Sunday, January 19, 2020

Sing to the Lord a New Song

As many of my readers know, I volunteer at social program called the Gathering Place which is held in a church in our county.  This program is for people with beginning to moderate dementia.  It is a wonderful program for the participants and adds joy to the lives of the volunteers like myself as well.  It also provides a wonderful day of respite for caregivers of loved ones affected by neurological diseases.

Recently I found the following post in my Facebook memories that I wrote a little over three years ago:

"As you know I volunteer at the Gathering place on Tuesdays. I went to one of the former participants of the Gathering place's funeral visitation today. Even though it is always sad when one of the participants pass, I have never gone to a visitation or funeral of one of them before. This lady was from my town, however, and she was a special lady. Makes me sad. She is with Jesus, but it is difficult for the family. The husband talked about my book which he had read. Nice interaction. It reminds us that life on this earth is so brief."

Remarkably, the man talked about in that Facebook post of three years ago is my current husband, Bob.  Bob lost his wife a little over three years ago.  My book to which I refer in the above post is my book. Dear Caregiver Reflections for Family Caregivers.  I wrote that book after being my first husband's caregiver for about four and a half years and then losing him to death a little over nine years ago.  Bob was helped by that book in his care for his first wife.

It seems amazing to me that both Bob and I had no clue on that funeral day what God had planned for our futures.  Yet because of our common work at the Gathering Place and God speaking to our hearts, we became a couple.  I am overwhelmed with the grace and love of God in all of that.  I am overwhelmed with God's wisdom which is way above our wisdom.  I am amazed that even though we will always miss our first spouses, God has brought beauty from ashes.  The plaque on the wall below our wedding picture says, "Sing to the Lord a new song."  How appropriate.   There are adjustments in a second marriage, but it has been a very good thing.  Also our love keeps growing.

God's plan is not always easy especially when we go through very difficult times.  Yet let us always trust that He knows what He is doing.  Let's trust in that wonderful God.  Whatever the heartache, dear reader, trust Him.

Sunday, January 12, 2020

Stretching Spiritual Muscles

I was reminded recently during a morning devotion that spiritual muscles like physical muscles can only grow through pain.  Physical muscles grow when pushed beyond their capacity and actually break down.  They then rebuild stronger and bigger.  The same is true of spiritual muscles.  If we want to grow spiritually we must at times go through trials and circumstances that are painful or at least challenging.

As I have mentioned before in previous posts, I have gone through the challenges of caring for my first husband and losing him.  I have gone through other deep challenges and trials as well.  Yet I have grown through those experiences.  My love for the Lord and trust in Him has expanded greatly with these experiences.

Because of my new marriage to my present husband, Bob, I closed on the sale of my condo a few days ago, a house I had grown to love.  I have begun a new chapter and adventure in my life.  New adventures mean leaving the old behind and moving forward to the new.  They involve a certain element of trust.  They involve stretching one's spiritual muscles.

Recently I read the following from a devotional called The One Year Book of Hope by Nancy Guthrie:  "I don't want my greatest spiritual adventures to be all behind me!  I want to keep going, keep growing.  I want to know Him better and love Him better and love Him more next year than I do today.  I want to be like Him and do more for Him.  So I got to keep building my spiritual muscles."

Whether you are caring for a loved one who is ill or have recently lost such a loved one, whether a family member is going through very difficult times through their own choices or not, whether there is a host of other difficult circumstances in your life, or whether you are just starting an exciting new adventure in your life; trust God to see your through it all. Trust that God will stretch your spiritual muscles, and be willing to let Him do so in your life.  It will not only increase your strength in this life, but  it will also reap benefits in Eternity!


Sunday, January 5, 2020

A New Year

We have entered a new year. Are you worried and nervous about what this new year will bring, or instead of being anxious are you resting in the Lord and trusting and praising Him? Will you trust the Lord only if all your prayers are answered the way you desire for them to be answered, or will you trust the Lord even if He allows huge trials in your life? 

