Tag Archive | Encouragement

All things

Welcome to my blog.. actually it is not a new blog at all.. I have been writing on this blog for 12 years..but this is the first post of 2022. I never imagined that I would continue to write on it when I started.. in fact I did not know the first thing about blogging. There have been so many times when I felt like giving it up and then suddenly I see that people are still reading it and I remember a promise I made to the Lord. If I am doing something that He has given me to do and it helps even one person.. I will continue to do it.

The title of this post comes from 2 different scriptures that continue to go through my mind. They are connected, but I never saw that until today. The first is Romans 8:28.. And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. I learned to lean on this passage over 40 years ago as a new Believer.. reminding myself of His goodness . The second passage is from Isaiah 43.. “Remember not the former things ,nor consider the things of old. Behold I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?”

Do you see the connection? He has promised to work all things together for our good.. that means everything all the time. And He is doing a new thing.. which is exactly what happens. When we walk through trials we are being shaped and refined by the suffering. We can cling to his promise to bring good out of it.. even when it looks hopeless.. and all we do is hurt and question, because He will do something new in us and through us as He has promised.

I am writing this after one of the most difficult years of my life. My husband died in 2020 and I was in deep grief when 2021 started.. I fell on New Years day and that began a year of physical pain that was worse than anything I had ever experienced.. I am much better, but still recovering. The grief is no longer fresh but there are many days when I wish Steve was here and I feel very lonely and sad. God is beginning to renew my hope and helping me to trust that He will bring good out of all of this and I can sense Him doing new things in my life as I rest and recover. These promises are coming to life right in front of me. If anyone had told me that He was going to use this for His glory a year ago I doubt I could have heard that. If anyone had told me that He was going to use my 5 year journey, with Steve suffering from early onset dementia and eventually dying at 65..during Covid,.. for good, I would not have heard it.

Today I am able to see it and believe it and know it. Because of His grace I never walked away or gave up and because of His grace I see a glimpse of the good He is doing in the midst of this.. I share this in the hope that you too will hang on to our anchor.. to Jesus our rescuer and the lover of our souls. He will come for you.. I can promise you that.

I have missed writing to you.. I truly pray this year is unfolding in a promising way for you.

I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore I have continued my faithfulness to you.

( Jeremiah 31)

Grief during the 2020 Pandemic

 

 

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 :

TRUST ME

in the darkness

in the uncertainty

SEEK ME

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.

Shelter in Place

 

 

I actually cannot remember using that phrase before about 4 months ago. There was never a time when I thought for even one minute we would be using it every day and doing it for months. So here we are and we have been sheltering for 4 months.. limiting our contact with other people by staying home and when we go out we wear masks and stay 6 feet apart as much as possible.

The world has turned upside down and may stay that way for a long time.. no one can say that we will ever return to what we called normal. It is going to take time to see what this virus does next and what the reaction to this virus has done to us. I don’t know about you but what I miss the most is hugs and smiles.. Two very important ways we connect with one another have been taken away.. it is a huge loss for me. Thankfully I have a few people in my family I can hug and we can be around one another without masks and smile at each other.. but I miss smiling at strangers and hugging people that I don’t see very often.. expressing the joy that the Lord gives us for one another .

So I long for the good old days when we were not afraid of each other.. when we did not see continual bad news about this virus every single day for months.. I continue to hope for a time when we can relax more and enjoy life in a way that is not possible now.

I wonder how God is at work in this mess. Did He create this virus? I don’t believe He did because it is evil and He is not the creator of evil.. but yes, He has allowed it to exist and chosen not to stop it from spreading.. something that happens in this fallen world on a regular basis.. One thing I know is that He will bring good out of this because His word promises this. Sometimes I get glimpses of good things that are happening right now.. families are spending more time together.. people seem to be more polite and aware of each other out in public.. parents are getting to know their children in deeper ways. We are all learning to entertain ourselves in new ways because things we used to do are gone. Many people are exercising and cooking more.. focusing on being healthy in new ways. Some people are able to work from home and will never have to commute again.. taking stress out of their lives and we end up with cleaner air. Some parents will continue to home school their children because they find that everyone benefits from being together instead of spending long hours in the classroom.

