There Are No Do-Overs

I have a secret to tell…I am selfish, controlling, and I’m not always happy.  Phew!  I got that out!  Now, for an explanation…

But the tongue can no man tame; it is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison.  Therewith bless we God, even the Father; and therewith curse we men, which are made after the likeness of God.  Out of the same mouth proceedeth blessing and cursing.  My brethren, these things ought not so to be- James 3:8-10 KJV

I am almost four years into this grief journey, and as I type this article I am preparing for this ministry’s upcoming November 2014 conference in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.  I will be co-presenting on the topics of Dating and Courage.  Then, I will be speaking at our Love Lights ceremony about grieving with hope and being open to God’s new calling in our lives.

As I march into the days and hours leading up to the conference, I have been bombarded with flashbacks of terrible moments at the end of my husband’s life; the moments where I did not use my tongue to God’s glory.  Those moments are moments I wish I could erase.  The things I said and decisions I made were made in my flesh, thinking I had more time.

Several days before what would be Bill’s death, we were in the transplant wing and it was getting late so I was preparing to leave to go to the hotel for the night.  Bill asked me to spend the night in his room.  On the transplant wing, you cannot use the patient’s bathroom or their bedding.  There is no comfortable place to lie down in the room, and any time you have to use the restroom you have to leave the wing. Then, to come back, you have to go through a series of doors and a hand-washing station to enter again.  I had been on caregiver watch for several weeks, had been at the hospital since before breakfast, and I was very tired.  I told him I needed to go home, so I could re-fuel and come back to love on him the next day.  I thought we’d have “tomorrow”.  I never slept with my husband again; nor did I ever wake up near him again.

The last conversation I had with my husband was in ICU on Friday, February 11, 2011.  He had just had his breathing tube removed and his voice was raspy.  He was lucid for the first time in days, and his medical team was talking about taking him back up to the transplant wing.  There was a lot of hope in that ICU cubical that day.  Bill’s best friend from work and two other friends were visiting us, and they had travelled a long distance to visit him.  Bill wanted just me and kept saying to me, “I love you; I love you; I love you” and holding tightly to my hands and pulling me close and kissing me – over and over again.  I felt the pull of his friends wanting time with him and I told him I would see him soon and gave some of my time to them…I would never have another conversation with him again.

I am not looking back when I share these moments (and there are many more).  I am simply sharing lessons with you.  Do not take the present moment for granted.  Love like you don’t have tomorrow.  Forgive as though your life depends on it.  Share as though you are the only resource available.  Speak with love.  Once the moment is over, you will regret it if you didn’t handle it with grace and love.  There are no do-overs.  Satan uses these moments to attack me and stunt my grief journey.  I have to call on my sisters and brothers in Christ to carry me when I am attacked with these moments.

God is good and He sustains me, through the Holy Spirit who strengthens and comforts me. Prayer supports me.  I can, through Christ, move past these memories and into the Truth.  Bill knows I loved him and knows that in both of those moments; I made the correct choice with the information I had at the time.  Bill has forgiven and, in Heaven, he has forgotten those moments and is busy worshipping his Savior.  That thought helps to remind me that I need to be busy about the Lord’s work here.  If I sit and think on these moments that I could have handled better, I am looking back and not moving forward.  If I am busy about the Lord’s work, then I am moving forward and thinking about my Savior; not regrets, memories, and what ifs.

Sweet Father,   Thank You for reminding me to look to You when the memories of what ifs come to mind.  Thank You for Your Grace and Mercy and for Your Word which sustains me.  Thank You for my brothers and sisters in Christ who continue to point me to You.  I love You, Lord!  In Jesus name, Amen

 

 

 

It Can

Most of my life I believed God was faithful through the bad times, the storms of life.  I believed in my head this was true, and I saw with my eyes, through others difficult circumstances, that it looked true.  But, without my own severe storm, without that first-hand knowledge, I’m not sure now my heart truly believed it.

