I want to share with you about a new relationship in my life. I have a crazy, new best friend who is helpful and wants to please me. If you are at all like me, you need help, but you also want to take care of yourself. How wonderful to learn I only need to speak a few words to receive instruction and even visual direction for all that puzzles me. These precious words are, “OK Google, how do I …?” Continue reading “Okay Google”
Faith sustained me and brought me full circle; from a single young woman to a married lady of 41 years, to a widow of 7 years. This circle of life brought me through good times and rough challenges. I accomplished things on my own I never dreamed possible nor ever wanted to explore. And God continues to uphold and strengthen me.
“Even to your old age and gray hairs I am he, I am he who will sustain you. I have made you and I will carry you; I will sustain you and I will rescue you.” Isaiah 46:4 (NIV)
Life is a puzzle. Some days it’s a crap shoot; a combination of uncertainty and risk. Some view life as a challenge – oh, those extroverts! Taking a chance on the unknown, requires lots of prayer and faith. I find this to be truer for me as a widow. At least before, when I got myself in a jam, I had help getting out of the mess. Not any longer, I am on my own, but I know God is with me.
I am suddenly more willing to try some things. The years mount up, and I realize I don’t want the rest of my life to pass me by. I begin to dream a bit more. Perhaps I can step into a few of these dreams; at least put my toe into the water to determine if the temperature is okay. So much uncertainty.
This past weekend I spent a few hours working in my yard. I love this type of work and find therapeutic value is priceless. Often, I am lost in my thoughts while digging in the dirt. My mind will take me to places my husband and I dreamed of going. Too often reality sets in and I cancel those mental plans.
Sweat pours down while on my hands and knees pulling weeds. How do these unwanted entities thrive? I must admit, their tenacity fascinates, and I envy their ability to grow and flourish during drought or abundance. The hot and humid weather causes the grass to brown early and I doubt the lawn will green up again this season, but the weeds, that’s another story. They can be found tucked into every nook and cranny, basking in the oppressive sunshine and relaxing in the shaded corners. This kind of resiliency during the harsh seasons of life is a wonder.
Spotting a volunteer tomato plant peeking out from under my baby’s breath, I think I want that kind of faith, of courage, of steadfastness. I dream of packing up A.J. my faithful yellow lab and hitting the road. Of course, once again reality makes an appearance and shuts me down.
One day real soon, I will behave with abandon. I will screw up my courage, like the volunteer tomato plant and put down a few roots in a place unknown to me now. Wouldn’t it be wild to try something new without thinking it to death?
Is now is time to venture out, shake off the mantle called widowhood? To explore new territory and have the best time of my life? Why not? God is with me!
Note from Judy: I plan to post at least once a week from now on. I have a new outlook on life and widowhood and will share some of these thoughts and plans and yes, dreams with you. I do hope you find this helpful and that you will share yours with me and other readers so we can move forward together, with God’s help.
This month marks the 7th anniversary of the end of Dave’s earthly life. It marks many other things too – the loss of a friend, a brother, father, and husband. While Dave’s life has begun again in Glory with Jesus, those left behind still must go on. Until that day we are reunited, we have pain. Our loved one does not.
Seven years is a short while, and yet a long time. Dreams that once were, are no more; but new dreams have replaced the old. I have done so much dreaming over the years that I felt stuck, in the same old story.
Recently I heard this statement, and it stuck with men it is now the tune I sing. Make memories of your dreams and they will last a lifetime. This is brilliant and I am moving forward singing this song. For years I have been reaching for the stars, my personal stars, only to stop short of attaining them. I have chased after the dream to write since I was a teen. So much so, that I think my friends are tired of hearing it.
I know I have a passion for writing, and a gift – at least enough of one to learn the rest. So, from this day forward, no more living in the past, chasing dreams from years gone by. No, from now on I have every reason and ability to make memories out of my dreams.
Take delight in the Lord,
and he will give you the desires of your heart
Tomorrow is a word I contemplate more often than many would say is healthy. I know I should stay in the moment, grounded in the here and now, but it is difficult to do this when so much of my past was focused on what tomorrow would bring.
As a newly-wed, tomorrow was filled with exciting new destinations. Time moved forward once our girls were born, and as a young mother, tomorrow contained a picture of raising children. They moved through grade school and into high school and included all the milestones in between. School sports, plays, awards, musicals and the myriad of friendships. The high drama of first boyfriends, break-ups and then engagements and weddings.
Life was full. There were times it was moving too fast and I just wanted it to stop, if only for a day or two. Our family of two which blossomed into four remained that way for about 20 years. Then change happened. Change is certain and necessary. Without it we are stuck in place. Without seasons, nothing grows properly, no one moves forward.
Change is healthy if not inevitable. It doesn’t do anyone any good to stay stuck in the moment. But, that is not what is meant by living one day at time. No, one day at a time means to me, that I must not get ahead of God. I need not borrow trouble from tomorrow, just deal with today and keep focus on now. God has tomorrow covered.
The words from Isaiah 43:19 speak into my heart, “See, I am doing a new thing.”