Probably the biggest gain I see is that we are all less busy. We have more time to be alone and more time to connect with the Lord.. I realize that not everyone is taking advantage of this .. they may decide to continue to have busy lives by being on Zoom  and the phone as much as possible..That is too bad.. because my deepest feeling is that the Lord wants time with each one of us.. it may be even more important than going to church or spending time with friends. He longs for us to come to Him with all our broken dreams.. disappointments.. losses and sadness so He can apply the balm of Gilead on these wounds. It is our choice .. He will never force us to seek Him out.. As for me, I can only continue to live by letting him carry me as I stumble and fall under the weight of my situation. He is my everything.. my sorrow and grief are too heavy to bear by myself and you are probably experiencing some of that yourself. He is with us and for us and wants us to come as His weary and broken people so He can shelter us from this storm.

God is our refuge and strength,
    an ever-present help in trouble.

 The Lord Almighty is with us;
    the God of Jacob is our fortress.

 He says, “Be still, and know that I am God..

(from Psalm 46)
   

 

 

 

Update on my life

Steve’s last trip to the beach .. last July.. the love of my life…

It  has been quite a while since I posted here.. I had some internet challenges and had to move for the second time in five months.. life is very hard for me and all I can do is try to live fully while the storm rages.. I feel like one of the disciples when they were in the boat with Jesus.. ” are you going to sleep and let me drown Lord?”.. at the same time I trust that He is at work and will continue to give me reasons to be here. My husband’s dementia is progressing and he is declining.. I see him every day and eat lunch with him .. feeding him yogurt and ice cream.. he loves both. Today I played music for him.. worship and a couple old hymns..he perked up and I know he remembered them.. we or rather I talked about Jesus reminding him and me that He is with us.

I was going through my old emails and I found one he wrote three and a half years ago.. it may have been the last one.. He was reminding me that the Lord was with us and He would take us all the way together.. exactly what is happening. Almost like he knew I would need that right now. God is in this and God has us and He is with us.. the pain is unbearable but we still have the love that the Lord has given us. This disease cannot separate us and eventually when He goes to be with the Lord.. I know that our love will survive into eternity.

For anyone who is suffering and in great pain .. I understand your journey and I only wish I could pray over you in person…

Lord, we are in a broken world and there is devastation everywhere. You are our sanctuary and our refuge in this dark place. We put our hope in you and trust you even as we struggle to believe.. strengthen us and encourage us and give us signs of your presence.. You will never fail us and we love you and will follow you as you lead us..Amen

 

 

 

 

 

Joy to the World!

 

“Joy is an act of resistance against despair and its forces”

The first two weeks of advent .. Hope and Peace lead us to the present week Joy.. we are no longer hoping and seeking peace instead we are ready to embrace joy.. to celebrate the joy of the Lord. Jesus was born into a dark and lonely world .. a world that needed Him more than it realized. The little baby born in the manager brought something amazing to us.. The joy of the Lord.. This joy is our stronghold in times of trouble .. it is our refuge when we are drowning in a sea of sorrow.. it is our hiding place and our sanctuary. Joy is available to us because of His unending love and His generous heart..We are His and because of that we can rejoice in our trials and suffering.. knowing that He is for us and with us.

We are in a season of anticipation.. of waiting.. as we draw near to that day when we celebrate the birth of Christ. He came into the world as a tiny helpless baby and yet He was God. He came to set the captives free.. to release the world from the bondage of sin and death. As He was born, the air was full of Joy.. the world began to breathe again.. Finally!

We can rest.. it is finished. The joy that flooded the world on that day is remembered every year at Christmas time. We hear the songs on the radio and in stores.. “Joy to the World” Even those who do not understand the depth of these words.. feel the joy and celebrate His birth. His spirit remains here with us.. to guide us and direct our steps. He fills us and walks with us as we trust Him. Christmas is an opportunity to remember this.. to be reminded of His faithfulness and His presence in our lives. He is our hope, our peace and our Joy..

 

I have told you these things so that you will be filled with my joy. Yes, your joy will overflow!”     ( John 15:11)

Safely Home

Today we were making our way through Exodus at church.. a very interesting book that is often overlooked. The Israelites’ relationship with God is similar to the way we often relate to Him. He rescues them and then provides for them and yet they long to go back to Egypt.. Somehow they are unable to truly grasp His love for them and accept His plan for their lives.. Sound familiar? Why is that we get amnesia when it comes to remembering His goodness? We all have a story and in that story God has come for us over and over again.. yet we doubt and wonder and worry.. I am absolutely guilty of this. Where are you God? Why would you..? How could you??

