This will not be wasted

This will not be wasted

This thing… whatever it is… might be driving you to the brink.

If so, can I sit down with you for just a couple minutes and offer you a glimmer of hope?

I can’t see you, nor can I hear your full story through this screen at the moment, but I’m going to read between the lines if you’ll let me.

  • You’re tired of trying to do the right thing in the face of all you’re going through.
  • You don’t know how to make it stop.
  • You’ve wracked your brain for weeks/months/years, trying to think of who or what could fix this problem.
  • No one understands completely. And maybe that hurts the most — the fact that no one will ever realize how much strength it’s taking for you to just hold on one more day, one more moment under these conditions.

(Keep reading at Club31Women.com)

Dear Friend, You’re Not Alone… {The first 3 things I want to tell you after 10 months of blog silence}

Dear Friend, You’re Not Alone… {The first 3 things I want to tell you after 10 months of blog silence}

Dear Friend,

It’s been so very long. The better part of a year, believe it or not.

Much has happened. In my life, and I know in yours too.

Today I felt alone. And I longed to indulge in self-pity. I may have actually done so for a little while. But then I found that my own pitiful self was poor, uninspiring company, so I begged my already-present Savior to be with me in my aloneness.

And, of course, He was.

For months now, I’ve mostly avoided posting on social media, especially blogging. There has just been too much to think through. Too much to live through and pray through. I’ve let go of creating, marketing, and even updating. Life boiled down to the essentials. Me and God.

This past week I’ve been reminded of the reality that in no way do I have anything of worth to offer anyone. I am nothing of myself, can do nothing of myself, and have nothing of myself. I am so very empty. And the longer I live and the more fallenness I experience, the more I see and feel that.

And if you are on the same path of struggle, you know exactly how depressing that can be. Especially in this world where being, doing, and having is celebrated.

So, I’ve steered clear of saying much. Partly out of sheer emptiness, partly out of obedience to just be still.

But today, as I leaned again on Jesus in my ache, I was stirred to speak out.

Because you can’t read my mind. And I know you experience aloneness and discouragement too. And we all need to be reminded that we’re not the only one. We’re so not the only one. But our enemy would have us feel we are. That everyone else is fine, better off, included, managing, thriving. Being. Doing. Having.

close up face

But even the Perfect One, the One who knew exactly how to trust His Father fully, obey completely, be an unfailing Friend, speak truth with love, and serve selflessly was misunderstood, alone, heartbroken, rejected, and abandoned by all those closest to Him in His hour of greatest need. Not to mention experiencing ultimate aloneness on the cross as He bore our sin. And Jesus did all this for you and me. To make sure we would never have to be truly alone. To fill our emptiness with His completeness.

You and I have nothing. We are nothing. We can do nothing. But God…!

But God came to earth and reconciled our miserable sinful selves to Himself. He bought us back from the devil to whom we were enslaved.

So now we have everything we need for life and godliness. We are children of the Most High. We can do all things through Him who gives us strength.

It’s hard to live in the world of the unseen. What I see tells me that I’ll never be able to make ends meet. I don’t know how to raise, let alone educate and prepare five children for life in this world. What I see leads me to fear that I may never have the health and energy I want or that anything I do will make a difference on this earth.

But what is unseen is the truth. My God will supply all my needs. He will fulfill His purposes for my children. He will give me strength to equal my days. He uses jars of clay like me to prove that this all-surpassing power is from Him, not me.

My dear friend. You are made of flesh and blood like me. And your soul is made in the image of God, as is mine. Therefore I know your struggles are of the same nature as mine.

You wonder about the future. And are tempted to shrink back in fear.

You worry about your health. Your kids. Your marriage or lack thereof. Your finances. Your inability to measure up, do it all, earn approval, win love.

So often I’m kinder to my friends than myself. Maybe I see things more clearly in others than in myself. Maybe we all do. So I’ll tell this to you and listen in…

Jesus loves you.

