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…

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.

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.

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