Again God…Really? – by Kathy Mills

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith.” ~ Hebrews 12:1-2a NLT

It will be five years this September 1, that my husband Brad died in my arms from cancer. I seriously believed after devotedly caring for, and helplessly watching the love of my life endure a prolonged and painful death, God would never have me witness that kind of loss again.

But I was wrong…

This past July 5, my 85 year old mom who for the past two years lived with me so I could care for her, passed into Heaven in the arms of Jesus. Her death however didn’t come without a battle. I  quickly realized our time together was ending, when my mom’‘s health took that giant step in it’s decline last month. I knew she was going to die soon since she had become bedridden. Her frail frame, weak and in constant pain desired no food and longed only for rest.

Soon our days and nights began to blend into one constant struggle to find rest. As I focused nearly every waking moment on trying to find ways to alleviate my mom’s discomfort and suffering, I inwardly sensed that familiar panic and fear I had when my husband was suffering before his death. The weight of despair in my heart bore down on me and I was overwhelmed by sorrow.

I remember a couple of weeks before she died, sitting beside her bed one night. I held her hand while she slept, and prayed for God to take her now like this. I wanted her death to be peaceful and swift. I wasn’t seeking His will and endurance that night…I firmly wanted mine. I couldn’t imagine any good reason in the delay of her going home. I felt certain whatever God’s purpose in this suffering, it could be accomplished in a better way.

These very thoughts were like the ones I had as I helplessly looked on when my husband laid suffering day and night before he died. As I became overwhelmed with the memories of my husband’s long journey towards death while holding my mom’s hand, my heart seemed to scream “Again God…Really?”

The Lord seemed slow to me in answering. I must admit, I felt expectant of Him to quickly remove my mom’s suffering and to see things my way. He did neither.

Instead, He comforted me by revealing this; I can only hold my mom’s hand for a brief visit, but He never leaves her side and is carrying her tightly to Himself. He also reminded me; while I walk in this dark valley of suffering again, I do not walk it alone. Jesus is a faithful guide and He will never leave my side.  “Trust me” I heard God whisper through my tears…”remember always I am here you both.”  

picmonkey_image-2I found a sweet comfort as I envisioned being tightly drawn to Jesus’ side so as not to stray; walking bravely beside Him in His strength, as He gently carried my mom in His arms. Together, the three of us alone in the dark valley, feeling unafraid of the next step because God is with me. I felt covered in His peace.

I don’t know why God allowed my husband and mom to suffer so greatly before leaving this life to be with Him. I also don’t know why God would have me experience their last days, feeling helpless in their suffering. I may never know this side of Heaven the good it brought or His purpose fulfilled, which could have been accomplished “a better way” as I often think it could. Thankfully, God doesn’t ask me to understand…He simply ask, “Do you trust me?”  What else can I answer but, “Yes Lord, I trust you.”

Today like many other days, I miss my husband…and I miss my mom & dad too. The three people who mattered most to me are all gone from my life now. I hold in my spirit that great hope and comfort in knowing I’ll see them again one day in Heaven…but that doesn’t mean I don’t have days like today when I just plain want to see them…now! There have been many times when unexpectedly the deepest pain hits, leaving me feeling empty and gasping for “something more…something better” than what I feel I’ve been left with.

Sometimes the very thought of having many more years here without them can be quite depressing…until I stop looking at my future as I see it through what has been lost. Instead, I’d rather see my future through God’s promises and believe God’s Word which say His plans for my future are good and my life will not end without His good and loving purpose being fulfilled. I’d rather live expectantly & with anticipation of what God has in store for my future days than live them out in dread and defeat. Just writing that makes me smile at the thought of death’s sting losing some of it’s power over me.

What about you? Will you join me and set your eyes on Jesus too as we run this race called life together?

You know…after trials of sorrow like this one, I even think I can hear my husband’s voice among a distant cheering crowd. As I endure another lap of grief, with my eyes and thoughts fixed on Jesus, I keep running towards the finish line with Him.

picmonkey_image-5Victory in Jesus…it’s already mine.

And He said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.”                                                                                                    ~ 2 Corinthians 12:9 (NKJV)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fear Not Tomorrow….God’s Already There!!

by Karen Emberlin

For I am the Lord your God who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear; I will help you.     Isaiah 41:13 (NIV)

Is today one of those intense grief days?  Are you struggling with the fear of the unknowns in your life without your husband?

I remember clearly the feeling of fear gripping my entire being the morning I awoke realizing my husband was not in a “deep sleep” but had journeyed to his heavenly home.  I could not imagine how I was ever going to face another tomorrow without him.  For 48 years he was my constant companion, best friend, lover, father to our children, working partner, protector and so much more.  We truly had become “one” and depended on each other all of the time.  Many people said they rarely saw one of us without the other!

