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

And here it is! “In a Sun-Scorched Land” releases today!

And here it is! “In a Sun-Scorched Land” releases today!

Sunscorched book screen4

Thank you, my dear blog friends for taking this journey with me!

As I’ve written the stories of God’s faithfulness to me, now releasing them in my memoir, you’ve been alongside me, cheering me on.

I want to cheer you on as well.  

I know you have your own stories of incredible struggle, perseverance, faith, and God’s grace.

You may not have an ending in sight yet. You may be in the thick of the stress or the pain.

Maybe you’ve made it through dozens of stories already, but today find yourself in yet another place of frustration. That’s how life seems to go in this broken world.

But I pray that you’ll read these pages I’ve written and find refreshment.

You’ll find distraction, for sure. (Ha!) You’ll find a struggling, weary woman getting caught up in some crazy, frightening, and hilarious situations.

You’ll find disappointment, cynicism, confusion, and surrender.

But most of all, I pray you’ll find evidence, once again, that God is completely able to carry you and every last burden you’re shouldering. 

CLICK HERE TO PURCHASE (AVAILABLE IN PAPERBACK, APPLE IBOOK, KINDLE, & NOOK)

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It’s a privilege to continue this journey… this walk of faith together with you!

Blessings,

Jennifer

 

 

Five Years Ago In Haiti: 5 Lessons I’ve learned since the earthquake

Five Years Ago In Haiti: 5 Lessons I’ve learned since the earthquake

Five years ago

Five years ago, my five kids and I spent our last day in Haiti.

After almost eight years of ministry, after nine years of attempting (unsucessfully) to adopt our three Haitian children, we faced the devastation of the Port-au-Prince earthquake, and we faced our own figurative parting of the Red Sea.

A sleepless night preceded this day — seven hours in a bus, traversing the mountains between Cap and Port. Another sleepless night awaited us — eight hours in Miami’s Immigration office.

This was the day we sat alongside Port-au-Prince’s runway, avoiding the structural damage inside the airport. The day Jarod shipped relief supplies from the Dominican Republic, praying we’d make the flight out. The day we conserved precious bottled water, ate hotdogs straight out of plastic packaging, waiting, waiting, waiting for our plane to the U.S. It was the one-way chartered flight that would take Justin, Jaden, and Daphne out of Haiti for the first time in their lives. The flight we almost missed despite all our waiting.

Honestly, it was one of the most grueling days of my life.

But God was faithful that day.

As He is today. To me… and to you.

This day, or this season, might be your hardest ever. If it is, I pray you find strength and encouragement from the lessons I’ve learned since that day five years ago.

Lesson 1:

Despite my cynicism, God is still able to do “immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine”

(Ephesians 3:20).

Though we pleaded for adoption approval for nine years, our efforts were thwarted in every way imaginable… Until an earthquake cut through the 500 remaining steps.

He is able. If the answer you’re receiving today is a “no,” it’s not because God doesn’t care or can’t help.

When the time is right, He will work miraculously. He’ll out-do your wildest imaginations.

immeasurably more

Lesson 2:

Safety isn’t about location… it’s about being in God’s hands.

Robberies, coups, a special needs child, and cross-cultural stresses… it wasn’t “safe.” Furthermore, it led to adrenal fatigue. Panic. Anxiety.

But tempting as it was to believe the U.S. was my safe house, that flight out of Haiti didn’t erase my fear.

The truth is, God was and will always be my rock and my fortress… He protected me in Haiti in the face of overt physical danger, as well as in the U.S. where the fear came from within.

His mercies have been new every morning, regardless of my location. It’s not about where. It’s about Who.

Lesson 3:

My identity isn’t my occupation… it’s found in Christ.

Once my husband and I realized we would not be able to take our children back to Haiti, our titles changed. We’d assumed we’d been called to a lifetime of missions, but everything had changed. And in the deep corners of my heart, that hurt. My lifelong dream of missionary was no more. Now I was (forgive me) ordinary.

Jesus knew I needed to find myself and all that defined me in Him instead of some role of “honor.”

It was humbling. And it was for my good.

Lesson 4:

Being unknown is difficult… but increases my dependency on Christ.

We made a cross-country move after shifting around for a year and one-half. The familiarity of Kansas gave way to Florida shores where we were completely unknown. New jobs, new schools, a new church, a new calling.

Again I found myself low. No one here even knew that I used to be a missionary. No one knew our gifts, our passions, our history.

So I had to leave all of that with Jesus. He knew. And that was enough. Because it’s not about me anyway. It’s all about Him.

