This is the third post in the series Breaking Light: God’s Treasure in Vessels of Clay. Wendy and Anna are hosting Breaking Light throughout June and July, every Tuesday and Friday. The winner of last week’s book prize for commenting on last week’s posts (here and at Wendy‘s) is Heather who blogs at: https://mommyofse7en.wordpress.com/. Congratulations, Heather! Wendy will be in touch to arrange postage to you.
Today, Anna and Wendy have invited Jennifer Moye to tell her story of seeking God through fear, heartache and the absence of Christian community. But she also shares of God’s loving pursuit of and grace for His people and a beautiful ministry being birthed through the hardship and suffering she has faced.
Anna: Jennifer, thank you so much for joining us today. To help our readers get to know you better, it would be great if you could share what one of your favorite Scriptures is and why it means so much to you?
Jennifer: One of my very favorite Scriptures is John 11:35 “Jesus wept”. This verse reminds me that Jesus was human just as I am. Somewhere along the lines society has told us we need to be strong, and by being strong that means we shouldn’t cry. But Jesus did. It was part of Him. It was a natural response to something that broke His heart. It is a reminder to me that it is not just okay, but it is in the nature God instilled in me to respond to my brokenness with tears. If Jesus did it, then I should never be ashamed of doing the same.
Anna: What a beautiful gift our Heavenly Father has given us with tears. Such profound two words, aren’t they? I love how God has used and is using just two words to bless you so deeply.
Jennifer, I know from a little you have shared with me before that you have gone through some very hard times in your life. What events, circumstances or struggles in your life have been and/or continue to be your deepest valleys?
Jennifer: There have been several times in my life I would consider to be deep valleys. Two times jump out at me.
The first was the pregnancy and birth of our third son. All three of my pregnancies were considered high risk and forced me to be on bedrest both in and out of the hospital. The third, however, was my darkest time. We had just moved from TX to AL and we knew no one. We were far from family. We had few, if any friends. We had joined a church and just started attending when my doctor put me on bedrest. At the time we had a 1 year old boy and a 2 and a half year old boy….bed rest was not really an option. I reached out to my new church family for help with the boys and help with our daily household needs. I expected Godly community to step in as they always had. Instead my calls for help returned void. No one would return my calls. No one reached out. No one cared. I had fallen through the cracks of a busy church life.
My heart ached for a friend. I was so alone and afraid. I felt guilt for leaving my husband to do everything. Guilt for not caring for my kids and family the way I should. After many stays in the hospital the baby came much too early. We spent weeks traveling back and forth to the NICU and juggling the boys at home. My heart broke for this sweet baby boy hooked up to machines who had never felt the warmth of his mother’s embrace. I was helpless, all I could do was sit there and watch him day after day. And still, none of my brothers and sisters in Christ ever reached out to me. I knew they knew what was going on as they saw on FB and I had continued to call the church. Not even so much as a text or a card. I could not understand. Why did they not care?
The other circumstance that comes to mind is the most recent valley when my husband deployed and I remained with our 3 young boys. During this time the boys were 1, 2, and 4. Our middle son, two at the time, was having several health issues and was eventually diagnosed with Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis. Not only were there multiple hospital stays but once diagnosed were we faced with various treatment options for this lifelong disease. In the midst of this all three boys struggled in their own way with missing daddy. They were too young to understand. They felt abandoned by their dad. For me, this was a season of exhaustion and a constant struggle with depression. Not to mention the worry of having a husband overseas in a war zone.
Anna: Oh how my heart breaks for you, hearing of these two experiences. The fear as a Mommy and then the physical strain and stress, the heartache and loneliness in the absence of what you so badly needed. But I know that God did not leave you alone, through either of these situations. Our God is always faithful. In what ways did you experience God’s nearness in these valleys?
Jennifer: In my pregnancies I experienced God’s nearness in the quiet of a hospital room and the stillness of being isolated to my bed. I found him sitting beside the isollette in the NICU. Even though I felt so alone, He was there beside me. He kept my baby and I safe. He is near to the broken hearted.
Anna: Thank you for sharing your heart with us, Jennifer. How amazing God’s Love is. Can you share with our readers some more tangible ways you experienced His nearness? You speak of Him keeping you both safe, but I sense there is much more than this. Were there Scriptures that He used to draw near to you and/or other things you read in that time?
