God Heals Hurting Hearts Through Friendships/Relationships

We all have heard the phrase, "been there, done that".  The days leading up to my loss left me in a panic and emotionally drained.  I felt that I was the only one going through the wormhole of despair.   Fortunately, I had been though couples' counseling and had been given the opportunity to begin counseling on my own.  I still remember the question asked of me like it was yesterday from the counselor, "If your wife walks out and leaves you, would you be ok?"  The question hit me like a ton of bricks.

"No, I would not be alright.  What is the reason for living? I snapped.  This all ran through my head.  This question lead me on a journey to great books, authors and new found friendships.  I quickly began to learn that with the USA population is now over 50% single by choice, by loss or by divorce.  I was in a larger company than I expected.  Well respected author and host of the radio call-in program, New Life Live, Dr. Stephen Arterburn was one of those many individuals with unexpected loss.  He too had been married over 20 years before his wife up and left their relationship.  This well noted author and counselor had created a line of books just to help tell his own story complete with answers, thoughts and insights in dealing with such loss.  Stephen was also the creator of the "Women of Faith" ministry that has touched the hearts of over 1 million women over the past 20 years.  So, the pain of his grief was intense and the agony of his loss was as deep as mine.  I could completely relate to his writings.

We all know that it takes 2 to thrive in relationship and it takes only 1 to refuse to continue to work on a relationship.  Stephen's book called, "Healing is a Choice", was a breath of fresh air to me.  He touched on his past pain and his inability to fix his position in life.  Here, I realized that intense, deep friendships would help me process my present and lead be back onto level ground to my future.  My past could and would no longer blur my present and my present would become brighter so I could see into my future.

From here, I continued to seek out new friendships with those with similar stories.  A good friend introduced me to a book called, Second Firsts by Christina Rasmussen.  My friend had been through divorce and had a child succeed at suicide.  In an attempt to learn more about processing suicide, she dove into the pages of that book.  What she found was that it helped her process her disintegrated relationship that had occurred by divorce and set her free to move on in life towards her future.  I too was quite touched by the book and had learned much from this author that had lost her husband to cancer.  This lesson was a big blessing to me and one that I share freely with many of my friends.

It was at this same time that the Genesis crew started talking about all of our various losses.  We all realized then that the Lord is so faithful to bring broken people together to talk through and walk through pain and grief in order to accelerate healing of our hearts.  Through the intensity of changes in my walk with Christ and through the deepening of my fellowship with other believers, I am blessed to be in a better place today.  God is good, always!

God's Faithfulness

I wonder if we have all found ourselves at a loss for words when we have run into a friend or acquaintance, whether it be at the grocery store or an event,  who is experiencing great grief and pain?  We learn they have lost a spouse or child, are going through a painful divorce, or health crisis.  I reflect on the conversation that would take place where they update me on how things are going and I would hear these words,  “God is faithful.”   Often, I would hear nothing from them except, “God is faithful.”  I would quickly chime in and agree,  “Yes, God is faithful.”

After my great sadness, I am able to reflect and recognize that I too can testify to what many have said to me.   The words, “God is faithful,” rang all so true in my heart when my great sadness hit six years ago and I was delivered into God’s “faithfulness school” through divorce.  Last fall I had a refresher course where I delved even deeper through a health journey.  The words, “God is faithful,” have feet for me too now.   I have to add, “I am thankful.”

In the first few days and months following my husband’s abrupt departure, I found myself stripped of everything I knew.  Life as I knew it was a memory.  Everyday was a leap of faith into the unknown.  What was in the future?  What did it look like? What did it hold?  My task in front of me was to love my boys and to love my God with all my heart, soul, and mind, and that I did.  That was the constant and only “easy” in my life.

What does it mean to say, “God is faithful?”  What is God’s faithfulness to me?  What does God’s faithfulness look like? God’s faithfulness is His ever-present nearness and ALWAYS ‘presentness’ with me!! I discovered God’s faithfulness through my great need.  Trusting Him with all my heart was a constant, meeting Him many times throughout everyday became a constant.  I would quote my memorized scripture back to him several times a day, a constant minute-by-minute, hour-by-hour, day-by-day routine and way of life.  It was a new normal for me and I was thankful!

Under the umbrella of God’s faithfulness I found His great love, care, and provision.  When I found myself at this new crossroads in life, God’s faithfulness stood out in a very BIG way! In the midst of all that was wrong I found peace from God’s promises and His truth.  In the deepest part of my hurt and pain I had my faith in Him and His faithfulness to me.  I claimed Romans 8:28.  My new world did not necessarily seem ok, but God was good!  His grace was sufficient for me.

My goal is to recognize and see purpose in pain and suffering.  It was through the pain and suffering I experienced my love prayer forming, simple words I speak to my Lord and Savior, first thing in the morning and last thing at night and many moments in between.   “Lord I love you and I thank you and praise you for who you are and who you are to me!  You are everything to me and I love you Lord!”