So as I listened to the teaching today I heard something that I needed to hear.. it was a new way of stating an old idea that I have heard over the years.. but somehow today it was much more clear than it has been.. Maybe I am just more ready to hear it now than I was when I was younger.. Our walk with God is often clouded by our own desires..we want what we want.. guilty as charged. The Lord uses all of this desire for things that are not Him to draw us towards Him.. sounds strange doesn’t it? What I mean is that we long for the things for this world.. homes, jobs, money, etc.. and every time we get any of these things, they fall short and another desire has to spring up… It is an endless cycle until we realize that these things are never going to fill the emptiness or take away the loneliness.. We are in a broken world and we are not here to have this perfect life.. so why are we here? The message today was that we are here to make it safely home .. back to the God who created us.. That’s right to walk with Him all the way to the end..staying close to Him, following Him, and keeping our faith alive.. until that day!

It was so freeing to hear that today.. Many of my old dreams have died and many of my longings will never be fulfilled in this life.. but I can do this thing.. I can walk with Him every day until the end is here.. I can long for that day to come and still live fully now.. trusting Him and knowing that He is with me.. You can do that too.. you can look back and see how He has been there over and over and remember how you have seen Him at work in your life and in the lives of those around you. You can decide to stay on the path until He takes you safely home!

 

Following up.. Romans 8:31

I want to thank those of you who responded to my last post and are praying for us. I almost took that post down because it makes me feel too vulnerable.. but I am leaving it. The emotions I was sharing are real.. when you are in the depth of grief and loss, these are the thoughts that cross your mind and there are many questions that remain unanswered. God has not suddenly let me in on His purposes.. but He has been showing me His presence in the last couple days. I sense that He is at work in this season and that He will carry us for as long as we need it.  In the past I wrote about grief and loss .. I began experiencing it deeply 19 years ago when I was widowed and have been counseling people with grief issues ( which turns out to be most of us)

This season of grief is different in that it is ongoing and will not necessarily get easier to live with. Because that is so foreign to me, I suspect that the Lord is teaching me even more about this topic and for that I am grateful. It means I will have a greater understanding of those who live with grief because of something that has happened that does not go away.. I think about parents with a disabled child or one who commits suicide. Others who have lost family members suddenly in accidents or other life changing events.  I am also reminded of those who watch a loved one suffer through a long season of illness caused by cancer or another one of the many disease that plague our world. We can never know all there is to know about grief and as we get older there are more and more losses of all kinds.. Aging in itself is loss.. loss of strength, stamina, dreams, desires, abilities.. and so much more.

Unfortunately as we live in a youth oriented culture there is little focus on this process.. almost as though people think that it will not happen to them.. let’s close our eyes and pretend we are going to live forever.. I understand the temptation to do that, but it will only cause us more pain in the long run.. So the alternative is to face what is happening and to truly value the days that we have on this earth.. I am taking lessons in that subject daily. God continues to work with me to help me let go of the things that I cannot change.. and to be at peace with Him in an unbearable situation.. Only He can enable me to do that.. It seems that the major lesson is that I need to be totally dependent upon Him.. to come to the end of my own resources over and over. Yes it is very humbling for a self-sufficient type.

I want to share the hope I have with you since I shared some of my despair and depression in the last post. I am hopeful that God is in control and that He will provide for us.. I am hopeful that others will benefit from reading this blog as I share. I am hopeful that this life is not all there is and that someday the waiting will be over. I am hopeful that I will learn to live more fully even when I can’t see more than a step or two in front of me..

So.. as this journey continues.. I am hopeful that I will have new things to share with you and that they will build your faith.

So we move from Romans 8:28 to Romans 8:31

What shall we say about such wonderful things as these? If God is for us, who can ever be against us?

He is our hope and He is faithful and He will not leave us.

Rough Waters..

 

This has been a very difficult year so far and it does not show signs of letting up..trials continue and seem overwhelming at times.  In the beginning of every year I hope for an easier time in the next year and for a long time that has not been the case.. in fact it seems like the opposite has happened. Each new trial is more challenging than the last.. time to take a look at that. What is God up to? He could intervene and remove the challenges..He is able to smooth things out so they are not so rough. He allows these tests to come into my life and He brings the storms.

