I've got good news and bad news.
So, how do you want it? Bad first? Or good?
Since you're not here to answer me I'm going to go with good first.
I got a call from our social worker. She heard from a clerk at the court that our HS is on our way back there from the commissioner. That implies that it has been approved. The clerk told our SW that she expects to have it returned to our SW by end of next week.
Approved home study= good news.
Okay, strap in my friends. This one's a doozie....
A* contracted Tuberculosis in the orphanage.
And, he'll have to stay in Addis Ababa for six months of treatment before he will be issued a visa by the US government.
I've cried buckets today over that one.
Dustin and I are absolutely crushed for A*. This is nothing we'd ever want for him. We are dealing with much grief and a deep sadness I can't even find the words to describe.
There's even a twisted temptation to feel guilty for not getting to him in time. But we KNOW that God is in control. And so we trust.
Even when it hurts.
Tuberculosis + my son = BAD, bad news.
Thursday, February 25, 2010
I've got good news and bad news.
Wednesday, February 24, 2010
I've had an interesting week and a half. There's been lots going on behind the scenes over here. Much of it including sick children and a husband who's been feeling under the weather.
We're on the mend this week (Thank the Lord!) but we've been the kind of busy that has us barely holding the family routine together. Needless to say, chores have suffered. The laundry is piled high, the kitchen needs mopping, and the pool turned green from the rains we've had. And I'm to tired to care much about it today.
It was report card week for our children. ALL of them show improvement over the last trimester. We were thrilled and celebrated with big ice cream sundaes!
However something was communicated to us which we had known, but hadn't known to the fullest extent.
One of our children is significantly delayed in language arts right now. By about a whole grade.
I was well aware of the struggle for the two years I home schooled. I knew there were some delays, and had asked about them but never received a response that indicated concern. This same student, unfortunately has had THREE teachers over the course of the year. One was injured shortly after school began, one recently left for reasons unknown to the parents since it was never told to us directly (she was the one I ask talked with about my concerns) The newest one seems to be the best since she is the first to really communicate with us so far.
At this point I am not sure if the entire class is behind or just our student. Regardless we're been working overtime to try to help boost our child's skills. This includes after school tutoring and working at home at night for about an hour after that. It's been quite intensive. So far this student has been a willing participant but I keep wondering how long it will take for her to tire out.
As a mother it's difficult to watch one of my children struggle while the other two school-aged siblings sail right on through, ahead of most of their peers. I'm so thankful our student who struggles isn't insecure about it (for now. I PRAY that it stays that way.) Dustin and I try often to highlight the concept that we are well pleased with our child's best efforts and that we never compare her to anyone else. We like to draw attention to the idea that she was created for a specific purpose, one that gave her talents and strengths all her own. We try to comfort her by explaining that our weaknesses are those areas in our lives where we are able to experiences God's grace and provision the most.
My mother, having been held back to repeat second grade, has strong feelings about keeping our student behind. She says she never felt the weight of the difference until she was held back, and that it created major insecurities in her which took years to overcome. My mom told me recently that a friend (who was her same age) asked her why she wasn't in their year book. My mother felt embarrassed all over again to have to respond by informing her friend that her picture could be found in the junior class section.
I am not sure how things will turn out for our student. We are prayerfully considering what to do about next year. So far the school has not mentioned repeating the grade. I am requesting a conference with the teacher and principal ASAP. I'll let you know how that goes.
Friday, February 19, 2010
We're coming up to a point where the delays in getting home study approved could potentially necessitate some other paperwork being redone. This would cause further delays in the process of bringing A* home.
We trust the Lord's timing no matter which way things happen. But, feel we ought to do our part to pray diligently over the paperwork since we cannot ever fully know His ways. We've seen Him work miracles for us in some situations, and in others the miracle was that things didn't go according to our plans and that God could still reign over those circumstances. God was good in each case.
Needless to say I'll be spending some time on my knees in prayer. I thought that while I was down there I'd pray for you all as well.
If any of you would like to add your prayer request to my list please leave a comment and I'll add it to my agenda.
Tuesday, February 16, 2010
There has recently been some controversy about CWA (Christian World Adoption) and their ethics. A journalist who produced a scathing report (seen here) last year on CWA came to interview CWA's attorney so he could give CWA's official response to her allegations. CWA had their own cameras rolling during the interview as well. I think they were concerned with ABC (not the US ABC news organization you may be familiar with, but an Australian news agency) editing practices among other things.
