The Bout with Doubt: Part Four – Chasing Away the Enemy’s Lies with Truth

By Kitty Hinkle

“I’ve been here before, and these lies have been exposed before.  These are only feelings, not truth.  I know the Truth.”  …  Push through it.  Get up and get something done.  …  The enemy packs his bag and leaves your mind.  You’re better.

If you’re coming to us for the first time this week, begin with the part one of our posting on The Bout with Doubt- Part One:  Occasional Wallow or Habit? After reading the introduction to the series, follow through each part of the series as we walk through the steps of eliminating the habit of unhealthy anxiety.

Step one: Recognizing habitual tears (Tuesday’s posting)

Step two: Observing the habit (Wednesday’s posting)

Step Three: Replacing a habit with Truth (Thursday’s posting)

Step Four: Freedom to grieve honestly (Friday’s posting)

Sometimes for me, even after three years of going it alone, a bout of tears will hit.  I think it hits everyone. Widowed or not, life can be tough.  My typical weak moment comes occasionally and unexpectedly.  When it does, it’s usually at about three in the afternoon when all points of stress converge on a single mother with four kids and no living parents to help raise them.

Let me describe it to you and see if you relate.  Feel free to skip on down past this description because it’s quite a pity party (smile)—one I don’t like to share because I hate complaining. Here it goes…  I’m tired. All four kids pull me in four directions—someone needs to be picked up from school, another has a huge project due, and the younger two keep climbing that tree in the front yard that’s not meant to hold their weight (as the neighbor has so “politely” told me)!  The dog just swallowed another sock and the laundry needs folding before it wrinkles.  The microwave’s broken and the countertop has a crack in it.

If that isn’t enough to tear my hair out, the longing for the life before widowhood creeps in. It hits in the form of rejection. It’s in the air, something in the change of the weather that triggers some memories. Maybe it’s the certain time of the year when one of those couple friends my hubby and I hung with has a party.  We used to go every year to it. Without a husband, the invitations stopped coming.  I glance at the calendar and my blood pressure goes up.  Why can’t they at least invite me?  Let me decide if I don’t want to be a fifth wheel?  I feel alone and abandoned.  I start grasping to remember who’s called recently.  The phone only rang today with routine stuff—nothing social.  But then I tell myself, who needs the social?  There are kids to raise, work to do.  I don’t have time for social, and the last time I went to one of those gatherings where everyone had a husband but me the fellowship with others didn’t satisfy me in the way I long for.  It doesn’t wake up every morning by my side and make life plans with me. Oh how alone. My life is just work.  Toil. Kids. Repairs.  Why does everyone else get to have a companion?  Why am I stuck being alone? The pain.  The void.  It’s so ugly.

Okay, I’ll stop.  This is embarrassing!  Perhaps I’m hard on myself, but I think I sound ridiculous!  I do go through those bouts of wallowing, but here’s where I’ve changed.  I’ve learned to recognize how ungodly and full of lies those thoughts are.  And having already observed those thoughts as a habit, I can take a further step to eliminate them.

What I do is remember the last time I felt this way.  I remember how it blew over and I looked back and realized what a lie it was.  I know the truth.  I’m not alone. Not abandoned. My friends and I connect a lot and like me, they have busy days. That couple didn’t invite me because they didn’t want me to be uncomfortable at a gathering of couples—it’s not rejection.  My life isn’t just toil. It has huge significance and purpose and I laugh a lot.  I do get breaks from the kids.  And as far as a companion, if it’s a longing in my heart, God will give me a companion.  I’ll trust.

So what to do with the pity party? I stand on Truth.

I’ve learned to sing one of my favorite hymns and focus on the words “Morning by morning new mercies I see.”  Yes, it’s “Great is Thy Faithfulness”.  Don’t you just love that song?  Click on the link I’ve made and listen to three young a capella singers’ casual, but gorgeous rendition. When Thomas Chisholm wrote the lyrics in the mid 1900’s, he was inspired by Lamentations 3:22-23 “It is of the LORD’s mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not. They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness.”

When we are at our darkest hour, we remember that the sun will come up and His mercies are new and the Truth will obliterate the self-pitying lies we are so susceptible to.

A few weeks ago when we all shared honestly the moments of wallowing, I loved that post and its realness. I thought about this song because it’s the rejuvenation through new mercies every day that reminds me I will survive even those dark moments.

