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.

Duct tape and Dancing Shoes

red female shoesDuct 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,
Judy

Smooth Sailing?

smooth sailingApril 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 not so smooth sailingall the waters are calm, when sailing is smooth and no challenge exists?  The excitement begins as the sailboat starts to sink!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lifting and Leaving

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 storageImage 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.