“Tomorrow” is a word often filled with promise and hope.  With the challenges I faced, the thought of tomorrow left me feeling anxious, inadequate, and overpowered.  I knew in order to conquer the fear of tomorrow I had to trust God to be my constant companion and my ultimate caretaker.  I needed to focus on Him, who He is, His promises, and His plan for me.

The following words were written in one of the devotionals I use “ I am with you continually, so don’t be intimidated by fear.  Though it stalks you, it cannot harm you, as long as you cling to My hand.  Keep your eyes on Me, enjoying Peace in My Presence.”

Music has always touched my heart allowing me to communicate with God when I cannot focus as I should.  A few weeks before my husband’s passing we had the privilege of attending the first performance of  “Fear Not Tomorrow – A Worship Experience” at our church.  The music and the message it brought seemed so timely – we were facing uncertain tomorrows relating to our business.  Little did I know how my tomorrows would change in just a short time – but God did – He was already there and preparing me through the ministry of this music.

I have spent many hours listening and absorbing the message of this music in the past few months.  My husband fulfilled many roles and took care of me during the time I was allowed to spend with him.  It is hard to imagine that anyone else would care that much for me  –   but God does!   His love is never ending, His arms are there to hold and embrace me, and He’s in control of every tomorrow I will face.

I’d like to share the words from one of the songs:

Come all who are broken

Come if you’re afraid

Come taste His sweet water

Come feel His embrace

There’s more than existing

There’s more He will give

The future is waiting

This time is yours to live

 

His arms always open

They’re aching to hold

The bounties of heaven

Are waiting to flow

Let go what restrains you

Let God fill your soul

You don’t know tomorrow

But you know Who’s in control

 

Fear not tomorrow

God is already there

Through your joy or in sorrow

Every moment is in His care

Let the song of His love

Sing over you and declare

Fear not tomorrow

God is already there *

 

My dear Sisters, I continually need to ask the Lord’s help to face tomorrow, and what it might bring, without fear.  In the midst of my heartache I forget and take my eyes off of Jesus.  And that’s whenever the fear creeps back in!  I pray He will continue to remind each of us of His greatness and Love for us, and His presence in all of our tomorrows as we walk this unwanted Journey of Widowhood.

 

 *Fear Not Tomorrow by:

Sarah Mentzer, Brandee Vandergriff, and Tim Paul

Used by Permission – Copyright © 2011 Risen Music Publishing

The end of the story?

“So we’re not giving up.  How could we?  Even though on the outside it often looks like things are falling apart on us, on the inside, where God is making new life, not a day goes by without his unfolding grace. 

These hard times are small potatoes compared to the coming good times, the lavish celebration prepared for us. 

There’s far more here than meets the eye.  The things we see now are here today, gone tomorrow.

But the things we can’t see now will last forever.”

2 Corinthians 4:16-18 (The MSG)

Have you ever felt like giving up?  Disconnecting the phones, crawling back into bed, pulling the covers over your head?  I bet we’ve all been there.  Some of us in this unimagined journey may be past this stage, while others may be right in the midst of it.  Even though I rarely follow through on those thoughts, I still have days where a part of me wants to give in to the pain of widowhood by giving up and giving in.

But for me, really giving up was never an option.  Although I had lost my husband, the rock in our family, the love of my life, our two young sons had lost their compass, their role model, their daddy.  They expectantly look to me to pick up the pieces and guide our family into the future.  A future filled with unknowns, what-ifs, and should’ve-beens.

So I did what any other mother in my position would do–I forged ahead.  There were days I did not have a clue as to what I was doing.  I made decisions based solely on prayer and intuition.  Slowly but surely I began to feel more confident in making head of household decisions, with only God to consult with.

On the outside, it may have seemed like life was falling apart all around us.  Plans and dreams that were in the works for the Howell family of four had to be reevaluated and re-assessed.  Some we had to let go of completely, and that was difficult.  Others we are continuing to follow.   The rest are in a state of flux and uncertainty as we await God for direction.  The Howell family of three is slowly regrouping, once again finding purpose in life.

For you see, even on the worst of days, God is still at work within us.  He quietly fills in the cracks of our brokenness, like a contractor spackling holes in sheetrock.

His grace and His love unfold in our souls, allowing us to begin to heal.  God is actively making all things new, in spite of the curve-ball life threw us almost two years ago.  He shows us time and time again that life is still worth living.

As I look back on the past twenty two months since becoming a widow, I see how far I have come.  I look ahead and realize I have far to go.  The one constant in the journey has been the steadfast love and grace of my God.

