Maria Yeager

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Walking the Labyrinth

Several months ago, my aunt recommended that I read three books by the author Paula D’Arcy that had really impacted her. The Gift of the Red Bird: Story of a Divine Encounter really spoke to me as I recently had what I believed was a divine encounter with some finches (see my previous blog). She described how she was able to feel closer to God by being alone in nature, and this made me think. How could I feel closer to God while living in the city? Where could I go?

I remembered a special place that my friend Sharon had taken me several years ago…a Benedictine monastery. It was so peaceful there, and it seemed like the perfect place to go for meditation and prayer in this busy area. At this particular monastery, there was a labyrinth. Sharon told me a little bit about the background of a labyrinth as I knew nothing about it. Basically, it is a place to go to spend some quiet time with God away from all the hustle and bustle of the day and to get clarity for any problems through prayer and meditation.

A labyrinth is a type of maze that only has a single track, so you can’t get lost in it. It has been around for thousands of years and is present in many churches around the world. The belief is that if you walk the labyrinth, you will go through three stages:

1. Purgation – you are released from all the worries of the world while walking through the winding paths

2. Illumination – a divine revelation as a result of meditation and prayer. This occurs at the center

3. Union – reflection on what you have learned as you make your way out of the labyrinth.

Well, I thought about the labyrinth while reading Paula’s book, but I didn’t go immediately as life got in the way. I was so busy writing and working on my house that I just couldn’t find the time. Then, one night, I started to read the next book by Paula D’Arcy – Seeking With All My Heart: Encountering God’s Presence Today. Amazingly, early in the book she had an entire chapter on the labyrinth! I knew at that moment that I had to make the time to visit the Benedictine Monastery.

Several days ago, I finally went and spent quite a bit of time by myself in that quiet place. No one else was around. There were many things on my mind at the time, but mostly I thought about how my life had changed since my divorce. Five years ago, I had this life of lab work, dance, and a twenty-year marriage. Now, all of that had been taken from me. Why did that happen? I had been plagued by that thought over the years.

As I started to walk the labyrinth, the first thing that I noticed was that my mind quieted. I felt God telling me to be quiet and just listen. Just listen to the birds and crickets. Just feel the slight breeze blowing on my face. Just be still and listen.

As I walked, I began to think about how the labyrinth mirrors life. We walk straight ahead in one direction, and then suddenly we are forced to turn in the opposite direction, just like what happened to me five years ago. Do the curves in the labyrinth represent our difficult/challenging times? Was this God telling me that sometimes the path we walked previously is no longer to our benefit? Is there something on that path that could hurt us, so He is taking us in a different direction?

“We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to His purpose.” Romans 8:28

As I continued to walk, I noticed that some of the bends in the labyrinth were hard to maneuver without falling a little off the path. I noticed that my momentum brought me one direction while the path directed me another way. This made me think about easy it is to lose our way in difficult times. It is easy to get discouraged, depressed, or fall into a sinful life when challenges arise. I was intrigued.

The next thing I noticed is that the stones around the curves are very small in relation to the stones in the straight areas. This made me think about how, in difficult times, we have to take “baby steps” to get through it. For example, during the divorce, my strength was sapped and I just couldn’t do as much as I did when I was married. We talked at length about this exact thing in my divorce support group. We were told that some days, we would find it hard to even get out of bed. For me, these small stones so accurately depicted what happens to us, physically and mentally, during difficult times. We have to be patient with ourselves and take “baby steps” until we eventually get back to our normal lives (the larger stones).

Other ideas came to me as I continued on the journey. Some areas of the labyrinth have longer areas without bends while other areas are shorter. This also mirrors life as some times we will have longer periods of peace and stability while at other times, it comes in short spurts. Also, some of the bends are a complete 180 degrees (lots of change) while other bends are 90 degrees (some small change). Finally, I realized that some of the bends could actually represent good times that are also stressful (marriage, a move, etc).

But the biggest lesson I learned that day is when I walked into the center of the labyrinth. I realized that no matter what we go through, if we stay on the path to God, it will lead us to salvation. The little bends in that labyrinth cannot even be compared to the beauty of walking into the center of the labyrinth. I realized that if I stay on that path, even through the difficult times, it will ultimately lead me to God. Straying off the path into a sinful life is not an option. I just have to trust in Him, keep my eyes on Him, and walk through that narrow door.

