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

It’s Okay!

its okayIt 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)  

Merry Christmas
Grace ‘n Grins,

Judy

Sweet and Sour

photoI 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,

Judy

Trials and Blessings

hopeEach 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,

Judy

Learning to Live Alone

new houseThis 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,

Judy

Give me a Word

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.perseverance

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.

waitI 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 judithannie.webb@gmail.com

I wait for the LORD, my soul waits, and in his word I put my hope. (Psalm 130:5)

Grace and Grins,

Judy

A Season for Everything

smellI remember the cold harsh days before Dave’s death.  I referred to them often as my season of winter but held on to the reality that spring always follows. This was my season to draw closer to God than ever before.  It is still a season where I must look to Him for advice and direction.  By turning to Him every morning for a special word just for me and specifically for today, I can begin the journey with confidence and hope.

My prayer time a number of months ago netted me an idea for just what this time in my life would look like.  I had a mental image of a woman looking in a mirror at her reflection, only the face staring back at her had her hair parted on the other side.  Immediately, this thought burned on my brain. Yes, it is time to part my hair on the other side.  It is time to look at living differently and it is time to walk alone for a season.

The reality is, change will abound, but it will be strategically placed.  God will not give more than we can handle each day.  This is a significant concept to embrace.  One day at a time is how to move forward.  One foot in front of the other, one step at a time and we will arrive.  As we travel this new road, there will be some things we will learn to do again, laughter will be one of them.

Recently I was reading a blog from another widow and she referenced, “Widow Brain.”  I had to laugh.  Finally, a name for the emotions and thoughts I have been experiencing.  Now, when I realize I have just changed my mind for the third time, I can call it “Widow Brain.”  When a simple decision becomes a major thought process which causes emotional turbulence, I can blame “Widow Brain.”

It is not as though my husband made every decision for me in the past, but I am realizing how valuable it was to have someone to talk things over with, even the little things. Now, I talk things over with Asa, my faithful and constant Golden companion.  He doesn’t say much, but will listen intently for hours as long as there are rawhide treats waiting.

This morning during my daily quiet time, I was once again looking for direction or at the very least, affirmation that I was on the right path.  The scripture from my devotional book, Streams in the Desert, was from Numbers 9:19. When the cloud remained over the tabernacle a long time, the Israelites obeyed the LORD’s order and did not set out.  These words spoken to my heart provided some clarity for me.

Right now that “cloud” is over me – and God is in it.  I will be satisfied and content where I am.  When my life is to change, God will show me. Until then I will remain under the cloud. I will rest in that safety.  I feel I am to mark November in my mind; perhaps it is a turning point.

Grace ‘n Grins,

Judy

Widowhood – so much more than grief

Dave and I 2009

It has been almost three years since mhusband died.  These three years have been filled with many new feelings and thoughts.  So much change to face, so much newness. At a time when life should be getting easier, when the struggles and challenges should be diminishing, death makes an appearance.

It is not as if it was unexpected, we all know that life comes to an end when we get older; it is the natural order. The truth is, sixty-two is not old, but I did not expect to wear the title of widow so soon, if ever.

The first year following an event of this sort is filled with facing what is coming to be called, a new normal.  I find that the one thing I longed for during my 40+ years of marriage was to experience some time alone.  I enjoyed it when my husband would go on a trip for a week or so – I loved the opportunity to do whatever I liked whenever I wanted.  If I wanted to eat once a day or half a dozen times, I would do it.  I had no one to think about but myself; no one to plan for or consider but me.

But now, I have all this freedom and would give it up to go back to where I was 3 years ago…or would I?  Knowing what I know now, would I, should I even dream to go back?  I know that my husband has moved to a new place where he spends time in the presence of God.  He wouldn’t want to come back here.  So why would I want to waste my days dreaming or longing for that to happen.  It is time to move on.  It is time to make a new life.  It is okay to do both of these things, it will just be different.

Life is all about change.  If we did not change we would not grow, learn, nor live to the fullest. A new attitude is what I need.  I need a fresh outlook and a few laughs along the way. A strong clasp on the seatbelt of life will help also, as it is going to be a bumpy ride. I anticipate the ride will take me to the scariest of heights and then rapidly nose dive to the depths of despair. There are many changes waiting, mostly good ones, but scary all the same.

I look forward to sharing with you, some of my journey, and I would love to hear about yours.

Psalm 90:1-2 (NIV) Lord, you have been our dwelling place throughout all generations. Before the mountains were born or you brought forth the earth and the world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God.

Grace ‘n Grins,