Tag Archive | journey

Alone with God

 

 

That is the life I am living these days. I live in a room.. like a semi studio attached  to a house filled with a family that rents to me. It is my own private space and I am thankful that the Lord brought me here. I was living here 5 months ago when my husband passed on. I have no idea how long I will be here or where I could ever go since I have a very limited income.

So the challenge is to accept what is and to learn how to spend time alone with God on a totally new level. There are very few distractions or responsibilities in this season. It is a huge adjustment. My nature is to want to take care of people and now I just have my cat and myself. Some days we do well.. other days are so hard that all I do is think about everything I lost. My husband, my home, my things, my job .. the beautiful valley I walked in almost every single day.. all gone.

Days that  I struggle to not be angry at God and probably almost everyone else.. anger is a part of grieving. Other days I am so sad I have to drag myself out of bed and force myself to eat and exercise. My life feels empty and no place feels like home. I am writing this because I want you to know the context of this post. So I spend lots of time alone. I know God is with me but I am lonely for human contact… missing the hugs and kisses that Steve gave so generously. Does it help when people say but you are not alone.. God is always with you.. No it does not help. Why? Because I am grieving and it is painful and it is a solitary road that no one truly understands. There are moments when I know God is close.. but they are surrounded by many more moments when I think to myself.. what happened to my life? Where am I?

Covid life has not made this any easier. People and places are off limits and here in California many churches are closed, so that dimension of life is also gone. I don’t enjoy watching church.. on Zoom or Facebook live.. it reminds me of a bad TV show. So now I am struggling with my relationship with the church.. feeling disconnected and discouraged.. wondering what it all means. I struggled with church all my life as a Believer and got disillusioned over and over but kept returning. This time is different. As I have prayed about it and wondered what to do.. I get the impression God is saying don’t be afraid to be alone with me and to let that be enough. This doesn’t mean total isolation but it does mean not looking to church for support or meaning in my life.. It means not clinging to something that is gone.. maybe not forever, but at least for now.

I often  think about those people who spent time in prison or heroes like Corrie Ten Boom who was in a concentration camp. There are many examples of people who are models of what it is to be a person of great faith. They suffered alone with God and He was enough. Let that be my story Lord in these dark times.

 

Then Jesus said, “Let’s go off by ourselves to a quiet place and rest awhile.” 

Sweet Sorrow

 

It has been a week since my wonderful husband fell into the arms of Jesus. I miss him every minute of every day but I am so thankful the struggle and suffering are over. This grief that surrounds me now is a sweet sorrow. We had a very good marriage and I never doubted for a minute that the Lord put us together. He was the first person to show me the unconditional love that I needed to experience to truly understand the Father’s love and be able to receive it. What a gift. I always think of him as the balm of Gilead on all the wounds I received before I met him.

Steve was a man of few words, but when he spoke.. he said something worth saying. I learned what the phrase ” action speaks louder than words” really means from this man. He loved me deeply and showered me with that love even when I knew I did not deserve it. I adored him and thankfully because I was widowed 21 years ago, I never let him forget that I loved him and checked in regularly to make sure he knew it. It is too late once someone is gone ..

When Steve began to get sick the first thing to go was language.. the one thing that he struggled with all his life. As time went on the dementia slowly progressed and robbed him of everything until at the end he was bedridden and unable to do anything for himself. It is a ruthless disease. He went into the hospital in early Sept of 2019 and then a month later was admitted to skilled nursing.

This last year was  so challenging for both of us , but in the midst of it I saw God move over and over on our behalf. He was placed in the best skilled nursing in the county.. close to where I lived with the most caring people you could ever hope to meet. I went to see him every day for months until Covid struck our country. I  continually prayed that he would know me .. many people don’t remember their loved ones. As long as he was able to communicate at all. I would tell him I loved him and he would tell me he loved me. He never forgot me and was always glad to see me even when he became very disabled. Many believers came through this life as his journey progressed. I was locked out of the facility for 2 months and suddenly with no real explanation they let me back in.. I was the only person I knew in Marin who was able to visit someone in skilled nursing.

I spent as much time as I could over the last 4 months just being with him.. playing music.. praying and reading to him. It was a privilege to be in there and to walk with him to the end. I had Hospice support for 6 months,, but because of Covid they were locked out.. three wonderful workers talked with me each week on the phone and helped me survive.. it was a lonely road.. The grief of the last year was complicated.. I wanted it to end so he would not suffer… but wanted him to live as long as possible.. the only thing I could do was pray and tell the Lord that it was up to Him and not me.. and that I would give to Steve until he was released from this world and went to be with the Lord. He died peacefully and I had a vision of the angels coming for him  the morning he passed on.. God has provided for me in every way during this trial and continues to provide each and every day as I lean on Him for strength and courage to continue.

