That is the life I am living these days. I live in a room.. like a semi studio attached to a house filled with a family that rents to me. It is my own private space and I am thankful that the Lord brought me here. I was living here 5 months ago when my husband passed on. I have no idea how long I will be here or where I could ever go since I have a very limited income.
So the challenge is to accept what is and to learn how to spend time alone with God on a totally new level. There are very few distractions or responsibilities in this season. It is a huge adjustment. My nature is to want to take care of people and now I just have my cat and myself. Some days we do well.. other days are so hard that all I do is think about everything I lost. My husband, my home, my things, my job .. the beautiful valley I walked in almost every single day.. all gone.
Days that I struggle to not be angry at God and probably almost everyone else.. anger is a part of grieving. Other days I am so sad I have to drag myself out of bed and force myself to eat and exercise. My life feels empty and no place feels like home. I am writing this because I want you to know the context of this post. So I spend lots of time alone. I know God is with me but I am lonely for human contact… missing the hugs and kisses that Steve gave so generously. Does it help when people say but you are not alone.. God is always with you.. No it does not help. Why? Because I am grieving and it is painful and it is a solitary road that no one truly understands. There are moments when I know God is close.. but they are surrounded by many more moments when I think to myself.. what happened to my life? Where am I?
Covid life has not made this any easier. People and places are off limits and here in California many churches are closed, so that dimension of life is also gone. I don’t enjoy watching church.. on Zoom or Facebook live.. it reminds me of a bad TV show. So now I am struggling with my relationship with the church.. feeling disconnected and discouraged.. wondering what it all means. I struggled with church all my life as a Believer and got disillusioned over and over but kept returning. This time is different. As I have prayed about it and wondered what to do.. I get the impression God is saying don’t be afraid to be alone with me and to let that be enough. This doesn’t mean total isolation but it does mean not looking to church for support or meaning in my life.. It means not clinging to something that is gone.. maybe not forever, but at least for now.
I often think about those people who spent time in prison or heroes like Corrie Ten Boom who was in a concentration camp. There are many examples of people who are models of what it is to be a person of great faith. They suffered alone with God and He was enough. Let that be my story Lord in these dark times.
Then Jesus said, “Let’s go off by ourselves to a quiet place and rest awhile.”
Loss and grief are everywhere. We are all living in a state of grief right now. Our world turned upside down when the news of the pandemic took over our world. We have been living in very scary times with no end in sight. As I write this people are losing homes and lives to wildfires that are appearing all over the West Coast. I began to think about all the losses that are happening to everyone.. Many have lost their lives.. others suffer because of a loss of freedom, loss of choices, loss of relationships, loss of jobs, homes,.. I am sure you can name other losses .. it is unbelievable.
We lost the ability to connect with strangers.. to smile at children.. to visit loved ones that are sick and dying. .. to celebrate life changing events.. to gather together to comfort one another when there is a death in a family. So much is lost and in the middle of all this.. there are those of us who are losing family members to diseases other than Covid.. People are dying alone in skilled nursing.. what a tragedy.. there is no way to process that type of loss.. no second chances
I am grateful I was allowed in to see Steve in his last months.. other people are not so fortunate.. So here we are in the middle of a grief filled world trying to process our own losses.. it is a very complicated grief. A layered grief where you walk all alone wondering how you can survive when everyone is sheltering inside afraid.. to breathe the smoky air or afraid of getting sick. A fear based world that has us hiding out… waiting for the day when we can hug each other and rejoice that it is finally over.
Meanwhile we meet on Zoom or some other video format.. we talk on the phone.. trying to support one another without touching.. it really isn’t the same. We are made for relationship with living breathing human beings. Church on TV is not church to me.. it is superficial and lacking the things I would look forward to on Sunday..the human contact.. the hugs and the smiles..So everyday I wonder.. why did I lose my husband now? What possible good can come from this? How do I cope with the isolation and loneliness when everyone is struggling with their own sorrows and losses.
