Saturday, September 18, 2021

Sabbatical - The week before, the first lesson

From my prayer journal the week before my sabbatical:
 
I'm trying, Lord God!
I really am!
I'm trying to be positive and cheerful,
to trust You,
have faith,
but my head hurts
and I can't breath
and I'm scared...
 
Carry me, Lord,
for I cannot walk just now. 
 
Have you been here?
In the past months ~
who am I kidding? ~
in the past four years,
since my Lanny Love's diagnosis
of an autoimmune disease,
I have felt this way much of the time.
And the onset of Covid...
Well, suffice it to say,
this Before Al's Death (BAD) non-worrier
has become a worrier in a BIG way.
 
BAD, I didn't worry.
I trusted God much more.
After Al's Death (AAD)
this area became a struggle.
I thought I had conquered it.
I thought..........
 
There have been a lot of changes since BAD.
And, there have been a lot of changes AAD.
But this past 18 months ~
OY VEY!!!

By the time sabbatical week came
I was in the above state.
It wasn't fun! 
 
But God!
He wasted no time ~
He never does!
The first encounter that I would like to share
happened early on the first morning after my arrival.
I had spent some time in the water,
some time walking on the beach
and had set down to journal my experience:
 
The water is warm and calm this morning.
I walked out quite a way 
and rode the gentle waves back in several times. 
This water is such a reflection of You!
Sometimes warm and soft,
gently carrying me forward with no real effort on my part.
Other times wild and playful,
still others cold and foreboding
or angrily destroying all in its path.
Always powerful,
never controlled by man! 
 
It dawned on me that control was what it was all about!
 
I had wholly trusted God
when my plan and His aligned.
I had learned years earlier,
during what I then thought would be
the worst time of my life,
that trusting Him was the only way
to joy and peace.
 
But when my Al got cancer,
something changed.
Al died
and everything changed.
And God and I were off on a journey
of spiritual growth and discovery and healing
such as I had never experienced!
 
Along the way,
God brought me my Lanny Love.
Joy of joys!
Miracle of miracles!
Love and happiness came back to my life!
I never thought they would!
After the deepest devastation and loss and grief I had never known,
things were clicking along very nicely!
 
Then my Lanny Love got sick,
and fear and worry began to sneak back in.
About the time I began to relax just a little,
Covid became a life-threatening danger to him.
What was legitimate concern
and what was political maneuvering
became muddled.
The time came to put the home I love on the market,
and I had/have to trust that
He controls its sale.
When it was time to trust
that He had another home for us ~
even if He arranged it to be ready
before we thought the timing was right ~
I worried, panicked.
 
As all those things happened,
fear and doubt reached deeper and deeper into my soul!
I wanted my ordered, happy little world
where I served my husband,
cared for my home,
and worshipped and trusted the God
who gave it all far above and beyond
my fondest hopes, dreams, and prayers.
I wanted my easy life
where the shadows I carry with me
were comfortably in the background most of the time
and the sun shone brightly upon a splendid future.
 
I didn't think it.
I certainly didn't say it.
But buried down in there,
deep in the recesses of my heart,
there it was.
I needed control back...
...because God was messing things up
and I needed to fix it.
 
Of all the changes of widowhood,
this change above all things,
grieves me.
And I thought it grieved God,
but, I think not in the way I thought.
I think He knows me so well,
and loves me so much,
that He uses these times
to root out those things
that I have buried,
kept in places secret even from myself,
and to draw me even closer to Him!
And that pleases Him very much!!!

I am willing, my Daddy God,
my Father Creator,
my Purifier, Refiner!
Keep on growing me!

More to come...




Sunday, September 12, 2021

Sabbatical - Prelude

The opportunity presented itself for me to take a sabbatical this past week.
So I did.

Let me define what I mean by sabbatical.
I am talking about a time dedicated to seeking God,
hearing his voice,
asking Him to teach and refine me in specific ways ~
and in ways I didn't realize I needed to be taught and refined.
It means spending time in His Word,
time sitting quietly,
time looking for Him and His lessons
in the ordinary happenings around me,
time journaling what I discovered about Him ~
and about myself.
It means rest from the stresses and work of ministry,
from worry about health or home or anything else.
 
