My new ebook (free PDF this week!) — Take Courage: Choosing faith on my journey of fear

My new ebook (free PDF this week!) — Take Courage: Choosing faith on my journey of fear

Take-CourageLR

Take Courage: Choosing faith on my journey of fear is a concise, two-part ebook offering hope to those, who like me, have found themselves in the grip of anxiety, adrenal fatigue, and trauma-related issues.

In the first section I share glimpses of eight drama-filled years in Haiti preceding my own personal crisis and in the second I offer insights for making spiritual, mental, and physical choices of courage.

If you are a jenniferebenhack.com blog subscriber, you’ve heard bits and pieces of my story. Download the ebook for the bigger picture!

Find Take Courage: Choosing faith on my journey of fear for your Kindle at amazon.com for $2.99

Or

Sign up for my newsletter and receive the PDF version of Take Courage for free this week!

Send an email to subscribetojenniferebenhack@gmail.com and you will receive the link to download your PDF copy of the ebook!

*If you have not yet subscribed to receive regular blog updates via email, remember to click the “Subscribe” link to the right to do so!

(…But, remember to send me an email at subscribetojenniferebenhack@gmail.com to receive your free PDF!)

My new ebook (free PDF this week!) — Take Courage: Choosing faith on my journey of fear

My new ebook (free PDF this week!) — Take Courage: Choosing faith on my journey of fear

Take-CourageLR

Take Courage: Choosing faith on my journey of fear is a concise, two-part ebook offering hope to those, who like me, have found themselves in the grip of anxiety, adrenal fatigue, and trauma-related issues.

In the first section I share glimpses of eight drama-filled years in Haiti preceding my own personal crisis and in the second I offer insights for making spiritual, mental, and physical choices of courage.

If you are a jenniferebenhack.com blog subscriber, you’ve heard bits and pieces of my story. Download the ebook for the bigger picture!

Find Take Courage: Choosing faith on my journey of fear for your Kindle at amazon.com for $2.99

Or

Sign up for my newsletter and receive the PDF version of Take Courage for free this week!

Send an email to subscribetojenniferebenhack@gmail.com and you will receive the link to download your PDF copy of the ebook!

*If you have not yet subscribed to receive regular blog updates via email, remember to click the “Subscribe” link to the right to do so!

(…But, remember to send me an email at subscribetojenniferebenhack@gmail.com to receive your free PDF!)

A dare to leave your comfort zone

A dare to leave your comfort zone

In Your Beautiful Purpose, Susie Larson writes:

“If we live in the comfort zone and make accommodations for self-preservation, that zone begins to shrink. Even what we know begins to diminish” (126).

A couple years ago, as I battled intense panic attacks, most of the world was outside my comfort zone.

  • Driving a car was out of the question.
  • Shopping prompted feelings of derealization.
  • Going to church produced anxiety and claustrophobia.
  • Sitting in a restaurant with my husband made me uneasy.
  • Venturing anywhere completely new stirred even greater panic.

I really just wanted to stay at home.

At home, I was safe. I could distract myself with kids and responsibilities, or I could escape everything with a nap or a book.

But as I sought help for the anxiety surrounding my yet-to-be-diagnosed adrenal fatigue, I learned about the dangers of living within my comfort zone. It would only make things worse. My world would grow smaller, and I would grow increasingly fearful. Just as Susie Larson says, when we “make accommodations for self-preservation, that zone begins to shrink. Even what we know begins to diminish” (126).

So I reluctantly forced myself to keep going out, to push past the discomfort and face all that was unsettling. By God’s grace I didn’t go crazy, I avoided developing more phobias, and I grew from the lessons and interactions God had for me “out there.”

This concept applies in so many areas of our lives, but most importantly, on a spiritual level:
ForHisGlory

“Consider carefully what you hear,” Jesus continued. “With the measure you use, it will be measured to you — and even more. Whoever has will be given more; whoever does not have, even what they have will be taken from them.” (Mark 4:24-25)

We are made for growth, for transformation, and for others. If we make life about us and about our comforts, we will tragically miss our whole purpose for living on the earth today. (Larson 127)

Jesus said:

You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled by men.

You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house.

In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven. (Matthew 5:13-16)

Have you become unsalty? Are you living for comfort rather than God’s passions?

There is a world out there in need of salt and light.

We tend to hide ourselves away from it or else blend into it.

But, we’re called to leave those comfort zones and be salty and luminous again.

Is God calling you to do something today?

Speak up?

Share your testimony?

Push past panic?

Make a commitment?

Make a confession?

Go where He’s leading you?

There is a lot of disturbing stuff going on in our broken world. And as Kay Warren says in Dangerous Surrender, “If we’re not disturbed by the world in which we live, we will be consumed with the trivial, the insignificant, and the temporary. We will spend our days pursuing all the wrong goals, living by the wrong measurement of success, evaluating our legacy by the wrong standard” (21).