He loves you. So completely. In spite of your wickedness. Your traitorous, adulterous heart. He has forgiven everything you have done, everything you will do against Him. When you put your faith in His work of salvation at the cross and in His resurrection, you and your sin die (DIE!) and you are raised in newness of life. Let His forgiveness and love wash over you. Rest in His love.

Jesus wants to give you more of Him.

No, He doesn’t give you a map of the rest of your life. He doesn’t promise to solve every issue you’re facing to your exact specifications. If I had it my way, and if you had it your way, that’s what we’d ask for. And we are so sure that would be better. But somehow, we would find ourselves worshipping the map, the answers, the gifts. And somehow, we would still be unhappy. Because we would be trying to make gods of things that can never be God. Jesus is giving you and me more of Himself. And He is the source of everything good. That’s a tough one to live out and believe to the very core of our beings. But it’s true.

Also, God isn’t done yet.

Proverbs 10:24-25 (ESV) says, “What the wicked dreads will come upon him, but the desire of the righteous will be granted. When the tempest passes, the wicked is no more, but the righteous is established forever.”

We spend so much time dreading and worrying, fearing the worst. But when the storms pass, God’s people will find that their desires will all be fulfilled. We’ll be established, not destroyed. That’s how it will end. I want to see that here on earth, of course, but this isn’t where the story ends.

And your aloneness, discouragement, pain… my struggles, frustrations, and setbacks are constant reminders. God isn’t done yet. He will finish what He started. He wins. Satan doesn’t. And any of us who is willing to lose his life for Christ’s sake will actually find it.

lady in field black and white edited

 

I know it’s hard to press on with good courage.

But “let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.” (Galatians 6:9 ESV)

Praying God’s strength, presence, and blessings in your life,

Jennifer

 

***

And in case you’re wondering… 

I’ll share more detailed happenings of the past year in time, but here’s a quick rundown of what the past months held.

January 2016 – God stirred our hearts to consider leaving South Florida for life and ministry in Southern California.

Spring 2016 – After a trip to CA, Jarod received God’s confirmation to pursue that calling.

June 2016 – Our family of 7 made a ridiculously eventful cross-country move to Lancaster, CA, 70 miles north of Los Angeles. Jarod accepted the position of Athletic Director at Desert Christian High School.

August – December 2016 – I was extremely sick (much of it bedridden), fighting bacterial and parasitical infections and adrenal fatigue. Brendan (our youngest, who is homeschooled) and I spent 2 months in Kansas with my mother to receive treatment and care while Jarod and the other 4 kids fought to maintain sanity at their new job/school.

Christmas – Present – Brendan and I rejoined the family in CA. My health is improving. In many regards, I’ve come from “death” to life (praise God!!!). I still have ups and downs and am limiting my daily activity to a fraction of what it used to be. 

I would deeply appreciate prayers for continued recovery. And for those of you who have been in touch, offering encouragement, inquiries, and for those of you who have prayed us through the past difficult months, I offer a heartfelt THANK YOU!

Also, I would love to hear from you. Please feel free to leave a comment or send an email (jenebenhack at gmail.com) with your own update and prayer requests. I would be honored to lift you up in prayer.

Jen 🙂

His way is perfect

His way is perfect

 His way is perfect

 

His ways are so unpredictable.

So “past finding out.”

Yet, somehow, because He is the all-powerful, loving, holy God that His Word says He is, His ways are always right.

This God—his way is perfect; the word of the Lord proves true; he is a shield for all those who take refuge in him.  ~ Psalm 18:30

We cringe at that thought, sometimes, don’t we? Often these ways feel too painful, mysterious, and hard. Some of His “perfect ways” involve leaving us in the dark. He’s at work, yet chooses not to reveal His plans to us.

Maybe you’re there? Needing reassurance that He’s still working and it won’t be like this forever?

