For ‘Now and again’, Letters to Jenny’s girls…

Writing –  because God has put it on my heart. Yes, ever since I was diagnosed with cancer, the Lord has me writing. But for Sami, Alli, and Jordan, the Lord has me putting together for you, letters about your mom, Jenny Sorenson. Oh, she was amazing. I know each of you know that, but I just wanted to tell you again, just in case you ever wondered.

Life is filled with a lot of blessings as well as a lot of troubles, but God holds each of us in His Hands, through it all – the good and the bad. He is always with us – God’s word tells us so. And what’s crazy about it all, is, it seems that we don’t even know it, and don’t grow in discovering that we are actually held in His hand,  until after we have been at our lowest, or after times of great pain, or after suffering  heartache and loss – it is then that we have opportunity to discover God’s hand holding us up, because there is no strength left on our part, and we cry out to God!  You and your family have gone through painful trials, and I am so sorry you girls have had to suffer so, but God is with you and His hand is going to carry you through everything.

How do I know this? Because Jenny Sorenson was your mother, and what a champion she was in faith, hope, and love! And you girls were her life, and she looked to God to strengthen every weak breath she breathed, so she could be there for you. She never gave up on God, and He was faithful to lift her faith as if she had wings as eagles, by His Spirit. You witnessed it, I know you did. And I did too. So I write so we can remember, ‘now and again.’

The part that you might not know is, how exceptional your mother was, in continually giving her disappointments to God and taking courage with the challenges she faced and making the choice to surrender to His will in everything – she was the best example ever of a terrific mom! Not being able to  do anything – because her body shut down on her – she DID the best things – believing God for one -with excellence!  And this woman was your mama!

It seems that after great pain, we are made ready to actually receive great joy. We witness this every time a newborn baby is born! And after sickness, we often times are made ready to become ‘healed’ in so many areas in our lives, (even in some areas that we didn’t even know were sick!) because God is so close He literally ‘makes our bed’. Your mom suffered greatly, but drew closer and closer to God, and guess what? He drew closer and closer to her. So beautifully close, with sweet intimacy that your mom was ‘filled’ with His Spirit! Her very heart shined like Ps. 103: “Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits: Who forgives all your iniquities, who heals all of your diseases, who redeems your life from destruction, who crowns you with lovingkindness and tendermercies; who satisfies your mouth with good things; so that your youth is renewed like the eagles…”

Your mom knew that many  nurses would see her and feel ‘sad’ for her. But your mom had a prayerful heart and communed with God so much that she felt sad for many of them with all their heaviness without faith. She was thankful and in full expectation of God. Your mom had the joy of the Lord, in case you ever wondered what that looked like! Don’t get me wrong, she told me about her struggles with doubt, but she knew where to run! Just like I said, she couldn’t run, or even walk or stand, but what she did do, she did with excellence – she trusted God and hoped in Him!

Your mom’s cry was much like David’s in Ps. 62:1, “Truly my soul silently waits for God. From Him comes my salvation. He only is my rock and my salvation; He is my defense; I shall not be greatly moved.” Yes, so much silence, so much waiting, and she couldn’t move and make things happen, but because God was her Rock, she was not ‘greatly moved.’ God met her and gave her His grace which is all sufficient, and she victoriously calmed and quieted herself much like David once again: “My soul, wait silently for God alone, For my expectation is from Him. He only is my rock and my salvaiton; He is my defense; I shall not be moved.” Ps. 62:5,6.

So, I told your mom that I was writing a book called God’s Hand. That God had put on my heart to write and He confirmed it with His word: “write in a book for yourself the things I have shown you in My word, (Jer. 33:1). I have someone who encouraged the Bible journaling, and I have someone who encouraged the writing, but I told your mom, that she was the ‘feet’ to move this to completion!  She would smile and say, “It will get written!” Each chapter has it’s own ‘personality’ in that the Bible has so many hues and shades of color. So, in taking the title, “God’s Hand” and making it an acronym, “G” stands for “Gird Up!”, reminding me of scriptures that spoke exhortation to me. “O” stands for “Open my eyes Lord, I can’t see You!”, how God can turn ‘doubt and fear’ to increased faith just by looking in His word, “D” speaks of “Declaring God’s works” in fabulous acts of God in people’s lives.”S” is the “Songs that He Sings” over us, and “H” stands for “Hymns speak power and peace”, “A”, stands for “And we Know” and reminds us those truths that we often forget, and it is in the “N” chapter, the “Nevertheless God” chapter, where ‘outside there were conflicts, inside there were fears’ but Nevertheless God that I wanted your mom to share her story with me.

