Friday, May 19, 2017

The Door in the Valley of Achor

December 19, 2012

My anxiety has been increasing lately, with the holidays and the house not renting and this chaotic world that we live in.

Last night I read some and it calmed me down. I lay in bed, quietly breathing and feeling the spaciousness within, when my whirling and repetitive and anxious thoughts are still.

I am always with you, Jesus said.

And I thought, why? Why does He repeat that to me so very often? What does that mean? What is He saying to me?

I rested in the question. The first thought that came up was that God was like some sort of Santa-figure, always watching to see if I've been naughty or nice.

No wonder His words don't comfort me for very long, if that's the meaning that I've been unconsciously assigning to them!

The next thought that came up was that He was with me in order to "use" me in some super productive way.

That thought always comes up, even though Jesus has corrected me on this many times. It's been ingrained in me that God is only with us in order to "use" us as if we were nothing more than objects.

Those were the surface thoughts. After those thoughts, a wondering thought came up from a deeper and quieter place in my spirit.

I considered how Jesus has gone to great lengths to remind me that He's always been with me, even when I wouldn't have guessed He would remain, from childhood and in every moment and in every interaction, and that He does not remember my sins.

So then it seemed to me that He might be with me because He loves me. As an expression of this love, He created me to be in the world and for Himself to be in the world through me.

Just because. Just as myself, the self He created me to be.

And then this morning, I read this:

"Think of the many, many stories about God choosing people. There’s Moses, Abraham, and Sarah; there is David, Jeremiah, Gideon, Samuel, Jonah, and Isaiah. There is Israel itself. Much later there’s Peter and Paul, and, most especially, Mary.

God is always choosing people. First impressions aside, God is not primarily choosing them for a role or a task, although it might appear that way. God is really choosing them to be God’s self in this world, each in his or her unique situation.

If they allow themselves to experience being chosen, being a beloved, being somehow God’s presence in the world, they invariably communicate that same chosenness to others—almost naturally. And thus the Mystery passes on from age to age. Yes, we do have roles and tasks in this world, but finally they are all the same—to uniquely be divine love in a way that no one else can or will."

-Adapted from Things Hidden: Scripture as Spirituality, pp. 42-43


Come, Lord Jesus!

December 22, 2012 (this is my first journal entry)

So I have to write about something lately.

I’ve been reading and in this book, it talks about being awake to the present moment, no matter what it brings, without judgment, just to be in it. That is where one finds God.

And that is true, and I have been practicing it.

Also, it talks about three ways of relating to God, and one is as His beloved.

And I remembered of course, that kind of longing and I wondered where it went. I was pouring out my heart to Jesus a few nights ago, all my frustration over my confusion about faith and asking and receiving and my guilt about all that, not understanding it.

I mean, I was shouting at Him, bent over double, crying out. It was exhausting and risky, but I really have grown into Him, because I was able to do it.

Jesus was tenderly listening and gracefully supporting. He didn’t give me answer, except to remind me that I have asked Him about that before- because I had been feeling guilty that I hadn’t.

And so I asked Him about the longing, where did it go? And we remembered together all that longing and I couldn’t discern if it was Him or I that had tapered it away. But it seemed as though that was part of the journey, part of growth deeper into Him, a kind of give and take, rising and falling.

For some reason, I remembered Jesus all over again, how delicious He is. And I loved Him, I loved Him, I loved Him, without reserve, passionately. He received all this and gave back and I remembered all this kind of loving that is between us like that.

And Jesus teased me, because He knew me. He said, you love Me even with all this? And it was as though He gestured back to all the unanswered questions and all the frustration and anger that I had about those unanswered questions and the discomfort of them.

I said, "Yes! Yes, yes, yes, with all that, no matter what, all the time, I love You with all that I am." Because it’s true. It amazed me, even in that moment, and I said, "I can’t help it- it’s Your nature. I can’t help loving You. I can’t resist You."

A part of me thought this was unfair. And I thought, Jesus must be narcissistic or something, to be able to go around not answering questions, doing whatever He wants and still being loved. I resented this ease.

I recognized this emotional honesty as part of the process- the very important part of being in the moment and not hiding even the difficult parts of my authentic heart. So instead of squelching that thought, I let it flow up.

I reminded myself that even C.S. Lewis struggled with a similar thought- that God is always demanding to be worshiped and glorified.

I reminded myself that God does not keep Himself aloof, demanding to be glorified, but that He incarnated Himself into this world and tabernacle among us and now lives in us, and so feels all the suffering and humiliation and longing and deprivation that this life brings.

Also, Jesus loves us even more irretrievably that we love Him. It is as though He makes Himself a captive of His love for us.