{Keep reading at Club31Women.com…}

Becoming a woman of confidence

Becoming a woman of confidence

Life in this world is unsettling.

We ask ourselves how we’ll make it through today, and wonder what on earth tomorrow holds.

It’s easy to let fear and uncertainty rule our lives…

But it doesn’t have to be this way.

When we stand on truth, we find reason after reason for confidence.

Join me at Club31Women where I talk about three of those reasons today.

Club31Women.com_3-Reasons-You-Can-Be-A-Woman-of-Confidence

Is it worth it? Where to turn when you’re ready to give up

Is it worth it? Where to turn when you’re ready to give up

There are days, seasons, that we seriously doubt it… that it will be worth it.

The struggle or even the pain of right now blinds us. And we’re tempted to give in to despair.

Are you there?

Cynical? Weary?

Can I share a few truths? Some glimpses of the hope and pure joy ahead?

It will be worth it.

This will all fade, and we will be awed at the honor our Savior pours out on us. On you. On me. 

We’ll be so grateful He deemed us worthy to suffer, that He empowered us to endure, that He used our unique stories and heartaches and obstacles and faithfulness to bring Him glory.

“Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, Nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love Him.” ~ 1 Corinthians 2:9

Read more at Club31Women…

Is it worth it

Blessings,

Jennifer

Running on Empty?

Running on Empty?

We’ve all been there.

Dry. Used up. Empty.

Bitter.

It’s such a miserable way to live. If you’re there, my heart goes out to you.

Let me know how I can pray for you, and I will.

This week Sara Hagerty (author of one of my all-time favorite books — Every Bitter Thing is Sweet) featured a portion of my memoir on her blog. (Thank you, Sara!)

It’s one of my stories of emptiness. I pray it offers you the refreshment you need today.

Running on Empty

Blessings,

Jennifer

God Sees You, Hears You, and Is Working Right Now on Your Behalf

God Sees You, Hears You, and Is Working Right Now on Your Behalf

God Sees You

Maybe you’ve prayed and agonized.

Maybe you’ve surrendered your burdens to Jesus, only to take everything back into your own hands an hour later.

Maybe you’re human.

What’s certain is that God is still God.

While you and I wait, seeing no movement, doubting His goodness, He is still faithful.

He is always working.

Whether your answer comes in minutes or years, your cry is heard, and your God is pure love.

I don’t know your whole story. But Jesus does.

My story? My husband and I prayed for nine years in the sun-scorched land of Haiti for three orphans to finally legally be ours. And all we heard for nearly a decade was silence.

We didn’t know if the answer was no or wait.

In the aftermath of the Port-au-Prince earthquake, the door seemed to close tighter than ever. Then we were given one last, almost cruel breath of hope. Dixie, the missionary managing our adoptions was appealing to the U.S. Consulate for visas. We waited and waited for the verdict of this last chance.

Here’s where I was exactly six years ago today…

(Excerpt taken from In a Sun-Scorched Land, Chapter 18)

As darkness fell and the stresses hovered over me, I wanted my little ones close. Dora and Brendan were small enough to fit into the bed with me, and I placed mattresses and blankets on the floor around us for Justin, Jaden, and Daphne. We prayed together: Prayed for the hurting in Port-au-Prince, prayed for Daddy, now in the Dominican Republic, prayed for our children’s adoptions, and prayed for protection as we slept. Fans surrounded us, as always, wicking the sweat off our faces. Brendan and Dora, oblivious to the heat, attempted to snuggle close to me. My eyes were heavy and I longed for rest, but before I yielded to my exhaustion, I pleaded for grace. Tomorrow’s news could change everything. I knew I’d need every ounce of strength God could give me.

The next thing I knew, the bed was vibrating. I forced my eyes open to the early-morning light and heat and saw Daphne’s foot on the bed frame. “Daph,” I said, keeping my voice low so as not to wake the others, “Stop shaking the bed.”

