I actually have a very difficult time as July begins every year. Undoubtedly because this time of year is associated with two big losses in my life. My deceased husband died on July 6th and my beloved sister-in -law died on July 12th. The deaths were nine years apart, but the memories are always fresh. This year as I grapple with the disease that is affecting my husband.. the grief was triggered again.. So.. there is no way around it all. Life is about loss in many ways and the years that pass take the edge off but the losses are never gone..we learn to live with them. That is the nature of grief.
Maybe you are wondering why I write about grief so often.. the answer is because it has changed me to understand and accept grief as part of our life in this world. God made us the way we are.. He allows us to feel sad and lonely and forgotten. He allows life to be more challenging than we ever imagined. He knows we are going to suffer and that we will cry out to Him in our pain. We live in a fallen world and all these things are reminders to us that there is more. ” All the sad things will become untrue.” I am totally counting on it..especially now.. more than any other time in my life I am longing for that heavenly mansion and the place where there are ” no more tears.”
One thing suffering does is produce a hunger in us for the Lord.. we can either pull away in bitterness or cling tightly to Him.. sometimes we end up doing both as we wrestle with challenging circumstances. We may lash out in anger and tell Him He is unfair while at the same time crying out for relief.. at least that is what I do. Today while I was sitting with my cat and reading my BIble I thought of this song from an old CD and as I played it I realized that it was describing me.. just as I am, not as I want to be.. but as I truly am today.
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.
I’ve been thinking about this verse lately and feeling like I need to write about it. You know the one I mean ” God works all things to the good of those who love Him” or as the Message says:
Meanwhile, the moment we get tired in the waiting, God’s Spirit is right alongside helping us along. If we don’t know how or what to pray, it doesn’t matter. He does our praying in and for us, making prayer out of our wordless sighs, our aching groans. He knows us far better than we know ourselves, knows our pregnant condition, and keeps us present before God. That’s why we can be so sure that every detail in our lives of love for God is worked into something good.
I need to believe that right now.. usually I keep the details of my life fairly private. I don’t think it is a great idea to pour out your heart on a blog..I use my journal for that purpose. However today I feel the need to share a bit of my story. Over the last 5 years we have been going through the fire.. my husband lost his job, then could not find another one for 31/2 years and after that we took a cleaning job for the church that was pretty much unbearable for all of last year. It was clear during that time that my husband was not doing well and something was wrong.. but not clear what it was. I was afraid to find out his diagnosis so we delayed going to the neurologist until last month.. unfortunately the news is not good, he has a rare form of aphasia that is progressive and there is no cure.. you can look it up if you like. What has this meant for us? Everything in our lives has completely changed and we are facing a very unknown future ..It feels like life as we once knew it is gone. All our hopes and dreams are gone.. even many of the activities we once did are out of reach these days.
Fear and grief are my constant companions..especially in the middle of the night. Loneliness and isolation are close by as well.. sadness and loss seem to be the new reality. So this brings me back to Romans 8:28.. I see no way that God is going to work this into something good.. but because He never lies, He will. Is that comforting.. not really.. I just want everything back the way it used to be before this disease entered our lives.. I know that the Lord is teaching me things right now, but honestly I don’t want to learn them.. enough is enough. So I continue to trust that He is involved in our lives and we are not forsaken.. I hope to write more on this blog and to work on my book that I want to finish during this season. I am praying for God to provide since we have no resources..we are in His hands totally.. Some days I feel like the disciples in the boat with Jesus.. filled with fear and anxiety while He is sleeping.. wondering when I am going to drown in this sea of sorrow..
So pray for us please.. and if you get a word of encouragement.. please post it here and we will be grateful…..More words of wisdom from Eugene Peterson’s the Message….
All praise to the God and Father of our Master, Jesus the Messiah! Father of all mercy! God of all healing counsel! He comes alongside us when we go through hard times, and before you know it, he brings us alongside someone else who is going through hard times so that we can be there for that person just as God was there for us. We have plenty of hard times that come from following the Messiah, but no more so than the good times of his healing comfort—we get a full measure of that, too. (2 Cor 1:3-5)
What happened this week? Two celebrities that many people admired and believed in are gone. Both of them took their own lives and left behind young daughters. It is profoundly sad and tragic. As I think through this horrible loss, I realize once again how little we know about people and the pain they carry inside. These people did not just decide in one day to take their own lives.. there is history here. More than likely they were struggling with depression and despair for years before this happened. Anxiety and depression are at epidemic proportions in our country and possibly around the world. We live in a broken world and it is so easy to feel overwhelmed and under water emotionally. When someone in the public eye decides to take their own life.. it causes widespread grief to spread throughout the culture and the world. Why? We never saw it coming.. they seemed to be doing so well. Yet we are faced with a different reality.. obviously they were not doing well at all and maybe someone should have seen it coming.
So we have to process this loss and hopefully we will take it seriously by realizing that many people are struggling with the desire to end their own lives. The suicide rate has risen 25% in the US since 1999. That statistic tells us that something is terribly wrong. For many of us.. life is nothing like we hoped it would be.. either our dreams are not coming true or they have come true and we still feel empty. Either way this world does not seem to have much to offer us. We need more than the fulfillment of our desires to hang on to..we need someone to turn to when it gets so bad we cannot see a way out. Without faith.. we are totally lost. We were never meant to do all this alone. I remember knowing this when I was a child growing up in an atheist home with unbelieving parents. Somehow I realized that I could not do life alone like they were.. my heart longed for the Living God. Eventually I found out that He longed for me too and that was 40 years ago.
So today.. so many years later I still know that I cannot do it alone.. especially in the middle of the night when the tears are flowing and the hopeless tries to take over. He is my refuge and my sanctuary and He will rescue me as I call out to Him. I truly hope you are in relationship with this amazing God who gave everything so you could come to Him, rest in Him and trust Him.
Don’t entertain any self-destructive thoughts.. find someone to talk with and never make a rash decision that you have nothing to live for.. You are the beloved child of the Lord and He knows you and accepts you and will never leave you.
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.