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.”
The theme for this year is from psalm 46:10. ” Be still and know that He is God.” This verse follows me everywhere I go. Where is this stillness that He promises?.. I am not sure. Inside I am often anxious and worried.. the stillness I long for is so hard to find. Sometimes I see myself in the 23rd psalm.. ” Beside the still waters” when the circumstances are just right. If I am walking outside on a beautiful fall day I get this glimpse of the quiet and the stillness that He is offering. I long to be there continually but it is very difficult. Our circumstances jump out at me and demand attention.. turning me away from God. All I can do is turn back and cry out to Him.. teach me to rest in you and to be at peace no matter what happens.
I know His faithfulness.. after walking with Him for forty years.. He has come for me over and over again. He has provided in so many ways and revealed His presence over and over.. yet I struggle to believe Romans 8:28 right now.. What good can come from this Lord? So what is there for me to do? Wait, pray and trust that He is at work and that in His time He will come for me again and lift me above the pain and suffering.
So I decided to write this out.. to reveal my struggle.. to stop hiding.. I am grieving the loss of so many things right now and watching my life change radically.. feeling at the mercy of God and wondering if there will ever be joy again.. Maybe you feel the same way.. if that is the case, I hope you know that you are not alone. All of us go through these dark seasons.. these tunnels where the Lord seems so far away and there are no answers.. we live by faith not by sight.
So Lord.. I pray for anyone out there who is in pain.. anyone who is grieving.. anyone who is longing to feel close to you.. Come for them Lord and come for me. Amen
Since I was writing about my journey through Lent this year.. I wanted to follow-up now that it is over and we are moving on to the post Easter season. What happened to me during that time when I was off Facebook and focusing more on the Lord.. reading the Bible more consistently and art journaling every day? Actually a lot happened and I am not sure I totally understand it all. One thing I can say is that God balanced me out and showed me the need for more self-control. He revealed areas in my life that were not working well and prompted me to decide that I wanted to change…to pray for Him to lead me to new places emotionally and spiritually.
So.. I can see growth and I felt the growing pains while it was happening. The challenge now will be to keep my focus and to stay true to the insights He has given me. Growth is a continual process. The first step is the desire to change and then we must take time to focus on ourselves..some people may object to that. They will think.. isn’t that being selfish? In reality it is very unselfish. When you take the time to reflect on your own behavior and to seek healing.. instead of being content with being stuck in familiar patterns.. you are actually choosing the better path. We can’t be a true friend, spouse, parent etc unless we are healthy and healed.
If we give because it is the “christian” thing to do and never stop to examine our behavior, we become depleted and often this is motivated by our need to be needed. So..as I stepped out of time for 40 days God had the opportunity to work deeply to show me the ways that I was being too concerned about others and He reminded me that I need to let go… He showed me my own selfishness which was disguised in my consuming passion to help people.. the down side to those of us with compassionate hearts. This was not a new revelation, but it went deeper this time and I am hopeful that I won’t return to the old patterns.
I am sharing this with you because I suspect that you may have the same issue. You can check in with yourself to see if this is relevant. Do you feel guilty for wanting time to yourself? Are you constantly feeling pressured to give more ( either in church, from friends or coming from your own internal voice)? Have you lost touch with yourself.. your likes and dislikes.. your desires and your dreams. If so.. then you need a season free from too many responsibilities with free time to sit with the Lord .. allowing Him to restore you and teach you how to care for yourself. It is essential to life in our very crazy culture.. take time to be still.. to pray and to seek healing. Don’t listen to any accusing voices.. and don’t feel guilty. God wants this for you..
Remember who said this...“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.“
Over the last week or so I have been doing Bible journaling. When I first heard about this idea.. I have to admit I did not get it. Why would I do art on the pages of a Bible.. it almost seemed wrong. Yet.. I was intrigued by the idea since I enjoy journaling and have been working on various art journals for the last couple of years. My daughter.. knowing nothing about this.. gave me a journaling Bible for my birthday two weeks ago. OK.. it was time to push past whatever was holding me back.
I started watching videos on Bible journaling and saw examples of how people were doing it.. I decided to step out and try it.. doing a few things on the first page of the book of Hebrews.. a book I am studying right now. It was interesting but I was afraid of ruining the pages.. then I learned about gesso and ordered some. It coats the page so you can use watercolors and other things without totally ruining the other side.. Loved that idea and tried doing a couple of other pages. I was happy with the results and wondered why I was suddenly eager to do more.
