I Am Here

By Sarah Rodriguez

A month after the loss of my husband the new IPhone came out. I was eligible for an upgrade so I decided I would go ahead and make the purchase. I was a little daunted by this task but I decided to make the leap. The long awaited phone finally came in the mail. I spent the next 2 hours in tears of frustration trying to make sure that all of my old text messages from my husband were backed up so they wouldn’t be lost. I was finally able to figure it out much to my relief. I plugged my phone into my computer to transfer all of my files only to get the error message I didn’t have enough space on my new phone. How was that possible? I finally realized I had purchased a phone with the wrong amount of storage space. I transferred back all of my old files, loaded the phone in the box and off to the local cell phone store I went. Upon arrival I was told they were sold out of my particular phone and wouldn’t have any more for months which wouldn’t be a problem if I hadn’t already given my old phone to someone else. I was able to go home, call the cell phone company and explain my situation to them. An hour and a half later they had resolved the situation and a new phone was on its way. By the end of this ordeal I had lost a few hours of my life and a few hairs I had pulled from my head.

Why was this all such a big deal, you ask? Because my husband was the one who normally handled all of the electronic issues in our home. He would mention the new phone was coming out and next thing I knew I had it in the palm of my hand with all of the files neatly transferred over. It took me hours upon hours to do something that was so effortless for him. I was so embarrassingly bad at something so simple for him that it frustrated me.

I must admit out of my frustration I started to get angry. I was angry my husband wasn’t here to help when I needed him. I was angry the littlest things were such a big hassle due to my inadequacy. I was angry I felt so helpless and I was angry I was alone. All in all I was just angry.

In my frustration I cried out to God and told Him how unfair my life was. I told him how hard and lonely it was to do life without my best friend. On and on I went until I had depleted myself of every frustration I felt. At the end of my rant I felt The Lord say simply “I am here.”

He is was there the day that my husband left this earth. He was there the day I held my son in my arms knowing his Father would never return. He was there when I laid in bed at night crying lonely tears. And believe it or not He was there when I was frustrated about a silly phone. Whatever I am feeling be it big or small He is there and He cares.

“Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that He may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you” 1 Peter 5:6-7

That day I gave every emotion to The Lord. I told Him how I felt and left it at His feet knowing how deeply He cares about all of my pain. I am sure it won’t be the last frustrating situation I endure but one things for sure-I know I won’t ever face it alone.

Dear God-I thank you that You care about every little thing that concerns me. I thank You that in every fear and frustration You are there for me. I pray for Your help to get me through the difficult moments ahead no matter how big or small and to feel You ever near to me. Amen.

The Empty Chair

by Karen Emberlin

 

“Fear not, for I am with you.  Do not be dismayed.  I am your God.  I will strengthen you; I will help you; I will uphold you with my victorious right hand.”

Isaiah 41:10 (The Living Bible)

 

Have you been faced with an “empty chair” beside you?

During the past nineteen months there have been many times I have experienced the empty chair syndrome.  For quite some time it seemed almost everywhere I would go, the empty chair was there too!  Meal times, church services, family gatherings, and just a relaxing evening at home were all reminders that I was alone.

I thought I was doing much better until a few days ago when the empty chair appeared in another “first” situation.   In a ten day period I faced two surgical procedures, the first ones since the loss of my husband.   In the past few years, I have experienced some tough medical issues, but my husband was always sitting in the chair beside me as we talked with doctors, went though tests and tried to make the best decisions for my care.   He was always at my bedside helping in any way he could to reassure me and make me comfortable.  I knew he would always be there when I woke up, making sure I was cared for in the best possible way.

This time as I checked in for surgery, the empty chair brought back so many memories!  It seemed to represent the pain and emptiness that wanted to consume me.  Please understand, I am so thankful for a wonderful circle of family and friends who cared about me, prayed for me, and made sure I was not alone, but it just was not the same.  No one could take the place of my husband!

While waiting in a small quiet room prior to surgery, I stared at the empty chair remembering what it used to be like when my husband was there to hold my hand and reassure me.  As I prayed and focused on verses from His Word, I realized that instead of my husband, God was sitting in the empty chair, loving, listening, and waiting for me to hear Him.

A devotional from Jesus Calling says, “Let me prepare you for the day that awaits you and point you in the right direction.  I am with you continually, so don’t be intimidated by fear.  Though it stalks you, it cannot harm you, as long as you cling to My hand.  Keep your eyes on Me, enjoying Peace in My Presence.”

Was I still concerned – certainly!  Did I still miss my husband – I sure did!  However, I knew God was sitting there with me providing a peace that passeth all understanding.

The loss of my husband leaves an empty chair but God is sitting there waiting for me to spend time with Him.  The relationship my husband and I enjoyed happened because we spent time together and shared our joys and sorrows with each other.   God wants me to talk to Him and share my feelings just like I did with my husband.  He also wants me to be still and listen to what He has to say to me.  Sometimes it is hard to talk to an “unseen body” – I would feel much more comfortable talking to someone I could see and touch.  However, He promises that He will be with us always.

In faith I can see Jesus in the empty chair!

Lord, help us begin each day believing You are all we need to continue this journey of widowhood.  May we accept Your plan knowing that You have allowed this pain and loss in our lives.  Help us take the pain and hurt to a chair that is never empty and allow healing in Your time.  May we discover the purpose you have for us.         Amen

How Do You Hold Thoughts Captive?