Change is hard to swallow sometimes, heartbreaking many times, but it is what it is. I know that God will never change and will always be at my side, ready to hold me up when I need to lean into Him.
Let’s talk about anniversaries, a topic that is an issue for widows. There are those ‘firsts’ we tend to cry our way through – an entire year of them. First Christmas, Valentine’s Day, birthdays and ultimately the wedding anniversary.
As time goes on, we move into the second, and third and the fifth years. Tell me, do you still observe your wedding anniversary? How do you approach this day? In the past I would post something on his Facebook page, but not this year. Something is different this year. I am no longer a grieving widow, but a woman who treasures memories of 40+ years of marriage to the same man. Not all the memories are ones I dare to write about, or even remember, but most of them are now a sweet compilation of days gone by.
Some remember my husband as an outstanding business man, some recall his unique and quick sense of humor. Still others remember the testimony he shared at a men’s retreat or at a Kairos Prison Ministry weekend. His story touched many men and changed some lives while bolstering their faith walk. These are the memories worth treasuring and reliving. God’s presence in his life changed everything – and that is what I remember best.
My husband and I shared a running joke. Each April 7th, on our anniversary, we would recognize the number of years we were celebrating and acknowledge how many remained until our 50th. We laughed as we recalled his mom telling us, “I don’t give it 6 months.” I don’t know what prompted this negative statement, but perhaps she understood her son better than his bride. I believe that as she got to know me, she changed her tune, for we never heard those words again.
Dave died a few weeks before our 41st, but I am still counting to 50. I am not sure what happens then, maybe nothing, but I feel the need to finish this tradition. So, forty-seven and counting…
The further I journey down the path called widowhood the better I understand this will be a life-long expedition. One doesn’t discount 42 years of marriage and simply move on; it is a deliberate process, and one with many side trails and detours. While it is six years since I put on the mantle of widow, each of those years is different. Each of those years presented new emotions situations and they needed to be dealt with.
When I initially titled this blog I did not know how spot on I would be. For me at least, this place I find myself, is so much more than just grief. Grief is what I got caught up in the first year or so, but then the concept of widowhood took on a new tone. The day I realized I was single I think I experienced a stunning blow to my personal identity. I found I denied this new description and clung to widow – at least that conjured up attachment, a belonging of some sort; even if it was in the past.
This journey would be so much more difficult if I did not have the comfort and the blessed assurance of my Lord and Savior. The words of Psalm 23:4 ring true for this believer. “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil.” Knowing in my heart that I will see my husband again makes all the difference.
Now, as the years pile up I find that I am creating a new life, one which is beginning to feel normal and even safe. A few perks exist, like not having to wait around for anyone. When I am ready to go; I can just step outside and be on my way. I don’t have worry someone will put pepper on my burger. (This is a joke, as my husband couldn’t understand why anyone didn’t like pepper.)
Truth be told, disadvantages far outweigh the advantages. There is the partnership with that person who can finish your sentences, laugh at your jokes and know by the look in your eye when you are kidding and when you are not. When you are walking down the street, hand in hand. Forgive my lingering gaze, I’m just remembering a time when…
I still identify as a widow, even years into this lonesome season. I struggle to remember the partnership which once defined me. Many questions haunt my thinking. For almost five years, I contemplated the past, those years before ‘we’, became ‘me’. I ask myself if my season of grief is coming to an end. Am I allowed to be happy again?
What do I do with the dream we shared as a couple? Should I build a new dream?
I can only speak from my own experience, my own life, and I am praying these words to speak into your life.
My husband Dave, visualized a retirement lived out in the north woods of Wisconsin. His dream included a cabin tucked away from all the busyness of the world. He longed for the day when his life held no more deadlines and the hours spent fishing, hunting, rebuilding motorcycles defined retirement.
A beautiful fantasy lived in my heart too, but my image did not look anything like the cabin in the woods scene. No fishing poles or guns or motorcycles dotted the horizon. A view out my window contained palm trees and sandy beaches. This window resembled the large windshield of an RV. I wanted to step outside my comfort zone, and travel to warm climates in the winter and visit friends I had yet to meet.
I longed to sit by the ocean and spend days on end writing, walking, and in general, dreaming up a good story to tell. I dreamed of visiting new cities and making friends along the way. Much like Promised Land, the 1996 TV show with Gerald McRaney.
Is the time to resurrect my dream or some version, at hand? Can one person cling to a dream all by herself? Am I too old to adventure into the unknown all on my own? So many questions and only God holds the answers.
A few days ago while reading from the devotional book, Jesus Calling, this sentence struck me, “I can bring beauty out of the ashes of lost dreams.” Perhaps this is my answer.
Life is uncertain at best, devastating at worst with numerous stops in between. I seem to be getting this ‘widow’ thing down to a science, when an emotion or a memory will pop up. Now, as the four-year mark approaches, and I stop to consider the 40+ years we shared, four years is but a moment; a heartbeat.
