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

 

 

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

 

 

What “God’s Not Dead” has to do with your next step of faith

What “God’s Not Dead” has to do with your next step of faith

GodsNotDead

What if you knew how big a difference you’re going to make…

… how many lives you’ll change if you take the next step of faith?

Would you press on if you knew you’d help draw an atheist to Christ?
Bring hope to a persecuted believer?
Lead a foreign exchange student to Jesus?

“God’s Not Dead,” in which these things happen is fiction, granted. In this movie a college freshman, a redneck, an aging Alzheimer’s patient, and a pastor (to name just a few) walk in everyday obedience to Christ.

And we get to see the puzzle pieces fit together.

We could dismiss it as a nice story or wishful thinking. After all, the beautiful portrayal of God weaving pain, struggle, and seemingly insignificant decisions together for good were in a script. But then again…

Maybe it serves as just the smallest example of our Heavenly Father’s sovereignty, his authorship.

Maybe it serves as reminder that our obedience, even in the little things, aren’t unseen or unused.

In the film, we see freshman Josh Wheaton risk humiliation and lose his girlfriend when he accepts the challenge of “proving” God’s existence. The philosophy debate with his atheist professor becomes all-encompassing.

There aren’t any pats on the back for his efforts; he just can’t bring himself to deny the Savior who died for him.

So he slogs on, clueless to the eternal impact he’ll make.

Pastor Dave laments the lack of meaningful ministry in his sleepy little congregation, yet we find that God has him on hold for a season…

… ready for the moment a persecuted Christian needs help, ready to share the gospel one more time as the philosophy professor slips into eternity in the middle of the street.

Mina and her brother Mark wonder why God would allow their mother to grow senile after a life of service and devotion to Christ.

But when Mark voices the irony of his “perfect” yet ungodly life compared to her lot, she offers wisdom and perspective with shocking clarity.

Someone seemingly “useless” is empowered to share life-changing truth.

Where are you in God’s story?

Do you wonder if there’s any sense to your smallness? Boredom?

Your fight against sin? The adversity that just won’t let up?

Are you eager to be used, but weary of plodding along?

God filled his Word with stories of weak, weary servants like you and me.

Through them we have hope that we too can be used. After all, it’s “not by might, nor by power, but by [His] Spirit” (Zechariah 4:6).

And today through a movie, I’m reminded that not only is God not dead, he’s still working.

His desire to include faithful plodders in his plans — and his ability to weave together an infinitely more complex and dazzling plot than any screenwriter — renew in me a willingness to take my next step by faith.

This side of heaven, you and I may not know how far our testimony reaches. All we can know for sure is the One who saved us and the call he’s placed in our hearts, on our lives.

We walk with the One who “…is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us” (Ephesians 3:20).

Let’s stay faithful, friend. We have no idea what the Lord is up to!

Blessings,

Jennifer

(*Did you see the movie? What did you think? 🙂 )

 

Not by might, nor by power: An answered prayer

Not by might, nor by power: An answered prayer

I “fought” on behalf of my special needs child for a few weeks.

I attended the meeting that was intended to resolve the issue.

And I walked away defeated.

I’d given it my all… presenting what I thought were strong arguments and valid points, yet I was presented with three unsatisfactory options:

  1. Yield.
  2. Muster up the energy to present my case to a superior again.
  3. Hire a lawyer.

It was up to me to make the next move.

So I procrastinated.

The next morning — my “deadline” — came and went. Jarod and I had been praying for weeks and I was still praying. But I was not seeing an answer, so how could I make the call they were waiting for?

And then the phone rang.

“God, I know it’s them. I have to answer, but I don’t know what to say!”

But He knew that.

They were calling to give me the answer; they’d concluded I was right.

It was done!

I puzzled over how things had changed. Later, I found out that others had stepped up to speak on my behalf.

God knew I was spent.

I’d felt it was all on my shoulders, but the truth was, it was in God’s hands all along.

