Every Star

By Julie Reed

“He determines the number of stars and calls them each by name.  Great is the Lord and mighty in power, his understanding has no limit.” Psalm 147:4-5

 

We just returned from a fabulous summer vacation visiting family in North Carolina.  We spent two weeks rafting, taking evening walks, gobbling up the fresh blackberries off the trail, and watching for fireflies in the woods.

We’d enjoy our dinners out on the porch listening to the waterfall and comical family chats and stories while hummingbirds buzzed past our heads.  Amongst all the jammed packed adventure and family fun, I needed some quiet time for myself.  I knew that I needed some time alone to renew my mind and spirit.  My parents graciously agreed to watch the kids for a bit so that I could re-charge.

It wasn’t that I didn’t want to spend every moment I could with my family, but the daily duties of being a single mom wear on me, if I’m honest.  Sometimes I feel like running away or shipping the kids off to my parents for a few weeks just so I can breathe.  Don’t get me wrong.  I love my kids.  I’m honored to be there mom.  It’s just that occasionally I get in a pile of pity and wallow around with my giant “W” on my chest for widow.  I figure this isn’t what I signed up for when I took my vows.  It shouldn’t have to be this way.

So, I slipped away one evening out to the deck for some peace and quiet.  All that could be heard were the katydids humming a joyful tune in the darkness.  I sat on the deck with tears falling down my face and wondering how Satan could have such a stronghold on me still.  How could he subtly creep in and rob me of the joy and happiness I should be feeling?

I began to pray.  Asking God to help me let go.  To help me live in the here and now.  To give me some peace, some comfort, some sign that He hears me.  That He cares about me still.  That He hadn’t forgotten about this sad, lonely widow.

I sat in silence for a few minutes.  The katydids didn’t even make a peep.  They were probably terrified that I was about to feel the wrath of God for being so bold to ask Him such things.  A gentle breeze blew across my face.  I opened my eyes and looked up at the heavens.  The sky was pitch black and the stars twinkled so brightly and clearly.  It felt as though I could reach up and pluck them from the sky.  A smile crossed my face and the words to one of my favorite songs came to mind.

He numbers each and every star and calls them all by name.

He counts them one by one to see that they are still in place.

If He cares for every star, then He sees right where you are.

You can trust you’ll never fall from His embrace.

So what can separate you from the precious love of God?

Who could every come against His strong and perfect love?

So when you’re in the valley and your nights are cold and lonely.

The darkest hour is just before the dawn.

Remember nothing can separate you from God’s love.

 

Every star…every star.  Scientists estimate that there are 100 thousand million stars in the Milky Way and millions upon millions in other galaxies.  But I still matter more to Him.  He loves me right where I am.  Valley or mountain top, He loves me the same.

Nothing can separate me from His love.  Not death.  Not sadness.  Not fear.  Not loneliness.  Not the stresses of motherhood.  Nothing can keep Him from loving me.

How about you, sweet sisters?  Do you struggle with believing you matter?  That he hears and sees you?

Will you join me this week in the backyard hammock staring at the evening sky and thanking Him for seeing right where we are?  I’ll say a prayer for you for every star I see.  Will you do the same for me?

Your Future is Now – Part 5: The Stretch

By Kitty Hinkle

What’s your “Boaz’s field”?

Maybe you aren’t sure who Boaz is. In case you’re not familiar with Ruth, she is the widow in the Old Testament and the picture of obedience. The Lord rewarded her obedience by having His hand in what she thought was a random selection over which field to glean. God placed her in Boaz’s field. Boaz’s family relation to Ruth’s mother-in-law set the stage for a future so big Ruth would never have conceived it on her own.

My friend’s questions about a future got me thinking. Does the Lord already have me right now in my “Boaz’s field”?

If you are just visiting this week for the first time, try starting at Part One and continue until you reach today’s posting.

Here are the four parts to this series:

Part 1 :   The Question

Part 2:   My Heart’s Answer

Part 3:   The Future is Now

Part 4:   My thoughts on my Friend’s Answer—Whose plans?

Part 5:   The Stretch—So don’t make plans?

When I study the story of Ruth, I notice how at some point, Ruth’s obedience moved from immediate actions which served the needs of the day (gleaning the fields) to more proactive steps to affect her future.

Under the guidance of her mother-in-law, Ruth waited until all the field hands were sleeping to slip under the blanket at the feet of Boaz as he slept . When Boaz noticed her there, he was taken by her appeal for him to marry her. Being a relative of Ruth’s mother-in-law, Boaz could redeem Naomi’s land and restore their social position by marrying Ruth.

