Not My But Thy

I was on a walk the other day when I had an overwhelming feeling of thankfulness overcome me.
It was thankfulness for how I am now able to see life.
I see it with a different set of lenses.
I think bigger picture.
Eternally.
The sweet moments hold more sweetness.
The small worries don’t carry as much weight.
And my heart of gratitude for my blessings has increased tenfold.

Then I stopped in my tracks and looked up to the sky and had a very honest moment.

“I had to lose way too much to gain this perspective.”

My heart of thankfulness feels torn between the blessings of what I’ve gained but the sorrow for what was lost in order to gain it.

I had a thought the other day that most of my life I prayed the easy kind of prayers.
I prayed for all of the good things I wanted.
I prayed for security.
I prayed for safety.
I prayed for the health of my family.
None of those things in and of themselves are bad things.
But the thought occurred to me, if God had given me, everything I prayed for, it would have been the worst answer He could have given to my heartfelt prayers.

The night before His crucifixion Jesus was in a garden talking to God.
He knew what He was about to endure.
He was in complete and utter anguish because of it.
He told His disciples His soul was “overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death” (Matthew 26:38)
Hour upon hour He spoke to God and asked for the cup to pass from Him.
He asked if there could be another way.
Any other way.
He has God’s heart more than anyone does.
He is God’s Son.
And here you see a son pleading with a Daddy to spare Him from death in the worst way imaginable.
And don’t for a moment think His Father wasn’t heartbroken for what his Son was about to endure.
After hours of wrestling with what was to come, something in Jesus’ prayers changed.

A small silence is broken and He utters the words that change the entire narrative:

Yet not as I will, but as You will.

He wasn’t shy in telling God He didn’t want to endure what He was set to endure.
He was, after all, God in the form of a human.
Our human nature tends to shy away from pain, not run towards it.

But in the end, He surrendered His will to God’s greater purpose.

Can you imagine how the story would’ve changed if God swooped in to save the day?
Certainly, He could have.
But Jesus willingness to face what was set before Him changed the entire course of history.
His sacrifice changed death forever.
That’s not how the story started but my – what an ending.

If given the choice to have an amazing perspective of life, or my husband back, of course I would choose the latter.
No one would ever willingly pray for calamity to come upon them just for a perspective change.
That’s crazy.
The truth is God did not answer my prayer in the way I hoped, cried out, and believed.
But the way He did answer it has built within me more strength, grit, humility, honesty, care, and compassion than I could’ve ever hoped for.
It changed the course of our family’s life, and the way we will live our lives, forever.

Most importantly, it has changed the way I pray.
Of course, there’s still things I pray and ask God for.
I still ask for protection.
I still ask for the health of my family.
I still ask for the things I desire.
But it goes through a filter now.
The filter is “His will”.

Because through this experience there’s nothing I trust more now than His heart.
I trust His will for me.
I trust His will for my family.
I trust in His purpose for our lives.
I trust in it more than my own wants.
I trust in it more than my own plans.
It doesn’t mean I always understand it, but I trust it.

In the end, His purpose will be fulfilled greater than we imagined.
If we didn’t get what we asked, it’s because He longs to give us more.
Each and every one of us.
For the one who sees the beginning from the end is the same one who holds us in the palm of His hand.

While at times it has seemed like I was in a garden begging Him for an ending that never came.
It will also mean a different ending, I never saw coming.
All for His glory. All for our good.

All for a story and a purpose.
His kingdom come, His will be done.

Dear Jesus I thank you, that in the midst of such pain and loss, I can trust in your purpose and plan for my life. While I may not always understand, please help me trust Your heart for me.

It’s International Widows’ Day Tomorrow

It’s International Widows’ Day tomorrow, and I want to share with you a vision Christ has shown our writer team at A Widow’s Might: a vision to be able to serve widows here and eventually, overseas.

All over the world tomorrow, there will be events and publications that will work to increase the awareness of the plight of widows everywhere.

We’re so blessed in this country. Our culture doesn’t shun the widow to the degree that other cultures and countries do.  And it’s for that reason that our writer team keeps praying for widows everywhere.

Like my friend Sree in Malaysia.

I met her here on A Widow’s Might.  She wrote about the terrible ordeal she went through as a Christian widow having to endure torturous Hindu practices during her husband’s funeral (read about it here), or having to take a stand among Hindu in-laws to raise her children as Christians. Later, Sree wanted me to share with you how even in her developed nation of Malaysia the treatment of a Christian widow is oppressive.

“I raise my children in Christ in a country that favors Muslims. I have fewer privileges for scholarships that would allow my kids the kind of education they need to fulfill dreams of becoming professionals.