One final word and then I’ll close here with the chorus to that hymn.  Come back tomorrow to hear how driving out the enemy allows you to cry the kind of tears of grief that brings restoration and comfort.

Here’s the final thought.  God loves you.  He will bring you joy and love and companionship to fill your needs. When you’ve had a good wallow and you get to that point when you ready to get up from the tears, repeat that truth written in bold face above out loud.   If it doesn’t pull you out, repeat it again.  Then, begin to “Act as if”.  It’s a great trick.  Try it.  It tricks Satan—foils his ploy.  You look at the feelings you have and you simply state, “I’ve been here before, and these lies have been exposed before.  These are only feelings, not truth.  I know the Truth.”  Then move forward.  In spite of the pain.  You “act as if” you weren’t in pain even though you feel it.  Push through it.  Get up and get something done.  Wash the dishes.  Get those clothes put away.  Play monopoly with the kids.  God smiles on that.  The enemy packs his bag and leaves your mind.  You’re better.

Great is Thy faithfulness,

Great is Thy faithfulness,

Morning by morning new mercies I see:

All I have needed Thy hand hath provided

Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord unto me!

The Bout with Doubt: Part Three – Observing the Habit

By Kitty Hinkle

“You can begin to embrace your sadness in an observant way and then step aside and let it dissipate.”

If you’re coming to us for the first time this week, begin with the part one of our posting on The Bout with Doubt- Part One:  Occasional Wallow or Habit? After reading the introduction to the series, follow through each part of the series as we walk through the steps of eliminating the habit of unhealthy anxiety.

Step one: Recognizing habitual tears (Tuesday’s posting)

Step two: Observing the habit (Wednesday’s posting)

Step Three: Replacing a habit with Truth (Thursday’s posting)

Step Four: Freedom to grieve honestly (Friday’s posting)

Yesterday we had the discussion about healthy grieving tears and a habitual pattern of anxiety. If you listen to what’s going on inside as you shed tears and talk it over with the Lord, He’ll reveal to you whether you’ve developed a habit of unhealthy self-doubt.  I know I’ve had those habits in the past.  At one point a friend offered this advice on breaking a habit.  Don’t assume you can stop the worry and anxiety on your own strength and overnight.  Do the following instead: When you find yourself in an episode of unhealthy negative thinking, just notice the pattern.  Label it.

I thought her advice was interesting. She didn’t put pressure on me that the tears of worry I relied on as a crutch had to stop right away, and that was a relief. She only suggested that I keep the following idea in mind as I obsessed over the sadness: “Oh, I see I’m repeating a habit.”  She said that the more you learn to recognize the habit without beating yourself up over it, the less power the habit has over you, until eventually, you’ll begin to observe your tears as though you were someone watching you in tears—someone loving, like a sister in Christ, looking at you and saying, “It’s okay. You’re not as alone as you think you are.”  You can begin to embrace your sadness in an observant way and then step aside and let it dissipate.

She was right when it came to the pattern of worry I developed after trying to sell a house for a year.  Every time an obsessive thought popped in my head, I could see it as a habit before it took root in my heart and threw me down the road of self-pity.  It was my first step into a life of boldness!

Come back tomorrow to read about an even more powerful step towards eliminating a habit of doubt—replacing it with Truth!!!

The Bout with Doubt – Part Two – Recognizing Habitual Tears

By Kitty Hinkle

“Sometimes we can be tricked into mixing up cleansing tears of grief from tears of self-pity and self-doubt fed by whispered lies from the enemy.”

It’s the habit that I’m focusing on today, and what to do about a habit.  If you’re coming to us for the first time this week, begin with the part one of our posting on The Bout with Doubt- Part One:  Occasional Wallow or Habit? After reading the introduction to the series, follow through each part of the series as we walk through the steps of eliminating the habit of anxiety.

Step one: Recognizing habitual tears (Tuesday’s posting)

Step two: Observing the habit (Wednesday’s posting)

Step Three: Replacing a habit with Truth (Thursday’s posting)

Step Four: Freedom to grieve honestly (Friday’s posting)

Now for Step One:  Recognizing habitual tears

We all fall into patterns of response in our lives. A kid who goes through ridicule by the in-crowd might still grow up to be a healthy full functioning adult able to socialize and form great friendships, but when faced with a group of worldly handsome talkative individuals, he might find himself tongue-tied.  This is simply a habit rooted in a bad experience from high school.

