My Unmoving Mansion of Rest

Growing up, we often moved as my dad enjoyed building and selling homes. It was thrilling for my sisters and I to participate in all the details. Everything from looking at the architectural plans, painting the wooden staircase spindles, picking rocks from the dirt, and painting our parents bedroom, the latter of which was halted after we turned their wall into a canvas of creativity! Smells of hardware stores and lumber yards still bring me back to happy summer days on the building site. As I poured through home and garden magazines as a little girl, a longing for my own future home began to grow. Would it be a cozy log cabin in the woods or a sprawling homestead atop an evergreen mountain? Daydreams are longings within our heart that are enjoyed and expressed through imagination. I daydreamed often.

Fast forward many years, my husband and I and our little family have moved to four different cities and now have returned to one of them, and nine homes in twelve years! At the flower shop the other day, a clerk asked, “Are you in military service?” Paying for my lavender and aloe plants, I smiled, “No, we are in church service!”

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We have been called to a life of many ministry moves. Each one, intentionally placed within the framework of our story for God’s purposes. Moving a lot was never our intention, but it was always God’s. With another impending move in two years, after further training in church planting, I am coming to a calm contentment that my times are in His hands (Psalm 31).

In Morning and Evening, Charles Spurgeon writes:

“The Israelites in the wilderness were continually exposed to change. Whenever the pillar stayed its motion, the tents were pitched; but tomorrow, ere the morning sun had risen… and the fiery, cloudy pillar was leading the way through the narrow defiles of the mountain… They had scarcely time to rest a little before they heard the sound of “Away! this is not your rest; you must still be onward journeying towards Canaan!” They were never long in one place... Yet they had an abiding home in their God, his cloudy pillar was their roof-tree, and its flame by night their household fire. They must go onward from place to place, continually changing, never having time to settle, and to say, “Now we are secure; in this place we shall dwell.” “Yet,” says Moses, “though we are always changing, Lord, thou hast been our dwelling-place throughout all generations.”… My unmoving mansion of rest is my blessed Lord.”
— Charles Spurgeon, Morning & Evening, February 27th

My heart still aches every time I think about leaving family and friends again. A knot still forms in my stomach as we talk about another transition. When these feelings come, I am comforted by those who have felt a similar call. Missionary to Burma, Ann Judson wrote often of her inward struggle in leaving all she knew to pursue a call to Burma with husband, Adoniram Judson. She wrote,

“It seems as if there was no resting place for me on earth. O when will my wanderings terminate? When shall I find some little spot, that I can call my home while in this world? Yet, I rejoice in all Thy dealings, O my heavenly Father; for Thou dost support me under every trial, and enable me to lean on thee…” 
— Ann Judson: A Missionary Life for Burma, Sharon James, pg. 68

In the New Testament, Paul writes of God now dwelling in the hearts of believers in Christ. The dwelling place of God is now in human hearts through faith in Christ. He has become our home. I am rooted and grounded in love.

“For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.”
— Ephesians 3:14-19


When the enemy tempts me to despair in the midst of so many moves, I look to my Savior, the One who chose me, rescued me from sin, and gave me a purpose on this Earth. God is the one who gives us the desires of our hearts and he has given us a passion for the calling and work he has prepared for us to do. It is in surrender to God’s will, that the morning of joy dawns and a peaceful contentment arises. Being firmly planted into union with Christ, I am “at home in my God”, and can confidently wander this Earth to serve the One who did not have a home. 

And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.”
— Luke 9:58

As we settle into our new temporary home, with the fresh smell of the woods behind our house, pine needles and little acorns to be swept off the patio, we are grateful. The Lord has been kind to give us a place to welcome friend and stranger, to know and be known, to love and be loved. We continue to daydream of a home and a church and of many people coming to know Jesus. And our greatest dream is that all who enter here become rooted and grounded in Love.