A real love relationship with the Lord came for me with my great need.  I believe the only true tragedy would have been to walk through the divorce, and to have walked through the cancer and not seen my Lord and His great love and purpose in my life--- a real reminder that I am here for God’s glory and His purposes!  God’s faithfulness came to me through all the details in my life during these times.  I may not have been allowed to see the big picture but God showed up daily and I recognized Him in all the details.  He was never late, nor early, but right on time.  And if God can show up in all the details, then I can trust Him for the big picture and purpose that I cannot see.   Last fall I learned how to completely let go. And, through it all… it is well!  It is well because of who you are Lord.  Through it all Lord my eyes are on you and it is well.

Someone very close to me asked,  “How far does God’s grace extend?”  I answered, “God’s grace is infinite, and there is nothing that is outside of God’s grace.” That person chose not to surrender and trust with all their heart.  That was a sad day for me.  They are not getting to experience God’s faithfulness. God requires us to trust Him with all our heart and He will take care of all our tomorrows.  I give up my right to know what tomorrow holds Lord. Let my faith take me to places I would never be able to go had I not yielded and surrendered to my personal Lord and Savior.

Lord, I am forever yours, faithfully. I know that what shines the most in a trial is Your faithfulness. My faithful God, help me to call this to mind and therefore always have hope:  Because of your great love, I am not consumed, for your compassions never fail.  They are new toward me every morning; great is Your faithfulness.  I will say; to myself, “The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for Him.” “O Lord, you are good and your love endures forever; Your faithfulness continues through all generations,” Psalm 100:5. 

 

 

Provides

            At age 48, my husband of 28 years had a cardiac arrest, no warnings no alarms. Within five minutes Steve was in the presence of the Lord. He was a loving man, kind, gentle, helpful, he had unconditional love for myself and our two children, was a hard worker, not proud, not boastful and was full of grace. And his presence is missed every day!!

 It’s easy to thank the Lord through all the blessings, all the good times. But when that blessed life turns upside down and you’re faced with having to let go too soon - the death of your future - what do you do? You lean hard into the Author and Finisher of your faith. And you watch as Abba, your heavenly Father, provides over and over. And you stand in awe of His mercy and grace.

             As I sought His Word for something we could hold onto, he showed me there is a season for everything that happens under the sun.

A time to be born and a time to die…

A time to weep and a time to laugh…

A time to mourn and a time to dance…

As we went through that mourning process, we so understood, “We’re not in charge!!” As my daughter asked, “Why did the Lord let dad die mom?” The only response was, “I don’t know honey, but what I do know is: God’s ways are above our ways and His thoughts are higher than our thoughts. And for some reason this is what is best for now. I also understand his Word is true and a strand of three cords is not easily broken. There’s three of us Jenna, and when one of us is down the other two can pick them up. We’re going to make it.” This has certainly been true the last eight years. We have had our share of being broken and trying to learn what the next steps are.

              As life unfolded His provision was so clear from the very beginning. We watched as family members gave their hearts to the Lord, because of Steve’s life. The Lord provided tuition when there wasn’t any. He provided a close walk with Him, closer than I’ve ever known. He multiplied our friendships. He enlarged my territory at work. He sent us His workers to provide repairs on the house! He gave us new encouraging friendships just when we needed them. He certainly did have a purpose and a plan to prosper us and give us a hope and a future.

          After far too long of being “In the Fog,” things became clearer…what’s really important in life and what’s not!!! The words you speak (trying daily not to let the sun go down on my anger), the time you spend with others and helping those who can’t help themselves. At this same time, still desperately wanting to feel alive again, and believing He’s the Great Physician, He healed! Remembering when we are weak, He’s strong, He then gave us strength for the next step. I found when I obeyed what He gave me to do, then he’d give me the next step. He is everything we need! Is everything perfect now? No, but He holds my life and future in His hands. I’m at peace!!! So thanking Him for the beautiful memories of the past years!!! But also looking forward to the future ones to come! So ready for this great adventure! I have my dancing shoes on!!!  

My Hope 29:11 Experience

My Hope 29:11 Experience

To say the past two and a half years have been the most challenging time of my life is an understatement!  I honestly encountered some very dark and desperate days feeling I would not make it through all of the deep losses.  The thing that kept me going was Hope!  God instilled in my heart the promise of Jeremiah 29:11 – “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you Hope and a Future.”

The Lord did not allow the following things to happen to destroy me – a divorce after almost 30 years of marriage, the loss of my job at the church after serving there as an Associate Pastor for 16 years, the redefining of our “family unit” and helping my adult daughter and teenage son process it, the financial losses due to the sale of our house, the abandonment of so many long-time friends, the vulnerable times in counseling sessions dealing with intimacy issues, the remarriage of my ex-wife and the worthless feelings due to not being able to find another job for over a year.  Yet, in all of these situations, the Lord did not mean harm for me but deeply confirmed in my heart His promise of a constant Hope and a fulfilling Future -- My Hope 29:11 Experience.

GOD SHOWS UP AT STARBUCKS:

Shortly after my world turned upside down, I went to Starbucks to talk with a friend about possible job options.  Upon entering the store, I encountered an elderly lady sitting at a table drinking coffee.  I smiled at her and we engaged in casual conversation about the weather, etc....  When my friend arrived, I told the lady it was nice talking with her then my friend and I went and sat at a table toward the back corner of Starbucks. 

