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

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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

 

 

 

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

Discipleship · Holidays · Marriage · Rooted in Christ

Serving Together in Marriage {Deeply Rooted Magazine}

There are so many things I love about Valentine’s Day. Making our own Valentine’s cards and crafts, baking cupcakes or cookies with red hearts on top, sharing in our children’s joy and all their little Valentine’s cards and treats that they give and receive from friends, and just taking time to make the day a family and friends celebration of love, ultimately of God’s extravagant love for His people. These are some of the ways we love to celebrate.

As I think about Valentine’s Day, I also reflect on the love I share with my husband and how God has worked in and through our marriage. Today I am sharing some of my heart about marriage, ministry and serving together over on Deeply Rooted Magazine.

Marriage is a picture of Christ and His covenant relationship with the Church. It is an image of God’s intentions in His redemptive plan of salvation. The Church is Christ’s Bride here on Earth with a mission to go out into the world to share the gospel and disciple believers (Mark 16:15). Will not God who has designed marriage to reflect these things, strengthen our marriages when we serve in a way that portrays the function of this image? One way my husband and I have strengthened our marriage is by serving together. -Deeply Rooted Magazine

As I look back over the years, the miles we’ve traveled and the opportunities we’ve had to serve alongside one another for God’s glory, my heart is content with joy. This is God’s work that He prepared for us to enjoy together. The picture above is one memory I have of a trip we took to Papalote, Mexico a few years ago. My husband was to be teaching at a Bible Institute and we had the wonderful opportunity of hearing about the work God is doing in that part of the world. This painting, hanging in the home of a missionary couple held a real life story of God’s faithfulness in reaching the lost in a nearby village. Hearing and experiencing these stories of the gospel reaching the nations is a treasure we share together.

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One of the great outcomes of serving together is the shared joy of seeing fruit produced from mutual service in others’ lives. A shared experience of storing up spiritual treasures in Heaven brings an eternal perspective to the purpose of your marriage. Some of the greatest fruit we have seen serving together in ministry has been to witness lives changed, hearts comforted and people discipled. –Deeply Rooted Magazine

You can read the rest of this post at Deeply Rooted Magazine.

With the love of Christ,
Jen

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Discipleship · Music · Rooted in Christ · Testimony

The Year of the Red Sea Road

Its almost magical, that week between Christmas Day and New Years. The kids enjoying their new toys, winter hikes with the family, sledding on the back yard hill with friends, celebrating my husband’s and my wedding anniversary, twinkling lights and taking stock of the year behind, while setting our gaze on the year ahead. It is almost sacred as we take time to reflect, rejoice and celebrate what our good Father has done in our hearts, our minds, our family, our lives in the past year.

As I open the pages of my new monthly planner, and sketch out the timeline of events, work, schedules, studies that are on the list to work towards this year, my heart is grateful… and dependent. It is dependent on the “I AM”, the LORD, to sustain us, to move us forward in His will, in the good works He has prepared in advance for us to do. It is always about Him, and never about me. It is always His work, and my joy to receive. As I commit these plans to the Lord, He leads me to a theme.

Over twenty years ago now, when I set off on my own, a young adult spreading her wings wide to land in the hills of a small town called Comfort in the rolling bluebonnet-laden hill country of Texas, the Lord began impressing on my heart different themes for the two semesters I was at a Discipleship Bible School. It was amazing to see how God used those themes in my life and to form me. Other years, I have had perhaps a word or theme. As we enter our final semester at seminary, I reflect on the themes God has laid on my heart and look forward to this year’s theme!

When we arrived here in 2015, the theme was that of The Good Shepherd. That theme actually rolled over into 2016 as well. 2017 has been the Year of Stepping Stones as we continued to take steps of faith in various directions to see where God is leading us. Some doors closed, others opened wide, and others are in waiting. I completed my first year of work as a Birth Doula attending 8 births and assisting women as their labor coach. I wrote a piece on Planting Seeds of Wisdom in our Children’s Hearts and a biographical piece called Soul Into Blossom: The Life and Work of Lilias Trotter, in the print issues of Deeply Rooted Magazine (Issues 11 & 12), as well as a piece on Building Intentional Friendships for Family Life Canada. My husband wrote and recorded a full length album with a collection of friends called Gateway Hymns. One of the songs won a song-writing competition and was recorded by The Porter’s Gate Worship Project featuring the voices of Josh Garrels and Liz Vice. Meanwhile, my husband has been continuing to work towards his Mdiv degree after a decade of pastoral ministry. Our children have been growing by leaps and bounds  in so many areas of their lives. It has truly been a year of Stepping Stones.

As I look toward 2018, the Lord has led me to a song this year. Red Sea Road, written by Ellie Holcomb, Christa Wells, and Nicole Witt, speaks of letting go, all to follow Christ in where He is leading us. In God’s Word, we are called to speak truth to our souls, and especially in the Psalms, to sing to our souls. This is what this song speaks to me in this season of transition. In five months, we will, Lord willing, be packing up our earthly possessions to be transplanted into our next location of God’s calling.