Does the Lord answer these questions for me? Not really. He does say :
in the darkness
in the uncertainty
with your whole heart
TRUST IN MY FAITHFULNESS
REMEMBER MY GOODNESS
So daily I return to him from the prison of isolation and grief and tell him I TRUST YOU.. in this pain. You are my Father.. My Redeemer.. My Rescuer.
What exactly does it mean? This word came up in a conversation today and it seems important to explore the concept. It is the 4th basic doctrine in Calvinism.. but that does not exactly shed light on its true meaning.. does it? Calvin used that term to communicate the way that the Holy Spirit works on the hearts of those who hear the gospel. It refers to the inner working of the spirit.. in places we cannot see.. that draws us into a relationship with God. What that means for us is that we cannot take credit for having responded to the Lord since He was always pursuing us..even when we did not pay any attention to Him or His people. It is very reassuring to know that God takes the initiative with us and desires to be in relationship with us when we think we are fine without Him. He works through circumstances, books, movies.. music.. relationships..nature.. He uses everything to seek us out.. to draw us closer to Him so He can pour out His love into our broken hearts.
I love the fact that nothing is too hard for Him.. that He seeks us out.. that His love is so large that we only get glimpses of it… God is at work in our world.. He never tires of revealing things to us.. pursuing us and healing us. One of the worst things we can do as believers is make Him too small.. if we make it all about us and our abilities we have missed the point.. He is able to do more than our human minds can comprehend. Ephesians 3:20 says:
“Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think.”
Read that again slowly and allow it to sink in. How is He able to do more than we can ask or think? ( some translations say imagine) Through His mighty power! Are you making Him smaller and less powerful than He is? If you are you are not alone.. in our insecurities we often think we make our roles more important than they are. God is the one who finds us.. His grace is irresistible.. that means He finds the keys to our hearts and unlocks them so we run out to meet Him. I remember when I realized the sovereignty of God at a much deeper level in theology class and I was amazed.. God was so much more involved in everything and I could trust Him in a much greater way than ever before because of this new revelation of His goodness. It was life changing!
My prayer for you is that you will be set free from any bondage that is keeping you away from the Lord.. any condemnation that causes you to believe that someone’s eternal destiny rests on your shoulders. Your God is huge and He will never stop pursuing you and those you love.. He is at work in mysterious ways fulfilling every plan that He has put into place!
My car has been in the shop for the last 10 days and I decided not to get a loaner. Instead I am taking this time to slow down and rest and to be alone. Today as I was walking in the valley, I began to realize that God had given me a personal retreat over the last week.
I am fortunate to live in an area surrounded by open space..walking here is so beautiful..trees with fall color and animals of all kinds. Since it is so dry, the deer are coming down lower and lower and they are very tame. It is an interesting experience to be walking along and suddenly come almost face to face with a buck..huge antlers and all!
I am reminded that my life is part of something bigger..and that somehow I am connected to both the beauty of nature and the amazing deer that roam this valley. Their life is simple..they eat, they rest, they walk..they are not worried and apparently not afraid. A good example of how our lives can be if we walk in faith and let God lead us. I am so thankful for this time.. for being set aside to remember what really matters..to be with Him and to enjoy the gifts He has given me.
“Then Jesus said to his disciples: ‘Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat; or about your body, what you will wear. Life is more than food, and the body more than clothes. Consider the ravens: They do not sow or reap, they have no storeroom or barn; yet God feeds them. And how much more valuable you are than birds! Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life? Since you cannot do this very little thing, why do you worry about the rest?’”
This is the buck I saw today.. He let me take his picture! Isn’t he amazing?
What is she talking about? Well..that is the analogy God gave me for something very special that I am learning from Him. I often wonder.. why is it so hard to understand God’s timing? Sometimes I feel like He is lagging behind me..why doesn’t He move faster? At other times I sense Him being miles ahead of me.. where are you God?
Tonight as I sat down to write He seemed to be saying “dance with me.” It makes so much sense. First of all.. remember He is leading. When two people are dancing they are close together..one is moving and then the other or they are moving at the same moment. There is rhythm and grace involved. They are sensitive to one another and the one who is leading must feel the confidence of their partner. The music may be soft or loud..slow or fast..the dance can change at any moment.
