God Writes My Story

“So how did your husband die?”

This question can be a real conversation stopper for some widows.

I have been learning this lesson for the past five years. The final moments of one chapter of my story and the beginning of the next have changed my perspective dramatically. Only God really knows our whole story, and sometimes it is complicated.

“I am God and there is none like me, declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done, saying, ‘My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose.'” Isaiah 46:9b-10a (ESV)

My husband’s death certificate states cause of death as suicide, although the circumstances surrounding his death were so different than what people expected to hear. I answered honestly when people asked what happened, so it hurt when false assumptions were shared about how and why he died. It did not change the truth, but it hurt because some did not seek the truth before they spoke to others.

They did not know that:

  • due to insomnia he was on a prescription sleep medication that began to alter his personality for thirteen days before he died. Our family witnessed his strange behavior but we all, including him, linked it to his lack of sleep.
  • he called me for help that April morning, panicked and confused in his hotel room when he realized he had wounded himself in his drug-induced haze.
  • we had eleven precious minutes on the phone to say “I love you”: I promised to get help to him as quickly as I could and he, struggling to breathe,  whispered repeatedly how much he loved me
  • as I begged him to hold on, I could hear the paramedics yelling as they broke in the hotel room door. They closed his phone as he said the last “I love you” I would ever hear from him, then they worked unsuccessfully to save his life. At that moment, God wrote the final word in my husband’s story.

As I received the news of his death rather than expected news about his hospital transport, God began the new “Widow” chapter of my life by giving me “the peace that surpasses all understanding”. Although there were times when I had to push back against fear of the unknown, there was never a time when I doubted that God was still writing my own story. He taught me to rejoice in suffering, and He taught me to trust Him with the future.

“Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:4-7 (ESV)

There are still things people do not know about my husband’s story. None of these things change who he was, the life he lived, or how he impacted my life for good. He was a sinner saved by grace just as I am, and I will see him again one day.

This experience changed me and showed me my own limited view of life –now I try not to assume anything about a person’s story; each one is unique. Only God knows how any life plays out from beginning to end. He always knows what is for our good and for His glory, even if we cannot see it at the time. In our family we have heard some of the good that has come from my husband’s death. Many people have said their faith was strengthened and at least one person chose not to end her own life because of our testimony; my husband’s death was not in vain. 

Hebrews 12:2 tells us to look to Jesus because He is the author and finisher of our faith. I know He can be trusted to write the end of my story as well.

Father, please help us to give grace to others who don’t seem to understand the daily struggles we experience, and help us not to make assumptions because we do not know what others are going through. Please give us daily peace and faith to trust that You alone are the Author and Finisher of our faith and to trust You to write our whole story. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.


Terri Oxner Sharp is a wife, mother, grandmother, homeschool teacher, and a writer for aNew Season/A Widow’s Might Ministries. Her first husband passed away suddenly in 2012. She gives God all the glory for how He has grown her spiritually on her widow journey, in preparation for her new journey into a blended family. Terri and her second husband live in Arkansas with the final child still living at home from their combined family of seven children, two son-in-loves, and two grandsons. She loves to be with people who love to laugh, enjoys spending time with their grandchildren, who know her as “GiGi”, and feels called to minister to other women who find themselves bewildered to be on a widow’s path as well.

 If you are interested in having Terri or any of our writing team speak, please contact us via email at: admin@anewseason.net.

For a similar article click on the following link:

perspective cures envy

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A Great Love

The Lord is nigh unto them that are of a broken heart: Psalm 34:18 KJV

My husband passed away on Valentine’s Day, 2011. 

He had been battling a rare blood cancer for over four years.  In November, 2010, it became apparent that the only chance to save his life would be to undergo a bone marrow transplant.  After much prayer, tremendous love from our family and  friends, and a divine certainty that we were in God’s will, we took a leave of absence from our jobs and left Northern Virginia for Duke Hospital in Durham, North Carolina.

My husband, Bill, received his transplant on January 14, 2011.  Bill was forty-two and strong in body and spirit.  The first few days were fine. However as we waited for the engrafting to occur, Bill began to contract infections (viral, fungal, bacterial, etc.) because he had no immune system.  

As we watched Christina Aguilera sing the Super Bowl National Anthem on February 6, 2011, I turned to comment on her mistake and Bill was unresponsive.  A team rushed in, and he was whisked away to ICU.  I called our family, and they started making plans to come from various areas of the country.  I will never forget the last words that Bill spoke to me a few days before he passed away.  He said, “I love you always, my beautiful wife!”   Bill fought for several days more.

For a whole day on February 13, the word “Goodbye” kept whispering in my head and heart.  I knew it was the Lord and that He was lovingly preparing me for His answer to my prayers, but I kept pushing it away, hiding from it.  Finally, on the morning of February 14, I couldn’t sleep, woke up early and prayed.  God lovingly reminded me that I had to say goodbye…not forever, but for now.

