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 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
“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.
My last post included a video.. you have to play it on my site because it does not show up as a video if you receive email updates. The song is Find me in the River from a CD called streams that was released in 1999.. a tribute to the classic devotional Streams in the Desert.
Here are the lyrics:
Find me in the river
Find me on my knees
I’ve walked against the water
Now I’m waiting if you please
We’ve longed to see the roses
But never felt the thorns
And bought our pretty crowns
But never paid the price
Find me in the river
Find me there
Find me on my knees with my soul laid bare
Even though you’re gone and I’m cracked and dry
Find me in the river, I’m waiting here
Find me in the river
Find me on my knees
I’ve walked against the water
Now I’m waiting if you please
We didn’t count on suffering
We didn’t count on pain
But if the blessing’s in the valley
Then in the river I will wait.
The whole CD is worth listening to if you find yourself in the wilderness or the dark valley..
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’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)