“But the one who endures to the end will be saved.” Matthew 10:22

 

 

 

Hearing God’s Voice

When I pray, I always ask God to speak to me through His Word. When I open the Bible, I assume that God has me open it to whatever I am supposed to read that day. I have always done this, and I usually read something that really speaks to me that day. This is just the way I do it, and it works for me.

Today as I prayed, I felt like God was asking me to be silent. To just sit in His presence and listen to His still small voice. I have read some books recently which taught me this concept, and today, I felt like I just needed to listen to Him. Well, something came to my mind almost immediately. This had been in the back of my mind for a long time, but today, I felt as if God wanted me to delve in and understand this event in my life on a deeper level.

In 2011, just months before I found out that my husband had been having an affair, I began to have dreams that I was divorced. If you have read any of my past blogs, you will know that I had occasions of premonitions through dreams. My dad had this happen to him too – he dreamed that his brother was killed in a car accident, and a week later, it actually happened.

The first time I dreamed I was divorced, I just blew it off. I woke up thinking how ridiculous the dream was as I had no intention of ever getting divorced. When the second dream happened, I was a little bothered and wondered why in the world I would dream about something so crazy. When it happened a third time, I woke up confused and worried. I told my husband about the dream, and I asked him point-blank if he was going to divorce me. Although he denied that he would ever divorce me, his response was anything but convincing.

If that isn’t strange enough, around that same time, another amazing thing happened (although I didn’t understand it at the time). On at least three occasions while falling asleep, I audibly heard a voice say “Maria!” I opened my eyes, sure someone was calling my name, but no one was there. My husband was asleep next to me, and he didn’t move at all so I thought I had dreamed it. When it happened again, I thought that maybe it was an angel or even God trying to say something to me. Each time, I heard “Maria!”, clear as day, and when I opened my eyes, no one was there. My husband never moved, so clearly, he never heard it.

As I thought about these events this morning, I wondered if this was some kind of warning about what was going to happen to me later in 2011 when I found out about the affair. Was that God’s voice speaking to me?

I opened my Bible to Isaiah 41:

“Listen to me in silence…” Isaiah 41:1

This was interesting enough. But it went on:

“Do not fear for I am with you, do not be afraid, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my victorious right hand. Yes, all who are incensed against you shall be ashamed and disgraced….For I, the Lord your God hold your right hand. It is I who say to you, “Do not fear. I will help you.” Isaiah 41: 10-13

When I look back on these events, I now know that God was right there. I believe He was telling me that He was watching everything, and he knew every detail of the affair even when I had no idea what was happening. I believe this was His way of telling me that He never left my side during that time, and that even though I was going to be divorced, He would bring me through it. Even though I was about to go through hell and be yanked out of the life I knew, He would ensure that I would get through it and would end up in a much better place.

Always know that God sees EVERYTHING. He sees everything that is done in secret. He knows every insult, every lie, every betrayal….everything. Nothing can be hidden from God. On the other hand, He feels every single pain of betrayal. He sees every teardrop, feels every hurt, and goes through all the suffering with us. Remember – God was betrayed by Judas. He knows full well the pain of betrayal of someone who He believed loved Him.

He will always be with you, even when you think He isn’t there. God never leaves our side…EVER! As it is written in Isaiah 41:13, “Do not fear. I will help you.”

Daily Prompt: Cheat

This morning, I checked my phone and saw that today’s word prompt on WordPress was “cheat”. I have never taken part in these word prompts as I usually have something to write about, but I have to admit, I’ve been running out of ideas lately. When I saw this word prompt, I knew I wouldn’t take part in it today as the word brings back some bad memories for me. However, throughout the day, I have been bombarded with reminders of this word, and I believe I am being called to write about this topic. So, I am giving in…haha!

The word “cheat” can refer to so many things – cheating on a test, cheating on taxes, cheating at a game. But for me, the word “cheat” brings back memories of a horrible time in my life – a time when I though my life was over. Almost five years ago, I found out that my spouse of almost twenty years was cheating on me.

Those few months right after I found out about the affair were some of the worst and most painful of my entire life. This man, who just months before the affair told me that I was the most wonderful wife in the world, was messing around with a co-worker. This is the same man who, for almost the entire length of the marriage, condemned anyone who stepped out on his/her spouse. This is also the same man who supposedly was a Christian and who clearly knew that infidelity was wrong.