As I made my way to the hospital with Bill’s wedding band and his favorite blanket, I realized that I had to tell Bill it was okay to go.  I entered the ICU,  covered him gently with his favorite soft blanket and slipped his wedding band on his finger.  I gently laid my head on the pillow beside his ear and whispered, “I don’t want you to go, but if Jesus comes for you, go ahead, I’ll be OK.  I love you!”  He opened and closed his eyes several times and made eye contact with me.

As eighteen of our family gathered around his bedside in the ICU, we sang hymns, took turns kissing and hugging him as he looked each one of us in the eyes and blinked goodbye.  I know the moment our Savior showed up and took my sweet Bill by the hand and led him over into Gloryland.  His countenance became that of a little boy full of wonder and his beautiful lips formed a perfect “O” as though he was already singing praises to the Lord.

Later, we made our way back to the hotel and as I sat in the lobby surrounded by family, the front desk found me and handed me a beautiful flower arrangement.  I thought friends had sent it – after all it was Valentine’s Day.  I opened the card and it said, “I love you always, my beautiful wife. Love, Bill”

God didn’t leave me in that room in the ICU.  He didn’t leave me in that hotel lobby crying over the last Valentine’s flowers I would receive from my husband.  He gave me hope.  I will see my husband again.  I have a Savior that who cares about my every thought and need.  He seeks my company all day and never fails me.

I have discovered I would not have picked this journey if given the choice, but I like who I have become because of what has happened to me.  God’s not done with me yet, and I’m excited to see the plans He has for my life and future.

My husband loved the Lord and, on a day all about love, he went Home to be with his Love.  That is hopeful!

This Valentine’s Day, on the day that celebrates love, may you think about the Lord who loves you—and will never leave you, no matter what.  That’s a promise from Him.

Dear Lord, Thank You for allowing me to love and be loved.   Thank You for assurance that I have an eternal home in Heaven with You when my earthly ministry is finished.  Thank You for Valentine’s Day and a new understanding of love that I have because of You.


Sherry Rickard is a writer/speaker with A Widow’s Might/aNew Season Ministries, Inc.  Sherry lives in the Washington DC area of Virginia.  She works in the professional community management industry and is active in her local church.  She has one daughter who is 20 years old and is in her second year of college.  She also has a dog, Sophie, and a cat, Brandon.  Sherry lost her husband on February 14, 2011 to cancer after a bone marrow transplant did not engraft.  God has called her to this ministry to share the Hope that only comes from a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.  It is Sherry’s hope that Christ can shine through her and that Christ can minister to those who have a similar journey.  She is still here, so God has a wonderful purpose to fulfill with her life. 

Want to read more articles by Sherry? Sherry’s posts 

Another great article about Valentine’s Day is Holding HIS Hand… by Linda Lint

The Lady At The Store

“Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards’ of God’s grace in its various forms.”

1 Peter 4:10

“Our dad is in heaven, his gun shot himself.”

One of our tougher moments in the early days of this grief journey was in line at a store.  My twin boys were just four years old.  They knew their daddy was in heaven, and they knew the simplest version of what happened.

When the sweet lady in front of us complimented their behavior I barely saw it coming. She told them they should be proud and go home and tell their daddy how well they had behaved.  That poor lady!  She never saw it coming either, but when it did, her face went from pale white to red flushed, as she watched me nod to confirm their words.  She choked back tears as she apologized for saying anything to them and then moved on rather quickly.

Early on that was the usual reaction.  No one really knew what to say.  There were many awkward moments when someone heard my husband was in heaven and then pressed to know how he died.  There was the cashier at the grocery store, who pressed me on my pretty necklace (Scott’s wedding ring I had made into a necklace).  And then couldn’t get me out of there fast enough. The waitress at the restaurant.  The dry cleaner cashier.

Once the word suicide is dropped, the tough awkward moments fly and many well meaning people want to flee!

The stigma of and circumstances surrounding suicide are hard enough for those intimately involved, for a stranger they are nearly impossible.

Yet, there were many who stood by us and were there for us from the very beginning.  Our families hunkered together the day Scott got heaven, as my church family formed a barrier outside of my house to keep strangers and the media out (Scott’s death was very public and made national news). The local businesses that showed up with tray after tray of food. (Our families have lived in the same small town for generations.) The many, some strangers even, who came to show their love towards us, and with compassionate hearts poured out their gifts of wisdom and comfort.

It’s funny how I realize now that before all this I would’ve been the judgmental fleeing kind.  I was “the lady at the store”.  I had my own critical thoughts and opinions on death, especially on suicide, and even grief.

I knew nothing!

Now, I want to say to the lady at that store and the cashier at the grocery store and the many others, “Don’t be afraid to go there.”  Compassion, sympathy and empathy can be so powerful to a hurting person.

And I want to say to the many others, “Thank you!”  Thank you for walking this unashamedly with us.  Thank you for your kindness, care and concern. Thank you for extending grace and showing us Scott’s life was much more than that one moment.

I want to say to each of you,  be ready and willing to go there with others.  You’ve got deep places now.  You get this!  Be ready to stand with the next grieving person.  It’s going to come.  We know that well.  It’s a gift to love others from your pain to theirs.

This grief walk is not wasted. Prepare yourself well, so you aren’t the lady in line with me. Take every opportunity to shine Christ and bless others with the gifts God has now given you.