“I am treated by much of society as someone not allowed to speak with married men, because of cultural attitudes that these men will be robbed by these widows or these men too may take advantage of the widows.

“Widows are so vulnerable. The less privileged or educated ones may go through the same circumstances as the underdeveloped countries.”

Sree’s problems are really tough even though she’s in a developed country.  In underdeveloped countries, many widows have everything taken from them when their husbands pass away, leaving them completely vulnerable.

Yes, we are fortunate here in the United States. Laws protect us, and the economy and different programs make it possible for us to sustain our families and our futures. But we aren’t without problems either. In a society that’s more fast paced than many in the world, the lonely and socially displaced are easily forgotten, and the spiritual bankruptcy that we experience can be overwhelming.

So isn’t it interesting that the vision for serving international widows has come up time and time again in prayer—on separate incidences within our writer team.

What if? Is the question I keep hearing from the team writers

What if, when we gather widows here at conferences, we help them contribute to a group project that helps a widow overseas?

What if, A Widow’s Might can partner with mission organizations to provide safe avenues for widows to join together and travel to serve widows personally on mission trips in other countries?

What if, we as a writer team meet and befriend more international widows, and connect widows here with widows in other countries to encourage one another for Christ? After all my friendship with Sree in Malaysia has opened both her eyes and mine in so many ways.

And the Lord’s answer to all of these what if’sYes, dear ones! In My timing.”

For just as a young mother wants to see her babies grow into young adults who can serve with her outside her community, we want to see our young fledgling ministry grow into a fully developed ministry able to support these kinds of missions.

So, on International Widows’ Day—tomorrow, Monday, June 23, 2014, we at A Widow’s Might would like you to consider how the United States is part of the International Community too.  This ministry that you are receiving comfort from right here needs to grow to continue supporting the spiritual and emotional needs of widows in our country.

If you have found this ministry a blessing to you or to widows in your life, would you consider letting us know with a small donation of just five dollars, ten dollars, or twenty-five dollars?

And if the Lord is calling for you to partner with us with a monthly contribution, consider using our online secure monthly donation page where you can set up your monthly gift with the peace of mind knowing the transactions are handled securely.

Our ministry team has been hard at work; publishing articles, helping our readers publish their guest blog articles, releasing a printed paperback devotional, holding our Ruth Retreat in March, and organizing a larger conference in Myrtle Beach for November.

The dedication from this group is unprecedented and at this time, it is completely voluntary. We have team members that juggle children and full-time jobs and still find time to give their volunteer service equivalent to full time work, simply because they want to see this ministry remain alive, and even grow to reach more widows worldwide.  They are motivated by the love each one has for our fellow widows and for the Lord Jesus Christ.

There is no other ministry quite like ours on the internet, and now we are pushing out into a physical presence through our publications, speaking engagements, and conferences. Our prayers are that reaching the widows here in the United States first can lead to widows across the country not only feeling supported, but also joining hands to impact the world for His kingdom.

Each member of the writing team feels called by God to minister to widows and wants to share the love of Christ with widows. Help us keep teaching and encouraging widows about the joy of living out your walk in “aNew Season” with Christ by prayerfully considering donating to this ministry and encouraging others to do the same. God bless you for reading and joining forces with us!

Swirling Reflections

by Elizabeth Bixby- Guest Blogger & Ruth Retreat Graduate

“The Lord will guide you always; he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame. You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail.”  Isaiah 58:11(NIV)

This verse inspired me to put in a memorial pond in our yard. It started as an ornamental fish garden in remembrance of my thirteen-year-old son, but one day, became a source of encouragement and hope in the midst of a double loss, as now I live out my life without my husband as well.

My young son had dabbled in a game that was meant to create a momentary high, which most children his age naively consider an innocent act. After all, it wasn’t drugs or alcohol, just a quick, funny way to feel really different for a few seconds. For my son, the end of the game came as a permanent ending to a life just beginning.

Deciding on the garden was a process that began with a sweet offer which came right after my son’s funeral. Monetary donations came with the urging to go on a trip as a family, to “get away”.

I couldn’t bring myself to go on that trip. I could barely place a phone call or take a shower without assistance, much less go on a vacation.

It took a while to decide what to do in place of the trip. Then, somewhere along the grief strewn path I landed on the idea of creating a small oasis in the yard in the form of a decorative pond. It could be filled with fish, turtles and frogs, all the things my son enjoyed. I thought somehow it could keep my husband and me connected to him, with nature and God’s handiwork our tiny thread of connection.

The verse at the top of this page came straight into my heart from God and helped me press on. With newfound clarity, I pursued the right company, who understood that this would be more than a pond, and the construction was soon underway.

