Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Hope in the storm #4: Gift of Suffering

If you've been following along, you know I've been posting a series to prep our hearts for suffering in our own lives (Post 1), what to do with our questions in grief (Post 2), and how to be a friend to those suffering (Post 3). Today, I'm memorizing promises in suffering. Not to spout them off as fact to my hurting friends, but to stay my mind on God's promises, so when my day comes, they will be seeds planted that I pray will bear fruit in my heart.
this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. -2 Corinthians 4:17-18
Paul says this suffering is preparing us and in it we should look heavenward to understand it. Numerous times scripture even says to rejoice in it. Let’s look at a few truths we can cling to for truth and hope as we endure suffering and entrust ourselves to God in it. Through suffering…

We Know Jesus More:
“rejoice insofar as you share Christ's sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed” - 1 Peter 4:13
Jesus- We know Him better when we suffer because His sufferings and His victory over death become more real. When people abandon/reject me, His rejection comes alive when I read it. When I have pain, I “get” His pain a little deeper. When we face death or mourn great loss, His death and resurrection are way more amazing. Jesus beat death. His death means we who are His die once, but don’t suffer forever. That is comfort that no one but Him offers and is cause for rejoicing.

We Grow and Mature:
“we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” Romans 5: 3-5
We can rejoice in suffering because we trust that this is one way God chooses to grow us. We grow in endurance as we press onto him day after day. That endurance changes our character and will eventually bring real and lasting hope in Jesus. Hope is a precious life-giving gift and it is learned through suffering.

Heaven/New Earth Will Be Far Sweeter to Us:
God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” -Revelation 21:3-4
We can rejoice in suffering because we know joy is coming. The hurt and pain we feel now will be eliminated forever. And we will know better just what a gift that is because we know how awful pain, mourning, death, and sorrow are.

Suffering is so very hard, but God does not leave us alone in it. And more than that, He promises these sweet fruits from it in us, too. Let’s memorize these and meditate on them so when our day of suffering comes, we know the truth to cling to.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Hope in the storm #3: A Friend in Suffering

I've been sharing about suffering. In Post 1 I shared resources and in Post 2 I looked at the questions Jesus asked in the midst of His own suffering. Today, I want to talk about being a friend to the suffering.
"God, who comforts the downcast, comforted us by the coming of Titus,and not only by his coming but also by the comfort with which he was comforted by you, as he told us of your longing, your mourning, your zeal for me, so that I rejoiced still more."-2 Corinthians 7:6-7
This verse means so much to me. In times of deepest despair, I have cried out to God and He has answered me through His Word. This verse of comfort is one tangible way. God shows us His nearness in our suffering through His people. Isn't that just like God?  Sometimes He seems far in those dark days, but His Word says He is comforting us then. He doesn't leave us alone in our suffering. He comforts us by sending others to mourn with us, cry with us, hope for us when we feel hopeless, share life giving truth, and pray with us.

Are you a friend to the suffering? It doesn't take a seminary degree or even a wealth of experience. I wonder if in our fear of saying the wrong thing, we shy away from people who are desperate for evidence that God is real and He cares. Let's be people who go towards each other in our deepest pain to show love.

- A short note (even a facebook message or text) to say you are praying and they are not alone. You can even share Scripture that is meaningful to you or brought you comfort in suffering.
- Call. Even when you don't know what to say and it's hard, it speaks love that you are willing to pursue. Or going.
- Go sit with your friend. Hug them, pray with them, cry with them, whatever emotion comes may not heal them, but will certainly let them know they are not alone as they hurt/grieve/suffer.
-Maybe you can find a way to serve them that eases a burden (watching kids so they can rest, cleaning the house, bringing a meal, picking up groceries for them from the store, maybe even paying a bill to help ease financial burden.)