I remember finding myself in a pattern of anxious thinking after a year-long struggle to sell my home in 2003.  I had four children at the time under the age of six. I kept my home flawlessly clean for showings—85 showings!  Can you imagine scrubbing floors and baseboards and staging the furniture perfectly 85 times? All the while with toddlers and babies crawling about my feet and preschoolers tugging at my hem. The constant cycle of adrenaline—clean the house, show the house, wait in anticipation, receive disappointing news, get the call for the next showing—left me repeating a pattern of anxious thoughts that led to a habit.  Once the house sold, the crisis was over.  I figured no more anxiety, right?  Wrong.  My mind was so used to the pattern of anxiety repeating itself that it looked for something else to put in place of the house selling anxiety.  I repeated the emotional cycle with everything from waiting for news on a medical test to waiting to hear from a friend who was deciding whether the book club I invited her to join was a good fit for her.  Because the cycle of emotions were so practiced, I found even the trivial silly things like the book club decisions brought the most ridiculous level of anxiety.  In noticing it, I identified it as a habit.

You can do the same with your tears. Just observe yourself as you cry. Notice whether the tears are cleansing you or digging you deeper into sadness. Sometimes we can be tricked into mixing up cleansing tears of grief from tears of self-pity and self-doubt fed by whispered lies from the enemy.

Only you and the Lord know if your pattern of grieving and bouts of tears have tipped beyond a healthy level, but if you find you might have developed a habit, don’t feel alone.  It’s a common experience among those who’ve been through difficult events in their lives.

Come back tomorrow when I share with you what I learned about dealing with the habit self-doubt and anxiety.

The Bout with Doubt

Part 1 of a five part series

By Kitty Hinkle

Don’t kids yourselves, ladies, we’re in a battle.  Women of Faith speaker Nicole Johnson wrote a book about fighting cancer titled Stepping into the Ring.  Her talk on the topic in front of sold out crowds reached the hearts of every woman in the audience dealing with the blows of despair in a lonely battle against breast cancer.  If you haven’t seen it, check it out here online and then ask yourself if you don’t sometimes feel the anguish of loneliness of living without your husband as a blow from the enemy in a similar way to how these ladies who fight cancer deal with fear and loss.

Early on, right after losing Tom, those overwhelming tears I might call a good wallow in tears were always acceptable.  As time passed, though, while I still have those occasional episodes of tears, I find those “cloudbursts” spreading apart in frequency.

When they do happen, I guard these tears as precious steps of release. Then I also guard myself from allowing the wrong type of tears to form an unhealthy pattern.

I want to take the time this week to talk about the how to separate when a bout of tears is God’s way of comforting you from when it’s a habitual pattern of self-doubt and pity coming from your flesh or the enemy.  My hearts desire is to help every widow or widower coming across these posts to feel encouraged to grieve freeing tears of release while also learning not to maximize self-doubt but instead, maximize only the glory of the Lord.

It’s normal and natural for us who have been through a loss to develop a habit of anxiety or tears. If you find yourself in that boat, these steps can help you to work through it.

Step one:        Recognizing habitual tears  (Tuesday’s posting)

Step two:        Observing the habit  (Wednesday’s posting)

Step Three:    Replacing a habit with Truth (Thursday’s posting)

Step Four:      Freedom to grieve honestly (Friday’s posting)

Come back and visit this site each day this week as there will be a posting to detail each of these steps.

Mommy Manna

By Danita Hiles

Somewhere in between the funeral and the first day of forever, there comes a point when you realize you are really doing this parenting thing alone.  When you lay in bed and wonder if you really did lock the back door, and know you have to get up to check.  When you sit in a school performance trying to clap louder and smile big enough to make up for the fact that Daddy isn’t there.   When you lose it the morning of leaving for vacation simply because your brain is exploding with all of the details that you alone are in charge of.  It is moments like that when I’m sure there just isn’t enough mommy to go around.

That word ‘enough’ has come to mean a lot to me.  When I think of doing this parenting journey solo day after day for one more week, one more month, one more year, I am absolutely overwhelmed.  But God’s word promises that we have exactly what we need for the day he has given us.  I can do this – today. He has promised us ‘enough’- for today.  If this journey is indeed my portion (Psalm 16:5) the boundaries will fall for me in pleasant places- today.