Jennifer: I experienced Him beside me in different ways on different days. There were times where I could just feel His presence around me. Like He literally filled my room. I also learned to see Him in the people that cared for me and my boys, for the nurses and doctors, and in ways my husband would handle things. I believe God was using them to bless me and care for me. More than anything the stillness gave me time to read His Word and spend more time in conversation with Him. Some of my favorite scriptures from this times were Psalm 23, 2 Corinthians 12:9-10, Romans 5:3-5, Psalm 27:1-3, 2 Corinthians 4:16-18, Jeremiah 17:7-8, the list could keep going
Being in Scripture was my biggest encouragement. It reminded me of God’s promises to me. Regardless of what happened to me and the baby, it was all part of God’s plan and His will. My biggest piece of advice when going through a valley is to put yourself into the Word of God as fast as you can and stay there until you hear His Words come alive in your life!
What He spoke to me in those months was that I need not complain about the failures of this church, but I needed to be part of the solution. I needed to do my part to make sure this didn’t happen to another woman. That no one would fall through the cracks. He inspired me to do His work and to remind His people of their role within the family of Christ.
During my husband’s deployment God surrounded me with the most amazing church family. This family that once caused me such heartache by not being present for me now enveloped me with more love and comfort and help than I could ever ask for. God showed me the power and love of His people. He showed me the importance of remaining in that community. That we are to bear each other’s burdens. To live with a crazy kind of love for Him and His people.
Anna: Oh Jennifer, this is so beautiful. I love how God used something so awful for good.
Often, people apologize to us for deep valleys such as yours: for the loss, the grief or the hard of your journey, wishing they could take it all away. What would you like to say to people whose hearts ache reading of your valley?
Jennifer: Don’t ache for me. I have learned so much through those valleys. Valleys are a low spot, they are not the mountain top, but they are where the rich grass is. That’s where the nutrients are that make us stronger. Sometimes we need to stay there so we have the strength to climb to the mountain top and truly appreciate the view from up there. I don’t think I can say it any better than the wonderful Meredith Andrews in her new album:
I have kicked up the dust and the dirt on the narrow road
I have had to let go of some hurt to hold on to hope
I’ve watched the sunset before the promise came
I have waded through waters wide and walked through the flame
And I can say
Every valley made me lift my eyes up
Every burden only made me stronger
Every sorrow only made Your joy go
Deeper and deeper, deeper, and deeper
I will run like I’m out to win, and finish the race
For every battle that’s sure to come I will be brave
I’ve got my heart set on every word You say
And no matter what lies ahead You’ll make a way
And I will say
Every valley made me lift my eyes up
Every burden only made me stronger
Every sorrow only made Your joy go
Deeper and deeper, deeper, and deeper
Every mountain is making me a climber
Every giant is calling out a fighter
Every heartache only makes Your love go
Deeper and deeper, deeper, and deeper
Thrown down but not defeated
I’m worn out but not giving up
I’ve hit ground but even at rock bottom
I’m just getting started, Yea, I’m just getting started
Anna: In what ways have you seen God minister to others through your deep valleys?
Jennifer: Being in those valleys has made me so much more sensitive and aware of others that have been or are in similar valleys themselves. I think it was shaping me for my calling into ministry to women. Without some of those valley experiences I would not have learned. I experienced so much growth in an around those valleys. If we allow Him to teach us in those moments, if we will lean into Him, we become so much stronger in Him.
Anna: What kind of spiritual growth and (inter)personal growth have you experienced through this? And how is that now helping you in your ministry to women? And can you also tell us a little bit more about what your ministry to women looks like right now? Is there a specific group of women God has given you a special heart for?
Jennifer: For me the growth that happened in the valleys of my life have drawn me in closer to God. To trust Him enough to give him my baggage and my pain. To trust that He is big enough to handle it and I am not. For me to continue trying to do things in my own strength is to say I don’t believe He can handle it. In those valleys He taught me to believe Him. That He is who He says He is. He is always near to me reaching out His hand and calling my name. But He can not force me to come to Him. I must make that decision for myself. It is a humbling experience to realize and admit that I am not big enough, that I can’t do it all. It requires an emptying of myself to come to a place where I fall on my face in need of Him. The beautiful thing is that when I do, He reaches His hand and picks me right back up. He holds me in his strong hand and comforts me with a peace I can not explain. He is there. Always. It is me who often isn’t looking for Him.
These experiences have helped shape my heart for ministry to women. My ministry is in its beginning years but my heart is to be near to those who are broken hearted and connect them with the love of Jesus Christ. To show them they are loved, right where they are, by the King of Heaven. They are His. They are beautiful. And He has an amazing plan for their life.
Moms have a special place in my heart because of the struggles we share raising children. We are constantly pulled in a thousand directions and exhausted and most of the time under appreciated by the ones we serve and love the most. I want these mothers to know their labor is not invisible to God. He sees it all. The Bibles says, when you do things for the least of men, you are doing them for God. I believe there will be a special crown in heaven for all the unseen acts of service we give in this world. Our calling as a mother is just that, a calling given to us by God. It isn’t just something we have to do everyday. We are pouring into and shaping the lives of God’s chosen children. It is on of the highest callings a person can have.