Let prospects be blighted; let hopes be blasted; let joy be withered; let mildews destroy everything; I have lost nothing of what I have in God… I am a pilgrim in the world, but at home in my God. In the earth I wander, but in God I dwell in a quiet habitation.
— Charles Spurgeon, Morning & Evening, February 27th

Elisabeth Elliot and an Introduction to Wildflowers Girls Mag

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I cannot remember the first time I sensed the Lord calling me to full time ministry, but I do remember the moment He put in me a passion for missions. A fourteen year old teenager, I had traveled to Mexico with my family and church. We set up our camp, Canadians and Americans, in a farmers field perched high atop the hills of Tijuana. But nationality and citizenship counts for little when you are a citizen of Heaven.

We found unity and camaraderie among the group of about 60 Christians who had gathered in this field to set up our tents and trailers and camp out for the week while we drove in and out of our mission site to build a home for a family. Showers were in areas blocked with black plastic tarp nailed to a framed makeshift room with wild blue sky above. We gathered our one bucket of cold shower water from the large communal pool each day, dunked our heads in the water to wash our hair and rinse off by pouring the rest over our heads.

Each morning as we drove into town, we would be chased by cheering children to our work site. In an area surrounded by a cycle of poverty that was restricted by a complicated governmental system to work within, we set to work assisting a family in adding two rooms to their already deteriorating two room shack. Then one morning as I saw several young adult missionaries in their twenties jumping into their jeep and driving down the dirt path, it was that moment that I knew God was giving me a new passion in life.

What followed was years of working with various churches in various roles, short term missions trips, Bible college, long term ministry, and a desire to encourage and build up missionaries on the field. My heart was being reoriented in a specific direction by the Lord. It is no wonder then that my favorite genre of literature is missionary and historical biographies of which I have been reading since I first picked up the book Bruchko at a Bible school in Texas. This was also where I first met, in the pages of her book on purity, beloved modern missionary, Elisabeth Elliot.

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Earlier this year, I had the privilege and joy of writing a biography of Elisabeth Elliot, missionary to the Auca tribe in Equador for a new girls magazine called Wildflowers. I felt honored to be able to pray, research, and write an account and short biographical sketch of her life, to pass on her story to a new generation of young girls, and to be a part of the thread that ties Elisabeth’s story to these young girls’ stories.

Elisabeth Elliot remains one of the most powerful contemporary examples for Christian women, and thousands of women, young and old, have been discipled by her through her books and radio broadcasts. Through the trials she endured, her resolute trust in God and her love for Christ Jesus inspires vast numbers of women to live their lives in faithful surrender and obedience to God no matter the cost. Wildflowers, pg 12

Being the first issue of the magazine, the theme was Spring, new life, and getting outside to see the miracles that abound. My soul was in desperate need of spring this year. After a very long winter in the midwest, spring only lasted for about a week before turning into the heat and humidity of summer, though very beautiful indeed. I didn’t really get a normal spring this year. In fact, the winter was more like a rough and rocky dirt path. But the Lord encouraged my heart this morning to remind me that this is where wildflowers grow.

Sally Lloyd-Jones writes in her most recent newsletter,

“Don’t you love it when flowers start preaching? It’s the long winter, the difficulty, the struggle, the hard ground that draws beauty from the soil. And one day—everywhere you look there is life and you’re overtaken by wild flowers. What hope!” - Sally Lloyd-Jones

The Lord reminded me of wildflowers again this week while on a lovely walk beside the Bay as I found my own favorite wildflowers along a stony path that have been preaching to me for years. As in Elisabeth Elliot’s life, the Lord takes our times of pain and struggle and brings forth beauty, not only in our lives but in the lives of countless others and like Sally writes, suddenly there are wild flowers springing up everywhere. May these essays be like seeds in young girls lives to bring about gospel hope, truth and beauty… everywhere!

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And now I must close this off and tell you where you can find this lovely magazine for young girls, because the summer issue is about ready to be released, and today I get started on my research for the next biographical sketch for the Fall issue.

