Discipleship

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!

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

The Year of the Red Sea Road

Its almost magical, that week between Christmas Day and New Years. The kids enjoying their new toys, winter hikes with the family, sledding on the back yard hill with friends, celebrating my husband’s and my wedding anniversary, twinkling lights and taking stock of the year behind, while setting our gaze on the year ahead. It is almost sacred as we take time to reflect, rejoice and celebrate what our good Father has done in our hearts, our minds, our family, our lives in the past year.

As I open the pages of my new monthly planner, and sketch out the timeline of events, work, schedules, studies that are on the list to work towards this year, my heart is grateful… and dependent. It is dependent on the “I AM”, the LORD, to sustain us, to move us forward in His will, in the good works He has prepared in advance for us to do. It is always about Him, and never about me. It is always His work, and my joy to receive. As I commit these plans to the Lord, He leads me to a theme.

Over twenty years ago now, when I set off on my own, a young adult spreading her wings wide to land in the hills of a small town called Comfort in the rolling bluebonnet-laden hill country of Texas, the Lord began impressing on my heart different themes for the two semesters I was at a Discipleship Bible School. It was amazing to see how God used those themes in my life and to form me. Other years, I have had perhaps a word or theme. As we enter our final semester at seminary, I reflect on the themes God has laid on my heart and look forward to this year’s theme!

When we arrived here in 2015, the theme was that of The Good Shepherd. That theme actually rolled over into 2016 as well. 2017 has been the Year of Stepping Stones as we continued to take steps of faith in various directions to see where God is leading us. Some doors closed, others opened wide, and others are in waiting. I completed my first year of work as a Birth Doula attending 8 births and assisting women as their labor coach. I wrote a piece on Planting Seeds of Wisdom in our Children’s Hearts and a biographical piece called Soul Into Blossom: The Life and Work of Lilias Trotter, in the print issues of Deeply Rooted Magazine (Issues 11 & 12), as well as a piece on Building Intentional Friendships for Family Life Canada. My husband wrote and recorded a full length album with a collection of friends called Gateway Hymns. One of the songs won a song-writing competition and was recorded by The Porter’s Gate Worship Project featuring the voices of Josh Garrels and Liz Vice. Meanwhile, my husband has been continuing to work towards his Mdiv degree after a decade of pastoral ministry. Our children have been growing by leaps and bounds  in so many areas of their lives. It has truly been a year of Stepping Stones.

As I look toward 2018, the Lord has led me to a song this year. Red Sea Road, written by Ellie Holcomb, Christa Wells, and Nicole Witt, speaks of letting go, all to follow Christ in where He is leading us. In God’s Word, we are called to speak truth to our souls, and especially in the Psalms, to sing to our souls. This is what this song speaks to me in this season of transition. In five months, we will, Lord willing, be packing up our earthly possessions to be transplanted into our next location of God’s calling.

 When Pharaoh let the people go, God did not lead them by way of the land of the Philistines, although that was near. For God said, “Lest the people change their minds when they see war and return to Egypt.” 18 But God led the people around by the way of the wilderness toward the Red Sea. And the people of Israel went up out of the land of Egypt equipped for battle. Exodus 13:17-18

And the Lord went before them by day in a pillar of cloud to lead them along the way, and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light, that they might travel by day and by night. 22 The pillar of cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night did not depart from before the people. Exodus 13:21-22

And Moses said to the people, “Fear not, stand firm, and see the salvation of the Lord, which he will work for you today. For the Egyptians whom you see today, you shall never see again. 14 The Lord will fight for you, and you have only to be silent.” Exodus 14:13-14

 Then the angel of God who was going before the host of Israel moved and went behind them, and the pillar of cloud moved from before them and stood behind them,20 coming between the host of Egypt and the host of Israel. And there was the cloud and the darkness. And it lit up the night without one coming near the other all night. 21 Then Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and the Lord drove the sea back by a strong east wind all night and made the sea dry land, and the waters were divided. 22 And the people of Israel went into the midst of the sea on dry ground, the waters being a wall to them on their right hand and on their left. Exodus 14:19-22

The Lord led His people along the Red Sea Road, the path He made before them, to lead them and give them victory. God calls us to follow Him, and that requires a cost, indeed the giving up of one’s own plans, desires, and expectations. But it is in the letting go of our lives that we find them, it is in saying with Jim Elliot, missionary to Equador, “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep, to gain that which he cannot lose.”

So we’ll sing to our souls, we won’t bury our hope
Where He leads us to go, there’s a red sea road
When we can’t see the way, He will part the waves
And we’ll never walk alone down a red sea road – Red Sea Road, Ellie Holcomb

As we continually surrender our lives, we know our hope is not in the things of Earth, our hope is in Christ. With our hope in Christ, we are able to let go for we have found our true home, it is Christ Himself. May we always be willing to let go of things we were never meant to keep in our grasp, so that we may live free in the will of God and trust His perfect leading.

Our eyes are fixed, Oh Lord, on You. Our gaze is set directly forward (Proverbs 4:25). You have led us to the Year of the Red Sea Road.

Where He leads us to go, there’s a red sea road – Red Sea Road, Ellie Holcomb

Prayer for a New School Year

In a couple short weeks, we will be returning home from an incredible summer back in the Pacific Northwest. The sand will be removed from all our shoes, our summer tans will be fading but still visible, freshly pressed uniforms will be donned and pencils sharpened for a new school year. How exciting to start anew!

Whatever educational model your children receive (and there are a bazillion models, so pray, pick one, and carry on!), you have the opportunity to give them, this year, a covering of prayer that God is ready and willing to bless as you lay before your Good Shepherd your children’s school year. There are unique things to pray for in any educational context, whether it be a public school, a Christian private school, a homeschool, a co-op, a fine arts school, a traditional school, a charter school, and the list goes on. Christians are in every one of these types of educational settings and parents need to cover their children in prayer.

Arise, cry out in the night, at the beginning of the night watches! Pour out your heart like water before the presence of the Lord! Lift your hands to him for the lives of your children, who faint for hunger at the head of every street. Lamentations 2:19 ESV

Growing up, when our mom or dad dropped us off at school, they would pray for us and our day. And on the occasion that they forgot to pray, we would remind them. It became so second nature to us that we needed that knowledge that our parents had prayed over us for the day. My mother-in-law has been a part of a mom’s prayer group for over 30 years. Even to this day, though all her children are grown and grandchildren abound, she still prays once a week with these women and continue to pray for their adult children. What a gift and legacy it is to give the gift of prayer, a daily bringing our children to the Lord and requesting His work in their lives on their behalf.

A year ago, I was asked to send out weekly prayer emails for our children’s school. It is a joy to know that many of the parents are reading through the list of students and teachers for that week, and praying for each of them by name. Prayer groups like this have lasted for generations. Let’s be “torchbearers” of light for this generation.

“Prayer is awe, intimacy, struggle—yet the way to reality. There is nothing more important, or harder, or richer, or more life-altering. There is absolutely nothing so great as prayer.”
― Timothy Keller, Prayer: Experiencing Awe and Intimacy with God

If you are interested in starting a Christian prayer group for your educational context, school, or network of moms, Moms In Prayer International has great resources, tips, and assistance in getting a group started in your area!

“Mothers around the world come together to passionately pray before God for the lives of their children in more than 140 countries. Imagine the impact of God answering prayers for a generation of children throughout the world.”
Moms In Prayer International