Then, something terrible happened in our life, thrusting us into the deepest storm I’d ever known.  When my head didn’t understand and my eyes could see nothing, I had only my heart left.  That’s where God met me; broken, bewildered, blind, and on my knees pouring out my heart in a storm so severe, I wasn’t sure we could survive.

It’s been four years and four months since our catastrophic storm hit… The day my beloved husband journeyed to heaven by taking his own life.

Death is a kind of storm that no one can ever be fully prepared for, and suicide takes it to a dimension of intensity not many understand. It can easily create destruction and devastation for all. It can turn everything you believed and everything you thought inside out and upside down.  It can give Satan such a foothold, and it can thrust those left behind into such a shock there’s the potential for no return.

It can!

The “Suicide” Storm is brutal and it leaves a mess.  This storm of death did just that for us.  It left an ugly, scary mess, and far more questions than answers.

So, how have we survived?

What’s allowed us to move forward, to heal, and to even grow?

Who thwarted Satan’s plan of destruction?

God did!

Because of the Almighty Father, we moved from suicidal death being the “it can” storm of destruction, to the “God did” story of restoration.  My children and I are a walking breathing testimony to God’s faithfulness through a horrific storm!   His faithfulness came in His provisions for us, His love and care over us, and His healing power through us. He revealed Himself to us in such a deeper more meaningful way, by showing us that His perfect plan was played out in every moment leading up to that day and every day after.

Death is never outside of God’s plan, even suicidal death!  He allows really bad stuff to happen.  Not for our harm, but for our growth.  That’s tough!  And without deep faith and trust in Him it can be confusing and seem unfair, because our pain, sadness, and loss are so real, so raw. But, God doesn’t tell us life is fair or easy, that we won’t suffer or even die.  In fact, He warns us we will, so we better get prepared. Preparedness comes from knowing God intimately, hiding His words deep in our heart, and trusting that He is totally and completely in control during every single moment of every single day.

Then in the midst of any storm, it can becomes God did!

~It can be so tough, God did show us He’s stronger. Psalm 105:4

~It can be really sad, God did show us He understands deep sadness and He will be near the broken-hearted. Psalm 34:17

~It can be scary looking, God did show us He creates beauty. Ecclesiastes 3:11

~It can be overwhelming, God did show us with Him all things are possible. Matthew 19:26

~It can be long term, God did show us He has gone ahead to prepare for us. Deut. 31:8

~It can be a hard road, God did show us that He has us right where He wants us. Psalm 16:8

~It can be devastating, God did show us He will heal us and bind up our wounds. Psalm 147:3

~It can be ugly, God did show us that ugly stuff will grow us. 1 Peter 5:10

~It can be frustrating, God did show us that trusting Him is the only way. Proverbs 3:5

~It can be hopeless, God did show us hope is not found here, but in our eternal victory and sealed place in heaven with Him.  Jeremiah 29:11

Father God, thank you for being so faithful to me in the midst of such a tragic, horrific storm.  Thank you for your promises strewn throughout scripture.  Lord, your word has every answer I need.  I pray now for my widow sisters, those who might be struggling with the it cans.  Father help them to see your fingerprints everywhere.  Move them from the it can ugly stuff to the God did promises and assurances.  In Your precious and matchless name, Amen.

 

 

 

Am I the only one?

Am I the only one, the only one who falls prey to lies?

I reveled in the joy of peace, and welcomed reprieve from the onslaught of heavy emotion.

“Finally Lord, perhaps I’m out of the valley. Perhaps the long winter is over.”

Wonderful joy. Wonderful peace that passes understanding. Wonderful delight in my God. Then out of nowhere the lies attacked as ravenous lions, quickly debilitating me under the weight of their fury.

It sure does seem like I write about lies often. I guess I’m a slow learner.

But it’s also true that since Jon died, they’ve been drastically more brutal. It’s like Satan has upped the ante in a war he doesn’t know he’s already lost. Sometimes I forget that he’s lost.

It seemed I battled about 25 lions.

“I am not loved.”