Just God and me!
 
As those of you who followed my Caring Bridge blog
and, to some degree, the early days of this blog,
you will know that I spent a lot of time running away from home
in the early days of my widowhood.
While those were definitely times of alone time with God,
crying out to Him,
they were not sabbatical times,
they were survival times.
While I certainly learned during those times,
certainly experienced refinement,
certainly grew,
this was different.
This was not a time of
"Oh my goodness, I have to get out of here!"
running from loneliness and grief,
going wherever my car took me,
this was choosing a place where I knew God could most easily speak to me,
where I would most clearly see and hear Him,
with the intent of spiritual growth and refinement and rest.
It was needed!
And it was highly beneficial!
 
I chose the beach.
I drove 12 hours to get there,
12 hours to get home,
I spent two days walking and talking only with God.
 
Why the beach?
It's not the beauty, though certainly it is beautiful!
It's the feeling.
It's wild and serene at the same time.
I can feel the personality of God there.
The silky soft purity and warmth of the sand 
(His absolute love and acceptance of us,
the peace and joy and contentment He brings),
the power of the waves that are both unchanging and in constant movement 
(the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow,
dependable, yet everywhere and flexible
as He moves in the lives of His imperfect children),
the sea air that nourishes my parched skin, hair, eyes, lungs
(the Living Water that quenches our parched spirits).
When I sit or walk on the beaches, 
a quietness envelopes me.
The frenzied thoughts and constant movement that is Gina calms. 
As I play in the waves, 
exuberant joy washes away the cares of life 
and for those moments, 
I revel in the gifts He has given me 
without the caveats of
loss and grief, 
stress, 
"I need to be..." or "I should...", 
worry, 
all the negative things sin ushered into our lives. 
It's how it feels....
 
So, over the next little while,
I will be posting about some of God's work in me,
my time of sabbatical.
I pray He will use what He taught me
to move in other's lives as well.
 
 

 

Friday, September 3, 2021

September 3

Today is a hard day in our home.
Each year it is hard.
Each year it is different,
the emotions and character surrounding the day flux
but the constant is that it is 
 
Today it is eight years.
Eight long years.
Eight incredibly short years.
Eight years.

I am his best friend.
His lover.
His partner in life.
But I am not his first.
And today, I am not the one for whom he longs.

I totally get it!!!
 
Today, he remembers.
Today, he smiles...
...and cries.
Today, I can be supportive,
but I cannot fix it.
No matter how much I want to.
 
Today is hard.
 
Now God's presence is with [him],
and He will live with [him],
and [he] will be [His child].
 [And there will come a day...]
He will wipe away every tear from [his] eyes,
and there will be no more death, sadness, crying, or pain,
because the old ways are gone. 
 
~~ Revelation 21:3-4

Monday, August 30, 2021

Speaking in parables and other marriage busters

Here's how it happened.
She said he stopped paying attention to her.
She'd kept pretty fit,
but she was nearing "Medicare"
and things were no longer "perky",
the cute little baby bump that never quite went away
started to sag.
She developed laugh lines.
And a bit of a neck waddle.
She didn't feel pretty and sexy anymore.
And he stopped saying she was.
Sex stopped being fun and became a quick, infrequent event.
Her attempts at couch foreplay got the response,
"I'm trying to watch this..."
She felt rejected
so she stopped trying and accepted that
after more than 40 years of marriage...
 
Then it stopped being irritating.
You know, when men in the store stared,
or commented that she was pretty,
or tried to get a date.
She started enjoying it.
She told him about it most every time it happened
so he would know she was still attractive to other men
and maybe be a little jealous.
He wasn't.
(But he probably did know she was attractive to other men
because, you know, he isn't blind,
and she's still pretty to him too!)

And one day
when one of those men in the store 
asked her if she'd like a cup of coffee,
she thought "Why not!"
And now she is getting a divorce
and marrying a man who picked her up in a grocery store.
And it's all his fault.
 