Father God, thank you for giving me the gifts I have received through this journey.  Help me to see hurt and pain in others and shine You to them as I take the time to care.  Help me to never brush off a hurting person, or waste the lessons You’ve given me.  Prepare to minister to others from the deeper places You have given me.  In Your Matchless Name, Amen.


2013-11-09-03-40-34-4-223x300Erika Graham is Vice President, and an author and speaker for aNew Season/A Widow’s Might Ministries. She resides in New Jersey with her daughter, twin boys, and her little fluffy puppy. She loves summers at the beach and all things chocolate. She lost her husband to suicide in June 2010. Erika has been called to share the victory she’s experiencing through Christ Jesus over the life God has ordained for her. 

 If you are interested in having Erika or any of our writing team speak, please contact us via email at: admin@anewseason.net.

Other articles by this author click here. 

Articles with a similar theme: Fill My Days with Living! and THE STEWARDSHIP OF SUFFERING

 

Words by Our Care Bear

Please join us today as we share a post by our beloved team member Karen Emberlin.  She is no longer with us, but she is still loved and remembered daily.  Her words still resonate and are a blessing!


Why Now- What If by Karen Emberlin

Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.

Psalm 139:16 (NIV)

 A person’s days are determined; you have decreed the number of his months and have set limits he cannot exceed.

Job 14:5 (NIV)

Have you ever asked, “Why, Lord, did you take my husband now?”

or

“Could I have done something to prevent his passing?”

These two questions are clearly etched in my mind, they’ve been there for many months. My seemingly-healthy husband and I had no reason to believe anything serious was on the horizon. We spent New Years Day 2012 together with no signs of any problems. We retired for the night.  I, unfortunately, could not get comfortable, ending up tossing and turning.

Around  2 a.m. my husband and I agreed on my relocating to a recliner for the remainder of the night.  I would be more comfy, and hopefully he would get some rest.   Sleep finally came to me there in my chair.  Mere words will never be able to completely describe my shock to find, upon awaking at 8 a.m., that he had passed away at some point in his sleep!

Even though I have been told time and time again that remaining next to him in our bed all night wouldn’t have changed the sad outcome, I still wonder “what if” and “why”.  I most likely always will.  It’s human nature.

I do know this:  the Lord has been with me every day of this “journey” which began that sad morning sixteen months ago. Without a doubt He has given me strength to move forward.  I have the promise and hope that I will see my husband again. However……the “why” and “what if” questions and thoughts still lurk  in the back of my mind–no matter how much I want them to leave.

Last weekend I  attended a retreat with eight ladies from a Bible study group of which I am a member.

One of our discussion subjects was “Grief.”  It focused on the key verse  Psalm 139:16,  Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be. (NIV)

I have read this verse countless times.  But this time, it was like God turned on a light bulb in my soul, helping me understand that in no circumstance can we either add or take from the days which are ordained for each of us (my husband)! January 2, 2012 was my beloved spouse’s time to go to heaven.  I could not have done anything to prevent it.

But even with this new understanding, my feelings of grief are not gone. I’ve made a lot of progress, but it will take more time, more tears, copious prayers, and letting go of the search for answers to these “why” and “what if” questions.  To continue my healing process, I must  choose to look at what plans the Lord has in store for me with a renewed perspective.

I anxiously await the time when my deep sense of loneliness will lessen, when guilt-free laughter returns to my life, and I can look forward with great anticipation to the future God has planned for me.

Our lives are like a piece of rich beautiful tapestry woven by the Lord. We cannot choose the colors and often times He weaves sorrow into the pattern.  In my foolish pride I sometimes forget He sees the upper side, and I, only the underside.

In time God will unroll the finished textile,  explaining the reason dark threads of sadness and sorrow are as necessary as the threads of gold and silver in the pattern He has woven.  I’d like to think that the sadness and sorrow, seen in the dark stitching, adds depth and a subtle beauty, in contrast to the bright and sunny threads.  God knows we have to experience both.

Lord, please help me and my dear Sisters to replace our questions of “why” and “what if” with truth from Your Word. I pray  Your presence will be with us, helping us to see that good can come and will come in You and through You. You are such an awesome God – We love you!  Amen


Our sweet Karen went home to be with her Lord and Savior and beloved husband last year.  She continues to be loved, cherished, and missed deeply. 

That Day

 I will give you thanks, for you answered me; you have become my salvation.  The stone the builders rejected has become the capstone; the LORD has done this, and it is marvelous in our eyes.  This is the day the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.  O LORD, save us; O LORD, grant us success.  Blessed is he who comes in the name of the LORD. From the house of the LORD we bless you. The LORD is God, and he has made his light shine upon us. With boughs in hand, join in the festal procession up to the horns of the altar. You are my God, and I will give you thanks; you are my God, and I will exalt you.  Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; his love endures forever.

Psalm 118: 21-29

 

June 16th, 2010, the day my husband got heaven, was the day my world and life as I knew it ended.

That day, my husband took his own life.