Lesson 5:

I might not understand God’s ways… but they are higher and better (Isaiah 55:9).

I still don’t know why God didn’t allow our kids to be adopted earlier. Why did we have to leave them in Haiti during the political coup… when we traveled to the U.S. for medical tests… when their little sister got to be a flower girl at a family wedding?

Why nine years? Why after the earthquake?

I don’t have all the answers.

I can speculate… maybe we’d have jumped ship too early if the adoptions had been done. Maybe we wouldn’t have stayed to minister. Maybe Jarod wouldn’t have been there to deliver relief supplies. Maybe something we did had an impact we still don’t know about.

Or maybe it was about God changing us, testing us, making us.

higher ways

I don’t know why. I don’t understand His ways.

But I can truthfully say I am grateful.

I’m grateful for the “hard.”

I’m grateful for the challenge… for the storms… for the pain.

Because I got to see Him.

He shines in the darkness. He protects when there’s danger. He heals when there is hurt. And He works miracles when all hope is gone.

My prayer for you today? That you would give thanks in all things. That you would trust Him. That your faith would grow right now on the most grueling day. That you would continue to stand on Christ, The Solid Rock.

Blessings,

Jennifer

 

 

A place to lose my life; A place to find it

A place to lose my life; A place to find it

For the woman who’s facing a decision, asking herself if surrender to God’s will is too risky…

For the woman who wonders what will happen if she lets go of her own dreams…

For the woman who hears the call to die to self, pick up her cross daily and follow Him…

A glimpse of my own story over at EmilyWierenga.com.

A Place Where Dreams Die

You don’t want to be stuck behind me at Aldi

You don’t want to be stuck behind me at Aldi

It’s true.

I can’t tell you how many questions about my family I’ve answered while in line to buy ridiculous amounts of food.

If you’d like the nutshell version of who eats all those groceries at my house and how God put us all together, click over to The Better Mom, where I share my story today.

If you’d like to help PAY for all those groceries, message me immediately… 😉

Blessings,

Jennifer

TheStoryYou'llGet

A Taste of Chapter 2 (and a prayer request)

A Taste of Chapter 2 (and a prayer request)

Hi friend! I’ve been editing my memoir lately instead of blogging — thus the silence over here! Want a tiny excerpt?

Jen Writing

From In A Sun-Scorched Land by Jennifer Ebenhack

Chicago 2000

There we’d snuggled, happy newlyweds, on our hand-me-down couch several months into the new millennium, until I’d bolted straight up and looked at Jarod like I’d never seen him before.

“Wait, what did you just say?”

For the split second my question hung in the air, I heard the typical men’s dorm noises all around us — freshman bravado and senior dominance playing out in some version of football that no college kid’s mother would have allowed in her home. But apparently the guys who’d sat in Moody Bible Institute’s Greek and World Religious Systems classes all day were in need of a study break.

“I’d like to adopt.” Jarod repeated, still lounging under the afghan with our names and wedding date embroidered in a heart. “I’ve always wanted to adopt.”

“Always?” I wracked my brain for a memory of any past reference to said life-changing subject. Mission field? Check. Papua New Guinea? Definitely. A love for kids? Yep. Adoption? Nothing.

“Uhhh, I don’t think so, Hon. That definitely would have stood out to me!”

He shrugged, pulling off an understated response that would characterize our conversations for years to come. “Sorry. I thought I had.”

The third floor football game rocked the crystal candle holders on my be-doilyed coffee table, while visions of a completely unexpected future stampeded my brain.

“Are you gonna need to do something about that, Mr. Resident Director?” I asked distractedly, waving at the bedlam above us.

“I’ll give their R.A. a few minutes. He’ll put a stop to it soon.”

I pulled my feet off our apartment’s industrial grade carpet, and perched myself on the couch’s arm. “You do realize this is kind of a big thing not to mention in the whole four years we’ve known each other, right?” I hoped he saw the twinkle alongside the shock in my eyes. But still… Seriously, Jarod? “What if I hated the idea?”

“Well, do you hate it?”

I just squinted at him. “Tell me more. How did this start?”

“I guess with Dr. Badgero. So maybe that’s not quite “always.” Jarod conceded.

“Ah.” Of course it had to do with the prof that everyone raved about. The prof I’d just missed. He’d left his position as the missions department chair the year I came in. “Okay… keep going.”

“He and his wife adopted from a few continents. You knew that, right?”

I nodded.

“It was a calling to them, not just a last resort. Why not parent some of the millions of kids already out there? It’s a mission field. An unreached people group.”