God alone brings comfort and in His Word we hope. And He speaks His deep love to us through His Word and through His people. Let's be messengers of His Word who usher in hope to those He places in our lives.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Sharing Jesus with a One Year Old

"Jesus said, Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven." And he laid his hands on them and went away."- Matthew 19:14-15
Though days with my five year old are filled with conversation that often lead to things of God, days with my one year old are much simpler. And I'm enjoying the opportunity to pour Christ into him now in simple ways that I pray will one day produce the fruit of the gospel down the road as he grows. 
My sweet one year old enjoying God's creation
There are some obvious things we do: praying for him each evening and together at meals, reading baby's first bible, pointing out things God made (the trees, birds, our toes, grass, big brother), sitting together at church in corporate worship before the sermon/kids classes, etc. 
But there are a few intentional things I do in the "everyday" of life to prepare the way for Jesus conversations to be normal and daily in our home down the road:

- We sing "Sunday school" songs that share the gospel as we do chores, eat meals, go for walks, etc. 
Each morning at breakfast, my oldest and I take our "picks" and almost always sing "Lord I Lift Your Name on High", which is fast and fun (with hand motions for him) and rich in the gospel and "Love the Lord Your God" (Lincoln Brewster version). This is not really a "kid" song, but shares our heart/call for our lives and our kids lives- to love God with ALL our heart, soul, mind, and strength, and love our neighbor as ourselves.
Everyday life is a fun gift from our loving God:)
- We read a simple, homemade "Jesus Loves You the Most" Picture Book- Noel Piper wrote a great book called Most of all, Jesus Loves You. We adapted that to a picture flip book of family members Caleb knows. We point to pictures of family and say "Mommy loves you. Gigi loves you lots and lots. Aunt Mary loves you (tickle while reading)..." The last page we say "God loves you the most." (As he gets older, we look for opportunities to dig in deeper and begin to share how God made us and loves us, but we do bad things and don't love Him back, so He sent His son Jesus to come and live a perfect life and then die and then beat death and save His own from forever death because of our sin.) Having this simple "God loves you the Most" or "Jesus loves you the Most" lays down an easy place to start those conversations later.
* Here's a website I recently learned how to make a ziploc picture book from (hers was for teaching the body using their own body pictures!). It's called I can teach my child and is filled with neat homemade crafts.

- "Praise the Lord for..." You know the milestone when little kids start lifting up their hands? And immediately you think "Touchdown" or "so big"! We started saying "Praise the Lord for..." and following with something we love about Him or His good gifts. Our five year old does it with us. Whenever my one year old's hands are up, we say "Praise the Lord for the sun." or "Praise the Lord Mommy feels better."
I'm striving to teach him to build his life on the Rock- Jesus- His Word
At risk of stating the obvious, the best way to teach any child about Jesus is by loving Him ourselves. As we are in awe of God and excited to live out His Word, the conversations come naturally. And it's fun to look for these "everyday" activities and milestones and see God so clearly there to be able to share with our kids. I'm reminded daily that there really are lots of ways to pour Christ's love into our kids even before they can speak. Praying you're encouraged to press on and pour into these littlest ones!

Friday, May 20, 2011

Hope in The Storm #2:Questions in Grief

 Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” that is, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”Matthew 27:46
There are some sufferings that are just impossible to stand up under. Some losses go beyond grief and into despair. I have felt very few of these, but when they came, I could barely breathe, let alone preach the gospel to others watching. But God was faithful to draw me to Himself in it and show Himself to be so real as I clung to His promises.

Today, I find myself drawn to others who suffer, many suffering in far worse way than I'll ever know. I pray for them as they grieve, or endure hard seasons, and while they are dying. I pray that they will know our God of Comfort deeper because they are experiencing it. I pray that He will be real and near to them in it. I pray that He'll strengthen them in His strength to endure and to trust in Him through their suffering and enjoy the rewards in heaven later through it.

Some people blow me away with how God uses them to comfort others when they are the ones suffering! But I want to encourage those of you reading this that not everyone says great spiritual truths when suffering. Please don't mistake this for lack of faith. Sometimes it may turn selfish, but often grief floods out sin and hurt that is already in our hearts. In the gospels, Jesus lovingly poured out Himself on His own as they grieved, even when they seemed to lack faith in Him (John 11). We should do the same.

I have been judged in my own grief. And it hurt. Yet so many people have been a great comfort as they prayed for me and shared gentle truth from their own experience living out His Word in suffering to encourage me in it. When we judge, we miss a great opportunity to weep with those who weep (Romans 12:15) and be God's physical comfort (2 Corinthians 7:6) to our hurting brothers and sisters. Please consider praying for them or even with them instead (2 Corinthians 1:11).

The Questions: Jesus is our example of how to cry out in despair and yet cling solidly to God (Matthew 27:46). He cried out asking "why" and yet He calls God MY God. God is very much still His God. In His agony, He still prayed and His prayer is still deeply personal to His God. Interestingly, that prayer is a quote of Psalm 22. So even in crying out, Jesus is quoting God's Word and trusting His promises (that Psalm also says "For he has not despised or abhorred the affliction of the afflicted, and he has not hidden his face from him, but has heard, when he cried to him.") 