It was the single hardest day of my life and it broke me in so many ways.  But, I wasn’t the only one.  What happened that day broke many people; our children, our family, our friends, our church, and many strangers who heard it as breaking news or went by the scene.

That day I was spared though, because I wasn’t with him, and I didn’t find him.  Yet, there were a handful of strangers who weren’t spared. I’ve thought and prayed for them often.

There was a man who stopped within seconds and was the first to try to help him. Then a second man who stopped and helped, and a woman had stopped too. In the end I was told there were about five in those first precious minutes, who stopped on the side of a busy road and were there to help and protect my beloved husband until paramedics arrived.

I prayed for years that they’d be protected from what they saw and what they did would be honored.  That it wouldn’t scar them.  And that they could find peace in it.  I even prayed for the opportunity to thank them.

Last year, I got a message from the woman who stopped. We corresponded via email and I could sense her pain.  After a time, we agreed to meet.

As we sat and talked, she shared intimate details of that precious horrific day. We both shed mighty tears. At one point she shared that she’d been tormented by what she saw.  That she kept dreaming of it and couldn’t get one picture out of her head; the image of his strong left hand where his shining unblemished wedding band was resting gently on his leg. As she sobbed and shared, I reached up and took my necklace off.

In it was something I needed her to hold, because I had taken Scott’s wedding ring and made a necklace from it. I handed it to her and she held it so tight. In that moment, I saw her release some of the pain of that day and those terrible images. She could see the new I created in that ring and in our life. I shared my great God with her too. And I pray she saw Him shine as I talked.

I’ve never seen her since, but I’m so grateful for our time. I’m most grateful God gave me a chance to meet one of those who cared enough to stop. I love that I can now pray so specifically for her, and I hope that she saw God’s love and glory on full display in and through me.

I share this with you sisters because your story matters.  Your husband’s death matters. Your suffering matters.  The suffering of others matters.  The kindness of others matters.  The healing matters. And sharing matters!

God wants to use your ugly, messy, sad, precious story for His glory. It’s certainly not easy or comfortable for some of us. There are those who will never see our story through the grace filled, redemptive eyes of Christ, and will instead judge us. But, that’s ok.  I can’t control others.  I can just lay my story humbly before the Lord, committing it to Him, relinquishing my control over it.

The day I met that woman is right up there with one of my toughest days. The harsh realities of what happened that day reopened wounds for me.  But my comfort, my heart, my pride, or even my privacy doesn’t matter if I’m blocking God from using me, my husband, and our story to help others and bring Him great glory!

If I hide away, I’m just giving the enemy more victory and I’m robbing God!  And I’m wasting our suffering. What additional tragedy that would be.

My husband is gone.  The days leading up to it were terrible.  And his death was horrible.  But that’s where the bad stops and the good starts.  God allowed bad, but He will work it for His good and glory.  I believe and trust that!

And I trust Him!

That day, our story became HIS STORY!

Father, help us to be bold.  Helps us to humbly watch You work and move in our lives.  Give us the courage to relinquish any shame we may feel over our story to Your greater purposes.  Let us be a light in dark places, and give us opportunities to share even the ugly stuff, so we can glorify You.  I thank You for the messy story You’ve given me and I pray, Lord, that You give me the strength I need to walk this journey as a humble servant in Your mighty hands.  In Your Matchless Name, Amen.


2013-11-09 03.40.34-4Erika Graham is Director of Operations, and an author and speaker for aNew Season/A Widow’s Might Ministries. She resides in New Jersey with her daughter, twin boys, and her little fluffy puppy. She loves summers at the beach and all things chocolate. She lost her husband to suicide in June 2010. Erika has been called to share the victory she’s experiencing through Christ Jesus over the life God has ordained for her.

If you are interested in having her or any of our writing team speak, please contact us via email at: admin@anewseason.net.

Other articles by this author click here.

Related articles on this topic: Story Keepers and The End of the Story?

What Little Eyes Might See

The Lord watches over the sojourners; he upholds the widow and the fatherless, but the way of the wicked he brings to ruin.

Psalm 146:9

We worry over our children–what losing a cherished father might do to their little hearts and minds.

But some of us had to deal with something else—the children seeing their father die before their eyes.

In August 2007, my husband took my boys to the swimming pool, their favorite way to spend a hot summer afternoon. It not only became their last moments together, but moments filled with  traumatic recollections. How I wish it were me who saw him have that heart attack, not them.

Unfortunately, I’m not the only widow whose children witnessed their father’s death first hand.  Navigating through your children’s grief gets more complicated when they are struggling with riviting images in their memories. It helped me so much to hear my kids weren’t the only ones, and that many chldren overcome these experiences and land as adults with balanced mental health.

So when I came across my journal entry from soon after our family’s tragedy, I decided to share it here and help widows in the same boat not feel so alone in managing children’s grief.

JOURNAL ENTRY – EARLY SEPTEMBER 2007

It’s only a week since it happened when my eleven-year-old wakes me up. “Mom, can we talk?” Six in the morning. He must really need me.

I sit up, stretch, and smooth my blankets while he crawls in beside me. We say nothing for a while. Trees rustle in the breeze outside my window.

