This is us in Maui 7 years ago.. a wonderful memory!
If you have been following my blog you know that I write about the struggles of this life.. disappointment.. grief and loss.. disillusionment etc. I feel like there is a need for that type of transparency and sharing. However.. there is more than just acknowledging the trials and the pain we face. In the midst of these trials, God promises to show up.. to reveal Himself to rescue us and to renew us. This was a week when God showed up in my life in a very surprising way.
As you know, my husband is suffering from a type of dementia and we have been grappling with what that means for the last year.. since he was diagnosed. A couple of months ago I decided to take our wedding movie to Costco to have it put on a DVD. We have never seen this movie since it was shot with a super 8 camera with no way to view it.. time to do something about this. I wanted to make sure that we watched it together now..in case Steve is unable to take it in later.. but at the same time I felt like I was going to lose it when I saw how things used to be. We have been married for 17 years and both of us are very different from the way we were on that day.
It seemed as though the Lord and Steve wanted to see it.. so I just hoped that I could recover after it was over. God surprised me.. not only did I recover, but I was totally encouraged as I watched and also amazed. The important moments were all there.. views of the guests.. many of them are with the Lord now.. including my Dad and Steve’s sister. It was wonderful to see them again and to remember them.. Then there were the vows.. showing the close up of my face and I saw the joy that God gave me as I married this wonderful man and promised to be faithful to him no matter what happened.. in sickness and in health. Wow.. so thankful that I made those vows and that God is giving me the strength to keep them. The pastor gave a sermon on 1 Corinthians 13.. the love chapter. It was a prophetic word for us.. emphasizing that love was to be at the center of our relationship.. It was as though the Lord knew we needed to file that away and keep it for this season. So awesome to realize that He knew what we would face and that we would walk it out together. I was strengthened by the words of the pastor as he told us that he could see God’s handiwork in our relationship.. it was confirmation to me that nothing that is happening is a surprise to God.. He knew what we would walk through and that we would cling to Him and each other.
Yes! It was a surprise in a dark time and it came in a surprising way.. I cried and longed to relive those early years of our marriage.. but these years matter too and I want to live fully as they unfold.
I just had to share this with you.. I hope it brings life and hope to your heart!
In the midst of struggles.. He teaches us. We may not realize it at the time.. because our hearts are heavy and our emotions feel overwhelming. We wonder why things are happening.. why we are reacting. If we pray and seek Him.. He will unveil His purposes to us. He may not show us all that we want to see, but He will show us enough to encourage us in our journey.
None of us enjoy the trials and tests..we would prefer to have pain-free lives. Yet the truth is that during our darkest days..we draw near to Him..crying out for what we need to make it through. I am convinced that as we press in closer we hear Him more clearly and sense His presence more deeply. He is teaching us to depend upon Him..to turn to Him and to remember that He is our refuge.
Our lives are on a path that lead us to the heart of God. As we walk in faith, following Him..we begin to experience the sense that He is with us in all of it. Our hearts become less doubtful and we are able to seek Him in the good times as well as the hard times.. Our double mindedness disappears as we realize that He is for us..the God of the universe is with us and He is teaching us not only to trust Him but to truly know Him in all His goodness! What more could we ask?
Remember this verse… it is for you!
“The Lord your God is with you, the Mighty Warrior who saves. He will take great delight in you; in his love he will no longer rebuke you, but will rejoice over you with singing.”
The love that God has for us is “true love.” We often refer to it as unconditional love. But do we really know how to receive it? Growing up in a family where there were unspoken conditions and God’s love was never mentioned.. I have struggled to embrace this love that He offers. Without realizing how deep it has gone, I have always performed for Him.
In some way.. I am re-creating the same dynamics that existed in my childhood. My parents were very successful, both held doctorates and earned quite a bit of money. They were intelligent intellectuals.. thinkers. I was not and knew I could never be what they were. So.. I was the “perfect” daughter.. the one that excelled in school and tried never to bring them any pain.
Once I began to follow God and nurture a relationship with Him, the same pattern emerged. I worked in ministry, tried to be a perfect mom and wife, keep the house just right and basically performed for Him. The ministry experiences were messy and so was our home. I married an addict and was far from the perfect Mom.
God’s love was such a mystery to me.. I think deep down I felt that I had to keep performing or He would soon give up on me. I raised the bar higher and higher until I almost collapsed..
