As I look back on my blog, I see that I seem to write a post every year during Lent.. I want to be true to that tradition and it has been a while since I posted. I always see Lent as an opportunity to reflect.. to look back and to see how God has been working and to be aware of what He is doing right now.
I don’t even remember the Lent season last year.. probably because I was getting ready to bring my very disabled elderly mother to my home. I brought her here almost exactly one year ago.. It was the day before Easter 2018.. so that was March 31st.. the day after my wedding anniversary.. I was pretty worried about how it would go and that was apparently a prophetic feeling…since it did not go well at all and three weeks later I was frantically looking for a skilled nursing facility that would take her.. I never found one but Kaiser did! What a trial that was.. then we were faced with another even more challenging situation. It was becoming very clear that something was wrong with my husband and I knew I had to face whatever it was.. we found out in May that he has a rare type of dementia..
I have been grieving since that neurology appointment and it is only now that I feel like I can say that I have begun to accept this outcome.. many nights of crying, yelling out to the Lord and feeling sorry for myself followed that diagnosis. We are now living in a “new normal.”
This year for Lent I was hoping to focus on giving up worry and anxiety.. but God seemed to have another plan for me. Instead of trying not to worry or be anxious He began to show me that it was impossible to truly get rid of those things and that I needed to give myself permission to have those feelings and others and to welcome them as part of me.. I never imagined that as an option.. but it has helped tremendously. There is even a name for this.. Welcoming prayer..As I have tried this.. my process is to sit with my feelings, to acknowledge them and not fight them.. to just feel them and when they are less intense, I release them to the Lord.. The result has been more peace and much less fear.
It was a big shift for me to realize that all feelings are legitimate and that I don’t have to deny them or try to kill them.. even the ones I dislike.. that the Lord will enable me to live through the times of sadness, pain, grief, worry, anxiety, fear and anger. I realized at a deep level that I am not defined by these feelings or these times of struggle. We live in a broken world and when the brokenness overwhelms us it is incredibly difficult and impossible to pretend that we are not suffering and hurting.
The take away is that we are loved by God even as we battle the feelings we wish we never had. He is not going to leave us even when our circumstances overwhelm us. So I am living more fully day by day and thanking Him for the good days..or maybe just the good hours or minutes.. Knowing that this journey is full of uncertainty when it comes to our future but that we can be certain of God and His faithfulness.
“The Lord said, “Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.”
Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper. “
So this scripture was going through my mind today.. I truly cannot tell you the last time I was reading 1 Kings.. but it was not at all recently.. I heard the words and then had to look up the passage because I did not even know where it was in the Bible.. The reason I was hearing these words is because I finally understand, at least a little bit, about what it means that God is in the gentle whisper. For me it was the revelation that the big things that we hope will reveal His presence often do not happen.. we want the big miracle or sign that He is with us.. that proves to us He is present in our circumstances so we do not fear or falter. If we read about the life of Jesus in the NT we find that all those signs and miracles still left the disciples and others wondering. Who is this man? So obviously they don’t always have the desired effect.
God has been revealing His presence through small things that are big to me.. I see Him at work in my circumstances through the way people are stepping up to help me over and over again. I see Him at work when He brings me back to scriptures that speak to my heart over and over again.. when He answers prayers that I barely remember praying.. when He shows me that He is at work behind the scenes and all He is asking is for me to trust Him with everything!!.. He is constantly whispering ” I am with you and I have your back.. I will deliver you and fight the enemy for you.. come to me with everything and trust that these whispers are saying … I love you with an everlasting love” ( Jeremiah 31)
In John 4 Jesus said this to the Samaritan woman at the well.. and it is for us as well.
“Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again,but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”
Lord.. give me ears to hear those whispers.. to recognize your voice and to drink the living water that you are offering me.
My last post included a video.. you have to play it on my site because it does not show up as a video if you receive email updates. The song is Find me in the River from a CD called streams that was released in 1999.. a tribute to the classic devotional Streams in the Desert.
Here are the lyrics:
Find me in the river
Find me on my knees
I’ve walked against the water
Now I’m waiting if you please
We’ve longed to see the roses
But never felt the thorns
And bought our pretty crowns
But never paid the price
Find me in the river
Find me there
Find me on my knees with my soul laid bare
Even though you’re gone and I’m cracked and dry
Find me in the river, I’m waiting here
Find me in the river
Find me on my knees
I’ve walked against the water
Now I’m waiting if you please
We didn’t count on suffering
We didn’t count on pain
But if the blessing’s in the valley
Then in the river I will wait.