He had it.

And once again when my strength and wisdom were gone, when I was weak and done, He showed me He could handle it.

bymySpirit

Lord Jesus, let this example of your faithfulness remind my friends and remind me to trust you for the next thing.

In over my head: choosing my focus

In over my head: choosing my focus

Some people have serious problems that we rarely hear about; others have less serious issues that are brought to our attention quite frequently.

I’ve spent time pondering this. (Yes. Really.)

I’ve wondered if the Eeyores among us really have more problems than the rest, or if it might have something to do with perspective.

My personal conclusion?

Some people really do have what seems to be an unfair amount of trials heaped upon them.

And I don’t understand that.

But…

Amatteroffocus

If you read my ebook (available for Kindle or Nook) last week, you know that panic and anxiety were a very unwelcome part of my life for a few years and that my focus during those years was crucial in my recovery.

Here I am now, on the other side of that journey, tempted to think I can let up a little with the focus thing.

But the truth is, the deep darkness of fear that threatened to suck the joy out of life has merely changed to a sea of new issues — distractions, stress, busyness, and sure, a few problems.

There is always something…

…something that wants to steal my focus away from God’s goodness, His life-giving Word, and the joy found in His presence.

God’s whisper about focus found it’s way to my heart once more as I finished a chapter of my memoir this weekend. This chapter fills you in on some of the details preceding my panic attacks:

We celebrated the first day of 2010 with a dive off the shore of Fort Liberty. Our friend and instructor, Nick, had discovered a steep underwater cliff laden with bright corals, sponges, seaweed, and tropical fish. It would be our first group dive; so far, Nick had tutored Jarod and me one-on-one, but now that we were becoming more advanced, he was confident the three of us could dive together.

We swam a couple hundred feet into the little bay before we began our descent. Careful to equalize our ears every few feet, we sank lower and lower into the blue. To our right was a jeweled wall — yellow, blue, and purple fish, pink and orange corals, and delicate sea crabs. Above, below, and in every other direction was the deep blue of the sea. Had I been watching our dive on an Imax screen, I would have leaned forward in awe.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I was awed, but as Nick and my husband pushed forward and downward, my heart and mind rebelled. Detachment, uneasiness, and anxiety pressed harder than the weight of the water. I did my best to shake it off — to focus on the breathtaking beauty around me, to avoid being the wimpy one in the trio, but it was no use. I kicked ahead and tapped Jarod. I pointed my thumb up, feeling like a fool, yet desperate to rise to the land I knew.

Back on top of choppy waves, I apologized for messing up the dive. Jarod encouraged me to try again — I would be fine. But, I knew something weird was going on. I swam back to shore and let the guys finish the dive on their own.

As they dove down once more, I shuddered. I would never go back in.

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In a matter of hours, my panic began in earnest. If you read Take Courage, you know the diving wasn’t the problem; it was just one more proverbial straw that helped break my back.

But the darkness that I entered paralleled perfectly with that Fort Liberty dive:

My battle was one of the mind. The underwater cliff of Fort Liberty became my reality; I was surrounded by deep, dark blue — enough to overwhelm and defeat me. Only this time, swimming ashore was not an option. There would be no escape, no chickening out of the test. I had been provided with the appropriate gear; the Spirit of God would be my breathing apparatus. This wasn’t a test to the death — though it felt like it. But it was a test of my focus. I could look at the treasure cove on the one side — mining the truth and beauty of God’s Word, or I could feed my fear with the endless blue on every other side.

Today, I am still tempted to stare into the blue. Like I said, it’s not about fear and panic right now… it’s just about the negative. It’s so easy to be Eeyore. But it’s not harmless and certainly not cute — it’s wrong and deadly.

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But I’m reminded…

whatever the depth of all that blue around me, however trivial or heavy it may be,

there is treasure to be found off to the right.

It imparts joy.

It restores the soul.

It renews the mind.

And its beauty is best beheld by those in over their heads.

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!)