A Season of Expectation

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Image taken on my trip to Paris in the Christmas season of 2012-2013.

This is short article I wrote for our church’s newsletter this week, and I decided to use it as my blog post during a busy Thanksgiving weekend.  Blessings to you and your loved ones in this joyous season!  

This time last year, I stood in church alongside you all and sang Christmas carols.  In my heart was a secret and joyful expectation.  Travis and I were expecting a child.  It was still very early in the pregnancy, and we hadn’t shared the news yet.  We were waiting to tell our family at Christmas, the perfect time to rejoice in the coming of a precious child.  As I sang of  the silent, holy night when Christ was born and Mary’s honored role in the coming of redemption, I couldn’t help but feel a sense of closeness with Mary in my own expectation of a little one.

Christmas is a wonderful time of expectation.  As children, we grow up giddy with anticipation for stockings, presents, Christmas lights and goodies.  As adults, our joyful expectation often shifts to seeing the delight  on our children’s faces and spending precious time around the tree and table with loved ones.  Ultimately, that feeling of expectation is intended to draw our hearts to the Long Expected One, Jesus Christ.  We prepare for weeks to celebrate His birth and allow the anticipation of the holiday to build up, I imagine, in a microcosm of the expectant joy that burst forth from the angels as they sang “Glory to God!” the night Christ was born.

Expectation is a God-given feeling that is intended to draw us to Him.  Our feelings of expectation, however, are often misplaced.  It’s a sad reality that the season of Christmas can often be one of great depression .  Whether it be sinful envy and greed, the stress and busyness of holidays or fear, grief and loneliness that mar the delight of the season, often our expectations are disappointed.  Not only is this true at Christmas, but  throughout our lives, we put our hope in other people, our dreams, careers, health and even our things, and we are disappointed.  We can become bitter and jaded, unable to rejoice in the gifts of this season.

What Christ offers us at Christmas time (and any time!) is a hope and expectation that will not be disappointed.  With His birth, salvation has come.  His life, and ultimately His death and resurrection, give us a real expectation of forgiveness, reconciliation, freedom from sin and death, the guidance and power of the Spirit and the Word, and eternal joy.  When we put our expectation first firmly in Him, we are able to allow our hearts to fully embrace the joyful anticipation of the season.  We can take our struggle with envy, fear, grief or loneliness to the One who came to bring joy to the world, peace on earth and goodwill toward men. Then the lights, the gifts and the warm family moments can all be used to remind our expectant hearts of His love.

 

Faith Like A Child (Or a Puppy)

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Since we lost our first baby to miscarriage at six weeks in October 2014, I have been struggling with fear.  We were pregnant again fast, in November, and have since welcomed our beautiful Eva Millie who is nearly 4 months old.  She has been wonderfully healthy and happy, yet I was finding myself sometimes paralyzed by the fear that I could lose her.  That fear grew and after the birth of my child, I was often in tears. Instead of enjoying our precious moments together as a young family, I worried.  Every time I got sick, I would wonder if God would take me from my little family.  Every time my husband left the house, I thought I might never see him again.  Every time I put my baby to bed, I was tempted to hover over her to see if God had taken her from me in her sleep.

I didn’t want to feel this way.  I prayed and prayed for peace and my mind would come back to two realities.

  • Any of those things could very well happen.
  • God has not given me a spirit of fear, but of power, love and a sound mind.  1 Timothy 1:7

I searched my heart and Scripture looking for relief from my fears.  I listened to music and Psalms that were meant to refocus my heart on God.  I asked God to show me what was my hangup that kept me from peace.  You see, it wasn’t as easy as “Trust God.”  I needed healing and I didn’t even know it.

At our church, our pastor often says that if we are having sin and despair, the problem is that we either do not trust that God is powerful or we do not trust that He is good.  Or both.  I realized that I did trust that He was powerful.  I knew He could and would do whatever He wanted.  But I knew bad things happen.  I had seen it a thousand times in my life and others. And I had felt it most truly in the loss of our honeymoon baby we never had the chance to know.

One night, a few weeks ago, I was riding in the car with my husband and we were discussing my overwhelming fear.  We had both been praying that God would deliver me from it, and Travis had some profound insight.  He mentioned to me that I had never shared with him (or anyone) the actual physical experience of my miscarriage and the feelings I had gone through.  I had cried and grieved the loss of our child, but I had never put to words the traumatic experience of actually having that child leave my body.  I broke down sobbing and  finally shared the details with him of that terrible day.  I lost the baby during our second wedding reception (a month after our wedding).  I was wearing my wedding gown and meeting dozens of new friends and family.  It was a nightmare.