Think about what a risk Ruth took there. A woman sleeping at the feet of a man? Clearly a bold move like that isn’t something the Lord would normally encourage you to do.

This direction to Ruth wasn’t given out of the blue. When Ruth received those instructions, she had been walking in trust and obedience for a long time. First she was obedient and loyal in coming to this land with Naomi rather than going back to her own land. Then gleaning the fields. Imagine how in-tune Ruth must have been to true versus false directions—enough to be able to discern that sleeping at a man’s feet was, in fact, something the Lord approved of her doing.

That brings me back to my friend’s insistence that I begin preparing for my future career now. If I have been truly faithful, truly obedient to what the Lord has called me to do, eventually He will reveal a plan to me for my future career. Has He already? What “Boaz’s field” has God placed me in which will springboard me into the future? What does God want me to do about it? I will recognize it only if I’ve been walking in obedience. Am I listening, and am I bold enough to execute it?

Father God,

 

I pray that You grow our hearts to be optimistic and open like Ruth’s, and reveal to each of us what “Boaz’s fields” you have placed in our lives. In the name of your precious Son, I pray for softening and changes upon all of us. Amen.

Thank you for taking your time to follow this series. It was a longer posting than typical. Next month I promise to keep it shorter. Please offer your insights as to what you would love to have us discuss as a new topic.

Now on to Part 5:  The Stretch—So don’t make plans?

Part Three: The Future is Now

By Kitty Hinkle

But Moses said to God, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh, and that I should bring the children of Israel out of Egypt?”

(Exodus 3:11, NKJV)

Do you ever feel like saying, “who am I?” like Moses did? Do you ever feel like you’re so mired in the day to day of managing life without your spouse that it’s hard to see beyond it?

Yesterday I wrote about how surprised I was at being able to put into words plans for a future beyond kids.

If you are just visiting this week for the first time, try starting at Part One and continue until you reach today’s posting.

Here are the five parts to this series:

Part 1 :  The Question

Part 2:  My Heart’s Answer

Part 3:  The Future is Now

Part 4:  My thoughts on my Friend’s Answer—Whose plans?

Part 5:  The Stretch—So don’t make plans?

 

Three years ago I couldn’t imagine a future without Tom. How did I manage to form a plan in my heart while caught up in the job of raising four kids?

Caught up is an understatement. I’m sure you’ve had a lot on your plates too. When we’re left with kids to raise alone and family affairs of the deceased spouse to untangle and manage, the process of life can become arduous and slow.  You might have a hard time seeing a vision or purpose beyond the daily mundane.

I bet Moses felt that way. Last week at our church, a pastor pointed out the frustration Moses must have felt when he first left Egypt. He had been trained as a prince of Egypt only to spend forty years as a simple shepherd. As he tended sheep and wondered over his unused princely skills, I bet he didn’t realize the changes going on inside of him. Author/speaker Michael Kelley wrote a fabulous article about desert experiences and how God uses them in your life to prepare you for something.  You might want to read it here.  He explains how forty years in the Sinai desert as a shepherd softened Moses’ heart and prepared him for the years ahead when he led his people through the same desert.

There are times when I get lost in the tasks of the day and wonder if I can ever see the light at the end of the tunnel.  But it’s in those tasks where God is working on my future plan, not holding my plan back.

When I raise the boys with a God focus, the values I want to see in the boys are the same values I need for a healthy future for myself. By applying those values to them, I’m equally building them in myself.  It’s kind of like Moses, in carrying out his duties as a shepherd year after year, shed his prideful nature and strengthened his surrender to the Lord.  Applying God’s values to the kids is strengthening my values and vision for a future. Here are some examples:

  • Writing – The written word is precious to me and gives me that creative outlet. I’ve encouraged the boys to begin writing. In turn, they’ve encouraged me to finish my novel’s draft manuscript and take on as many writing projects as I can handle.  Who knows what career can come from that?
  • Travel and mission work– I want my boys have travel experiences, so I take them all over the country.  I’m adding mission work to the travel because it’s so important to build the character of service in the boys. Next month I take my boys to an Appalachian mission trip. We serve in soup kitchens every few weeks and I help out with the Youth team at church.
  • Forethought and planning – We needed to support our mission trips so I’ve started a small fund raising operation. I want my boys to learn how to think ahead and plan for the future, so I talk with my teens a little about our finances.  It’s gotten me planning my own financial future.
  • Health and Wellness – I want to keep up with the boys and be strong so I take them with me to the YMCA where I do a Pilates workout several times a week.