Years have passed, and I have never regretted the time and effort it took to get the pond in place. Many a summer’s evening has been spent, on the porch swing, savoring the sound of the trickling waterfall and watching the eager fish swim toward us for food. My husband and I ended most days with one eye on the sunset and one eye looking for new signs of life in the pond.

A year and a half ago, the porch swing occupancy changed from two to one. My husband, out of shear despair and unending grief, took his life. Another devastating, earth-shaking loss for me and my two children. We headed into the longest winter of our lives.

As the season finally changed from the arctic winter to almost spring, I found myself wandering outside more and more, wondering when the ice would melt enough.

My heart felt so similar to that thick ice. Frozen. Hard. Cold.

One day, when the ice finally gave way enough, the pump began its comforting trickle. I reached down at the water’s edge of my Koi pond and pulled up sludgy leaves and slimy algae—proof that winter was hard and had stayed a long while.

I dropped the sludge and dipped my hands in the pond, rinsing them of the debris, like nothing happened. Doing so reminded me of my grief journey. Many days I could paste a smile on my face, put a sack cloth over my heart and act like everything was fine. After all, with the loss of my son, I had experience at this now.

But not all days were like rinsed hands. Other days felt more like sludge.  I thought of the sludge at the deepest part of the pond.  This is how that particular day felt.

I grabbed my long-handled net and reached into that part, where the real muck and mystery lie. I wanted to see what was there–knowing it would feel like I felt–Thickness. Darkness. Uncertainty.

It all swirled around in the depths of my heart, just like my pond.

I scooped with the net and pulled up the largest mass of glop I could grab and studied it.

Decay. Brokenness. Unendingness.

Could I ever truly clean out my heart and mind of the “Why” questions?

Why did my teenaged son play around with such a dangerous game and die at his own hand?

Why did my husband, a gifted and aspiring pastor, take his life out of shear grief and hopelessness?

Why didn’t God in my neediest moments stop these tragedies?

The sludge just lay there in the net, mocking me—ugly like the questions. Taunting me to ask more–after all, I can’t have my answers to why questions, can I? I’m talking to cold gloopy meaningless sludge.

So I obliged.  With anger I asked God…

Didn’t I do all of the right things? I was steeped in our church and reached out to hurting people whenever the Lord urged me. I thought that somehow I had already experienced the worst possible loss, and I was being asked to do it again…

Will I ever have answers to my “Why” questions?

No answer…except for a little of the sludge dripping through the net onto the soft ground. I stared as it dripping slowly—plip plop.

I paused to consider the “Why” question for some of the heroes of the Bible. Surely Daniel asked “Why, God?” even though he was obedient in his actions. Ruth had to have a moment that she whispered under her breath, just out of Naomi‘s earshot, “Why, God?” And Job, a man of unmatched faith in the worst of times, cried out to God for answers.

Caught in the moment and scooping deep into the pond suddenly something moved in that clump of sludge. Tiny, light green legs in the midst of the leafy-dirty clump. I pulled the mass to the surface. It was a baby turtle, my son’s favorite childhood pet!

Yes Lord, You are here.

In that darkest moment of questioning, a soft-shelled moment of hope was born. Proof that in the hard work lays the promise of a loving exquisitely attuned God.

Just like when Job asked God why?  God answered him with “Who”.

It is not about the “Why”, but rather about “Who”!

It is not an easy shift, but it’s one of great value…and immeasurable comfort.

Dear God,  You are my Comfort, my Joy, my Rock, my Salvation. Keep me ever mindful that You are solid, unwavering and worthy of all praise. I pray I will not miss the small flecks of joy when I am covered in life’s muck.  From one of your messiest children, Beth

Frozen

Have you ever heard of an Alaskan Wood Frog? It freezes itself to survive the adverse conditions that it faces during the harsh winters. Those little frogs have given me a visual that has been a springboard for some much needed insight.

When adversity comes knocking at my door, I start to ponder what God is up to and what He is trying to teach me through it all. What character trait is He trying to chisel and shape into my heart? What trait is He trying to extricate that could be replaced with traits more like Himself?

In my quiet time I have come to realize that I have a problem that can only be worked out by Him exclusively. That problem is how I respond to fear. Until recently, I had no clue how my response to fear had been so deeply embedded in my life. It’s about as obvious to me now as it would be if I saw an elephant appear in the middle of my living room.

There is no denying it. There is no getting around it; fear has me frozen.

I have spent my life with the mindset that if I get passed this obstacle I should be home free; no issues. The last four years keeps patiently reminding me that survival mode does not work for this widowhood path. This path requires endurance; no temporary fix that survival mode often encourages, but long term perseverance.