I leaned my elbows onto my knees, letting these thoughts lead mine in a hundred directions. The football game upstairs had been dispersed, but the stillness of the dorm was overtaken by the wail of a fire engine. Chicago streets were never silent.

“So you agree with him?” I finally asked, “You think adoption should be viewed as a mission? A calling?”

But his answer was already clear. And as I dug down deep in my own heart, I found a surprising answer, ready-made somehow, all wrapped up in a bow waiting to be discovered.

I may not have sat under Dr. Badgero’s teaching, but it seemed he’d turn out to have a lifelong influence on me anyway.

Well, there’s lots more where that came from! In a Sun-Scorched Land is all about our years in Haiti living out that call to adopt. We had no idea where that conversation on the couch would lead us, let me tell you!

While we’re talking about this book, can I ask a big favor of you? Would you pray for me to finish writing and editing it this summer? After that, my agent will help me seek publication (which can be a lengthy process).

This is a story of crazy drama, heartbreak, terror, and miracles. I sometimes marvel that I lived it all out. 🙂

But the bottom line is that it was all about God. He is AMAZING. I am dying to put this story of His sovereignty, grace, protection, and love into your hands. So would you pray that He would make it all possible?

Thank you SO much!

Love,

Jennifer

A case of mistaken identity: How should we define ourselves?

A case of mistaken identity: How should we define ourselves?

I was supposed to be a missionary.

I dreamt of it all through childhood. The passion grew each time I read a missionary biography, attended a missions conference, or drove by a Kansas wheat field “white to harvest” (John 4:35).

I traveled to Belize in high school, Papua New Guinea in college. I majored in International Ministries at Moody Bible Institute, intent on following the call of God overseas.

And I did.

My dream came true. When my husband Jarod and I landed in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, in 2002, ready to minister, ready to take in our twin boys, I wouldn’t have traded places with anyone on the face of the earth.

I was a little fearful, yes. I knew trials surely awaited us. In fact, with the darkness of voodoo surrounding us in a nation that had been dedicated to Satan 200 years earlier, we sometimes felt we’d entered “Mordor” of Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings trilogy.

But I knew my calling.

Until eight years later, when I didn’t.

After the Port-au-Prince earthquake, after God brought us through the “Red Sea” on dry land, after the adoption miracles, I found myself stripped of the identity that had defined me.

Have you been there?

In American Christian culture, or at least in my own little mind, there was something so noble about being a missionary.

I felt I’d joined the Navy Seals. I was in the elite group. I was one of the chosen, one of the few who got to pick up my cross and follow Christ to another culture.

Though the American Dream appealed to my flesh (oh, did it ever), I wanted to live in a fourth-world country more than I wanted a white-picket fence.

But eight years later, whether I liked it or not, the door to that country was closed in my face.

It eventually sank in. I was no longer a missionary.

Of course, I understood that my mission of reaching the lost would never change, maybe not even my calling to work with those from the Haitian culture, but my identity was gone.

And it needed to be.

Ripe Barley Field at Sunset, a grassy Path leading towards the Sun

He knows when we need to be moved to the next thing.

We may not see the next thing at all. All we see is emptiness, and all we feel is the sting of the slammed door, the disgrace of perceived failure, or the frustration of thwarted plans.

But that’s where Jesus wants to meet us, to refine us — to take knowing and trusting Him to a new level.

And when, after days, weeks, months, or years, we’ve surrendered our identities back to Him, remembering that our true identity is in Him, He sheds His light on a path we never would have found otherwise.

I’m not a missionary in the classic sense of the word.

When I read Kisses from Katie, or blogs by my missionary friends back in Haiti; when I listen to a missionary’s presentation at church or receive prayer letters from friends who are “answering the call,” there’s a twinge of jealousy in my heart.

That used to be me! I answered that call once. I lived an adventure. I shopped the open market instead of Target!

But if my identity was wrapped up in a calling — even a good and noble calling — it was in the wrong place.

God will keep using us, friend. He’s calling me to new things, and He’ll do the same with you. But neither you nor I have the right to tell Him how He should use us.

He’s the Potter, we’re the clay.

And as high as our hopes and thoughts for ourselves are, His thoughts are higher! (Isaiah 55:9)

Yes, God allowed me to flounder without the answers that I desperately wanted, so I would plant myself firmly in Him instead of in a title.

Truth be told, I’m still floundering. I laugh when required to fill in the blank marked “Occupation” on forms.

What am I, anyway?

I may not know what I am, but I do know whose I am.

I am HIS.

And that, my friend, is enough for any of us, isn’t it?