If you’re reading this, I’m guessing you’ve been “disturbed” on some level.

But don’t just shake your head.

Take that step out of your comfort zone.

Do the next thing God is calling you to do.

Maybe it’s:

  • memorizing Scripture with your kids.
  • standing up for the abused and persecuted.
  • becoming a prayer warrior.

You probably already know what it is. If not, ask God; He knows.

I was challenged to pray this prayer this week. Will you dare to pray it too?

I want every minute of my life to count for You. Awaken me with fresh passion, fiery faith, and a renewed resolve to follow hard after You… May Your power be evident in and all around me. May Your love flow freely through me. Keep me from evil and from harm, and help me to live a life full of faith, rich in holiness. Increase my capacity to live and walk by the Spirit. Awaken Your passions within me that I might be quick to obey You. My life is in Your hands. I trust You and will follow You, Lord. Change the world through me. Amen. (Your Beautiful Purpose 133)

**How is God stretching you today?

My Brokenness: A Billboard of His Grace — Part 3

Healing

Ebenhack Family-126 edited

It’s been exactly three years since the day Haiti was turned upside down.

I wish that I could look at Port-au-Prince today and see healing. Millions of dollars were sent to mend and rebuild the broken city, and yet it is ravaged still.

Has there been healing that we cannot see? Healing of souls and minds? I pray so. I know from experience that it does not happen overnight. But I know from experience, that by God’s grace, it can happen.

While there are always fresh sorrows, and while there are seasons of unbearable grief or misery, there is still always the goodness of our God. “The steadfast love of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting…” (Psalm 103:17).

Over the past three years, the Lord poured out His steadfast love on this broken vessel through various means, and brought healing through each of them. Healing did not come in a sudden, miraculous form, as did our exodus from Haiti. It came slowly and painfully.

But healing came…

… through listeners: my husband, my mom, my dear friends.

… through professional Christian counseling: working through The PTSD Workbook: Simple, Effective Techniques for Overcoming Traumatic Stress Symptoms by Mary Beth Williams, and Crisis & Trauma Counseling by Dr. N. Norman Wright.

… through books: The Hidden Link Between Stress and Adrenaline  by Dr. Archbald Hart, Who Switched Off My Brain? by Dr. Caroline Leaf, Traveling Light: Releasing the Burdens You Were Never Intended to Bear by Max Lucado, One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp.

… through giving thanks — lying in bed, fighting panic, listing things both large and small for which I was grateful.

… through the renewing and retraining of my mind through Scripture and intentional new patterns of thought. (Romans 12:1-2, Philippians 4:6-7, Romans 8:6, Isaiah 26:3, principles found in Who Switched Off My Brain? Controlling Toxic Thoughts and Emotions by Dr. Caroline Leaf, Beth Moore’s Esther Bible Study)

… through both fitness and relaxation exercise.

… through the profound help of a holistic doctor who diagnosed my condition as adrenal fatigue.

… and finally, through time. Broken bones aren’t mended overnight. Nor can we recover from traumas overnight — even when we are walking in faith. (How much deeper even our faith can grow, when given time.)

Amongst my dear friends around the world, I know there are many who long for healing or resolution. So many who are asking if God still sees… still cares. I have spent the better part of the last dozen years asking the same thing. And because of the painful journey, I can answer with absolute certainty that He does.

Today, I remember the horrific suffering experienced by a nation already too accustomed to despair. I also feel the sadness of those in different, but equally dark circumstances.

Yet at the same time, I give glory to my God, who is sovereign, whose loving-kindness endures forever, and who promises to one day wipe every tear from the eyes of those who are His own.

Psalm 103

Bless the Lord, O my soul,
and all that is within me,
bless his holy name!
Bless the Lord, O my soul,
and forget not all his benefits,
who forgives all your iniquity,
who heals all your diseases,
who redeems your life from the pit,
who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy,
who satisfies you with good
so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.

The Lord works righteousness
and justice for all who are oppressed.
He made known his ways to Moses,
his acts to the people of Israel.
The Lord is merciful and gracious,
slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.
He will not always chide,
nor will he keep his anger forever.
10 He does not deal with us according to our sins,
nor repay us according to our iniquities.
11 For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him;
12 as far as the east is from the west,
so far does he remove our transgressions from us.
13 As a father shows compassion to his children,
so the Lord shows compassion to those who fear him.
14 For he knows our frame;[a]
he remembers that we are dust.

15 As for man, his days are like grass;
he flourishes like a flower of the field;
16 for the wind passes over it, and it is gone,
and its place knows it no more.
17 But the steadfast love of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting on those who fear him,
and his righteousness to children’s children,
18 to those who keep his covenant
and remember to do his commandments.
19 The Lord has established his throne in the heavens,
and his kingdom rules over all.