“It must have been awful,” I finally say.

Quiet tears start to stream down his face. He trembles, so I pull him close. That only makes his tears loosen further, tears for his dad. I weep along side him, but while he’s crying for Dad, I’m crying for him.

His breakdown only worsens as I hug him. His trembles turn into shakes. He bangs his fists on the covers.

I try not to be alarmed, but I feel helpless. I want to fix it. Put a band-aid on to cover the wound. It’s so ugly, raw and oozing, but somehow I know that I have to let it be. It’s one of those moments when a mother’s job is to let pain happen, not to fix it. I stroke his hair.

Shakes subside, and wails trail off into whimpers, until his strong nature overrules, and my boy finally sits up, grabbing a Kleenex and wiping his face.

“Are the tears more because you’ll miss him, or because of what you saw?”

My boy shakes his head and speaks with amazing clarity. “It’s my fault.”

I cock my head and look at him. The idea he would entertain such a notion hasn’t occurred to me.

His tears start again. “I didn’t get him help in time.”

“It was more than a simple heart attack. It was one of those huge ones that takes someone out quickly. Even if you had called 911 right when he went under, it would have been too late. You could not have done anything to save him. Dad had an aunt and an uncle die the same way at young ages like him.”

He looks reassured. “Want me to tell you what I saw?”

I nod.

Tears start up again.

“I’m mad a my brothers. How could they think Dad was just playing some game.”

“It must have been confusing for them,” I say.

He relaxes and fumbles with the Kleenex, still looking troubled. “I hurt him.” The words come out almost inaudibly. “When I went over to him, I got mad and pinched him really hard to make sure he wasn’t just playing. I decided if I pinched him really hard, he would get up and get mad at me.”

“That was pretty smart.”

He looks surprised.

“There was nothing wrong with your pinching him. If it were a joke, that would be an awful joke.” I pull him close again.

But he gently breaks out of the embrace—it’s like this whole event marked the start of his standing apart as a young man. “When they got Dad out of the pool, they laid him on the cement. He looked awful.” He contorts his face at the thought.

I hug him. “I can’t imagine.”

“Mr. Pendergrass pulled us away. That would have been the last time I could see Dad alive, and he wouldn’t let me look!”

“At that point, Dad was gone. You wouldn’t have been looking at Dad alive.”

“Yes, but I didn’t know at that time that he was dead, and I wanted to see him while I still thought of him as alive.”

“So you missed out on that special moment with Dad.” I nod and we both sit for a moment. “Think of it this way. The last time you really saw Dad alive was when you were throwing a football across the pool. Isn’t that more of who Dad was—laughing and moving and not just lying there at the side of the pool?”

His muscles relax as the anger drains away and he lays his head on my shoulder.

Mourning doves coo outside the window, reminding me of my grandmother working in the garden in the early morning. I was eleven when she died—so little. I look over at my eleven-year-old: still a boy, crying over having to let go of his father and be a man.

I’ll let him be both. Let him take his time and not grow up too soon.

This same boy did finally grow up, and with confidence. There is truth in the promises of Proverbs 146:9:  The Lord watches over the sojourners; he upholds the widow and the fatherless, but the way of the wicked he brings to ruin.

If you’re concerned about how your children will cope with loss, be encouraged. Kids do well with your love and the love of the Lord.

017_HinkleKit Hinkle is the Founder and Ministry Lead for A New Season Ministries, Inc., and an author and speaker. She has lived through corporate careers as a chemical engineer and a management consultant, but now finds her finest career as a home school mother to four teen boys–one of them launched in college. She loves Pilates and her best friend’s Bosanova Christian yoga-style stretching. Her longing for walks on the beach with her chocolate lab has led her to Charleston where she’s now starting her new season.  To sit with another who is walking through her tough road and show that woman Christ, brings joy and fulfillment to Kit. It’s such an honor to participate in His kingdom.
If you are interested in having her speak, please contact her via email at admin@anewseason.net. 
Other articles by this author: www.anewseason.net/author/khinkle

Would you like to read more about the actual loss itself?  Here are some articles you might try:

What Happens When I Am Squeezed? by Elizabeth Dyer

The Night My Life Changed… Forever  by Leah Stirewalt

 

What Happens When I Am Squeezed?

Psalm 115:3 ESV

Our God is in the heavens; He does all that He pleases.

Do you remember the moment you found out your husband was gone?  That moment when you experienced the severing of your spousal “limb”?

I remember distinctly the last moments as we unplugged each of the machines, one by one.  Some of you were able to hold your husband’s hand as he took his final breath on earth.  Every time I hear a song about passing from this life to the next, my throat tightens, I stop singing, and I have a memory flash before my eyes.  I saw the “passing from this life to the next” first hand.  Those words reach deep into my most inner self.