I am discovering a parallel between the first four years of marriage and the first four years of widowhood. I walked a tightrope into both situations as I explored the new territory. Both caused me to pause and consider how I came to be in this position. Both of these scenarios involve Love.
I journaled my journey this week and found myself with Psalm 63 open in my lap. I read until God spoke, then recognized verses 7 and 8 as meant for my eyes and my heart.
“Because you are my help, I sing in the shadow of your wings.”
Early in my walk with Jesus, verses using the image of being safely tucked in the shadow of His wings, filled the empty places in my heart. Scenes depicting majestic eagles soaring overhead also spoke to me. What a warm and inviting scene this set for my new Believer’s spirit, presenting a vision of protection and safety only a loving Father’s embrace ensures.
One day I am bold and courageous and the next I am timid and afraid. The bold happens when I tackle a project I used to view as ‘my husband’s job’, and I succeed. I am courageous on those days when my budget balances, or when friends surround me and someone happens to speak my husband’s name out loud.
Timidity and fear make an appearance when I glance back and acknowledge how fast life can take a major turn. I regret things I am missing out on: retirement, financial security, a partner to do things with and the time to do them together.
After the first four years of married life, I began to settle in. I no longer feared another woman might steal away my man. I gained a confidence in his love for me and I promised I would never leave him. Life was not easy, but so worth all the work. The years rolled by and life became routine; not boring but comfortable.
Widowhood brings so much baggage. The thoughts of ‘what if” and ‘if only’ invade my space and rattle my peace. Memories of the last 77 days with Dave, too often, are the only memories I can bring to mind, at least the most prominent ones.
“…but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.” Isaiah 40:31 (NIV)
Now, almost four years later, a new sense of calm and security surround me. I scaled many a hurdle I never envisioned I would need to. It is during those days, the words of Paul shine a light on my path.
“I know I can do all things through God who gives me strength.” (Philippians 4:13)
The days we are at our lowest, God lifts us up on Wings of Eagles. Proof of this hangs on the wall in my living room. Dave’s brother, a gifted and talented artist, painted a picture for my husband, delivering when he visited Dave for the last time. The picture is of an eagle soaring toward Heaven. God is so good.
Months have passed since my last post on May 23rd. The usual reasons come to mind, one being I am busy with work. I consider myself blessed to hold a job I love and one which suits me so well, especially in this season of life. I am not complaining, just stating a fact.
Maybe the real reason for my lack of writing for this blog is I no longer identify with the label of ‘widow.’ Although widow describes my marital status it no longer defines me. During the 3-1/2 years since Dave’s passing, change was a certainty. My outlook on life graduated from half of a whole (a couple) to a floundering half (grieving widow) to a complete person who is now single again and ready to move forward.
Forward is a vast expanse of unknowns, uncertainty, and unexpected blessings. “Even in darkness the light dawns for the upright.” (Psalm 111:4) Going through the valley of death, is unquestionably a darkness, but also a time when God’s light shines by reflecting off of the Body of Believers who surround me. That season was a time when I witnessed God’s command for us to ‘carry each other’s burdens,’ (Galatians 6:2) carried out to the fullest.
Opportunity awaits. My dreams haven’t changed. My passions are still a vital part of who I am. God created me with a certain purpose and I am still discovering my purpose. I have a good idea what much of His plan is, but I feel there is still more He wants to reveal to me in His good and perfect time.
I might get caught up in the moment now and then, and reflect on the past and dwell on the, should haves and if only’s, that only lasts a short time. By morning when I turn to my journal with coffee cup in hand, find the reading for today in my devotional, and open my Bible, God shows up. Again I am rescued from my self-pitying ways and thrust back into the reality that my life is good.
I am often drawn to a favorite verse, Jeremiah 33:3. “Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know.” I take this verse personally and cling to it, sensing God is telling me to hang in there. He has some surprises waiting for me, surprises which will take my breath away! I no longer identify as a widow, but a new creation, and one God still has a plan for.
Duct tape is my friend; Bungee cords too. The tape holds my downspouts in place and bungee cords keep my fence from tumbling over into the neighbor’s yard. Sound familiar? I have been employing these tools the past year, while being frugal with my cash.
One of the life-changes that smacked me right in the face was the loss of income following Dave’s death. Not only was I robbed of my partner, I also lost financial security. Many of your stories are similar to mine. While not a sob-story, they are true facts and things widows must learn to deal with.
For me, it has been almost 3-1/2 years and I am now moving forward, not knowing what that means or what life will look like. I realize for some it will take longer while others arrive at this spot months sooner. We are all different, we process differently, and we have unique situations from our past which shape our outlook. There is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ here.
I am happy to report the house Dave and I purchased for our retirement, right before he became ill, has finally sold. Not only will my cash flow improve to the point I can begin to plan for tomorrow, but my future feels more secure. Partly because of this sale, but mostly because I am ready to move forward. I am anxious to see what God has in store for me in this next season.
“There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven…a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance.” (Ecclesiastes 3:1,4)
I am putting on my dancing shoes!