“I’m not, Mom!” And she wasn’t. It must have been another aftershock.

I let my head fall back again, and butterflies filled my stomach.

This was the day. Dixie had been sure she’d know something by the end of it.

What do I today, Lord? I asked. The possibilities filled my mind. We could continue as normal: school, chores, emails, meals. Keep the atmosphere calm. Or . . . Should I dare fill the kids in? Raise their hopes? Pack up for a walk across the Red Sea?

As my bed continued shaking, I closed my eyes. It was unsettling, but I was too focused on other things to panic. Again, I asked, What do I do?

There was no voice. No promise. But the seed of faith, that little grain of hope, seemed to gasp in a breath. What if the news was good?

I let my mind follow hope’s trail. If we received word the visas were approved, we’d need to traverse one hundred miles today. If we had to leave, we’d need to pack, find a ride, close up the house, make provisions for Wilkenson. . . . The list was long.

Pack.

It was the riskiest but most logical thing to do. And with that word on my heart, I sat up. My adrenaline pumped as I made mental lists. Jarod and I had plans for a trip soon; we were to go to the States while friends again watched Justin, Jaden, and Daphne in Haiti. I’d tell the kids we were packing early. They could each fill suitcases with clothes and toys. If our visas were approved today, we’d be ready.

But in the flurry of the morning, I was convicted. Though I ran from one end of the hall to the other, darting in and out of the kitchen, the kids’ rooms, and living room, cleaning, organizing, and packing, my mind heard the Holy Spirit’s tug. This could be the biggest day of our lives. What if the sea did part? What if we got our long-awaited answer? Where would the glory go? What would the kids remember?

If my actions were in faith, I may as well go all the way. I stopped and leaned against the cement wall. Lord, really? Should I do this? Again, no words, no answer; but there was a peace. If God’s grace was enough to sustain my own disappointed hopes at the end of the day, it would be enough for them too.

“Kids.” I walked toward the girls’ room, where the volume was the loudest. Sure enough, toys and clothes were flying. Everyone was there. “I have something important to tell you.”

I sat on Daphne’s twin bed, facing the built-in wooden wardrobe housing the girls’ clothes. Brendan pulled his head out of the narrow drawer space at the bottom. The drawer had long ago broken, and now stray socks and toy trains made their home in the vacancy. “Everyone come here,” I said. Brendan and Dora fought for space on my lap. Justin pelted me with questions. Daphne somersaulted on the bed and Jaden flung a jump rope back and forth across the floor.

“I told you all we need pack for our trip, right?” They nodded. “Well, I need to tell you why we’re packing today.” They listened in awe as I shared the possibility. This was the stuff their dreams were made of. My eight year-old daughter, my eleven year-old sons had passed their entire lives thus far praying for this miracle. This miracle that wasn’t yet realized. I needed to anchor them to reality.

“We are going to pray, kids.” I looked deep into their sparkling eyes. “We’re going to ask the Lord for this miracle. And if He says yes, we’re going to give Him all the glory. We’ll look back and remember this day and know it was all God.” They nodded eagerly.

“But, I need you to listen carefully,” I said. “We just don’t know yet how it’s going to turn out. Even if we don’t get the visas to leave Haiti, we are going to know that God is good. He always knows what He’s doing, okay?” I was preaching to myself.

We bowed our heads and poured out our hearts to Jesus again. My prayers had been incessant for the past two days—it wasn’t like God didn’t know already what I wanted, but I knew we needed to come before Him together. My kids needed this for their faith. I longed for them to seek Him, to ask, to trust, and to give Him glory in the end.

The second we uttered our amens, their chatter began. They were eager to help, finally motivated to focus—completing any chore that might speed them to an answer. All I could do was hope and pray I hadn’t done the wrong thing. I couldn’t imagine the sorrow of that night should our visas be denied.