Or maybe you were not with your husband during his last breath but remember exactly where you were when word reached you.  You might even remember your first words at that moment. Many people heard Lila’s words when she was given the news of her husband’s sudden death. Dawson Trottman, her husband, was one of the founders of the Navigators ministry. He passed away while saving a young girl in a water skiing accident in 1956. As friends were telling Lila of Dawson’s death, she calmly responded with the verse above from Psalms.  Our God is in the heavens, He does all that He pleases. How could she respond like that?  How could she not fall apart from the sudden news? She was in the similar situation as many of us as widows– Suddenly,  a solo parent with four children.  But she was so full of God’s Word, when she was “squeezed” by life, God’s Word came out.  Our God is in the heavens, He does all that He pleases.

We are squeezed by life often. And what comes out of our mouths?

I am “squeezed” by the worries of my bank account.

I am “squeezed” by the lack of love or grace being shown by a person.

I am “squeezed” by stress at work.

I am “squeezed” by exhaustion from parenting.

I want to be so full of God’s Word, that when I am “squeezed”, only God’s Word spills over.  Not irritation.  Not angry words.  Not isolation.  Not hateful gossip.  Only God’s Word.   Our God is in the heavens, He does all that He pleases.

I cannot get to that point by just wishing or hoping.  I only get there by filling myself up with God’s Word.  Not just on Sundays sitting in a worship service.  Not just an occasional cracking open of Scriptures at home. I really have to pour it in.  I can tell you advertisements and movies I have seen only once but recalling Scripture is much more challenging.  I have to want it.  I have to dig for it.  I have to push myself.

When we “exercise” our faith, what comes out of our “pores” will be what we put in.

Rest in this, Sister.  God IS in control.  He is in the heaven.  What He allows in our lives is for the ultimate good of bringing glory to His Name.  I have to believe that.  It gives the Hope I need to keep going.  The contrary leaves me hopeless — with no god, no purpose, and no future.  It is either one or the other. Our God is in the heavens, He does all that He pleases.

When you are “squeezed” today, take careful note of what spills out. Comment here on the blog if there is something we can pray about with you.  We count it a privilege to pray with you.

Lord God, You are in control. Thank You for watching over me today. Fill me with Your Word so when I am “squeezed” today, Your glory will shine forth from me. Amen

 

 

Elizabeth Dyelizabeth 325x325er is an author and a speaker for aNew Season/A Widow’s Might Ministries. She resides in Oklahoma, amid earthquakes and tornadoes, giving her ample opportunities to trust God! Her six children, large dog, noisy cat, and guinea pigs keep her busy enough, but she still finds time to have coffee now and then with a friend.  Elizabeth lost her husband in 2012 and loves to share how God is leading her on this new journey.  Other articles you may enjoy by Elizabeth are here and here.

If you are interested in having Elizabeth or one of our other speakers visit your church, please contact us via email at admin@anewseason.net

Another article you might like is here by Jill Byard. “Dressing for the Season” or this one by Teri Cox about our questions.

 

 

God Sent A Sparrow

“Not one sparrow is forgotten by God.” Luke 12:6 (NIV)

I was fully prepared to attend our daughter’s College graduation by myself. I was not prepared to attend alone.

Going by myself meant I would attend the ceremony, take pictures and then go to the care center to share the experience with my husband.

Going alone meant that just ten hours earlier I had received the dreaded call – he had passed in his sleep.

Sitting in the arena on that Sunday afternoon in May, I was in a fog. I desperately wanted to get up and pace – sitting still was difficult. If I sat still too long, I would begin to cry again – and this was not the place for “those” kind of tears. Mercifully I was flanked on each side by kind women who were present for grandchildren. The usual small talk ensued and, in response to their innocent questions, I had to tell them that my husband had passed just hours before. How kind they were, taking my hand and patting my shoulder – a true blessing. During our conversation we had all noticed a bird flying about in the upper rafters. We paid it little mind, because it is a common occurrence to see such things in large arenas.

Music started, the graduates processed in and sat down, and all was quiet. Then, suddenly, right at my feet was a tiny, female sparrow. She looked up at me, tilted her head and then flew away into the rafters again. How grateful I was for the distraction of this little bird’s presence. By focusing on her I could refrain from crying and move my head slightly to watch her – thus relieving my desire to get up and pace.

The little sparrow was respectful during the invocation and speeches and stayed high in the rafters – until there was a break. Each time it was quiet, she would fly down over our daughter’s head! She was causing quite a stir among the people around me, for the story had spread about why I was there “alone”; and I had already pointed out where our daughter was sitting.

As each graduate walked across the stage the little sparrow was again very respectful, waiting in the rafters quietly. Then it came our daughter’s turn. Our beautiful daughter held herself proudly and received her College Diploma with Magna Cum Laude Honors! And when she returned to her seat that little, tiny sparrow flew down from the rafters directly over her head again!

My husband loved the sparrows in our yard. He fed them regularly and made sure there were plenty of houses (which he made himself) for them.  It was no “coincidence” or “accident” that brought that sparrow there to comfort me that Sunday in May three years ago.

No, the sparrow was not my husband as I heard some say. I truly believe that little bird was sent by God Himself to help His newest widow through a most difficult day.

That day I was much like that sparrow – lost and alone in a very big, strange place. In the three years since, I have grown stronger, and have been able to use my wings in ways I never expected – even in a big, strange place called “widowhood”. It has not been easy. I do still miss my husband; and, to be honest, I needed to take a break from typing to shed some tears.

