Risking the Ocean and Running Towards the Roar
How Jennie Lusko Found Hope in the Midst of Loss
By Sarah Komisky
Jennie Lusko is a young woman I admire. Not just for her faithfulness to Jesus Christ but also for her courage and quiet strength that comes from the God she trusts, permeating her entire life. Mrs. Lusko is a young woman that “runs towards the roar” as she calls it and a young woman who has discovered the hope that lies in the midst of intense suffering and loss.
Facing the departure of her five-year-old daughter Lenya into heaven three years ago after a severe asthma attack, Lusko has embraced the journey God has for her and now shares the story of how she got through it alongside her husband, Pastor Levi Lusko of Fresh Life Church in Montana and her three girls. Together they currently are spreading this hope in the book, Through the Eyes of a Lion, that was released this August. Here is where her story began.
Growing up in a Christian home, Jennie moved to Albuquerque New Mexico to intern with the missions department and became a leader in the youth group where she would meet Levi. Making a commitment to not date during that time, Levi honored her decision and the two grew over time as friends not dating until that time was over. A year and a half later, the couple decided to get married where they are now going eleven years strong.
With an air of excitement for what they were doing together for God and the dream to move to New York, God instead placed it on their hearts to move to a rural area known as Kalispell, Montana which would become Fresh Life Church as we know it today beginning with a bible study in a room above a bar in the downtown area. Nine and half years later, there are six campuses in five cities across Montana along with two network sites!
But life took an unexpected turn for the Lusko’s three years ago in December. Undergoing one of the busiest weeks of their lives, Jennie reflected on that day she spent with her three little girls, especially her dear Lenya Lion who would undergo a severe asthma attack that day and enter eternity. That week, Jennie recalled “Tea Party Tuesday,” and little events that took place on Thursday leading up to the tragic event like writing birthday cards, wrapping presents, eating yogurt at a birthday party, and one special moment that happened at a Monsters, Inc. movie.
“Halfway during the movie, Lenya came and sat on my lap and snuggled me which would be my last snuggle moment with her. After the movie, the three of us held hands and walked to the car, where I would drive them to my mom’s house, so I could go home and wrap presents,” shares Jennie. “I remember distinctly saying goodbye to the girls, but it was super quick because I was going to be right back to get them. Looking back, I wish I had given each baby a big hug, especially Lenya.”
Going home for a quick date night and a time of Christmas wrapping, Jennie and Levi drove back to her mother’s house to find her brother calling to help Lenya. Jennie recounts that moment saying, “She looked at me and then she passed out. Levi came in, and I started losing it. I just stared screaming out her name, and praying and crying out to God. My mom kept saying something and I told her to be quiet. Paramedics came and I just couldn’t believe I was seeing my little five year old laid out on the ground being worked on by them. Levi stayed right by her and I went into the other room to hold on to my other babies and to try to bring some comfort. Levi went with Len in the ambulance and my brother David drove me in our car.”
Jennie received the news no parent wants to hear – the news that her child passed saying, “The doctor came in and said there was nothing more they could do. We never thought we would hear those words come out from a doctor about one of our children. This wasn’t how it was supposed to be. We’re not supposed to watch our children die, they are supposed to be there when we are old and ready to die. This wasn’t how it was supposed to be! We walked into the room where her body was. And we were in shock. We kissed her, held her hands, touched her feet, and Levi closed her eyes. We knelt down and cried out! We praised God and told Him that He gives and takes away, blessed be His name.”
Yet in the midst of deep sorrow, pain, and loss, Jennie did something extraordinary – she went back in the hospital and invited people to church. Commenting on that moment Jennies states, “I was just doing what we were used to doing. Tell people about Jesus and invite people to church. I honestly wasn’t even thinking clearly, it was almost like an automatic response in the moment, because we wouldn’t get that moment back.”
As days went on, Jennie would be faced with the question of what she would do with the pain in her life? Run away from God or run to Him? Choosing the latter, Jennie found a refuge and anchor for her soul, the Anchor who was also with Lenya sharing, “The Bible says that Jesus is in Heaven right now seated at the right hand of God and there’s such a comfort knowing that the God who saved me, sent Jesus – a human – who died, who rose, and who is in Heaven. Knowing Lenya is with Jesus – my Anchor – brings the most comfort. It was really hard at first, because Lenya was five. She was in our care, and it was our job to protect her, but suddenly she was just gone. And in my thinking as a parent, it was hard thinking of her in heaven all by herself, with no supervision. Obviously God has always been the one to take care of her, but it’s just a shift in our minds as parents. So knowing that God is with us and she is with Him has been huge for us.”
Experiencing agonizing pain that was hard to deal with even with the hope she had in Christ, Jennie learned more and more that Jesus was the only One to turn to. Confessing that she had moments where she looked to her husband for comfort, Jennie found Jesus to be her source of hope, peace that passes understanding, and the One she could rest in assurance of His deep love for her. Standing on the Scriptures, Jennie found solace in Psalm 73:25-26 that says, “Whom have I in heaven but You, and there is none upon earth that I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.”
Coming alongside her husband Levi, Jennie and the family are sharing Lenya’s story with the world with the desire to bring hope found in Christ in the new book, Through the Eyes of a Lion. Jennie shares her prayer for the book saying, “My prayer is that everyone who reads this book would see life differently. That their eyes would be opened to see their pain and their loss as an opportunity to be used like never before. And that they would be strengthened and encouraged to live the dynamic, abundant life that Jesus came for us to live. And as we have already seen, I hope people would give this book to others in their lives who they know are hurting.”
Speaking to those who are currently experiencing pain, loss, or extreme circumstances, Jennie speaks words of encouragement sharing, “Hold on tightly to Jesus. And I would say don’t run from God. Run to Him. He loves you. He has plans for you, and in the midst of your pain, there is actually joy to be found and purpose in it. Hold on to Him and don’t let go. Read the Bible. Surround yourself with the right people and get involved in the church. We need each other, and we need to grow and flourish in the house of the Lord.”
Being a wife, mom, pastor’s wife, and ambassador of hope in Christ, Jennie is embracing what God has in front of her even in the unknown expressing, “The beautiful thing about walking with Jesus is that we never really know what’s in front of us, and yet there’s such an excitement, strength, hope, and fun in it. We know that no matter what may come, it’s going to take us closer to Him, closer to heaven, and He will always be faithful to complete the work He began in us. I guess practically, this looks like continually taking one step after another. We’ll keep serving and loving Him, loving each other, our daughters, and our amazing church. We’ll keep advancing the Kingdom with Fresh Life, the 02 Experience, and Skull Church, and we’ll keep risking the ocean and running toward the roar until we see Jesus face to face!”
Find out more about Jennie Lusko, Fresh Life Church, Through the Eyes of a Lion, and the O2 Experience at: mrslusko.com, freshlifechurch.com, and o2experience.com