Thank you for reading my story and I pray that the Lord uses this to build your faith and helps you as your trust Him.

Life on the other side of the wall

 

 

I know.. that title is a bit strange. It is a description of my life for the last 8 months. When I moved out of my condo last September and moved in with my daughter’s family there was a lot of life in that home.. on the other side of my wall. In my room there wasn’t much. Then I moved again 3 months later and there was a lot of life in my friends’ home and once again there wasn’t much life in my room. I had to move again. Here I am living on the other side of the wall and there is a wonderful family that rents this in law unit .. living fully each day. In every situation I have experienced being on the outside of life. The life I once knew is gone.. Steve is living in a facility and will never come out. As for me.. only the Lord knows if I will ever really feel like I am living again.

Before this last move I was sure I would not have to live in a situation where I could hear a family but not really be a part of it. Apparently that was my desire but not what God had in mind. He brought me here ..where once again.. I am an outsider.. living alone in my own room.

What is this all about? I am not totally sure .. I do have memories of my childhood that may be connected. My parents were very close and growing up I often felt like an outsider in my own family. My sister wormed her way into their united front by becoming the child with all the problems.. I continued to be on the outside as life unfolded on the other side of the wall.. Could the Lord be doing some healing in me? I hope so. I am tired of feeling that I am an outsider.. someone who doesn’t fit in.. who is not included. Now.. I am wondering.. is there a root issue that needs to be dealt with in my life?

One thing that I do know about God is that He often puts us in the very circumstances that will cause our old stuff to rise to the surface. Why? To torture us? No .. to show us that we need to let go of the old stuff to give it to HIm and ask Him to heal us in the broken places. To tell you the truth I just realized that I had this issue as I started writing this post. I want the healing but it is not easy.. the old feelings are working their way to the surface.. When we bury old feelings they don’t die, they are buried alive and they will be triggered by our current circumstances… it is a tool that God uses to bring freedom. He wants to pull off the band aids and heal the wounds. He wants to pull out the arrows in our heart that have been there all our lives.

I love being part of that process in other people’s lives.. probably why I became a counselor.. Right now I am in need of healing and He is at work in these very circumstances.. getting my attention.. revealing the old hurts and pain that I have kept hidden from myself all these years.. So here I am in my room..just like I was as a teenager.. hearing the life.. on the other side of the wall.. only this time when I come out of my room I won’t be an outsider I will know that I am complete in Him. He is the healer and His purposes will be fulfilled in my life and in yours. Are you in your room right now? After all we are being told to stay inside in our rooms.. an interesting time to check in with the Lord and ask Him what wounds He may want to heal that you have carried inside your heart all these years.

Lord my God, I called to you for help,
and you healed me.. Psalm 30:2

 

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.

Seeking healing..

 

I had an interesting conversation a few days ago and the topic of healing came up. That is not unusual when I am engaged in a deep conversation because healing is the focus of my life. For the last almost 20 years I have sought healing and for the last 11 years I have facilitated healing in the lives of my clients. Much of my life revolves around this concept.. healing is so critical and it leads to much more freedom than we could ever imagine.

Many of us walk around with deep wounds from our childhood and later from our adult years. These wounds appear to be harmless and often we decide that we can’t do anything about them so we bury them. They may try to open up again… we grab the band aids and plaster them all over the wounds to keep them from bleeding out into our lives. There is a better way. We have a God who not only wants to heal.. but actually can heal those wounds so they never have power over us again. The key to receiving the healing is to seek it.. diligently. I decided that without healing I would never be able to live fully. My desire was to be a whole as I could be while I was here.. we are not going to be perfectly healed on earth.. but we can definitely make a lot of progress in that direction.

Our childhood memories are keys.. what do we remember and why? What was it like growing up? Most people say.. “my parents really loved me” or “I really love my parents” Right.. that is easy enough to say.. but what happened to you as a child? Parents love very imperfectly and as a result there is emotional damage that happens to us. If we take the time to look at it fully.. to grieve our losses and to face the way things really were.. we have the opportunity to move ahead in forgiveness and faith.  There is a cost.. we may need to revisit the painful things that occurred or feel a glimpse of the abandonment or fear that we had as children.. it is worth doing even though there is pain. God wants to heal those broken places in your heart.. His longing is for you to realize that His love is nothing like the love we get from our earthly parents. It is not only unconditional.. it is always available at a moment’s notice and it is the cure for all the ways that people have failed us.

So.. I named this post Seek healing.. as a way of encouraging you to do this. Get help if you need it.. pray and ask God to direct your steps to the person who can help you and expect the Holy Spirit to be at work revealing things to you as you step out in faith.. believe that the Lord is at work in your life.. longing to heal and set you free.