“This will never end.”
“God we wanted only to live for you and proclaim the gospel. Why would you take that away?”
“I am surely NOT measuring up to whatever grand plan you have in mind.”
“If this is how you treat those who want to serve you, I don’t want it.”
“Why would you give this person the thing that I want? Why does everyone else get their idols?”
“When will people get to rejoice with me instead of only weep?”
“God, the desire for intimacy is so strong. If marriage is not in your plans, just take the desires away! This is desperate God. I don’t want to sin. And I don’t want to cause anyone else to sin!”

Still there was more.

“My friends are tired of sharing pain with me.”
“God doesn’t listen. He doesn’t care.”
“I HATE constantly being the weak one!”

“I am not loved.”

Crushing weight mingled with shame and guilt.

I tried to tell myself truth, but nothing seemed to abate the sharp claws and satisfy the predator’s voracious appetite. I was being devoured. I walked around in a haze of tears and irrationality.

I wanted to run, to protect everyone around me from me.

Finally, relief.

Friend upon friend arrived and beat off the lions, striking them with the truth that I could not. Faced with a weapon greater than themselves, the enemies retreated, running tails between their legs.

“Attack them one at a time,” my wise friend said.

You are vastly loved. You are valued. There is grace.

The KING is here. He cherishes. He provides. He protects. He will not let you be destroyed! He calls you beloved daughter. You are normal. You don’t have to beat yourself up.

What? I was one of the lions? Yes.

The flood gates opened, and again I could meet with God.

“Sing aloud, O daughter of Zion; shout O Israel! Rejoice and exult with all your heart, O daughter of Jerusalem! The Lord has taken away the judgments against you; he has cleared away your enemies. The King of Israel, the LORD is in your midst; you shall never again fear evil…Fear not O Zion; let not your hands grow weak. The LORD your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you with his love; he will exult over you with loud singing.” Zephaniah 3:14-17

What is true?

God is zealous for His people. The KING himself bursts forth in divine celebration over his chosen ones! His love is deeper than I understand. He rejoices over me because I am his own. Because God is present and in control, I don’t have to be afraid.

Sing aloud! Shout! Rejoice! Exult!

The true KING is here, who lay down his life so justice and mercy could dwell in harmony. The true KING. The one who loves. The one who can be trusted completely.

That I should have to face the full weight of HIS wrath, heightens my wonder at His astonishing mercy!

He will save. His grace is infinitely bigger than the lies. His truth utterly defeats them.

Lord it’s a beautiful mystery that you delight in me. You are passionate about justice, but you are equally fierce in your love. Because of Jesus’ death and resurrection, Satan is already defeated. Help me remember! Help me know that your truth defeats every lie!”

Navigating the Waves

 “I hear the tumult of the raging seas as your waves and surging tides sweep over me. But each day the Lord pours out his unfailing love upon me, and through each night I sing his songs, praying to God who gives me life. “

Psalms 42: 7-8 NLT

As I was growing up, I spent a lot of time at the beach with my family and as an adult I love taking my kids to the beach as well.

I love playing in the ocean waves. I never quite know what the day is going to be like in the water.

Some days the waves are calm, gentle, rolling. I can just relax and float all day. Other days they are big and powerful and crashing. On these days I have to work really hard to keep my head above the waves.

Then there are those times when the waves come consistently and predictably for hours on end. I am able to find a rhythm as I ride them. The waves feel manageable and I start to get comfortable. But then, seemingly out of nowhere, a rogue wave will hit. Suddenly I am struggling to find my breath as I am tossed around in the water, hardly able to tell which way is up.

Sounds a little bit like grief, doesn’t it?

In the early days, weeks, and months of my widow journey I felt as if the waves of grief were relentless. Never stopping, tossing me about, and making it hard to stay above water. It was exhausting.

But there came a time when the waves of grief evened out. I found my rhythm and became so comfortable in dealing with it that there were days when I didn’t even notice them. These days would go on and on until….the rogue wave hit. Oh, and when it hits, it hits big!