To purchase your copy of the Spring issue of Wildflowers, click here. Wildflowers was created by my friend Maegan Keaton and is a creative collection of stories, book reviews, photography and DIY projects for girls ages 8-12! Just the perfect first magazine to give to my now ten year old daughter!

Woodland Hollow - A Memoire of our Life and Years at Seminary

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I remember the exact spot along the main street of our town where my husband mentioned to me that he was thinking of going back to school to get his Master of Divinity degree. My eyes widened and I took a deep breath. It was 2014 and we had just had our fourth born child. My husband was already seasoned in church ministry and as a worship and missions pastor, and we were just starting to feel settled two years into our new life in Eastern Washington. The idea of a monumental move to seminary life was both exhilarating and overwhelming. We kept talking and dreaming, researching and praying. A year of preparation later, we were on the interstate driving to our new home, a place I had never been, in St Louis, Missouri. 

Three years later, this May, my husband graduated with his Mdiv from Covenant Theological Seminary with honors. He did it! We did it! God did it! These three years are so full of life, provision, friendship and growth... and Hebrew translations! I told someone that I could write a book on our time at seminary, because God did so much!

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Our little apartment on campus has been such a blessing. At only about 900 square feet of livable space, our family of 6 has lived life to the full. Birthday parties, holiday potlucks, men’s campfire nights, prayer nights with the ladies, and coffee with friends, our small kitchen and dining area has hosted over 15-20 children and 12 plus adults at once. We don’t believe in letting the size of our home dictate how many people we welcome into our home. The Lord provides the space and the food fills the tummies.

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Surrounded by a Viburnum "Korean Spice" flowering bush, we found delight in our  patio, a sanctuary from the hustle and bustle of community life. A place to be still and quiet before the Lord and a place to watch the sun rise just over the hill as rays of light streamed in through the windows in the morning. The Lord knew exactly what we needed for our family of six. My husband constructed 5 garden boxes where we did a little gardening, although Ferdinand the Squirrel was caught red-handed with a cucumber in his mouth!

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We grew flowers, and grew our imaginations as little woodland friends (pet substitutes) joined us on our patio every day. Perhaps the critters felt that we needed to share the space, after all, Edith Schaeffer would have welcomed them with her hospitality! I remember one bold chipmunk running between my feet to scale the wall as I watched the birds and hummingbirds one summer afternoon! Lizzie the Lizard hasn't been seen for ages, but she made a comeback in our lives when my Kindergartner made a toilet paper roll replica of her reptile-likeness.

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The natural surroundings on campus have been a place of great imagination for the kids, making tree forts and pretending to be wolf children in the snow with their friends! One December turned out to be a lovely warmish day and the seminary kids congregated on our hill and played in the sprinkler like it was summer! At other times, it wasn’t unusual to see a seminary dad and his kids sledding past my window on an early winter morning.

God has provided for us in so many ways, financially, with our health, and in relationships. There were an abundance of trials that went along with this very sweet season of life for our family. We had to continue day by day in faith that God would provide the work and finances that we needed to get by. We were at times inundated with health issues and at other times, completely illness free for months. We watched the Lord provide as checks would come in the mail at just the right time, and we watched God work through our circumstances to push and prod us in certain directions.

There were times where we felt strong spiritual attacks and several times when I would wake up in the middle of the night speaking the name of Jesus aloud as I woke up and bolted upright. I would pray through the night and speak the Word of God aloud.

There were other times I felt the Lord's presence so strongly. And there were days I didn't know how I would make it through with all the responsibilities that were on my plate each day and the various needs of our young family. But like a gentle shepherd, Jesus cares for those with young and He carried me through this season that He called us to.

