Category Archive: Discouragement

Reunion, Reconciliation

Thirty-eight years! It’s that long since I’ve seen some of the colleagues with whom I worked in the Los Angeles ghetto for ten years.

After a painful breakup/firing/split, I left not only the ministry but the city, eventually returning to my roots in Northern California.

This breakup impacted me in ways I imagined divorce felt like. It hurt! Misunderstandings and controlling leadership prevented my former friends from communicating with me. I felt isolated, cast off, forgotten.

When I first moved to Los Angeles, I knew nothing about setting up a corporation. But I worked with a man who had the vision for an inner city ministry, and I handled the details. With many calls to City and State, we were established as a nonprofit organization. I worked closely with the President on the corporation’s implementation, guidelines, fundraising, and communication. I coached foreign workers on applying for the appropriate work visas and, on one occasion, spoke directly with the immigration official at the Vancouver airport who was not going to allow a young woman to board her flight to LA. But after my lengthy conversation with the officer, Nancy arrived to minister with us later that day.

I taught children and teens and lived with other staff women in the LA ghetto. We lived and ministered together and chose to be part of the community we served. We suffered together when someone we loved was hurt, killed, or when our own lives were threatened. This was my second family. And now we were separated for many reasons.

Between 5 and 19 women lived in this house during my ten years there.

Over the years it took me to heal from the impact of a controlling leader and unrealistic expectations, I prayed that God would somehow bring back some of those friendships. He has done that with some of the most significant peer relationships I had, and I am deeply grateful for the ability to clarify, question, and grow together as we talked in depth about how God used the ministry, and even the control, to teach and build us.

Unfortunately I’m not alone in my experience of burnout.

Others have gone through similar experiences. Controlling leadership that steps into the place God rightly inhabits, and its resulting burnout, can cause someone to lose faith, not only in a specific ministry or leader, but in God himself.

So how do we heal?

We cry. We rest. We look for those areas of personality or conflict that we own, and learn to release those we do not. Some of us write. With time, we learn to forgive.

We seek out people who are ‘safe’; those with whom we can be real who will love without judgment, listen without trying to “fix,” help us laugh and cry with us and accept us where we are at that moment.

We may seek help from friends, pastors, or professional counselors. We breathe out the pain and breathe in, increased understanding.

We look for ways we can encourage others with the strength and comfort God has given us, knowing He wastes nothing, including our hurt.

All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is our merciful Father and the source of all comfort. He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us. For the more we suffer for Christ, the more God will shower us with his comfort through Christ.

II Corinthians 1:3-5, NLT

And sometimes we reach out at some point and there is a positive response that allows bridges to be built and relationships to jump-start, wobbly at first, then growing stronger as the cords deepen.

So next weekend I’m flying to Los Angeles for a reunion with some of the women with whom I worked on staff, most of whom I haven’t seen in 38 years! Will I laugh? Cry? Probably both, as we remember the good times and the ways God used the ministry, and perhaps grieve over some of the boulders and stones along the way.

Knowing this reunion is happening 38 years after I left Los Angeles gives me great hope that God is still in the business of reconciliation.

Can’t wait to tell you more about our time together!

Waiting …

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Where’s my next step?

Don and I moved to a lovely over-55 community in September last year. Since October, the beautiful home we left behind has been on the market. We’ve had many people come through the house; comments have been extremely positive about both the main and the guest houses and the property itself, in a beautiful little hill valley five miles above Capitola Beach.

But to date we’ve received only one low-ball written offer. Dear friends are in the same situation, also waiting for a sale. This has become a stressor, and yes, we’ve been discouraged.

Don still maintains the property, pays taxes, insurance, and energy bills. We had hoped and prayed that the house would sell before he felt obliged to plant new spring flowers and re-beautify the yard. After all, we moved to simplify our lives and reduce some of those demands.

We’ve prayed for a good buyer–oh yes, we’ve prayed, as have friends and family. But at times it feels like our prayers have gone unheard.

Have you ever been there, wondering why God appears not to answer?

I prayed for my late husband’s recovery following dual transplant surgery, along with hundreds of others who knew and loved us. God’s answer was “not here.” Because he had accepted God’s promise of eternal life to those who accept the forgiveness and new life promised through Jesus’ death and resurrection, I am confident that Jerry is healed, whole, and is rejoicing in the presence of God. And while that gave me great hope, it did not remove the pain of loss.

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For God so loved the world that He gave His only . . . Son, that whoever believes in Him might have eternal life. John 3:16

And now, Don and I are again being stretched. Will I trust God in this long season of waiting, knowing many have far greater needs than ours? Or will I choose not to trust because things aren’t going according to my plan?

Will I believe and act on the truth that God is still, and always will be, my loving Father, or will I complain and allow bitterness to creep into my spirit?

I look back and recall God’s faithfulness in all the seasons of my life:

  • The times I’ve made mistakes that God has redeemed, and through which he has brought something good.
  • The breakup of a relationship I believed would lead to marriage but didn’t –and how grateful I am for that “no”!
  • Ten years of service and God’s protection as I served with a team in the L.A. inner city.
  • Healing from the stresses of those ten years.
  • Marriage to a wonderful man at the ripe old age of 36.
  • God’s faithfulness and strength and mercy and comfort, as we faced his death twenty years later.
  • In grief at other losses–of my nephew, grandparents, dear friends, my father.
  • The marvelous gift of a second love and life with my Don.
  • God’s promises of eternal life, of comfort and peace and Presence in all circumstances.