Little did I know, that God would simply show me His treasure, your mom,  and He would have me write her story! The final chapter to my book is, “D”, deliverance through surrender. Perhaps, in that chapter, I will end it all with the last hymn I sang with your mother: “I Surrender All” and a picture of the cross, because that is where surrender and deliverance takes place. So, Jenny Sorenson had feet that couldn’t even wiggle, but she is the ‘feet’ to this book, and for 5 3/4 years, she was tried and tested in all things,  with many cuts allowed to be made in this diamond-but shine, shine, shine she did with faith, hope, and love.

Your dear mom has gone home to be with her Lord. She was hoping that He would heal her so she could be here with you, but it was His will that she go to be with Him instead. Oh, but she lives on, in each of you, and many others too.  It was Nov. 9th, 2013, and over 5 3/4 years previous of this date, February of 2008, her body would not move, but Jenny let God mover her! He moved  in and through her, and molded her and made her into a most amazing woman.  And because of that, your mom is a hero to me.

I wrote quite a bit of our times with the Lord, your mother and me, so I would like to share them with you,  in letters, so, now and again you can read one, to cry or take courage or just cuddle with.Because in life, ‘it’s not how you start, it’s how you finish’ that matters, and your mama,…she finished amazingly well! With great amounts of love, Toni Rypkema

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1. Today, in our everyday, we witness heroes. The Bible even tells us in Hebrews 12:1 says,  “Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses…”and then the chapter in  Hebrews 11 has a whole  impressive list of these ‘great witnesses’: Abel and Enoch and Noah and Abraham and Sarah, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses’ parents, Moses, Joshua, Rahab and many other hero’s of faith.

But what is interesting, is the verse says, “Therefore we also…” And since we ‘also’ are surrounded by these great witnesses, we need to learn from them and take note of their life. That is why I write about Jenny – but that’s not even right-I write about what God did in and through her! That’s what is amazing! It’s God’s life in her, His Hand of love that I witnessed that lifted her above the ‘chair’.

First I must explain what brought us together in the first place. It was the same month and the same year, February of 2008  that I was diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis. You see, when you go through a set back like this, it is nothing when you discover that in the same month, a mom from the swim team that your kids swim on, becomes mysteriously paralyzed overnight! So, as I was learning to deal with a disease that I had suddenly acquired, I thought of Jenny everyday, going through the struggles of paralysis- from her neck down to her toes! Just thinking of Jenny kept things in perspective for me.

As time continued and our family went through some huge losses, I would think of Jenny often.  NOTHING compared to the losses that Jenny experienced. And,  a little more time went by and I was diagnosed with cancer. God brought Jenny close to my heart continually. I would watch her blow into a long straw-type tube to move her chair into the Y, and only have a few chats with here ‘now and again’, but I would pray for her and your whole family, and think of her often and it would help strengthen me in all I was going through.  Fighting cancer was  NOTHING, compared to the fight to keep going that Jenny experienced.

More time passed. (We are talking years), but I can’t tell you how many times, when I thought life was just dealing way too much difficulty in our family’s direction,and I would cry out, “Help me Lord!” Well, I think Jenny was His ‘help’ for me.  God would remind me, “Remember Jenny.” And I would. And I would be able to take a breath and move forward, just knowing that everyday, Jenny did.

It was Thanksgiving time, 2012, when I heard on the radio a question, “Is there someone very important in your life, but might not even know it?” My immediate answer to myself was,  “Yes, Jenny!” Then they encouraged, “Maybe this Thanksgiving you need to let that person know!”

So I did. And a friendship developed. I became her private worship leader(!) and would come with my guitar and we would worship the Lord and pray and share the word together. It kind of felt like our times together were ‘little moments of heaven’. We were literally ‘knit’ together in heart, as Paul wrote many times in his letter to the Philippians, “I thank my God upon every remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine making request for you…with joy…because I have you in my heart.” Phil 1:3,5.

Jenny would sing, and she would cry, and then she would pray. Oh my…Jenny could pray. Out of the abundance of her heart, her mouth spoke. Jenny’s heart was filled with an abundance of the Spirit of God, and out of her mouth came the most grace-filled words ever. I was overwhelmed with conviction. You see, out of the abundance of my heart my mouth speaks as well, but my words are not always an abundance of goodness and faithfulness, it’s often times complaint!

You probably just think that I am writing nice words about a friend. NO, I am writing about a work that God did in her!