Do you see how settling into my role raising the boys put into place some of the building blocks for a future? When my friend asked about my future plans, I only leaned on what’s been developing inside of me through where the Lord has placed me.  Really, the future beyond my raising boys shouldn’t wait.  It starts with how I’m raising the boys.

I sat at the restaurant with my friend—my thoughts spilled all over the table.  They seemed so clear to me as I spat them out, but now out in the open they seemed lost in the confusion of clanging dishes and background music.

My friend scratched her head.  She seemed to think something was missing. “But what about a career?” she asked.  More on that tomorrow.

Now on to Part 4:  My thoughts on my Friend’s Answer—Whose plans?

Your Future is Now – Part Two: My Heart’s Answer

By Kitty Hinkle

I love that scene from Gone With the Wind when Rhett Butler covers the eyes of the horse, and the horse pulls the carriage carrying Scarlett, Pricilla, Melanie and a newborn baby away from the flames of burning Atlanta.

Yesterday I told you my friend posed a challenging question. She wanted to know exactly what my plans are for my life once I finished raising the kids. If you are just visiting this week for the first time, try starting at Part One and continue until you reach today’s posting.

Here are the five parts to this series:

Part 1 :  The Question

Part 2:  My Heart’s Answer

Part 3:  The Future is Now

Part 4:  My thoughts on my Friend’s Answer—Whose plans?

Part 5:  The Stretch—So don’t make plans?

Now, on with Part 2

I surprised myself at how quickly my answer came. Without a beat the vision spilled off my lips, right down to places I would travel, writing projects I would take on, mission work, and health and lifestyle goals. The details here aren’t important. What’s significant is the clarity I have in my heart for a future I hope for.

I know how that clarity developed, and that’s what I wanted to share with other widows who may not recognize a valuable part of their struggles.

In the first few years of widowhood, I found myself in an alien world, like Keats’ description of Ruth “standing amid alien corn” and like the horse in burning Atlanta.

Think about Ruth, and think about the horse. Each could have easily met a tragic ending if they put their focus on their plight. Ruth could have panicked and dug herself deeper into poverty. The horse was already panicking over the flames. He kicked up his front legs almost toppling the carriage with the women and the newborn baby in it. Isn’t that a picture of how destructive it can be when we go to pieces over our losses in life?

Ladies, I have seen this over and over again. Someone faced with a surprising blow in life like death of a spouse or divorce gets mired in self-pity or anxiety, only digging deeper into trouble because rather than stepping away from the flames, they sit and spin in it.

I love what the writer of Gone with the Wind does with this scene. Rhett wraps his coat around the eyes of the horse so that the horse can no longer see the flames. It’s so touching to see the horse, with no choice but to follow the lead of Rhett Butler, walk right through the flames and pull the carriage to safety.

When you find yourself overwhelmed with more on your plate than you wanted, try letting God wrap your eyes and blind you from the chaos and lead you. Simply walk forward, obediently, trusting God is in control of your steps, no matter how difficult without a husband. Slow down. Spend more time in the Word. Surround yourself with Godly friendships where you can bounce off of them what you think you hear the Lord telling you to do and hear solid Christian perspectives echoing back. Then obediently walk the steps the Lord has told you to walk, blind to the flames around you. The fruit of that surrender comes out when suddenly you can see, with clarity, life outside of burning Atlanta.

Maybe you’re wondering how clarity on you future can emerge from simply obeying God in your current circumstance. Please add to the discussion and let me know if you have experienced it. Come back tomorrow when I walk you through how living obediently today prepares you for tomorrow.

Now on to Part 3:  The Future is Now

Your Future is Now – Part One: A Question

By Kitty Hinkle

“Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing?”

Matthew 6:25 (NKJV)

I love getting together with this one friend of mine. Her conversation stretches me because she is both warmhearted and driven—an uncommon combination. She loves to get me drawn into deep discussions over life, career, and purpose. This time she posed a question, which both encouraged and challenged me. Being able to answer with no hesitation comforted me. Perhaps I’m more in tune with where God wants me at this place in my life than I thought. But then it challenged me. Maybe I need to stretch my ears more towards the Lord and begin listening more for His future plans.  Between the encouragement and challenge, a gentle reminder from the scripture called in my heart.  It was Christ’s words about worry in your life.

I’d like to take the opportunity this week to walk you through my friend’s question and what it really means to plan for the future while leaning on God for your direction.  I hope you’ll join us on A Widow’s Might.  Share in the discussion and stretch your own ideas about considering where you are today and looking hopefully and positively into the future.