He’s been beside me on the rough days, days I didn’t think I could make it until the next minute.  He’s curled up beside me on nights where it seemed I could never go to sleep in my big bed alone, after sharing it with a spouse for almost 23 years.

He’s helped me make decisions for my family, for our future, by giving me counsel and guidance, the best I could ever hope to have.  He’s given me glimpses of joy and happiness, when I thought those were emotions I might never feel again.

Most importantly He has showed me that really bad circumstances can build character, empathy, and faith.  I never thought good could come from such bad, but thanks to God, it has.

The end of my husband’s life could’ve been the end of my story–and it would’ve been a pretty good one to tell.  But God tells me I still have purpose.  I have work to do for Him, joy to experience, sons to raise, songs to sing, books to write.

He is enough.  You, too, have a purpose.  Don’t give up.  Your story should not end with the death of your spouse.  There’s so much more that God wants to help you write.

Father God,

I pray that each widow reading this will feel the all-encompassing love and grace that You and only You can provide.  Fill in the cracks of their brokenness, let them see that their story hasn’t ended just because they’ve lost a spouse.  In many ways, it’s just beginning.  It is my prayer that each finds purpose in this new uncharted territory of widowhood, so that Your kingdom will be glorified.  Because You make all things new.  Amen

Courage over Fear

It’s Guest Blogger Friday, sisters, and I’d like to introduce to you Cindy Cain. She has an amazing story to share as a devoted wife who cared for her husband through his final years. You can find more of Cindy’s writing on her blog, http://www.consideringitalljoy.com,  Cindy has emerged from deep grief to be able to share with those of you who might wonder can you find courage over a cloud of fear? Yes you can, and Cindy’s life is a testament to that.

“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”

Joshua 1:9

It was during a women’s retreat in 2004 when a sweet friend sat down with me and read this scripture to my heart . It spoke to me but not in a profound way at the time. I thanked her and tucked it away, not to be thought about

until…

My husband had been ill for some time. but had returned to work after the kidney transplant he had had several years earlier had him returning to work and living a good life until he became ill again. By 2009 I became more of a care-giver than a wife, his body slowly succumbing to immunosuppressant’s and fatigue.

When a mold (Aspergillus) took up residence in his lungs, we began to walk a fine line between good and bad drugs, attempting to keep his kidney healthy while also trying to kill the mold. On Christmas Eve 2010 I woke to find my precious husband had passed in his sleep.

Fear gripped my soul.

How could I continue living without my best friend, lover and confidant by my side?  Thirty years of being one, and now he was gone. How would I pay bills, raise my special kiddo, maintain a home, property, vehicles, and a full time job? How could I care for my granddaughters and tend to all that he had taken care of during our marriage?

Grief is indescribable—loneliness, unimaginable.

But fear?  It’s paralyzing!

Here’s how paralyzing—during the first several months after losing my Mark, I would arrive home from work, wrap myself in his robe and lay on the couch. I would not move until I had to return to work the next day, not even to prepare a meal. I cannot recall what my son ate, how his laundry got done or if my home were cleaned. The lawn and plants died, as I never ventured out—even into the yard! If it wasn’t necessary, I wasn’t going to move to do it.

Fear didn’t just creep in to my life. It took over like an unwelcomed guest!

God was with me, and I knew it—but in my head, not my heart.

Then it happened.  While I sat in my dirty kitchen, leafing through God’s Word, the words spoken by God to Joshua which my friend had read to me all those years ago, came alive. ‘Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.

I sat in my kitchen reading those words and acknowledged–I was weak, discouraged and afraid! And yet God was telling me not to be.

“But every part of my normal had changed,” I whined.  For it was true. Nothing would ever be the same again.

Then I thought: Had everything changed?

Yes, the earthly love of my life was gone but God was not! God was still God, still strong, still a God of encouragement, still a God of Power, and of Love, and of Courage!

In the days and weeks that followed, as the Truth of His Word permeated my being, my attitude changed, and my heart awakened to the beating of His.

Minute-by-minute and day-by-day, I reminded my heart that yes, I am weak, but my God is strong. I am afraid, but my God is Courageous.

This was a start for me. Fear continued to rear its ugly head, but courage was beginning to rule and reign. Daily I needed to apply God’s truth to my actions, take a step forward then two and three–sometimes followed by setbacks that were only momentary.

nofearGod did not give me a spirit of fear. I can do all things through Christ. My God will never leave me nor forsake me. Scripture has become my lifeline.

It’s now been two years since losing my husband, and though I may occasionally struggle with fear and discouragement, God is constant in His Truth. He does not change. He did not change the day I lost my Mark, and He will not change tomorrow.