God has me in a healing season..helping me to receive the “true love” that only He can deliver. I can’t perform the way I once did.. I am beginning to realize that this is a blessing for me. I know now that I may never “do” some of the things I dreamed I would do. God is OK with that.. in fact He is behind that whole idea. I can almost hear Him saying ” I love you with an everlasting love.. I created you and my love for you is not based on anything you ever say or do”
“God told them, “I’ve never quit loving you and never will. Expect love, love, and more love!”
I am surprised by the way people see God. Since I love to talk about Him and have many friends who believe in Him, these conversations happen frequently. Our perception of who He is comes through teachings, life experience, scripture, and our own imaginations. It is very easy to fall into disillusionment and begin to think of Him in a way that reinforces our own negativity. It is also easy to find scripture to back this up.
No one has the final word when it comes to scripture interpretation. We can read study Bibles and commentaries..we can attend Bible Studies and Seminary classes..we can listen to sermons and read books..all of these things teach us, but in the end we may still only see through a glass darkly. Where do we go from there? Call on the Holy Spirit..the spirit of the living God who wants to reveal truth to us. He is the real interpreter and it brings Him pleasure to open our eyes to the goodness of God.
I find myself praying for God to reveal Himself to those around me. That is the only way they will really know Him. He is so often misrepresented by those who claim to know Him. His character is often misunderstood by those who believe they understand Him. Our only hope is knowing that He desires to come close to us..to show us His amazing love and grace without the help of well-meaning people. In the same way we desire to be known..really known, He has that same desire.
“And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep His love is.”
The older I get the more I realize that God is the rescuer. For those of us who have soft hearts this can be a difficult concept to fully embrace. We see people in pain and we want to help them..it seems so right.. doesn’t it? We know things that will help them and we may be able to see their path so clearly. Shouldn’t we do everything we can to make sure they are OK? Well..there is no easy answer to that question.
I’ve been learning a few lessons in this area lately. My good desire to help others sometimes does the opposite. God is at work and His ways are not mine. When I see people suffering I want to help them ..it’s a gut reaction. They are suffering for a reason..this may be their season to learn some important lessons. The most important one is the same for all of us..God is with us. When we are hurting there is a greater chance we will see our need for Him and reach out for those everlasting arms.
Our world is focused on relieving pain. So many things are available..drugs and alcohol are the most obvious. We also escape in less obvious ways..busyness..television..the internet..shopping..the list is long. Pain is there for a reason..God is not the author of pain..but He is the one that can rescue us and those we love. He waits for us to reach out to Him and to need Him desperately.
All of this does not mean that I don’t believe in helping others..I work as a counselor.. I see the need for human helpers. But ultimately I need to remember that God is the one who will deliver, rescue, and heal. All we can do is point the way..pray and keep believing that He is going to come through for others in the same way He has for us!
The Lord says ” I will rescue those who love me. I will protect those who trust in my name. When they call on me. I will answer; I will be with them in trouble.”
As I was thinking about the 23rd psalm yesterday I realized once again that it is His faithfulness that matters not ours. We waver..doubt..get fearful and anxious. He stays the same and He promises to continue leading us toward all the good things He has for us. His plan is unfolding because of His goodness and mercy toward us.
Our struggles are so real..so tangible..so overwhelming. Our emotions are strong and deep. Our lives are complex and uncertain. We need something to be solid under our feet..that is what we have in Him..a sure foundation. What a relief to remember that living our lives in a perfect way is not the goal..we will never do it. Our best intentions fall short..we fail..we fall and at the last moment..He catches us..holds us..comforts us..loves on us. We are His beloved!
What an amazing God we have. He never tires of us..abandons us or forgets about us..even when we are sure He has. Our faithlessness does not stop Him. He will meet us in the midst of our trials..reassuring us of His presence.
Take a minute to remember.. HIM.. His goodness..His love for you.. His grace.. His faithfulness.
” The Lord is my Shepherd.. I have all that I need.”
It’s warm here today..summer officially starts on Tuesday. We are approaching a new season and I just love to write about what that means. The seasons of the year are great learning opportunities. We can’t control them and that can be frustrating. Do you ever just feel ready for the cold weather to end in February? Are you frustrated by too many hot days in August? I believe that God gave us these seasons to teach us some things.
We must wait for the rain to end before Spring comes..in the heat we long for the first cold days of Fall..we have no power to make it happen faster. Does that remind you of life? Are you in a season right now that is challenging? Are you wondering when the change will come? What is God saying anyway? It is likely He wants to teach you to enjoy the present season..savour the rain because soon it will be hot and dry. Enjoy the heat before it gets cold and wet again. The lesson is to be here now..to enjoy the present season..to find ways to relax and accept things as they are.
