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 🙂

Trusting Him for Tomorrow’s Mountains {In a Sun-Scorched Land, Chapter 1}

Trusting Him for Tomorrow’s Mountains {In a Sun-Scorched Land, Chapter 1}

Trusting Him for Tomorrow's Mountains

This post is a part of a series based on my memoir, In a Sun-Scorched Land. Find your own copy here, and join me each week as I touch on another chapter, meditating on God’s faithfulness through life’s challenges.  

 

I closed my eyes and drifted off, blissfully unaware of an oft-spoken Creole proverb that would define the years ahead: Dèyè monn gen monnBeyond the mountains, more mountains. Had I known the shadows of those mountain pathsthe toll the steep hikes would take on our family, my faith, and my healthmy courage surely would have failed me. But by the grace of God, the God who can move mountains, I didn’t know, and I slept in peace. In a pool of sweat. But in peace nonetheless.

(p. 36, In a Sun-Scorched Land)

Had I known, my courage surely would have failed me.

True for us all, isn’t it?

And sometimes we’re caught up in wondering, What exactly does lie ahead? 

That first day Jarod and I spent in Haiti was too full, too action-packed for me to worry, but there’s been many a day since then that I’ve made time to not only wonder, but to fret:

  • How will we make ends meet?
  • How will this child ever get past this?
  • Will I ever feel normal again?
  • Will this fear ever leave?
  • What if God asks too much of me?

Our futures always stretch out in front of us, unknown, mysterious. To us.

But not to our Heavenly Father. He knows, and we don’t. That’s not an accident.

His sovereign, eternal mind can handle it all, and we can’t. He created us to have limits. Our bodies can only handle so much work, strain, and stress each day, and our minds are no different.

In His mercy, He allows us to see yesterdayto learn from its mistakes or successesas well as this moment right now.

The Creole proverb is right. Beyond mountains there are always more mountains. And as humans, in our weakness, we’re easily overwhelmed by their heights. Knowing the name of each mountain to come would surely immobilize us.

Yet when we look back, we can’t deny God’s presence, His strength, His grace. And the exhilaration we’ve known as we reached the peaks of life’s biggest challenges. I survived that, we remind ourselves. And it becomes a beautiful part of our testimony.

Would we have chosen it had we known ahead of time? Probably not. Our energy probably would have gone to praying against it, begging God for something elseanything else.

But it was there, that place of struggle designed especially for us, that we met God, that we saw Him work. We saw our lives transformed and learned that He is real, that He cares.

So why would tomorrow be any different?

Yes, there will be mountains. I won’t minimize that. Mountain climbing is painful, sometimes impossibly so. Sometimes God will move the mountains, and sometimes He won’t.

But there will always be help. Supernatural courage. Grace. Peace. Joy. God’s presence.

Whatever your future may hold, what you’re worried about today, I pray you’ll rest in Him. He held you together yesterday. And you’re in His hands right now. That’s never going to change.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
    and do not lean on your own understanding.
In all your ways acknowledge him,
    and he will make straight your paths.

(Proverbs 3:5-6)

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)

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000037_00026]

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

 

 

Christ came for this {How Christmas changes everything for the broken}

Christ came for this {How Christmas changes everything for the broken}

Where are you as choruses of “It’s the most wonderful time of the year” ring out again and again?

Where’s your heart? Doubled over in pain? A little cynical? Hardened or resistant?

I don’t blame you.

If you’re hurting, songs of snow and mistletoe won’t do much to ease the ache.

But if you’re broken, you’re in position to celebrate Christmas like never before.

This thing

This burden and pain…

This is why Christ came… and why He’s still with us.

More hope at The Better Mom

It's for this that Christ came

Praying the comfort of Emmanuel in your life today,

Jennifer

To renew your strength

To renew your strength

Isaiah40

Lifting our eyes to Christ: Monday Scripture

“To whom will you compare me? Or who is my equal?” says the Holy One.

Lift up your eyes and look to the heavens: Who created all these? He who brings out the starry host one by one and calls forth each of them by name. Because of his great power and mighty strength, not one of them is missing.

Why do you complain, Jacob? Why do you say, Israel, “My way is hidden from the Lord; my cause is disregarded by my God”?

Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom.

He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.

Isaiah 40:25-31

Is your load too heavy today? Are you wondering where you’ll find the strength for all that lies ahead?

There is strength for the weary and power for the weak.

Our hope is in the Lord.

Nothing is too much for Him.

Whether you’re soaring, running, or walking, He’s got you.

Be renewed in Him, friend.

We’re so grateful our ways aren’t hidden from you, Lord. You see, you care, you empower. You are mighty, wise, and good. We place our trust in you today, thankful for the strength you promise. Amen.

Praying your hearts are full of gratitude for our God above all else this week!

Blessings,

Jennifer

 

What God is up to when it hurts

What God is up to when it hurts

It happens to all of us who follow Him… we think we’re headed in a good direction, maybe even great.

We can almost taste the sweet fruit of our labors — this stuff we’re doing for God’s glory.

And then it’s taken. It’s gone. Or we’re removed. Or it all goes wrong.

And it hurts.

Is it the end? Did we misstep? Misunderstand?

What’s God up to?

Join me at The Better Mom today for encouragement When things just don’t make sense.

When things just don't make sense