Lessons learned in the wilderness.. or good bye 2016 :)

Yes.. 2016 was one of the most challenging years yet. I believe that there were some very big lessons that God was teaching me during the trek through the wilderness and I hope they stick..that is always the tricky part. Probably the most important thing for me was actually realizing how much I wanted my own way and how little that had to do with what God was interested in. Yes.. He is very focused on us but not on giving us all the things that we think we should have. It was startling to realize how my own vision for my life was so ingrained in my thinking.. so this year has been a season of letting go..grieving disappointments.. and allowing Him to get to the root of my desires so He could yank them out and replace them with a deeper longing for Him.. Still in process.

I discovered that I had pride that was hidden deep in my heart..that my longing for the things of this world was very much alive.. that I actually don’t look at much from an eternal perspective.. and that I crave things that I see all around me . Living in a very affluent area is the catalyst for seeing the depth of those desires. It is normal here for people to have nice homes, new cars, and many vacations. . Without realizing it those things have gotten under my skin and I found myself thinking.. well, doesn’t everyone else have them? Why would God bless them and not me.. Pretty dangerous territory.. especially if you linger there.

The cure for that is the news.. Syria, Afghanistan, and many other places where people literally have nothing. we are all rich here and I am convicted of being very selfish and ungrateful. What about the pockets of poverty all over this country?.. people without homes, jobs, or hope.. people doing drugs and wondering how their kids will ever have a better life when they can hardly survive.. I am convicted of being shallow and self-centered. Thank you Lord for showing me the dark places in my heart.. What about those who have lost loved ones too soon? Their grief is so deep and so painful.. how could I ever forget that? I know grief and I help people with it.. yet I stand convicted of being self focused and lacking compassion.. Keep digging Lord.

I think you are getting the picture. The wilderness is our school.. it is our gift. Without the dark times and the struggles.. we won’t grow in our faith or learn to trust or be thankful.. He knows what He is doing and yes.. it hurts..yes we want it to stop. So as I grieve the loss of so many things that are never going to happen because it is too late.. and tomorrow as I enter the last year of my sixth decade here on earth.. I praise the Lord for all the suffering.. all the challenges and all the ways that He loves me enough to change me despite my resistance. I am not expecting 2017 to be an easy year.. none of them have been.. but I am expecting God to be working around me and in me.. I trust Him as much as I am capable of doing and rest in knowing that He is faithful even when we are not.

Happy New Year! May the Lord of Glory fill you to overflowing with His goodness and mercy.!!!

 

img_1955

 

 

 

 

We see land..

img_4529

 

Following up on my last post.. I saw a picture of our last 10 years this morning. We were on a ship and the ship was out at sea. There were storms that passed over us and threatened to drown us.. We were lost much of the time.. it was dark and all we could see was the next small step.. beyond that there was nothing. We held on to each other and we held on to the Lord.. crying out and asking Him to rescue us.. to lead us.. to protect us.. and to guide us. There were times when the silence was unbearable and times when we thought we heard Him say..”come this way” but there was nothing there.. just more disappointment and fear that we might be stuck on this ship forever.. lost at sea.. until there was nothing left of us.. We often felt like disappearing would be the best thing for everyone.. some people would be sad… but others probably would not even notice. The isolation was miserable.. the loneliness unbearable. We knew the Lord was with us, but He was so quiet and distant.. why Lord? Come and find us before we drown.

Too many losses.. too much disappointment.. too many hours filled with a sense of failure and the opportunity to wonder if it is was our fault that things were so difficult. In the end..all we could do is give it all to the Lord.. believing that He was allowing this and that He had a plan for us.. “for good and not for evil.” The journey continues..but now we see land.. He has restored our vision and given us hope.. we believe that He is leading us to a new place and when I stand on the deck and look around , all I see is a beautiful blue sea.. there is no storm on the horizon.. the sky is clear with a few puffy white clouds and it seems like I can see forever. After 10 years on this ship, God has not chosen to take us off and do a great rescue.. the miracle that so many people have prayed for. Instead He has changed us and taught us to trust Him in a deeper way and our marriage is stronger than ever.. that is a much greater miracle. He works through the storms and the tests to change us. He has more of my heart now.. many of my desires are gone… replaced by the ones He has chosen for me. We see land and it is beautiful!

“I am giving all this land, as far as you can see, to you and your descendants as a permanent possession.”       (Genesis 13:15)

img_4513

 

 

 

The last ten years..

 

dscn4180

 

For the last few days I’ve been aware of this sense that I need to tell my story.. I used to do this when I had the opportunity to do it in women’s groups. Those seem to be gone, yet I still need to tell my story … I know that other people’s stories bring me such encouragement. So.. the last ten years have been extremely challenging.. I graduated from Seminary in 2006 and started my counseling practice that same year. My prayer was that the Lord would provide through my husband Steve. I knew the counseling was more a ministry than a business and I was hoping for a release from financial problems. That really never happened.