It helps when we remember that He is totally in control. This season is part of His greater plan for our lives. He is at work behind the scenes preparing our next step..putting all the pieces in place so that we are able to fulfill our purpose. His plan is unfolding step by step. His work in us is what matters..are we growing closer to Him? Trusting Him more? Or are we complaining and wanting our own way? He examines our hearts..what do you want Him to find there?
For me..I want Him to be pleased with me. To listen with pleasure as I proclaim His goodness. I want Him to send people into my path that need encouragement because He trusts me to shower them with the love. I want to be used to fulfill His purposes and not my own plans. Does that sound good to you? Tell Him..He is listening..eager to draw you into His redemptive purposes and His perfect plan.
Four years ago my father died. I didn’t grieve the death at the time because I was suddenly caring for my aging mother who was going blind and depended totally on my Dad. My grief had to be postponed until I could focus on myself..that took about three years. A year ago Mom fell for the millionth time..broke her femur and is now in a wheel chair..almost blind from glaucoma. I placed her in a board and care facility where they take very good care of her. Suddenly the death of my dad became a big issue again.. I realized how much I loved him and how much I missed him. There was a big hole in my heart and no one to fill it.
My dad and I were very much alike..I understand him better now that he is gone. He mothered me more than my mom did. He did all the cooking in our home and he was the one who took care of me when I was sick. He was a caregiver..to a fault..I was the same way. I wish I could sit down and talk about all the things that we both struggled with. Although we didn’t always see eye to eye, I knew he loved me and that he would be there for me if I really needed him.
He is gone and God is teaching me to rely on Him..He is reminding me that He is my father in heaven..soon my mom will die and God will be my mother in heaven as well. Since my dad was almost like a mother to me.. none of this is too mysterious. He is our parent..a father when we need one and a mother when we need one. He looks after us and understands us. He provides for us and rescues us. He finds us when we are missing and saves us when we are drowning. He pursues us when we run and embraces us we turn back to Him. He is our God and He is with us!
“I myself will tend my sheep and give them a place to lie down in peace says the Sovereign Lord. I will search for my lost ones who strayed away and I will bring them safely home again. I will bandage the injured and strengthen the weak…You are my people, I am your God!”
God calls out to us..come closer. We resist..afraid that He will want something. We’re right.. He does want something. What is He asking for? Do we have it? Will it be painful? We hold back..imagining that this life with Him will require more than we can give. He pursues us through our feelings, circumstances and those around us. He calls our name. He follows us everywhere we go.
We can’t escape this God who is so mysterious..so unpredictable..so surprising. He wants to take us places we have never been. He longs to lead us into an adventure..a life that is filled with unexpected twists and turns. His spirit is drawing us..touching on the unfulfilled longings that hide deep inside our hearts. If His heart is overwhelmed with love for us..why is it all so hard to believe?
We have walls..secret places..we are apathetic..scared..insecure..unsure..is it true that He loves us with an everlasting love? Why can’t I feel it? He must take us deeper..breaking down those walls that keep Him out. This happens through trails..when we suffer..in the midst of our pain.
We find Him there..caring..holding..comforting..soothing..carrying..revealing His true nature. He wants to be found..He is not hiding.. He is waiting.
” God looks down from heaven on the entire human race..He looks to see if anyone is truly wise..if anyone seeks God.”
As you walk through this day I hope you are able to rejoice in Him remembering that He is the gift. His presence..His provision and His love for us. Let’s anticipate together all the good things that He has in mind for us as we wait for Christmas to appear. It is only a reminder of Him..we have Him every single day.. throughout our lives no matter what we are doing or where we are.
God impressed that upon me yesterday. As I was thinking about a future plan and feeling insecure.. God spoke ” I am with you” today and that day in the future. He says that He will never leave us or forsake us. He promises to take us through every valley and be with us on every mountain top. His arms are around us..holding us and keeping us from falling.
His gifts to us are His faithfulness, His unchanging nature, His sovereignty, His amazing Grace and His unconditional love. Let’s unwrap each one on Christmas morning..receiving them and holding them close to our hearts. He knows every need you have and every dream you are dreaming. He adores you..more than you will ever know.
I pray that God’s blessings will overflow as you celebrate..that His presence will be more real than you ever imagined..tomorrow and every day after.