20 Bless the Lord, O you his angels,
you mighty ones who do his word,
obeying the voice of his word!
21 Bless the Lord, all his hosts,
his ministers, who do his will!
22 Bless the Lord, all his works,
in all places of his dominion.
Bless the Lord, O my soul!

Road to Limbe

My Brokenness: A Billboard of His Grace – Part 2

Part 2

My sense of independence, strength, and ability had been completely rattled.

And then the ground of Haiti shook.

I felt the Port-au-Prince earthquake and aftershocks from over one hundred miles away.

My trauma was nothing compared to those in the epicenter. Why were they dealing with life and death, and I was dealing only with fear?

And yet… it was one more thing.

One more thing on top of past events and on top of my recent anxiety.

One more thing rendering me helpless — completely dependent on God’s grace.

And the shaking of the earth that left me — and Haiti — even more fragile…

…was the parting of the seas.

Just like the Hebrews, I trembled in both fear and awe as miracles happened

in the face of disaster:

Our three Haitian children and hundreds of other orphans,

held “captive” by years of paperwork, were

released

by the Haitian government to their American families.

That’s grace.

In the face of all that’s horrible, unfathomable, and terrifying, there was beauty.

That’s our God.

It was the “fullness of time” for our family. I brought the kids to the U.S., while Jarod worked to bring relief to Port-au-Prince.

I had just recently been reduced to nothing. And yet God enabled me to travel through Haiti under conditions I would never have agreed to on my best day. Literally every breath was a prayer. And every prayer was answered. God was there, correcting every anxious thought, showing me His grace.

He was present in every dramatic moment.

And then?

The drama finally ended.

But the anxiety did not.

For over two years I looked normal. Most everyone believed I was fine. I kept expecting my fears to subside, but they only grew.

I refused to drive. I managed to manipulate schedules and plans to avoid being the driver.

I hated confining spaces. In church or public places I made sure I had an exit strategy or sat by a window.

I hated being alone. I was afraid I’d go completely crazy if there wasn’t someone else around to interact with.

I was certain we were on the verge of another catastrophe – I kept waiting for “the other shoe to drop.”

I hated the way my heart thudded, even hurt, as I drifted off to sleep and as I awoke. I hated the wave of panic that hit me every time I braved Wal-mart or a restaurant.

But the derealization was the worst. The sense of detachment — of feeling dissociated from my own self and my own life completely terrified me. And that caused my heart to pound and hurt and a new wave of panic to wash over me.

I slept to temporarily escape from fear, from the weird dream-quality my life had taken on.

I took vitamins to build myself back up from the stress of the past years.

More significantly, I reached for my Bible again, again, again, and again.

I could perform Martha’s duties no more.

I sat, like Mary, hungry for hope, for encouragement, for truth.

I questioned.

I knew my pain was so small compared to the millions still suffering in Haiti. I knew millions more suffered around the globe. I hated sin and evil and their consequences. I found myself wishing along with Job that I had never been born. After all, “…man is born for trouble, as sparks fly upward” (Job 5:7). If I was miserable in the comforts of the U.S., how did anyone in the face of true suffering find the hope to continue on?

But I haven’t been the first one to ask those questions.

“… the Lord has compassion on those who fear Him. For He Himself knows our frame; He is mindful that we are but dust.” (Ps. 103:13-14)

“I will not die, but live, and tell of the works of the Lord.” (Ps. 118:17)

“God is our refuge and strength, A very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth should change and though the mountains slip into the heart of the sea; Though its waters roar and foam, Though the mountains quake at its swelling pride.” (Ps. 46:1-3)

On a plane one day — nearly overcome by panic, I found Psalm 34.

I prayed that it would eventually be my testimony.

1 I will bless the Lord at all times;
His praise shall continually be in my mouth.
My soul will make its boast in the Lord;
The humble will hear it and rejoice.
O magnify the Lord with me,
And let us exalt His name together.

I sought the Lord, and He answered me,
And delivered me from all my fears.
They looked to Him and were radiant,
And their faces will never be ashamed.
This poor man cried, and the Lord heard him
And saved him out of all his troubles.
The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear Him,
And rescues them.

15 The eyes of the Lord are toward the righteous
And His ears are open to their cry.

17 The righteous cry, and the Lord hears
And delivers them out of all their troubles.
18 The Lord is near to the brokenhearted
And saves those who are crushed in spirit.

My Brokenness: A Billboard of His Grace — Part 1

Part 1

Part of me would love for the billboard of my life to dazzle you. There would be a beautiful (airbrushed) picture of me in the background and then tasteful, humble summaries of my wisdom, endurance, brilliance, strength, talent, and godliness.

Such a billboard of me, however, would only disgust you, and rightly so.

The truth is, I am nothing, absolutely nothing, except by the grace — the undeserved favorof God.

