Door #2

Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances;

for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.

I Thessalonians 5:16-18 NIV

 

“Which door will she choose?  Will it be door #1?  Or door #2?”

You’ve heard the game show hosts shout these words to the audience.  You scream at the TV, “Pick door #1!  Pick door #1!” You don’t know what is behind either door, but you take a chance on choosing one of them.

I have been considering what following the will of God is and recently I discovered that knowing the will of God in your life is probably more about BEING than doing.  He has given us so much Scripture to follow.  If we started with just this verse above (rejoicing, praying, being thankful), we would be in God’s will no matter where we ended up.

But another idea came to me while I was listening to a preacher on the radio the other day.  I heard him mention his thoughts about door #2.  Have you ever felt like you obeyed God in a situation and before long it totally fell apart?  Have you ever thought that you must not be “in God’s will” if all this happened? Maybe you have thought that perhaps you weren’t “in God’s Will” if your husband has died?  Maybe if you had married that OTHER fellow, you would still have a husband.   Or if you had married a “better Christian” you would still be married?

What encouraged me was his statement that sometimes God leads a person through door #1 in order to get them to door #2.  Door #1 wasn’t a mistake if you entered it through obedience and prayer.  It may not have worked out AS YOU WOULD HAVE LIKED.  But door #1 can lead to door #2 in God’s sovereign way.

The secret is your inward willingness to obey as God reveals it.

That inward willingness to obey God can get tough sometimes.  We fight it because we think we know a better way.  We have a better plan.  We’ve got this figured out.

The Apostle Paul certainly went through a lot while he was doing God’s will. Beatings. Shipwrecks. Starvation. Friends leaving him. A thorn in the flesh.

Why do I think following God’s will in my life will be all rainbows and lollipops and unicorns?

Life is hard.

I forget that my life isn’t a Hollywood script of Pollyanna.

It is about maturing my faith.

Living out the fruit of the Spirit everyday.

Loving others.

Serving them.

Reading God’s Word and trying to apply it to my life.

Knowing God.

What doors have you traveled through?   In one scenario, my door #1 was marrying my husband but here I am looking for door #2.  Could writing at A Widow’s Might be door #2?  Some think that door #2 must be another marriage.  It could be for some but not for others.  Door #2 could be a new career, or an undiscovered talent, or travels, or even becoming the Publishing Director of a ministry.

Think about your future and where your door into widowhood is leading you.  It may not be where you expected it to be.  We all know that feeling.  But challengeyourself, “God, help me to see with Your eyes.”  Look expectantly at the future.  Have you been able to encourage other ladies because of your similar experiences?  That is a door.  Have you been able to serve in a different capacity because of your being single again?  That could be a door.  Have your children been able to empathize with their friends from divorced homes because now they understand the life with a single mother?   That could be their door.

Next time someone asks you, “How do I know what God’s will is for my life?” You can answer with these verses.  It is about following Scripture no matter where you end up.  So keep rejoicing and praying, then go through door #2 with confidence and obedience.

Lord God, help me rejoice today and be grateful.  Show me how to pray continually in my day.  I want to do Your will so thank You for showing me Your will in Scripture.  Give me opportunities to share Your will with ones I come in contact with this week.  Amen

 

 

 

 

The Journey Matters

“For the Lord gives wisdom; from his mouth come knowledge and understanding;  he stores up sound wisdom for the upright; he is a shield to those who walk in integrity.” Proverbs 2:6-7 ESV

Next Monday, June 09, 2014 would have been my 13th wedding anniversary. I wanted a perfect ending; now, I’ve learned the hard way, that some songs don’t rhyme and some stories don’t have a clear beginning, middle or end. Then again, some stories have endings that shatter previous scenes into a million pieces.

Life is about moving, not knowing. It’s about adapting and changing. It’s about taking a single moment and making the best of it; right then-no matter what happens next. When it’s over, it’s over-the moment is gone. No more second chances or wishes or dreams or could have beens, it’s gone. So, take the single moments you are given and live them, RIGHT. Sometimes they will be beautiful, sometimes they will be painful but MOST of the time, they will be both; because, pain and passion are kin.

Don’t regret something that once made you smile and brought you joy. Everything in life changes you in some way. If you don’t accept the changes you don’t accept yourself. Accept you, love you, live the best you – you can be today. Be greater, be wiser, be more than you were yesterday-if you avoid the change, you lose the path and the journey matters.