I would love to invite the women reading this to my first online Bible study starting on June 14th. It is a relaxed and grace filled atmosphere to connect with other women and draw closer to God.
My first book will be published by early July and is titled A Gospel Christmas. It is our story of connecting Santa and the story of Jesus and applying it in a practical way to our lives and our children’s lives. It is a short 25 devotional to be used the month of December and is a great resource for keeping and putting Christ back into your Christmas season.
Anna: It’s so beautiful to hear of how God has grown you through these valleys, to draw you more deeply into His Love and has given you such a passion for sharing this Love with others. I’m excited about your Bible study and book release coming up!
Jennifer can you share some more about how have you seen God build community through your deepest valleys?
Jennifer: Once health issues were resolved with the baby and we become more active in serving in the church, I told some of my experiences to others. Not in hopes of making them feel badly but because I wanted them to see how easily someone could slip through the cracks. From that experience our community grew tighter within itself while at the same time opening the doors to those around us. Our community grew and was strengthened to be just like family.
In regards to the deployment, there is so much community out there for military families. But you have to be willing to ask for the help. My lesson was to ask. We all need help, and others are blessed by helping us. But we must ask.
Anna: Jennifer, thank you for sharing your wisdom with us here. There is a lot we can learn from your example. I am sure it wasn’t easy to go back and talk to your community, to speak the truth in loving kindness and offer them grace for the hurt and hardship they had caused in failing to bear your burdens that first time. But look at what beauty God can bring from such obedience to His calling. It’s so encouraging and uplifting. Thank you for privileging us with this story.
What would you say has been the biggest blessing of the ministry and community that have grown through your deepest valleys?
Jennifer: I have learned who my family really is. Those people that are here for me no matter what. Those that would do anything for me. Those who are true friends.
Anna: What obstacles have stood in the way of the ministry God has called you to through the hard? And how have you responded to these obstacles?
Jennifer: The biggest obstacle for me is the constant moving that happens in the military. Because of this it is very hard to make friends and solid connections with a church family. What it has taught me is to not be shy, to jump in and start serving where ever God places us. Also, it has taught me that even though we may be miles or even oceans apart, God can mend all ties. Our relationships can still remain strong through communicating with each other on a regular basis. I know God has called me to minister to women, He is showing me that this ministry may look more like writing and online ministries right now that an “in person” ministry with a local church. He is showing me that whatever I do with a heart to please Him, He will bless. There is no obstacle to big or to far for Him.
Anna: I love what you share here. God is using so much of what you have learnt through the hard to bless others, like us here. God is so very good.
Jennifer, what has worked against community from forming or being built up through your hard? How have you and others responded to these obstacles?
Jennifer: I think the biggest enemy of community is our selfish and insecure nature. When hard times come we are often too embarrassed to share it with others. We want to hide and deal with things on our own. We don’t include our community because of our own worries. What I have learned is if I am experiencing it there is another woman somewhere going through the same thing. If we open up we can help each other survive and heal.
Anna: Oh how I recognize what you share here, Jennifer. It is so true that opening up carries power, and lets God’s Love in through His Body.
Jennifer, what one piece of advice or kernel of wisdom would you like to leave with our readers from your journey through your hard thus far?
Jennifer: Get out of your comfort zone enough to put yourself in a community of strong believers. Pour into them through service and they will do the same for you. If not in person, do it online. We are not meant to live this life alone.
Anna: Jennifer, thank you so much for sharing your story here and encouraging us through God’s breaking light in your deep valleys.
Before leaving today, I’d like to invite our readers to participate in a draw to win Jennifer’s soon-to-be-released A Gospel Christmas. All you have to do to enter is comment on today’s post, either on Anna’s blog or Wendy‘s. I have been privileged to have read it before its release and I would recommend it to every family of young children. You can find my review of it here: Jesus through the Eyes of Children.
ABOUT Jennifer Moye
Jennifer Moye writes from a place of transparency and with the heart of a mom passionate about God’s will for her family. Her candid sense of humor makes her writing easy and enjoyable to read. She speaks with an authentic style that will have you laughing with relatability yet challenged to step up to your next highest calling in your walk with God. Jennifer is wife to an Airman and mom to three rambunctious little boys. With excitement on a daily basis and grace around every corner, she believes we are meant to live this life in community with others and with the mercy to mess up and try again….and again. Being a mom is hard, but it is also one of the greatest callings we can have in this life. Her ministry to women is relevant and heartfelt with her core passion being that we learn to glorify our God in our parenting, our marriage, and in our everyday lives.