It’s the days when a memory is triggered. It doesn’t really matter if it is a good memory or a bad one, either has the potential to knock me off my feet. Maybe the wave was caused by my having to help my children in their grief, or facing the reality of how much my life has changed…what I have lost. No matter what the trigger is, it has the potential to really toss me around.

Now that I am four years into this journey, I find most days the ocean is gentle and calm. I am able to relax, float, and even enjoy myself. I have found peace. But every now and again, a rogue wave still hits. The difference now is that I have learned how to navigate these waves of grief. They still have the power to knock me off my feet, but I am able to recover much faster. I find the surface quickly and am back to floating comfortably again.

How does that happen? How did I get to the point of being able to get above the wave again? By keeping my focus on the Father.

You see, as a child, when the waves would get rough, big, and hard to handle I would hold onto my dad. Because he was so much bigger than me, he was able to stand firm in waves that were knocking me about. He was steady and strong and when I went under, he pulled me up and out of the water.

This is what our Heavenly Father does for me now when those waves of grief come. By reading His word, leaning on His strength, and allowing Him to pull me up when I feel as if I am drowning, I am able to navigate the rough times. Without the steadfastness of the Lord, I would be lost in the sea of grief. I would easily be pulled under by those waves. But because of the strength I find in Him, when those waves of grief do hit me, I am able to recover and once again find my peace. And so can you.

Abba Father,
I pray for my sweet sisters who are on this journey of grief with me. I pray they will find the comfort and peace that comes with knowing you. I ask you to be the strength for each of us. When we feel as if we are drowning in the waves of grief, lift us up through your word. Help us to keep our heads above the waters and comfort us as we wait for the calmness to come again. Thank you Father for the peace that only comes from knowing you.
Amen

An Apple

He that touches you, touches the apple of my eye. Zechariah 2:8 (NIV)

These last few weeks have been a bit rough here in the corner house. Discomfort, resulting from a fall, has limited my activities. Struggling to learn something new has frustrated me. An anonymous letter from a neighbor complaining about my untrimmed hedge has hurt deeply. It seemed no matter how hard I tried,  I just couldn’t get it all done. And suddenly I found myself feeling dry, uninspired and “all used up” – pretty much like a partially eaten apple – you know the feeling – wondering what’s next, what else do you have left to give, how on earth can you be of service to anyone – all the “good years” are gone……….

All the days spent living and loving and sharing and serving and caring have taken a “bite” – bites given willingly to be sure and most definitely each one of them would be offered again – and the desire remains to continue to give and love and share and care. Yet there does not appear to be much left – certainly not the “best” part – that part seems to be gone. This is not a feeling reserved for “age”. It can happen at anytime and it shouts silently to the soul saying, “You’re done; there’s nothing left for you”.

That voice is shouting a lie.

The truth of God’s Word to me says: “He who touches you, touches the apple of my eye”

What comfort that gives to my weary heart!

I am the “apple of God’s eye” – a special one, treasured, loved and cherished.

God wants me to see myself as He sees me – the apple of His eye – whole and full and lovely and delightful – not used up, not done, not useless. He wants me to know that there is hope, there is a future, there is still sharing and caring and loving and serving to be done. He will lead me into His plan in His way, in His time.

He wants you to know that as well, dear sister – you are a special one, treasured, loved and cherished. I pray that your weary heart is comforted today.

Father, thank You for guarding me as the apple of Your eye. Apart from You I can do nothing. Keep me in Your care and guide me through the days ahead. I love You so much!

Flying

“For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them.”

Psalm 139:13-16


My children and I take a family of “4” vacation to the same place every summer now.  It has become a treasured NEW tradition; one of the many I’m creating as we move forward. One of the highlights of this vacation is going to our favorite beach.  On the third day there was a threat of rain and it was chilly. I decided to brave it anyway, and grabbed TWO kites and a soccer ball. As we pulled down the two lane road, I realized I might be the only person thinking it might NOT rain. My ten year old daughter and twin seven year old sons groaned a bit as we unloaded. So I prayed half-heartedly for no rain. We settled in and some bickering began. My no rain prayer petition became a bit more serious.