So if I complain now, it seems a bit–well, more than a bit–selfish. As I look back I can see how God led in each situation. Minister and author V. Raymond Edman once said “Never doubt in the dark what God has shown you in the light.”

Life is hard sometimes. It can be confusing. And we were created to love and serve and honor our God–not to understand Him. But He has given us His great and precious promises to help us in just such times as this.

So, despite moments of stress and lack of understanding; despite concerns about the house still being unsold, I will choose to trust for His best, knowing He loves me more than I can comprehend, and that His purpose for me goes far beyond the sale of a piece of property.

You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you. Isaiah 26:3

Are you questioning why your prayers seem to be unheard in any certain area? I’d love to hear how you’re dealing with your questions and doubts.

May you be encouraged by the peace and Presence of God.

Spitting Bullets

I’d scheduled a DMV appointment to renew my drivers’ license for 9/18, one week prior to my birthday when my license would become invalid. Trying to prepare, I’d printed out the forms I needed, my appointment confirmation, etc. – but both Don and I have searched, without success, for the box with those papers in them. They were put in at the last minute and, despite all my best efforts to be organized with numbered moving boxes, these critical items fell through the cracks.

As Don and I went through boxes once again this morning, Paigey had an accident in the house, probably because I wasn’t picking up her signals and she doesn’t yet have a doggy door. (We cleaned up fine.)

Wifi wasn’t yet connected at the new house, so I couldn’t access the DMV website to prepare for my test tomorrow (I haven’t taken a written test in at least 12 years!). After Comcast’s tall, uncommunicative Edgar connected the Wifi this morning (yes!), Don and I couldn’t get the printer to work, so I still couldn’t print the forms I needed. I was spitting nails (oh, I know that’s a cliche, and I mean it). We still needed to head back to Soquel to take care of several items at the old house.

Then, as Don was bringing supplies in, Paigey snuck out the garage door.

Panic! Don immediately went outside to look while I searched for, but couldn’t find, my car keys in case we needed to drive around to find our little girl. Just as I was heading out I heard our neighbor Jan’s voice: “Here she is.” Paigey had gone into Jan’s garage where Jan and her Shepherd, Sophie, found Paige. What a relief!

Both tense, hubby and I got into the car with Paige and headed out. We did the errands and shopping and house-items we needed to complete, then went to a UPS store so I could print out forms for tomorrow. That had its own frustrations but I finally accomplished all I could and began to relax just a bit.

I have studying ahead tonight; I’m tired after a very unnerving day. So, my dear reader, I’m in need of your encouragement and prayers. If you think of me at 11 am California time Tuesday (or thereafter, I understand the DMV wait times are long even with appointments), I’d appreciate your prayers that I will concentrate, rely on God, and pass this test.

I’m so grateful God loves me (as does my hubby) even when I’m scattered, frustrated, needy.

“A friend loves at all times and a brother (or sister) is born for a time of adversity.” (Proverbs 17:17)

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)

Who, or What, is Your Strong Tower?

I had taken a high school girl from our Youth for Christ group to a basketball game. She had a curfew, which I fully intended to respect. However, as we sat in the car outside her home after the game, Lisa began having flashbacks from the drugs she’d taken. I couldn’t see sending her into the house with that going on, so stayed in the car and talked and prayed with her. (This was in the dinosaur days of no cell phones.)

Eventually her father came out, looking for his daughter. He was furious, and rightly so. A college woman they didn’t really know had taken their daughter out for the evening and her parents were probably panicking about what might have happened to her. I couldn’t explain without destroying Lisa’s faith in me. Her dad pulled her out of the car, yelled at me with words about never wanting to see me again, and stomped off.

Talk about a sleepless night! I cried and prayed for some time, and finally just committed this to God, with the plan to call Lisa’s father at 10 am and apologize again!

At 9:40 someone came to my dorm room. “You have a phone call in the lobby.”

Picking up the phone, I heard Lisa’s father’s voice.

“I called to apologize for my words and behavior last night. I know you were trying to help Lisa, and appreciate that.”

I was stunned. God had turned something ugly into something good as I too apologized for not handling the situation better, for causing them worry and concern. And Lisa’s parents and I became friends!

A Strong Tower

I think that’s one example of what scripture means when it says “The name of the Lord is a strong tower; the righteous run to it and are safe.” (Proverbs 18:10 NKJV) A tower is a refuge, a sanctuary. When Don and I walked the city walls around Dubrovnik in Croatia, we came across a lot of towers in which one could hide, or from which they could attack the enemy. God gives us gifts and abilities that can be a great help to others and ourselves, but we need his sanctuary, his refuge, to protect, guide us and help us meet the attacks that come our way, whether through evil, as the school murders that are occurring more and more frequently, or through illness, loss or doubt.

If my security rests only in myself, it can be removed in an instant. Having had two major surgeries in the past nine months, I’m well aware of my physical (and sometimes emotional) limitations. Watching me get up from a chair or table after sitting awhile, following a total knee replacement, is not a pretty sight. I’m humbled by my own limitations and try to laugh at my foibles. But I also recognize my confidence cannot just be in myself.

Proverbs 28:26 says “He who trusts in himself is a fool, but he who walks in wisdom is kept safe.”

So while I thank God for the blessings he has given — loving family, health, friends, capabilities — I choose to trust him as my Strong Tower, my refuge, my helper, my Lord and Savior. When I am weak, he is strong; when I am empty, he is love and grace and goodness and righteousness.

Have you experienced God as your Strong Tower? I’d love to hear about it.

Yet I am always with you; you hold me by my right hand. You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will take me into glory. Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire but you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. Psalm 73:23-26