Oh dear friend, your world changed the day your spouse passed from this life unto the next. This new journey is a challenge every step of the way, but your God will never change. He will be with you wherever you go!!

If you’ve never met this God of courage and strength, please allow one of your sister widows to pray with you by clicking on the contact button or leaving a message here. You are greatly loved!

Stepping outside the boat

by Nancy Howell

 

27 But Jesus spoke to them at once. “Don’t be afraid,” he said. “Take courage. I am here!”

28 Then Peter called to him, “Lord, if it’s really you, tell me to come to you, walking on the water.”

29 “Yes, come,” Jesus said.

So Peter went over the side of the boat and walked on the water toward Jesus. 30 But when he saw the strong wind and the waves, he was terrified and began to sink. “Save me, Lord!” he shouted.

31 Jesus immediately reached out and grabbed him. “You have so little faith,” Jesus said. “Why did you doubt me?”

Matthew 14: 27-31 (NLT)

Fighting heavy waves…far from land…in the middle of the night…praying for relief….

Dear sisters, does this describe parts of your grief journey as you navigate the waters of life?

How many of you have cried out, frightened that the stormy waters and the waves will capsize the boat you are in?

In my marriage, I wasn’t the captain of our ship.  With a lot of patience and training, I became a pretty decent first mate, as my spouse and I sailed the sea of life.  We had defined roles.  I never steered, which was fine by me.

My husband, Mark, was the consummate captain.  He kept a close watch on the weather, he took all safety precautions, and made sure that we sailed on calm waters most every day of our life together.

Under his leadership, I never even thought about steering…I was content to be Gilligan to his Skipper, Mr. Spock to his Captain Kirk, jelly to his peanut butter.  It’s what worked for us, over the life of our marriage.

After losing him, I found myself lost, as well.  I’d never steered a boat.  Overnight, it was dumped into my lap–all of it.

God, I don’t know the first thing about navigating this boat.  What am I supposed to do?

In the midst of my storm, the waves are choppy, the wind is blowing, and I am desperate.  The wheel of the ship is spinning–no one’s in control.  The captain has gone on to his heavenly reward.

The ship is now in my hands,  the first mate, the left-handed girl from Western Kentucky, who hasn’t steered in 23 years.  In the vessel with me are our two sons.   They are certain I’ve got what it takes to lead them, even in the midst of the storm we’ve been pulled in to.

I cry out desperately, the sobs heaving in my chest, so loud that I can be heard over the high winds and crashing waves–I cry to my Father for help.

I see Jesus.  He’s walking on top of the storm, the waves, the wake, the churning mess of life that’s tossing my boat around.  And with each step He takes, the waters lie calmly beneath.

He beckons me to come out of the vessel.  This, dear sisters, is the ultimate stretch for me.  I don’t think “outside of the boat.”   I have a well-defined comfort zone, most happy while I am within its parameters, where I feel  safe and secure.

He’s asking me to step out in faith.  On the water.  Without a life jacket.  And walk towards Him.

Do I have the faith of Peter?  Not by a long shot.

But I am comforted by Peter’s very human response in the above passage.  He steps out, and is doing great, as long as he keeps his eyes focused on Jesus.  The waves, the wind, and the foaming sea begin to distract him–he takes his eyes off of his Savior–it is in that moment he begins to sink and drown.  He cries out.

Jesus grabs him by the arm, saving him. And He asks, ” You have so little faith!  Why did you doubt me?”

I’ve been steering our little boat for almost two years now.  We’ve had our share of storms, of downbursts and clouds.

But we’ve also had days of smooth sailing, with me at the wheel.

Again, the storm starts back up.  I cry out for help.

Jesus is once again asking me to come away from the wheel, step out of my comfort zone, and trust Him.    He wants me to climb over the side of this boat I finally have a handle on, and step out onto the deep treacherous water.

He’s pretty persistent when He needs to be—and pretty hard to ignore.

So I step out.  Out in faith.  Out of my comfort zone.  For His glory and His glory alone.  He tells me that together we will do wondrous things for His kingdom.

I just hope I am up for the challenge.

Heavenly Father,

Today I come to you, asking that you calm the seas of all my sisters who find their boats in the midst of a storm they cannot handle.  Many, like myself, never dreamed they would be in charge, by steering it, keeping it up to code, performing maintenance, ensuring it has enough fuel, making sure it is sea hardy. 

Give them the confidence and the strength and the know-how to steer their ship of life through whatever weather conditions that might be encountered. 