Long term endurance comes by moving despite my fear. It is an essential part of faith building. It helps my roots go deep and my faith limbs grow out and up. It makes me rely on Him and gets rid of my self-preservation mode. It encourages me to live and seize every opportunity and trust Him with every outcome. It’s not easy, but it is doable.

I am ready for living!

In Isaiah 61:3 (The Message) it talks about being renamed “Oaks of Righteousness planted by God to display His glory.” As I sojourn on this road of widowhood, I want to be renamed an oak of righteousness. I want all that I do to display His glory. All of that will come as I work on my immediate response to fear. I want to embrace every single moment as an opportunity to dig down deep.

Does fear in your current circumstance leave you feeling frozen like an Alaskan Wood Frog? Are you ready to let God use you to display His glory? Let’s try and give Him one of our fears today. Every time we are tempted to take back the circumstance that is freezing us with fear lets stop, drop it, and leave it with Him.

Dear Father, I thank you for your patience with me. I thank you for your quiet nudges and your gentle whispers that urges me on by saying “this is the way, walk in it.” (Isaiah 30:21). I want to embrace all that you have for me when “you formed me in the secret.” (Psalm 139:15). Remove the frozen response that I use as a way of control and have your way in every aspect of my life. In Your Sweet Name, Amen

Angel Oak-2-XL

 

 

One of THOSE Days Part II

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.”

 2 Corinthians 1:3-4 (NIV)

 

Today’s the day.  Whether you have decided to ignore or embrace it, it is here.

Father’s Day!

Yesterday, we heard from some of our newer team members.  Today, we continue the discussion with our more seasoned team members and what they posted last year.

From June 16, 2013

Kit:  I have always believed Father’s Day to be particularly important for children who have lost their father–why?  Because it’s an opportunity for the surviving mother to recall for them the elements of who their daddy was–those particular elements that model Christ for them.  Children who grow up without a daddy run the risk of having trouble identifying with a Father God Whom they can trust.  We who recognize this and can get our emotions under control enough can minister intentionally to our children with the purpose of filling in those blanks of what Dad means to them…which leads to what does God mean to them.  For me with boys, I’ve intentionally used Father’s Day to turn it into Brother’s Day– using that day to write a letter to each boy recalling over the past year the ways I’ve seen them grow and mature into the Christ-like man that Dad was.  That not only gives them recognition and something to look forward to, but also reinforces the parts of Dad that model Christ for them.

Linda:  The first Father’s Day for us came about a month after my husband passed.  My daughter suggested she and I spend some time together – we went and got some frozen yogurt and shared memories about him.  The second Father’s Day was a bit easier – she decided to spend the day alone using all of his power tools to build a piece of furniture – and that gave me such joy – knowing that she had inherited her dad’s talent and was using those tools on that particular day!  As the initial raw pain of my loss is beginning to subside, the wonderful memories of specific occurrences are starting to surface.  I have been giving some thought to writing those out and presenting them to my daughter at some point – perhaps next Father’s Day.

Rene:  We have kept Father’s Day fairly low key.  The first year after John’s death, the boys did each make a small gift for their dad that we took out and laid on his headstone.  Then we went to lunch somewhere we thought he would have liked.

Nancy:  Last year was our first without Mark.  We stayed home from church.  Seems like everywhere we went, there were huge banners proclaiming sales for dads, cards, etc.  It was tough.  We hibernated for the day, just being together the three of us.  This year, I asked the boys to think about what they wanted to do to celebrate.  Again, we will refrain from church.  I cannot go and watch as dads are honored, while my boys sit beside me without theirs.  I cannot sing “Faith of our Fathers” yet, but hope someday that I will be able to.  My younger son wants to get balloons to release to Heaven for his dad.  I will encourage them to attach notes to them, and we will read them aloud before releasing.

Liz:  On this day that honors fathers, we instead choose to focus on what we do have, not what we have lost.  And that is truly a lot!  Every year since Keith died, my boys have figured out cards for the men at church whom God has convicted to be part of our lives.  Last year’s card said, “As a father figure, you’ve nailed it.” and we included a nail in the cards.  We passed out upwards of 18 cards, and probably could have used a few more.  The boys get really excited, dashing around church looking for each of the men.  They welcome them with a big hug and present the cards.  They even fight over who gets to give cards to which man.  The men were touched.  One of our friends even got a bit teary, as did I a few times.

Sisters, like any other milestone on this journey, take it before the Lord.  There is no right or wrong answer.  Ask Him how you are to spend the day.  He loves you and will see you through. We are praying for you!

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.