Once we figured everything out the wind began to pick up, so it was perfect for kite flying. There was a problem though, I purchased two kites and thought we could “buddy” up and share. I definitely had some twin brain (it’s a fact, twins drain your brain twice as fast) issues that morning. They weren’t in the mood to share. So, I explained they had to figure it out or the kites were going back to the car. Quickly, they had worked out a plan. My daughter, Shelby, and my dominant son, Scott, convinced my very placid, happy go lucky son, Ben, to let them have a go at the two kites while he “watched.” He as usual complied with a smile.

In just a few minutes Shelby and Scott had the kites up and flying. I watched as Ben marveled at their skills for a little while. Then he lost interest. I felt terrible that he had no kite of his own and the guilt set in on my morning “twin” brain. But instead of complaining, he began to look around and fumble through our stuff. Before I knew it he had created his own kite. He was off running around, hooting and hollering, while his make shift kite invention soared behind him.

I sat there in awe of my three uniquely and wonderfully made kids. I watched as my cautious girl, Shelby, soared her kite closer in and carefully monitored it often. Scott’s, my dare devil boy, was flying high and free above where he paid it little mind. Then, there was my precious inventive Ben, who can make his own fun out of anything.

After my beloved husband’s death, I find it important and even helpful for their grief process to tell them what traits or idiosyncrasies they have that were their daddy’s. But inwardly I worry. My mommy heart is frightened by what they “could” inherit. He had so many wonderful qualities, but he also suffered greatly in his last few years. I also worry for them and the weight they will carry because their father committed suicide.  It’s my mom heart and I know my mom heart lets satan in.

As I watched my three amazing children and how they each flew their kites differently, God reminded me of the verses above. He’s formed them each, He’s planned their days, and He knows their innermost beings better than I ever will. He is their all in all; He knows their beginning, and their end. I don’t have to worry! They are each uniquely and wonderfully made and I can fully trust Him for all their days. No matter what traits they may inherit, they are in HIS hands!

I sat savoring my three blessings and their unique kite flying techniques and meditating on God’s words, and such a sense of relief settled in. I’m not burdened by the traits my kids might inherit from either of us.

But, I’m freed by a God who’s so much bigger than our flesh. I can trust Him and His plan for them. I am so grateful for His promises, provision, and love for my kids and for me.

 

A recovering worrier….

by Nancy Howell

 Don’t fret or worry. Instead of worrying, pray.

Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns.

Before you know it, a sense of God’s wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down.

It’s wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life. 

Philippians 4:6-7 (MSG)

Hmmm….read that again, sisters.  That passage, so beautifully translated by The Message, gives very simple directions. Don’t fret or worry…”

Hello.  My name is Nancy.  I am a worrier.

Let me rephrase that–I am a recovering worrier.  Much like other addicting habits of indulgence, worrying is hard to wrestle free from.

I should know, I’ve struggled with the addiction of worry the majority of my life.

Worry nags at you, whispering quietly, “You’re not good enough…”  “you’ll never finish this project on time”  “you’re unprepared, per usual!”

My spouse was not a worrier.  In fact, he remains the most laid-back, easy going, put together person I have ever known.

Whenever he would sense (or hear) my angst, he had one response:  “Sweetie, worrying doesn’t do you any good.  Nothing productive comes from worry.  Do your best, let it go, and always remember ‘EGBAR’….Everything’s Going to Be Alright!”  And with that, he’d go on his merry way.

Sometimes I swear I could hear him whistling a happy tune as our conversation concluded.  Throughout our years together, during particular situations he simply would look into my eyes, smile and say, “EGBAR.”  He knew I needed reminding.  And it helped.

After his death, I didn’t worry about anything.  Call me crazy (and you wouldn’t be the first!), but for months I was on auto-pilot.

Looking back, I realize I didn’t worry because I was bathed in God’s light.  I felt as if my boys and I were being carried around on the most comfortable mattresses possible, with nothing around nearby to touch or harm us.  We were completely surrounded by prayers, protected from the world.