Whenever You come to them, walking on water, beckoning them to step out in faith, give them the strength to take that first step, to swing their legs over the side, and step onto the water, whether it is choppy, cold, or calm and crystal-clear. 
You and you alone have the power to calm the seas surrounding each of us.  Help us step outside our comfort zones for your glory.

 Amen

I’m not who I was….

by Nancy Howell

 

Twenty months ago today, I spent the last 24 hours of my life as a carefree married wife and mother.    The next day, my husband had “routine” surgery.  Five excruciatingly-long days later,  I became a widow.

I look back at that 48 year old woman today, and I hardly recognize her.

I’m not who I was.

In early 2011, I had the world on a string.  Working for spending money at a preschool as a teacher to two year olds, I was a dutiful wife and mother.  My husband was my best friend, the love of my life.  We worked to build our home and our marriage around God.  We had two boys that we adored.  We attended church, were involved in community and faith-based activities, and were counting down the days until July 2013, whenever my husband could take full retirement from his state job.  We would head north to family farm land in Kansas, where pasture acreage and a freshly-dug pond awaited us.  Life was sweet.

Then he died.

And although I couldn’t see it at the time, that’s where my transformation began.

Twenty months later, with the gift of hindsight, I see differences.  I have more grey hair.  There’s ten extra pounds on my frame, most likely from “grief eating.”  There are a few more wrinkles on my face.

But those are just the physical changes, all in outward appearance.

The inward transformation has been painstakingly beautiful, with the emphasis on “pain.”

Here are just a few:

I am more patient.

I am more confident, making decisions as the head of my family and household.

I am more empathetic, and can cry at a moment’s notice.

I am stronger than I thought I was.

I know first hand how short life can be, and I cram every bit of fun I can into each day God gives me.

I forgive more easily.

I love more enormously.

I say what I mean, and I mean what I say.

I thirst after God, and try to seek His input on every aspect of my family’s lives.

Am I perfect?  Heavens no!  Am I healed?  Not by a long shot.

I’m still under construction, thankful that God has great patience.

Just this weekend, the painful grief I thought I had left behind me reared its ugly head.  All because I was outdoors, with my late husband’s German shorthair pointer, as we received advanced training from her breeder.

My husband loved the outdoors, he loved to fish and to hunt pheasant and quail.  And he loved Maggie, his dog.

Since his death, I’ve learned to love and appreciate her as he did.  And I’ve learned to love to hunt pheasant and quail.

But seeing her work an open field, sniff out quail, and freeze into the most beautiful staunch point, caused my heart to skip a beat.  I finally saw her through his eyes, with a love and pride that had previously escaped me.

 

It made me proud, and at the same time, excruciatingly sad.

Life goes on after someone dies, no matter how important or incredibly loved that person might have been.  And that is hard for those of us left behind.

The important thing for widows to remember is this:  we must live our lives in such a way that there is only one death.  Those of us left must find purpose in some form or fashion, so that two people don’t die (one physically, one emotionally) in the process.

God can take our grief and use it to transform us into women that can make a difference in others’ lives, if we are willing to be refined and changed.

God is keeping careful watch over us and the future.  The Day is coming when you’ll have it all–life healed and whole.

I know how great this makes you feel, even though you have to put up with every kind of aggravation in the meantime. 

Pure gold put in the fire comes out of it proved pure;

genuine faith put through this suffering comes out proved genuine.

When Jesus wraps this all up, it’s your faith, not your gold, that God will have on display as evidence of his victory.

1 Peter 1:5-7 (MSG)

What will we become through the test of fire?  Only God knows.  He’s the one holding the blueprints.

 

“I’m not who I was” by Brandon Heath

 

Father God,

Thank you for loving us, for walking beside us through our grief, our transformation, and our daily struggles.  Give us the strength to be refined by the trials in our path.  Help us realize that tough hours, days, weeks, and months will make us stronger in the long run.  Don’t let our grief be for nothing.  Incorporate it into our souls with your transforming powers, making us better Christians, mothers, daughters, and friends.  You alone have the power.  You alone have our love.  In Jesus’ name I ask it all, Amen.

 

 

 

 

My Ultimate Defender

by guest blogger, Natalie Flake

Learn more about Natalie and our other writers on our About Us page.

“The LORD tears down the proud man’s house but he keeps the widow’s boundaries intact.”

Proverbs 15:25

I jolted up in the bed at the sound of the dog barking ferociously. What was happening? Was someone outside? Was that the wind howling or was that someone’s voice I heard?

In the early days after Michael’s death, it seemed like noises always spooked me during the night. The air conditioner started to sound ominous. The ice maker would convince me that someone was in my kitchen. While I knew intellectually that I was safe, my imagination would often get carried away.

