Friday, August 7, 2015

August 7th

June 9, 2015

Deeply bothered by judgments I was making all over the place at all kinds of people for all kinds of things, and realized I was projecting those judgments outward because I was judging myself harshly, terrified of the things Jesus has been teaching me about what He is asking me to do and the way my prayers have grown.

Therefore, I am wanting myself to be perfect and trying to do it by judging and punishing myself harshly to try and whip myself into shape and so also projecting that outward- which is what always happens; this is a pattern. If I begin to judge myself harshly, it is also what I give outward.

“It’s scary!” I said to Jesus, getting to the heart of the problem.

Not in Me, Jesus assured me.

Because of course, His life is the true source of my life. I cannot be righteous and holy apart from Him, but only as I abide in Him by faith, trusting Jesus to finish that work that He has begun in me. That way, when He speaks, I hear and when He moves, I follow because I am resting quietly and not obsessed with my own spiritual progress- that is, my eyes are off of myself and onto Him.

Understanding this, I let go of the judgments and had compassion on myself and put my whole trust in Jesus and not my own ability or lack thereof.

June 20, 2015

I was watching Merissa’s long hands as she played. Even at two years old, her hands are already elegant looking, and realized with such sadness that none of her beauty comes or will ever come from me. I have bequeathed her none of what makes her lovely. All of those things are gifts from her birthmother.

Your gift will be her inner beauty, Jesus said.

I thought that was a lovely thing for Him to say and I knew it was true, but the sadness remained and I let it be. I knew over time His words would sink in and do their healing work.

July 9, 2015

As I was anxiously praying again for Jesus to guide me, I realized part of my fears was based on not wanting to appear wrong in public- based on pride and self-image. Humbly confessed this, thanked the Holy Spirit was making that clear to me, because it was a subtle distinction, and released this fear into God.

“I let go of the need to appear right before others. I am willing to let my self-image die so long as I am obedient to You. I am willing to risk appearing wrong to others if that is necessary in order to be right before You.”

I felt Jesus reach down and tip my face up to His. I love you, He stated.

This is quite similar to another time when I was anxiously begging Jesus that He teach me and guide me and keep me, and instead of reaching clarity, the request kept coming out all jumbled somehow, so I asked Him in desperation, “Do You know what I’m trying to say?”

He calmly replied, Yes. You want a faultless doctrine before others so that you will be approved by them.

Hearing Jesus say this was like I had been stumbling around in panic and then hitting a wall- I was stunned, but the panic was gone. I put my hand over my mouth, shocked and distressed by what I had really been wanting from Him.

“That it what I was asking You,” I confessed, “but I repent; forgive me. I don’t want that. That is no longer my request. I want You and You alone. I don’t care what it costs me to have You. I don’t care what judgments come my way. I want You.”

July 17, 2015

Early yesterday evening, I prayed Keith would be restored and refreshed after a long period of stress over his heath and that he be fed with the good green grass and led beside the still waters and then Jesus said, go down.

So I said, “Yes, beloved Lord,” and went downstairs to find Keith. He was outside watering the garden, which he hadn’t done in a while and he looked peaceful and happy. The first thing he told me was that just a few moments ago, his health had improved in one area.

“That’s a really good sign!” he said to me, and he went on peacefully watering the lawn. When I told him that I had just been praying for exactly that, he didn’t even seem surprised, but I was caught up in some feeling that I can’t describe very well. It was close to awe, but there was so much peace to it.

July 30, 2015

“Is that too childish?” I asked Jesus.

Unless you convert and become like little children, you cannot enter the Kingdom at all, Jesus reminded me.

“Oh yes. I keep forgetting that.”

You should remember.

August 1, 2015

Jenny, I love you, Jesus keeps saying, but I am in one of those periods where my faith is so small a circumference that I can’t understand how that is possible. But I remember this from before- this feeling always comes before an expansion of faith and sight.

For days now, I’ve been feeling strongly that feeling of reproach that happens after I blog. Those feelings of reproach say- how dare you be that close, impudent and ridiculous, that embarrassingly childish, that intimate and ignorant around God? How dare you say, let it be done? That is wrong, that is all wrong and you are making a fool of yourself and letting God down in front of other people who know better.

Sometimes I have to take ibuprofen at the end of the day, because my shoulders and back ache from the stress, but it’s always been this way from the very first time I began to write about God. At the beginning I suffered the most, but now I thank Jesus for His work, because my faith grows continually through it. Nothing but good comes from it.