Link to the CWA follow up interview videos: http://www.youtube.com/user/ChristianWorldAdopt#p/u/0/PZ5dVI_zXQc
Monday, February 15, 2010
My assignment for today:
Philippians 4:6-7 (NIV)
6Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
I'm praying today that HS of ours comes through soon, and fighting the anxious feeling I get at the thought of A* having to wait any longer. I'm believing and trusting in God's timing while I wait on Him.
Thursday, February 11, 2010
You know how it is when you're young. You can't imagine "old" people any other way than the way you've always known them.
Growing up I'd heard the stories about how my Grandmother lacked shoes and proper clothes. I knew she had lived in poverty as a child and that things were fairly desperate for her family.
I realize I've only recently gotten to the point where I'm able to process a bit more about what that reality was like for her and how it affected her entire life. I suppose I've finally reached a point where I've gained enough life experience to be able to imagine myself in her shoes as she carried her history forward with her into life as a young wife, then mother, then grandmother.
My mom recently told me a story about my Grams which has been on my mind constantly since my Gram's death. She shared that during one of my Gram's trips to Kenya her party had traveled across the countryside by train. Running alongside the train were children begging for food. The passengers would toss out whatever they had to the children. My Grams relayed to my mother that she couldn't keep from crying because of the experience. When asked why she was crying she responded that she had been one of those children begging. The painful experience of seeing the children in need had been too much for her.
Above is a photo of her as a child. Everyone would joke (including she herself) that she looked pathetic in this photo; that she could have been some kind of poster child, with her ragged doll and her sad expression. While everyone could find the humor in it I think its a fitting reminder of the events that shaped my grandmother, and as a result an entire family.
Today I stand in awe of God's eternal perspective and the way He moves through generations. I am amazed at how truly interconnected we are. It is unfathomable to me how God divinely molds and shapes the character of individuals, families, communities, countries and beyond.
If my grandmother hadn't suffered and learned the lessons her trials taught her, I wonder would I be the woman I am today? How many experiences of hers have trickled down through my mother to me.
I will never know just how deeply the influences of others have impacted my life, but today I can sense a few of the largest.
At her funeral many people spoke of her dedication to social issues and her love of justice. I pray that her legacy would live on. I pray that my grandchildren will be able to recognize some of her in me and that my life's work would point them back to the Divine Author of our faith. I keep on asking God to refine my worship so that it would be in spirit and truth.
Finally, when I wrote my last post about my Grams I didn't have any photos of her. I wanted to include the glamorous wedding photo I spoke of in that post. Here she is in all her bridal glory standing next to the love of her life. And, just because I love their love story, I'm including another one from later on in their lives.
PS- I really wanted you to see how adorable they were in older age but those files contained errors and would not upload. So here they are, not quite as old as they grew together, but still very much in love. Always, when photographed they had their arms around each other. I love it!
Wednesday, February 10, 2010
Boys are BAD for your couch (or anything else which is upholstered or made of fabric, including but not limited to: your silk drapes, duvet cover, favorite shirt, etc., ... and we must NOT forget about the very real and ever-present danger to your carpets)
All kids come with a slimy coating, but my sources have confirmed that boys, in particular, have an uncanny ability to carry their slime undetectably, thus enabling them to carry out covert operations. Be forewarned that Invisible Boy Slime is activated by smearing it on something, (oh, say, like a couch). Once it comes in contact with fabric it loses its invisible properties and sets in like cement (or magic marker, whichever supersedes 1,000 years of perpetual attempts to remove said slime). Once the Slime has been deposited good luck getting that stuff out. EVER.
This concludes my public service announcement
PS- I would have posted a photo for educational purposes but my camera battery is dead and a certain boy we know and love has momentarily misplaced the charger. As soon as he finds it he assures us it will be returned to the rightful owner.
Tuesday, February 9, 2010
If you are looking to raise money for an adoption or missions trips aimed at serving orphans I'd like to direct you tho the 147 Million Orphans website. They sell products wholesale for fundraising.
147 Million Oprhans also supports Amazima which is the ministry of a young woman who is doing many great things in Uganda. YOu can learn more about both organizations by following the links provided.
Monday, February 8, 2010
Oh my goodness I cannot believe I've never posted on the topic of adoption language! Being a person who is constantly thinking of ways to better express myself, the idea of expressing adoption in a positive light is near and dear to my heart.