 When Pharaoh let the people go, God did not lead them by way of the land of the Philistines, although that was near. For God said, “Lest the people change their minds when they see war and return to Egypt.” 18 But God led the people around by the way of the wilderness toward the Red Sea. And the people of Israel went up out of the land of Egypt equipped for battle. Exodus 13:17-18

And the Lord went before them by day in a pillar of cloud to lead them along the way, and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light, that they might travel by day and by night. 22 The pillar of cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night did not depart from before the people. Exodus 13:21-22

And Moses said to the people, “Fear not, stand firm, and see the salvation of the Lord, which he will work for you today. For the Egyptians whom you see today, you shall never see again. 14 The Lord will fight for you, and you have only to be silent.” Exodus 14:13-14

 Then the angel of God who was going before the host of Israel moved and went behind them, and the pillar of cloud moved from before them and stood behind them, 20 coming between the host of Egypt and the host of Israel. And there was the cloud and the darkness. And it lit up the night without one coming near the other all night. 21 Then Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and the Lord drove the sea back by a strong east wind all night and made the sea dry land, and the waters were divided. 22 And the people of Israel went into the midst of the sea on dry ground, the waters being a wall to them on their right hand and on their left. Exodus 14:19-22

The Lord led His people along the Red Sea Road, the path He made before them, to lead them and give them victory. God calls us to follow Him, and that requires a cost, indeed the giving up of one’s own plans, desires, and expectations. But it is in the letting go of our lives that we find them, it is in saying with Jim Elliot, missionary to Equador, “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep, to gain that which he cannot lose.”

So we’ll sing to our souls, we won’t bury our hope
Where He leads us to go, there’s a red sea road
When we can’t see the way, He will part the waves
And we’ll never walk alone down a red sea road – Red Sea Road, Ellie Holcomb

As we continually surrender our lives, we know our hope is not in the things of Earth, our hope is in Christ. With our hope in Christ, we are able to let go for we have found our true home, it is Christ Himself. May we always be willing to let go of things we were never meant to keep in our grasp, so that we may live free in the will of God and trust His perfect leading.

Our eyes are fixed, Oh Lord, on You. Our gaze is set directly forward (Proverbs 4:25). You have led us to the Year of the Red Sea Road.

Where He leads us to go, there’s a red sea road – Red Sea Road, Ellie Holcomb

 

Christian biographies · Rooted in Christ · Testimony

Our Redeemer is Writing A Story

It was February 6, 1917 in Orenburg, Ukraine, when a young single woman went into labor and gave birth to a baby girl. She named her Eleanor. Her name meant “sun ray, shining light” and that is what she was. Eleanor brought sunshine and light to a very dark world and a bleak existence. Her birth mother raised her the best she knew how to on the streets of Orenburg. She was what they called a “waif”.

During this time, laws were almost non-existent and adoption was a much easier process. At some point during the next few years, a Christian couple adopted her as their own. They also adopted a son. I’m sure Eleanor’s birth mom was relieved and thankful that her daughter would be provided for, with food, a safe and warm home, a chance at education, and a better life. As her daughter left with her new family, this young woman knew she would probably never see her again. And Eleanor would never know her father or see her mother again. But she would know what it was to be adopted, what it was to be loved, and what it was to have the narrative of her life story take a very miraculous turn.

Who is the author and finisher of my faith, my redemption, my adoption as a beloved child of God? It is Christ, full of self-sacrifical love poured out for me, for you. His Word is His message, given in love for you. The Holy Spirit is your comforter sent to seal you, walk with you, and bring truth to your mind and heart.

Your story began before the foundation of the world when you were chosen to become adopted as sons and daughters of God. Your story is intertwined with God’s narrative through the Old Testament, through the 400 silent years between the prophets of God and the coming of Christ, the Prophet, Priest and King. Laced through all these generations is the promise that your Redeemer is coming. He was coming for a people. He was coming for you. If you are in Christ, you are a part of that people.

Our life stories are filled with brokenness and sin, of our own doing and the doings of others. Wounded by words, actions, and inaction, or struggling with sickness and disease, we at times feel like our lives are a narrative we’re simply trying to survive. We fight for joy and we fight the lies of the enemy. A million types of pain, suffering, and brokenness around the world threaten to undo us.

What will it look like when we get to the other side, where the lion will lay down with the lamb, and where we can rest under the shade of the tree of life whose leaves are for the healing of the nations? You will hear the ending of your story, your final opus. And guess who will be speaking.

The Way, the Truth and the Life will be speaking. Jesus, Himself, the One with nail scars in His hands will speak restoration into the broken pieces of your story. Your past is not who you are and your wounds are not your identity. If you are in Christ, your identity has been bestowed upon you from the Giver of Grace.

“We will feast in the house of Zion, we will sing with our hearts restored.” -Sandra McCracken

Your finished story will include a redemption so complete, so whole, every wound healed, every false and hurtful word erased, every disease vanished… our hearts restored. Every false assumption or accusation will fall powerless to the ground. Every mocking voice of judgement will be silenced, every misunderstanding brought to the light… our hearts restored.

This hope of future glory should shape the way we live in community today. Hope helps us to dwell in the land of the living because it points us to a future reality where we will love perfectly and be loved perfectly by others. It helps us to have grace and forgiveness for others, because we know they too will be made whole, if they are in Christ, and their stories will have redeeming love written across them, as well.

I long for that day, when I see Jesus face to face. I’ve daydreamed about it over and over these past forty years. For now, I pray and I long. My grandmother, Eleanor, is with Christ, in His presence. Her beginning was filled with brokenness and without hope in this world, but the Redeemer came and rewrote her story. As she lay on her bed in her final hours, her grown children, Christ-followers, surrounded her bed and sang hymns of worship to our Redeemer as she breathed her last and went home to be with the Lord. Her heart restored. Our confident hope as Christians is that one day, He will hold each of our faces in his wounded hands. He will look into our eyes. Our Redeemer will write the end of the story… and it will be only the beginning.

Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb through the middle of the street of the city; also, on either side of the river, the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit each month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. No longer will there be anything accursed, but the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and his servants will worship him. They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. And night will be no more. They will need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign forever and ever. Revelation 22:1-5