Do I have answers for you? No.. I don’t. All I know is that He is at work and He is in control. His plan is unfolding daily for my life and for yours. He is doing things in us through the suffering. Unfortunately that is the way it seems to work.. we are being drawn closer to Him because we feel like the next wave of disappointment or grief will drown us. For me.. as I am aging and facing things I never expected.. I find that nothing matters as much as I thought when it comes to this life.. It all seems so important doesn’t it? We long for things and dream dreams about our future.. yet it is clear we were not made for this world. So much heartbreak and sadness in our lives and the lives of those around us.

As a counselor, I may be more aware of this than most people. I hear the stories.. I see the sadness in their faces.. women of all ages. Their lives are very difficult and their past is far from perfect. I have no illusions about the condition of the world or the condition of people’s hearts.  As I work with others.. the Lord works on me.. going deeper and drawing me into a greater dependence on Him and His spirit.. I suffer with them and cry with them.

Why? Because He is the comforter.. not me.. He is their savior, not me.. He is the one who will bring healing.. not me. We need to know our own limitations if we are going to walk this walk. We cannot fix or change anyone. God is the one who will save them..rescue and restore them. He is also the one who will do that for me..we are all in the same boat. That makes me think about the disciples when they were in the boat at sea and a great storm came upon them. They were frightened and thought they would die.. but their Lord was with them and He calmed the sea. He appeared to be sleeping and unaware of their dilemma..but He knew and He rescued them and saved their lives..despite their fears and unbelief. He does the same for us.. we are like those disciples.. forgetting who was in that boat with them and imagining the worst.

If you are in a storm right now.. remember that you are not alone. If you think you are drowning in a sea of depression and despair.. stay close to Jesus.. rely on Him.. trust Him to come to for you.. He always does.

We put our hope in the Lord.
    He is our help and our shield.
In him our hearts rejoice,
    for we trust in his holy name.
 Let your unfailing love surround us, Lord,
    for our hope is in you alone.

Two months in..

 

 

How is 2018 unfolding for you? It has been a very interesting year for me so far.. major change is in the air. A new season is unfolding for me and I was more than ready for it. After praying all last year and waiting, we were released from a long hard season. Now.. does that mean everything is perfect? No.. but we are moving ahead and some of the circumstances that were so intensely difficult are suddenly gone.. God released us. He is moving us forward into another leg of the journey and I am excited and a little nervous. Some fears are surfacing.. will the old things reappear in new places? Is this really going to be a season of redemption or will new challenges steal away my joy?

I certainly do not have all the answers.. but I am making choices to move ahead with confidence that the Lord is going to use all the suffering of the past decade to bless others. After all, he promises to do that..to use everything for His good purposes. I want to bear fruit for His kingdom.. to share my story so others can benefit and be encouraged as they live in their own story. He has been providing opportunities to do that and I long for more. One thing I have learned is that we often go through seasons of waiting and they seem to last way too long, but just when we think they will never end, they suddenly do and we are surprised. Another lesson that has been invaluable is to persevere and never give up because just around the corner may be the blessing. If you stop and throw in the towel, you will never receive all the He has for you. We have free will and that enables us to either keep going or to walk away and be discouraged..we make that choice continually throughout our lives.. Choices are so important.

About 20 years ago I was living with a dying man.. my husband. I knew it and he knew it. Someone asked me what I was going to do if he died..I said that I was going to stay on God’s side no matter what happened. The person who asked was upset with my answer and said that I could not know that ahead of time. I told him that I had to know the answer before it happened.. I had to choose life and to choose God in the middle of the suffering. I have lived out that lesson many times since then with no regrets.

Our God is faithful and true. He will continue to come for us in all circumstances and when it is time He will set us free to live more fully. Our part? We choose to stay close to Him and to trust Him in the dark. We believe all His promises and we remember His faithfulness. If this year has been difficult so far.. don’t forecast the future because of what has happened in the last 2 months.. continue to believe that He is at work and trust Him.. otherwise you are throwing in the towel and this is just the beginning of the year.. there is no telling what may happen in the next 10 months. He may surprise you in ways that you never imagined!

“See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.”

 

If you have not had a chance.. please visit my new website marincounselor.com

2018 begins..

 

 

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

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;
but his delight is in the law of the Lord,
    and on his law he meditates day and night.

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.
The wicked are not so,
    but are like chaff that the wind drives away.

Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment,
    nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous;
for the Lord knows the way of the righteous,
    but the way of the wicked will perish.