Change: Don’t want to live with it, can’t live without it!

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.

 

47 and Counting…

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…

No Turning Back

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…

A Widow and Prayer

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.BP4P

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.

Merry Christmas,

Grace ‘n Grins,
Judy

I Have A Dream

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.
new houseMy 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 wmotor homeinter 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.

Uncertain But Soaring

Rise up on wings like Eagles
Rise up on wings like Eagles

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.

Moving Forward

Mmove forwardonths 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.