You may or may not have heard the term "positive adoption language" or PAL but it's likely you are already familiar with some of the language.
Positive Adoption Language is a term used to define a set of words or phrases that is, by and large, accepted by the adoption community. (Though PAL is NOT without its staunch opponents here in the US) These terms are generally considered appropriate for use when speaking about adoption, and are those most often in use today.
PAL is defined by a desire to give the maximum respect, dignity, responsibility, and objectivity surrounding the process of adoption. It is also intended to affirm people who have been adopted and empower them.
Some people have dismissed the importance of intentional adoption language as being "too PC."
Don't get me wrong, this is SO NOT about being concerned about offending people who are easily offended; I'm not into being politically correct. I am into being conscious of my words and their usage in order to express clearly, in the most respectful and positively truthful light, the adoption experience, as far as I am able.
Words matter. They matter to the people who are trying to learn about adoption. They matter to the first parents who are not raising their children. They matter in portraying accurately what adoptive families are all about. And, most especially, they matter to the children and adults who have been adopted.
I don't think there will ever be a time when I can sit back and say I'd don't need to take inventory of my use of language in describing adoption. I'm not perfect. I am going to blow it and will require grace. But I also know my heart intends to honor everyone involved here.
I'm constantly looking for ways to express myself better. I strive to be diligent in trying to view things more from Jonas and A*'s perspective. I ask myself how they might feel about the different things I say, and how I can improve.
Here are a few links about PAL (positive adoption language):
First, in the interest of educating families about what the resistance to PAL looks like I thought I'd add this link for your consideration. The opposition has their own set of words/phrases which they call Respectful Adoption Language or RAL. A simple google search will turn up many more blogs and articles on the topic if you're interested. http://www.associatedcontent.com/article/3208/respectful_adoption_language.html?cat=9
A list of positive vs. negative words according to the PAL philosophy of language: http://www.adoptlink.com/language.htm
A more in depth article explaining PALs intention:
In the evolution of my own speech I have come to call what many would recognize as Jonas' "birth mother" his first mother. I believe this more accurately describes who she is. I believe it places her positionally first in the timeline of his life, which is accurate, and also gives him freedom to place her first in his heart as well. It's my attempt to acknowledge the great loss of her in his life. I don't feel this title diminishes myself in any way. Calling her first is something I'm totally comfortable with. I am committed to never feeling threatened by Jonas' love for her in any way. Later, when Jonas is older he can refer to me and his first mother how ever he chooses, but for now this is the way I choose to represent her before him.
I, personally, have grown uncomfortable with the term "bio kids" or "biological children". It may just be me, but, last I checked my son who was adopted is biological too. I simply prefer to take the extra second and a half to state it this way, "My children who were birthed and my children who were adopted."
I always state adoption in the past tense since it was a one time event. It's over now. My son who WAS adopted has been adopted, now the adoption is OVER. He's simply my son.
I also strongly dislike when people still refer to our son as an orphan. He is no longer an orphan. The term orphan in Jonas' case was a legal term which is now obsolete. It signified that his mother had chosen to legally terminate her parental rights thus requiring new legal parents for him, which we became. She cared for his needs by taking steps to ensure he could have new legal guardians and parents who would lovingly raise him and provide for him.
I am sure than when A* comes home it will be a different, and at times trying, experience as we navigate a new set of circumstances and how to communicate those to A* and others around us.
In A*'s case neither of his first parents chose to initiate adoption because they were both dead. Another family member made that decision for them. Events necessitated a new set of parents step in and raise A*. We are honored and proud to be able to be those parents.
For anyone who says adoption isn't messy they're crazy! It is messy. But it has it's benefits and its blessings too.
Then again, life is MESSY. There's no avoiding it.
What are your thoughts on the whole PAL vs. RAL debate? Any pet peeve phrases driving you nuts lately? Have you noticed your language evolving as well? Share your thought please! I'd love to know.
Sunday, February 7, 2010
I follow John Piper on facebook. This was too good not to share here:
Saturday, February 6, 2010
In keeping with my recent posts, I went and studied the definitions of the words criticism and judgement (let me take a moment to nod toward Sassy Granny for sparking a new found love of word studies with her fondness for her good friend Merriam.) For some reason I had always made a distinction between the two in my mind. In Jen's world criticism seemed to be something spoken while judgement was something more internal, more mental.
