Friday, January 23, 2015

Struggling through Loneliness: an Exercise in Patiently Waiting on the Lord

Loneliness has been a huge struggle for me the past two years.  I got engaged to my husband right after high school and we got married after my first semester at college.  I have not been single since high school, and that really doesn't count.  So at age forty, for the first time in my life I am learning what it means to be single.  

I don't have any opportunities to date in my small town in Missouri and so I have learned to rely on my kids, the youth I teach, and other women friends for companionship.  I am grateful that I have those people in my life, but I have felt the void of not having a partner to bounce ideas off, to co-parent with me, and to offer me encouragement.  I miss the comfort and the support that comes from being loved and being in a solid relationships where I had little to no insecurities.  I am learning a little bit about the pain that so many people experience... I am learning about loneliness.

How do I embrace that painful experience and learn from it?  

That has been the question I have asked myself when the inevitable waves come that cause  actual physical pain and panic to well up inside of me.  I find myself crying on my knees, asking God to just take it away from me....  The other night was one of those nights again.

I was there, on my knees, for quite a while pouring out my soul, and after I had said all that could be said, I was finally still and I listened...

"Peace be unto thy soul."  
Words of comfort flooded into my mind and I was reminded that I would not have to feel this way forever.  I was reminded that if I endured this well, that it would work for my good and teach me important things that I needed to learn.  
I was reminded to be "Patient in my affliction."  
After a good hour of crying, I felt temporarily held... or cocooned in a blanket of peace and love.  I didn't want to move, I just wanted to stay there and feel peace and not have to deal with tomorrow or dinner or one of the other hundred things on my plate...
but those moments are not for extended lingering.  
They are refueling stations for the active enduring and use of patience that must be expended to reach the intended reward.

Those moments are for remembering.... 

remembering that I need to trust God to work it out.  
Remembering that I need to want what He wants if I want His help to accompany me along this rough road.  Remembering that my existence if more than for just today, its more than the problems I am currently facing or what I think I need and want right now.

I am reminded of how upset I was with God in the beginning that my house would not sell.  I wanted so badly to move, to escape and to get near family that could help me.  It seemed like a good desire and I simply could not understand why God would not grant me my wish, especially after He had taken my husband.  I felt He owed me that.

Now two years later, I look back at all that has transpired and I see that He had a better plan for my children and I.  It isn't all worked out yet, but the pieces that are fitting together are good.  I see that He has helped me deal with some of the hard stuff, I see the people that I have been able to help and who have influenced my children and I, I see the spiritual growth that that would not have happened if I had moved. 

God knew what was better... He knows what is better.

God looks further ahead at the future that I do... He understands that lessons need to be learned now if I am to be happier later.  He understands that foundational pieces need to be put into place before I can start rebuilding my life. 

He encourages me to be patient and to wait on Him while those things are learned and time works her way.

Timing is often everything, and a person who can be patient for the right time can reap the greater blessings.

 "Patience displays confidence that “not my will, but thine, be done” (Luke 22:42), that all things will be accomplished in the Lord’s way. We should not make the mistake of viewing patience as being idle, indifferent, apathetic, or nonchalant. Patience does not abdicate responsibility, nor does it simply give us a seat on the sideline of events. Patience brings balance and perspective. Think about it. We need patience most when things seem out of control or out of step with what we had intended. Patience has to be applied immediately and often to wounds that are slow to heal. 
In contrast, impatience is to try to assert our own timetable on life, to assume we know more than God knows. What folly! This impatience with our earthly experience is a signal that we are not sure of God’s omniscience and a rebuke of the view of life as “a time to prepare to meet God." - Elaine Jack, "All This Way for That?"

As I am patiently waiting for the loneliness to end, I can use this time to reach out to others who are lonely.  I can study more and fill my spiritual reserves; I can practice patience with my children.  As I do these good things, seek to know the Lord's will for me, and not try to push my will and timing on Him, He will bless me with comfort and strength to get through this.

As that strength and comfort comes, and when I look back on this someday, I will see more clearly how this needed to be.  I will see how it strengthen and expanded my faith.  I will see how it prepared me for new experiences in the future.

For now, I can place my faith and trust in His plan for my life.  I can remember the feelings of peace and assurance that I have felt on my knees.
  And blessed is she that believed: for there shall be a performance of those things which were told her from the Lord. -Luke 1:45
These are the things I remind myself when the loneliness is crushing... This is where the "Patience of Hope" comes into play.

  • How can you choose to look at the difficult circumstances in your life differently to enable you to patiently wait?
  • In what ways have difficulties taught you important lessons?
Things I have studied:

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Embracing Patience through my Faith and Hope in Christ

1 Thessalonians 1:3  Remembering without ceasing your work of faith, and labour of love, and patience of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ, in the sight of God and our Father; 
I like the phrase 'patience of hope.' 