God established a plan for His day by day provision for the Israelites. At the beginning of every day, He promised enough manna for that day. The word manna means…portion, it was the daily portion  of what God had allotted for them. What He knew they needed. But as He repeatedly told the Israelites – they had to gather new manna each day. (Exodus 16: 16-18) Sure, He supernaturally provided it, but they had two responsibilities: 1.  Gather it and  2. Eat, or appropriate it for today.

In my mind manna means whatever I need to get through any particular day or situation grace-fully.  The thing I am realizing is that God knows the beginning from the end.  He already knows what each day will hold.  He already knows what I need to get through the day in my single parent household full of raging hormones and lost hair ties and a puppy that chews up my shoes.  What does all of this talk about gathering manna have to do with the daily-ness of life in the ‘hood’ (widow-hood)?. I think the commands are pretty much the same for us as they were for the  Israelites:

  1. Gather it:   Get into His word.  Fill your mind with good stuff.  Spend time with  Him before the demands of the day take over. Memorize key verses that will help in moments of crisis.  Post them so that you are surrounded by His truth.  My house is pasted with index cards full of scripture in the weirdest places!
  2. Appropriate it:  What are we going to do with what He has given us? Choose to respond instead of simply reacting.  (This is especially beneficial with teenagers!) Take a breath, whisper a prayer, give yourself a time-out, whatever it takes.  Go to Him first, and He will help you respond with wisdom instead of reacting out of emotion.

The simple truth of our daily reality is that many things simply will not look the same as they used to.  That we have to wrap our brains around new ways of taking vacations and having dinner and getting through after-school meltdowns.

When I have to be both ‘good cop’ and ‘bad cop’ when setting teenage boundaries- there is enough manna for that.

When my third grader cries herself to sleep because her family tree project is pitifully bare and missing a daddy and grandparents – there is enough manna for that.

When everybody needs help with homework and clean clothes and dinner and to be driven somewhere- there is enough manna for that.

When the days are long and the nights are longer, and you ache to be held just one more time – there is enough manna for that.

There is a video game my daughter plays involving some sort of magical princess power that you earn through your adventures. When your power runs low, your wand stops twinkling and a message flashes up on the screen saying,  ‘Your manna has been depleted’.

Can you relate?  Sometimes, precious sisters, it is time to just say, ‘Lord, my manna has been depleted. I’m all out. Done. Finished.’ Sometimes, it’s just time for bed.  I pray after a long day you can snuggle down for the night confident that there will be a fresh portion of manna, set out just for you, waiting tomorrow morning.  Knowing that there will again, be just enough of exactly what you need for whatever the day holds.

Lamentations 3:22  ‘Because of the Lord’s great love, we are not consumed. His mercies never come to an end. They are new every morning.   Great is thy faithfulness. I say to myself, the Lord is my portion, therefore I will wait for Him’.

Grandpa’s Hand

by Gail Sanseverino

My husband died of bladder cancer in 2008. The day my husband went Home to be with Jesus, my grown daughters and I mixed a box of cement in the hospital room, poured it in a mold, and made an eternal impression of their dad’s big hand.  The cement then got decorated with glitter and shiny colored rocks which drew the attention of my grandchildren when they’d enter the living room every time they’d visit me.  It became part of some new but temporary traditions that commenced shortly after my husband’s departure Home.

When the grandchildren came to my house, they almost immediately asked me if they can put their hand in Grandpa’s hand.  We’d carefully bring the cement block down to the floor.  One at a time the children would put their hand inside the impression for several minutes to reminisce and share their favorite Grandma moments.  Each one would take their time gently placing their hand in the mold with an unspoken, untaught reverence.  It was a bittersweet ritual, one that would usually brought on a bucket full of tears.

When this activity was exhausted, the children would immediately grab boxes of family photos.  It was difficult looking at his pictures early in my own grief.  In fact, it actually became more painful for awhile, as time marched on.  In the beginning, it was the most recent pictures that broke my heart.  Several months later it was the pictures of him as a young man and pictures that reminded me of our blissful carefree days together that became most painful.  But as painful as it was to look at them, I just couldn’t put them down.  I looked at his pictures almost every day, weeping endlessly as my heart ached to have another moment with my beautiful man.