So..God wants me to stay close to Him..to move with Him when He is ready to move. To wait for Him when He stops. To enjoy this amazing intimacy with Him as we dance through life together. I absolutely love this image of our life with Him. It feels so safe.
When I graduated from seminary 6 years ago God gave me a picture of the two of us dancing across the finish line. I never forgot about it but I failed to realize we are still dancing.. and we will continue all the way across the final finish line that separates our life here from our life in eternity.
May your dance partner come near today and sweep you off your feet. May you sense His arms holding you and His gentle way of leading you. You are dancing too and it is beautiful!
“You have turned my mourning into joyful dancing. You have taken away my clothes of mourning and clothed me with joy”
Yes.. today is Valentine’s Day.. the day we celebrate romance..flowers, cards, and candy are everywhere. Tonight there will be special dinners offered in restaurants and couples will get engaged or married on this most romantic of all holidays.
For some of us..this day is not easy. We may be alone or in an unhappy relationship. Our hearts feeling heavy as we long for something more. God created us to desire romance. He put those desires in our heart.. the longings we feel are His idea. So what do we do if we are heartbroken and feel forgotten? There is no easy answer.. but I can make some suggestions.
Find a way to connect with the heart of God. If you need to talk about your disappointments.. look for someone who will understand. If you are discouraged because you have been waiting and waiting and waiting, tell someone who will pray for you and help you on your journey. Remember His promises and His faithfulness..they are true for you and will never change. Look for those personal touches that come from the heart of God into your life. He is pursuing you today.. inviting you into the sacred romance that happens only between you and Him.
Our God is personal and your feelings matter to Him. His desire is to help you receive His love and to know down deep that He is pleased with you. His love does not depend upon your goodness or performance. God is a hopeless romantic and He loves you deeply no matter what. He is in love with you because He created you and you are the apple of His eye. Enjoy that truth today..allow it to go down deep into your heart.
Do you need it today? I do. Life is challenging every day. We face an uncertain future and we live in an unstable world. As I began to write I felt like God was saying..bring encouragment to those with heavy hearts. We get beat up at times. We lose sleep. We eat too much and we exercise too little. We keep trying..sometimes we fail. We hear so much advice..some of it good and most it confusing. Our hearts become weighed down as we continue to believe and trust that God is in control.
He knows all this. He is not surprised by it and He can handle it. He doesn’t want us to hide..from Him or each other. He knows all our struggles and they break His heart. I wish we truly believed this..it would help us persevere. Many of us live in isolation..wondering if anyone cares what happens to us. Some of us have many friends..but no one knows our deepest longings. All of this builds up..can we keep going.? Our only refuge is the Lord..our safety net is the loving embrace of our God. He is the solid rock..the lover of our souls. We can’t count on people..even the ones that love us.. to truly understand.. not the way the Lord does.
He is closer than a sibling..parent..spouse, or child. He is our refuge in the storm. He stays the same..never wavering in His committment to us..not scared away by the intensity of our feelings. We are not too much for Him..ever. Remember all of this today wherever you are. Your God is with you and He will not forsake you. He loves you with an everlasting love.
“What have I to dread, what have I to fear, Leaning on the everlasting arms; I have blessed peace with my Lord so near, Leaning on the everlasting arms.” ♪♫♪
Since we are in time and He isn’t..there is a bit of a conflict. We have trouble waiting when in reality time is not important to Him. Try wrapping your mind around that for a minute. Our culture tells us that every minute counts..don’t waste any time..get moving..go faster and faster..time is of the essence. God sees things completely differently..in fact He says the opposite to us. Slow down..take your time..wait..don’t be in a hurry..never panic and remember to stay calm. His ways are mysterious and counter intuitive to us.