I found no such distinction made in the dictionary, though it seems in common speech people do tend to use criticism to speak of comments or thoughts being expressed outwardly by a person, namely the critic.
I began thinking about the act of speaking critically or pronouncing judgements over people.
You totally know what came to mind next, right? Of course it was the book of James since I've been studying there for a few months.
Chapter two of James- WOW! I'm blown away once again at the richness of God's Word is. When I came to verses 14-18 I couldn't help but chew once again on the connection our beliefs have with our actions. James 2:18 asserts that merely claiming faith doesn't prove we possess it. The real test comes from what is born out of our faith in the form of deeds. In other words what we really trust in, rely on, cling to, and adhere to turns up in the way we "DO".
It occurred to me that it might be relatively easy for us to clean up our external behaviours and keep criticism of others to a minimum by only sharing with our spouses or close friends when we feet the occasion really called for it. We might be able to (mostly) curb our outward expression of judgement toward others. That might make us feel like we've really accomplished something; like maybe we've done enough. We might be tempted to say, "I'm not judging others."
We must remember that faith without deeds is useless, though.
I think it is so very dangerous for Christians to stop at mere external behaviours, because we know it's only a matter of time until what is truly in our heart flows right out our mouth. We are also aware that God is interested in the contents of our hearts. It would be faulty of us to assume that the deeds, here, would be merely external. The deeds of our hearts may be far more treacherous, running amuck and unchecked if we define them merely by superficial parameters.
Of course it's a double edged sword because we often gauge real change by visible "fruit" in a person's life. We are told that we will know a person by their fruit. Though sometimes we have to wait a LONG time for that fruit to appear. The temptation during that time is to consider the late bloomer a bearer of bad fruit, or a non bearing plant all together.
Case in point of a late bloomer: myself in my story. And so we see how easy it is to move through temptation and into the sin of playing judge over others whenobserving the only thing we can see- that is the "fruit" of a person's behaviour. We're reminded once again that only God can know a person's heart.
I don't know about you but all this confronts me with a REAL need for humility in my life. My heart is heavy to think of the myriad of ways I pass judgement of people daily. The ways in which I do this might seem small at the time; they might seem harmless but I'm realizing they most certainly are NOT.
For example (and you're REALLY going to find this ironic): I looked at a women who was picking up her daughter in the school's car line the other day. She was wearing outdated CLOTHES (are you laughing at my folly yet?) that were very unflattering on her. That she looked clean was about the best I could say for her disheveled ensemble. For a second I was tempted to ask her what possessed her to appear in public dressed like that. But then, I realized what little I know about anything in the world. I realized it was possible that this woman could have given all her best clothes to a homeless woman so she could interview for jobs. Or, maybe she was laid off and could only afford to buy second hand. Possibly she barely managed to trude out the door when her iron broke after she was up all night with a sick child. I don't know.
My point is, I DON'T know. And I probably won't find out either. So why would I want to spend my time (even if it's just a fraction of a minute) making assumptions and creating an atmosphere in my mind where I would be tempted to somehow elevate myself above another?
However I might attempt to explain that I wasn't intending to make sweeping assumptions about her character (only her curious taste in attire) I cannot explain away the futility of such behaviour.
All this to say, I'm taking on a new attitude when it comes to looking outward into the world; I want to see people through grace-colored lenses.
If I happen to come across someone in a situation where I might be tempted to form some kind of opinion about them or their actions I'm asking God to help me stop, and take inventory of my heart and my intentions to determine whether or not it is fruitful for me to even expend that energy.
I take James chapter two seriously when it says we need deeds to prove our faith is alive. The catch is I, alone, cannot do the heart transforming work needed to stop judging others. I need the Holy Spirit for that. So, if James 2:20 admonishes us that faith without deeds is dead, Ephesians 2:8-9 reminds us just Who those deeds originate from.
Philippians 2:1-11 (NIV)
1If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, 2then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose. 3Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. 4Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.
5Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus:
6Who, being in very nature God,
did not consider equality with God something to be grasped,
7but made himself nothing,
taking the very nature of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
8And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
and became obedient to death—
even death on a cross!
9Therefore God exalted him to the highest place
and gave him the name that is above every name,
10that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
11and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.
Friday, February 5, 2010
I posted a while ago about Vanya.
Today a family is officially pursuing his adoption!! I learned of this great news a while ago but forgot to post it here. Head over to Vanya's blog to read all about it.