I hadn't ever linked my hope and faith in the Lord with patience. As I pondered on that the other day, these are my thoughts on faith, hope, and patience...

For me, having faith and hope in a better outcome just isn't enough to sustain me in the waiting. There are just to many 'what if's' that can paralyze me.  I have to have faith in a higher power that is in control of the plan in order to remain patient through all of the muddling. I have to know that the plan is working for my benefit in the long run.

As I have faith and hope in my Savior, I find patience to endure my trials, to keep pressing forward steadfastly, and do good things. Faith in Him helps me to trust His plan for my life and His timing. I can patiently wait for events to happen like my house selling, our family's healing from grief, finding companionship, or number of other concerns that plague daily life. 

Am I always in this perfect place of faith, hope and patience?
Absolutely not!  

But when I start to loose sight...
  • When I start to spiral down with the 'what if's'...
  • If I stop myself and make myself remember who I put my faith and hope in.
  • (Yes, I actually reread or say these things to myself!)
I think in order to exert faith in Christ we have to know who He is… what his character is like. The more I learn about Him, the more I trust him. The more I know He loves me unconditionally, I know He would not put me in any situation that He did not think was ultimately for my good.

A lot of people stare at me in shock when I tell them that I think my husband's death was part of God' s plan. They say…

With all the evil people in the world, how can God take such a good man? 
His patients needed him and his family needed him? Why would God allow this?
The past two years has taught me patience as I have seeked to better understand this truth. Some answers have come as I have prayed and become more devoted to God, but not all...  I suppose it would spoil the ending of the book of my life and make the living of it rather mundane. 

This is one answer among many that has come…

I am a kinder, more compassionate, more empathetic person as the result of my husband's death, and I needed that. I had become very judgmental and complacent in my perfect little life. I did not realize how many people have sorrow. I did not realize how difficult holidays are for so many. These experiences have given me the ability to reach out and help youth and adults who I never related to before. That has been a joy.  It's good work and it brings me joy. 

I would not choose to give up the understanding that has come to me because of my own pain.

Because of God's love for me and his desire for me to grow, He allows me to choose, make mistakes, and sometimes get myself in bad situations. However, even in my self-imposed sorrow there is always a way out and up if I turn to Him with a desire to change and repent.

Why does He let us struggle and suffer a bit first?

Learning and understanding always come at a price. 

Experience is a far better teacher than the written or spoken word. He knows that, and so He allows us to touch the hot stove and feel how it burns. The memory of the burning is enough to eventually make us want to quit touching hot stoves.  So the suffering acts to change our desires and our character.

I know that God's love for us, for everyone, is consistent and unconditional. A good friend always lifts and makes us better than who we are. If you don't know this I encourage you to pray and ask God how He feels about you individually. Do it for a couple of weeks… Ask, seek, and knock. 

 Matt 7:7  Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you:
With persistent knocking, answers to prayers come. Reading and studying about the life of Christ helps me too. The Scriptures help us get to know him.

So there's your first challenge...

 Get to know Christ and understand his love for you so you can have faith and hope in him

That faith and hope will enable you to be more patient. Good luck and share your experiences back. 

Friday, January 9, 2015

Opening A New Page in 2015

Opening a New Page in 2015

With the new year, I close the calendar on 2014... 

I do so with a sigh of relief

I have survived another year without my husband... something that I doubted was even possible in the beginning. As I stare at 2015, blank pages are before me. 

I can do and be whatever I want to this year. 

This year can be a new start and I am feeling the need for that.

Throughout the Christmas season I posted a daily attribute of Christ. Those things have made me reflect deeply on my own character.

Character is behind every success and good action.

If I want to be capable of doing better things this year, then I have to be better first. So I'm focusing on a new attribute every month…things that I felt I needed to work on. I invite you to take on this challenge as well. This link, Creating Christlike Character, will take you to the 17 attributes that I posted in December. Pick your own or follow along with me.

This month I'm focusing on patience

(As a heads up... it just might spill over into February
 because 2 of the 17 attributes were aspects of patience)

  • Patience with circumstances and God's will and timing
  • Patience in our relationships with others.
This month I will cover mostly the first and leave the relationship aspect for the month of February. You will see a posts about my learning experiences over the last two years, things that I'm studying, questions for reflection, and references to some of the great material that I find.

I could do this completely privately...

but I find that we can strengthen each other through sharing.

(Plus this is my New Year's resolution and if I announce it to the world,

 then I won't Peter out!)

