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 (Psalm 37:4)
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.
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!
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.