Unfortunately, that total feeling of comfort and protection did not last.  I began to relapse back into old habits, worrying about our sons, finances, major life decisions, future goals,  life in general.  I no longer had Mark alongside me, whispering “EGBAR”.

I struggled to leave the worrying at God’s feet, praying for answers to questions nagging at my soul.  As I cleaned up my kitchen late one night, I glanced at the plaque prominently displayed by my sink.  Given to me by Mark’s special angel, his ICU nurse who lovingly cared for him during his last days here on earth, it quotes Philippians 4:13.

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God makes it so simple.

Why do we have to make it so hard?

“Instead of worrying, pray…”

Give your petitions and worries to God, fashioning them into prayers.  Your concerns matter to Him.

Before you know it, a sense of God’s wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down…”

I’ve often read that the absence of fear is faith.  Faith is believing that God will bring you through whatever situation you are in.

As widows, we come to God’s throne in many different circumstances.  Some of us struggle with loneliness, while others may be financially strapped.

Some have to uproot and move to strange new surroundings, soon after losing our significant others.  Others are left alone with child rearing responsibilities.  And believe me, it takes both a mother and a father when possible to raise a child in the way that God wants.

Whatever our personal situation, our spiritual circumstances can be the same.  Have faith, not fear.  Allow your Heavenly Father to tote your heavy load.  His shoulders are strong and He can handle whatever you put at His feet.  “everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down…”

If the absence of fear is faith, I want to proclaim that the absence of worry is trust.

The absence of worry is TRUST.  As my sweet husband told me countless times, worry doesn’t do anyone any good–except the devil.  He is behind your worries.  He is the one whispering you aren’t capable.  He is the one causing you to lose sleep as a dozen different issues run through your mind.  Don’t give him the satisfaction.  There’s only One that can silence him–God.

God is beside you.  Regardless.  He is simply waiting for you to TRUST Him to take your worries.

Remember, there’s nothing that our God cannot do.  Surrendering, trusting, giving your burdens to Him, even in the midst of enormous grief and shifting sand, can free you.  Free you to be what God wants you to be.

He has a plan.  It may not be the plan you wanted, but it’s a plan, nonetheless.  Leave your worries at His feet.

“It’s wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life..”

In worry’s place?  Trust.  Pure, loving, simple, and soothing.

EGBAR, dear sisters.  If God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit are for us, who can be against us?

Dear Father,

I praise Your name for the ability to take all of our worries.  Help us let go of them.  It’s hard to let go, walk away, and not try to pick them back up.  That’s where trust comes in.  We trust You to handle the worrying part.  Transform us so that worry is no longer the center of our existence.  We want You to be the center.  Continue to bless each and every sister that struggles with turning worry into trust.  It’s an ongoing process.  Thank You most of all for Your patience as we give You our all.   In Jesus’ name I ask it all,  Amen.

How Do You Hold Thoughts Captive?

We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ.

2 Corinthians 10:5

bracelet   We all have those days–when you are trying to give it your all.  You know you’re blessed.  Yes, you’ve lost your best friend, but God has blessed you in so many ways.  Maybe with your children.  Maybe with friends.  Maybe He’s provided for you, or given you options for a new life. Maybe it’s simply the peace of knowing He is in control and that your salvation is safe with Him.  Be sure that’s there, because knowing He died for you helps you remember that this grief is only but a moment in the short time we have on this earth, and the reality is the everlasting joy He will give us in eternity! Here’s a tip my boy gave me–place a bracelet on one arm.  Every time wrong thinking creeps in your head, stop what you are doing and move the bracelet to the other arm, meanwhile shifting your thoughts to God’s thoughts–remembering His purpose for you, the work He has for you, the goodness in your life, and your thankfulness. When you start to think, “wow–I lost so much when I lost my husband,” try to remember the Gospel.  It’s all about surrender.  In order to have salvation and everlasting life, there is only one requirement–that we die to all we think we’re entitled to here.  We surrender it all the Christ, Who Himself surrendered all to the cross for our sake. If you think you’ve lost, think for a moment all what Christ lost.  His friends, his supporters, His popularity, His comfort–to the point of suffering a more grueling torture than any of us can imagine.  And then finally, His life. And as you move that bracelet, shift your thoughts from what you have lost, to what He gave up, to finally what He gave you in exchange–salvation, new life–including a new life here with purpose! Meanwhile, to fulfill His purpose, we need to bend our minds to obey God’s thoughts not the enemy’s. My older son took the bracelet a step further. “Mom,” he said.  Try putting the bracelet on your ankle– that will really make you stop and rethink your thinking!” Ha Ha!  Now there’s a thought! What works for you, sisters? Hey, God. Can you help out my sister who is struggling today?  Can you give her some techniques for how to actually take Your suggestion to hold every thought captive?  Perhaps some of us in the community of widows have more ideas that can help her and she’ll come across them in these comments.  I give this request to You, knowing You have each of us sisters in the palm of Your hand.  Amen.