So, what is your journey? Is it a journey that takes you a thousand miles away or to your “back yard”? Is it a journey that opens up new worlds or takes you to ones that repair what only your hands can make? Does it involve a million lives or just a select few?

No matter the path, the journey matters!

No matter the plan-because we plan and then life happens-the journey matters.

No matter the profit, the journey matters.

No matter the cost-Your journey matters!

So heal and move, Sisters. Don’t stay stuck or buried under your grief blanket. Rise up and walk the path that God has made for you and only you. People are watching you and God through you and the journey matters.

God, Help us to remember that You still adore us, we are loved and chosen by You. Help us to see the path you have for us and to remember the way we walk it matters because we may be the only Jesus the world ever sees. Help us on the journey You created for each of us. Amen.

 

A Beautiful Forever

I am exactly one month away from celebrating what would’ve been my ninth wedding anniversary. Sadly, this will be the first one I’ve celebrated without my precious husband by my side.

A few evenings ago, I was thinking about my wedding day. I was thinking of the funny parts: like during our first dance when my husband turned to me and said, “I was so nervous I was popping Tums all morning!” Or when we had to do an enactment of us leaving the chapel, while our guests threw roses, because the limo didn’t arrive on time and the photographer was set to leave.

I thought about the emotional moments of repeating our personalized vows to one another, and the long-awaited moment my groom was told he could kiss his bride.

As I was replaying each and every special memory, I tried to think of my favorite.

That one was easy.

It would have to be the moment I walked down the long aisle, straight towards my groom.

You see, I’m not a girl by nature who likes to have people staring at me. The thought of having a room full of them doing it all at once was enough to throw me into a panic. I remember standing at the corner, about to enter the room, and thinking I hadn’t prepared myself for all this attention.

I heard the first notes ringing of the song I was set to walk in to and knew: it was almost show time.
Where do I look?
Do I turn to smile at my guests?
Do I look for my family?
Do I look at my Dad?
My bridesmaids?
My friends?
Clearly, I hadn’t read enough wedding magazines and had no clue.

As I sat there with my heart pounding wildly, it suddenly became clear.
I look straight at my groom.
It didn’t matter in that moment how many people were staring at me.
It didn’t even matter who all was in the room.
The only thing that mattered was the moment where a bride walks to her groom and commits all that she has to him, forever.
His smile at the other end calmed my fears and put me at ease.
As I stared intently at him, the rest of the room faded away, and the tears started to slowly fall down my cheeks.

I snapped myself out of the thoughts of my wedding back to my current reality.
My groom was gone.
Our love story cut short.
The tears for what would be have been replaced by tears of anguish for what has become.
And now, in a mere few weeks, I was going to have to face our anniversary alone.
How in the world would I make it through?

The answer – lock eyes with Jesus.

Yes, I don’t quite know what that day will bring me.
Certainly, it could be a very painful day for me.
But The Lord has painted a beautiful picture for me.
In my head, I picture Jesus standing at the end of that long wedding chapel aisle.
And I, the beautiful bride He sees me as, taking slow steps straight toward Him.
The hurt and pain become the people in the room gazing intently at me.
I have to ignore them.
It’s not about them.
It’s about Him and me.
If I can just keep my eyes on Jesus, walking straight to where He stands, He will meet me there.
He will take my face in His hands and speak His love over me.
He will remind me of His promise He won’t ever leave me.

In that moment, I will make a choice.
I will choose to love and trust Him.
I will choose to let Him carry me every moment of this painful day.
Most importantly, I will choose to continue to surrender my life to the very One who promises me the most beautiful of forevers.

Dear Jesus, I thank You that in the most difficult moments of my life, You are closer still. Please help me to ignore the lies that try to pull me from You and to continually walk towards Your love and promises like never before.

I Really Just Want

“Casting all your care on Him, because He cares for you. Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. But resist him, firm in your faith…” 1 Peter 5:7-9 (NIV)

“I really just want my daddy…I miss him!”  One of my sweet boys proclaimed through tears.