Well.. this morning after I woke up I had a realization. As I was working on the pages of the Bible..decorating and creating art.. I was responding to God’s word in a new way. My art was a form of worship. For almost 40 years the Bible has been a huge part of my life.. I have read it over and over and there are so many passages that God has used to comfort and encourage me.. Now I am giving something to Him.. I am responding to His love letter with color and shapes and words that express my love for Him..It was a surprising revelation that I want to share with everyone!
We have a God who created the heavens and the earth and He made everything beautiful.. for us. He made us in His image..we have creation all around us and we were made to create! When we create, we touch the heart of God..we join forces with the Holy Spirit to bring something beautiful into the world.. it is a powerful experience. Creativity is a part of the human experience.. it slows us down and draws us away from the madness of this world. I hope you can find an outlet for your creativity and that it will become a refuge from the busyness and the noise that surrounds us.
“God saw all that he had made, and it was very good”
It has been a month since my last blog post and it some ways it seems even longer. Some time during the last month I began to realize that God wanted to take me to a deeper place with Him.. a place of rest and restoration. He is calling me out of the sad places and into a new place of hope and excitement about the future. At the same time, I have a burden for everyone who is weary and worn out from the journey..wanting God to renew His people so that we are able to continue with the things that He has called us to do in this life.
If that is you.. then come on in to the place of rest. Take a seat, put your feet up and begin to soak in the living water that flows from the throne of God. Let Him revive your tired spirit..relax and lay down that heavy burden that threatens to crush you. Sip that cup of tea and gaze out the window.. enjoy the view. Watch the birds flying through the air and check out those amazing clouds. Look in the distance and you will see the deep blue water of the ocean with tiny white sailboats sailing along without a care in the world. Check out that rainbow.. it stretches across the sky .. red, orange, yellow, green, blue, and purple. His promise to keep us and to be with us as long as we live here and for all eternity.
We are His and He is ours.. we are weak and He is strong. We are falling and He is catching us. We are tired and He carries us. Bless the Lord!
I’m focusing again on my word for this year ” Rest.” It is elusive.. hard to truly find in this world. When I think about resting, I envision a place where there is no pressure.. or stress and lots of time that is not filled with responsibilities. Definitely not life on earth, is it? No, while we are here we will have trouble.. that is what the Lord has said and He said it for a reason. We cannot escape the pressures of this life.. when one lets up another seems to take its place.
For me, I just want a season where it is less intense..some space to recover from all the changes of the last decade. I am asking God for this and hoping that He agrees. Meanwhile I am taking a couple of weeks to reflect on my life.. a practice that I totally believe in. It is helpful to look back and see what has happened..especially when you are weary. Instead of feeling condemned for feeling tired and worn out.. I can have grace for myself. It is absolutely OK to need ” rest.” I know this is counter intuitive when it comes to our busy culture. but God invented rest and rested Himself. It must be important.
So I am learning to ” rest” outwardly and inwardly. To trust God when I am too exhausted to accomplish anything.. to contribute..to make a difference. He understands my limitations and all the pressure comes from my own expectations.. not from His heart.
“And God blessed the seventh day and declared it holy, because it was the day when he rested from all his work of creation.”
My ” one little word” this year is REST.. I may have shared that in an earlier post. So I’ve been spending time contemplating the meaning of that word and asking God to help me enter His rest..
As a result of this journey with that word, I started thinking about feeling safe. For me, it is all connected. I can only rest when I feel safe. Makes sense doesn’t it? So am I safe with God? This topic opens up a can of worms for me. It is all related to that famous quote from C.S. Lewis’s Chronicles of Narnia. You probably know the one I am referring to, it is a reference to Aslan, ” He’s not safe, but He is good.” Many writers have taken off in one direction with those words..talking about how we make God too small and put Him in a box so we feel safe with our image of Him. I understand their point, but there is something else to consider.
