Today, Author Jenna Victoria, is a guest on Loretta’s Loft. Enjoy her story below, and celebrate the release of her new book War of the Heart:
In Sunday school, my teacher asked each child to select and memorize a “life hymn” by the end of that term’s class. This was long before the rise in contemporary worship styles, the explosion of the Gospel music industry and super-star praise-and-worship bands and solo artists.
My choice was to be selected from tunes I loved singing in VBS or children’s church or heard my grandmother humming or playing on an upright piano. Although she often sang the more cheerful, “What a Friend We Have in Jesus,” I chose instead a beloved song that I had no idea would later exemplify grace and sustain me during recurring bouts of metastatic breast cancer.
“Spirit of God, Descend Upon My Heart,” was written by George Croly in 1854. He served as a minister in one of London’s worst slums – but saw great numbers of parishioners change from the heart outwards – not the other way around.
Spirit of God, descend upon my heart;
wean it from earth; through all its pulses move;
stoop to my weakness, mighty as thou art,
and make me love thee as I ought to love.
40 years after I chose and memorized this hymn, God brought it to mind again—and I discovered why He had led that young child to select it so long ago. The words of the first verse took on a very personal meaning—as oncologists, surgeons and radiologists surrounded me with their frightening earthly diagnosis and prognosis reports. I recognized, for the first time, I needed to fully wean my heart from its earthly moorings. The earth is not my home. As I lay for hours in a radiation machine or was squeezed into an MRI tube, or as I undergo radioactive body scans every three months – I am called to attach my heart to the promises of God, not to fear or worry or anxiety. The stanza also led me to analyze my adult relationship with Jesus and reverse the decreasing percentage of my daily life I had allotted completely to Him.
Has thou not bid me love thee, God and King?
All, all thine own, soul, heart and strength and mind.
I see thy cross; there teach my heart to cling.
O let me seek thee, and O let me find.
The third verse directly references the cross. Through my 4-year cancer battle, the vision of the cross has taught my heart (as the song says) to cling to the wood, the nails and the thorny crown. It is my privilege to walk the pathway to the cross, to find God’s presence. When I am in pain or nauseous from ongoing chemotherapy, have no energy, or undergo another surgery, my heart recalls what my Savior endured. 2 Corinthians 1:5 says, “For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ.” I have found that to be 100% truth. He is my comfort. He is enough.
Teach me to feel that thou art always nigh;
teach me the struggles of the soul to bear.
To check the rising doubt, the rebel sigh,
teach me the patience of unanswered prayer.
This verse of the song has been an incredible meditation for me. “Teach me to feel” – Amen! I didn’t arrive at this sense of peace, and yes, JOY, overnight. It was a process. God taught me, an unwilling pupil at first. “Teach me to bear the struggles” – Hallelujah! I had to learn to equate suffering, with praise. I only knew one thing, and that was to cling so tight to God and His promises (even when I did not “feel” like it) that there wasn’t any space for doubt or fear to wedge in. “The rebel sigh” – oh, how I wanted this cup to pass away from my lips; even though I never asked why cancer came to my door. I personally felt it wasn’t my place to question the sovereignty of God. But I sure didn’t want to be a member of the cancer club, let alone a very small club made up of 18% of triple-negative breast cancer (TNBC) patients. TNBC is the most aggressive, hardest to treat, and largely incurable type of breast cancer.
This has allowed me to give Him all glory, as the words “teach me the patience of unanswered prayer” unfold every day. Of course, my prayer is to be completely healed of recurrent cancer. But over the last four years, as cancer recedes and then recurs – I have seen impatience turn to peace. My desires turn to His desires.
Teach me to love Thee as Thine angels love,
One holy passion filling all my frame;
The presence of Thy descended Dove,
My heart an altar, and Thy love the flame.
“Spirit of God, Descend Upon My Heart,” ends with this final stanza and it is the most personal of all. I can think of nothing more glorious than to have my life be an example of “My heart an altar, and Thy love the flame.” I am content to follow the path the Lord has set before me. My only response can be to fully trust and praise Him.
Title: War of the Heart
Sub title: Snow Globe Christmas Collection
Publisher: Forget Me Not Romances
Blurb: When a vintage snow globe sends Boston dress designer Louise Martin & British B&B owner George Walker back in time to London, December 1940, they race against the clock to reconcile a feud between their families and solve a 75-year-old mystery. As Louise relies on God; and on George for guidance, friendship then love, will the future George envisions strangle her own dreams? Will their love survive generations of mistrust, the Blitz and being stranded in wartime 1940, possibly never to return to their former lives?
Jenna Victoria’s Biography: Ever since her grandfather co-created Twinkies, Snowballs & Hostess cupcakes for Intercontinental Baking Company, circa 1959, Jenna’s yet to taste a cake she hasn’t liked.
Jenna is the author of “fiction that feeds your faith” – Happily-Ever-After romance & romantic suspense stories with a Christian world view. She also writes clean, wholesome romances. Her stories emulate those she enjoys reading…with a heroine who is in grave danger & a hero who is smart enough to get out of her way as she kicks butt & takes down names… and those that feature the sweetest of fairy-tale-ending love stories.
She writes romances that glorify God and His sacrificial love through His Son, Jesus Christ and show how He gives us hope & peace amidst unbearable situations. After her first breast cancer diagnosis in 2012, several reoccurrences and metastasis, Jenna continues to praise God and trust His oversight in her life; and continues to write more books.
I hope you’ve enjoyed Jenna’s guest visit today, here on Loretta’s Loft. Feel free to find out more about her on her website listed above.
Missy Tippens says
Jenna, this was such an amazing, inspiring post. I’ve always loved that hymn but will understand it on a deeper level now. Thank you for sharing and for touching my today.
Loretta Eidson says
Missy, you are right, Jenna’s story is inspiring. I’m so glad she shared it with us!
Loretta, it was my pleasure. Life is all about overcoming what we face by relying on the help of the Father, Son and the Holy Spirit ~ not our own strength.
Thanks Missy… there are so many of the long-ago hymns with “meat” on their old bones
I love your post, Jenna, and I loved your book! I share your love for the old hymns. Grew up in a church with a big pipe organ, and the music and singing always made my heart soar. Wonderful how God has used this beautiful hymn, learned many years ago, to bring you comfort and encouragement now.