I read through the book of Psalms most every year as part of my daily devotions.  I was recently reminded of the fact that the book of Psalms in chapter one begins with reminding us of the importance of loving God's Word and building our lives on God and His Word.  In the Psalms following chapter one we find the Psalmists talking about every imaginable human experience from deep trials to immense joy.  The psalmists also talk about God's promises and their hopes and desires.

Yet when we foundation our lives on faith in God and on His Word praise and thanks always results no matter what our experience may entail.  While Psalm chapter one begins with instruction to build our lives on obedience to God, Psalm 150 ends with praise and thanks to God.  All the experiences of life then, both good and "bad,"can ultimately end in praise.  Confession ultimately can lead to the joy of forgiveness.  Our cries of need and grief can lead us to a deeper reliance and resting on the Lord.  Therefore both of these can ultimately lead to greater praise of Him.

I do not understand why God has allowed some of the things He has allowed in my life such as my first husband's devastating neurological disease and eventual death.  I do not know why another family member is currently going though some very difficult trials of another nature which affects many other people as well.  I must trust God, however, that He knew and knows what He is doing no matter how difficult life became and/ or becomes.  Not only that, but I must praise Him in the process.

He has and never will forsake us.  His ways are perfect even when we do not understand His ways.  He is our shield, and we can take refuge in Him.  We can trust in Him and not be afraid of what the future holds.  Even in difficult times, he is our strength and song.  Our lives can be a hymn of praise through it all.




Sunday, December 29, 2019

God's Story For Us

Christmas 2019 is past.  For some people perhaps there is a remaining family gathering or two; but for most of us the presents have been unwrapped, the Christmas programs are over, and the candy and cookie bowls are beginning to diminish.   For some people it was a very difficult Christmas, as it was the first year without a loved one.  For others it may have  been a difficult year, because their loved one is declining in health.  For others it may have been a year rich with unexpected blessings.

I have always enjoyed Christmas, yet for many years there was an element of sadness with it as well.  My first husband, Wayne, passed away about a week after Christmas in early 2011 on the day after his 65th birthday.  Even before that day my life story involved years of struggle in caring for him and watching him decline.  It was during that time frame that I also fought breast cancer.  Yet God has used my story of my years of struggle to help others.  God used those years to draw me closer to Him and to love Him on a deeper and more intimate level.

Ephesians 3:20 in the Bible speaks of God doing "immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine."  He has done that for me this past year, as well.  God used my story and words in the form of my book, Dear Caregiver Reflections for Family Caregivers to help my current husband, Bob, in his care of his then wife, Gloria.  How we later met as fellow volunteers at a program meant to help caregivers and their loved ones and then how we started dating is a story that truly has God's fingerprints all over it.  This past summer we married-both being in our 70s.  

Life has it's griefs and joys. Bob and I will always miss our first mates.  Yet our hearts are joyful in our new unexpected relationship.  This is God's story for us.  It is and was a good story through both the sad and joyful moments.  No matter where you are in your story, dear reader, it is a good story if you are in a deep relationship with the Lord.  It is a good story, because it is the Lord's story for you.

Sunday, December 22, 2019

Gifts


What kind of Christmas do you anticipate this year? Perhaps your Christmas will involve a lot of extra work for you in addition to the challenges and responsibilities of other life activities, or perhaps you are feeling isolated and ignored and all alone this Christmas in your daily burdens. Instead, however, perhaps you will experience Christmas this year as a reminder of your blessings and as a blessed respite from the drama of life's challenges.

Whatever we experience this Christmas and with every gift we receive at Christmas or at any time of year we have to open our hands to receive the gift; or the gift does not benefit us or give us any joy. The gifts we receive which are eternally precious, however, are the gifts which God wants to give us.

The Lord first offers us the gift of salvation which is what Christmas and walking with the Lord is all about. He further offers us the accompanying gifts of joy, peace, and hope. They are ours for the taking; and yes, they can coexist with the pain and heartache which often are present in life. Further, the Lord promises us a happy ending. That happy ending is eternal life. Christian reader, the heartaches that sometimes come in life are but a comma in your life story. They are not the end of your life’s story. They are not the end of your loved ones' life stories either.

We also can all receive other gifts. We can receive the gift of trust in God and letting Him control our lives. We receive this gift by resting in Him and by letting go of anything which we are holding onto too tightly or trying to control.