Grace ‘n Grins,
April is finished. What month stops you in your tracks? What month is filled with too many memories? For me, April is the culprit, as our wedding anniversary and Dave’s birthday are a week apart. Both these dates are past now and another won’t surface until February of next year. So, smooth sailing, right?
I question if that is what life is all about – smooth sailing? Isn’t it through the hard times we discover what we are made of? Notice how God uses us during those seasons in life; how He uses us in ways we never dreamed likely? I am convinced my character matures when my heart hurts the most.
Looking back over my journal entries I see the Hand of God directing my footsteps along the path He placed before me. He reminds me, “My ways are not your ways.” (Isaiah 55:8) When I think about this, I realize it is a good thing, because I tend to take the easy way; given a choice the calm seas win every time. I may never attempt to navigate rushing waters.
Last summer my sister and I kayaked unfamiliar waters. We put in at a beautiful spot. The serene picturesque landscape and easy flowing waters suggested an uneventful trip downstream.
We shoved off with ease and commented on the green canopy sheltering us from the sun. Had we known how the day would eventually unfold we might not have put in at that spot.
The memories we made as we navigated the rushing water, forded our boats around a dangerous drop off, and laughed our way downstream, would have been missed. The adventure two sisters experienced one summer day would be only a dream.
There is no comparison between a dream and an adventure. What fun is before you when all the waters are calm, when sailing is smooth and no challenge exists? The excitement begins as the sailboat starts to sink!
Marilyn Nutter is guest posting to this site today. Marilyn, a recent widow like us, has her own dilemmas to face and decisions to make as she steps out into her new life. You can read more from Marilyn at http://www.marilynnutter.com. I first met Marilyn online after submitting a devotion to her for her Devotional called Penned from the Heart. We clicked and I know you will click with Marilyn as well.
Widowhood brings new decisions, and one of mine has been to put my house on the market. My realtor arranged for a stager to tour my house and see which things should be removed and adjusted so buyers see my house in the best light. She moved the angle of a carpet in my half-bathroom (an interesting detail that made a difference), removed some curtains to let more light in, shifted décor so that the eye went to the right place, and recommended that I clear out a closet to reduce clutter.
I got to work on the closet. I sorted and purged; packed things in bins and boxes and made two trips to Goodwill. I rented a storage unit, loaded my vehicle and moved the boxes into a climate controlled unit.
Looking, thinking, lifting, moving, giving. It proved to be a good exercise for me.
The closet looks better. I feel better. I’m optimistic that my house will sell in God’s timing and that He will move me to the right house.
I often see the application of spiritual truths from object lessons in every day living. This was one of those times.
As the name of this blog suggests, widowhood is more than grief of our husband’s death. From day one, facing life in the new status of “single”, our burdens vary: single decisions without the benefit of shared wisdom; “my” plans, not “ours”; new choices; learning new skills; fatigue; financial adjustments; new friendships; not “fitting in” in former activities; loneliness; change. No two widows face their new life in the same way. Circumstances, marriages, and personalities are unique, but it is safe to say that “change” is a label for each woman. Sometimes it is overwhelming.
So I got to work (alone), packed boxes, loaded my vehicle and drove to the storage unit. I punched in the code to enter and the gate opened. I unlocked the first door, unloaded and took the boxes to my unit. I turned the key on the padlock and stacked my boxes. I pulled down the door, locked the unit and the exit door, got into my vehicle, used the access code to exit, and drove away.
It was a process to be sure.
The boxes were heavy.
Sometimes I pushed the bins down the corridor because they were heavy.
I left my boxes there.
I made several trips.
I felt lighter.
It was productive.
I accomplished something good even though my muscles (and at times, my heart) hurt.
That evening I took some time to rest.
As I reflected on that day, I saw a parallel to my widowhood journey.
Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
Matthew 11:28-30 NIV
If I want my house to sell, I had to present it in the best light. That meant making adjustments and following the recommendations of the stager and realtor. In a sense, they invited me to “come” and “take” their suggestions and “learn” the best way to present my house to others. I cleaned and then packed, lifted boxes and bins and left them in the storage unit.
Now with reduced clutter and rearrangement, it’s the same house, but it looks different.
The Lord invites us to “come” and “take” our burdens to Him; to spend time and “learn” from Him and find His rest.
Our widowhood journey is a process of looking, thinking, lifting, moving, and giving. It takes several trips. We often take two steps forward only to find we take one backward. Sometimes we push because our emotional, physical or mental energy is nearly depleted. Regardless, I find that when I come, take and learn, He gives me rest. One of God’s promises I rely on daily is:
Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.
Lamentations 3: 22-23 (NIV)
Our widowhood is irreversible. Our status is the same yesterday as today. It’s the same house, so to speak, but His compassions are renewed for us each day. In giving myself to come, learn, and take, He removes distractions and doubt and gives focus with His light. The burdens are lighter when I give them over to His wisdom and care, and His faithfulness is my companion. It’s the same house but I look different. I have more light.