I was stunned at his attempt to shirk responsibility for his actions. He blamed everyone else for his actions, including me. I have since learned all about narcissism and now realize that this played a role in how he failed to deal with his infidelity in a healthy manner. He refused counseling which is also a hallmark sign of narcissism. Through my own counseling, I began to realize that narcissism played a huge role in the demise of our marriage, but not just his narcissism. It was also quite prevalent in other members of his family as well – members that had a huge influence over the entire family dynamic.

I remember certain details about those terrible months. I remember how I found him at her townhouse ordering pizza on a Friday night. I remember walking up to the door and confronting him. I thought for sure that since I caught him, he would return home and talk to me about what had happened. I was, after all, his wife. I just caught him at another woman’s house. However, he didn’t return as I had expected. He didn’t come home for four hours. I remember crying myself to sleep. I remember waking up and looking at the clock, realizing he still wasn’t home, and knowing what was probably going on at her house. I remember feeling like someone was just stabbing right in my heart, feeling so sick to my stomach, and having a pounding headache. I remember never getting an apology for that behavior – instead all I heard were excuses and justifications.

I remember waking up one morning the week after finding out about the affair and walking down to the kitchen right after he left for work. The overwhelming scent of cologne just about knocked me down as I walked into the kitchen. It followed me throughout the house as I thought about the fact that he was probably with her on the train right at that moment – the train that took the two of them to work. He had never put on that much cologne before, but he was doing it for her.

I remember how thoughts haunted me day and night. What caused him to treat me like this? How could this happen? On those days when he left to play golf or go to the casino, was he with her? On the days he had to “work late”, was he with her? Did he lie to me the entire marriage? Did I ever truly know this person? Was she in my home when I was visiting my parents? A never ending stream of horrible confusion and terrorizing realizations kept me from sleeping for months.

I remember how, in a divorce support group at church, they described divorce as a “tearing of the flesh”. They explained that when a couple marries, God joins the two and they “become one”, so when a divorce occurs, it means that the two are being torn apart. Believe me, it felt like this. It was awful.

I remember how, within the time period of just about a month, he went from this loving husband who couldn’t seem to keep his hands off me to a complete stranger who didn’t seem to care about me at all. He didn’t care about all the hurt he was inflicting, not only on me, but my entire family. It didn’t seem to bother him one bit that he was walking out on almost twenty years of his life. It’s like he went to bed as one person and woke up as a complete stranger.

It was hell. A complete uprooting of everything I knew to be true. A time where I didn’t think I would make it. But I did make it, and I am so much better for it.

I went through years of counseling. In addition to learning all about Narcissistic Personality Disorder, I learned who I truly was – a knowledge of my own self. I realized that I had not been true to myself as I let others control what I did and thought. I became self-aware, and I learned to love myself and accept myself just as I am.

I also spent a lot of time with God – time in prayer, time in church, and time alone with Him. My spiritual life grew by leaps and bounds, and today I have the closest relationship of my life with God. I spend a lot of time reading the Bible and other spiritual books, and I have learned to lean on Him all the time, not just some of the time. But the biggest lesson of all is that I now know that He always has a plan for me – a purpose that at times I cannot see because of all the darkness on this earth. I thought I was surrounded by that darkness five years ago, but little did I know, the light was still shining. Today, I know that the light is always there no matter how bad the circumstances. God never leaves us.

Looking back to where I was five years ago, I can truly say that I am thankful that my husband had the affair. I actually want to thank him, believe it or not. If he hadn’t had the affair, I would still be stuck on a path that led nowhere. I do not believe in divorce, and I would have never left the marriage had he not had the affair. I have grown by leaps and bounds since the end of my marriage – emotionally, mentally, and spiritually.

I remember several years ago when my therapist suggested that the affair might have been a blessing – a good thing because it allowed me to grow. In fact, my own grandmother made this same remark several years ago. I didn’t want to accept it at the time. I wasn’t ready. But today, I can truly say that some great changes have occurred as a result of that affair. I recall how it has been said that God can take bad things and turn them to good if you trust in Him. This is so true, and it certainly happened in my case. I truly believe that He reached down, yanked me out of a terrible situation, and placed me on solid ground where I could grow. God sees everything. I believe He gave me the “out” that I needed so I would be able to reach new heights. I wouldn’t be at this place today if I hadn’t been released from this marriage. Being in that marriage and family was truly holding me back from my destiny – a destiny full of hope and happiness. A destiny centered around the one true God. A destiny of true self-awareness.