There were nights when I would let my daughter sleep with me in case something happened during the night. I wanted to make sure I could get to her quickly. There were other times when I would let my Golden Retriever sleep inside to stand guard.

Has this ever happened to you? I believe that fear is one of Satan’s strongest attacks against Christians. If he can paralyze us with fear, then he is able to keep us from fully trusting Christ. Our focus shifts from focusing on our Savior, to dwelling on our circumstances. God wants us to entrust our fears to him.

The Bible tells us that God keeps the widows boundaries intact. In the Old Testament, the people built walls around the city to protect the people from their enemies. These walls served as boundaries. At night, when I became afraid, I would pray this verse to the Lord. I would say, “Lord, you promised in your word to keep the widow’s boundaries intact. I’m asking you to surround the boundaries of my heart, my family, and my property with your presence. Place burly angels at the corners of my property to protect us as we rest.”

Often, after I prayed this prayer, peace would envelop my soul so that I could finally find rest. In Psalm 68, God describes himself as a defender of widows. Aragorn72When we are anxious or fearful, we need to remember that we have the greatest protector of all. The Lord Jesus Christ has taken up our cause. He has a heart for widows. He not only sees our fears and our pain, but He longs to help us wade through them.

Christ left His throne in heaven to come to earth to win our hand in marriage. When we receive His precious gift of salvation, we become His bride. If an earthly groom cares for his bride, how much more will our Heavenly Groom care for us.

The next time fear threatens to suffocate you, call out to the Lord. Pray scripture to the Lord. Ask God to hem you in and to protect you by the power of his might.

Father, thank You for being our ultimate defender. I pray for my dear sisters. Cast out any fears that keep us from fully trusting you. Give us perfect peace. When we feel alone, fill us with Your Holy Spirit. Make us aware of your presence. Help us to find rest when we are weary. We praise You, because of Who You are. We thank You for Your grace, and for Your presence with us. I pray these things in Jesus’ name. Amen!

 

Not Intimidated!

By Kit Hinkle

Don’t hold back—you’re not going to come up short. You’ll forget all about the humiliations of your youth, and the indignities of being a widow will fade from memory.

Isaiah 54-4

When I used to work in the corporate world, I had a friend who was a mover and a shaker.  By now, I’m quite sure Ed is a CEO somewhere in this universe.

 

Ed’s motto was don’t ask permission.  Do what you’ve got to do and apologize for it later!  He wasn’t a rule breaker, but Ed found success at every corner because people knew whatever he touched was going to get done and in a big way.

When my youngest was eight, he had the same motto. He asked me to take him to a local theme park to ride a roller coaster called The Intimidator.  Never mind that he was about four inches shy of the height requirement!

Here’s a photo of him standing as tall as he could with every trick in the book—tall Healey roller shoes that add about an inch, and two hats stacked tall on his head. The park official who measured him sadly shook his head while choking back his laugh.

But Christian didn’t give up. He went to Top Gun next, and then the BORG Assimilator—two of the biggest coasters in the park.  Every time a park official with a big measuring stick shook his head, Christian smiled and stepped away, undaunted.

“You’ll just have to eat your green vegetables,” I said.

Christian became a connoisseur of snap peas and carrots.  “I’ll keep trying,” he said.  “If I keep trying, someone will think I’m tall enough.”

I thought about Christian and Ed.

Then I thought about us ladies who have to take on life with unexpected challenges, like doing it alone when you thought you’d always have your husband by your side.

Sometimes, I think the world expects us to fold, to ask permission for steps we have to take to move forward.  I suppose I don’t think so, I know so.  I remember a decision I made a year after Tom died. I chose to build a sun porch for the boys and me.

I had a close friend question me on it. She worried over my decision to spend the money, and took it upon herself to discuss it among our circle of friends. It shook me up for a bit, not because I wondered whether my decision was sound, but because I wondered whether our friendship could endure her criticism.  It’s a sad reality but some friendships don’t survive when you loose your husband.  When you move forward as head of the household, you might find friends and loved ones unaccustomed to seeing you take on that role.  But you can’t hide behind a husband anymore. You have to become your own mover and shaker.

So I built the sun porch without anyone’s permission but God’s.  And guess what?  He blessed it. I didn’t even have to apologize for it later!  I’ve had it for years now and the boys love it.  We have it wired with a flat screen and a DVD and it becomes movie central for the kids in the neighborhood on summer nights.  I consider it one of the best decisions we made in these years without Tom.

Lord, Please continue to guide me as I lean on You for direction.  When I seek permission, let it be You and only You I seek it from.  Help me to have the courage to act on Your guidance and not worry about the crowds, just as Christian kept walking unabashed to one ride official after another, going after his goal.