The same friend of mine who volunteers at Vanya's orphanage, created the blog for him, and is responsible for linking him up with his forever family has taken on the challenge of helping to place two older boys. You can go here to meet Sam and Andy.
Below is a letter from my friend about Sam and Andy:
They are genetically related brothers. They lost their mother in a fire and
their dad is in jail. They were living with their uncle but he could not afford
them. I dont know when they stopped living with their uncle but it was quite
some time ago, so they have been in the orphanage for awhile. No one in the years
they have been up for adoption has inquired about them. They are healthy boys.
We have tried to find out as much as we can. If a family is wanting to
commit to these boys, careful assessment will take place before the process is
begun due to the boys age. Paperwork has to be submitted by October before one
of the boys turns 16.
Seems I inadvertently stumbled into a theme this week with the whole loving others / keeping oneself from judging topic. Once I started thinking on this stuff I couldn't shut my brain off.
I've been thinking a lot about the ways in which I bow to religiosity in my own life, and about what a fine line there is between speaking the truth in love and just plain old speaking the truth.
There is a BIG difference, I think.
I can speak the truth with the best of them. There's a famous saying in our family that when I am angry I can state a solid case before a person about why I think they're stupid, why everyone else thinks they're stupid, and why they should think they're stupid too.
That's NOT a compliment to my character. In fact I think that makes me WAAAAAY worse than my finger wagging friends from the worship service. Thankfully, their memory is a reminder to me that I cannot afford to be critical (of myself or others).
What do you think about the difference between speaking the truth and speaking the truth in love? Have you ever been the unhappy recipient of a harsh truth? Did it produce feelings of shame or guilt? I'd love to hear your perspective.
Also, I'm really interested in what you think about shame and guilt, and their affects, either negative or positive, in our lives. Do you think they are productive? Or do you think they are counterproductive?
I'm going to be studying shame and guilt in the Bible. If you've done a particular study on the subject please share the results with me. Your verses/resources/thoughts would be much appreciated.
Thursday, February 4, 2010
At the close of my last post, we left Jen standing in a bathroom in complete hysterics after a particularly humilliating confrontation at a worship service somewhere in Atlanta.
I'd like to share my thoughts on that experience.
I'd like to start off with 1 Corinthians 13:1 as it relates to the gang of concerned peers who approached me.
I don't think the Lord could have orchestrated a better paradigim for what I ought NEVER to do to another living soul for as long as I should live. Even now the sting of humilation penetrates deep into my heart.
I don't hold anything against those young women who approached me. In many ways they were so RIGHT. They we're justified in being disgusted by my attire. They we're perfectly within their right to be concerend for their "brothers". Clearly they knew something was askew.
Unfortuantely, they decieded that they should deal with me instead of the Lord, and they pushed aside His command to do everything in love, preferring their own methods instead.
What they didn't understand is that while my attire was a real problem I had many more significant problems happening under the surface. They allowed themselves to become indignat and forgot what it meant to receive grace. They discriminated among themselves and became judges with evil thoughts. And, just like the Pharasees, they forgot just who it was Christ died for.
So many times when we talk about sharing the Gospel in areas of the world where there is immense sufering due to lack of basic physical necessities, we talk about how there comes a point when a person needs to have food in their belly and water to drink before they are able to receive anything deeper. Well, I think love is a necessitytoo; like air, or water, or food, love is VITAL to people being able to hear and receive the Gospel.
When a person comes into church starving for love who do we think we are to deny them it? Do we think we're serving Jesus? Do we really believe He is pleased with us, the children He rescued from wallowing in the mirk and mire of our own wretched sin, for rejecting each other?
How could these ladies have dreamed of the many nights I had been sitting before the Lord allowing Him to wash my feet? How could they have known that I had turned over my heart to Him? They were never privvy to the conversations me and my Jesus had together! They were unaware of where my heart stood in relation to God's.
This is why.....IT'S WHY HE WARNS US OVER AND OVER AND OVER AGAIN:
Luke 6:36-38 (NIV)
36Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.
37"Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. 38Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you."
Proverbs 21:2 (NIV)
2 All a man's ways seem right to him,
but the LORD weighs the heart.
1 Samuel 16:7b (NIV)
... The LORD does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart."
James 2:12-13 (NIV)
12Speak and act as those who are going to be judged by the law that gives freedom, 13because judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful. Mercy triumphs over judgment!
Proverbs 14:12 (NIV)
12 There is a way that seems right to a man,
but in the end it leads to death.