Jenny would be on my heart when  I was tempted to be depressed and just wanted to ‘throw in the towel’ so to speak, knowing that she chose to get up each day with the courage that God gave her to face her day the best she could, then I could to.  To think that this woman couldn’t even bring a sip of water to her lips when she was thirsty, or wipe her  own tears, or pull up a blanket  up to her shoulders when she was cold, or hug her three daughters or husband.  She could have every reason to be frustrated and bitter and angry and a whole bunch of other things, but she made the choice to…be yielded to God.

Jenny told me, that as ironic as it seems, the verse that spoke most powerfully to her was, “Be still, and know that I am God.” Psalm 46:10. She would joke, “Lord, I’m not going anywhere!” Jenny lived her life willingly ‘presenting her body as a living sacrifice to God’, getting up each day in perseverance, being there for her three girls, being others – centered, with the help of home-health care around the clock – but HOW? you might ask. Because of her faith and hope. And where did she get all this faith and hope?

…from God. She told me, right from the start, God spoke to her and told her, “You are going to walk again.” God’s word gave her faith, and hope.

So, you might be thinking, “But God didn’t heal her.” Well, the truth is, He DID heal her. She’s walking, she’s dancing, and she’s singing without setting off the alarm on her respirator! But I must tell you – God healed Jenny even before heaven, God healed every ounce of her inside. You see, Jenny prayed with faith and Jenny believed. The word says that “hope does not disappoint, for the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit” Romans 5:5. And God’s love was ‘pouring’ out of her heart, and her hope was in Him, always, thus making her gracious and forgiving, thus a vessel of peace – when she could easily have been a vessel of anger, bitterness, and strife, seeking pity continually.

But instead, this word took place in her: “Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” Romans 15:13. Spending time with Jenny was witnessing all of this -“Therefore since we also have this great cloud of witnesses…”I am honored to have witnessed this great witness!

Jenny’s home health care came to an end, so her greatest fear happened, and 5 3/4 years after the onset of all her troubles,  at only 40 years of age, she found herself back in the hospital. It is during this time that our time in worship and prayer and in God’s word became concentrated – and I can tell you as a fact – the love of God continued to be  poured out in Jenny’s attitude and she continued to abound in hope – both, by the power of the Holy Spirit. I would call her God’s ‘hope diamond!’ Yes, I told her that I don’t need to plan a drip to DC to visit the Smithsonian to walk up some stairs to see the Hope Diamond. All I need to do is visit room 609 in the local hospital! The hope diamond is  there!

I shared many times with her this verse:  Zechariah 9:12, “Return to the stronghold, You prisoners of hope. Even today I declare that I will restore double to you.” She was a ‘prisoner of hope’, hope in the One who is able, and she waited.  We delight to display diamonds,well, I  am delighted to share  this treasure of the Lord… ‘He who honors God, God will honor.’ Jenny, others need to see what a gem you were.

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Planted by Streams of Water – a forward by Jared Rypkema

“He [the blessed man] is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither.  In all that he does, he prospers.”  -psalm 1:3

If there was ever a time a son could say, “my mom is the greatest woman I know,” this is it.  It may have taken me years to get out of my teens and realize it, but I have.

I’m so glad you’re here.

My mom would never write this post herself, so this is my forward and my encouragement to the woman who has meant the world to me, my father, and every one of my 10 brothers and sisters.

This passage in Psalms is one of her favorites.  I’m pretty sure I was five the first time she had us memorize the whole thing.  And when I sat down to write this first post, it’s the only thing that came to mind.

It was a little over 25 years ago that my mom was happily expecting her first child.  Little did she know how many  lives she would be intricately a part of at that time, and the things life would throw her way.  But she did know then that Jesus could do anything, and that if she planted herself by his stream, she would be ok.  Today, after successfully  raising 5 children, marrying 2, continuing with the last 6, surviving breast cancer, and many more things we’d call accomplishments, she knows more than ever.

Of course, nothing’s really been easy.  But if you know anything about Toni Rypkema, it’s that she’s always been patiently planted by that stream. Even when at times there has been no fruit, the water has felt like a trickle, and her way hasn’t seemed prosperous.

But that’s the greatest thing about her. She still knows it’s Jesus that holds her, and so she patiently waits.

If you’re looking for what it means to sit by the river of living water, you’ve come to the right place.  Here my mom will share with you her story.  Through the days, you’ll see what has shaped her in this life, but I can promise you one thing, you’ll always find Jesus in her posts and encouragement in her thoughts.

It’s just who she is.

P.S – Follow her on facebook to read many posts from her pre-blog days and see pictures of her family.