As I opened up this gaping, unhealed wound, I began to see healing come.   I realized that all of my fear for the lives of my family stemmed from this reality- I had lost a child.  God let that happen.

So now what?  How would I grow past my fear into power, love and a sound mind?  I knew I needed to learn again how to trust God’s love for me and for my family.   Since that day, God has slowly been delivering me from my fears and renewing my trust in Him.  Yet, the terrorism experienced globally this week has revived many of them, and I’m sure I’m not alone in that.

Today, the Lord brought to light an illustration from my life that showed me where my heart needs to be.  We have a (nearly) four month old baby daughter, Eva, and a (nearly) seven month old baby English bulldog, Winston. Both of them trust me completely.  They know I love them.  They never doubt it.

Now, sometimes, Eva has to wait to be fed.  She has to go to bed when she wants to dance.  She has to get in her carseat when she’d rather not.  She gets upset with me.  She cries.  She even screams at times. But I know what she needs.  I never forget about her.  I am always looking out for her.  And the beautiful thing is, when I go to her and hold her, feed her or free her from her carseat captivity, she is all smiles.  She is ready to accept my love and provision.  She doesn’t hold it against me that she had to wait or that she didn’t get what she believes she needed.  She doesn’t lie awake at night wondering if I will be there for her in the morning, or if I will take away everything she loves.  She trusts me.  I gave up my body for her.  I’d give up my life for her.  Somehow, she intuitively knows that.

Winston is pretty much the same.  I have to discipline him a lot. He gets squirted with a water bottle when he’s naughty.  He has to go in his crate when I go to work and to sleep at night.  He isn’t allowed to have Eva’s pacifier or Sophie giraffe, even though he wants them so badly.  But he never stops trusting me and even adoring me.  He’d follow me anywhere and delights just to sit with me for a little while.  He lives for it, really.

And all of that faith, from Eva and Winston, is placed in little ole, fallible me.  (Thank God I know He is taking care of them when I fail!)

That’s the kind of faith that I need to relieve me of my fears.  The faith of my child and my puppy dog.  The faith that knows I am loved and that my Father is able.  The faith that believes that even if it doesn’t feel good or even if it takes longer than I’d hoped, He will rush in and save me when I need Him.  He will be there.  He is fully invested in me.  After all, He gave His life for me.

The Lord is my light and my salvation;

whom shall I fear?

The Lord is the stronghold of my life;

of whom shall I be afraid?

–Psalm 27:1–

Why I Am Starting A Blog

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“Jen, you should write a blog.”

I can’t tell you how many times I have heard that in the last couple of years, and yet I have been reluctant.  I have tried to blog in the past, and I was never very consistent.  Why would I think that at this new stage of life, as a new wife and mother, I would do any better?

Yet, something keeps knocking at the door of my heart on this.  I am starting to believe it’s the Spirit of God.  So, I’m listening.  And I’m blogging.

What do I have to say that warrants friends and strangers reading my ramblings?  I’m not sure.  I know my goal is to be a light of the Gospel of grace.  Sometimes, themes and concepts from the Word of God come so alive in my mind, and I mentally compose articles and devotional material that I imagine might encourage some to grow in the grace of Christ.  But of course, it’s not going to encourage anyone if it stays in my head. So I’m blogging.

If you are blessed by the fruit of this little labor, I am so very thankful.  If you read content here that does not glorify Christ in some way or seems to encourage self-help and worldly ideas over the Word of God, I hope you’ll have the grace to challenge me.

I am a Christian.

I am a young wife, married just over a year.

I am a new mom.

I am a former “career” missionary.

I am a small church secretary.

I am an M. Div.

I was a globe-trotting Californian and am now living in a small town in Central Nebraska.

I am a woman- a very emotional, sometimes inconsistent, often weak woman.

Prayerfully, I am beginning this new venture.  I have the perspective and background that the Lord gave to me and I hope He allows my heart to connect with yours, in our similarities and differences.  I want to be genuine and open, not for the purpose of being known, but because I want to demonstrate the grace of Christ in real life.

Thanks for reading.