He tends his flock like a shepherd:
    He gathers the lambs in his arms
and carries them close to his heart;
    he gently leads those that have young.
— Isaiah 40:11

When we first set out for seminary, there were many who had concerns if this was good for our family. What we found was, there were many families just like us who were doing just what we were doing, living by faith because of God's call, taking up our crosses to follow Him into the unknown and trusting that He would sustain and provide. We are eternally grateful for this season of life and that it is a part of our story.

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Woodland Hollow is what I named our little patio and home on the beautiful sprawling campus of Covenant Seminary. There was beauty and friendship, kindness and compassion, prayer and healing. There was sidewalk chalk and "science experiments", mud pits and basil-snatchers, fresh sweet tea and read alouds by the campfire, and conversations with expectant mothers as a birth doula. The ebb and flow of life, changing seasons, tornado warnings, summer storms, fireflies and spilled birdseed.

When I think about my favorite places in St Louis, I immediately come up with three:  the Missouri Botanical Gardens, my bedroom desk corner that looked out towards the pine tree along the path behind our building, and our living room couch where I gazed out the window to watch our children, the flowers and the birds as they grew from season to season and year to year in our special corner of St Louis.

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Finding Godspeed - Living Slow

Siestas in Mexico, teatime in the Swiss Alps, or foamed milk with honey in the Northwest. Taking time out of our days, to savor the flavors and relationships in our lives has taught me to slow down in different seasons of life. When my husband suggested I watch a recent short documentary called “Godspeed: The Pace of Being Known”, I found myself retreating into the rolling green fields and woodlands of Scotland as I listened to the story of a preacher who had to relearn what it meant to know and be known.

This film reminded me of the joys I experience when I intentionally live slowly, to sit in and smell the fresh cut green grass as winter fades into spring, to lay down in the middle of a mountain stream and immerse myself in its refreshing currents, to watch the birds bounce from branch to branch outside my window. Years ago, I was living in Scotland working at a church. It was common for me to walk down the main street of the village to the train station, jump on a train to visit a town just a few villages away along the west coast of Ayrshire. I didn’t have a phone to look at and scroll through, so I looked out the window and took in the beauty of the woodlands and the old stone flats. Perhaps I would listen in on the conversations of other passengers. Arriving into one of my favorite villages, I ordered a latte at the cozy coffee and gift shop, and wrote in my journal for a couple hours, took walks through the town’s shops or took a ferry to a nearby island. Life was slow.

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And in the years of starting a family, it was the walks in the pine forests with my husband and kids, or the walks along the boardwalk breathing in the ocean air, as they fell asleep in the stroller, or exploring a canyon, or sitting at the park while they excitedly climbed and chased and played. It was the afternoon feedings that brought stillness to my soul and caused me to slow down. As my children are now all in the school age years, I am noticing this phenomenon of how fast the years go by every time I stop to observe how tall my children are – they are growing up fast! Each one so precious, so loved, such a treasure! I want to take it all in. I want to observe every special moment and lock it into my memory. I want to walk slowly, read aloud, and drink tea. My kids are all tea drinkers… that makes my mama heart happy.

I’m taking a break from writing on my blog for a while. We are about to enter into another season of transition as a family and it is time to put this little writing space to rest for a while. But before I go, I want to share four resources that have really blessed me lately. I hope they bless you too!

First, this video called “Godspeed: The Pace of Being Known

Second, this little classic book I read when I was just 19 years old. Andrew Murray’s little book on Humility is a treasure and was part of our discipleship training that I was a part of when attending His Hill Bible School in Texas many, many moons ago. This is by far the most incredible teaching I have ever read/heard on the much needed topic of humility. (A paperback version can be found here).

Third, this podcast on Identity by Journey Woman. This is an episode I will go back to often as the struggle to put our identity in Christ and not the things of this world is a battle we face every day, and we need these truth reminders every day.

Fourth, the podcast Emotionally Healthy Leader is an excellent encouragement for anyone wanting to live an emotionally healthy life.

