Category Archive: Change

BEAUTY FOR ASHES

 

Demolition began Monday! Don and I purchased a home in a lovely over-55 community called “The Villages” just over two years ago. With a plan to stay in our beautiful Soquel locale for another two years or so, we rented the house in San Jose to several short-term tenants, the last of whom moved out a week ago. Now we’re preparing for our own move within several months.

Don and I arrived at the house early on demo morning to let our contractors in to begin work on our kitchen and master bath. The house looked clean, with everything in place.

By the end of the day the kitchen was totally torn apart (photo right), with wood strips, shavings, sawdust, and countertops on the floor to be removed and dumped. What a change in that one day!

Our lives can be demolished just that quickly if we’re not careful. In the case of our  “new” house, the demolition is occurring for the purpose of bringing about new life. Sometimes the same happens to us. A physical or emotional tsunami hits without warning. Stress, loss due to death or illness, or poor choices can have the effect of seeing our lives splinter and disintegrate.

But God has promised to “restore the years the locust has eaten” (Joel 2:25). This scripture first resonated with me when I read a biography of Senator Harold Hughes. An alcoholic who was ready to kill himself with the loaded rifle at his side, Hughes felt God’s touch. Choosing to live for Christ from that moment on, Hughes spoke about how God did indeed give him a full and productive life of service to God and country. From desolation, our faithful God can bring a fresh, new reality.

I felt despair when my first husband passed away. I was shattered, lonely, aching. Couldn’t think straight. Couldn’t concentrate. Got on the wrong freeway–in very familiar territory–four times in two weeks because the wheels of my brain just weren’t connecting. But God gave me this scripture from Jeremiah 29:11 almost immediately after Jerry’s passing: “For I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for good and not for evil, to give you hope and a future.” With time, the love and support of family and friends, and a helpful grief recovery group that reminded me I was not alone in my crazy-making, the slow healing process began.

We can choose to stay in that lonely place, crushed, broken-hearted, closing ourselves off to those who would love us and walk with us. And when we do, we can’t heal.

Or we can allow Jesus to bring ” … beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of despair.” (Isaiah 61:3)  Another translation speaks of a “garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness.” That spirit of heaviness can be cloying, overwhelming, suffocating. Healing doesn’t often occur overnight, but over time as we take three steps forward and two back; or sometimes, three forward and four back … but if we keep trusting our God, He will bring the healing for which we ache.

So, as Don and I watch our house being rebuilt from a baseline of demolition, I want to remember that God is doing that kind of work in my life, and in the lives of those I love, as well. As I allow Him to tear down old strongholds, as I confess sin and receive His forgiveness, He is faithful to complete His good work in me–to build something new and pleasing to Him–until He comes to take me home for life in His presence, for all eternity.

“He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
    to proclaim freedom for the captives
    and release from darkness for the prisoners,

    to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor
    and the day of vengeance of our God,
   to comfort all who mourn,
    and provide for those who grieve in Zion—

   to bestow on them a crown of beauty
    instead of ashes,
   the oil of joy
    instead of mourning,
   and a garment of praise
    instead of a spirit of despair.
 They will be called oaks of righteousness,
    a planting of the Lord for the display of his splendor.”

Isaiah 61:1b-3 (NIV)

On the Road Again

Thirteen hours on the road Thursday, traveling from California, through Nevada, Oregon and into Idaho for Noah’s high school graduation. We’ve made this trip three times in the past four years for four grandchildren’s grads. The road has become quite familiar. Our “regular stops” along the way included the Donner Summit Rest Area; a Shell station off Hwy 80 in Sparks; the small, smoky casino in McDermott on the Nevada-Oregon border; and the Sinclair station in Jordan Valley, Oregon.

Snow-capped peaks reflected sun back to us in northern California. Enormous, stunning granite rocks lay beside the road.

In Eastern Oregon we could see the road ahead, perfectly straight for over fifteen miles.

Fascinating Oregon Clouds

We traveled through deserts of sage brush, sandy soil, rolling hills. We looked down onto a beautiful green and tan valley. I saw animals in the shapes of the beautiful clouds. Sometimes we could see the road ahead of us clearly. Occasionally a big truck inhibited both view and speed as we exercised patience and slowed down.
So in life we face beauty and obstacles, clear paths and blind turns. For many years, one of my big blinds was my singleness. While I knew God had a purpose for me right where I was, my heart’s desire was to marry and share my life with someone. Sometimes I wept, lonely for a heart connection. I told God “I only need one man, Lord. Only one.” (And in His grace He’s given me two wonderful husbands.) But trusting Him didn’t always come easy. Giving my desires, my needs back to the God who created them within me was an ongoing process.
Along our drive trees provided some shade from the noonday heat. Sometimes there was just sage brush and sun. In the same way, at times God has covered me with blessing and joy in relationships and ministry; at other times there was just loneliness. But He has been there with me through it all.

