Tag Archive | faith

Surprises in the dark

This is us in Maui 7 years ago.. a wonderful memory!

 

Dear Readers,

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!

Love,

Alicia

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Romans 8:28

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“We are confident that God is able to orchestrate everything to work toward something good and beautiful when we love Him and accept His invitation to live according to His plan.”

This is a quote from the Voice translation of the Bible.. I love the way this is expressed.. so clear and easy to understand. I learned this verse when I was a new believer and have held on to it ever since.. over 40 years now. Lately I have been doubting that it could possibly apply to my present circumstances. How could the Lord bring good out of this? My husband losing so many abilities and words and me losing him little by little.. impossible to see that turning into something good and beautiful.

This weekend the Lord showed me that He is still living up to His words in this verse. My two step sons and my grandson came to visit us. The back story is that there has been almost no communication with his oldest son for many years.. the last time we saw him was 9 years ago and there have been almost no conversations for the last 17 years.. since we got married. I don’t know what happened.. but now it does not matter at all. As they were driving here from Idaho I decided that I wanted to welcome them with a dinner and I drove to the store.. While I was there I questioned the whole thing.. what would it be like? Would we all feel very awkward, would there be anger? I distinctly heard the Lord say ” It is a celebration” and that we were welcoming home the prodigal son. Wow! Really God? Sounded good to me and I bought what I needed to make the dinner and went home wondering .. what next?

They arrived a couple hours later and when we opened the door.. it was exactly like the story of the Prodigal son.. “But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.”  …The room was filled with joy and the weekend continued to unfold.. with many tender moments and many tears.. I was stunned.. never expecting to see this moment and never imagining it could happen right now!

For me it has lifted the depression and despair that has surrounded me for the last year…my faith was getting weaker and weaker and I was crying out to Him daily.. Save me. . I saw that the Lord is bring good out of the suffering of this season.. I know now that the Lord has been at work even though there was not a single sign of that.. He was doing things in everyone, preparing us for that moment when He would move and do what He does best.. bring Healing and Reconciliation!

I see how God is using my husband to bring us all together.. this man I married is an instrument of sacrificial love for the whole family.. He is still giving so much to us as he is losing everything.. For the first time since we got married I feel grafted into his family and they are becoming more and more precious to me every day.. what a wonderful gift.

I hope this encourages you.. I know what it feels like to lose hope and to wonder if God even knows or cares.. the trials of this world can devastate us.. He will show up and surprise you, just as He just did for me.. This season is never going to get easier, but my desire is to continue to Trust Him and to believe He has more gifts to shower down on us.

” He has sent me to tell those who mourn
    that the time of the Lord’s favor has come,
    and with it, the day of God’s anger against their enemies.
To all who mourn in Israel,
    he will give a crown of beauty for ashes,
a joyous blessing instead of mourning,
    festive praise instead of despair.”

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.

Turning point

 

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 !

Floods and heat waves…signs of the times

 

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.

 

Adversity and Blessings

 

 

 

The last few weeks have been a great reminder of the way God  works in our lives. We often wait for things hoping that what we long for will happen. I am a great believer in “longing’. After all it is our longing that draws us near to the Lord and it was His longing for us that led to creation and all that followed. So..as we long for things..we may start to hear things that bring discouragement. We may believe that God has said no.. when in truth He has not. We may find ourselves tested.. when nothing is happening or even worse when things are all happening in the wrong way.. do we trust God? In my life I have seen this testing happen over and over again..  as though the enemy works overtime to bring discouragement while the Lord is working behind the scenes on our behalf. We have to make some pretty important choices.

Will we trust in the goodness of God when everything around us says that is not true? Will we believe that He knows the desire of our hearts when everything is taking way too long? Can we walk in faith when we have no sight? I believe the answer to all of these questions needs to be yes. If we are followers then we follow in His steps no matter what our circumstances and we trust that Romans 8:28 is true every single day of our lives. The older I get the more I have the more memories I have of God’s sovereignty over every difficult circumstance and the easier it is to believe that He will continue to provide and deliver as I wait on Him and do not give up.. That in itself is a huge!

I am thinking of you as I write this.. wondering if you are struggling the same way I do when I cannot see ahead… the uncertainty causes anxiety and worry. I doubt if I will ever totally overcome in this area, but I have memories and that is helping. I remember learning how people often give up right before the blessing.. so I won’t give up. I remember how the Bible talks about perseverance and how there are so many examples of God coming through at the last minute and rescuing His people. I have many memories of that in my own life..He has been there for me over and over again. So I want this post to bring you hope..we cannot live without hope and we cannot live the abundant life without our God. Trust in Him.. wait on Him..remind yourself of every single time He has come for you and know that He will do that again and again.

Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think. (Ephesians 3:20)

 

 

 

Irresistible Grace

What exactly does it mean? This word came up in a conversation today and it seems important to explore the concept. It is the 4th basic doctrine in Calvinism.. but that does not exactly shed light on its true meaning.. does it? Calvin used that term to communicate the way that the  Holy Spirit works on the hearts of those who hear the gospel. It refers to the inner working of the spirit.. in places we cannot see.. that draws us into a relationship with God.  What that means for us is that we cannot take credit for having responded to the Lord since He was always pursuing us..even when we did not pay any attention to Him or His people. It is very reassuring to know that God takes the initiative with us and desires to be in relationship with us when we think we are fine without Him. He works through circumstances, books, movies.. music.. relationships..nature.. He uses everything to seek us out.. to draw us closer to Him so He can pour out His love into our broken hearts.

I love the fact that nothing is too hard for Him.. that He seeks us out.. that His love is so large that we only get glimpses of it… God is at work in our world.. He never tires of revealing things to us.. pursuing us and healing us. One of the worst things we can do as believers is make Him too small.. if we make it all about us and our abilities we have missed the point.. He is able to do more than our human minds can comprehend. Ephesians 3:20 says:

“Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think.”

Read that again slowly and allow it to sink in. How is He able to do more than we can ask or think? ( some translations say imagine) Through His mighty power! Are you making Him smaller and less powerful than He is? If you are you are not alone.. in our insecurities we often think we make our roles more important than they are. God is the one who finds us.. His grace is irresistible.. that means He finds the keys to our hearts and unlocks them so we run out to meet Him. I remember when I realized the sovereignty of God at a much deeper level in theology class and I was amazed.. God was so much more involved in everything and I could trust Him in a much greater way than ever before because of this new revelation of His goodness. It was life changing!

My prayer for you is that you will be set free from any bondage that is keeping you away from the Lord.. any condemnation that causes you to believe that someone’s eternal destiny rests on your shoulders. Your God is huge and He will never stop pursuing you and those you love.. He is at work in mysterious ways fulfilling every plan that He has put into place!