In Christ alone,
Jen

Good Friday & Gateway Hymns

The bare branches outside my window have waited a long winter for their spring dressing. It has been a cold winter and every day the cold lingers, we long for spring and we hope more deeply. Even though I can’t see all the evidence of spring yet, there are hopeful signs all around. The red cardinal and his brown feathered mate have been spotted by my kids as we’ve huddled inside from the rain, peering out the window. A little brown house finch has been perching on the branches from time to time and buds are growing on the trees. We wait for them to unfold their glory.

In a way, I am welcoming spring by faith, with a steadfast hope, knowing that this season will manifest itself in all its evidence soon enough, in time. I need the spring, and the beauty of new life. It has been a long winter.

In the span of several weeks, there has been great loss and sorrow. Supporting others in their losses, and now this past week, walking through the loss of a cherished friend, so dear to me. The Lord was so sweet in giving me one last moment with her several weeks ago. Special moments I treasure in my heart. Last week, I got to hold her hand one more time. Now she holds the hands of Jesus. We have walked a long winter.

This week, I am sharing the most recent album by Gateway Hymns as we celebrate Holy Week. We are desperately in need of life and hope! I will walk this Holy Week with these sorrows fresh in my heart, but with the joy that our Risen King has defeated death forever.

Gateway Hymns “is a project started by Craig Harris and Brent Johnson as a collaboration effort to supply music for the church.” Several other musicians and artists have contributed to this album. The most recent album, is simply called Good Friday. The five songs are written specifically in remembrance of Good Friday, the day Jesus, the Son of God was crucified, and on him was laid the sins of the world, as he paid the penalty for our sin, so that we don’t have to. The words are powerful, the melodies haunting, and the emotions reflective of the sorrow and pain of our Lord, crucified. The songs carry the listener through a journey from the Garden of Gethsemane to the anguish and lament after Christ’s crucifixion.

Serving Together in Marriage {Deeply Rooted Magazine)

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There are so many things I love about Valentine’s Day. Making our own Valentine’s cards and crafts, baking cupcakes or cookies with red hearts on top, sharing in our children’s joy and all their little Valentine’s cards and treats that they give and receive from friends, and just taking time to make the day a family and friends celebration of love, ultimately of God’s extravagant love for His people. These are some of the ways we love to celebrate.

As I think about Valentine’s Day, I also reflect on the love I share with my husband and how God has worked in and through our marriage. Today I am sharing some of my heart about marriage, ministry and serving together over on Deeply Rooted Magazine.

Marriage is a picture of Christ and His covenant relationship with the Church. It is an image of God’s intentions in His redemptive plan of salvation. The Church is Christ’s Bride here on Earth with a mission to go out into the world to share the gospel and disciple believers (Mark 16:15). Will not God who has designed marriage to reflect these things, strengthen our marriages when we serve in a way that portrays the function of this image? One way my husband and I have strengthened our marriage is by serving together. 
— -Deeply Rooted Magazine

As I look back over the years, the miles we’ve traveled and the opportunities we’ve had to serve alongside one another for God’s glory, my heart is content with joy. This is God’s work that He prepared for us to enjoy together. The picture above is one memory I have of a trip we took to Papalote, Mexico a few years ago. My husband was to be teaching at a Bible Institute and we had the wonderful opportunity of hearing about the work God is doing in that part of the world. This painting, hanging in the home of a missionary couple held a real life story of God’s faithfulness in reaching the lost in a nearby village. Hearing and experiencing these stories of the gospel reaching the nations is a treasure we share together.

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One of the great outcomes of serving together is the shared joy of seeing fruit produced from mutual service in others’ lives. A shared experience of storing up spiritual treasures in Heaven brings an eternal perspective to the purpose of your marriage. Some of the greatest fruit we have seen serving together in ministry has been to witness lives changed, hearts comforted and people discipled.
— Deeply Rooted Magazine

You can read the rest of this post at Deeply Rooted Magazine.

With the love of Christ,
Jen