Safe Harbor

The words “safe harbor” keep coming to mind, that Christ is our safe harbor during all the storms of life.  Sometimes the water is smooth, and we sail through easily with the praise of God on our lips.  Sometimes the water is choppy, and we can manage okay if we send out a few prayer requests and dig in a little deeper into the Word.  Sometimes the seas are downright rough, but still we manage with the help of our prayer warriors and seeking godly counsel.

Then sometimes we are completely cast overboard.  We look for someone to throw us a life preserver, something we can hold onto and stay afloat, and sometimes someone does.  We can climb back in the boat, praise God for our narrow escape, and go back to living life as usual.  But sometimes there is no life preserver.  You thrash around in the water as best you can, but panic seizes you.  You realize that there is nothing or no one that can put you back on the boat.

Then in the darkness of the water, you look up, and across the waves, you can see a dancing sliver of light.  You frantically dog-paddle toward the light, and it becomes a teeny little brighter.  You think, “This is too hard.  I’m not that good of a swimmer.  I thought I was, but I don’t have the strength.”  But the light is beckoning.  And each time you bravely take a lunge toward that light, a wind seems to come up and push you a little closer.

“I am the light of the world.”  The words come from someplace deep inside of you.  “In Him was life, and that life was the light of men.”   “I have come so that they might have life and have it to the full.”  “For I know the plans I have for you….to prosper you and not to harm you, to give you hope and a future.”  The words keep coming…”Come to me all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.”

The Word continues to come forth from your inner being and gives you the courage to keep slowly moving forward as the light gets brighter and shows you the way.  You know those words and you know who the Word is.  “Where can I go from your spirit?  Where can I flee from your presence?  If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.  If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast.”  You stop struggling and let the wind of the Spirit carry you home.

As a light from a lighthouse, He beckons us on until we make it safely back to harbor, safely in His arms.  He will never leave us or forsake us.  But sometimes he doesn’t allow us to get back into the boat.  He lets us feel the panic or the ache or the longing or our great need so that we will struggle our way to Him and know that He is enough.   No matter how many times we are cast into stormy seas, He will always show us the way to safety because He is the light.  And though we may lose our way for a time, in Christ we are never lost.

This post was written as an entry in my journal during my season of singleness.  I had lost my equilibrium when my former husband died.  Now seven years later, Mark and I have moved to Texas and away from family following the direction of the Lord.  It has felt at times as though I have been cast overboard as homesickness overtakes me.  I know those times may intensify, as it has only been a couple of weeks since we moved.  So to read this post that I wrote so many years ago comforts me, because I know He is with us and has a good plan for us.  Jesus continues to be my safe place, the one who holds my heart.  He is your safe place too.  No matter what you are going through, look for Him.  Run to Him.  He is faithful.  He will carry you through.  And if you will say yes to His will, it will be an amazing ride.

The Beginning

My son and one of my daughters discovered what no child should have to find.  On the phone with them while driving on the interstate, I heard the crying, the confusion.  Surely this was a dream, a nightmare, not reality.

These are the thoughts that come as I remember:

Sleeping all together on the floor of the living room that first night, not willing to be separated from one another for a minute.

A slide show that tells the story of my family, the births of my children, the school activities, birthdays, Christmases, beach vacations, high school graduations–a treasure of precious memories.  A casket at the front of the church, my family sitting behind a black curtain to give privacy. 

A dear friend leading me through purchasing a headstone–researching prices, driving me to the monument company.  Sitting with God to choose the inscription, “I tell you the truth; today you will be with me in paradise.”

My son visiting the grave site for the first time since the funeral and then coming home and cutting a tendon in his hand by opening a jar that shattered.  Being with him through surgery and rehab.

A few weeks later one daughter escorted down the aisle by her brother at her wedding.  My stepping in to give her away.  Happiness and grief merged into one.

Another daughter showing up at my house with her child and a backpack, fleeing an abusive marriage.  Strongly taking charge like a mother bear to pursue legal action to protect her and my granddaughter.  Another dear friend shielding my family in her home, as we did not know what the repercussions would be.

Selling the home where we had been a family.  Moving out and going back for a clean-up.  One last look at the backyard, still seeing where the garden would always be, hearing the voices of my children playing somewhere in a memory.

Three years later, three marriages in one year, my son, my daughter, and me!

Finally being able to exhale.  But with the next year came my daughter-in-law’s horrific miscarriage at eleven-and-a-half weeks.  A few months later, my daughter’s devastating miscarriage at exactly the same stage.

But God restores.  Four beautiful, healthy babies have been born since then!

Taking care of my mother in the last year of her life as she was ravaged by Alzheimer’s.  The privilege of sitting with her through her last night.  The holy moment of witnessing her last breath, knowing she is now at peace in the presence of the Lord.