The whole CD is worth listening to if you find yourself in the wilderness or the dark valley..
This is my first post of the year. I have to confess that the future of this blog has been unclear for the past month or so. I have been writing here for over 7 years and I often wonder if it’s season is over. But.. then I look to see if anyone is reading it and sure enough someone somewhere has stopped by and read things I posted in the past and looked at my other pages. When I see that happen, I remember my words to the Lord when I first started doing Pastoral counseling almost 12 years ago.
I told Him that I would go to the seminary and get a degree and be willing to pay back all the money I borrowed if He would send me at least one person. The reason I prayed that way was to validate my realization that with God everyone matters.. He is not into numbers or into big or successful and I wanted that to be my heart. He has given me the honor of helping many women and a few men over the years.. to walk with them through grief and loss.. to help them recover from abuse and neglect.. to enable them to move ahead and lead a better life because so many wounds were healed. By the way.. I stay in contact with the very first client He sent and we are very good friends.. she still sees me occasionally and I am so thankful to be a part of her life.. what a privilege.
Just as I still feel this blog has a purpose.. I feel my commitment to see women get the help and healing they need is going to be there for the rest of my life. I continue to ask for that one person who needs what I have to offer.. I live each day with the hope they can find me and not walk alone. This year for me is the year of the psalms and God is working deeply to help me remember His goodness in this challenging season of growing old and struggling to believe that He is able to use me in this youth centered world. I recommend the psalms as a tonic for all believers.. a place to return when the tank is low. You will find living water in each psalm and great reminders of His faithfulness. I ordered a beautiful little book on Amazon of just the psalms.. what a treat!
My daughter and I are facilitating a Bible Study called Discovering Hope in the psalms and believing that it will breathe new life into us and the other women in our group. You can find out more about this study here http://www.discoveringhopeinthepsalms.com/ It is a rich study that incorporates scripture and the creative arts. Check it out if you are longing for something to bring you hope and healing this year. I wish you the best as you navigate the challenges that will come along and as you trust the Lord for His provision in all areas of your life. Here’s the first psalm in the study and the first one in the book of psalms!
The Way of the Righteous and the Wicked
1 Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; 2 but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night.
3 He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers. 4 The wicked are not so, but are like chaff that the wind drives away.
5 Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous; 6 for the Lord knows the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish.
I posted this two years ago.. on this date.. I hope it brings you peace as we leave 2017 and enter a new year. I am also leaving behind a decade of my life and entering the 7th decade.. may the Lord keep us and protect us as we trust HIm!
Here we are again.. can you believe it? Just two more days before 2015 is over. This is a time for looking back and for looking ahead. God gives us this window of time to reflect after the busyness of Christmas and before the beginning of 2016.. For me it is a little more intense than I would like since my birthday is New Years Eve. I literally start a new year of my life when January 1st rolls around. I am reminded of how fast time passes and how long I have lived. When you are young it is easy to look ahead with some excitement.. as you age it is a little scary. My body is wearing out and I am fighting to stay healthy and strong. My grandchildren are growing up and I want to be here as long as I can to see them as adults and hopefully to see their children.
As I look back on 2015 I see moments of great faith and moments of failure. I remember the days when I felt like He was so close I could touch him and I remember the days when I wondered if He even knew I existed. Yet I know that God made me the way I am.. He knows my pain and He appears in the middle of my brokenness to remind me of His sovereignty over my life. I imagine that you can relate to my struggles and I want to encourage you..to remind you that God knows our hearts.. He knows what makes us dance for joy and what breaks our hearts into a million pieces.
Looking back I see things that I am grateful for.. ways that God has moved to change me and to guide me into a deeper place with Him. I see healing in my life and in the lives of those around me. Some of us received gifts that we were waiting for and some of us are still waiting. This morning as I visited with a friend and saw how God was giving her a wonderful blessing that she had been longing for I was struck with a thought that I knew was from Him. He said ” I am in the delays”.. when we wait and pray and hope.. He is in that season with us. We are not forgotten or set aside. He keeps our desires close to His heart and at the right time He delights in surprising us with the very thing we hoped for.