I'd like to say I understand,
but I don't!
It just infuriates me!
You see, I will most likely never have the privilege of 
celebrating a 40th wedding anniversary
with my beloved.
We had been married just six weeks shy of our 37th
when my Al died.
We were at an age by the time we met and married
that makes it highly unlikely that my Lanny Love and I
will reach that milestone.
And it makes me mad that she is throwing away
more than 40 years of love and marriage and commitment
to start over again with a man who cheated with her.
(you ladies DO realize that a man who will cheat with you
will cheat on you, right?) 

So I asked her.
 
Did you tell him you felt like he didn't find you attractive,
that you weren't feeling loved anymore?
 
Well I shouldn't have to tell him to find me attractive,             
to love me!              
 
Maybe you shouldn't,
but did you?
 
Well I didn't come right out and say that, no,              
but I told him in a lot of ways.              
And I told him other men flirted with me              
and found me attractive.              
And he didn't even care!              
 
Oh! My goodness!!!
Why do we do that???
One of the things I want to ask Jesus when I get to Heaven is this:
 
Why did you teach in parables?
Why didn't you just tell us what we need to know?
You know we're thick headed and slow, right?
 
And yet we, especially women,
and in particular to our husbands,
we do it all! the! time!
We talk to them in parables
and expect them to figure it out.
 
You know they don't think like us, right?
You know they just say what they mean and move on, right?
You know they expect you to do the same, right?
 
But we don't.
We hint.
We tell a story about "a friend".
We "what if".
We insist they should already know and get angrier by the minute.
But we don't just say,
 
HEY! Put down the phone, turn off the T.V. and pay attention to me!
I'm feeling neglected, unattractive to you, and unloved!
 
They probably won't understand why you feel neglected.
They certainly won't understand why in the world you feel unattractive to them
or why you would think they don't love you.
But they'll appreciate that you didn't make them try to figure it out
because somewhere, they vaguely know you're upset about something,
however, since you tell them "nothing" when they ask,
they'll assume it's something at work, or the kids, or that time of month,
but they won't figure it out.
They aren't emotionally built to figure it out.
Just tell them!

And, by the way,
when you're telling them to meet your needs,
ask yourself if you are meeting theirs.
 
When is the last time you told him he still makes your tummy flutter?
When is the last time you told him how much you 
appreciate 
his going to work every day?
(I know, most of you go to work too,
and doesn't it feel nice to be told that it's appreciated?)
When did you last thank him for mowing the yard?
Or how you 
respect 
him for protecting your family by locking up at night?
When did you last
admire
his physique or strength or "prowess"?
Or for...the myriad of things that men do that is their way of saying
 
I love you very much!!!
 
When did you last tell him how much you 
appreciate 
his sense of responsibility,
that he is a man of honor,
that he makes you proud to be his wife?
When did you last tell him how much you 
admire 
his abilities, his gifts and talents?
When did you last say
"I respect you so much!"

You know how much you need to be loved and desired?
Well that's how much he needs to be respected, admired, and appreciated!
 
I learned some stuff through widowhood.
First is that nothing is worth losing my mate!
Not by choice!
Either his or mine!
Another is that very little is really worth fighting over
but that marriage is very worth fighting for!

So for the love of Pete,
stop talking in parables!
We aren't Jesus, 
we aren't good at telling them in such a way they are ever understood.
And our husbands will never get them and will, in fact,
be shocked when you finally lose it and scream at him
what you should have simply told him in the first place!

Marriage is precious!
Take care of yours!



Friday, August 20, 2021

Everyday miracles happen every day

 

Don't you love little miracles?

Okay, miracles

for no miracle is little.

 

I experienced a “miracle” recently.

It was personal and in the grand scheme of things

pretty insignificant.

Except to me.

And isn't that always the way?

 

I mean, let's be honest here,

the lame man walking mattered mostly to him.

The blind man seeing mattered mostly to him.

I realize that all miracles ripple and touch others,

but they really and truly matter only to those directly affected.

Except Jesus’ resurrection,

that matters to everyone!

 

Recently, I experienced a “miracle.”

Now, some will roll their eyes and say

“That wasn’t a miracle, it was a mistake.”

But I know my God!

And more to the point,

 

my God knows me!

 

So when I mistook Isaiah for Psalms one morning,

and the chapter in Isaiah was exactly what I needed,

and I had read and marked several sections,

marveling at the appropriate timing of my daily Psalm reading schedule,

before realizing I had turned to Isaiah not Psalms,

well, I knew my God was at work in my life.