When the children got the pictures out, we would spread them out on the floor or all over my lap while we all snuggled together in “Grandma’s big chair”.  We would talk about the memories that each picture reminded us of and the children would ask questions about their Grandpa’s youth when they rustled through photos from before their time.  We would laugh together, talk about him, and cry millions of tears together.

My grown daughters were never interested in joining our sobby sessions of reminiscing.  In fact, sometimes they’d even leave the room!  But on one such occasion, my youngest daughter revealed the thoughts that she’d been hiding during all the other photo rituals.  She asked me, “Why on earth do you do this to yourself, Mom, look at those pictures and make yourself sad?  It doesn’t make any sense?  Why do you want to sit here and cry an endless pit of tears making yourself sad?”

‘Ah, a teaching moment!  I love those.’, I thought to myself.  “Shelly”, I answered,  “looking at your Dad’s photos does not make me sad.  I’m already sad.  I miss your Dad and I’m sad every day that he’s not in my life anymore.  But I know your Dad and our God do not want me to be sad for the rest of my life.  The way I see it, I have to keep looking at these pictures, I have to cry over every one of them because I am sad.  Rustling through these photos helps me release my sorrow.  And here’s the plan–I’m going to keep looking at them every day until I no longer cry.  I will know that God has healed me of my sorrow and returned my joy when I can look at these photos, smile, laugh and treasure the sweet memories of each of them.”

It has been two years since my sweet, beautiful man went Home to be with the Lord.  We don’t get the pictures out as often when the grandchildren come and the cement block with Grandpa’s hand could probably use a sweep-over with a feather duster by now.  Is this a sign of disrespect?  I don’t think so.  It’s a sign, an indicator, that life moves on and we’ve allowed God’s grace to move us on too.  My husband is experiencing more joy and life than he ever could have while he was here on earth.  My heart fills with joy for him when I ponder and picture that.  And I know that if he could tell me one thing right now, he’d echo God’s heart for me to live life to the fullest while God still has me here on this side of Heaven.  I can honestly say that on this side of my grief journey, a side where smiles and giggles replace weeping and tears, that I know more joy in the Lord now than I have ever known before.  God does bring joy in the mourning and I praise Him for His wondrous ways!

 

How Do You Deal with the Days?

By Danita Hiles

How do you deal with the days?

You know the ones.  The ones that are circled in red on your calendar and/or stained with tears in your heart.  The days that meant so much in the life of the one you loved and the life you shared.   That first year, all of those days loomed large.  We had a whole year to get through all of the firsts without my husband Dave.  Birthdays, holidays, wedding anniversaries and  the anniversary of his death.  As the days loomed large, and the clocked ticked by, I knew I needed to come up with a plan to deal with dates that used to be set aside for celebrations and now were simply reminders of what wasn’t and would never be.   Especially for the sake of my girls.   Here are the plans I pondered:

Option #1 – Avoidance…pull the covers over my head until the day was over.   This didn’t work.   Kids are made for LIVING and life does indeed go on.   At ages nine and three, they still needed lunch and laundry and Mommy!

Option #2 –  Wallow…spend the day looking at pictures and sobbing, talking about all that we missed !   This, also was not a hit.  We have cried and talked a lot about Dave as a family, but we needed a tangible expression for the day that went beyond our tears.

Option #3 –  Remember…find a way to commemorate,  honor, make a memory and grieve grace-fully.

As I talked to the Lord about it, He reminded me of all the times in scripture that He told folks to remember specific events or people.  Most of the time, He encouraged them to find a visual way to mark a particular battle or victory or miracle.  Many times it involved a pile of rocks placed in remembrance and named for the occasion.   In 1 Samuel 1:12 , Samuel he took a stone and placed it between two towns following a great victory against the Philistines.  He named it ‘Ebenezer’ saying thus far the Lord has brought us.  God calls His people to intentional remembrance of His faithfulness.

As we approached the first anniversary of Dave’s death, we made plans to travel to Pittsburgh to visit the cemetery where he is buried and spend time with his family.   I awoke that October 3 to a glorious fall Pennsylvania day.   While other families were picking apples at the orchard and raking piles of colorful leaves, we headed to the cemetery with Dave’s mom.  Because of a Navy glitch, we had not yet seen the gravestone with his name in bronze.    I don’t think there are many things more wretched than taking your young children to their father’s gravesite for the first time.

“Please Lord’, I whispered, ‘help my girls.  Help me to be strong.  Help us to face this grace-fully. Give me the words to say, Lord.  Be with us.’