On Thanksgiving night, as our day of celebration with a houseful of family was waning, my daughter came to tell me one of my boys’ was sobbing in his bed with the covers over his head. As I walked upstairs, I prayed that God would give me words filled with love, comfort, and truth for whatever made him so upset. I entered and reached under the covers to caress his forehead.  After a few minutes he pulled the covers down, and with tears streaming, his words thrust us into our toughest moment; when one of my kids really just WANTS their daddy and there’s nothing I can do.

You see my husband was a twin, and even though they look different and act different, he and his brother sounded SO much alike. When we were dating in high school, I’d call his house and start blabbering away.  Sometimes it would be several minutes before I would be told Scott wasn’t even home!  But I did it over and over.  It is a wonderful memory, which made hearing his brother’s voice so very hard after Scott’s death. But now I realize what a special blessing and privilege it is that not many get.

I forget though, as my kids are processing their grief, it can be different. With my brother-in-law here, my son had a tangible reminder, all day long, that he can never see or hear his daddy in person again.  After a while, it was too much for him, so he escaped to his room, pulled the covers over his head, and cried.

How many times do my kids cry out for their father? Far too many to count!

How many times do I cry out for my Father to help us, to give me guidance?  Even more!

But unlike my kids cries for their earthly daddy, there is a Father in Heaven that hears AND answers me.

Yet, sometimes I cry out to God and hear an imitator instead, and I am fooled by that imitator, like I was so many times by my husband and his brother back in high school.

The Bible is clear; Satan is the greatest imitator of them all. He prowls around looking to speak lies to us and steal us from our true Father.

As Ben and I talked about my husband and the things we love and miss the most, it was a valuable reminder for me of how important it is to continuously be filling myself up with God’s voice, through His Word and His promises to me.  My grief makes me weak and, like my Benny, an easy target for my emotions and pain to get the better of me. In my weakness, Satan can get in and devour me.

As I reflected and went on my knees before the Lord later that night, He revealed how important it is for me to turn to Him, the true Healer, each and every day.  I need to turn my children over to His care as well, trusting He will be everything they need in this journey, praying they will never be fooled by the imitator either.

Father, I pray this protection over my sisters. Protect us from Satan’s snares as we travel this grief road. It’s so hard at times to stay focused on You and so easy to wallow in our pain and sadness. But Your promises are the real deal. Meet ours and our kids needs Lord, heal all our hearts, and protect our minds. Help us to continually renew our desire to seek You and to turn our grief and our children’s grief over to You, to never be fooled by the imitations, but to resist and stand firm in YOU.  Amen 

Giving Birth…Again

Have you ever agreed to a project and said, “How hard could it be, right?”

Two movie lines come immediately to mind:  Gone With the Wind – “I don’t know nothin’ ‘bout birthin’ babies!” and Tootsie– “How much trouble could a baby be?”

Back in the fall, I agreed to a project and now it is finally “born”.  With all the birth pains of an actual human birth, this stage of the project is completed. It has been the biggest project I have ever undertaken so far in my life besides childbirth.

Last fall, as Kit Hinkle and I were chatting on the phone, she mentioned that she was putting together a devotional book of our AWM articles.  God prompted me to just offer to take it on.  So I asked her if I could help her out and take this off her plate.

Never. That is how many times I have published a book.  That is how many times I have edited a book.  That is how many times I have even thought about writing a book.

God has a way, doesn’t He?  He nudges us just enough into something until we realize we are TOTALLY dependent on His strength.  I have learned so much.  So. Much.

I jumped in and gave it a start.  We had our first look at what I had finished when our team met for the first time at our retreat in March.  We were all so excited to see the potential, even though there was a long way to go.  Several of my team sisters became “mid-wives” and helped edit with me.

And this week I turned the summer edition of our daily devotional book into the printer.  I kid about giving birth and, just like a new parent, I am beaming with delight.  But all the delight comes from following God’s prompting and seeing Him follow through with the project.  This is His book.  This is His ministry.  This is His widow.  This is His.

Soon and very soon, we will make this daily devotional for summer available to YOU.  There are so many widows without the opportunity to read our articles that we have available on-line. We want to make this encouragement available to them.

Pray for this huge endeavor, friends.  Pray we will market it appropriately.  Pray that we will be the vessels of His leading.

And follow the prompting of God in YOUR life.

Trust me, if I can do this, you can do whatever He is prompting you to do.  Follow His lead, even when it feels like you are crawling through mud.  He will give you the wisdom and strength to complete the task.  Eat the elephant, one bite at a time.