God is not in a box and He doesn’t fit with our preconceived ideas and He is much bigger and more mysterious than we ever imagine. But at the same time, we are safe with Him. Yes safe. He cares for us and we can run to Him every time we feel threatened by people or circumstances. He wants us to feel safe. There is proof of this in the Bible..over and over again He says ” do not be afraid.” That tells me He wants us to feel protected and cared for and to know that we are always safe as long as we cling to Him and call on Him continually.
So.. I am learning to rest..feeling safe and secure with my God. How are you doing? Remember His goodness and relax if you can..knowing that He has you right next to Him.. He is keeping an eye on you.. watching your back.. You are SAFE with Him.
“This I declare about the Lord: He alone is my refuge, my place of safety; he is my God, and I trust him.”( psalm 91:2)
The beginning of the year is an opportunity for a fresh start. I’m not writing about New Years resolutions or a list of all the things that I want to accomplish in 2014. What I need right now is a new way to look at the same old difficult things. When the clock struck 12 on Dec 31st, I did not leave my struggles back in 2013. Many of the difficulties of last year are continuing right into January.
So I am taking some steps toward living through the hard things without losing my emotional balance..One focus I have for this year was given to me by a good friend. She purchased a workshop for me called “One little word.” It gives me an opportunity to choose a word and focus on it throughout the year..creating a scrapbook and whatever other means I want to use to get that word inside my heart.
My word is ” REST”. I’ve heard that word for years now..coming to me from the heart of God. It seems unobtainable because of the trials that life continues to bring. Yet the Lord promises us rest and there are many references to it throughout the Bible. So I am going to throw myself into the challenge of learning to rest in all things.. to rest in the Lord.
I hope by the end of this year I can say with confidence..REST is available and I am experiencing it in a deeper way than ever before. If you are interested in taking this workshop, it is available on this website.http://aliedwards.com/
Let’s trust God to bring us our word and to take that word and take it deep into our minds, emotions, body, and spirit this year.
Then Jesus said ” come to me all you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.”
God is taking us forward into new things, but before He can do that He does some housecleaning. His desire is to remove all the obstacles that would keep us from experiencing the full measure of the blessings He has for us in the future. He wants us to take time to be at this crossroads or turning point as long as necessary so He can do healing and prepare us for the next season of life.
In our culture, there is no real emphasis on this process. We are basically being pressured to move ahead, move on, or just get over it. That is no the way life is. We need to stand still and let ourselves feel our true feelings, examine our hearts, and our relationships..taking time to truly look at where we have been and what has happened without rushing into the future. We may need to grieve our losses… to feel our disappointments..allowing God to comfort and strengthen us for the next leg of the journey.
So if you are at a turning point and it seems like you have no idea what is going to happen next.. you are right where you should be. In His hands. He wants to teach you to depend up on Him daily..to trust Him with your deepest emotions and desires. His plan is unfolding just as He intends, one day at a time. Rest in Him.
God is in the business of restoration. He delights in taking the old and making something brand new. It is never too late to change. As a senior citizen and a grandma.. I know this personally. I have to remind myself that God does not stop working on our behalf because we reach a certain age. I’ve watched God change my 91-year-old mother. I know He is busy doing things in the life of my sister.. she is in her sixties.
God is not limited by time.. He exists outside of it and will work in us throughout our lives if we cooperate with the process. In this season of my life He is teaching me to rest in Him.. to slow down and enjoy life more. I’ve always been a striver..someone who wants to be productive every single day. So..the Lord gave me a very easy-going husband..someone who enjoys life and knows how to relax. He is a very good influence 🙂
This is a season of change for me and time to lay down some of the old ways. Not because of my age.. but because God wants to bless me with a life that is not filled with constant activity. There are plenty of older people who never slow down and rush through their lives. Activity and busyness are idols in our country( and in the church) and I believe they keep us from truly taking in life the way it was intended to be. I found my significance in activity and feeling needed..God is releasing me from that and teaching me to realize that He is pleased with me.. not my accomplishments or my service. After 30 years in Christian ministry..He is releasing me into a less stressful season.
Of course that does not mean that I am doing nothing meaningful. I work as a counselor and He brings me clients. I spend time with friends, family, and have found a healthy community of people in the local church. Relationships will always be the center of my life..they make life rich and meaningful and God will always give us roles in other people’s lives..as long as we are here.
What type of season are you in? What is God teaching you and how is He leading you? Ask Him so you can cooperate with the process..it is worth it!