Shut In For a Time

Have you ever thought about the story of Noah and his family?  After he spent all those years building the ark, God shut he and his family in and they could not get out until He opened the door. There’s a reason for that.  They could not have weathered the storm if they were not shut in.

When a husband leaves this earth for heaven whether it is after a time of illness or a sudden death, God shuts a widow in so that she can grieve. Time ceases for her for awhile. Life around us seems to catch it’s breath in a gasp and stop. We find ourselves in this bubble where sounds are muffled and everything going on around us is happening in slow motion. Pain like we have never experienced before shatters and then breaks our heart. Thoughts may be clear at times, but for the most part they are overwhelming. There is so much thrown at us that we must do to take care of arrangements and then life itself that we literally do not know how we are going to make it.

People around think we are strong and tell us so, but the truth is, we are not strong.  We have been shut in by God so that we can weather this storm. For a time we do not have the energy to even try to bust the door down, but there may come a time that we find ourselves kicking against the door for all that we are worth because we do not like this place that we are in. It is then that we need to know that when God shuts you in, you need to trust Him enough to leave the door closed until He opens it.

There is a lot of waiting involved during that time. Noah and his family were in the ark for 12 1/2 months after the storm stopped. But there is a verse in Genesis 8:8 at the height of the storm that says, “But God remembered Noah…“.

I believe that Noah and his family learned a lot about themselves during that time of being shut in just as I have been learning unknown things about myself during these last 4 1/2 years. And as hard as it has been for me and as difficult as it is at times to even pray, I have found myself able to say, “Thank you, Lord.” What am I thanking God for exactly?  I am thanking Him for being here for me even during the times when I cannot understand why my husband is no longer here with me.  I am thanking Him for never leaving me and for being faithful to me even when I cannot sense His presence or see what He is doing in my life. I am thanking Him that even though I am alone and lonelier than a hound dog sometimes, He is always right here for me to talk to and share my innermost heart thoughts.

Out of the same elements that made up the water of the storm that shut in Noah and his family…….out of these same elements came the rainbow. Romans 5:3-4 tells us that our sufferings produce perseverance. Perseverance produces character. Character produces HOPE. Those words are hard to take because who wants to suffer in order for perseverance to produce character and character to then produce hope in our lives? Personally, if I were to have been given a choice, I would not have chosen suffering and grief. I would have chosen for God to heal Bob here on this earth instead of healing his body in heaven. But, that was not part of God’s plan for Bob or for me.

I have shared before that 53 days after Bob went to heaven my mother joined him. Two months later my dad joined them. One the afternoon of Daddy’s death my granddaughter looked out the window and exclaimed, “Look at the rainbows!”. Against the backdrop of a dark bleak stormy looking sky was the most beautiful double rainbow that I have ever seen. My first thought was that it signified that both of my parents were together again.  One rainbow shone brighter than the other and that was because Mama had been in heaven a little longer than Daddy and had absorbed more of the brightness of the glory of God. But, now as I think about that double rainbow set in that stormy sky that day, I see that it had even more meaning than that – a meaning that there was no way in my great grief and brokenness that day that I could possibly see. God was reminding me that there would be a rainbow waiting for me after the storm of grief subsides. It was a sign of HOPE.

I do not know where you are in your journey of grief, but wanted to tell you not to try to bust down the door that God has closed on you. The best thing you can do is to just wait out the storm and when you are able, talk to God. He can take whatever it is that you need to yell or scream at Him. Then, when you can, begin to thank Him for what you are learning in the storm. There is nothing sweeter to His ears than our thanks and praise.

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The Unfolding Glory

Have you ever taken the time to look back to the beginning of your life and considered how it has unfolded? This is an exercise I did during my second year of grief with the help of resources from an organization called OneLife Maps that enable you to recognize and respond to God in the story of your life.  Their resource is a portfolio of unique visual maps that help people document their life stories for the purpose of spiritual growth and meaningful forward action.  It is a self-directed journey written from a Biblical perspective that helps you invite God into the process of reviewing your past, assessing your present and to continue walking with God into your future.

The workbook is for a person who is seeking God in a deeper way and desiring to rediscover who you are through His eyes.  It is for someone who is thinking “I don’t know myself anymore“, wondering “Is there something more?”, or standing at a crossroads in life and are asking “Which way will lead me toward expressing more of who I am made to be?“. Or perhaps you are looking for a way to understand the restlessness that you feel inside or find yourself relationally at odds with yourself and/or others in ways that have ties to your past.

When I sat down and took the time to really look back at my life, I was amazed to see how God has been working in the peaks and in the valleys – in those dark places where I could not feel Him and wondered where in the world He was.  I could see how He has been orchestrating my life all along.

From the time I was a young girl music has always been something that deeply touches my soul.  I took piano lessons for many years and although I am far from an accomplished pianist, I used to play for church services and vocalists in church. Nothing made me feel happier and more fulfilled than to just sit down at my piano at home and allow all of my emotions and whatever I was feeling to come out through my fingers.

For a long time after my husband died, I could not listen to music. It was too painful for me. Gradually over time, I began listening to christian music again with tears streaming down my face. Something had changed within me and I began to really listen to the words of songs and research why the composer wrote the lyrics. Most music is written from a person’s life experiences.

Last night my daughter Annissa asked me if I had ever heard the song THE GLORIOUS UNFOLDING written by Stephen Curtis Chapman. After listening to it with tears streaming down my face, I had to know what was behind the lyrics of the song that he . I knew that Stephen understands grief because of the tragic loss of his daughter some years ago. This is what he had to say:

“There is a story that God is telling in our lives and He knows the story that He’s telling.  It is a story that’s ultimately going to be incredible and good and amazing and yet, it involves chapters that can be very hard….be very difficult… Throughout this music, really, I kept revisiting that through just different truths that I’m learning and holding onto…that God is committed to finishing the good work that He has begun, the work He starts in us.  He is working even at any moment in the story, even in the hard chapters, and that He is at work, working all things together for good.  He’s taking even the broken pieces, and hard chapters and hard parts of the story, and weaving them into the epic, amazing story.  It’s in that process, watching and seeing those places wherever the story is unfolding, where He’s revealing it to us and revealing more of Himself to us.

It takes us holding onto that by faith sometimes, and really choosing to see those places and believe even in those dark places that God is at work….The nature of my music, I think more than not, has been that I want to encourage.  I want to speak this in a way that encourages someone else in their journey.  In a way, that’s what this album is a bit of a return to for me, from the place that I’ve walked and lived and am still living in my family, to begin to say to someone else, ‘Can I say this to you? I’m not pretending to know what you’re going through exactly, wouldn’t dare to do that. But whatever it is, I want to say this to you with confidence and with certainty from my experience….'”

I challenge you to do what I did.  Get the Listen to My Life Portfolio/Workbook and take the time to look back at how your life has been unfolding. See how God has been working all along unfolding His glory in your life.