I shared some good resources we can turn to in the midst of grief/suffering in my last post. When we grieve, it's ok to cry out and ask questions! But let's seek Him now in His Word and memorize it, so when in our pain we cry out, it will be to our God and trusting in His Word as truth, just as Jesus did.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

9 Years in Pictures...

‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.”- Mark 10:7-9
God is so good and loving. I'm so thankful He knows what is best for us and He gives it. Verse 9 says God himself joined Andy and I together. Nine years ago today, we stood in front of our family and friends and vowed to live out that gift humbly, in His power, as He called.

Some gifts of God become more precious as the years go by.  Someday I hope to share our full marriage story with you. It's not at all perfect. (In fact, we almost didn't make it this far.) Yet the flaws are really an incredible picture of God's goodness and loving hand. He is so very good.

Today, in honor of 9 years of God's love, forgiveness, lavishness, restoration, grace, and beauty poured out in us, here is a small glimpse of 9 years of Andy and Ginny- in pictures...
Just Married- May18th, 2002

1 Year- (my hair and andy's sweater make me laugh)

Year 2- God took us to Haiti! (But this is us in Texas visiting family)

year 3- We're parents! A precious gift and new ministry from God.

Year 4- Healing, growing, praying about full time ministry
Year 5- First step in obeying God's call to "go"-in the Sahara desert!
Year 5- Sweet and unexpected God gift. Me and my love in Paris:)

Year 6- At home in NJ.

Year 7- Meeting our ministry team in Colorado (I'm pregnant!)

Year 8- Family of 4! Fully funded ministry! Amazing God:)

9 years married to my best friend and expecting Baby #3. Blessed.

I cannot believe it's been nine years! I'm thankful for each step in each year. God has drawn us to Himself and taught us how to love. We've experienced forgiveness and healing that have transformed our hearts. He's given us deeper intimacy with Him and an amazing vision of Him, for our family, and His world.

Thanking God today for Andy Jacobson, my best friend. He is our provider. He loves our boys and spends so much time pouring into them. He seeks God and prays for/with me. He is laid back. He's goofy. He's very handy at repairs. He tells the longest stories you will ever hear and sometimes forgets his point halfway through:) We still stay up until 2 am talking once a week. I'm exhausted the next morning, but yet, I love how easy, fun, and deep our relationship is. We are one. And it's beautiful.

 He's the sweetest and greatest gift God has ever blessed me with outside of Himself. So.very. thankful.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Hope in The Storm: Suffering/Grief Resources

I share with you last week a prayer request for our family. It leads to a good thought:Where do you go for comfort when someone you love is sick or dies? What about seasons of suffering that go on and on and the end seems so far? Who will help us grieve and suffer authentically and yet draw us nearer to God in it? I want to share in some specific Scripture God has used in my life throughout in the next few posts, but first let me suggest a few resources to turn to:

-Plant yourself in His Word: Only God can comfort us and He will fully comfort those who seek Him! His Word is our truth, our rock, and our firm foundation. Trust Him for your full peace and comfort as you crack open His Word. Pray and ask Him to guide you as You read. 
If you don't carry your Bible with you daily, the best Bible for download i know is the ESV version. It's completely free to download-yay!!!! You can put it on your Kindle, iphone, etc and have it with you anywhere you are.

-Counselors are such a blessing when we fall into great despair. I used to feel awkward about counseling because I saw many Christian counselors use worldly resources and have people I love look inward. No real lasting fruit came of it. But there are some amazing counselors who counsel through the Word of God to draw out your heart and help bring healing. You can find them through NANC and CCEF. And what a prize it is to have friends and family who will counsel you through His Word. Seek out others who know His Word and have genuine grace and truth. Let them be a shield of faith and anchor to you in your grief. This is how we live out loving one another. Let them do it!

- Listen to sermons. I found great comfort in listening to passionate preachers share about suffering and grief and the hope we have in it (I'd suggest John Piper, Matt Chandler, and Josh Harris as my top three). There is something so comforting in knowing others have suffered before us and have wisdom to share as we endure.