I would love to hear what you're learning so please comment on my blog or on the Facebook link. (If you want it archived put it on the blog:)

Exciting things are going to happen this year… 

I can feel it in the air… 
It's a feeling of hope.

Now, onward to embracing patience...

1 Thessalonians 1:3  Remembering without ceasing your work of faith, and labour of love, and patience of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ, in the sight of God and our Father; 
I like the phrase 'patience of hope.' 

I hadn't ever linked my hope and faith in the Lord with patience. That gives me something to ponder and I'll leave that with you today…

How do you think faith and hope in the Lord relates to patience?

Thursday, January 1, 2015

A Prayer for Me Offered by a Stranger Comforted My Heart

Today I received a gift, by a complete stranger that touched me very deeply.  In preparation to move and downsize I have been selling lots of things on craigslist.  I listed all of my rubber stamping supplies and I got a call from a lady today who wanted to come and see them. 

I don't know how it happens, but somehow I always end up explaining why I am selling things...

"You see... My husband died two years in a plane crash.  I used to scrapbook a lot, but I just can't do it anymore.  It's just too hard to look at all of the pictures..."

And I broke down on the phone with a complete stranger

If my kids had been watching they would have just rolled their eyes and replied, 
"Mom, why do you go there? 
Why do you tell them?"  
They don't like to talk about it, but for me, it hurts worse to pretend that everything is just fine. I have also learned that when I am 'real' with people, that my experiences can help them.  Being honest and open breaks down walls. Often our conversation turns to their losses and struggles and then together as we empathize with each other we both feel a little lifted and more encouraged.  It gives me a chance to bear witness of things that I know to be true... 
of how our trials can be opportunities for growth and betterment...

of how I can feel light in my life when I reach out to others...

 and of how that is healing for me.

But this morning was different. 

I had dreamt of Scott early that morning.  We were looking through coins for my son's coin collection.  I was telling him about everything he had missed over Christmas, and then he kissed me and it felt so real... 
not like a dream at all. 
I knew that I was dreaming and I kept trying to tell myself not to wake up, but in dream like this it never seems to work... 

The reality of the dream just faded away and I was left alone lying in my bed staring at the ceiling. The circumstances of my life hit extra hard this morning.

I rolled over and prayed for help and strength. 

I know and feel there are lots of hard things ahead, and sometimes the weight of that seems crushing especially when I long so desperately to have my husband hold me again... 

to fix everything... 

or at least to be there to bear it with me...  

So with this weight on my mind, I had broken down at the mention of my husband's death.

Then this sweet stranger offered her condolences like so many people do when I tell them my story.  We arranged a time to meet and then she said, 

"Can we pray together before we say goodbye?"
I was touched by her kind gesture. "I would love that," I replied.

This is not the first time someone upon hearing my story has asked to pray for me or with me, but this was the first time over the phone. There was a lengthy pause and then she began her prayer.

Never in my life has a stranger prayed for me

 with so much heart. 

It was a very long and detailed prayer. She prayed for the way to be made clear for my home to sell, she prayed for my children, she prayed for strength for me and for me to feel God's love.  

It was beautiful... 

as if the words were from an angel
and her words pierced me to my very soul.  
The tears flowed as I felt love and light from this simple act of service.  She said and knew things deep in my heart that only could have been made known to her as she felt the spirit as she prayed.

True prayers are not prayers where we formulate the words, but where they are given to us as we speak. Her prayer this morning was one of those prayers. 

Prayers like that are more than words... 

They are powerful... 

They carry with them light and hope and God's love.

I thanked her for such a touching and sincere prayer and told her how I appreciated the light she had shared with me.

After I hung up the phone, I dried my eyes and felt the power in that prayer...
a prayer for me that was an answer to my pleadings with my Heavenly Father that morning.  I had prayed for hope and strength and I had received it through a simple kind act of a stranger... a stranger that had happened to respond to my ad that very morning.

The past two years has taught me how very aware my Heavenly Father is of my life and my needs and how very involved He is in the details. If I just turn to Him and look, I can begin to see that more clearly.

I have thought about this woman and her question..."Can I pray with you?"  

Why don't we do that for each other?

Why are we so afraid of offending that we do not take the time to share real love and compassion with each other?

I have prayed in the homes of the women I visit and I have told strangers that I would pray for them, but I have never done what this woman did for me today...

This gives me a goal and something to strive towards this year.  I need to ask to pray with more people and I need to pray more from the heart.  I need to learn to get out of the way and let the spirit guide my prayers.

I hope to get to meet this woman and share more with her how she touched me, but I also hope her actions have touched you and change you today as well.

How have others prayers helped you?