God Sees You, Hears You, and Is Working Right Now on Your Behalf

God Sees You, Hears You, and Is Working Right Now on Your Behalf

God Sees You

Maybe you’ve prayed and agonized.

Maybe you’ve surrendered your burdens to Jesus, only to take everything back into your own hands an hour later.

Maybe you’re human.

What’s certain is that God is still God.

While you and I wait, seeing no movement, doubting His goodness, He is still faithful.

He is always working.

Whether your answer comes in minutes or years, your cry is heard, and your God is pure love.

I don’t know your whole story. But Jesus does.

My story? My husband and I prayed for nine years in the sun-scorched land of Haiti for three orphans to finally legally be ours. And all we heard for nearly a decade was silence.

We didn’t know if the answer was no or wait.

In the aftermath of the Port-au-Prince earthquake, the door seemed to close tighter than ever. Then we were given one last, almost cruel breath of hope. Dixie, the missionary managing our adoptions was appealing to the U.S. Consulate for visas. We waited and waited for the verdict of this last chance.

Here’s where I was exactly six years ago today…

(Excerpt taken from In a Sun-Scorched Land, Chapter 18)

As darkness fell and the stresses hovered over me, I wanted my little ones close. Dora and Brendan were small enough to fit into the bed with me, and I placed mattresses and blankets on the floor around us for Justin, Jaden, and Daphne. We prayed together: Prayed for the hurting in Port-au-Prince, prayed for Daddy, now in the Dominican Republic, prayed for our children’s adoptions, and prayed for protection as we slept. Fans surrounded us, as always, wicking the sweat off our faces. Brendan and Dora, oblivious to the heat, attempted to snuggle close to me. My eyes were heavy and I longed for rest, but before I yielded to my exhaustion, I pleaded for grace. Tomorrow’s news could change everything. I knew I’d need every ounce of strength God could give me.

The next thing I knew, the bed was vibrating. I forced my eyes open to the early-morning light and heat and saw Daphne’s foot on the bed frame. “Daph,” I said, keeping my voice low so as not to wake the others, “Stop shaking the bed.”

“I’m not, Mom!” And she wasn’t. It must have been another aftershock.

I let my head fall back again, and butterflies filled my stomach.

This was the day. Dixie had been sure she’d know something by the end of it.

What do I today, Lord? I asked. The possibilities filled my mind. We could continue as normal: school, chores, emails, meals. Keep the atmosphere calm. Or . . . Should I dare fill the kids in? Raise their hopes? Pack up for a walk across the Red Sea?

As my bed continued shaking, I closed my eyes. It was unsettling, but I was too focused on other things to panic. Again, I asked, What do I do?

There was no voice. No promise. But the seed of faith, that little grain of hope, seemed to gasp in a breath. What if the news was good?

I let my mind follow hope’s trail. If we received word the visas were approved, we’d need to traverse one hundred miles today. If we had to leave, we’d need to pack, find a ride, close up the house, make provisions for Wilkenson. . . . The list was long.

Pack.

It was the riskiest but most logical thing to do. And with that word on my heart, I sat up. My adrenaline pumped as I made mental lists. Jarod and I had plans for a trip soon; we were to go to the States while friends again watched Justin, Jaden, and Daphne in Haiti. I’d tell the kids we were packing early. They could each fill suitcases with clothes and toys. If our visas were approved today, we’d be ready.

But in the flurry of the morning, I was convicted. Though I ran from one end of the hall to the other, darting in and out of the kitchen, the kids’ rooms, and living room, cleaning, organizing, and packing, my mind heard the Holy Spirit’s tug. This could be the biggest day of our lives. What if the sea did part? What if we got our long-awaited answer? Where would the glory go? What would the kids remember?

If my actions were in faith, I may as well go all the way. I stopped and leaned against the cement wall. Lord, really? Should I do this? Again, no words, no answer; but there was a peace. If God’s grace was enough to sustain my own disappointed hopes at the end of the day, it would be enough for them too.

“Kids.” I walked toward the girls’ room, where the volume was the loudest. Sure enough, toys and clothes were flying. Everyone was there. “I have something important to tell you.”

I sat on Daphne’s twin bed, facing the built-in wooden wardrobe housing the girls’ clothes. Brendan pulled his head out of the narrow drawer space at the bottom. The drawer had long ago broken, and now stray socks and toy trains made their home in the vacancy. “Everyone come here,” I said. Brendan and Dora fought for space on my lap. Justin pelted me with questions. Daphne somersaulted on the bed and Jaden flung a jump rope back and forth across the floor.

“I told you all we need pack for our trip, right?” They nodded. “Well, I need to tell you why we’re packing today.” They listened in awe as I shared the possibility. This was the stuff their dreams were made of. My eight year-old daughter, my eleven year-old sons had passed their entire lives thus far praying for this miracle. This miracle that wasn’t yet realized. I needed to anchor them to reality.