Steve has worked.. but all the jobs have been temporary and even those opportunities dried up. The country went into a recession and he got older. We have been in this unemployment prison for over 3 years and there is no release date posted.. God is keeping that to himself at the moment. It has been extremely difficult. We have been hopeful and then the hope was gone.. like a roller coaster ride of emotions. I am facing another birthday next month and wondering how we will make it through the rest of our lives. We have no house to lose or any savings to lose.. maybe that is better than watching everything disappear. It is lonely and  I never expected these years to present this type of challenge. The uncertainty is huge and unfortunately it triggers lots of fears and insecurities.

But.. God is in this.. He is allowing it.. He knows all about it and it is not punishment or abandonment. I have been able to work for this entire time.. I learned that He is my source.. I can only do counseling because His spirit is in me and guides me. We are still married and even though we have arguments..they never last long. My own emotions have been hard to manage.. but my husband is very forgiving and loving. I have been blessed.. watching him continue to try for jobs week after week.. to remain hopeful month after month. His unconditional love for me when I have been angry and frustrated has been amazing. Our marriage is stronger.. our faith is stronger. We are relying totally on the goodness of God as this trial continues.

Life does not always turn out the way we want it to.. there are many surprises and disappointments. God is the same no matter what happens. He is good and He is faithful. He does not leave us or forget us. Our only hope is in Him.. trials remind us that there is no where else to go. We cannot lose Him even if we lose everything else.

This morning God reminded me of this scripture from 2nd Chronicles… it is a favorite.

“But you will not even need to fight. Take your positions; then stand still and watch the LORD’s victory. He is with you, O people of Judah and Jerusalem. Do not be afraid or discouraged. Go out against them tomorrow, for the LORD is with you!” 

 

dscn4187

The hidden places..

dscn4151

 

We have these places in our lives. They are like closets full of things that we don’t want to look at too closely. The truth is they are not hidden from the Lord. He sees and knows all the things we are keeping from Him and from ourselves. This closet may hold secret sins and idols.. but it also holds pain. Pain that we put in the back under everything. Why? So we don’t have to grieve and face the losses that happen in life. So when God goes into that closet and begins to pull out things.. He has only one purpose in mind and that is healing. How do I know that.. because I have experienced healing from His hand over and over again.

He wants to bring us into freedom. To touch our wounds and heal them. To bring out the poison.. the toxins that have developed because the wound is old and is covered with band aids that are filthy.. underneath there is an infection.. His desire is to clean the wound and heal it so that it is finally unable to keep us in bondage. Why do we resist this process? because it is painful. It order to receive this healing you need to open up and feel the pain that is stuffed down inside. It is not as though you have to relive it is.. but there is pain in remembering and releasing grief that is unresolved. The beautiful thing is realizing that God can take this process and change you.. He can ” create a clean heart” in you.

I am writing about this because I am concerned about Believers who run from this process. They hide their pain deeper and deeper because they are either embarrassed, ashamed or fearful. We are here on earth for a reason..not just waiting for the day when all this over. Eternity is here now.. we have entered the kingdom of God and He is at work restoring us. We need to let Him in fully if we want to begin experiencing the abundant life He promises in John 10:10.

Our God is pursuing us daily. He desires to go deep with you.. to take you to your hidden places and help you bring them out into the light so you can be set free to walk with Him without always looking back and without fear of the future. I want to encourage you to allow Him to come into those places.. if you are unable to do it alone, find someone to help you.. there is nothing wrong with needing help. The Holy Spirit is the counselor and He leads the way when it comes to unraveling your past and unveiling those wounds.. but He often works through counselors..especially those that walk with Him. Pray that the Lord will lead you to the right person and take a risk.. you won’t be sorry. He has only good things for you!

“The Spirit of the LORD is upon me, for he has anointed me to bring Good News to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim that captives will be released, that the blind will see, that the oppressed will be set free” (Luke 4:18)

He longs to be gracious to you..

This afternoon I came across this post from a year ago today on Facebook. I read it and thought.. that is amazing it is more true for me now than it was then and I actually understand why I wrote in a much deeper way. So.. I thought I would post it again and share it with you.. the scripture on the bottom is the same one God gave me this morning. The post is titled ” God waits for us”

Throughout the years that I have been writing on this blog.. the theme of waiting has emerged over and over again. Waiting is difficult and we struggle with it as we move through this life. This morning I sensed the Lord showing me that He waits for us more than we realize.

IMG_0572

Since He has a plan for our lives that is better than anything we could dream up or imagine..He has to wait for us to be willing to follow Him. We have our own plans and dreams and it is difficult for us to surrender those to Him. After all.. our plans will bring us happiness and security. We imagine ourselves with the things that will fulfill us and take away the emptiness. God is after more than that.