A ride. How to get to Port-au-Prince was my next problem. It was unthinkable to drive myself—especially considering my recent anxiety and stress levels. Besides, I couldn’t just leave our Land Cruiser in Port. A bus. I ran downstairs to find our tenants. They’d know about Haitian buses.

Five minutes later I was shaking my head in disbelief. What were the chances? My friends downstairs had just chartered a bus to transport supplies to Port that very night. If this was to be our exodus, I’d be traveling with friends, in a functional vehicle, with armed guards. Peace blanketed my needy soul. God saw me.

Back upstairs, I clicked my way into email. I knew I needed to keep abreast of supply-chain progress. I scanned through the newest messages. Dixie’s assistant had written. Is this about the passport photos? My eyes skimmed for a split second before I found myself trembling. And soon I was in that world I’d entered only a few times, that “other” world no one can enter at whim, the land of surreal, where something is so good or so bad, time is suspended. I’d been there the day I married my husband, the night thieves violated our security, the day Jarod slumped to the hospital floor as I labored to birth Dora. I blinked. I read and reread. My heart hammered.

We finally had our answer.

“Dixie just called from the Embassy. All visas have been issued. We are making arrangements for a flight that will leave tomorrow and go to Fort Lauderdale. I don’t have specific details yet. But if you want the kids to be leaving Haiti, you’ll need to get down here ASAP!”

I crumpled to the floor. How were there even words for this? For the answer to nine years of prayer? Where were the words of repentance for my cynicism? My doubt? My tantrums? How could I even do this moment justice? How should I share this miracle with my kids?

I knelt on the cool tile in quiet tears. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. I have cried out to you day after day. From this very room you have seen my heart, watched me cry, heard my prayers, known my fear. And now this. I covered my face. Thank you!

I could have worshiped indefinitely. But this holy moment had to be shared. I pushed myself up and called out, hardly recognizing my own voice in my delirious fog. “Kids, come here, come here!” They came helter-skelter from their various rooms, joining me in the long narrow hall. “We’re going!” They stared blankly. “We’re going to the U.S.!” I cried. “We have visas for you! God has answered our prayers!”

They screamed. They jumped up and down, mouths gaping open, eyes wild. I joined them. Everyone else in the household came running. John, who’d come to visit, Leann, and finally Wilkenson. In the middle of our elation, still in the hallway, I hugged the kids close. “Let’s thank God.”

My heart held a thousand words of awe and praise, but all that came out were tears and an endless stream of thank yous. It was enough.

Know this: God sees you too.

When the time is right, your years of waiting will come to an end. And on the other side of your answer, whether that be here on earth or in eternity, your waiting period will fade into dim memory. It will.

“This light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison.” (2 Corinthians 4:17)

“As for God, His way is perfect.” (Psalm 18:30)

Trust Him. Just wait and see.

Blessings,

Jennifer

Sunscorched book screen4

The One Thing I Don’t Want to Forget This Christmas

The One Thing I Don’t Want to Forget This Christmas

The One Thing

I’m guessing there are at least 47 things on your mind right now, Mom.

And if you’re anything like me, you may very well forget about things number 48, 49, and 50.

We have our limits! (Wouldn’t you like to shout that out to the world a couple times today?!) We’re going to blow it on a few things. Burnt cookies, a missed dentist appointment, overdue library books, an important Christmas card, a crockpot that never got plugged in…

It’s okay. Really.

I’d love to step into your messy kitchen, laugh with you at the chaos and then reassure you that you don’t have to do every single thing well right now. You’re going to forget about a few things, you’ll fail in a few areas, you’ll compare yourself to pinterest or your best friend or your mom and you’ll fall short. But guess what… the world will keep turning, and no permanent damage will be done.

You don’t have to do it all!

There’s just the one thing. The one thing I’m afraid I’ll forget. The thing you might forget too, unless we remind each other, over and over again.

{Read the Rest at The Better Mom…}