It will soon be seven years since the beginning of this story.  Seven is God’s number for completion.  With joy and thankfulness, I see my children established in happy marriages with beautiful children.  I am married to the man of my dreams, the one whom the Lord brought to me when I asked him to choose.  God is writing a new script for us, our own story.  It is no coincidence that at this seven-year mark, he is sending us to take possession of our land.

I am brought to my knees in tears when I think of the grace that has carried me through these years, awed and humbled by the presence and power of Christ in my life.  A friend recently asked me what I have learned from this journey.  I had only these three words:  “God is faithful.”  We were never alone.

Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth.  Do you not perceive it?  I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.”  Isaiah 43:19


Searching For a New Fit

Sometimes life just doesn’t “fit” anymore.  Spring is coming, and we’ll be going to the back of our closets to pull out our warm weather apparel.  Some things we’ll look at with new eyes and wonder if we really wore that last year.  Some things will be too small or rarely — okay, never — too big.  I can get flustered with the whole process and think I need to reinvent my wardrobe, only to come back to the tried-and-true style that is me. Only then do I feel comfortable and able to move on to more important matters.

If all trials in our lives were as simple as wardrobe changes, we would have less turmoil, but there would also be less growth.  For when life changes come that thrust us into unknown territory, we have no choice but to begin the search for “who am I now?”  Some of you have known this truth through the death of a loved one, a devastating divorce, a job loss, a move to a new location where you don’t know a soul, or just becoming an empty-nester after years of homework, school programs, and ball practice to fill your calendar.  For me it happened when I became widowed after 31 years of marriage.  It happened suddenly, without warning, at the same time my youngest child was about to get married.

In my search to find out how to make life fit as a middle-age single woman, I made a lot of decisions quickly.  Within a month I started working again in my career as a free-lance court reporter.  I had retired only months earlier.  Advice was given not to move from my home for at least a year, but I had it sold and another house purchased in six months.  Working again plus all the details involved in buying and selling a house kept me very busy, which made the grief tolerable.  But the first night in my new house, sitting with unpacked boxes all around me, I didn’t feel peace.  It just felt strange.

It seemed to me that life was pretty much divided into singles and couples.  Even though I’d been half of a couple for a long time, I was now single.  Married friends still reached out to me, but now it’s one-on-one with the girls.  And frankly, the one time I did decide to attend a couples’ event, it just didn’t feel right.  My change in status screamed too loudly within me. The new rhythm of my life was now learning to navigate it alone.  The best advice I can give someone who finds themselves suddenly single is to to seek out some single friends as soon as possible.  The Lord gave me two such friends and a dear sister-in-law who also lost her husband.  They helped fill the gap immeasurably. .

Nine months after moving into my new house, I became restless again and decided I needed to move 30 miles to the city where I did most of my free-lance work.  I rented out my house to my son and had signed a lease on an apartment days after making the decision.  It was very exciting decorating my new apartment, even buying new furniture, and getting ready for the change that I was sure was what I needed.  But that night after I moved in, I sat all alone and wondered what in the world I had done.  Now my children weren’t even near me.  I felt lonely, so lonely.

I toughed it out for five months and then cried out to the Lord to please get me back home.  I didn’t know how it would happen with a twelve-month lease.  But He heard my cry and sent me someone to sublet my apartment, and home I went, right on top of my son who was still renting my house!  At that time he was a salesman and on the road quite a bit, so it wasn’t too inconvenient for him.

Though there were still many adjustments I had to learn to make during this season, the one constant in my life had always been God.  He knew I was shaken and that I would have to wander a bit, but He brought me back to the center of who I am, only not as I had known myself, but the one He was molding me to be after having passed through this fire.  And I just wanted to serve Him.

I had planned to write about my season of singleness, and I believe the Lord is saying “now.”  So this will be the first of several posts that I pray will help someone else whose life doesn’t fit anymore.  After coming home I started a Bible study with some friends based on the book of James, entitled “Refined by the Fire.”  It is written for anyone at any stage of life, but we opened it up for singles.  I wrote it, just the Holy Spirit and me, and will post it on my website for anyone who is interested.  It came from a heart that was desperately looking to God for everything good that He wanted to do in me through what I had been through.

Father God, I believe your Word, so when you say in James 1:2, to “consider it joy when we go through trials of various kinds,” I know it is truth.  Let my testimony speak to those who who are hurting right now.  You created us to be who we are regardless of the changes in our lives, and there is purpose for everything that you allow to touch us.  I want them to know that you will see them through if they look to you.  And not only do you bring us back to the core of who we are, but you bring us closer to who we ultimately will be someday, and that is conformed to the image of your Son.  And He is the perfect fit.  In the precious name of Jesus, amen.