“The Spirit of the LORD is upon me, for he has anointed me to bring Good News to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim that captives will be released, that the blind will see, that the oppressed will be set free.   Jesus said this in the book of Luke!

 

 

Grief.. a very long and very lonely journey

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I decided to write about grief again. It used to appear more regularly on this blog, but it has been quite a while since I posted on this topic. There seems to be some misconceptions about what happens when we suffer losses.  All losses involve grief at some level, but some are more intense than others. Of course the loss of a loved one is at the top of the list. We encounter deep grief when someone close to us dies. Our hearts are filled with a heaviness that is indescribable.. loneliness at the deepest level possible. One thing that troubles me in our culture is the absence of information on grief.. the denial of grief and the way people feel like they need to hide their grief. What a tragedy this is. God allows us to feel grief and it is a very natural part of life. No one gets through this life without going through losses and the older you get, the more you will experience. In the light of that information.. we need to know all we can about this journey we call grief.

It is impossible to say when your first big loss will occur. Sometimes children have their first huge loss in childhood.. a grandparent, friend, or sibling. Their feelings are deep and troubling and we can only hope and pray there is an adult present to help them process the loss. You may not experience this level of loss until adulthood.. that is quite common. When you do.. it will hit you hard.. your capacity to understand how you feel will be very limited. Unless the person who died was very ill for a long time.. you will not be prepared. Even if that is the case.. you may still find it totally disorienting and scary. Sudden tragic death is even harder to deal with..everything in us wants to cry out No.. this did not happen.

Grief has a life of its own and cannot be controlled. It often starts out slowly.. God’s grace for us includes a period of shock.. we don’t actually realize what has happened.  Slowly the shock wears off and each time a season changes or a holiday passes..we feel the loss all over again… almost as though it just happened. People who have lost spouses will often say the second year is worse than the first.. this is because as time passes the loss is more and more real. Your loved one is not there to celebrate holidays or witness important family events.. Feelings of grief are hard to understand unless you have an awareness of the process.. you may feel angry, frustrated, depressed, sad and lonely at different times or almost all at once. People have wondered if they were losing their minds because their grief was so confusing and intense. You may be very alone with your grief.. others can express their sorrow and understand your loss from a distance, but they are not with you every night when the lights go out. Many people spend sleepless nights crying and wondering if life will ever return to normal. Eventually.. you will come to a place of acceptance, but no one can tell you how long that will take. It is different for every person.. each of us grieves differently and uniquely.

No… Life will never be the same. You have joined a club you never wanted to join. You will never get over your grief.. you will learn to live with it.. if you process it and don’t stuff your feelings. Most depressed people suffer from unresolved grief.. many addicts become addicted when they encounter a loss and are unwilling to face what has happened. Not allowing yourself to cry and to suffer will only hurt you more in the long run. In our busy culture, people feel like they need to look like they have bounced back even before the grieving process has started. There is no time to waste.. life must go on.

My purpose in writing this is to give you permission to grieve.. not only your personal losses but the loses we read about every day online or hear about in the news. the losses our friends experience that tear our hearts apart. These things affect us deeply and we don’t need to block these feelings or pretend that they don’t. We live in a fallen world and there is suffering every single day all around the world. God grieves for those who are hurting and He gives us the capacity to do that same thing..

When Mary reached the place where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet and said, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.”

When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled.  “Where have you laid him?” he asked.

“Come and see, Lord,” they replied.  

Jesus wept.

So what does God really want for Lent?

Yep! We are still in that season.. almost all the way through March until we get to Easter Sunday on the 27th. This is an interesting time of year for my husband and I. We met on the day before Easter in 2001 and got married on the day before Easter in 2002.. we actually picked that day because of the significance of Easter in our relationship.. and of course there is our last name which is Feaster! So this season is a big one for us. We celebrate our anniversary soon at the end of March and the date we met which falls in the middle of April. I try to pay attention to what God is doing since He really got my attention almost 15 years ago when we met. It was a huge change for me to get married again after being widowed and having two bad marriages. The good new is that Steve is the love of my life and we have a really good relationship that continues to grow and thrive.

We’ve been though many trials together starting when we got married and both lost our jobs. It has been a pretty wild ride so far with lots of change and losses. So here we are many grandchildren later.. between us we have 13. Most of them were born during the last 15 years. God did something great when he brought us together, not just for us but for everyone in our families. It has been amazing and I am so thankful. Just a little background for you and some great reminders for me!