I felt this wave of reproach wash over me again, so again, I put the whole mess into the hands of Jesus by faith and I said to Him, “Thank You for the growth of my faith through this.”

Jenny, you are My icebreaker, Jesus replied.

For the month of August, I have gone on off the internet except for posting blogs. I’ve been thinking about doing this for a little while, because I was getting too hooked in. I do this usually for Lent and each time I have, I have experienced significant growth in my relationship with Jesus in an area that was necessary. It’s wonderfully still. I asked Jesus if I should again and He said yes, do so.

I sighed, because of course, it’s hard to stop at first, but I thought to myself, I’ll wait and see if I get another confirmation. Then I was cleaning out the cupboards for the new dishes and thinking about it again and I said to myself, “But how will I get fed?” I wouldn’t have grown so much if not for everything that I was learning from others through websites and blogs and things.

I will feed you, Jesus said.

So that was that.

August 6, 2015

I keep thinking about being at the ocean visiting with Merissa’s birth parents a month ago and how on the last day, it became clear that despite our polite and firm request that they not bring their significant others, as we wanted Merissa just to spend time with her immediate birth family, that they had brought them along anyway and that the two strangers on the beach were not in fact strangers. Eventually, all attempts to disguise the relationships were given up and it seemed we were to become one odd group.

I took Merissa up to the hotel room. We had been out in the sun all afternoon, but I needed space to think. We had wanted to take them out to eat, but now what? I felt shaky inside, because we had been lied to, as they had agreed to those earlier stated boundaries, and I wondered, was our request burdensome? But didn’t it make sense? After all, we had driven six hours down to where they lived, to make it convenient for them so they would not have to spend money on a hotel room. We did this so that Merissa could have a meaningful, memorable time with people that will always be an important part of her life, and also, to ease the pain of two people that we have come to care about a great deal.

But now what? I felt the trust was broken and now what about dinner? Was everyone going to come? The boundaries we had put in place had been disrespected and now should we say, politely but firmly, “We already told you how we felt about having anyone else but us together this weekend, so I’m afraid these people cannot be with us as group”?

Keith and I talked and we could not say that, even if it was justified. I felt angry and trapped by the situation. Keith went down to speak to them about dinner, and then suddenly they were coming up the elevator and they all were coming to the hotel room, as they had checked out of theirs and they needed a place to change out of their bathing clothes.

I felt angry and frustrated at our boundaries being disrespected, and what I wanted to do was come up with some consequence, but I couldn’t think of what that would be, unless it were to stop visiting with them, which was a drastic consequence. I felt trapped and resentful at being put in the strange position where I found myself, and a part of me felt as though treating them coldly or keeping them at a distance would be justified.

“I don’t know what to do, I don’t know what to say,” I said to Jesus, in desperation.

I was a stranger and you welcomed Me, He said.

That was all He had to say. His unmistakable voice left a calm space in me and I had only a moment to thank Him before the door opened and they all spilled in- all of them hardly past adolescence really. Their entrance held all that energy particular to adolescence- a mix of heady thrill at outwitting the parents (I realized we were the parent figures) and shame at having done something they knew was wrong. I held out my hand to them as though simply reaching past all that, brushing it aside for the moment, and warmly welcomed them without any awkwardness at all. The wariness of their faces melted immediately into surprise and their high energy turned to bashfulness, and then an earnest desire to be seen as adults.

They watched Keith especially as he spoke with them easily, as he is able to do so well. He can’t help himself, he must mentor and coach and listen. He did it for his tank crew during training and during deployment and he did this for the young officers when he was the mission commander of their three week long field training, and for those wounded men he was responsible for during their healing- or until they passed away.

Now these young men watched him with eyes hungry for approval and not wanting it to show and not aware that it was, the conversation centering around cars and dirt bikes and jobs. I watched. It was as if they slowly straightened up and their eyes grew bright and they looked around them with surprise.

Merissa’s birthmother looked at me and I saw the surprise in her eyes and also chagrin. Her eyes were full of apology. I realized in that moment that she must be caught up in hundred different directions, pulled here and pulled there by all the people in her life that she is trying to please or to placate or to manage. It was as if she was looking through me and trying to figure me out, because I wasn’t fitting any category she had known before.