You are My beloved, He affirmed, as I was thinking all this.

I was glad and I welcomed this reminder of who I was, even though I did not feel passionate longing at that moment. But I did not stir it up; I let myself be who I was in the moment.

I’ve been doing this all along and I have had some extraordinary times of simply being in love, as it were. I am able, now, to allow everything to flow up in love as it will, and not to run from my identity as His beloved.

This morning I got up and I made myself open to the present moment. When I do this, I feel and hear and see everything so clearly. Everything has this extraordinary beauty, even myself.

I am especially delighted by sounds; everything makes a sound and I hardly ever notice it, unless I am in the moment, and then I am surrounded by them. The sound of the water is especially intoxicating.

Each moment I tell myself not to seek Jesus, but to be present to what is real and the beauty washes through me.

I can’t describe what it is like, except that it is as though I am infused with Jesus, and everything around me is infused with Him and yet also itself and beautiful in itself and I am passionately, intimately and completely claimed and enjoyed by Him, without perceiving His manifest presence in any particular way. Except that my whole self is alive, alive, alive- living and awake.

I was doing this, and again I was there in the moment, to the present physical reality that surrounded me. I felt the heaviness in me and the ache of grief, the ache that is both physical and emotional.

I let everything flow up, the heavy grief and the loss of potential, the loss of all that could have warmly sheltered a tiny life and nurtured as it grew, but instead, now unnecessary. No life to hold there and now unwanted, unused, just something to be tossed away, gotten rid of, washed out.

The grief welled up in waves from deep with me and through my chest to my shoulders to my face, which twisted up in sorrow and I let the grief flow up through me into Him. I drew my open heart right into His; I held nothing back.

It wasn’t just the loss of what could have been, it was also the loss of a certain kind of life, a certain kind of person that I could have been- a mother, the center of family life, a kind of busy, loving, present reality centered mother sort of tied to the normal things of life through her children and her husband.

And I was none of those things, I was this strange, barren, solitary woman, full of strange spiritual experiences, most of which I can’t express to any other person.

And again, as He did before, Jesus told me that I was not barren, I was spiritually full of Him, and that the children of the barren woman are more than that of one that has given birth.

I did feel this; I did feel that I was completely enveloped and suffused with His presence, without perceiving Him in any particular way.

I cried out to Jesus that I did not understand what He meant by spiritual children, that it didn’t make sense to me, that I had no spiritual children, that only four people read my blog and my book wasn’t published and I had no people that I was teaching or guiding.

But Jesus insisted that it was true, in whatever way it was true, so I accepted that, even though I couldn’t understand it and even though I still felt my physical and emotional grief and loss.

It was a raw and intimate and immediate, and it kept flowing into the next moment and the next moment and I kept waking up to the moment as it came and I was alive and I was intoxicated by Him and completely infused by His presence.

I kept having to breathe in deeply and I felt my lungs expand and I kept getting dizzy and reaching out against the side of the wall and feeling the solid surface under the hand, everything around me seen in a bright, quiet clarity, the light and the colors.

I felt Jesus' presence in everything and I kept accepting this and it was intoxicating. It was ravishing, awakening, without definition or boundary and it was simple- as simple as breathing, and my eyes taking in the light.

I kept thinking, I am His beloved and accepting that and not turning away from that, and it was ravishing, the simplicity and the completeness of that love.

Jesus kept reminding me that no matter what the next moment might be, He was always there, always with me, that this was always true. I didn’t have to make it true or to grasp at it, I just had to trust that it was always true in each moment as it came.

As I am writing this out, I can’t help but recognize the way in which I have grown. This kind of intimacy I would never, ever been able to accept, earlier. I would have been too much hindered by shame and disbelief. I wouldn’t have been able to accept myself as Jesus created me, or to believe that He would accept me with all the grief and all the raw love, just as I really am.

I have made some leaps and bounds in my spiritual growth.

December 23, 2012 Published

We are landlords again.

Keith got the call a few evenings ago, out of the blue. The last people to view the house loved it and wanted to move in the next day, and they did.

Looking back now, Keith and I are not sure how we made it through the last five months. It was unnerving, akin to walking on thin ice day after day, hearing it crack a little beneath our weight and looking always for the shore and not seeing it.

Our Christmas this year is still going to be modest and we are not able to travel up to Indiana as we usually have.

We did, however, buy something for Baby- the crib mattress. Keith jammed it up into our cart and then we looked at each other.

"For Baby!" I exclaimed happily. "Whoever and wherever he or she is!"

"Whoever," Keith repeated, smiling.