Tomorrow – Staying in the moment is wise counsel, not fearing tomorrow’s troubles is good advice. But, being open to tomorrow is necessary. We must hold on to the fact we have a future, we just don’t have a clear picture of it yet – not that we ever did, but we had plans and dreams.
This week during my early morning time with God I was beginning to get a better idea of what He wanted for my life. I was starting to see His plan and His dreams for me. The words in the devotional book I was reading touched my spirit. “Do not be afraid to enter the cloud descending on your life, for God is in it.”
I can’t count the number of times during this season of grief that God comforted or counselled me through the words in this book. “I lift up my eyes to the hills– where does my help come from? My help comes from the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth.” (Psalm 121:1-2 NIV) I may be in a cloud of grief, pain and uncertainty, but God is right there with me. I can feel His presence.
Plans and Dreams – Getting back to plans and dreams. About two years in to my state of widowhood I began to realize that I did not have any dreams, nothing in the future to look forward to. That wasn’t because I was so caught up in Dave’s death that I didn’t want to live; no, it was because my dreams were our dreams, they are now history.
I came to the conclusion I needed to have my own visions of tomorrow. I need a new fresh reason to get out of bed in the morning. It is the perfect time to follow my heart, to stick close to God and seek out new experiences. There is joy to be found in this new life I am living. There is excitement to embrace and a New Beginning to explore.
Grace ‘n Grins
Streams in the Desert is the book I refer to above. You can read here.
The title of this blog, Widowhood – so much more than grief, suggests there are many facets of grief. Each one of us experiences grief differently and we walk through this haze with varying degrees of angst. The variation comes in the way we grieve, the memories we have stockpiled over the years and the experiences we shared. Differing personalities come in to play as do family dynamics. Moreover, we don’t grieve alone. Our friends, co-workers and family members also grieve our loss.
The widows group I mentioned in my last blog post has been a great source of comfort. The comfort comes from knowing we are not alone in our grief. We share an understanding, a common bond which gives us the right to let the tears flow when we are together. This group is learning to laugh again and even speak of the laughter that used to be part of living. We also talk about the guilt we feel because we fear what others think.
The reality is people watch us. Some scrutinize with a critical eye, deciding on their own when enough should be enough. Some tell of conversations with friends who admonish our behavior saying, “It is time you get over it. He’s been dead a year already. Besides, you know he is in a better place.” Nods of agreement around the room confirm this. We have all been assaulted with this type of comment.
On the other side of the coin there are those who think our memory of our spouse is fading too fast. We are smiling too quickly. Even going out to dinner and a movie with friends offends them. It isn’t easy, but to everyone who has an opinion about how I grieve I say boldly, “Mind your own business. If the day comes you are in this situation, come to me and we’ll have a conversation.”
It is so good to come together each week and just talk. We have no particular agenda, we simply share our lives. Memories will arise, tears will fall, and always the Grace of God fills the room. His presence is apparent when hugs from Heaven are experienced within the arms of one another.
Each of us understands that life is different now. When grief is fresh, we cannot see a future with any joy. By spending time with others who have walked this road for a few years, we know there is hope that tomorrow will be better. Today smells of stale winter air, but there is a fresh fragrance almost within reach. Spring is nearing. Get ready to throw open the windows!
John 16:20 (NIV) I tell you the truth; you will weep and mourn while the world rejoices. You will grieve, but your grief will turn to joy.
Grace ‘n Grins,
I belong to a support group for widows called New Beginnings. The purpose of this group isn’t to sit around and bemoan our mutual loss, but to talk out loud those things others don’t want to hear. We admit to being part of an elite group, a group no one wants to be a member of, but once joined, are thankful for each other’s company.
For some it is the first time in a long time laughter found its way into our voices. By the end of the hour meeting we realize how good it is to laugh again. It is said that misery loves company and maybe this is true. The camaraderie found in a group of this sort is irreplaceable. We draw strength from our common bond and are encouraged by the stories shared.
One of the things widows fear, is that things will never be the same again. We not only grieve the loss of a partner and soul-mate, but we mourn other things that death took away. Our friends will sometimes fade into the back ground. Not knowing how to relate to us any longer they leave us alone. Some tell about the relationships they had as a couple disappear, almost as if they were afraid of ‘catching’ something.
Another loss is financial stability. Most of the women in my group had their partner at their side for 10, 30 and even 60 years. Difficult times were faced together. Trouble had to take on both of them together, there was a safety in numbers. Not so any more. But, those of us who have more than a year under our belts are just starting to see that perhaps there can be a future.
When I first thought of forming this exclusive group, I was thinking it needed to be focused on change. I was looking in the mirror one morning and trying to get my hair to do what I wanted it to do. All of a sudden I was inspired to part my hair on the other side. Later that day thought occurred to me that this is just what I am looking for in the widows group. We are all facing new normal’s in our life and just maybe it is time to ‘part our hair on the other side.’
It is time for me to change things up again. It is almost three three years since my husband died, so it is indeed time for me to see things from a new perspective. Life may be different, but it is still good. Perhaps I should say ‘good once more.’ During the past three years I spent more time talking out loud in my home. The silence was too much for me to live with so I began talking to God. Okay, some days my dogs think I am talking to them, but my vocal conversations are really me talking things over with God.
