sharing the most recent album by Gateway Hymns as we celebrate Holy Week. We are desperately in need of life and hope! I will walk this Holy Week with these sorrows fresh in my heart, but with the joy that our Risen King has defeated death forever.

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Gateway Hymns – Good Friday

Gateway Hymns “is a project started by Craig Harris and Brent Johnson as a collaboration effort to supply music for the church.” Several other musicians and artists have contributed to this album. The most recent album, is simply called Good Friday. The five songs are written specifically in remembrance of Good Friday, the day Jesus, the Son of God was crucified, and on him was laid the sins of the world, as he paid the penalty for our sin, so that we don’t have to. The words are powerful, the melodies haunting, and the emotions reflective of the sorrow and pain of our Lord, crucified. The songs carry the listener through a journey from the Garden of Gethsemane to the anguish and lament after Christ’s crucifixion.

 

 

Rooted in Christ · Vignettes & Poetry

It Is Well With My Soul – Winter’s Close

Amid the cold, dark days of winter, the snow, the ice, the wind, something is growing, forming, transforming though the treasure lies hidden deep within. Sometimes the storm  and sometimes the pain are too hard to bear. We live in this broken world where our minds falter, our bodies fail, and our hearts don’t know how to heal. But do not despise the cold winter. There is beauty buried within. And when the warm rays of sunshine bring forth the beauty in its time, that treasure unseen will become seen and the glory of that hidden redemptive beauty will be revealed. At the close of winter, I am reminded not to despise the winter seasons of our lives, for there is beauty in the bare branches, the fresh fallen snow and the knowledge that life is growing deep within the seeds that will soon break forth in their glory.

At the close of winter, I sing this song.

It Is Well With My Soul