In the end I see that even the horrible shame I felt as a result of this life experience isn't a waste. I don't have to be pelted by guilt and embarassment. I can receive the blessings God offers me for my participation in that affair.
What seemed like a torrential downpour at the time now feels like a gentle restorative mist.
Not only am I surrounded by God's grace, I'm soaking in it.
Genesis 50:20 (NIV)
You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives. (When I read this verse I replace "many lives" with MY LIFE)
Lord keep my feet from stumbling into the pit of pride! May I NEVER forget what you have done for me, and may I NEVER be afraid to share Your love with others. I ask you to never let my love for You grow cold. Don't ever let me prefer religion over my ralationshp with you. Don't let my insecurities keep me from extending grace and peace to others. Amen
Wednesday, February 3, 2010
Like an arthritis flare up before a rainstorm a memory came to mind yesterday which seemed to rise up out of nowhere. It felt strange to experience the effects of deep wounds creeping upon me suddenly. It wasn't the first time I'd relived the humiliation of this particular affair.
While the temptation is to think the timing of this reappearance is random, I choose, instead, to receive it as a signal.
Maybe I need the reminder of the moral of my story. Or, maybe, there's been a shift in the weather and I need to be prepared. Whatever the reason, deep in my soul I think I smell rain.
I'm praying for cool April showers of God's grace instead of a pelting from regret and shame.
This morning I feel compelled to share the story with you.
I was summoned for jury duty yesterday. I wasn't selected, but I did have lots of time to myself.
A person can do a lot of thinking when they aren't interrupted every five minutes by the demands of four children. And thinking is what I did.
I was in a great mood and reading the book "Don't Waste Your Life" by John Piper while I sat patiently wondering if I would be called upon to serve. I don't know if something in that book triggered my recollection of this event, but as I was driving home the thoughts came barging in.
The rocky path of my youth is a little too sordid to share in detail. I'm sure that you'll be able to connect many dots though. Out of respect and love for my parents I don't want to specifically share about the events which negatively impacted me during childhood. Generically speaking their divorce, subsequent remarriages, and subsequent divorces created tumultuous times for everyone involved.
Had I been a person of more character maybe I would have spared myself much grief in my teen years. Instead I chose to treat myself horribly and made just about every stupid decision within my power to make.
I had received Jesus in the sixth grade. I heard the Gospel message and KNEW it to be true when I was taken as a guest to AWANA night at a local church. My mom would become a Christ follower less than two years later.
We attended church during my high school years and I became involved with the youth there, serving in various capacities. I was also involved with boys, sneaking out and partying.
It's safe to say my attention was divided. And I was miserable.
I never doubted my decision to put my faith in Jesus but I needed to mature. The enormity of the decision I had made to follow Jesus hadn't sunken in when I was in 6th grade. My teen years provided opportunity for my faith to be tested.
May times my faithfulness was exhausted.
Many times God's grace was sufficient for me.
At 18 years old, I'd been kicked out and then taken back into my mother's home several times. I managed somehow to (partly) pull things together and graduate. I had already met Dustin and began dating him. We had been attending church together. Both of us were ready to grow in our faith and take our relationship with Jesus more seriously.
Events had necessitated a move to Atlanta, to live full time with my father for the first time in over ten years. Dustin and I were supposed to date long distance but we determined it was likely I wouldn't return to Arizona for a long time. Dustin decided it would be best if we broke up.
And so began my journey into an unknown wilderness. I was supposedly in Atlanta to begin college. I had no clue God was really moving me there for some intensive therapy - just me and Jesus - in preparation for the life He was building for me back here in Arizona.
I arrived in the South with my heart shattered in a million pieces. The Lord had plucked me out of my life and placed me in a city where I knew not a soul. I felt terribly alone.
I was supposed to be an adult. If I wanted to be a Christian and live out my faith I would have to be responsible for doing things like getting myself to a church, since my father and his wife did not share my faith.
I was being called upon to get off the fence and decide what, or Who, I was going to live for.
In those days I had never prayed harder or more earnestly. You could find me from about 10PM until 2AM sitting on the patio with a blanket wrapped around me, my journal, and a cigarette in my hand.
That's right, I prayed and smoked at the same time.
And, Jesus still listened.
Every night for ten months I reflected and cried; I repented and praised.
