Beauty for Ashes – a Wife’s Perspective

Our Thankful Family

Of course, the work the Lord is doing here in Ionia is much deeper in us than through us. His hand of healing, transformational power, direction, and shepherding has been the most profound work we’ve seen in our weeks in Michigan. We pray that God will use us to be a blessing to others and we strive to be faithful, accountable, and active. Yet, it is clear that the biggest changes we are seeing are right within the confines of our own hearts.

For me, Ionia has been an honest glance in the mirror. All of the yucky stuff in my heart and soul have been brought to light and I find that I am ever more thankful for a God who redeems. I have been meditating on the word Redeemer this week and allowing the vast wealth we have (I have) as redeemed persons to sink in. It’s funny too because somewhere along the journey I have found ways to assure myself that I am okay; ways to convince myself that my crutches aren’t really crutches. But, out here in this beautiful green farmland surrounded by some profoundly authentic believers I find myself confronted by the tremendous disparity between who I am today and who I desire to be.

I see women (wives, mothers, students, friends) who are resilient servants, faithful durable workers, and kept content by the joy of the Lord. What I have observed about these women (most of whom are the wives of Philip’s classmates and all of whom are living in very modest and sometimes quite uncomfortable situations) is that they have learned to delight themselves in the Lord. They rejoice in Kingdom work and in Kingdom advancements. I have rejoiced in those things too on some level for many years, but the Lord is calling me deeper still. The Lord is calling me closer to His heart and along the way, He is asking to change me – more, and again. The whisper of the hope of the woman who stands on the other side of that change is the very thing I cling to. I long for transformation with such desperateness that I am hopeful my Redeemer will meet me there and change me from the inside out.

Last week I wrote a note to Phil confessing my heart’s desire to really change. I told him that the very foundations of my character were shifting and that I am eager to walk more conformed to the image of Christ. I am asking God to give me one woman who will faithfully pray for me as a wife and mom, for it is within these roles that I have the greatest opportunity for change. And I know that if the me who serves my husband and daughter can live a more redeemed story then that same woman will naturally be more of a blessing in all other relationships as well. I know that our redemption as believers is not just a one-time event, but a daily occurrence for His mercies are new every morning and we are ever in need of them.

The transaction God makes with us as we seek transformation is described most beautifully in Isaiah 61 where the people of God trade their old identity for a new identity in Christ. Beauty for Ashes – Once again I am giving Father God the ashes of my life and once again He is offering me His beauty. If our lives are hallmarked by the character of Christ then in time we shall find ourselves more beautiful than we ever could have imagined.

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4 thoughts on “Beauty for Ashes – a Wife’s Perspective

  1. I am happy to pray for you Jess and your family. You are a beautiful, mighty woman of God. He will remove your crutches and meet you and continue to transform you. Enjoy and use the beauty and peace of the farmland around you. Great things are coming. 🙂

  2. What pride I have in knowing you both and the time we shared here in Reno. What joy I feel when I read your messages to us. How I learn and respect the love and grace you both are share and what you are doing. I am ever so grateful to have such incredible role models in my life. Blessings to all 4 of you, Deb & Robbie Snyder

  3. Jessica-
    I can so relate to what you are going through. Larry and I found our selves in a state of transition after Brandt was born. Larry’s place of employment had the budget illiminated and all but one clinical staff member retained. I was pregnant with Alexandra. Larry had opportunities in Boise, but we had a yearning to return closer to one side of the family-the rural SD family of mine. We had a wonderful network of friends in Boise, great church, plugged in, had grown in our marriage of 5 years, had grown with the mentor-ship of great friends in God’s word- felt God’s hand leading us to SDak where I grew up. Prayed and saw many markers leading us that way. When we arrived, I realized how “dependent” my peace was in the structure of my church, friends and routine which involved really good coffee! In Pierre, SD I was challenged beyond my expectation. Where I thought we would receive a warm embrace from a small community,we received skepticism and mistrust because we moved there from somewhere else. I thought my rural SD roots would give me some invite into the community, but I didn’t realize that people stuck to their own family and routine more often than not. I also minimized the “things” that were actually luxuries and what they really meant to me like the variety of foods, coffee, shopping, restaurants that we didn’t have in Pierre. When Alexandra was born 17 years ago there, they had me “laboring” in a 5x7ft room and expected me to be wheeled into the sterile delivery room by gurney. I advocated and won for Larry to not scrub, gown and glove up for Alexandra’s arrival! Even the belief that we would be welcomed from my own blood relatives ended in some disillusionment and disappointment as people were busy with their own lives, their own timelines and self reliance is important. The job Larry felt called to come to expanded as services and staff were cut at the mental health center to the point that he was the only clinician left with the same amount of work. After four years he was approaching burn out and depression. I really questioned what God meant in all that. I questioned God, “Did I get it wrong, did we hear you wrong?” God worked His work in our hearts-the beauty from ashes is so right on. What I learned in all is that God is sufficient for all our needs. He and he alone can fill our hearts needs. All humans by the very definition of what it means to be human will disappoint us. It’s not intentional it just is the limits people have. When I started to get rid of any expectations from others and just be with God I was able to then reach out and serve people, start the Bible study and invite others, ect. Things improved, friendships developed and God was always there walking closely by our side. Elizabeth Elliott’s Books were so good to help my quiet time. Also a book written by Kathleen Norris called the Spiritual Geography of Dakota helped me understand the culture that I grew up in from any outsider’s perspective.

    I will hold you up in prayer and encouragement. I pray that we will eventually have the money to support your ministry as well as the others we are committed to.

    Love to both of you.

    Brenda Ling

  4. Oh Jessica, Your honesty is so refreshing! It is obvious that the Lord is doing great things in your heart, as a wife and as a mother. Personally, I am excited to hear about the stirring in your heart, because I know first hand what great things come from it when we are a child of God. Sharing your hearts desires, allowing yourself to be vulnerable, and your eagerness to please the Lord, I believe, has already inspired many other women, young and old, married or single to do the same. You are a gifted writer who knows how to “shake things up” with your sincere honesty and, by allowing all of us to view a window into your heart. That my friend, is a Gift from God. I know our Lord has great plans for you and as an old saying goes…”Fasten your seatbelt, hold on tight, and enjoy the ride!” I love you sweetie…you are a beautiful gem.

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