Please return each day and follow the following parts to this series:

Part 1 :  The Question

Part 2:  My Heart’s Answer

Part 3:  The Future is Now

Part 4:  My thoughts on my Friend’s Answer—Whose plans?

Part 5:  The Stretch—So don’t make plans?

First the question.  She asked me quite directly, Kitty, what are your future plans for you when your sons have moved out of the house? What do you see yourself doing 8-10 years from now and beyond?

Ladies, does a question like this bring anxiety to you, or are you settled enough in your heart to go about answering it without the least bit of anxiety?

Most likely your answer is somewhere in the middle.  It’s only natural to feel nervous about the future, especially if your loss is fresh.  If you have only recently lost your spouse, please know that in the initial phases of grieving there is room for sobbing fully and feeling at a loss of comprehending any future. Please know that and consider these discussions as encouragement that there will be a time when you will be prepared to manage your future, but grieving fully is something that must be accomplished first. Keats put it so well in his Poem Ode to the Nightingale when he referred to the widow Ruth in scripture.  He wrote:

Perhaps the self-same song that found a path

Through the sad heart of Ruth, when, sick for home,

She stood in tears amid the alien corn.

Wow, doesn’t Keats’ words strike exactly how you feel at least at times as a widow?  Standing in tears amid the alien corn?  I imagine Ruth in a foreign land standing in the field gathering crumbs after the field hands had their share, looking for scraps just to keep her mother-in-law and her sustained.  No plan at all for the future. Many painters have considered the truth of Ruth’s pain and captured with their brushes the moment of her standing in alien fields.

But the whole intention of Keats’ poem about the nightingale is in the bird’s song.  He imagines a nightingale singing to Ruth, comforting her in her pain.  Interesting that Keats chose the nightingale, a sweet bird, like the sparrow Jesus chose to illustrate how He wants you to treat your life. Light and carefree, like the sparrow.

He doesn’t suggest it.  He commands it, dear sisters in Christ. His words, “but I say to you” sets an expectation in us.  The discussion is, what is your response to His command.  Please share in the discussion, and then come back tomorrow as we talk about our response.

Now on to Part 2:  My Heart’s Answer

I’m Still Here

By Danita Hiles

I am writing this October 2, 2010.  For me it is a day that marked the dividing line between before and after.  The day my husband died of a sudden heart attack.   It has now been seven years today since the phone call that changed our lives forever.  Seven years?   Some day it feels like forever, other days it feels like yesterday.   I have a hard time remembering things about Dave like I used to –the memories are like a photograph that has started to fade with time, with gently blurred edges and colors that all being to melt together.  Sometimes I hate that, but mostly I think that is a good thing – the raw emotion of the first days, months and years would be hard to sustain for any length of time.

A few weeks ago, I shared about ‘dealing with days’.   Today is one of those ‘ days’.   But today I am choosing to deal with the day very simply.

I am just going to live.

You see, somewhere along the valley of the shadow of death, I came to a startling realization:

I’m still here.   I know, pretty obvious, right?

But if I’m still here, God obviously is not finished with me yet.   And He has given me another day to live for Him.

So on this day of unspeakable memories I am going to put extra cream in my coffee and spend some time coloring with my nine-year-old.   I am going to take a ridiculously cute puppy named Lola for a long walk and trim a few overgrown bushes.   I am going to look up into a blue Florida sky and breathe in deeply.   I am going to take my fifteen-year- old daughter on a mommy date to the movies and stay up late talking about boys and  stuff.  I am going to live.

Kit wrote so beautifully on the’ bout with doubt’ last week.  There is a time for God led- grieving, time for tears, time for gulps of remembering and feeling a desperate longing for what our kids are missing.  But none of that swirling emotion is what we stand on.  As she stated, the only thing we can possibly stand on is the truth of God’s word.

I don’t have an answer to a lot of life’s why’s, but I do know this:  ‘I know in whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able to keep that which I have entrusted to Him for that day.”   2 Tim 1:17

I believe Him.  He is able.

Because of those facts, we can go on.  And live.

In Acts, Paul writes of his journey, “And so I go on, not knowing what will happen to me next but simply being led by the Spirit. Though hardships come my way, yet none of these things move me, neither do I count my life as dear…only that I might finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me, the task of testifying to the gospel of God’s grace”. Acts 20:22-24

Wondering what your purpose is?

It’s right there in that last line- ‘that I might complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me, the task of testifying to the gospel of God’s grace’.

Precious sister, you’re still here.

Just by getting out there and living, you are fulfilling your God given destiny.  Your very life is a testimony to the gospel of His grace.

Now go live it.

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