-Read a good book written to draw us to His truth. My favorite author to turn to in suffering is Nancy Guthrie. Several of her books meant a lot to me in seasons of grief. 
1)Be Still My Soul: This is my favorite because it's collected wisdom from the Word in suffering/grief from great preachers and teachers of the Word (a few are John Calvin, Tim Keller, and Joni Earickson Tada)

2)The One year Book of Hope- This is a year of devotions to walk through as you grieve. it is SO incredible to have someone daily acknowledging how hard this suffering is and point you to hope in Him. And she tackles some hard questions in it.

3) Holding Onto Hope: This is her personal grief story. She shares losing her daughters to rare disorders. A quote that sustained me in grief is this:
 "The day after we buried Hope, my husband said to me, 'You know, I think we expected our faith to make this hurt less, but it doesn't. Our faith gave us an incredible amount of strength and encouragement while we had Hope, and we are comforted by the knowledge that she is in heaven. Our faith keeps us from being swallowed by despair. But I don't think it makes our loss hurt any less.'"

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Wife-style more dated than the 1950s... Part 2

Jesus said “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul mind and strength… and love your neighbor as yourself.” (Matthew 22:38-39)
In my last post I talked about the debate some bloggers are having of whether or not "1950s style" wives are outdated or even foolish. I landed with a wife-style waaay more outdated than 1950s. Instead, I strive to be a wife, mom, daughter, sister, neighbor, friend, coworker, etc. who lays down my life for others just as Christ laid down His life for me (Philippians 2). And I believe that starts in my own home daily.

There are a lot of details in our day. There are a lot of opinions on how our time, money, and energy should be guarded or spent. But God says to weigh it ALL through the lens of Him. Is how I’m spending my day leading me closer to Him? Am I loving others as much as I love me?  Here are 3 examples of how I weigh daily life/big decisions through Christ’s call to love Him and then love others:

1) A Clean Home: Andy really values coming home to a clean house. He doesn't ask me to do it or "expect it" from me, but he prefers it that way. So I want to show him I love him in this one way daily.
Though most of us probably clean our homes regularly, I find the daily pick up sometimes the more exhausting task. I pray I’ll joyfully pick up toys and make lunch every morning and then pick them up again every afternoon because I know that Andy appreciates a clean house. Some days it seems crazy in this stage of small kids, but I want our home to be a peaceful and relaxing place where Andy can rest after serving all day in the studio mixing foreign languages. I don’t always want to pick up toys. But I don’t regret laying down my desire for rest to offer it to Andy. And God so often sweetly replenishes me.

2) Floor time: I carve out time daily to sit on the floor with my boys and put together puzzles, read book after book after book, and build legos, forts, sing silly theme songs we make up for Caleb’s Little People, etc. I put it in my schedule because I don’t always want to engage. Sometimes, after teaching homeschool (and reading a lot to Jimmy during class), I just want to veg out and rest. But playing with my kids speaks so much love to them. And this sweet opportunity to pour Christ’s love into my kids by sitting on the floor together is a season that will pass too quickly, I’m sure. God’s Word reminds me that pouring into them will often mean looking to their interests before mine.

3) Commitments Outside the home: Andy and I pray together before we commit to anything. We weigh it through the lens of Scripture to see if committing will take away from the priority people He is calling us to minister to (each other and our kids) or if it’s a way we can all, as a family, lay ourselves down and show sacrificial love to others. 
Sometimes it means saying no and staying home, believing that pouring Jesus into our kids is an incredible ministry honor that is more important. This often brings out a lot of my pride and the desire I have to be liked and respected by others. God has always provided for the needs (in church, work, neighborhood, etc.) through others when I've said no, but there really is no other wife to Andy or Mommy of my kids.

BUT other times God calls us to say “yes” and let our family lay down our ease, routine, and togetherness to serve others. Usually it's a short season with a few nights or weekends of sacrifice for our family, but a few times God called us to go on short term trips overseas without our kids (leaving them with family) to share Jesus with people who had never heard His good news. Most recently, He called us to move away from "home" to serve in full time ministry. Regardless of the length or depth of it, when we start to feel the sting of the commitment, we go back and remember why we said yes and who we said yes to (God). And we pray God will give us hearts to joyfully serve others and seek Him as He calls. And He is so faithful to do it in us again and again.

We trust that God’s Word is our sure foundation for life. Only His Word is truth. He shows us how to make these daily decisions. The conclusion isn’t always the same, but the purpose always is: to glorify God. And those daily decisions are what make up our life.