So.. let us enter this new year with confidence in the Living God…our Creator and our Provider. Our hearts can rest in His presence trusting that He will come for us.. He will rescue us.. He will heal us and He will shower us with blessings in 2016.
I had a vision of the narrow path today when we were out walking. The Lord was showing me something in a picture that totally makes sense to me..yet I never saw it as clearly as I did today. When we first enter into a relationship with the Lord our path looks a certain way.. we may become part of a community of Believers and enter into all the activities of the church..most of us have had this experience. As we move along in our faith many of those activities may seem less attractive and we may feel like it is time to become less committed to the church and more committed to our relationship with the Lord. This can be a startling change for us.. what exactly are we to tell everyone? Will they be able to understand our new choices? Is it OK to say no and to slow down the pace of our life? Shouldn’t we continue to serve and give? There are no pat answers to these questions.. because the answer has to come from the Lord to us. What is He wanting in this season as the old things don’t fit anymore?
This is what I saw in the picture. We were on a wider part of the path .. many people were walking with us and we felt like we were included and needed and supported by others. Then as the path became more narrow.. there were fewer people doing the things we were doing. We can see them behind us.. still very actively involved in many activities but we are being called forward.. closer to Him but further away from others.. our journey has different challenges than it had in the beginning. It seems easier to get distracted and we feel a pull back to what we once knew.. But He calls us to come closer.. and to come alone. I see the path winding up a hill with challenges along the way.. there are other paths with people saying ” come this way” but that is not what the Lord is saying. He is drawing us closer so that we have eyes only for Him. Remember that this path is leading to the end of our lives and we must walk those last miles alone.. trusting Him with the changes that happen as we grow older and as we lose more and more people.. as dreams die and opportunities fade. The good news is we see Him more clearly and as our faith is tested we trust Him more fully. There is no other way.
So I am praying and asking God to keep me on that path. To block out all the voices that try to pull me in the wrong direction. I want to follow Him up that winding path.. to stay close to Him as the path seems to disappear at times.. My desire is to hear Him as He leads me and to trust Him with everything.. Let it be so Lord!
“So the Lord must wait for you to come to him so he can show you his love and compassion. For the Lord is a faithful God. Blessed are those who wait for his help”
Today is the second day of September and we are having a big heat wave here in the bay area. I know it has happened before, but it is rare for us to get temperatures over 100 all over the area. We are spoiled because of the temperate climate here.. very few extremes. It is easy to be comfortable in this area since our lifestyle allows us to see so much beauty and we rarely face disasters like they are facing right now in Texas. The flooding we have been watching all week is a reminder that things can change in an instant. No matter how much we try to be in control of our lives, we are not able to predict the future. It seems to me that the Lord continues to remind us of His sovereignty through natural disasters and personal tragedies.
More and more of my conversations seem to center around trials and tests that people are facing. Even here in our county.. things are changing. With so many people moving to the bay area over the last 10 years.. our highways are crowded and there is litter everywhere. Our quiet protected area is not so quiet or protected. People are struggling here with finances, health, and family problems. In order to live here.. there are not enough jobs and the housing situation is unbelievable.. who can afford to be here? I know we can’t.. but God has us here and He continues to confirm that. Our family is here and we support one another. My husband has lived here since he was born and I have been in this area for 50 years.. Yes we are getting older every day:) Many of our friends are gone, they have either moved away or passed away.. it is a bit lonely at times. Aging is challenging in a youth oriented culture and unfortunately the church is the same way. We have found ourselves feeling left behind and in some cases cast aside.
The good news is that these experiences do not define us. Our identity is in the Lord and He continues to affirm our worth and value. Because of the challenges we face.. I am more confident that it is not what I do, or who I know or what people think that defines me. I am His and that is what matters. Our circumstances continually change.. tomorrow it could be snowing here and Texas may experience a heat wave that dries up the land quickly. Tomorrow could bring a scary diagnosis for us or someone we love.. or tomorrow someone may be healed right in front of us.. reminding us of who is in control.. every day.. every single hour. We are not alone or forgotten..we are never abandoned or cast off. He remembers us.. comforts us.. holds us as we lean into Him in these times.
Father.. I pray for everyone reading this that they may experience more of you as this day unfolds. I pray for your spirit to be poured out on us as we cling to you in these trying times. We long to draw closer to your heart.. teach us how to do that.. protect us and guide us each day as we trust you.