The winner of last Friday’s book draw is Carolina Cisneros.
Today, we’ve invited Lauren Jacobs to the table to share of God’s compassionate, gentle and healing pursuit of her heart through her deepest valleys. Lauren says of herself that she is a walking work in progress, like everyone else. She is a South African and makes her home in Cape Town, where she says the beautiful oceans collide and the mountain shadows their shores. She is married to Tim and they are co – workers and ministry partners since 2009 when they started their own ministry. Lauren has this God – birthed heart for equality and to share women’s stories. She is a story teller, who is 5 foot 3, with dark hair and a big heart. She always speaks her mind and tells the truth and believes in the power of holiness and deep Love. She writes, paints, loves to bake and loves to empower others. She cries holy tears when she sees women finally catching on to the message that God has called them and fashioned them to be warriors in His Kingdom. She believes in an army of women rising up in these final days armed with deep truth and reverence for God, these disarm the forces of darkness and proclaim the richness of the Kingdom. Her book Yehudit, Chosen of God is being released this month. You can find a description of it at the end of this interview.
Anna: Welcome, Lauren. We are excited to be able to help share your story here today.
Of all the characters in the Bible, who do you most relate to and why?
Lauren: At different times of my life, I have felt a relation or connection to the experience of one of the biblical characters. Sometimes their words or their convictions, or their strength or fear can mirror my own and I find comfort in their stories. Yet, I do know that overall in my own calling and walk with Abba Father, my walk and my heart reflects that of Jeremiah. Back in 2010, God told me that He had called me and that I would have to speak up in this generation. Speak up against inequality, injustice, unrighteousness, I would have to speak out. Not as a prophet but as a child of God, His words are so important to me and I would need to give a message even if it was hard for people to accept. Jeremiah was called the weeping prophet because of his deep compassion for man and deep love for God. He spoke with tears in his eyes because he had a big heart. I am a pretty compassionate person and do often find that the Holy Spirit moves me to tears.
I also do find encouragement and call in the story of Sheerah (1 Chronicles 7 verse 20). I did a teaching on her for our ministry, because God used her story to really bless me deeply. She was an Israelite, a strong woman who built a big town in Israel at a perilous time in history. The villages she built still stand today, its foundations were built strong. The villages she built were also sites of historic battles, where the people of God won every time. Her legacy speaks deeply to me, encouraging me to be strong, to break new ground for the King and to know that what I leave behind for the next generation matters.
Anna: Jeremiah’s testimony is so powerful, isn’t it? And thank you for sharing this legacy and inspiration you have found in Sheerah. I love how God has used this to encourage you.
What is one of your favorite Scriptures and why does it mean so much to you?
Lauren: I have so many! But if I think about it one of my favourite scriptures, or rather what I would consider my life scripture is Isaiah 43: 1 – 3. “But now, this is what the Lord says, he who created you, Jacob, he who formed you, Israel: “Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze. For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior…”
It means so much to me because in 2013 I was very ill and was incredibly anxious about my life and my future. Father lovingly gave me this scripture and He kept on giving it to me, over and over again. He reminds me of this truth whenever I am going through a hard time. The truth that says it will be okay because no matter what I walk through, my King promises that I will make it and to that I say “amen.”
Anna: What a powerful, reassuring promise this is.
What events, circumstances or struggles in your life have been and/or continue to be your deepest valleys?
Lauren: One of the events that was really a deep valley for me, was having a nervous breakdown and then because of the prolonged stress I was under, my body collapsed from stress. This happened in 2012 and continued in to 2013. I never realised how much stress I was under for years and I kept on giving out, serving on a charity board, studying my master’s degree in psychology, being a counsellor and navigating through our first years of marriage.
My husband struggled with depression and when we got married we went through some deep “church hurt” which neither of us were prepared for. People we trusted hurt us deeply and my husband really struggled with it. Instead of working through it, he isolated himself as people do to protect themselves, but he isolated himself from me as well. This reminded me so much of my father, who used to isolate himself from us when I was little, which caused a huge fear of abandonment in my life. Our marriage was struggling and I had no idea how to cope or how to process my feelings of hurt from people we trusted, I was alone, I felt abandoned.