The insight and faith I have gained during these little talks beefed up my trust in my Savior. He and I have a new relationship; I complain and He encourages me. I question and He reassures me. I cry out to Him and He comforts me. “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” (Jeremiah 29:11)
Grace ‘n Grins,
One windy winter day, I found myself dreaming of spring with all its shades of color. I began planning my annual flower garden in my mind, envisioning numerous species soon to border my backyard. I visualized the beauty and I felt the warmth of a spring day and longed for a season filled with promise.The polar vortex but a memory.
What fun to dream and decide about next spring and the amazing plants to grace my yard. No matter how cold or bitter today may be, the sun will usher in new life soon.
As the 3rd anniversary of my husband’s death nears, I am sitting here writing and staring out the same window that framed his world those final 77 days. I remember thinking about winter and spring and how they parallel life. Dave’s passing from this world to the next during winter, made me wonder what spring would be like.
Every year I find myself waiting for winter to pass and I anticipate how perfect spring will be. This year is no different, except I have a peace I have not had for many months. So much change surrounds us when we lose a spouse that it is overwhelming. Even now, almost three years into this state of widowhood, I am stunned by how much my life has changed. But, by employing prayer I now live with a peace-filled heart.
I am astonished at the immense feelings associated with change. This is not how it was supposed to be. We were meant to walk into the sunset together. We worked our entire life and planned for our senior stroll, hand-in-hand. Alone was never part of the picture, not even close. “For when I am weak, then I am strong.” (2 Corinthians 12:10b)
Do you find you are stronger now, as you move through life as a single? Has the journey taught you to cope, to do things you never dreamed you would do? Or, are you not there yet? It is wise to recognize that where ever we find ourselves today, it is okay. God is working and He is moving in our lives. The next time you pick up your Bible and read a passage that you were lead to read, ask yourself two questions. “What is God saying to me today? What am I going to do about it?
Please share what you are hearing from the LORD. We could all use some eternal encouragement.
I mentioned in a prior post about using a WORD each month to contemplate, study and embrace. Part of this process is talking it over with God, asking for His guidance and wisdom to reveal the one word I need to study for a season. A number of years ago my word was perseverance and you can imagine where God took me with that one. But I am grateful I had that word during that time in my life because it helped me to see that everything worth having is worth waiting for.
Perseverance was the title of a devotion I read this morning. The text referred to Christopher Columbus and his tenacity in the face of all sorts of trouble. He and his crew encountered storms, experienced hunger, faced deprivation and extreme discouragement while sailing to find new paths to other lands. The account of his journey, the words written in the ships log repeatedly voiced the sentiment, “Today, we sailed on.”
That is perseverance, the ability to face the storms of life, to lean into the winds of opposition and still declare, today we sailed on. These words struck me as I prayed and wrote in my journal today, the first day of a new year; the first day of the rest of my life. This past year brought with it a major attitude adjustment for this writer. I recognized the value of dropping to my knees in prayer. I know that prayer works in any posture, but for me, on my knees is a visual of submission. Total submission to God changed my life.
As a widow, each day is a different challenge, a fresh outlook with new outcomes ahead. Where are you on this journey? How long have you been in the midst of your future without your spouse in the picture? What are you feeling today, New Year’s Day? Regret? Doubt? Fear? I want to hear from you? Is there something you want me to address in this blog? Please share your thoughts with me.
Zephaniah 3:17 (NIV) The LORD your God is with you, he is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing.”
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Grace ‘n Grins in the New Year
It is already December 23, can you believe it? For some of us, it can’t go by too quickly to suit us, for others, we have had such a difficult time getting our act together that we are crying out for the clock to stop ticking. If you find yourself in either camp, it is okay. It is all okay, and that is my mantra this holiday season. Don’t worry, don’t stress, just do what you can when you can. If others have a problem with that, it is their problem, not yours, not mine.
To be honest, this, my third Christmas Season as a widow, is easier than I expected. The second one was the most difficult and many will say the same thing. The second year is the toughest. That said, there are times when memories will assail our thoughts and happiness will fade for a few minutes or hours; even days for that matter. But, all in all, this third year brought the return of joy.
I wrote about memories in the last post and just wanted to say a little bit more about this. Our memories are likely to overtake our mood at some point during this season. Just go with it. Memories are good, they remind us that we are still alive and they keep us from going into denial.
One memory I will deal with this Christmas Eve, and probably every other one from here on out, is the fact that it was Christmas Eve when we called upon Hospice for help. There was finality as well as relief in this act. I am sure many of you can relate.
You have your thoughts on this topic and I would love to hear them. What is the most difficult thing about observing the Christmas Season? What is the blessing you have experienced? Jesus is the reason for the season, and while this saying might be over-used it is still true. Just think of the memories Jesus’ mother ‘pondered’ each year on her Son’s birthday. I leave you with these words.
May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.