A Feast

  • by Guest Blogger Jill Byard

You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies

Psalm 23:5

Sometimes in the midst of my circumstances I forget the real lasting power of the cross.

Like a solar eclipse, my troubles cast a dark shadow, blocking the hope of the cross. It’s hard to see the light behind my circumstances. Events which were no fault of my own put me in unfriendly circumstances of confusion.

Staying here in the shadow is what the enemy is banking on me doing. In his desperation for my heart, he tries to outshine the hope of the Son. He dances on broken hearts like they are the main attraction; just waiting on us to acknowledge his ability to eclipse the cross—his huge ego craving recognition.

When he starts this tap dance on my heart, I pull out the above verse. It gives me hope. I have read or heard it spoken about many times, but recently a bible study speaker described the feast He prepares with such a powerful visual image that it remains stamped on my brain. I think about it daily. Our God, our Father, giver of all things, is preparing a feast for us right now.

feastA FEAST!

I am not talking about a drive thru dinner you grab at Mickey D’s. He’s talking a catered affair dripping with every delicacy imaginable!

Think fourth of July celebration times infinity! And the clincher to the whole feast is that the enemy is going to have to sit and watch all of us enjoy all of God’s plans.

No longer are our broken hearts the main attraction but the power of the promise that the cross offers; NEW LIFE!

In 1 Corinthians, Paul tells us how Christ wins over all this sting of death. In 1 Corinthians 15:57, he says victory will be through the Lord Jesus Christ.  2 Corinthians 4:18 describes the things that are unseen as eternal.  Don’t look at the seen—these the we see here will fade away, and the unseen remains. Paul is talking about the sting of death. We all know the pain that the sting leaves for the family, friends that have been left behind. That sting too has the ability to cast shadows.

Oh dear sisters in Christ, look what will come as a result of the real power of the cross—how satan will be so thwarted. Our life on this earth is but a mist. When I feel the lies—“there is no end to my circumstances” and “my life has to be lived in the shadows”, I will stop and remember that those shadows will never ever eclipse the power of the cross. He chose to give the gift of the cross for all our dark shadows. I’m going to choose to live in the glory of the cross everyday.

I wanted to share these lyrics with you. They always give me such hope. It is the last song of Les Miserables when the characters who have passed are singing in heaven. I love it so very much. It inspires me.

lesDo you hear the people sing? Lost in the valley of the night. It is the music of a people who are climbing to the light. For the wretched of the earth there is a flame that never dies. Even the darkest night will end and the sun will rise. They will live again in freedom in the garden of the Lord. They will walk behind the plough shed, they will put away the sword. The chain will be broken and all men will have their reward! Will you join in our crusade? Who will be strong and stand with me? Somewhere beyond the barricade is there a world you long to see? Do you hear the people sing? Say do you hear the distant drums. It is the future that they bring when tomorrow comes!

(click on the photo to hear these lyrics being sung!)  Epilogue chorus from Les Miserables.