So we all went to dinner together, one large unlikely and unwieldy family- except for Merissa’s birth father, who said good bye to her at the hotel parking lot. He stood outside the car, leaning in the window at and he held out his hand to her, his face soft with love and sadness.

“Will you give me a high five?” he asked. He is a gentle young man and his voice came out gently.

I saw her face. She was looking at him with wonder and this wonder turned to trust and not taking her eyes off his face, she put her hand gently into his palm. It was a perfect moment.

“Thank you. That means a lot to me,” he said quietly.

At the restaurant, we were waiting in line to order pizza and one of the young men said to me, “Merissa really is adorable,” and I said without thinking, “Thank you!” Only Merissa’s birthmother was right there. I saw a look of pain pass over her face and she swooped down and gathered Merissa up in her arms and covered her little face with kisses and buried her face in her hair.

I felt so badly. Naturally, when people give me compliments on my daughter, who truly is a lovely little toddler, I say proudly, “Thank you!” I don’t add, “All that adorableness is from her birthmother, who loves her,” because really, that’s too much to drop onto a friendly middle aged woman at the grocery store who is most likely fondly remembering her own children when they were young.

I didn’t know what to do at the time, but later when her birthmother was holding Merissa and taking pictures of them both with her phone, I said, “You know she really looks just like you. I tell her often that she looks pretty just like her birthmother.” She looked up at me with shy but wary gratitude, so I went on bravely, “She especially has your hands. I notice that often.”

Immediately, she pulled Merissa’s hand up into view, saying, “I wonder if she had my crooked pinky…” Then she held the tiny hand out to me in wonder, set next to her own, long fingered, elegant one. “She does!”

I looked at her eager young face, her eyes filled with a mix of so much emotion and all I felt was a largess of compassion, clear and tender. It filled me entirely.

By the time we said goodbye- not just for the evening, but for the trip, as they were heading home that night- the young woman was tired and slumped down, no doubt worn out from the intensity of every emotion that comes up for her during the visit. It’s really quite courageous and loving of Merissa’s birth mother and father to come. It is not easy for them.

“Next year, I’ll have a week’s vacation!” she told us, struggling to break through the sadness and look forward to something good. She looked from Keith’s face to mine and back again.

“That is wonderful,” we assured her. “That sounds great!”

Keith shook hands all around and said to her boyfriend, “We’ll see you next year,” and I felt annoyed at him for a moment, because I’m not a saint and I did not have grace enough for next year just yet. I still felt like writing them a stiff and formal e-mail expressing my displeasure, but I haven’t, and I am so grateful to Jesus for helping me during an emotionally intense situation when I might have made a graceless decision that I would have regretted afterward.

It’s reasonable to us to want to meet with only Merissa’s birth parents, but it might not feel reasonable to them and they probably need all the emotional support they have during that time. Also, it’s possible that no one in their life keeps their word, so they don’t think it means anything to say one thing and then to do another. They might think that’s standard practice.

It makes me think of how grace is unmerited favor and mercy, and how mercy is compassion or forgiveness shown toward someone whom it is within one's power to punish or harm, and how often Jesus pours out His grace toward me. I keep thinking of how Jesus said, “But go and learn what this means- I desire mercy and not sacrifice.”

It makes me think how necessary it is to be led by the Holy Spirit and not by rote formula. Rote formula would not have helped me figure out what to do, but the fruits of the Holy Spirit are love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control, and against those there is no law.


Therefore, now no condemnation awaits those who are living in Jesus the Anointed, the Liberating King, because when you live in the Anointed One, Jesus, a new law takes effect. The law of the Spirit of life breathes into you and liberates you from the law of sin and death. God did something the law could never do. You see, human flesh took its toll on God’s law. In and of itself, the law is not weak; but the flesh weakens it. So to condemn the sin that was ruling in the flesh, God sent His own Son, bearing the likeness of sinful flesh, as a sin offering. Now we are able to live up to the justice demanded by the law. But that ability has not come from living by our fallen human nature; it has come because we walk according to the movement of the Spirit in our lives.

If you live your life animated by the flesh—namely, your fallen, corrupt nature—then your mind is focused on the matters of the flesh. But if you live your life animated by the Spirit—namely, God’s indwelling presence—then your focus is on the work of the Spirit. A mind focused on the flesh is doomed to death, but a mind focused on the Spirit will find full life and complete peace.

Romans 8:1-6, Voice