Although bad things do happen in this life, hold onto hope. There is always a reason that is bigger than any of us, and most of the time we can’t see it at the time. You just have to trust. Hold onto the hand of God. Get a good counselor. God will get you through it and will bring you out on the other side in such a better place. He has bigger plans for you. All you have to do is trust in Him.

My blog address: http://www.yeagerm193.wordpress.com

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via Daily Prompt: Cheat

God is Holding Our Hand – A Message of Hope

This morning, I woke up to pain in my hip, leg, shoulder, and neck. This is a regular occurrence for me now. This pain has been happening for years, but I wrote it off for a long time as a result of either stress, bad posture, or side effects of my back surgeries (I’ve had three spinal fusions). Recently, the pain has become almost intolerable at times, and I began to notice that it was affecting too many of my joints to just write it off anymore. I decided to visit a rheumatologist after my family physician recommended it.

After my first visit, I had eight tubes of blood drawn from my arm. Yes – eight! To my shock, some of the results came back abnormal, one of them being the ANA test. This tests looks for autoantibodies in the body, and if it is positive, it means that there may be an autoimmune disorder present.

I went back for a second visit, and eight more tubes of blood were taken from my arm. So, I’ve had sixteen tubes of blood drawn in the course of about a month. These new tests are more specific tests for an array of autoimmune diseases, one of which is lupus. I don’t have the results yet but should get them by the end of this week.

So…back to this morning. I woke up in pain. It is really hard to get up out of bed with a smile on my face when I feel pain all over my body from the moment I open my eyes. Today was a struggle, so I picked up my the Bible on my dresser – the Catholic Women’s Devotional Bible. Before opening it, I sat down in a chair, closed my eyes and prayed.

I first praised God for allowing Jesus to die on the cross for me, and then I asked for forgiveness of my sins. I then became a little emotional asking him for help to get through the day. Suddenly, I felt the strong sensation that Jesus was by my side trying to comfort me. I sat in silence for a few moments and then just poured my struggles out to Him. I told Him that I just wanted some peace. I felt Him say to me, “Hold out your hand.” I know that may sound strange to some people, but I felt like he wanted me to hold out my hand so that He could just hold my hand. I didn’t understand this, but I did what I felt like He wanted me to do. Right at that moment, my cat, who is quite stand-offish, came up to me, rubbed repeatedly against my foot and purred really loud. This was unusual behavior for her, and I just wondered if she could sense something. Anyway, I petted her, and then closed my eyes again. I told Jesus that I always feel like He speaks to me through His Word, so I asked Him to help me to open my Bible to what He wanted me to read today.

Well, I opened it to Lamentations 3. As I read it, I was so comforted. Here are a few verses that really struck me today:

“He has made my flesh and my skin waste away, and broken my bones; he has besieged and enveloped me with bitterness and tribulation….he has put heavy chains on me…” Lamentations 3: 4-5, 7 (NRSV)

“The Lord is good to those who wait for him, to the soul that seeks him…It is good that one should wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord…to sit alone in silence when the Lord has imposed it.” Lamentations 3:25, 28 (NRSV)

“I called on your name, O Lord, from the depths of the pit; you heard my plea, ‘Do not close your ear to my cry for help, but give me relief!’ You came near when I called on you; you said ‘Do not fear’!” Lamentations 3:55-57 (NRSV). This verse in particular comforted me because I went through probably the roughest time in my life back in 2012. I literally cried out to Him many, many times, and He brought me through that terrible time to a much better place. I was reminded of this as I read this passage, and I knew that even though I am hurting, He will bring me through it just as He has done in the past.

But the most amazing thing that I saw after I read these passages in Lamentations was the title of the devotional on that same page – “God, Hold My Hand”! Right as I saw it, I felt like Jesus was smiling at me, and I was stunned! This devotional was written by Barbara Vogel and talks about a very tough time in her life. However, she found comfort in Lamentations 3. She states at the end of her devotional:

“Lamentations 3 has indeed been the very hand of God holding ours.”

No matter how bad things are in our lives – physical, mental or emotional pain – God is ALWAYS by our side. Even when things seem disastrous, just hold onto God’s hand – He will get you through it. Trust in Him!

“When all the prisoners of the land are crushed under foot, when human rights are perverted in the presence of the Most High, when one’s case is subverted – does the Lord not see it?” Lamentations 3:34-36 (NRSV)

*Devotional by Barbara Vogel taken from The Catholic Women’s Devotional Bible (NRSV), (1989), Zondervan, pg. 1084.

 

 

 

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