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

Cure Your Thirsty Soul

Cure Your Thirsty Soul

 

How to Recognize & Cure Your Thirsty Soul

There have been more days like that than I care to admit.

Oh, I’d really prefer for you to think of me as having it all together. Waking before dawn all these past thirty-some years to reset my focus on Christ. Drinking in His Word and His presence. Changed. Refreshed.

But no, there have been too many days that my parched soul has responded first to something else.

Exhaustion. Laziness. An urgent deadline. To-do lists. Family demands.

And I push the thirst aside, sure I can quench it later. Or some other way. Through ministry or some quick prayers and a serving of yesterday’s manna. Dry leftovers.

But too many of those days, and life tends to take a funny turn. It’s so gradual that I barely feel it. Maybe a little at first, but then I grow used to a dry mouth, and the show must go on.

The thing is, as it all goes on, circumstances weigh heavier and mountains rise higher.

Irritations morph into serious offenses. Setbacks are equivalent to failures. Discouragement turns to despair.

Before long, joy and hope are missing entirely.

And they’re signs. Signs that our souls thirst. That they’ve gone too long without Living Water. That the Word that once saturated us has evaporated. That we must drink daily.

The biggest indicator of them all?

This pervasive thought… that if we could change our circumstances, we could finally be happy. 

(Read more at Club31Women.com)

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)

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

Blessings,

Jennifer

 

 

A BIG Announcement! {And Hope for your Weary Soul}

A BIG Announcement! {And Hope for your Weary Soul}

Hey dear friend!

You’re going a little bit crazy right now, aren’t you?

There are some really great things about school starting up again, right? But oh my, the energy it takes to make it happen!

And if I’m not mistaken, school is not the only thing going on in your life. Chances are, you’ve got a heavy load… quite a bit of stress, more responsibilities than you think you can handle, and a lot of questions for God about how it’s all going to work out.

That’s where I am too. And I want to pass on two things that are shining hope into my soul right now!

First, God’s Word. It is so relevant and powerful.

Here’s a taste of what God is feeding me these days:

I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. —John 15:5

He gives power to the faint, and to him who has no might he increases strength. Even youths shall faint and be weary, and young men shall fall exhausted; but they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint. —Isaiah 40:29-31

Secondly, I’m finding hope by looking back. As I remember the strength God supplied in the past, I know He’ll be faithful today and tomorrow.

Which leads me to a big announcement!

In a Sun-Scorched Land: A memoir of adoption, faith, and the moving of Haiti’s mountains is coming out this fall!

As in REALLY soon!

Sunscorched book cover

 

Writing and editing this memoir has been God’s gift to me—a way to constantly be reminded of his faithfulness through some insane experiences. (Corruption, break-ins, a shooting, a never-gonna-happen adoption process, child falling off the roof, earthquake… Remember some of these stories?!)

I’ll share the details soon. You’ll be the first to know when it’s available for pre-order. But for now, I just wanted to say that it’s coming. And that it’s a testimony to me that God is going to see me and you through anything the year ahead of us may hold.

The Lord will guide you always;

he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame.

You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail.

—Isaiah 58:11

Blessings,

Jennifer

 

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

When we don’t know how our story will end… He is here.

When we don’t know how our story will end… He is here.

Today is nearly perfect.

I am completely comfortable: The temperature is 79 degrees. I’m sitting by a screened-in pool, listening to the rustle of palm trees, while gentle breezes kiss my face.

Best of all, I am uninterrupted.

I’m not sure I could overstate the beauty of that concept right now.

I’ve escaped the joyful (and yes, sometimes less-than-joyful) chaos of my own home, and am house-sitting for church friends.

What that really means is that I begged for the privilege of sitting in their lovely, empty home in order to string several coherent thoughts together and type them into my memoir.

As I wrote the last 6,255 words for chapters ten and eleven (I knew I could get something done if I was given a day of quiet!),

I was blown away by the goodness of God through the days that could not possibly have been more opposite of this day.

small hands

There was the day Jarod and I had to leave Haiti without our three precious kids…

The coup against President Arisitide was gathering momentum, and missionaries were being evacuated. Despite our protests, our Haitian friends insisted our unadopted Haitian children would be safest without the white faces of their parents nearby. Aristide’s police force would go into hiding as the rebel army approached, and Americans would be a target without any local law enforcement.

As I wept in the car, just hours before our departure, a song came onto the radio. Daphne, my two-year-old musical prodigy began to sing along…

God is in control.
We believe that His children will not be forsaken;
God is in control.
We will choose to remember and never be shaken;
There is no power above or beside Him, we know
Oh, God is in control, oh God is in control.

And He was. His sovereign hand held each member of our family for the entire month that we were separated from each other.

Then there was the day Jaden had his first gran mal seizure…

It lasted far too long. Jarod had just driven off our yard. Our phones weren’t working. I carried our stiff, shaking boy over my seven-month-pregnant belly down the mountain, praying that the doctor who lived at the bottom would be home and know what to do.

By divine appointment, Dr. Mark was there. His Valium injections ended the seizure, and he provided meds to prevent more of the same.

There was also the day I gave birth to Dora…

Thirty-nine hours into the labor we’d been told the baby was in distress, we’d transferred to a second hospital in Port, I was prepped for a c-section, the doctors were ignoring me, and Jarod, due to a life-long recurring nightmare, was convinced he was going to lose me in surgery.

But then…

In the fortieth hour, the delays, the transfer, the complications, and the ineptitudes worked according to God’s orchestration.

Right as I was about to be wheeled into what we feared would be a traumatic surgery, God brought our daughter into the world completely naturally.

Today, as I type in peace that is nearly surreal, I remember what God did on the days I panicked… the days when everything in the world was wrong… when I stood to lose everything I held dear.

He was there.

And everything good is found in Him.

Today, I know how those stories end. I can write them, knowing they each have a happy ending.

But as I lived them, I didn’t know.

As I live today’s story, I don’t know its ending.

But God is here.

fathershand

You don’t know the end of your story today either.

But you are in His hands.

O Lord, you have searched me and known me!

You know when I sit down and when I rise up;
 you discern my thoughts from afar.

You search out my path and my lying down
 and are acquainted with all my ways.

Even before a word is on my tongue,
 behold, O Lord, you know it altogether.

You hem me in, behind and before,
 and lay your hand upon me.

Such knowledge is too wonderful for me;
 it is high; I cannot attain it.

Where shall I go from your Spirit?
 Or where shall I flee from your presence?

If I ascend to heaven, you are there!
 If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there!

If I take the wings of the morning
 and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea,

even there your hand shall lead me,
 and your right hand shall hold me.

If I say, “Surely the darkness shall cover me,
 and the light about me be night,”

even the darkness is not dark to you;
 the night is bright as the day,
 for darkness is as light with you.

For you formed my inward parts;
 you knitted me together in my mother’s womb.

I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
Wonderful are your works;
 my soul knows it very well.

My frame was not hidden from you,
when I was being made in secret,
 intricately woven in the depths of the earth.

Your eyes saw my unformed substance;
in your book were written, every one of them,
 the days that were formed for me,
 when as yet there was none of them.

How precious to me are your thoughts, O God!
 How vast is the sum of them!

If I would count them, they are more than the sand.
 I awake, and I am still with you…
Search me, O God, and know my heart!
 Try me and know my thoughts!

And see if there be any grievous way in me,
 and lead me in the way everlasting!

(From Psalm 139)