I was recently thinking about a desire that I have had for years..something that I longed for..I wondered if God wanted to give it to me. After all I am a grandmother and time is running out. I can hear the Lord laughing as I write this..time never runs out for Him. In this present season He is giving me that desire and I am having a difficult time believing that it is time. How strange is that? Here I am waiting..praying..longing and suddenly it seems to be here and I am struggling to receive it. What is God up to? It seems that He wants to teach me something very important.
The first message in all this is a reminder that He never forgets us..or our desires. The second one for me is realizing that what I thought I wanted actually scared me a little.. I was so used to the way things were.. I was going to need to leave my comfort zone. God knew that I would need to get to the place where I could receive what He had for me..He waits until we are ready so it is a gift..He wants to see delight in us..He waits to surprise us and watch us the way a Grandma watches her grandkids on Christmas..seeing their surprised faces as they get that unexpected gift..what a moment!
Isn’t it amazing to realize that we have a God who loves us enough to wait for just the right moment. He is not punishing us..He is not cruel or harsh..He loves us more than we will ever be able to imagine with our finite minds. He is for us..with us..under us and over us.
“Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think.”
Sometimes it seems to me like God is issuing secret orders..or directions. They appear in different ways in my life when I least expect them. They are not especially complex..in fact they are often simple. He will tell me to go somewhere or call someone. It happens through ideas from other people or just a simple thought that surfaces when I am alone with Him. I usually wonder why I need to do whatever it is.. sometimes it makes no sense at all.
Later I may realize that it was a secret directive..a step in a new direction. There is something on this path..an unexpected turn in the road is leading me to a wonderful blessing that only He knew about. These times help me to appreciate more fully the truth that God is intimately involved with us. Not only is He ahead of us..He likes to surprise us by not revealing the bigger picture and leading us step by step.
I am reminded of the feeling I get before Christmas when I look in my closet. There are presents in there..each of them picked out for members of my family..surprises. I can’t wait to see the look on their faces as they open their gifts. The delight in their eyes..the amazment that someone took the time to know exactly what they might want. Now that I am a grandmother..I have sharpened the skill needed to do this.. I enjoy it more and more each year.
Do you believe that God feels the same way about us? Each year that we spend in relationship with Him.. He knows us better. He has a file on us that tells Him what will totally surprise us. He keeps the details secret until just the right moment. Suddenly He beckons us forward to an unknown place..a turn in road that will lead us to life-giving moments with Him. He plans our route and directs us in unique ways..teaching us to trust Him and to follow Him.
We are on an amazing journey..following our great God..what will He do next?
“I take joy in doing your will, my God, for your instructions are written on my heart.”
This becomes more evident everyday. We can get news of any major event in a matter of minutes. Any thing that was kept secret..will probably be revealed pretty quickly. We see the lives of those who live half way around the world in intimate detail. The irony is..we may not know our next door neighbor. We find ourselves isolated in our homes..connecting online or watching world events unfold.
We were not designed to watch life happen..we were created to be living fully..interacting with people..developing deep relationships..growing..and enjoying. In our culture this is very challenging. So many of us feel alone alone..longing for more..not knowing what is missing. We think the answer is more activity..more busyness..keeping ourselves occupied. It works..at least temporarily.. but God has something to say to us when we find ourselves longing for the unknown.
He is prompting us to search our own hearts. To be honest with ourselves ..to admit that we have desires that we may have buried. Living life fully requires us to do some soul-searching. To pray and ask Him for answers. They come when we stop saying no to our own hearts..to start trusting and believing in His ability to take care of us in every way.
When I am stuck and ask Him to reveal the truth to me.. I run right into unbelief.. or find that I am believing lies. The ones that say that God is too small or I am too weak to move ahead with Him. He is the God of the impossible..His faithfulness is unending and His heart is for us. He desires to give us all those things that enable us to live more fully for Him. He wants to bless us in ways we cannot imagine. His plan is always for good..to meet us and to take us to new places that He has prepared for us. Our God is able to do all things well. His faithfulness continues and His mercies are new every morning.
“But those who trust in the Lord will find new strength. They will soar on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint.”