Now, I ask this question: “If God is able to guide a lone sparrow to a College graduation ceremony in May, isn’t He more than able to guide each of us as we journey down our individual paths of widowhood?”

Dear Father, My love for You has grown and deepened over these last years. You have shown me in countless ways how valuable I am to You – and I am so grateful. Continue to guide us Father – we are Your tiny sparrows – so much in need of Your love and care.

You Can’t Say This at a Funeral

And I’m not talking about the typical blundering comments people say—“God needed him in Heaven” or “I totally get how you feel, my dog just died”.  No, this is one, as a Christian, we tip-toe around, because not everyone is a believer.

It’s the subject of the salvation of someone’s loved-one.  While we’re all alive and in churches, we proclaim the saving Grace of our Savior’s blood- that through His death we, who believe and surrender to Him, are accepted into Heaven when we die, but if we reject the Father’s Son as who He is, the one and only true Savior,  we will not enter the kingdom no matter how sweet or kind we are through our own flesh and actions.

When you get how freeing this Truth is– in that it frees you from the hold satan has on you, you get excited and want others to have it too.

But what if you’re not sure your husband had that salvation? How do you deal with that?  Certainly, people at funerals won’t come up to you and mention it.

My husband was a seeker, or I should say the iconic seeker.  When the boys and I would pray before every meal, he would scoff-not because he didn’t believe there is a God and not because he didn’t want to see our family follow Christ.  It was because he didn’t understand our “Jesus Culture”.  He didn’t trust it.  He wanted salvation like the rest of us– but he didn’t want to jump into the church model and buy it hook, line, and sinker. He didn’t want to be duped.

He hung out with my circle of church friends- even went to their men’s bible fellowship on Mondays at lunch.  But he’d come home with a giggle, reporting how he had “stumped them now”.  That’s because the men at my church loved Tom so much they would each take a crack at helping him see the reality of Christ. They would later tell me, “I think I got to him this time– I think he gets it!”  I didn’t have the heart to say Tom would come home seeming as cynical as ever.

Little did I know these men’s words were working on Tom’s heart.

About a year before he died, I got exasperated with him. Out from my mouth slipped: “Why do you bother coming with us to church? Nothing seems to get through to you. Just leave us Christians alone and say you’re an atheiest and be done with it.  It feels like you’re toying with us!”

Tom’s reaction surprised me. He dropped his head and took a deep breath. Then looked me in the eye. With normally strong lips now quivering, he pointed an index finger at me, “Don’t joke about this. It’s important to me.”

Was he actually taking his faith seriously? I stilled myself and listened.

“Not a day goes by…” He paused to push back tears. “…that I don’t worry about where I’ll wake up when I die–Heaven or Hell.”

It was a beautiful moment because once I knew his soul was struggling with salvation, I knew it was only a matter of time. All I needed to do was get out of God’s way and let Him work on Tom’s heart.

Soon after, there were hints of a heart change… a tiny moment when he whispered, “I think I’m saved.”

“Really?” I couldn’t wait to hear the confession.

But he would change the subject.

Then there were comments from friends about deep conversations where Tom would start to confess his surrender to Christ.

I waited for a grand anouncement– a baptism or something!

Then came August 19.  A Sunday morning.

Tom and I shared breakfast with our four young boys.  Carter, the seven-year-old, told me he wanted to be baptized with other kids at church the next week.  Two of his brothers chimed in–they wanted to join him.

Tom then followed me into our bedroom as I got dressed.

“Honey, all this talk about baptism bothers me.” he said, shutting the door behind him. “You got baptized. Now they’re getting baptized, and you know how I don’t want people telling me what to do!” His eyes brimmed with tears. “You know that baptism is an outward sign of your salvation,” Tom said. So he HAS been listening! “You can be saved and not yet be baptized.”

I nodded. “I know.”

Then he said it.  “I just don’t want my boys to think I’m not saved just because I’m waiting to go in that water when I’m ready to make an outward statement!”

“You mean…?” I started.

And again, with a mischievous smile, Tom changed the subject and headed for the shower.

I later discovered how perfectly timed that conversation was. That very afternoon, while in the pool with our boys, Tom’s heart succumbed to a massive coronary. He slipped under the water and away from this world, and was lifted up by Jesus, free from sin and forever in His arms.  His oldest son later put the pieces together–“Dad had his baptism, right there in the pool,” he said.

But few people were aware of Tom’s transformation. At his funeral, everyone tip-toed around the salvation issue.  Everyone knew Tom was a seeker, but only the closest of us to him knew he actually got it.

I finally stood before the church and related his confessions–turning the funeral of loss into a call for celebration.

It’s a beautiful story.  One I wish every unequally yoked wife who becomes a widow would be able to speak.

But what about those of us whose husbands showed no evidence of getting it? How do you comfort these widows?  And how about those ladies who are struggling, like Tom did, with wanting to be sure this God thing is true?  What does it mean about her husband if she now declares the Truth that you must accept that Jesus died for your sins in order to enter into Heaven?

