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.

Let’s Have a Dream

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.”dreams

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
Judy

Streams in the Desert

 Streams in the Desert is the book I refer to above.  You can read here.

Grieving with Grace

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.  choose joyThe 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,

Judy

Strength in Numbers

strength in numbersI 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.

hair partWhen 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,

Judy

A Season of Change

changeOne 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.

Sail On

ImageI 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.”

If you don’t want to comment in the section below, send me an email at judithannie.webb@yahoo.com

Grace ‘n Grins in the New Year

Judy