Although my heart still desired to help others, I decided I would take a break from vocational ministry for a period of time and work on my personal healing and focus on helping my children adjust to our “new normal.”  My friend and I were meeting to discuss job options as “ministry” had been my only career path for the past 33 years.  It was difficult for us to design a resume to market myself in a different arena of employment.

About 10 minutes into our meeting, the elderly lady came back to where we were seated and laid a Starbucks’ napkin on the table in front of me and said, “Thank You,” and then simply walked away.  I was a little confused since I had never met the lady until that day.  I saw there was handwriting on the napkin and here is what it said… 

A true shepherd gives his life for the sheep.  Great will be your reward in heaven!  Thank you Jesus!!! 

God used a complete stranger to confirm He was not done with me!  Yes, I would be taking a sabbatical to work on myself, to allow healing and to become better prepared to shepherd people for whatever the next phase of my life looked like.  But God Shows Up At Starbucks and uses and elderly lady to relay His message of Hope. 

NOW, BACK TO MY STORY

After a year of being unemployed, the family I live with hired me to be the Assistant Manager at their hardware store in the inner city.  I accepted the position for this transitional period to help meet my financial needs and wait for what was next for me.  During the past 18 months, I have felt like I am on a mission trip trying to be used as God’s ambassador to the staff and customers in an occupation and location I would never have pursued on my own.

After waiting for God’s timing, I can enthusiastically tell you the Lord has revealed His plan for what is next for my future.  It is GenesisKC – a ministry we have started to and for single adults. I am excited to be part of the Lead Team for this new non-profit organization and cannot wait to share more exciting stories in the future as to what God is doing through this life-changing ministry.       

All this to say, no matter what your present situation looks like or how lonely or uncertain today might feel, remember the promises of God’s Word in Jeremiah 29:11 -- “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you Hope and a Future!”

Be on the lookout for God showing up at Starbucks (or wherever you are) to remind you that He is in control.  I pray you may one day share a Blog about Your Hope 29:11 Experience! 

Buried Alive?

     I love springtime. It’s the season when seemingly dead things come back to life again. It’s when life springs forth and a landscape of hope and beauty virtually comes alive before our eyes. In this moment I reflect upon the sunflower seeds I’m about to sow in my flowerbeds. As I’m placing the seed deep into the earth, I reminisce that I once, not so long ago, felt like that seed - buried. And oh yes, buried alive.  I found myself in a dark, cold, lonely place – just like that seed. Not only did I find myself there, but it was as if people were deliberately pushing and pressing me. I felt things piling up, like dirt being shoveled on top of me. There were times of fear, loneliness, vulnerability and suffocation even.

     You may have been there too. Ever felt like you were buried? Did people around you seem to write you off, consider you dead – that a crisis or catastrophic situation had ended your life as they knew it and you seemingly were dead to them?  Or did you feel like your life was over, that you couldn’t make it another day? Then read on, because I have a revelation for you.

     Don’t be fooled. Indeed, planting looks very similar to burial my friend. But if you have surrendered your life and destiny at the foot of the cross of Christ, then I challenge you to look again. Could it be that you were planted and not buried? Burial is final, it’s a way for us to mark the end of an era, the end of a beginning. But planting on the other hand is the genesis of something that in due season will burst forth into new life. As you yield your life to our heavenly Father during the planting season, He tends to push and prod you so that your roots go down deep so that you will be able to sustain the many changes in life that are just around the corner.

     Oh yea, fertilizer is necessary while your being planted. And if you are like me, you found there were plenty of people and so-called friends that had their shovels full of manure and threw a few piles of that stuff your way.  But you know what? The seed of our life requires fertilizer, and in fact, God uses fertilizer in our life to make us stronger, richer, and able to withstand the storms that will come our way. People may have looked at you and said you were finished, over, done – buried - but I declare and decree that you were not buried, you were merely being planted. And in due season, at the appointed time, you will burst forth through that dark, dirty, stinky ground and give birth to a new life you have never ever experienced before.

     I urge you, don’t rush the process. Don’t abort the seed’s purpose in the ground for it is in this time that it is being transformed. Yes, you (and me) are being transformed! The seed goes through a metamorphosis that is transforming the seed from the inside out. Indeed, it’s dying in the dirt but the death process is necessary, it is part of the plan so that it will be able to live again. Once I realized in my times of crisis that the death process was necessary, I learned to embrace it instead of fight against it. I gained a whole new perspective of being “content in whatever state I find myself” (Philippians 4:11). The Bible says in Psalms. 119:71,”It was good that I was afflicted so that I might learn your statues.” Have you got there yet? Can you say it was good – that you see the good that has come out of your mess?

     I’m thankful that I learned that God has planted me, not buried me. I’m alive, full of life, energy and oh so much purpose. There was a season of darkness, despair and loneliness but as I look around now, I can see new life bursting forth. It’s fresh, new and beautiful. I see the handiwork of God and am glad my roots went deep when it counted!