(2 Corinthians 13:14)
Grace ‘n Grins,
I could hardly write about my thoughts and experiences as a widow without visiting the topic of memories and holidays. The first year is filled with firsts; first birthday, first anniversary, first Thanksgiving and first Christmas, to mention the obvious. There are other ‘firsts’ we all experience, but that is for another post.
This Christmas season memories are everywhere. Regardless if this is your first Christmas without your spouse, or your fifth or twenty-fifth, moments of sadness will creep in to dampen your mood. I am learning that this is not only normal, it is good. It keeps us out of denial and helps us to face today with fond memories, even if garnished with a tear here and there. It is all okay. Memories are good; they keep the loved one alive in our hearts.
Christmas was a favorite holiday for my husband, so I feel it is important to keep that spirit alive. We knew the real reason for the season was to celebrate Jesus’ birth and our salvation. It is also important to understand that Jesus wants us to party on His birthday. He wants us to sing and to enjoy one another, and that is just what we do. The Word became flesh and dwelt among us. (John 1:14)
One Christmas our family took a vacation to Hawaii. We remember that Christmas each year, as one of our most memorable times together as family. To this day it stands out as a great Christmas, for so many reasons. There are also some memories not so sweet, some might even say they were sour, but such is the way of life.
This holiday, don’t allow the memories to dampen the festivities, use them to bring joy to the moments. Because Jesus’ birth means salvation to those who believe, we have every reason to party on! We have so much reason to wish everyone a Merry Christmas.
1 Corinthians 2:9 However, as it is written: “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him”
Grace ‘n Grins,
Each morning I start my day with a cup of coffee, my Bible, journal, a devotional book, and of course an assortment of colored pens. Did I ever mention I have a “type A” personality? I love to have my ducks in a row. Give me a spreadsheet, color-code the tabs and I am prepared to fearlessly face any situation.
The daily devotional book I use most days is Streams in the Desert. This mighty little book, written many years ago and revised a few times, is a wonderful start to any day. I have recommended it to a number of friends who were looking for something to get their day off right.
I can’t begin to tell you how often God has used this, used a Scripture from a given day, to reach me, to teach me, to prepare me and comfort me. I have written personal comments on many of the pages; notes of crying out to God for answers, observations of His answers and a memo here and there affirming God’s presence, His love and His care.
This little book and I have been through much together. I’m not sure when I started reading it but I began making notes in the margins in 2007. I can pull out a journal from that year and match it up to a margin note and remember just what was happening in my life that day. As you can imagine, there are some things I don’t really want to remember that often, but what a blessing it is to see how God has been there, working in the background of my life until I pulled Him up and into the center. I have found that God doesn’t force His way in, He will wait until invited; but once you let Him in life will never be the same!
There was a time in our married life when Dave and I did not really believe in much of anything. We knew who God was and had heard of Jesus, but it didn’t mean anything to us. For years we plodded through life like this. We experienced a moment of happiness here and there, but not endless joy. There was a glimmer of a good life sprinkled about, but no hope for tomorrow.
We didn’t know we were missing anything. Through a series of changes in our life, we moved to Ohio, met a few new people; were exposed to church through an invitation by the mother of one of our daughters. It took many years, but we finally grew in our faith – together. That is the key; that is what makes the loss bearable. We grew together. If I did not know that my husband of 40+ years knew Jesus like he did I could not have said goodbye with joy and hope.
The November 23rd reading in Streams in the Desert had these words for me: “the trials of life are sent to make us, not break us.” It was trials that brought Dave and me to Jesus. It was those same trials that grew us in faith, and kept us together.
Psalm 61:3-4 (NIV) For you have been my refuge, a strong tower against the foe. I long to dwell in your tent forever and take refuge in the shelter of your wings.
Grace and Grins,
This topic could fill up a few posts and address a number of issues. Living alone is one thing; being alone is another. Learning how to make decisions after having had a partner to process things with, and talk over the pros and cons, is a big deal. For this writer, decision making became a major hurdle, one I did not struggle with before this season.
I found that I could seldom make a decision and stick with it. Things that would have been simple to deal with suddenly became insurmountable. I would second guess myself at every turn, crippling my confidence and destroying my self-assurance.
I find this to be a strange phenomenon because during the weeks my husband was ill I could handle anything and everything. I was decisive, prayerful and self-assured and knew what to do in every emergency situation that arose; and there were a number of them over the eleven weeks prior to Dave’s death.
One of the reasons decision making became so difficult may have something to do with the plan Dave and I had begun to lay out for our future; for our retirement. We were so sure that God was with us when we discovered the home in the north woods of Wisconsin. This was Dave’s dream to retire in a cabin tucked away in a wooded area, close to hunting and fishing and nature in general. It seemed to be God’s design when we found the perfect place and all the financing fell in line; even in the midst of the economic downturn our country was facing.