Don with Victor’s family (minus the grad) and Dan, prior to graduation

This week I traveled with two companions, my beloved husband and his oldest son. We engaged in both conversation and quiet; both were welcome.

My high school graduation was memorable.

My college grad was even more so. My boyfriend broke up with me the night before (yeah, that was a bummer)! But I was determined he would not spoil this significant day. I walked across the amphitheater stage to receive my diploma, head held high. When my brother Arnold came up to me afterward, knowing the pain I felt, he picked me up and whirled me around in congratulatory love. A special moment. And God’s plan for me was so good, better than what I anticipated at the time.

Now Don and I were in Idaho, anticipating grandson Noah’s graduation and transition into a new season of his journey.

I look forward to another graduation too. At the memorial service for the mother of a dear friend, the pastor spoke about how Gerry had graduated, reached her goal, completed her race. As Jesus followers, our goal is to be with Christ forever; and transitioning from this life to the next will be my greatest graduation, with unimaginable surprises on the other side.

My father, my late husband, a nephew, and friends I love have all preceded me into Jesus’ presence. And I expect you have loved ones waiting for you too. Can you imagine the reunion we will enjoy? Not only with those who have gone before whom we love, but also with Old Testament saints, with the apostles Peter, John, Paul and the rest. With John Newton, who wrote “Amazing Grace” after being redeemed out of a dissolute life of slave trading to a life of service to God. Probably with many we didn’t expect to be there. But that’s God’s grace, freely given to all who trust in Jesus’ atonement for us.

What a day that will be, when my Jesus I shall see

When I look upon his face, the one who saved me by his grace

And he takes me by the hand,

Leads me to the promised land.

What a day, glorious day that will be. (James Hill, 1955)

 

Three Days that Changed the World

 

He is Risen, just as He said!

Friday: Jesus hung on the cross in agony, carrying my sin and the sin of the world.

His words?
“It (redemption for sin) is finished.”

Sunday: The tomb was empty. “HE is RISEN!”

And the hope of the world has never been the same.

Glorious Easter, reader!

 

 

So What’s Next?

The right engine died. The warning light flashed. “Turn off the generator.” As Captain KD Jost lifted his hand to hit the button, following protocol, he heard a voice. “Don’t hit the button.” Trained in the exact steps to follow in an emergency, KD hesitated. Once again he heard, “Don’t hit that button.” As he pulled his hand away from the button, the plane’s left engine stopped. Had KD turned off the generator the plane would have been totally without power, likely leading to a crash and multiple deaths.

Another Captain, a friend of KD’s, stepped out of the pilots’ rest area and into the cockpit on a transatlantic flight. The navigator jabbed at one knob after another, trying to get the instrument controls to work. The pilot was catatonic, unable to respond to the crisis. Realizing their flight was off track and they weren’t getting any instrument feedback, the Captain literally slid under the pilot’s body and pushed him out of the way in order to take control.  In addition to being lost, the plane’s gas was running low. “God, help me,” he prayed. And he heard, “95 degrees.”

Looking at the navigator, the Captain spoke. “I’m going for a 95 degree heading.”

“You can’t do that,” the navigator said. “We have no idea where we are.”

“Well, the instruments aren’t telling us anything and this is the most helpful input I have so I’m going with it.”

Wonderful time celebrating KD’s retirement

Following the 95 degree heading and knowing the gas tank was near empty, the Captain began his descent, still not knowing where he was or what would greet him when he broke through the clouds. But as he did, he saw the runway of the Azores straight ahead of him. And just as he landed, the empty gas tanks caused the engines to flare out. All on board were safe because the Captain listened to the clear direction of the Holy Spirit for that otherwise-doomed flight.

These were just two of many stories KD told this weekend as family celebrated his retirement after 38 years of commercial flying and training other pilots on the newest aircraft, including the United’s Dreamliner. Eighteen of us had a wonderful weekend celebrating, visiting, catching up on each other’s lives, learning to know and love each other more, laughing, and of course, eating!

So what’s next for KD and his lovely bride, Connie? “Probably staying home for awhile, resting up, then we’ll see where God leads.”

Retirement … a new beginning. The end of one stage of life and the beginning of another. As Jesus followers, our purpose goes beyond when the paid work stops. God has used KD to serve the needs of his passengers, his crew, his trainees. And His work through KD is not finished. And just as He directed KD, sometimes in miraculous ways, during his years as a pilot, He will continue to lead. Our God doesn’t change, nor does His directive to love and serve God and others end as we age.