“We are going to pray, kids.” I looked deep into their sparkling eyes. “We’re going to ask the Lord for this miracle. And if He says yes, we’re going to give Him all the glory. We’ll look back and remember this day and know it was all God.” They nodded eagerly.

“But, I need you to listen carefully,” I said. “We just don’t know yet how it’s going to turn out. Even if we don’t get the visas to leave Haiti, we are going to know that God is good. He always knows what He’s doing, okay?” I was preaching to myself.

We bowed our heads and poured out our hearts to Jesus again. My prayers had been incessant for the past two days—it wasn’t like God didn’t know already what I wanted, but I knew we needed to come before Him together. My kids needed this for their faith. I longed for them to seek Him, to ask, to trust, and to give Him glory in the end.

The second we uttered our amens, their chatter began. They were eager to help, finally motivated to focus—completing any chore that might speed them to an answer. All I could do was hope and pray I hadn’t done the wrong thing. I couldn’t imagine the sorrow of that night should our visas be denied.

A ride. How to get to Port-au-Prince was my next problem. It was unthinkable to drive myself—especially considering my recent anxiety and stress levels. Besides, I couldn’t just leave our Land Cruiser in Port. A bus. I ran downstairs to find our tenants. They’d know about Haitian buses.

Five minutes later I was shaking my head in disbelief. What were the chances? My friends downstairs had just chartered a bus to transport supplies to Port that very night. If this was to be our exodus, I’d be traveling with friends, in a functional vehicle, with armed guards. Peace blanketed my needy soul. God saw me.

Back upstairs, I clicked my way into email. I knew I needed to keep abreast of supply-chain progress. I scanned through the newest messages. Dixie’s assistant had written. Is this about the passport photos? My eyes skimmed for a split second before I found myself trembling. And soon I was in that world I’d entered only a few times, that “other” world no one can enter at whim, the land of surreal, where something is so good or so bad, time is suspended. I’d been there the day I married my husband, the night thieves violated our security, the day Jarod slumped to the hospital floor as I labored to birth Dora. I blinked. I read and reread. My heart hammered.

We finally had our answer.

“Dixie just called from the Embassy. All visas have been issued. We are making arrangements for a flight that will leave tomorrow and go to Fort Lauderdale. I don’t have specific details yet. But if you want the kids to be leaving Haiti, you’ll need to get down here ASAP!”

I crumpled to the floor. How were there even words for this? For the answer to nine years of prayer? Where were the words of repentance for my cynicism? My doubt? My tantrums? How could I even do this moment justice? How should I share this miracle with my kids?

I knelt on the cool tile in quiet tears. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. I have cried out to you day after day. From this very room you have seen my heart, watched me cry, heard my prayers, known my fear. And now this. I covered my face. Thank you!

I could have worshiped indefinitely. But this holy moment had to be shared. I pushed myself up and called out, hardly recognizing my own voice in my delirious fog. “Kids, come here, come here!” They came helter-skelter from their various rooms, joining me in the long narrow hall. “We’re going!” They stared blankly. “We’re going to the U.S.!” I cried. “We have visas for you! God has answered our prayers!”

They screamed. They jumped up and down, mouths gaping open, eyes wild. I joined them. Everyone else in the household came running. John, who’d come to visit, Leann, and finally Wilkenson. In the middle of our elation, still in the hallway, I hugged the kids close. “Let’s thank God.”

My heart held a thousand words of awe and praise, but all that came out were tears and an endless stream of thank yous. It was enough.

Know this: God sees you too.

When the time is right, your years of waiting will come to an end. And on the other side of your answer, whether that be here on earth or in eternity, your waiting period will fade into dim memory. It will.

“This light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison.” (2 Corinthians 4:17)

“As for God, His way is perfect.” (Psalm 18:30)

Trust Him. Just wait and see.

Blessings,

Jennifer

Sunscorched book screen4

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

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

Sunscorched book screen4

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

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

I want to cheer you on as well.  

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Blessings,

Jennifer

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Place Where Dreams Die

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

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

It’s true.

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

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

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

Blessings,

Jennifer

TheStoryYou'llGet

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.

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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.

Choosing my special child

Choosing my special child

choosingmyspecialchild

I’ve blogged about my son Jaden before. Actually, I could probably write a pretty interesting story about him every day.

Oh yes… when we chose our dear boy, we had no idea how many scares we would have, nor how many scars he would someday have.

Thanks to his special needs and fearless nature, this child would eventually fall off a roof, drink gasoline, and endure a hundred (provoked) wasp stings. He would do his best to ensure I never received a “mother-of-the-year” award. (What kind of mom lets her child do those things?) Having him would mean trouble finding a babysitter, seizures in the middle of church, lots of stares in public, and far too many doctor visits.

Join me at Gillian Marchenko’s blog today for the rest of this article:

Choosing My Special Child

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)

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