So what does God want for Lent? I don’t see this season so much as a time to give up things as a time to give things to God. What I mean is ” what is God after?” That is the question that I keep asking myself and Him. I got the answer this morning after reading the story of Moses not being able to enter the promised land. I have always wondered why that happened.. what did he do that kept him from entering after 40 years in the wilderness. Well.. it was actually pretty simple. He did not obey God.  God told him to speak to the rock to bring out water and he struck the rock. But there is more.. he struck the rock in anger and frustration. He was angry with God’s people and he took out his frustration by hitting the rock and acting like he was making water appear.  Not only did he decide to handle things in his own way, he made himself the center of things. God told him what to do and after leading Moses for all those years.. I imagine He thought Moses would do it.. that Moses trusted Him enough to speak to that rock calmly.. to show the people that God was providing what they needed.. but he failed and he did not enter the promised land.

Wow! That story totally struck a nerve.. I saw myself all over the place. My own anger and frustration with God’s people, my own desire to control things instead of letting go and doing it His way.  Then I discovered what God wanted from me during this season. He made it really simple so I would not forget.. He wants my doubts, fears, and unbelief. These are the things that are under the surface of the anger and frustration. He wants me to trust Him so i can enter the promised land and not just see it from a distance. I am so grateful that He revealed this to me right now.. there is almost a month until Easter.  It gives me time to show Him that I am  listening to Him. A revelation of this type needs to be followed by acts of obedience that show God that I am taking this seriously. I won’t go into detail but there are things that need to change in my behavior and decisions and attitudes.

So as you seek Him during this season, don’t be afraid to see yourself as you truly are.. He is showing us things so that He can breathe new life into us.. Let’s agree to give Him what He desires for Lent.. Easter is coming soon!

 

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God waits for us..

Throughout the years that I have been writing on this blog.. the theme of waiting has emerged over and over again. Waiting is difficult and we struggle with it as we move through this life. This morning I sensed the Lord showing me that He waits for us more than we realize.

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Since He has a plan for our lives that is better than anything we could dream up or imagine..He has to wait for us to be willing to follow Him. We have our own plans and dreams and it is difficult for us to surrender those to Him. After all.. our plans will bring us happiness and security. We imagine ourselves with the things that will fulfill us and take away the emptiness. God is after more than that.

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He imagines us whole and filled with joy.. He sees us as complete and fulfilled in Him. We look everywhere else..afraid that He is not going to be there for us.. that He may fail us or forget us. He waits patiently as we try to make our dreams come true. He watches us and cares for us as we resist His plan. He allows us to suffer and struggle.. knowing that eventually we will turn to Him.

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He sees us.. He knows us.. He is with us and He is for us. We are His. He is the good shepherd who tenderly cares for each of his sheep. He seeks us when we are lost and cares for us when we are wounded. He waits for us to follow Him to safety. He leads us to green pastures and still waters. His love for us is unfailing and everlasting. He pursues us..holding out His Hands and asking us to trust Him in all things.. will we trust Him with hearts? Will we follow Him when the path is not clear.. and all we can see is the next step? He is waiting..

“And therefore will the LORD wait, that he may be gracious unto you…” ( Isaiah 30:18 KJV)

February 2015

What happened to January? Well.. for me January was not the start I hoped for in this new year. My husband was sick for many weeks and a neighbor died rather suddenly of cancer. The weather was extremely dry after having so much wonderful rain in December. There is our continuing challenge as well..we are moving toward 2 years of unemployment for my husband. I don’t know about you, but every year I hope for a good beginning and get disappointed when that does not happen. This year was no exception.

In the midst of the difficulties.. I have seen God working in me and through me. I was able to minister to my neighbor’s wife because of the loss I suffered 15 years ago when I was widowed… I hope to continue to support her as she adjusts to a totally new life. God does not waste our suffering. I think the biggest learning curve for me is realizing the importance of leaning on the Lord. There is not a day that I don’t feel the need for more of Him and not an evening when I don’t realize that without Him I cannot carry on. A great lesson in humility and absolute dependency.

Two things have helped me during this season.. one is being part of an amazing church. It is amazing because the pastor teaches the Bible so well.. our current study is on the book of Isaiah and it is rich with lessons that we need in our times. God is speaking truth to his people through his servant Isaiah. So many wonderful  metaphors and prophecies. The second thing has been the discovery of a website called ” My Kingdom Come.” There is a great weekly study ” Take Me Deeper.” The site is filled with ideas for art journaling, photography, mixed media etc. A group called Logos365 is a wonderful opportunity to seek the Lord for a word and keep it in front of you.. for 2015.

Here is a link to the site:

http://his-kingdom-come.com/

I mention these things but I suspect you are struggling too. I pray that you will find those resources that God has for you as you trust Him and explore ways to dig deeper and move closer to His heart.

“When you go through deep waters, I will be with you. When you go through rivers of difficulty, you will not drown. When you walk through the fire of oppression, you will not be burned up; the flames will not consume you.”     (Isaiah 43:2)

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