I’m praying that regardless of how I may be labeled (1950's wife, legalist, crazy, etc.), God will continue to give me a desire to know Him more and live in light of Him. And I’m praying others will desire to know Him more and lay down their lives daily in these little (and big) ways to show His love. Imagine if we all stopped comparing/labeling and instead lived for Him and not ourselves… I’m praying and believing Him for it. And I'm starting by trusting Him for it in me first- in my own home!

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Wife-style more dated than the 1950s...

Last week, I read through comments (on an old post) from a friend’s blog about 1950’s wives. I was struck by how much of a controversy there is about wives roles. I think what struck me as sad was how much emphasis there is on “me” in the debate. But really, marriage, like any relationship, isn’t about me. And when we focus on “me”, even on how “I” serve my husband, we miss Jesus completely.

If I had to choose, I fell on the 1950s side of the debate (though in reality, I’m basing my daily life on a waaay earlier time period than the 50s!) But I'm also aware that serving my husband is not natural to me. Without the Holy Spirit working in me, I'd rather sit around and be served. If I'm honest, there are more times like that than times of serving others.
Just Married- 2002
But I want to serve Andy. I want to because God wants me to and because He already did it for me. Christ was mocked, beaten, rejected, and killed. He willingly laid down His life out of a great love for us. And guess what? I didn't even love him for it. But now He opened my eyes to this great love and I'm enamored by Him. I can't get enough of Him! His love and grace is unending. Wow! And His power is now in me! I can actually love that way because He first loved me(1 John 4:19) and I can willingly put Andy’s interests before mine (Philippians 2:4) because of His power in me (Philippians 2:5).

I'll share in Part 2 of this post three practical examples of living that out in daily life.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Long Suffering...

Please pray with us for our Toot
There is no "new" news, yet today after I listened to an update on our dear grandfather "Toot", I feel lead to share and ask you all to pray with our family. We have been praying for Toot as confusion and weakness seem to be his new norm. We are praying for our Mom as she faithfully cares for her father in his last days. We don't know how long this time will be (true of our own lives as well), but she is committed to walking through these last, hard days (though it's been over a year now already) with him. I'm so thankful for her loving commitment and sacrifice. I could write an entire other blog filled with all we've learned through her in this.

We find ourselves praying and processing (and, to be honest, crying) a lot about how Toot is no longer the strong rock he has always been. Though we hear that he has good times, we miss the weekly phone conversations he and Andy had, the silly songs he'd sing to Jimmy about daily life, trying to discern whether the story he was telling was true or just made up to trick us, and the solid advice he'd offer us. We can't even imagine how daily life caring for him must be. He's not the Toot we've always known. Yet he's here still, in this new Toot. And we often ask, "Why?" Why is Toot suffering? Why can't he go be with Jesus and Gam and Casey? If he is supposed to stay here longer, why can't he have his full memory? Is there really a good purpose for him in this state of confusion and weakness?

God has been a comfort to us as we cry out. He has answered us again and again in our doubts and hurt for Toot and our parents. Here is one scripture that has been incredibly encouraging to Andy and I as we process and grieve even now for what once was... and life feels a bit more fleeting to us:

"So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal." 2 Corinthians 4:16-18

Though outwardly, we are seeing Toot "wasting away", we know that God promises that even in this, his "inner self is being renewed" in Christ. Even when his mind seems to trick him and body fails, God still is doing a work in his heart and soul to grow him and prepare him for Him... and to grow us and prepare us through Toot during this season. 

So we cling to this promise as true and start to look at all the ways we are all being renewed through this "wasting away". And there are so many:
- We've been blown away as we've seen Andy's parents leave everything and everyone to serve Toot with their entire lives. 
-We've heard that even in Toot's darkest times, he cries out to God and we're encouraged that God is his God and he will soon get to be with Him forever. 
-We, as the kids, are learning to "let go" of our parents in this season while they serve Toot and instead seek to serve them by praying for and encouraging them (as they typically do for us in our "hard" seasons). 
-Heaven is becoming more real and we look forward to the day we too will get to go there. 

There are so many more, but what I'm trying to say is this: As we seek Him in it, I'm encouraged and reminded in this hard time for our family that God really is good and His ways really are best. We trust Him alone, we cling to His Word, we are strengthened in Him, we value friends that draw us to Him and pray for/with us, and we look nowhere else but to Him. Will you pray with us for Toot and our parents as they endure this season?

"God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way, though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble at its swelling. There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy habitation of the Most High. God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved; God will help her when morning dawns." Psalm 46:1-5