IMG_0583

He imagines us whole and filled with joy.. He sees us as complete and fulfilled in Him. We look everywhere else..afraid that He is not going to be there for us.. that He may fail us or forget us. He waits patiently as we try to make our dreams come true. He watches us and cares for us as we resist His plan. He allows us to suffer and struggle.. knowing that eventually we will turn to Him.

IMG_0610

He sees us.. He knows us.. He is with us and He is for us. We are His. He is the good shepherd who tenderly cares for each of his sheep. He seeks us when we are lost and cares for us when we are wounded. He waits for us to follow Him to safety. He leads us to green pastures and still waters. His love for us is unfailing and everlasting. He pursues us..holding out His Hands and asking us to trust Him in all things.. will we trust Him with hearts? Will we follow Him when the path is not clear.. and all we can see is the next step? He is waiting..

“And therefore will the LORD wait, that he may be gracious unto you…” ( Isaiah 30:18 KJV)

All things..

 

dscn0578

Romans 8 : 28 is one of my favorite scriptures.  The NIV says And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”

I also like the KJV version of this verse..And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.”

Both translations are making the same point. God works everything together for our God and to fulfill His purposes. It is reassuring to know that nothing is happening without His permission.. that He is always working behind the scenes and His plans and purposes will prevail. I was recently reading the first chapter of Job.. it is quite an eye opener when it comes to explaining trials and tests. The NLT version tells the story this way;

“One day the members of the heavenly court came to present themselves before the Lord, and the Accuser, Satan,came with them. “Where have you come from?” the Lord asked Satan.

Satan answered the Lord, “I have been patrolling the earth, watching everything that’s going on.”

 Then the Lord asked Satan, “Have you noticed my servant Job? He is the finest man in all the earth. He is blameless—a man of complete integrity. He fears God and stays away from evil.”

 Satan replied to the Lord, “Yes, but Job has good reason to fear God. You have always put a wall of protection around him and his home and his property. You have made him prosper in everything he does. Look how rich he is! But reach out and take away everything he has, and he will surely curse you to your face!”

 “All right, you may test him,” the Lord said to Satan. “Do whatever you want with everything he possesses, but don’t harm him physically.” So Satan left the Lord’s presence.”

The Lord granted the enemy permission to test Job. That’s right.. He allowed all those things to happen to a righteous man. Job’s losses were not punishment. They were from God.. He was involved and He even suggested that Job be tested.. why? Because He knew Job and He was going to use all of this suffering for good in this man’s life. Of course while Job was suffering.. he did not know that and he doubted and challenged God. Eventually by the end of the book.. he realized his folly in questioning God.. The Lord reminded him of who He was.. the creator and sovereign God of the universe. Job was humbled and realized he has no right to question God’s ways.. All things will work together for the good of those who love Him.. those who trust Him ..those who submit themselves to Him.. those who lean into Him when times are hard.. ALL THINGS!

 

dscn0596

 

“Jesus was making the sad things come untrue”

DSCN3867

 

This is a line from a story in the Jesus Storybook Bible.. a book that was read to the children every Sunday during our worship service. Yesterday at church, our pastor said that those stories from that book were the first sermon and his preaching was the second sermon. He quoted that line from the book ” He was making the sad things come untrue“.. I love that ! It makes me smile to think of everything sad becoming untrue as the kingdom of God moves ahead. What an amazing promise He has given us.

The same thing is happening here every single day.. sometimes we see it and sometimes we don’t. The truth is the truth whether we are able to see it or not. God’s invisible kingdom is real.. more real than all the sad things that happen on this earth every single day. His kingdom is more real than every single problem we face.. even the ones that seem unbearable. His kingdom is more real than our feelings, our thoughts, or our ideas. What an amazing realization that is.. if only we could hang on to that picture. There is another story.. a larger story that surrounds us and God is the author. He has written it for us and He is with us in that story.. guiding us, protecting us, comforting us, and encouraging us. We are not alone in what seems to be our small sad story.

As I am writing this I feel like I want to grab on to that big story.. to live in it fully.. to have a larger role.. to enter the Kingdom of God in a deeper way.. following Him fully.. trusting Him totally.. even when I have no answers.. even when I am hurting.. lost and sad. I want to be a part of His great work in this world as He redeems everything that was lost.  I believe He is asking us all to enter in.. to seek Him and His ways.. to believe that He is totally in control.. when all we see is an out of control world … As we live in these times.. we are in the world that He entered.. something has already happened.. but there is more.. we are between the already and the not yet.. living in that very unsettled place.. He is our rock and our safe place.. there is no other.

He told us to ” Seek Him and His kingdom and all else would be added on to us” He meant it then and He means it now..

One day the Pharisees asked Jesus, “When will the Kingdom of God come?”

Jesus replied, “The Kingdom of God can’t be detected by visible signs. You won’t be able to say, ‘Here it is!’ or ‘It’s over there!’ For the Kingdom of God is already among you.

DSCN3849