 

I pray for every woman having to step into that role as head of household, that she know she has You to turn to in all things.

Faith vs Fear

By Julie Wright

He has delivered me from all my fears. Psalm 34:4

Fear; to worry, has anxiety, irresolution, dread, mistrust, apprehension as defined by Webster.  My definition; one of Satan’s greatest tools.

Ever since that dreadful day on September 5, 2009, when I learned of my husband and father-in-law’s deaths, my widow heart has been heavy with fear.  It started that day.  How will I provide for our children?  How will I be able to take care of a home on my own?  How will I pay for a double funeral?  How will I be able to get up each and every day without him?  The questions went on and on.

Some days the questions seemed to consume my every thought.  Actually, there have been days that I allowed the “fear” to cripple me to the point where I couldn’t sleep.  There was a period of time when I was happy to get two to three hours of sleep a night and still somehow manage to function at work and keep up with the ever demanding needs of the children and more.  All because of fear.

Over time, the questions have changed but the cause has not.  Should I leave our home for a new one?  Should I step out and have a date?  What will my friends think?  Still worse, what will my children think?

I have always considered myself to have a strong “faith” if you will. I put my trust in a God who has always loved me, provided for me, and offered me hope when there seemed to be none.  I know that this faith has grown over time through the study of His Word and friends and colleagues He has placed in my path.  But, Satan still manages to sneak his way in and take hold of my heart in the deepest, lowest points.  He is the master of fear.

Faith vs. Fear. It’s been a battle that has been going on since the beginning of time.  Look at Eve.  She knew that she should have bitten the fruit from the tree, but that snake was just so convincing.  Once that bite was made, fear entered her being.  She feared the Lord.  She feared what He would say, what He would do, and what He would think.  We all have been there along this widowhood journey.  It is the one constant that follows us along like a lost puppy looking for a good home.  Fear is one of Satan’s greatest tools.

How do we win the battle of faith vs. fear?  The answer is simple, put on the full armor of God.  Dig deep into His word and cling to the hem of his gown even when it seems that the gown is unraveling and you are barely holding on to a thread.

Fear is simply:

F-Fully

E-Engaging in

A-Alternate

R-Reasoning

Fear is not trusting God.

I have found that the scriptures bring me the most comfort during the deepest and darkest battles. Take a moment to remind yourself of these battle winning truths.

He has delivered me from all my FEARS. Psalm 34:4

Therefore I will not FEAR.  Psalm 46:2

Be strong, do not FEAR.  Isaiah 35:4

Do not FEAR.  I am with you.  Isaiah 41:10

He says, “Do not FEAR.”  Isaiah 41:13

FEAR not, I have redeemed you.  Isaiah 43:1

You have nothing to FEAR.  Isaiah 54:4

Perfect love drives out FEAR.  1John 4:18

The final scripture is our answer to the battle.  PERFECT LOVE drives out FEAR.  God’s love, the only perfect love there has ever been and ever will be.  Make a choice this week to focus on God’s truth as you face your battles of fear.  Don’t allow Satan to win by crippling you in your emotions, your body, or your life.

What fears are you facing along this widowhood journey?  What scriptures have you found to help you get your fears under control and put God back in the driver’s seat? Share with me the fears you have dealt with or are still struggling with.  Together we can claim victory over Satan and encourage one another in God’s perfect love.

P.S.  It is without fear, that I wish to share with you all, that God has sent an amazing new love into my family’s life.  Fear allowed me to cripple myself in sharing with you the journey of our relationship.  I allowed my fears of what others might think or say to take over the truth of what God has shown us.

Bobby is an amazing Christian man who has been a part of our lives and family before it ever began.  He has helped our family to heal, to laugh, to smile, and to be filled with joy again.  He has been answer to my prayers and fears and now he is my new earthly helpmate.  Yes, I have remarried…a fear that I never imagined I would overcome.

I will share more about this long, unexpected part of my journey with you later, but for right now I can fearlessly say, “I’m Mrs. Julie Wright.”  Yes, I have heard all the jokes…I’ve found Mr. Wright and I’ve covered the fundamentals going from Reed to Wright, but seriously, I’m so grateful that God allowed this man to come into our family’s lives and bless us in unimaginable ways.  Battle on, my friends, battle on!  Face your fears, one scripture filled battle at a time.