I’ve decided to tackle this head on, sisters, because I had to. My father showed no evidence of being a believer. For most of her life, my mother didn’t either. In fact, in her older years, as her health failed her, and she wore her widowhood like a fur lined pity coat, she would often explain her theology to me–“these years are miserable to me, and God is letting me suffer here on earth to pay for all the awful stuff I did, so that I won’t have to suffer in Purgetory, and I can go to Heaven.”

How wrong that thinking was.  She needed to be free from that guilt here and now, and she could be. I shared the Truth many times and she would listen, eager to find peace. She’d even get on her knees and surrender to Christ with her words, only to tell me she’s still not at peace.

And finally she spit it out–“I don’t want to accept that it’s true,” she said, “because if it is, that means your father is in Hell.”

Her doubts and questions about my father crawled out of her heart and laid on the floor between us like a naked crying baby, wanting to be soothed.

I picked it up and cuddled it– holding the question up to the light.  “How do you know he didn’t get it in the end?” I asked my mother.

She lifted her sad eyes to me with hope.

“Do you not think God is capable of anything?”  I asked.  “Just a few days before he died, Dad was talking about hearing a preacher on the radio.  You never know what one line that preacher said might have gotten to him, caused him to think, pray, turn things over in his heart to God.”

The bottom line is you don’t really know what miracle God might have done to call your husband to Him before your husband took that last breath.

And with that element of hope, my mother was able to step through the threshold between doubt and confusion to belief and salvation, and she lived out her years with the peace of knowing who she is in Christ.

Was your husband a seeker like my Tom?  Was he an independent soul like my father who didn’t show interest in a relationship with Christ to us?  Unpack it sister, and don’t let the doubts about where your husband is create a wall between you and the Father in Heaven Who wants you to hang out with Him daily!

You’re precious and real.  You can trust Him with EVERYTHING–even the fate of your beloved.

God bless you!

The 16th

 

“This is the day The Lord has made, we will rejoice and be glad in it.”  Psalm 118:24 

I’ve been scheduled to post here what God has laid on my heart over the next few months on the 16th.

Is this coincidence? No, because I know God knows.  Let me explain!

The 16th was the most joyous day around my house for many years.  September 16th was my husband’s birthday, we met on October 16th, and so we chose August 16th as our wedding day.  My reasoning was he never forgot his birthday or the day we met, so our anniversary would be equally as easy to remember.  We celebrated the 16th many times over.  It was our day!

Then my husband’s death changed all that.  He went to heaven on June 16th, and it seemed to go from a joyous day to a cursed day for me.  Each month, I dreaded and loathed it.  16 was a number that had betrayed me.  I marked it off on the calendar the first year every month, 1 month ago, 2 months ago, 3 months ago, 4 months ago…. For a long time I had to begrudgingly acknowledge the 16th and hated how it contained a tangible reminder of all I lost.

Now, I know God knows, because unbeknownst to anyone setting the schedule for our writing team, I am scheduled for my first official team member post and several after on that day.

I also know because without hesitation, I said I wanted the number 16 as my shirt number for a women’s basketball league.  I run around with 16 plastered on my back as I play every Sunday night.

But wait…what am I thinking? The 16th became cursed, right?

I lead with my heart, and my heart has Christ.  In what seems like an impulsive choice with my basketball team and an odd coincidence with this ministry, I realize it’s entirely the LORD.  When asked what number I’d like my mouth blurted out the number 16 from my heart, before my brain got in the way. When asked if the schedule looked good I confirmed without even noticing the date was the 16th for the next few months.

God is here and He knows.

God gave me the gift of joyous celebrations on the 16th for so many years.  Satan tried to claim 16 for himself through my husband’s suicide.  But, God knew that someday having all these events fall on the same day would somehow help me go back and remember and also help me move forward.  He knew way back then that now I’d be writing about my journey on the 16th of each month, and that I’d be running around every Sunday joyously on the basketball court with 16 on my back.  He knew that what Satan tried to steal, He’d claim and use for His honor and glory and my good.

It’s amazing to see my life through this date three and a half years later.  It’s still a whopper of a few months that hit me almost consecutively: June 16th, August 16th, September 16th, and October 16th.  Of course 3 of these dates no longer carry the joy they once did because of the 4th one.  But, they all no longer feel like they betrayed me either.  They are just days, my days, days The Lord made.

The 16th has been claimed by God as my day.  Now it’s my turn to find ways to rejoice and be glad in it.  Sometimes that’s easy and sometimes that’s hard.  But it’s possible because I have Christ and I can trust Him.  I’ve seen Him work to heal me and make 16 all mine.

Heavenly father, I stand in awe of how you’ve taken the 16th and transformed it, from joyous celebrations, to horrific pain, and then to perfect peace.  I have peace in your words that this day is the day you made for me.  I embrace it, and I ask that you continue to use me to bring honor and glory to you as I share my story about my day, number 16.  I pray that you are with each widow reading this, that you help them to move their day from pain and hurt to a place of peace, as they move forward and see it in a new light.  Lord help us to claim that this is the day You have made, and help us find ways to rejoice and be glad as you heal us.  In your matchless name, Amen.