When I got home, I put away the groceries and then dressed the crib with Winnie the Pooh sheets and bumper pads. The nursery looks much more cozy now. I can imagine a tiny, wrinkled new born lying on those sheets, wearing footed pajamas and looking around with jerky movements and wide eyes.

We are going to take one month to try and do some repairs to our battered finances and then we will take out the loan in February and go active at the adoption agency.

This Christmas has been rough. I always feel as if I am scavenging through all the emotional clutter to get at something meaningful, some small piece of joy or hope or wonder that is left under the pressing anxiety of expectations.

I was cleaning out my bedside drawers recently- looking for something which I did not find- and I came across this scrap of paper on which I had written all the anxieties that had been pressing down on me at that time.

It was a long list and the funny thing was, I couldn't remember a single one of them. None of them mattered, in the long run. All of them were resolved.

All I could remember was how oppressed I had been by them at the time.

I've brought that scrap of paper to mind many times in the last few weeks. I don't know how or when, but I know that everything that feels heavy and impossible, everything looming over me right now, will be resolved and pass away.

As usual, I try always to wake up in the present moment; to be alive here and now, no matter how much I would like to escape into a rosy vision of what the future might hold, no matter how tightly I feel myself to be tied to the past.

Right now, for example, I hear the quiet clatter of the dryer and the whir of the heater, as it fights off the chill of this gray morning. Keith's sneakers are tumbled at the floor beside my desk and my glasses rest on top of a Christmas card sent from my parents. The Christmas lights twinkle in a haze of red, orange, green and blue; their reflections shine diffused and soft in the wood floor below. Lynn sits at the window next to me, intent on some mysterious and pressing matter that only she knows about- a rabbit, maybe.

Right now, I feel worn out, inside and out. And that is okay. Even the landscape around me is resting now, bedded down deep and sleeping in the short days. After the quietness, a different season will be coming. Right now there is only the promise of it, a light in the dark.

February 16, 2013 Published

There is a post-it note attached to the bottom of my computer screen these days.

It reads:

"What would I be Doing if I wasn't afraid? If I had no fear? Only time, faith, hope and love."

Each time I read it, I think: What a great question! Let me think about that. Usually, the answer is: write. Write my ever loving little heart out.

Sometimes it's on the Dear Birthmother letter, which I admit, is not quite finished, though it's the very last unfinished part of the pamphlet.

And the hardest. It's so hard there aren't any words to describe how far that takes me outside of- not even my comfort zone, but myself, to write that. God could not have chosen for me a worse, more unlikely, more personally terrifying path to parenting than domestic adoption.

Actually, if I were to talk openly about Jesus and not about writing, I would say that He has a habit of sneaking up on me in my unguarded moments and suddenly loving me.

He has to do this, because lately, I've been very guarded with Him and He seems to respect that. I don't know why He would; He doesn't have to.

I wake up in the morning and glare at Him defensively, in a manner of speaking. I feel prickly. I don't want to know that He loves me anyway, it offends my sense of proportion.

But every time I manage to drop the act and simply be my unguarded, awful, prickly self, I feel as if He catches me up in His arms and pours His love all through me. He's very persistent that way. Eventually He might even wear me down.

Eventually I might give up the act entirely and surrender, in very practical terms, to this idea that He loves me exactly as I am, hidden self and surface self, flesh and blood and spirit and haywire emotions and all.

Sometimes I manage to drop the act entirely and simply be with Him, but that's very difficult to do. It's so raw. My heart cracks open and everything pours out. I stop trying to pretend that I feel better than I do. I had a vivid, almost guttural experience of this last month.

I felt as if my body was empty and becoming emptier, losing all that would have warmly held a new little life, something of inexpressible value. Instead, I was being poured out, all that emptied out, not needed, becoming colder and worthless, tossed aside, an empty cup.

I gave up trying to fight this crippling pain; I let it flow through me. It went through me in waves of loss. And the extraordinary thing is that I felt myself to be absolutely suffused by the presence of God. Every breath I took, I breathed in God. Every shudder of pain that I felt went through His own body, it was as if we had the same open, fragile skin and suffered the same bruised and broken heart.

I couldn't get away from this sensation, any way I turned, any way I moved, I was enclosed and suffused by God. I kept taking huge, gasping breaths of air, partly because I was crying and partly because the air was just so heavy with Him.

It was beyond words, but I could not escape His complete and irresistible impression upon me. It was the most intimate that I have ever felt myself to be with Jesus.

And the deepest thing, the most compelling thing, is that it’s His own pattern, it's like a shadow of His own life, which also was poured out, emptied, and so He is all through it.

These sorts of tender sacrifices are very close and dear to His heart, inexpressibly so. They have incredible value to Him, though we can't see how or why right now.


Hillsong United