Dear Father,

Help me to walk in the glory of your gift everyday. Thank you for your gift. I want to live in the power of all your promises. Your life is more than just a story. It is hope for all our tomorrows.

How to Handle a Bad Day – Part Three – “Act as if”

by Kit Hinkle

I mentioned on Monday that today I would offer a little bit deeper incite on turning around a bad day.  I’ve covered this earlier on A Widow’s Might using a series I titled “A Bout with Doubt”. It’s a five part series, and if you struggle with trying to get yourself out of a pattern of discouraging thoughts day after day, please try reading it.  The five parts have an introduction, and four steps to fighting your self-doubt: recognizing habitual tears, observing the habit, replacing the habit with truth, and giving yourself freedom to grieve honestly. Reading through them might bring you something to help you bring yourself into brighter days.

Some twelve-step programs to all sort of recovery (alcohol abuse, codependency, overeating, enabling alcoholics, addictions) use not only the twelve steps but some helpful little catch phrases to remind its members of some healthy habits to help them with recovery.  Even though grief is natural and not the same as an addiction or behavior we have to stop, excessive worry and anxiety which can sometimes be the root of a bad day is not natural and from God, and learning to stop it can help you.

If your bad day started with waking up late, or some circumstance that set you back, perhaps it’s worry or anxiety, or perhaps it’s guilt or anger or lack of forgiveness that keeps you from having the positive attitude you need to get your day back in line.

Here’s a catchphrase that these twelve step programs use…. Act as if. Now please be careful to understand that “Act as if” means within obedience to God above.  Here’s how it works.  You’re having a bad day.  It got started because something made you feel inferior/guilty/inadequate/lonely/hurt.  Whatever it is you’re feeling is causing you to freeze up—paralyzed by your obsessive thoughts over your feelings.  You can’t seem to stop yourself and you can’t push ahead.

On Monday, I described a path to dealing honestly with what’s bothering you—usually what’s bothering you is a lie from the enemy and surrendering to God and inviting the Holy Spirit to clean house can cleanse you so well, you’ll feel dynamite after you’ve faced it!

On Tuesday, I recognized that sometimes we’re just at that point where we’re not ready.  Maybe you just need time to heal.  Maybe a distraction can help, so there are funny movies and videos that will help you through that rough time.

Today, I want to offer another tool—“Act as if”.  You can’t do it forever. Eventually you must surrender what’s bothering you to God in order to move on.  But sometimes you need time. I think of it like waiting for that scab to form so that the wound can heal on the inside.  For me that was a few years.  In the first year of losing Tom, there were certain feelings I wasn’t ready to face straight on. But the pain—oh the pain!

“Act as if” means take whatever negative obsession is causing you anxiety and paralyzing your day and reverse it.  If you’re feeling lonely and unmotivated, what would you do if you weren’t lonely and you felt a surge of motivation?  Clean your house?  Start a workout plan? Learn how to apply makeup like a professional? Get a new hairstyle? Clean out your garage?

Then, you simply “Act as if”!  You get up, move yourself to the garage, and no matter how hard it is to start to organize and clean, you do it:  one item at a time, until you suddenly look around, and your garage is… wow!  Clean!  Suddenly, you feel a bit better, don’t you?  You acted as if you weren’t so down, and now you feel better!

I did this over and over in the first year after losing Tom.  I have to tell you, my friends wondered about me. I think they expected me to sit and be sad all day every day.  And I did sit and I was sad many, many days.  But truth is, God placed in me a desire to be productive, and it makes me happy to be productive.  So I learned that when my sadness got me down for too long of a period and I was going day after day of bad days, I had to stop myself and “Act as if”.

Please know, ladies.  I occasionally try to put in my posts a caution.  All of us go through our loss differently.  Many widows LOVE being motivated by ideas of how to move forward.  If you are in a place where you feel led to spend time praying and healing in a slower way, and your not wired in a way where getting out and doing things makes you feel better, perhaps this isn’t the way God’s called you to heal for the moment.  It’s a tool, among many that God gives us along the way.

Blessings and I pray for lots  of better days ahead for you!