Tuesday, October 21, 2014

So There was That One Time when Gianna Jessen Whacked Me on the Leg

Praise God from Whom all Blessings Flow!

So I was going to write my normal "Mercy Monday" blog post yesterday with a quotation from the Diary of St. Faustina, but I didn't have time, because I went to this mega-epic talk. But, as God would have it, the talk only reinforced what I've been reading in the Diary, which is quite wonderful. So without further ado--

Photo courtesy of giannajessen.com
For the past couple weeks, I've been seeing posters around campus for a talk by Gianna Jessen.. I had never heard her speak before, but I knew that she is an abortion survivor and was an inspiration for the movie October Baby. So naturally, I wanted to go. I went in about 20 minutes early, because I love sitting in the front row. Quite a few seats were open, and I sat next to a graduated friend of mine who is back for a visit. I was chatting with her, sipping my hot cocoa (tons of powder AND two packets of coffee creamer=heavenly), when all of a sudden, this woman with bright red lipstick and a huge smile limps up. "Is this seat open?" she asked, pointing to the chair right next to me. It was, and she sat down. So this is cool. I don't know much about this woman, but I bet she's kind of awesome.   Mainly we discussed caffeine, and how we both get really distracted, which led us to discussabout how we struggle getting to things on time because we love talking with random people, which led to us discussing her super cute dress that she got from Modcloth (it had an owl on it, how cool is that? She said "I'm not sure if all the owls have flown away by now, but there might be some left!" Can I just say this woman is so cute?) As she was getting out of her seat to give a talk, she grinned and whacked me on the leg, and said "Hey, stay out of trouble." I started laughing, trying to get out an "I'll try" as she walked up to the stage.

And then she began to speak.

For the next hour and a half-ish, I was either laughing extremely hard or sitting in silence, still, stunned at her profound words. First off, I love the way that Gianna speaks. She's completely unstructured, and just stands up there, speaking from the heart with all the honesty in the world. We heard about her survival of a saline abortion, the days she spent in foster care, the struggles of having cerebral palsy, we prayed for the conversion of the head of ISIS, and we watched the men in the packed room get all William Wallace (she mentioned Braveheart at least four times, which I appreciated). Here is a woman who has suffered (and continues to suffer) complete rejection, physical pain, emotional pain, and abuse-to name a few-but she has complete, overflowing, utter joy, love, and healing! 

Gianna talked about how Jesus isn't a
"cocktail party Jesus," who makes
everyone happy and doesn't talk politics
or stir things up. We have a "Braveheart"
Jesus, who goes into battle!
Seriously, she had us laughing for a large part of the talk, because her joy overflows and affects all those around her. Gianna Jessen has forgiven her mother, and she has found that--though her families are broken and she suffers immensely--she is not defined by the brokenness. She finds her identity in Christ, and she sees the beauty that comes through her suffering. She kept mentioning how her cerebral palsy is a gift; how when people see her limping around, they are more comfortable hearing her talk about Jesus-and if her cerebral palsy can bring just one person to freedom in Christ, she would suffer through everything again. Gianna Jessen has made it onto my very-awesome-people list, because she is epic. A glowing, radiant, joyful, beautiful woman, who challenged us to live our lives adventurously, embracing the impossible (One of my favorite moments was when she said: Men! Do you want to see this country go to hell? If not, stand up and fight!) This woman is all about action. She acknowledged that she's very sensitive and an introvert, but she places her life in the hands of Christ, and is strengthened to to His work.

On household retreat this weekend, we discussed joy in suffering-a topic of my Theology of Healing class as well. We've talked about how joy does not mean happiness; rather, it is an underlying peace, hope, and continual trust in God as we completely submit ourselves to His will. When we accept with patience whatever God sends to us, we experience perfect joy (there's also a really awesome St. Francis of Assisi story about this). Gianna Jessen was bubbling over with joy last night because she has accepted with peace and patience all of the suffering that God has placed in her life. Furthermore, she sees the redemptive value in this suffering, and she takes joy in working to help further God's kingdom. 

As I mentioned earlier, what I've been reading in the Diary of St. Faustina lately has gone right along with this. St. Faustina finds joy in submitting herself to the will of God with peace, even though the sufferings are difficult:

"An act of total abandonment to the will of God, which is for me, love and mercy itself.

Jesus-Host, whom I have this very moment received into my heart, through this union with You I offer myself to the heavenly Father as a sacrificial host, abandoning myself totally and completely to the most merciful and holy will of my God. From today onward, You will, Lord, is my good. Take my whole being; dispose of me as You please. Whatever Your fatherly hand gives me, I will accept with submission, peace and joy. I fear nothing, no matter in what direction You lead me; helped by Your grace I will carry out everything You demand of me. I no longer fear any of Your inspirations nor do I probe anxiously to see where they will lead me. Lead me, O God, along whatever roads You please; I have placed all my trust in Your will which is, for me, love and mercy itself.

Bid me to stay in this convent, I will stay; bid me to undertake the work, I will undertake it; leave me in uncertainty about the work until I die, be blessed; give me death when, humanly speaking, my life seems particularly necessary, be blessed. Should You take me in my youth, be blessed; should You let me live to a ripe old age, be blessed. Sho
uld You give me health and strength, be blessed; should You confine me to a bed of pain for my whole life, be blessed. Should You give only failures and disappointments in life, be blessed. Should You allow my purest intentions to be condemned, be blessed. Should You enlighten my mind, be blessed. Should You leave me in darkness and all kinds of torments, be blessed.

From this moment on, I live in the deepest peace, because the Lord Himself is carrying me in the hollow of His hand. He, Lord of unfathomable mercy, knows that I desire Him alone in all things, always and everywhere."
(Notebook IV, #1264)
(sidenote: as I was typing this passage from the Diary, I was listening to the Doctor Who soundtrack, which just added to the epicness. Sometimes I wish I had a soundtrack playing throughout my life. Actually, sometimes I will have a sountrack in my head while I go throughout my day, and it really is awesome, I recommend it.)

I hope that you all have an abundantly blessed day, and take courage, accepting all that God allows with peaceful submission to His will (a tall order, I know-definitely something I struggle with). By doing God's will with peace, we will grow closer to Him, and bring His light to all around us!

(another sidenote: after the talk, I asked Gianna what her favorite Jane Austen work is, because she had mentioned really liking Austen. It's Mansfield Park, which I've never read, so now I have the urge to read it-so any Austen fans out there, say a prayer for Gianna when you pick up Mansfield Park!)

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