If my life is a billboard, it is a billboard of God’s grace. He is dazzling.

—–

But he said to me,

 

“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”

 

Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses,

 

so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.

 

(2 Corinthians 12:9)

—–

I was a pretty strong person. A pretty good Type A missionary… by God’s grace.

I lived in Haiti for eight years, in a constant state of smelly, humid drippy-ness, where there is no air-conditioning, electricity is sporadic, and food has to be bought in the open market and made by scratch.

I became the mother of five children in three years:

One child talked non-stop.

One had special needs and asked for water every five minutes, needed help going to the bathroom every fifteen minutes, and wanted a toy re-tied to a rope every three minutes.

One enjoyed emptying lotion and soap bottles.

One dipped her lollipops in the dog’s parasite-ridden water bowl.

And the last one wailed whenever I set him down.

I home schooled for a while.

I hosted interns, groups, and American, Canadian, Venezuelan, Dominican, and Haitian friends anywhere from days to years.

I was involved in children’s ministries and a Bible study with deportee families. I did lots of extra things that took on lives of their own.

Due to an adoption process that stretched into its ninth year, “furloughs” or extended breaks in the U.S. were not an option.

God called me to most of those ministries and circumstances, and He gave me the strength and grace I needed to serve.

When I became too “Martha-like” and crossed the line from being called (doing what God wanted me to do in His strength) to being driven (doing what I wanted to do in my own strength), life was even more difficult.

Too often I sacrificed the well-being of myself and my family for the sake of my Type A pride.

Through the good and the bad though, God poured out His grace. The truth was, I couldn’t have done any of it, were it not for the power of His Spirit. He enabled me to be strong.

—–

Until He allowed me to become weak.

His grace remained, but the way He manifested it changed completely.

It was time for me to hang on His every word beside Martha’s sister, Mary.

—–

January 1st, 2010, after an ordinary phone conversation with my family in the U.S., I felt a bizarre feeling flood my entire body.

Panic.

I sank onto my bed.

I had been acquainted with heart-pounding, stomach-knotting fear of real danger, but this was my first encounter with irrational fear.

I had no choice but to let the feelings wash over me. After several minutes I was left in a cold sweat, breathless, and weak.

I begged God to lift the lingering feeling of doom, but minutes and hours turned into days, and the heaviness remained, the “attacks” continued. I felt like I’d been abducted and placed in a strange new world, where something horrible was lurking behind every corner.

Despite my prayers, my heart continued to pound. My anxiety began to debilitate me. Driving scared me. Being home without my husband worried me. Music in a minor key filled me with dread. Nighttime overwhelmed me.

I was helpless. All I could do was sit at the feet of Jesus.

His words were life.

He was the Solid Rock.

Where can I go from Your Spirit?
Or where can I flee from Your presence?

If I ascend into heaven, You are there;
If I make my bed in hell, behold, 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 fall on me,”
Even the night shall be light about me;

Indeed, the darkness shall not hide from You,
But the night shines as the day;
The darkness and the light are both alike to You.

(Psalm 139: 7-12)

I didn’t know that my darkness would grow heavier before it lifted.

I didn’t know that it would last for over two years.

I didn’t know that the Port-au-Prince earthquake was only days away.

I didn’t know that everything in my life was about to change.

—–

But I did know that His right hand was holding me.

I did know that darkness and light were both alike to God.

I would learn that His grace was sufficient.

Your Grace Still Amazes Me:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sNClAJO2tnQ

On Being “Type A”

“There are NOT enough hours in the day!” — Me, everyday.

Can you relate? Have you ever thought of yourself as a “Type A” person? I never did. But then I took a revealing quiz in the book, The Hidden Link Between Adrenaline and Stress by Dr. Archibald Hart. (Sounds thrilling, I know.)

Well, it turned out that I was Type A and the use of that little phrase was part of the proof.

I always thought Type A people were the very best kind of people. They were the ones I looked up to and strove to emulate. They were busy saving the world. But Dr. Hart’s perception was not so complimentary. He brought up the point that Martha in the Bible was a classic example of Type A. Jesus wasn’t.

I have learned the hard way — not just from Dr. Hart’s book — that living on adrenaline has some serious consequences. My payback — Adrenal Fatigue, resulting in:

– Panic attacks

– Anxiety

– Derealization  (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Derealization)

Now, granted, I spent eight years in Haiti, and some fairly traumatic events came into play leading up to my adrenal fatigue, but when I stop and look back at my tendencies, I can see that my choices and my perspectives as a Type A person kind of propelled me off the cliff. The cliffs of insanity? (Thanks, Princess Bride) Yes, that’s what it felt like. It was terrifying.

My advice to you (and me) today? Read the story of Jesus, Mary, and Martha beginning in Luke 10:38. Don’t be like Martha and me.

Part 1 of this missionary’s tale coming soon…