As I look back on my blog, I see that I seem to write a post every year during Lent.. I want to be true to that tradition and it has been a while since I posted. I always see Lent as an opportunity to reflect.. to look back and to see how God has been working and to be aware of what He is doing right now.
I don’t even remember the Lent season last year.. probably because I was getting ready to bring my very disabled elderly mother to my home. I brought her here almost exactly one year ago.. It was the day before Easter 2018.. so that was March 31st.. the day after my wedding anniversary.. I was pretty worried about how it would go and that was apparently a prophetic feeling…since it did not go well at all and three weeks later I was frantically looking for a skilled nursing facility that would take her.. I never found one but Kaiser did! What a trial that was.. then we were faced with another even more challenging situation. It was becoming very clear that something was wrong with my husband and I knew I had to face whatever it was.. we found out in May that he has a rare type of dementia..
I have been grieving since that neurology appointment and it is only now that I feel like I can say that I have begun to accept this outcome.. many nights of crying, yelling out to the Lord and feeling sorry for myself followed that diagnosis. We are now living in a “new normal.”
This year for Lent I was hoping to focus on giving up worry and anxiety.. but God seemed to have another plan for me. Instead of trying not to worry or be anxious He began to show me that it was impossible to truly get rid of those things and that I needed to give myself permission to have those feelings and others and to welcome them as part of me.. I never imagined that as an option.. but it has helped tremendously. There is even a name for this.. Welcoming prayer..As I have tried this.. my process is to sit with my feelings, to acknowledge them and not fight them.. to just feel them and when they are less intense, I release them to the Lord.. The result has been more peace and much less fear.
It was a big shift for me to realize that all feelings are legitimate and that I don’t have to deny them or try to kill them.. even the ones I dislike.. that the Lord will enable me to live through the times of sadness, pain, grief, worry, anxiety, fear and anger. I realized at a deep level that I am not defined by these feelings or these times of struggle. We live in a broken world and when the brokenness overwhelms us it is incredibly difficult and impossible to pretend that we are not suffering and hurting.
The take away is that we are loved by God even as we battle the feelings we wish we never had. He is not going to leave us even when our circumstances overwhelm us. So I am living more fully day by day and thanking Him for the good days..or maybe just the good hours or minutes.. Knowing that this journey is full of uncertainty when it comes to our future but that we can be certain of God and His faithfulness.
I have contemplated leaving this blog behind and moving on.. but where would I go? It has a special place in my heart.. So many posts.. so many opportunities to encourage people and to share parts of my story.. I want to continue to minister to the brokenhearted and I hope that this is a place where that happens.
So here we are January 2019.. I just had another birthday and the Lord blessed me in ways that I did not expect. He brought healing in relationships that I thought were lost. He provided comfort for me as I continue in this new season of life.. unexpected wonderful moments that cannot be explained.. times when He showed Himself to me in ways that only I understand.. I am so thankful.
As I walk with Him in this valley..( the one in the 23rd psalm) He reminds me that He is my shepherd and that He leads me beside the still waters.. He prompts me to lie down in the green pastures.. He shows me in many different ways that He is with me and that because of Him ” I shall not want.” He restores my soul.
Yes.. He is sustaining me and reminding me that this is from Him.. that everything that happens is something that He is allowing and that we are in a broken world where there is suffering and so many unanswered questions.. in a world where we pray and wait and wonder.. He is providing for my needs in astounding ways.. revealing His sovereignty through the things that happen each day and even in the darkest times at night.. He enables me to finally sleep and rest.. and trust.
The scriptures remind us that we do not have the mind of God. His ways are not ours and we cannot try to comprehend all of this .. it is too big for us. So what can we do? For me.. I can be still and know .. I can rest and let Him come for me.. to fish me out of the deep water.. and breathe new life into me. Maybe you need that too.. We all have those times when it is all too much and the usual answers are meaningless..we can only fall into His arms and cry out for relief.. knowing that this too will pass.
He is good and He is faithful and you are not forgotten..
“The Lord said, “Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.”
Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper. “
So this scripture was going through my mind today.. I truly cannot tell you the last time I was reading 1 Kings.. but it was not at all recently.. I heard the words and then had to look up the passage because I did not even know where it was in the Bible.. The reason I was hearing these words is because I finally understand, at least a little bit, about what it means that God is in the gentle whisper. For me it was the revelation that the big things that we hope will reveal His presence often do not happen.. we want the big miracle or sign that He is with us.. that proves to us He is present in our circumstances so we do not fear or falter. If we read about the life of Jesus in the NT we find that all those signs and miracles still left the disciples and others wondering. Who is this man? So obviously they don’t always have the desired effect.
God has been revealing His presence through small things that are big to me.. I see Him at work in my circumstances through the way people are stepping up to help me over and over again. I see Him at work when He brings me back to scriptures that speak to my heart over and over again.. when He answers prayers that I barely remember praying.. when He shows me that He is at work behind the scenes and all He is asking is for me to trust Him with everything!!.. He is constantly whispering ” I am with you and I have your back.. I will deliver you and fight the enemy for you.. come to me with everything and trust that these whispers are saying … I love you with an everlasting love” ( Jeremiah 31)
In John 4 Jesus said this to the Samaritan woman at the well.. and it is for us as well.
“Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again,but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”
Lord.. give me ears to hear those whispers.. to recognize your voice and to drink the living water that you are offering me.
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.
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.
I had a vision of the narrow path today when we were out walking. The Lord was showing me something in a picture that totally makes sense to me..yet I never saw it as clearly as I did today. When we first enter into a relationship with the Lord our path looks a certain way.. we may become part of a community of Believers and enter into all the activities of the church..most of us have had this experience. As we move along in our faith many of those activities may seem less attractive and we may feel like it is time to become less committed to the church and more committed to our relationship with the Lord. This can be a startling change for us.. what exactly are we to tell everyone? Will they be able to understand our new choices? Is it OK to say no and to slow down the pace of our life? Shouldn’t we continue to serve and give? There are no pat answers to these questions.. because the answer has to come from the Lord to us. What is He wanting in this season as the old things don’t fit anymore?
This is what I saw in the picture. We were on a wider part of the path .. many people were walking with us and we felt like we were included and needed and supported by others. Then as the path became more narrow.. there were fewer people doing the things we were doing. We can see them behind us.. still very actively involved in many activities but we are being called forward.. closer to Him but further away from others.. our journey has different challenges than it had in the beginning. It seems easier to get distracted and we feel a pull back to what we once knew.. But He calls us to come closer.. and to come alone. I see the path winding up a hill with challenges along the way.. there are other paths with people saying ” come this way” but that is not what the Lord is saying. He is drawing us closer so that we have eyes only for Him. Remember that this path is leading to the end of our lives and we must walk those last miles alone.. trusting Him with the changes that happen as we grow older and as we lose more and more people.. as dreams die and opportunities fade. The good news is we see Him more clearly and as our faith is tested we trust Him more fully. There is no other way.
So I am praying and asking God to keep me on that path. To block out all the voices that try to pull me in the wrong direction. I want to follow Him up that winding path.. to stay close to Him as the path seems to disappear at times.. My desire is to hear Him as He leads me and to trust Him with everything.. Let it be so Lord!
“So the Lord must wait for you to come to him so he can show you his love and compassion. For the Lord is a faithful God. Blessed are those who wait for his help”