Tree Top Treasures

By Julie Reed

So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded. You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised.  Hebrews 10:35-37

 

It seems to me since Daddy’s passing that we’ve chosen to slow down and enjoy the moments more.  We take the trips that we want to take and we certainly don’t pass up opportunities to do some crazy stuff.  Last year, we marked the anniversary date with a hot-air balloon ride that we won at our church’s youth group fund raiser.  This year, my son wanted me to go zip lining with him.  Well, he actually wanted to bungee jump, but this gal would have no part of that!  For those of you who haven’t heard of zippin’, it is basically experiencing the outdoors in a whole new way.  Adventurers are tethered to large, thick cables that are strung between trees, over rivers, and lakes that become longer, faster, and higher as you progress through the course.   Yes, people pay to do this.  Really.

So, we booked a three hour morning of zipping across the mountain tops.  I admit to you that I didn’t sleep well the night before and spent most of the evening looking for verses to either get me out of this crazy morning or encourage me.  My favorite was from Psalms.  “My heart is in anguish within me; the terrors of death assail me.  Fear and trembling have beset me; horror has overwhelmed me.  I said, “Oh, that I had the wings of a dove and fly away!”  It was as if God was reading my mind and just placed that verse in the Bible for me! It made me chuckle out loud. It was my new motto for the morning.

We set off for training and I felt like the odd, old woman out.  There was a group of seven young, energized, fearless, and fun youth group members assigned with us.  I’m sure they took one look at me and thought, “Yeah, this is going to take all day with her in the group.”  Training began with us hooking our pulley to the wire and zipping half way down the line, stopping ourselves, getting into safety position, and then pulling ourselves back to the platform to do it all again.  I chose to go last.  In my terrified mind, I figured I would learn from observing the others and that my shaking hands would be okay by then. Time was up.  It was my turn. I hooked on my pulley with confidence.  I took my stance. I just stood there.  I couldn’t move.  Terrors of death assailed me…horror overwhelmed me and I was definitely trembling.  After some encouraging words from the guides, my group, and my son, I finally jumped.  “I have wings like a dove, I have wings like a dove, I have wings like a dove” was repeating over and over in my head.  I managed to stop.  I assumed the safety hold.  I received clearance to come back. I pulled myself back to the platform and was off for my first full zip, seven stories up.  I was still full of terror and trembling but at least I could say I did one of them.  Only ten more to go!

As I zipped across the tops of the trees having leaves brush my feet, I still felt some fear and trembling.  But, as I completed each “zip” my confidence grew and I began to trust the pulley, trust my guide, and trust myself.  I can’t help comparing this experience to my widowhood journey.   There were many times that I felt like some imaginary cable was taking me from one event to the next.  It could have been the long car ride to the funeral home where cars whizzed by me in a blur to the lady asking me to pick out a coffin, like they were wallpaper samples on a computer screen.  Zip…that’s done.  Another cable from the funeral to the gravesite, feeling numb, knowing what was happening and being sad, but feeling like it was surreal.  Zip…that’s done.  The cable that led me through finances, estate and insurance hassles.  The cable that took me though birthdays, holidays, and the every days without Daddy, Grandpa or my best friend.  Zip. Zip. Zip.

Newer cables get added to my “Widowhood Trail” all the time.  My daughter’s first day of Kindergarten, asking if Daddy could see her new school.  My son’s new scuba diving certification.  All the cables of “firsts”; braces, middle school, dating, driving permit, school dances.  I feel like my cables are more about the kids and what they are missing and feeling without Daddy cheering them on; here to see all the adventures they are accomplishing on earth.  Sometimes the cables even seem to criss-cross or take me down instead of up.

But, just as my confidence grew, my strength persevered and my trust in the equipment prevailed on that warm, summer morning, the same has been true for my “Widowhood Trail.”  I can look back over the past two years and see God’s hand at work.  I can see the cable being watched over by His care and provision.  I can see us holding on to the promises and hope He’s given us in His equipment (His Word).  I can see our strength and faith growing as we turned to Him and godly friends along our trail.  I can feel my back standing straighter and my confidence coming back as I “zip” onto the next adventure without my earthly husband with me, but knowing my Heavenly Father is my Guide.

This doesn’t mean that I’ve forgotten my husband altogether.  It certainly doesn’t mean that I’ve replaced him with other “stuff” but it does show me that God has been there all the way.  Whether I was trembling with fear or cool as a cucumber, God was zippin’ along with me, holding my hand, collecting my tears, and clearing the trail.  I’m so grateful that my son encouraged me to overcome my fears and zip line with him.  I’m even more grateful to God for reminding me that my perseverance would bring me closer to Him and make the “Widowhood Trail” feel hopeful.

How about you?  Do you feel like you are persevering or just surviving?  Do you see or feel God “zippin” along beside you?  Share with me how your “Widowhood Trail” is feeling to you.  I’d love for us to share in each other’s joys and struggles reminding each other that we aren’t on this trail alone.