This started in 2010 until eventually my body and my spirit just broke. I was a devoted believer in Messiah and walking close with Him but I learned that I was still human, frail in my humanness. I tried to stay strong but I could not. In 2012 the breakdown happened, it was the same month we moved to the country which turned out to be a huge blessing. I needed the space to recover. Yet at the same time my body broke down, I entered menopause and I was only 28 years old. My body stopped producing oestrogen, I got dizzy, faint, nauseous, hot and had sweats. I also started menstruating and never stopped. I started working with a specialist who put me on hormonal treatment but my body reacted to that as well. So I stopped that therapy and used natural medicine which helped. As a result of being sick I struggled with anxiety severely, so much so that I ended up in hospital one evening. It’s pretty scary when all you feel is blood leaving your body every day, and even after 2 operations, I still kept on menstruating. Yeshua/Jesus really did lead me through that valley though, it was like the valley of the shadow of death. I needed two operations and a lot of healing but God was really good.
Anna: In what ways did you experience God’s nearness in this valley?
Lauren: I would not have made it through this valley if it were not for Christ’s love. Truthfully, I didn’t sleep most nights, anxiety kept me awake but it was in those moments that God came so close to me, there were times I thought if I opened my eyes I would see Him face to face. He spoke to me every day clearly, He encouraged me, led me and He also healed me. He healed my pain of abandonment, He healed pain I had carried around from a little girl, the fear of people leaving and never coming back.
He also placed an amazing friend in my life who was an angel. She loved me, spread her arms around me when I cried, she prayed blessings over me and prayed with me. We spoke a lot, and I was able to share my concerns and all the stuff I struggled with, without judgment, we became true family.
God also worked in my husband to heal his wounds too, to heal him of wrong defence mechanisms and wrong reactions. In fact, the valley of pain became a valley of healing, a place where we had to drink deeply from the fountains He prepared. Because of Christ’s Love in the valley, I am more rooted in Him and can testify to just how real He is.
He was also carefully nurturing me for the future, without me even knowing it! In those evenings when I could not sleep I would write and somehow one day I started writing a historical story. That story is now a seed for others as God opened an amazing door for me to sign with a publishing house and that story has become a living book. It will be released in July 2016 and it stands as a testimony again of God’s goodness and His all-knowing wisdom and Love. I had no idea it would become a book!
I recall a wonderful little book I read during my valley time called A shepherd looks at Psalm 23, and it says the following:
There is a second reason why sheep are taken to the mountaintops by way of the valleys. Not only is this the way of the gentlest grades, but also it is the well -watered route. Here one finds refreshing water all along the way. There are rivers, streams, springs, and quiet pools in the deep defiles.”
Anna: What an amazing story of God’s love, of His faithfulness, compassion and power. Thank you for encouraging us all by sharing it.
Often, people apologize to us for these deep valleys: for the loss, the grief or the hard of our journey, wishing they could take it all away. What would you like to say to people whose hearts ache reading of your valley?
Lauren: You are absolutely right, so many times we may want to rescue people out of their valleys. It seems in our nature as humans, to try and solve others problems, offer advice or try and fix it. But we do a huge disservice to someone when we try and take their valley away from them. Most of the time if you go through a valley with Christ as your Guide, your valley will strengthen and change you forever.
When I was studying trauma counselling to work with trauma victims and survivors, the one lecturer said “how dare you take someone else’s pain and make it your own! It is not yours to have, it is not yours to interpret or to make personal, it is theirs and it can and will have meaning to that person. You offer a listening ear.” Those words stayed with me.
My valleys have deepened my walk with God, in many ways those valleys formed intimacy. I have a wonderful marriage today, forged through some very rough valleys but the journey has created a bond so deep and a love so amazing that the glory goes to our Father. The valley had a place for my purpose.
Anna: It’s beautiful to hear how God has brought such growth and healing to you and your husband through such hardship and suffering. In what ways have you seen God minister to others through your deep valley?
Lauren: While I was walking through my healing, both physically and spiritually in 2013 God began opening doors for me to speak at women’s gatherings. It seems weird that He would do that at that time and of course I was scared. I had never thought of myself as a speaker, I was a writer. I trembled with fear at the thought of addressing women and teaching them from the Bible in that sort of setting, but I did it and it was such a blessing to me. I was able to share from what I had learned and also my passion for stories in the Bible just kept on growing. My book was also birthed in the curve of the valley and it’s something that ministers to many women.
Anna: I love hearing how God pours in His courage and strength as we step into our fears. I’m so excited about your book and can’t wait to read it.
How have you seen God build community through your deepest valleys?