 

Buddy the Dog and Me

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.”  Matthew 11:28 NIV

Since adopting a puppy, we have had lots of stories:  stories of chewed up shoes and clothes; stories of terrified neighbor children.  My favorite stories are the ones that happened as daddy was trying to leave for church after I had already gone early for orchestra.  Buddy the Dog would inevitably drag some item out of the garage and wait for daddy to chase him around.  Once Buddy dragged out the electric hedge trimmer still in the box and ran wild in the backyard.

This past winter, we had some very cold days (at least for the south!) so Buddy was given more opportunities to stay inside while we were gone.  One particular day we were trying to leave to go somewhere and there was Buddy running around the back yard with trash in his mouth.  We chased him around like idiots, yelling at him and calling him a bad dog. Nothing worked.  Nothing made him drop his garbage so he could be allowed into the warmth of the house.  Here is a family dressed in Sunday clothes, chasing a big black dumb dog around the yard for trash!  It didn’t take me long to give in and leave him out.  We were initially sad about leaving him outside but that changed after I convinced the kids that it was his stupid choice.

He gave up the opportunity for warmth in order to hold onto his garbage.

When I told the kids that there must be a spiritual application somewhere in this story, one teen said, “God gave us dogs in order to see ourselves.”  Pretty insightful!  Are there times I have found myself holding onto the “garbage” of my own way while God is calling me to the warmth and peace of His will?  Do you ever find yourself there too?  Like Buddy the Dog, we keep running around with our plans rolled up in our mouths.  We have ideas, plans, lists, but they aren’t what God has in mind for us. It keeps coming down to my will versus His will.  Pride versus humility.  Accepting His plan for my life, and living that life for His glory and not my own.

I hold onto that garbage and run around the yard!  I don’t want to let go of it…But I have to let go of it in order to follow God.  He doesn’t make me drop it.  He doesn’t chase me with a large stick like I may or may not have done with Buddy the Dog.  He promises that His yoke is easy.  Yokes never give the idea of ease but perhaps we need to stop pulling at the yoke or trying to go where the yoke doesn’t fit well.

But never in the sense that “easy” means “without trials”.  When Jesus told the disciples that they needed to cross the water in a boat and, while they were obeying Jesus, they encountered a storm, they were right where God wanted them.  The Apostle Paul went through a lot of difficulties while following God.  I think it has to do more with a humble acceptance that we are right where God wants us to be, right where He can use us to help someone else, right where we can bring glory to Him, right where we totally rely on Him and not ourselves.

So when I look at Buddy the Dog, I ask myself if I am choosing the garbage of my way instead of the warmth of God’s will.

Father God, You call us to Yourself.  You offer the promise of Your yoke being easy.  Guide me today as I follow Your will and not my own.  Help me to drop the “garbage” in my life, drop the constant urge to perform for Your love, and just accept the love You offer and the warmth of following Your will.  Thank You that You don’t force us to follow but that You lovingly hold Your hands out to us.  Amen

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Oh Those Tears!

He will wipe every tear from their eyes. – Revelation 21:4a

How do you feel about tears?

I know that I have cried my share…maybe more than my share. They come at different times and for different reasons…but they come. On this journey, they come.

In doing some research on tears recently, I came across some information so amazing, so touching, that I just had to share it.

I learned there are three kinds of tears, each for a different purpose. Some of the tears we cry are to get dust and other foreign objects out, and to clean the eyes after (antiseptic). Others are to lubricate the eye for the regular operation of the eyeball. The third kind are the emotional tears.

These are the ones I have become much more familiar with in the past six and a half years since Keith died.

They come when I am stressed at raising these four boys (who even as I type this are calling my name with needs). They come as I watch these same boys turn into men who are making me so proud, and would make their dad equally proud. They come as I sit alone in church, missing holding Keith’s hand at prayer. They come as the car breaks down, as the toilet breaks (again), and as the house needs repainting. Not constant like they were in the beginning, but still the tears come.

My research led me to Rose-Lynn Fisher and her study called The Topography of Tears . In this study, Ms. Fisher photographed 100 different kinds of tears. The pictures are fascinating! They describe tears of all different kinds, for all different reasons.