Again!

 

Everyday miracles happen every day!!!

We just have to notice them!

 

Thank You, Daddy God!

 

Isaiah 51 NCV

 

…The LORD says, “I am the one who comforts you.

So why should you be afraid of people, who die?

Why should you fear people who die like the grass”

Have you forgotten the LORD who made you,

who stretched out the skies and made the earth?

Why are you always afraid

of those angry people who trouble you

and who want to destroy?...

…I am the LORD your God,

who stirs the sea and makes the waves roar.

My name is the LORD All-Powerful.

I will give you the words I want you to say.

I will cover you with my hands and protect you.

 

Verses 12-13,15-16

(Emphasis added)

Saturday, July 31, 2021

40 Years

Forty years is a long time!
480 months!
2080 weeks!
14,610 days!
 
Forty years ago today
 
Ronald Regan was President of the United States of America
Margaret Thatcher was Prime Minister of Great Britain 
the number one song was "Jessie's Girl" by Rick Springfield
Donkey Kong was released
Chris Evert had just won Wimbledon for the third time
John McEnroe had just won for the fifth time
Sandra Day O'Connor had just become the first female Supreme Court Justice
Price Charles and Lady Diana Spencer had just married
 
 
 
And 40 years ago today,
Lanny and Judy became Mr. & Mrs.
 
Great love deserves to be celebrated!
Great loss demands to be grieved!
This dichotomy makes days like this difficult.
 
 
 
 
It is not that we grieve without hope.
The Bible is clear that,
as disciples of Christ, we are not to 
"grieve like...those who have no hope" (I Thessalonians 4:13 NIV)
because we know that Christ died and rose again
so that we could have eternal life, 
living forever with Him in Heaven.
And so, we look with joy to the day
when we will worship at the scarred feet of Jesus
with our loved ones gone on before.

BUT...
That command does not mean that those human emotions
of love and loss and grief
will not be present in a disciple of Christ!
And - and this is just my opinion -
I believe that for those who serve Him,
who love as He loves,
those emotions may be even deeper, more intense
because - and this will likely be an unpopular opinion -
I believe the Bible supports that His disciples do love more deeply.
 
A new command I give you: 
Love one another. 
As I have loved you, so you must love one another.
                                                                                               ~~ John 13:34 NIV 
 
Since Christ loved us enough to leave Heaven,
suffer the indignities of birth,
be ostrocized, physically abused, and killed,
spend three days in the grave paying for our sin
(that sinful nature with which we are born)
and sins (those sinful things we have done),
since He loved us that much,
and since, as His disciples,
we are to love as He loves,
I believe that we do love more deeply and completely.
Part of that love is the emotional "affection" we feel.
And part of that love is the emotional reaction
to the physical, earthly death and 
"for the rest of our earthly lives"
loss of that deeply loved and cherished,
that "two shall become one" (Mark 10:8),
that closest human being in our lives.
There is no shame in that grief!!!
  
So today, as my Lanny Love grieves this greatest of earthly losses,
I grieve with him.
As he celebrates this greatest of both earthly and eternal gifts ~ love,
I celebrate with him!
Because that is what love does.
 
And isn't that a marvelous gift!!!
 

 
 If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels,

but have not love,

I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.

And if I have prophetic powers,

and understand all mysteries and all knowledge,

and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains,

but have not love,

I am nothing.

If I give away all I have,

and if I deliver up my body to be burned,

but have not love,

I gain nothing.

 

Love is patient and kind;

love does not envy or boast;

it is not arrogant or rude.

It does not insist on its own way;

it is not irritable or resentful;

it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth.

Love bears all things,

believes all things,

hopes all things,

endures all things.

 

Love never ends.

As for prophecies,

they will pass away;

as for tongues, they will cease;

as for knowledge, it will pass away.

For we know in part and we prophesy in part,

but when the perfect comes,

the partial will pass away.

 

When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child.

When I became a man, I gave up childish ways.

For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face.

Now I know in part;

then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.

 

So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three;

but the greatest of these is love.

 

~~ 1 Corinthians 13 ESV