Lauren: Community came in the form of the women’s meetings I spoke at, I found so many great sisters in those gatherings. But I also found a lack of community in our fellowship where my husband and I were. I found people judging me when they heard I was sick, it’s something I realised people do very often, judge sick people and assume they are sick because they are sinners. This was so severe among some people in our community that one evening I was crying as I called out to God, asking Him if I had sin in my life causing me to be ill. His voice was audible, it rang out in my ears, he told me that I was not sick because of sin, I was sick because I am human. Illness happens, we are not in a glorified body yet and sickness can come to the most righteous of people. He also told me not to internalise their opinions because they could not understand my walk.
From then on, I did not speak to anyone about what I was going through and as I said above, God did bring a wonderful friend in to my life from another town who walked with me. That’s a word of warning I really want to give to people, not to judge people who may have an illness, it’s not a curse or sin, it’s life. That’s just where we need to pray and love someone, not condemn.
Anna: Thank you for sharing so vulnerably and truthfully. It is so sad to hear of this hurt and condemnation. I’m so thankful to hear of how God carried you through it as you sought and leant into His Truth.
What has been the biggest blessing of the ministry and community that have grown through your deepest valleys?
Lauren: The biggest blessing came through realising I am more than just a writer. God used that time period in my life to encourage me to stand up and speak at meetings, to pray for people and to be available when people wanted me to be a guest at conferences. Before then I would not have spoken in public like that, I was too scared. In 2014, I was much stronger physically and a lot more healed inside, because of my valley I had a lot more strength. In that year I organised and hosted 4 separate conferences, for poetry, women abuse, an Esther conference and a gendercide conference. My husband and I also went on our first outreach trip to Ghana to minister, I stood up one evening to speak to 300 ladies and I just cried, I had no words. The valley taught me about the tenderness of God, about His Loving arms and ever near presence. It taught me that Yeshua/Jesus longs for intimacy and just wants to protect us always.
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?
Lauren: Self – doubt. Writing is something I love, but with my first book I wrestled with self-doubt severely. In fact, I dragged my feet to finish my book because I worried that I did not have what it takes to complete it. Today, I recognise when self-doubt creeps in or when I hear the enemy telling me lies about myself. I push harder in to the work that I am doing and I banish the voice, I pray and I submit to God, resist the devil in this instance and he must flee.
I also still walk through the fact that I can stand up and speak. I am not a shy person at all and I enjoy being with people, but I never quite saw myself as a speaker, people always raise their eyebrows when I say that because apparently I am a good speaker. I have also received prophetic words about me speaking and to be honest I have grown to enjoy it. But I still sit in the chair before I am called up and I wrestle with my heart, silencing the voice that is not of God and I stand up because in that moment it’s where I am called to be and I can do all things through my Messiah who gives me that strength to do it!
Anna: 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?
Lauren: Surrender your life to the One who made you. He knows what you can handle, He knows why you need to handle it and what He is going to use it for. God has an amazing plan for each one of us, but we need to surrender to Him daily and seek Him in the beauty of holiness. Don’t desire someone else’s life or their walk, you are an individual and God has such a beautiful plan for you, trust Him. Recently I wrote a poem about being real when things are not so good and I want to share it here. When times are tough, it’s okay to break, it’s okay to say so, I don’t want to pretend because others will judge me. I want to be real and I want others to be real with me too.
THE BROKEN PILLAR BY LAUREN JACOBS
Broken down, a pillar.
Collapsed on the side of the river.
What stood as once something to be remembered,
An altar for the crossing of miracles.
Now it stands, fallen. Broken down.
Head in hands.
Knees bent, something sad, shaded here.
Holding head in hands, weep.
The crossing of grief for crisis and the unknown.
She does not need to stand. To pretend that all is okay.
She can fall, broken in to Perfection.
It Is not silent here, as the sea moves with silver sighs.
Too many sounds. She covers her ears.
Can someone drown out the noise of here.
Broken down. Pillar.
What peace to lie here.
No need of sound.
No words except the prayer for comfort.
Anna: Thank you so much for sharing your heart here today, Lauren. We trust and pray that it will bless all those who visit.
A soft Hand draws the curtain back gently;
the thin veil moves softly on the wind.
“Oh,” he smiles, “it is you. I was waiting for you to come.
Waiting for almost two thousand years.
Come, come to the place I have prepared for you.
Come and be all that you are, for I died upon the Tree to set you free.
Come daughter, I have been waiting for you, waiting for you
to want to be all that you can be.
Are you ready? The world is waiting and heaven is silent in anticipation.
Come along, child, destiny is awaiting.”
– Introduction, Yehudit Chosen of God.
Yehudit, Chosen of God will be released in July 2016. It will be released in both English and Afrikaans. I cannot wait to share her story with you.