Here are tears from onion-cutting:

pix #1 for 5-14-14

Here are tears of laughter (totally different):

pix#2 for 5-14-14

But this picture was the one that drew me most…the picture of the tears of grief.

pix #3 for 5-14-14

As I looked at the picture, I thought of all my own tears of grief. That is when one part of this picture came clear into focus for me. Do you see it, ladies?

In the lower right quadrant of this photo I see…a cross!

Oh, sweet Lord! How incredible of You to put a picture of the cross right in my falling tears! You are so there with me that You put Your instrument of healing right there for me to see!

Sisters, we may cry these many tears, but He is there in each one! Really, physically there! With this evidence, how can we not trust Him in all this?

I recently read a quote by the great theologian Charles Spurgeon:

The vale of tears is but the pathway to the better country: this world of woe is but the stepping-stone to a world of bliss.

This morning as I write this, I praise Him because my tears are for a reason…for an eternal reason. God is using them to grow a better me. He promises…and shows me right down to the very fiber of the tears themselves.

Father God, thank You for being part of every aspect of my life, even my tears, and for writing the promise of them into my heart as You have in the tears themselves. You are worthy of all my praise. In Jesus’ precious and holy Name, amen.

Resurrection Joy

by Rene Zonner

In their fright the women bowed down with their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not hear; he has risen!”

Luke 24:5-6

We in the Christian world just celebrated the event that defines our faith…the resurrection of Jesus…Easter. 

For most of my life I’ve had a hard time truly understanding the despair of Jesus’ followers after his death. After all, I had the advantage of knowing how the story was going to end.  I knew that there was a happy ending.  I can look back and see that I really couldn’t understand the depth of their joy when they saw Jesus alive on that first Easter morning.

Until my husband died…

The first Easter after his death was different.  For the first time, I could really empathize with the loss Jesus’ followers must have felt.  The person they spent almost every waking hour with for three years was dead.  They, like me, were surely questioning what they were supposed to do next.  Who were they now that they weren’t a Jesus follower?  There was probably a sense of disbelief.  Could this really be happening? I’m certain they felt that sickening feeling in their stomach, the one that happens after you wake up in the morning and for a brief moment have forgotten that your husband is gone…then the truth smacks you in the face.  I’m sure their futures looked bleak, there was uncertainty, questions hurled at God.  All feelings that I knew so well.

That Easter was the first time I could truly understand what Mary felt when she encountered Jesus in the garden. I imagine that she was confused.  I’m sure she doubted what she was seeing at first, wondered if she was imagining things.  But then, once it sunk in that Jesus was alive….oh the joy!  Can you imagine what joy you would feel upon seeing your loved one again?  I don’t know if there are even words to describe it.  And of course, I would run to tell everyone I could about the miracle that happened….just as Mary did.

None of us will be able to experience what Jesus’ followers did by having our husbands walk this earth with us again. But the promise of the cross is that we will be reunited at the time of Christ’s return. When Jesus returns and restores things as they were meant to be, we will once again see those who have gone before us in Christ.  Can you imagine that day?  The joy of seeing all those who we knew in this life but lost, the excitement of seeing face to face all those saints of the Bible that we never met, fellow believers from all over the globe and time together in one place.  What a glorious day that will be!

As much as I am looking forward to seeing all those that have gone before me, there is an even greater joy waiting for me on that day.  Seeing Jesus face to face.  I imagine that moment will far exceed anything I have ever felt before.  To see the love in his eyes as he welcomes me home, the gentleness in his voice as he calls me by name…oh, what a sweet day that will be!

Sisters, as we come out of this Easter season, let us not forget what it’s really about.  The promise of being reunited with our husbands and other believers is a sweet and precious gift.  It’s one of the reasons I have been able to walk this journey and not be beat down as one without that hope. But it is so much more.  The promise is really about being reunited with Christ.  It’s about being restored to communion with God as it was meant to be all along.  It’s about finally being all that we were meant to be.  That, more than seeing John again, is what I look forward to with anticipation.

Father, I thank you for the hope we have in the resurrection of Jesus.  I pray that each one of us would remember, when we are sad and beaten down with grief, the promise the cross gives us. We look forward to the day when we can be with our husbands again and worship you with fellow believers we never met here on earth.  While we look forward to that day, help us to keep our focus on the greatest joy, Lord.  The joy that will come when we stand face to face with you, our Savior.

Amen