Armed with Pittsburgh Steelers balloons and happy face balloons, we walked up the hill in the crisp fall breeze.

Kelsey started squealing,’ Mommy , look, look’.   As I followed her pointing finger I saw a mother horse and her baby standing at the fence adjoining the cemetery.    As we stared, another mom and foal came over to the fence, staring at us curiously.

‘Mom, can we go…please?’  Kelsey pleaded.   With a slow nod I released them to go.

My girls went running over to the fence, completely captured by the horsey families in front of them,  completely oblivious to our original purpose for this visit.  Dave’s mom and I walked slowly to the grave arm in arm.  Yes, it was just as impossible to believe as I had imagined to see his name on the marker.

Later, after the girls came running over, full of pony stories, we released our balloons to the heavens with prayers and love and a wonderful time of sharing memories of this man who had loved us all completely.  I had to laugh at the amazing provision of our gracious God.  On a day of sadness and remembrance and  tears, He had provided ponies and balloons for two little girls to have in their minds on the first anniversary of their daddy’s death.   They still talked about the horses that God brought to the cemetery for them!

We have been through a lot of those ’day’s since that first year.    And I always try to find some way to acknowledge the day and walk in intentional remembrance.   Father’s Day might find us at the zoo or a ball game. A birthday might include his favorite meal or dessert.  When the one year anniversary of my mom’s death came this summer, we baked brownies to take to the fire station.  A small token for the same guys who had helped her so many times when she fell.     I think when we face a day that looms large on our calendar and in our heart,  doing something tangible somehow releases our heart from the paralyzing grip of grief and allows God to heal us just a little bit more.

Here are a few practical ideas for your days of remembering….

  1. Release helium balloons with notes attached.   I know the theology of this is not sound J , but there is something comforting  in writing down our thoughts and sending them heavenward.
  2. Send a card to someone your loved one loved.   A mother in law, sister, brother , or close friend would treasure a note from you about the one both remember with such affection.
  3. Along those lines, consider doing something for someone else in memory of your loved one.  Brownies for the rescue squad, cookies for hospice workers,  present a book to your school or library in their memory.
  4. Make a memory : Plan to do something you would not ordinarily do – something that would have made your special one smile.  We took a trip to Heinz field where the Steelers play and it was such a great memory for my girls.
  5. Be intentional in your ‘remembering’.    Pull out the photo albums, share favorite memories and funny stories.   My kids love hearing about goofy things that Daddy used to do i.e. putting underwear on his head while folding the laundry!  Eat something wonderful that they would have loved.  There is no finer combination than laughter through tears followed by chocolate.
  6. Give thanks. This is a hard one.   But for me, very important.   Be thankful for the wonderful memories you do have.    Give them back to the Lord and He will meet you there.  (1 Thess. 5:16)

As you remember … know that God sees and He knows.

You are not alone.

We are with you,  shoulder to shoulder – standing on His promises together.

Phil 1:3   ‘I thank my God upon every remembrance of you…’

Psalm 34: 18  ‘The Lord is close to the brokenhearted, and saves those who are crushed in spirit’.

Psalm 16: 11   ‘You will make known to me the path of life,  there will be joy again in your presence, and eternal pleasures forevermore. ‘

God’s Will for Me to Grieve

By Melissa Taylor

“You’re blessed when you feel you’ve lost what is most dear to you. Only then can you be embraced by the One most dear to you.” Matthew 5:4 (MSG)

The past year has been extremely difficult. My mother died March 25th. On that same day a part of me died, too.

The months leading up to her death were filled with purpose. While I was going through the motions dictated by my circumstances, one thing was crystal clear: I knew what my priorities were and I was confident in what I was doing. For that season, I was to care for Mom.

I think it’s amazing as I did God’s will for my life, everything fell into place. Co-workers and volunteers did my job in my absence. Speaker Team members took my place at speaking engagements. My husband and mother-in-law picked up the kids from school and helped around the house. Friends brought meals. The Lord worked every detail out and because of that I was filled with peace throughout one of the hardest times I’ve experienced.

The way I handled life during that time surprised me. My normal reaction would be to freak out, especially since I have a history of anxiety. If you had asked me before my mother was diagnosed with lung cancer how I would manage that trial, I would have responded, “I’ll fall apart. I can’t take that.” However, I did take it and I did very well. Of course, I had my moments when I cried and days I was physically and emotionally exhausted, but I had a purpose and my mom needed me. I chose to trust the Lord and felt His peace the entire time.