We further all have to let go of feelings of unforgiveness for people who have not been there for us. We further have to receive the gift of forgiveness for ourselves.  We have to bring to the Lord any true wrongs, and ask for His forgiveness. Further, we often carry around a lot of false guilt about things beyond our control. So whether false guilt or true guilt, we need to let it go. We need to give it to the Lord. Trust and letting go are great gifts to have in our lives.  Receive the gift of releasing it to the Lord.

One great gift we can give ourselves is the gift of acceptance of our situation. We often waste so much energy wishing circumstances were different, but we can rest assured that we are right where we are supposed to be in our lives. Dear Reader, your responsibilities may be emotionally overwhelming at times, but in the measure that you can accept where God has placed you now in your life you will find joy. It is a great gift you can give yourself.

Yet another wonderful gift we can give ourselves is the gift of being still in the presence of God. (Psalm 46:10) Doing this helps us grow in peace, wisdom, and insights. Finally, we can give ourselves the gift of gratitude. When we are grateful in spite of our circumstances our joy and blessings will multiply and resentments will flee.

Would not these be wonderful gifts to have in your life? These are wonderful gifts not just for Christmas but all year long!

Sunday, December 15, 2019

Christmas Hope

December is the month that we think of Christmas and hope.  Is your life weighed down with care and worry this Christmas season; or is it filled with hope? I remember my care-giving years during which I saw my first husband, Wayne, continue to decline in his health step by step.  It was tempting at such times to give up hope.  Hope is something all of us can possess no matter how difficult our circumstances, however.

During the holiday season we are reminded of the birth of Jesus Christ.  Over two thousand years ago before Jesus was born most of the people were living without very much hope.  Then in Luke chapter two of the Bible we read that an angel appeared to Mary and told her that she was being blessed by God's grace in becoming the mother of Jesus.  Jesus Christ was coming as the Savior of His people!

Mary's response to this was openhearted acceptance (Luke 1:38).  Mary would suffer many immediate problems being the mother of Jesus.  She would experience many heartaches in her future. Because Mary now had hope, however, she was willing to accept God's will for her life with joy.  A life secure in the Lord's hope can move with confidence through life in spite of difficulties and challenges.

Life can be very heartbreaking and challenging.  There are times when the circumstances of life can be overwhelming.  But like Mary in the Bible we too can have hope no matter what our circumstances.  Dear reader, rest your heartaches with the Lord. Know that He is the source of strength and hope.  His hope is not a wishful thinking type of hope, but it is a hope based on His certain promises in the Bible.  His hope is secure and will never leave you.

Sunday, December 1, 2019

Blessings

We just celebrated Thanksgiving Day in the United States.  We are also entering the Christmas season.  It is a time of year when we think of God's blessings.  God's greatest blessing to us is that He sent Jesus into the world to pay for our sins and to pave the way for us to have a wonderful and intimate relationship with Him.

We also experience many other blessings from the Lord.  There are material blessings, and there are emotional and spiritual blessings.  Every day God provides good and wonderful blessings to our lives.  We just need to open our eyes to these blessings and to look for them.

I have been reading about blessings in a book called The One Year Book of Hope by Nancy Gutherie.  She points out, however, that blessings do not always come in the form of things we consider good.  Sometimes blessings come in the form of hardship.  This is because trials and hardships can grant us perspective on what is important and meaningful in a way nothing else can do.  This is because they often lead us on a pathway to the Lord.  As we surrender to the Lord in times of hardship, we find God in a new and vibrant way.  In times of trial God often reveals Himself to us.  He also often gives us a peace that we can find in no other way,

In times of hardship and trial God bends down to us.  He enters into our lives and meets our needs in a personal way.  He not only does that, but He reveals Himself and give Himself to us in unique ways in those times.  It is because of this, in those times we receive God's blessings.  We receive God's blessings in and because of the trials.  We find the blessing in the Lord Himself and not in material outward things or in our own perceived achievements.  Let's thank God for our blessings.

(There will be no new post next week.  Use this time to read some of my older posts.  I hope to post again on or around December 15th.)