We were happy, we had a plan for the future; in fact we had a three year plan. God had a three month plan. We had prayerfully made this decision and were convinced it was God’s will for us. Now, I know it was God’s will and part of his perfect plan – his perfect three month plan. I can see that now. This realization is making it easier to move forward with confidence, that I can do all things through Him who strengthens me. (Philippians 4:13)
There is more to this story, as God used those three months to grow Dave and me closer together. He used this time to teach us ask the hard questions, to have the difficult discussions, and to draw us even closer to Him. Then, God used the place in the north woods as a refuge for me for one year. I moved from the home I knew for 33 years, to a new place; a place He hand-picked for me as part of the plan to heal my heart and reveal His goodness.
Won’t you share some of your journey? This blog is meant to bring some of us together so we can encourage each other. Our stories are important and they need to be told. As Sister’s in Christ we need to link arms and hold up each other, carry each other’s burdens. (Galatians 6:2)
Grace and Grins,
I am reading a non-fiction by Debbie Macomber titled, One Perfect Word. I always suspected she was Christian because of the family oriented nature of her fiction work. When I started reading this book I learned of her solid and growing faith.
As a writer, especially as a Christian writer, this book had my attention. Debbie Macomber talks about her walk with Jesus during a difficult season in her life. She shares a story about choosing a word to serve as a personal focus for a year. I took notice of this because I had been doing that for a number of years myself. I haven’t developed this practice to the extent she has, but my ‘word’ for the year usually reflected where my heart was.
For instance, one year perseverance was my word. God used this word to grow me closer to him, to teach me the importance of being diligent and determined. When life gets tough, we pray continually and slog through each day with perseverance. James 1:2-4 became familiar words to me.
Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. (James 1:2-4)
Life has changed in many ways over the past 30 months, but my desire for God and my passion to write have only intensified. A couple years before my husband died, he encouraged me to follow my dream to write. I began taking a few courses and attended a Proverbs 31 She Speaks Conference for writers and speakers. God knew I would need somewhere to put my focus, something to turn to as an outlet if not a diversion. I believe He gave Dave the words that ignited my dream once again.
I decided to have a word a month, because at my age it is wise to cram in as much as possible. A word a year just won’t cut it anymore. This month my word is wait. I tend to get ahead of God, rushing forward when I should sit still and listen. I believe my impatient way has caused me to miss a blessing or two. I am pondering this word, using it as a study guide some days and as a rule of thumb other days.
Wait for the LORD; be strong and take heart and wait for the LORD. (Psalm 27:14)
This journey through the vast wilderness of widowhood keeps me on my toes as well as on my knees. If I did not have God to turn to, to believe in, life would be pointless – as would death. I never gave the title of widow much thought before and for the first year following Dave’s death I resisted the title. When I would be asked if I was single I wouldn’t hesitate to say no. It never actually dawned on me that I was eligible to don both of these labels; but it didn’t change who I was, only the adjectives used to describe me.
I could say none of that matters now, but it does. I have to confess that not too long ago I was in a meeting of small group directors and one of the leaders was telling about how their group had taken on a project to take care of widows. Do you know how much I resented this statement? It was simple, it was honest and it was Biblical, but it caused the hairs on the back of my neck to stand on end. I didn’t need him to take care of me! Why did I take it so personally? I don’t know. I take a lot of things personally these days. How about you? I would love to hear your struggles or dilemmas. Is there a topic you would like me to write about? Speak out – this is your sounding board. I am listening. If you prefer to email your thoughts, you can reach me at email@example.com
I wait for the LORD, my soul waits, and in his word I put my hope. (Psalm 130:5)
Grace and Grins,
My prayer life has developed and grown since I lost my husband almost five years ago. Prayer was one practice I could perform that would help me feel safe and secure. I discovered that prayer provided comfort and served as an outlet for my emotions. When I didn’t feel I could get through another moment, prayer brought me into the Presence of God.
Not long ago, I was looking for a new devotional for my early morning quiet time when I discovered, The Battle Plan for Prayer by the Kendrick brothers. This book, inspired by the feature film, War Room, is a 35-day reading plan. It is centered on prayer: types of prayer, postures of prayer, rhythms and strategies for prayer and so much more.
I use this book as part of my morning routine and when I turned the last page, I started all over again. You will find this book an inspiration and a motivation to pray. It helped me to examine why I pray and then revealed my areas of weakness. The scripture references are sound, and they direct the reader to a closer relationship with The One who makes all the difference.
Each daily reading takes about 10 minutes, providing an opportunity to dig deeper into God’s Word by looking up scripture references, or, if you are like me, you can open your journal and begin a dialog with God about what you heard during your time with Him. Talk it over with Him and know that He hears.
Prayer is described on the pages of this book as, “…our armored tank…our major assault weapon in battle.” You will want to keep your colored pens or highlighter handy as you work your way through the pages of The Battle Plan for Prayer. No matter if you find yourself feasting on His Word daily, or if you struggle to make time for it, this little book can help you on our journey to pray with more intentionality and with faith.
Each daily reading ends with a prayer which launches the reader into the day set before them. I would highly recommend this to a new Believer or a veteran prayer warrior. If you are a newly-wed or a newly-widowed there is comfort, hope, and direction to be found in these pages.
Grace ‘n Grins,