Since Mom’s passing, I haven’t had quite that same presence of peace or purpose. I still trust the Lord and know peace is available, but I’m struggling some with this new reality of Mom being gone. When my mom died, a big part of who I was died too. I lost her and I lost my position as her caregiver. I often feel uncomfortable, shaken. Sometimes I have to remind myself to breathe. Many times I have to tell myself that the same peace I had before is still available. God has not left me and despite how I feel, He still has a purpose for me.

Could it be that my purpose for now is to grieve? Grieving isn’t easy and even though it’s a natural part of life, it doesn’t feel natural. It has required stillness and quiet, which is not simple to come by in my world. It’s also required an understanding that my feelings are acceptable and it is okay to not have a clearly defined, tangible purpose for this season – other than grieving. I had to give myself permission to grieve and trust that through this God’s will for me will prevail.

Life is filled with highs and lows, and God is there during them all. At times His will for our lives is very clear and at other times I think He wants us to seek Him and wait for Hi m to make it clear. It’s during the seeking and waiting that we must hold on to our hope in Christ and claim the peace He offers us.

So for now, I grieve. The way I grieve may change daily, but one thing will not change: I am blessed, just as our key verse for today says. I’m blessed because of what I’ve lost. And I’m blessed because God is embracing me every step of the way (Matthew 5:4).

Dear Lord, I am so thankful for Your love. Please give me peace during the trials of my life. Help me be content where You have me today. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Visit Melissa’s blog to catch up on how she’s doing today and find out how you can receive her “Top 10 Ways I can Choose Hope and Claim Peace”

Application Steps:
Don’t worry if you aren’t sure what your next step in God’s will is. Instead, take time to “seek Him and wait.” Carve out time to pray, process, reflect, and journal your thoughts and feelings.

Post Scripture in places where you will see them as a reminder God is with you always.

Reflections:
Are you doing God’s will in your life right now? How do you know?
Have you chosen hope in the midst of your trial?

If you’ve lost someone close to you, have you taken time to grieve?

Power Verses:
Jeremiah 29:11b, “I know what I’m doing. I have it all planned out—plans to take care of you, not abandon you, plans to give you the future you hope for.” (MSG)

Psalm 16:8, “I know the Lord is always with me. I will not be shaken, for he is right beside me.” (NLT)

John 16:33, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (NIV)

© 2010 by Melissa Taylor. All rights reserved.

Dog on the Beach

By Danita Hiles

The sand on the Hawaiian beach was pure white, the sky above a brilliant blue, but with eyes squeezed shut to hold in the tears, I really didn’t’ see much of it.  Waves were crashing on the shore but I couldn’t hear much of it above my own sobs.   The sand was soft and warm but I only knew that because I kept picking up handfuls and letting it run through my fingers to keep from screaming.   It was a perfect Hawaiian day.  And I was a perfect mess.  In the past six weeks,  I had made it through two funeral services for Dave, traveled from Honolulu to Pittsburgh to Tampa and back home to base housing in Hawaii.

Now it was time to pack up the house, move to the mainland with my girls and begin again. I guess leaving the last place we had lived together as a family was one more end of life as a ‘we’.  And the beginning of a lot more of ‘I and ‘me’.  And that was really, really  hard to imagine.

Eventually,  though, I reached the end of my sobs and there was a quiet stillness in between the ragged breaths.  Kind of a ‘what now?’ sense of expectation.

“Ok, Lord, here we are’,  I sniffed.  ‘And since it’s just me and you,  I really , really , really need to know you are with me’.

Being a dramatic kind of girl, I thought it would be just great if God would show off there on that beach and give me a sign.  I mean a SIGN.  Like maybe a school of dolphins frolicking in the waves.   Or a gorgeous Hawaiian rainbow as a right now sign of His promises.   I sat there on the sand with eyes still shut,  There weren’t any eloquent prayers,  just a whispered ‘Please, Jesus, help me’, and a desperate hope that He would give me what I needed to make it through the next steps of this journey.  I felt His peace wash over me and just knew I would open my eyes to see some sort of confirmation.

