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 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)
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!
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.
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.
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.”
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 have one coming up. My birthday is just around the next corner and it is a big one. The end of a decade and the beginning of a new season. As I am preparing to cross over into my 7th decade, all kinds of things are coming to the surface for me. In fact.. this is a milestone year for me. Forty years ago I made a decision to follow the Lord.. I turned a big corner and really never looked back. So here I am on the edge of this decade trying to look ahead and see what might lie ahead . My life has been quite an adventure.. filled with joy and hardship and many surprises. God has blessed me in so many ways.. He has given me the desire of my heart over and over again. This short season right before this year is over seems to be a cleaning out time for me.. I am going through things in my home.. and spiritually I sense the need to do the same thing. My time here is limited and I want it to count.. so there are some old memories and feelings that I need to release to Him.
Without realizing it cynicism and bitterness were trying to take over my emotions.. I heard myself complaining way too much. I felt such regret that at times all I could do was cry my eyes out. What is happening Lord? His answer.. “I am healing you. First I need to uncover the pain that you buried and then I need to trigger all those old feelings so you will realize you need my help.” He did get through to me.. I know that it is time to let go.. to forgive all those people who hurt me. I want to be free of those old ties the ones that keep the past alive. So right now I am cooperating with the spirit of God.. The Holy Spirit who is at work deep inside my heart. I want Him to pull out those old roots of bitterness and regret.. to free me from everything that will keep me from having the life He promises us in John 10:10.
Every circumstance in our lives is an opportunity for growth and freedom. Nothing is happening by accident.. the Lord is able to work in each and every trial to bring good out of it .. Romans 8:28. I am learning this in a new way right now.. Every door that closes in my face is because He is protecting me from my own ” good ideas.” His ways are so different from ours yet somehow I always think I can figure things out… it never works. So I am putting myself and my struggles in His hands for this new season.. I am believing that He will work deeply in my heart,, that my part is to cooperate with Him.. to believe and trust that He who began a good work will bring it to completion.
So.. what is coming up for you right now? Have you stopped to reflect on all that the Lord has done for you? Is there anything you want to being to Him that is holding you back? Just a couple thoughts for this very special time of the year.. We are so fortunate that we know who to thank at this holiday.. that we realize where everything good comes from.. so blessed to be connected to the One True God who is our creator and the one who showers down love on us in all times and all circumstances.. withholding nothing good from us.. His beloved!
I am writing to all of you …who are loved by God and are called to be his own holy people.
May God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ give you grace and peace !
If there is one word that continues to haunt me these days.. it is hope. I think for the first time that I can remember as a Believer.. I am struggling to have hope. The world seems like such a mess.. as I write this, fires are still burning in Northern California.. and that is our home. We smelled the smoke and looked at the pictures of homes burning, people dying and there was nothing we could do to stop it. It is heart breaking to see the suffering that is all around us.. the mass slaughter in Las Vegas.. just a week earlier. What is happening Lord? Everything seems to be out of control and there is so much suffering.. In my personal life there have been challenges on a level I have never encountered.. emotional and physical trials..
So as I process all of this.. the word HOPE emerges. We cannot live without it, but it does not come from our circumstances or our surroundings. Our hope .. my hope.. can only be found in the Lord. He is with us and He is unchanging and we are living in a fallen world.. a dark world. All of these tragedies teach us that this world is not going to provide us with security or be our refuge .. it is an unstable place and we are not safe here. I believe that God is taking us deeper.. to a place where our faith truly rests on His goodness. Often that happens when everything else fails.. when all our dreams are broken..when we no longer believe that anything here can save or protect us. The world gets excited when people come together and accomplish good things.. and of course that is encouraging.. but not enough to sustain us through the long years of recovery.. through the grieving process. Once the headlines are gone.. and we go back to our “normal” lives.. there are people who cannot do that and we may forget about them because their pain is not public.. time to pray for them.. to remember them.. because it could have been us.
I am grateful for my life.. grateful that so far we have a roof over our heads .. grateful for the way I see people reaching out to help others.. but what I am the most grateful for is my relationship with the Lord.. for the knowledge that He loves me and is with me no matter what happens next.. He is my safe place and my refuge in the storm.. He is good and we can trust Him when nothing makes sense and when our next trial starts.. Our faithful loving God.. we are blessed.
Hebrews 6:18 in the Message says:
We who have run for our very lives to God have every reason to grab the promised hope with both hands and never let go. It’s an unbreakable spiritual lifeline, reaching past all appearances right to the very presence of God where Jesus, running on ahead of us, has taken up his permanent post as high priest for us..