Some retirees use their RVs to travel to disaster sites to help rebuild.

One of my best friends started a volunteer group helping first grade kids with literacy, through a program in which local churches partner with neighboring schools to help make an impact.

Still others host refugee families or serve in the Church in new ways.

Paul reminds mature women to teach or mentor younger women to live in such a way “that no one will malign the word of God” (Titus 2:2). In other words, to live and mentor in such a way that our lives, and the lives of those we mentor, honor God and family. One of my greatest joys in this season of life is mentoring two younger women in their faith walks.

Scripture talks of “elders in the gates,” giving advice and sharing wisdom with people in their circle of influence. I think of the life experience KD, my husband Don, my brothers and other men I respect have and are able to share with younger men, both in life and in their walks with God.

At retirement the world says “Enjoy life. You’ve earned it. Take it easy. No responsibility.” But God says we are to honor Him all the days of our lives–whether relaxing and enjoying the blessings He has given us; or serving the church and others. And while we may move more slowly, be limited in some of our strength or capabilities, we can still pray. We can visit those in the hospital or in need; help at a food distribution center; offer rides to doctors’ appointments; and do all with joy and grace in the name of Jesus.

And our God has promised to be with us through every day, every year of our lives. In Isaiah 46:4 He promises “I will be your God throughout your lifetime–until your hair is white with age. I made you, and I will care for you. I will carry you along and save you.” (NLT)

So retirement is not an end, but a beginning, as we look to God, asking, “So what’s next?”

If you’re retired, where do you feel the most joy? If you’re not yet retired, what are you looking forward to in that season of your life?

Making Room for Love–a Second Time Around

Falling in love and committing to a new marriage after losing a spouse took time. Was I willing to join my life with another after having been widowed? Did loving someone new mean I loved my first husband less? Was it in any way a betrayal of our love?

I wasn’t the only one who had the question. My friends also wondered how, when Jerry and I loved each other deeply, I could make room for another man in my life.

When I emailed a photo of Don to two of my close girlfriends, one wrote back a very short response. “Wow. Didn’t expect that. Wow.” I asked what she meant. She thought Don looked very much like an older Jerry. I didn’t see that resemblance myself, but I think my friend wondered if I was trying to replace Jerry.

Later she and I had another conversation where I tried to explain what it was like to love again. “It’s like I have two windows in my heart; Jerry is in one and now Don is in the other; it’s not a replacement, but rather an addition.” And what an addition, a gift from our good Father, he is!

On a recent trip to Israel together

Since Don is significantly older than I am (‘tho young in mind and body!) my friends also feared watching me go through go through widowhood again. It wasn’t easy the first time, for any of us. Not only did they love me; they loved my husband. And they watched me grieve, wept with me, let me go through the steps I needed to in order to heal. They didn’t want to see me in that kind of pain again.

But for me, the choice was to enjoy this second love for whatever time God gives us–or to walk away from it in order to protect my heart. I had asked God that if He had someone else for me, to bring that man to me. I didn’t want to be part of the dating game. While that works and is probably fun for some, it’s not where I wanted to spend my energy.

So God brought this gracious, loving man to me (and me to him) when Don and I met in a widow/ widower grief recovery group about two years after Jerry’s death. Neither of us attended the church where the group met; we came from homes twenty-seven miles apart…not in the same geographic location at all. While it took me awhile to commit, once I met Don there simply wasn’t anyone else for me. A God-thing, no doubt!

Seeking God’s guidance

God has blessed many wonderful women (and men) with the gift of being single after death or divorce. Their lives are full and complete as they follow Him in that new life, unless or until God brings someone else to them. But as more of my friends are widowed, I remember the adjustments needed both by my friends and myself in entering a new marriage. God may bring another special person along: making room for that someone is not only a process for the single person, but also for her family and friends. Honor that. Talk to them about your feelings, needs, desires; help them to know your new love so they can accept and begin to appreciate and love him (or her) too, as my friends have done.

And when feelings are hurt, as mine were when my friends didn’t understand, trust God. Talk about it, to God first. Ask Him for direction for yourself, and also for their openness. I realized that I’d rather have five good years with Don than none! (And we’re now in year eight, for which we both thank God.) And I needed to trust God and my friends with the rest.

“When one door of happiness closes, another opens; but often we look so long at the closed door that we do not see the one which has opened for us.” Helen Keller

If you’ve lost a partner to death or divorce, how is God meeting your needs for comfort and companionship?