Big changes were happening though they couldn't be seen on the outside. The whole course of my life was being altered during that time. Though, admittedly, I still retained some of those bad habits I so desperately wanted to shake off forever.
In looking for a church to attend I met a young girl who told me that she attended a college group. She invited me to spend a weekend with her at her dorm, and meet all her friends. After knowing her all of about a day, I agreed. (I was VERY lonely, and immature)
The first event we would be attending together was a worship service. I was excited to go and meet new people and just be in an atmosphere of corporate worship once again after months of near solitude.
Apparently I was so focused on my excitement about the worship service I forgot to focus on what I might wear that evening.
Immature, unwise, wounded and insecure Jen showed up in her usual attire, which was: jeans, a midriff tank (which revealed my naval piercing) and a cardigan sweater (left unbuttoned).
I clapped and sang along with the crowd. I didn't care that I knew none of the words. I just wanted to sing to Jesus.
When the music portion ended everyone broke out to mingle. It was then that the first people I would meet that evening came to greet me.
A group of about 8 or ten peers (all female) proceeded to walk up and surrounded me. The leader nearly bumped noses with me and told me how inappropriately I was dressed. She loudly told me, "Here we try not to be a stumbling block to our brothers, so we like to keep ourselves covered. We don't appreciate you coming in here like that." She proceeded to point to my stomach.
My belly ring glistened under the lights that evening. You should have seen it. Never in all it's years had it been so shiny. You would have thought I spent hours polishing that sucker just for the occasion.
I was humiliated....... AND SHE WAS RIGHT.
I hadn't thought of it, but I should have. I didn't know better, but I should have. My church attire could be defined as sleazy, but the truth is I had been a resident of Sleazeville for a while at that point.
In that moment I felt as if a flashing neon sign was above my head. It read LOSER.
With all my heart I wanted to be more. Everything in me wished (and still wishes to some degree) I could have been. I had been pouring out my everything before the Lord desiring for Him to meet me. If I could have cleaned myself up before inviting Jesus to take over the mess I'd made of my life I would have. But, I couldn't. If He wanted me He would have to come and take me just as I was.
I ran to the nearest bathroom barely holding myself together. As I buttoned down my sweater in front of the mirror I was treated to the reflection of my tears and snot running down my face. If it were possible to be any more broken than the state in which I had arrived that evening, I was. Everything hurt.
Deep down inside, though, I knew this hurt was different. The hurt I had been experiencing up to this point that been self inflicted and led to true remorse. Remorse, as used by the Holy Spirit, while painful, leads to repentance and is actually medicinal. Even in all my sorrow, I was able to recognize the healing properties of the pain I had been experiencing under the care of the Master Surgeon.
This pain was different. It was infused with shame and ridicule. This pain was unkind and unloving. It wanted to elevate itself above me so it could trample me. This pain didn't really want to see me get well; it wanted to destroy me.
I have so much more to share but this post is getting to be very long. Look for another post tomorrow or the following day.
1 Corinthians 13:1 (NLT)
If I could speak all the languages of earth and of angels, but didn’t love others, I would only be a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.
Mark 2:16-17 (Amplified Bible)
16And the scribes [belonging to the party] of the Pharisees, when they saw that He was eating with [those definitely known to be especially wicked] sinners and tax collectors, said to His disciples, Why does He eat and drink with tax collectors and [notorious] sinners?
17And when Jesus heard it, He said to them, Those who are strong and well have no need of a physician, but those who are weak and sick; I came not to call the righteous ones to repentance, but sinners (the erring ones and all those not free from sin).
Hebrews 10:16-25 (NIV)
16"This is the covenant I will make with them
after that time, says the Lord.
I will put my laws in their hearts,
and I will write them on their minds."[a] 17Then he adds:
"Their sins and lawless acts
I will remember no more."[b] 18And where these have been forgiven, there is no longer any sacrifice for sin. 19Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, 20by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body, 21and since we have a great priest over the house of God, 22let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water. 23Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful.
2 Timothy 2:13 (NIV)
if we are faithless,
he will remain faithful,
for he cannot disown himself.
Monday, February 1, 2010
I haven't done anything yet
Okay maybe I've gotten into a *little* trouble, but look how cute I am!
What am I gonna do with this kid? He's living up to his new nickname Dennis the Menace. He doesn't mean to get in trouble at all, but he's oh so curious and he loves to "help" in ways you'd never imagine. I can see already that life with boys, while rich and blessed, will also be full of destruction to personal property.