I slowly pried open my swollen eyes to check out the horizon.  Nope, no school of dolphins there.  I peered up into the sky, squinting to see if maybe, just maybe there was an edge of a rainbow, or a Holy Spirit dove shaped cloud ( I told you I was desperate!).  Nope, no rainbow, no dove.

But what was that weird noise?   Kind of a huffy sort of wheeze over my right shoulder.  I turned and there beside me on the sand was a dog.  Not just a dog but a DOG, a big brown furry retriever of some sort.  As I cocked my head at him, he took two steps closer and leaned up against me.  And sighed.  Wet fur and all.

And in that moment I felt like God kind of whispered to my heart,

‘That’s how close I am.  Just as close as this wet dog leaning up against you.  And we are going into the future together…just that close ‘.

I have thought of that dog so many times over the past few years.  And smiled at God’s sense of humor.  And marveled at His closeness.

There may not be dolphins and rainbows, but we have the absolute assurance that no matter what happens, and no matter where our journey takes us, He is with us.

Not because we feel He is with us or we sense He is with us but simply because He has promised to be.

With us.

Emmanuel.

God with us.

I love that.

I pray you have a ‘wet dog leaning up against you’ closeness from Jesus today.  He’s that close.

“Let the beloved of the Lord rest secure in Him, for He shields Him all day long, the beloved of the Lord rests securely between His shoulders” ~ Deuteronomy 33:12

A Box I Did Not Choose

When my husband Dave died 6 years ago – the hardest thing for me to get used to was the ‘box marked widow’. I must have filled out 500 forms during the paperwork process, and on every one had to check that box for marital status. Widow. Widow. WIDOW!!! Ugh. This word was (is) hard for me to embrace.

The government had decided this was my label. My bank. My doctor’s office. My kid’s school. My tax returns. Over and over again I was forced to check the box marked widow.

I wanted to scream – this is not me! This is not who I want to be. I want to be wife. Partner. Helpmate. Sister. Daughter. Mother . Friend.

Instead I was in a box. A box I didn’t like. A box I didn’t choose. A box marked ‘widow’. Ugh.

In those early desperate days I asked God for something to hold onto from His word. I opened a devotional to a reading about Psalm 16 and the words literally jumped off the page at me. ‘This is my portion and my cup’ (vs. 5) . Essentially, in today’s language – ‘it is what it is’.

When the miracle doesn’t happen and the doctor’s news is grim and the relationship isn’t restored and you are standing in a cemetery, sometimes it simply ‘is what it is’. But oh, the sweet words of the next verse: ‘He will make the boundaries fall for me in pleasant places…’ In spite of today’s ugly reality, we have His word on it that He alone is charge of the boundaries of our life. Nothing happens to us out of reach of His loving hand.

So then how do we walk through this valley ? The next few verses of Psalm 16 are pretty clear with three ‘I wills’ to guide us; I will always set the Lord before me… I will praise the LORD, who counsels me. And finally, because He is at my right hand, I will not be shaken. Even on difficult days like this early journal entry depicts:

Sometimes the feelings of grief and loneliness are so strong that I feel as though

I am drowning.

The impossibility of this day-to-day reality without Dave

Makes it even hard to breathe.

today it is a never ending frustration with things.

things that break.

things that cost money.

things that can’t be fixed.

things that i am the only one responsible for cleaning and organizing and remembering.

There’s only one grown-up in the house now
and she’s really tired.

mommy, mommy, mommy,

can you? did you? would you?

thoughts of the future spiral ahead

will it be any different

one month

one year

five years from now?

will there be more mommy to go around?

will I finally have gotten a handle on this reality and become organized

and be the mature woman of God I have admired in others?

Will I ever come to grips with the word widow.

And single mother.

And always having leftovers because most recipes are designed to feed a family of four.

And we are no longer that.

God knows.

Tonight there is just me and these words
and His words to me

And when all else fails, and the world is crumbling,

I can stand on His word….

Six years later…I’m still standing!

Psalm 16 ends with this promise:

You have made known to me the path of life;
you will fill me with joy in your presence,
with eternal pleasures at your right hand.

Precious friends – we may never know the answer to life’s hard questions, especially the whys of God’s timing surrounding those we love. But He has promised us His joy on this earth and eternity with Him. My box still says widow , but my Bible says He is with me, and my future is in His hands. I choose to praise Him. I choose to set Him before me. I choose to allow him to fill me with joy in his presence and live out loud as long as I have breath!

Sweet Blessings,
Danita