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

2 Corinthians 10:5

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

Chosen

by Rene Zonner

“…He has chosen you from all the nations of the earth to be his own special treasure”

Deuteronomy 14:2

imagesCAUF0IX1Do you know what I miss most about my husband? I miss hugs for no reason—catching his eye across a crowded room and knowing exactly what he is thinking. I miss the inside jokes we shared and “that” look from him. I miss knowing out of all the people on this planet, he chose me to spend the rest of his life with, and it was me he came home to everyday. I miss feeling special, set apart…

I miss being chosen.

For the sixteen years before my husband John died suddenly of a heart attack in August 2010, I had something I really craved. Someone here, in the flesh, who had chosen me above all others. I took great comfort in this fact and being a wife was very important to me. Until he died, I never realized just how important being chosen was to me.

Truth is, most of my self-worth and identity came from knowing I was enough for someone, a physical flesh and blood person. My feeling of security depended on John choosing me daily. And now that I’m single again, not having this daily affirmation for almost three years now has brought my insecurities to the surface.

Oh sure, my parents love me but they have to, right?. They didn’t choose me—I was just given to them. My three young children love me (OK, some days more than others) but again, they didn’t ask to be my children, so what choice did they have? My friends choose to love me, but the reality is I am lower on the totem pole than their own spouses and families.

So who chooses me?

Having grown up in the church, I know the answer to that intellectually—God. But when I became a widow, this fact did not provide the comfort it probably should have. God loved me enough to take care of me and my children. He promised He would redeem my future, and He would use the loss to my good and to glorify Him. After all, He has provided for me in countless ways both materially and spiritually, stamping His fingerprint on my life throughout this season of widowhood

So why wasn’t He enough for me? What was missing? Why did I feel unloved and unwanted?

Only recently did I get an inkling to why.

See, when I heard “God loves the world”, all I could think was “great, He loves everyone just the same” and “I’m nothing special, just another face in the crowd”.

And that is not what I desire. I want to be special! I want to be chosen! John’s gone, and now, because of my circumstances, I just wasn’t feeling special. I was allowing my circumstances to tell me I wasn’t chosen.

But, those were my feelings—not Truth.

I am chosen! In Deuteronomy 14:2 God tells me I am His own special treasure. Isaiah 41:3 exclaims I am precious to God. Psalm 139:17-18 shouts God thinks of me all the time. Isaiah 49:16 reminds me God has engraved my name on His hand. Rene Zonner is engraved on the same hand that made the stars!

He’s speaking to me!

But not just to me! These verses are for you as well. God is not limited to human constraints of only being able to do or think of one or even a few things at a time. He can love each of us as like there is no one else to love. He can think of me all the time and still think of you all the time. I am not just some face in the crowd, and neither are you. Psalm 139:13 tells us God knit us together in our mother’s womb. He knows you and me intimately. He knows us better than our husbands ever could, and he still chooses us. I know this is hard to grasp for some of you, and I am still trying to wrap my brain around it myself. But we must hold onto this truth about God. It is vital that we find our security, our value and our self-worth in the God who loves us personally.

Let’s not depend on others to provide what only God can.

Heavenly Father,
I pray for my sisters in Christ to understand the personal and intimate love You have for each of us. Help us to see that even though our loved ones are not here to make us feel special, it’s okay because we are treasured by the God of the universe. I ask you to make real to us just how wide and deep your love for us is. I pray for us to know that we are truly chosen.
Amen

Supporting One Another

by guest blogger Liz Anne Wright

Two are better than one,
because they have a good return for their labor:
If either of them falls down,
one can help the other up.
But pity anyone who falls
and has no one to help them up.
Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm.
But how can one keep warm alone?
Though one may be overpowered,
two can defend themselves.
A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.

– Ecclesiastes 4:9-11

These verses were read at my wedding and are written on the inside of my wedding band, now lying in a box in my closet.  They are some of my favorites.

But what if you don’t have the cord of three strands anymore?  What if you have to lie down alone?  How are you going to keep warm?

Right after my husband Keith died 5 ½ years ago, I had some of those questions.  Maybe not consciously, but at least subconsciously, right from the beginning, I knew things would be changing for me significantly.  Understatement of the year.

God, however, knew my needs, even before I did…and provided!

Within a few months of Keith’s death, I made five new friends…who were all widows!

Through a variety of ways, and in a variety of situations, God brought me what I needed even before I truly knew that I needed it….new friends who truly understood.

These precious ladies had, all but one, been on the path of widowhood longer than I.  And they were a tremendous help to me in how to navigate the journey.  As one of these dear ladies put it, she may not be able to fill all the potholes in this road for me, but she could at least tell me they were coming so that I could slow down or steer around them.

The only thing that was a little odd was that they did not know each other…yet.

We decided that meeting together was beneficial to all of us.  So, we started having coffee and dinner, going to plays and movies.  We prayed for each other and shared our lives in person and on our group Facebook page.  And we have developed a closeness quickly and easily as we rely on God, and each other, on this journey.

Today, nearly four years later, we have grown to a group of women (and even a few men) of about 24.  We call ourselves Travelers on a Different Journey.  It was not the journey we chose, by any means, but one upon which we find ourselves.  And we have found that having others who “get it” and have “been there” breaks down barriers and creates no awkward silences that sometimes happen with our other friends.  We laugh together more than we cry.  We talk freely about our spouses now gone and our future and what it could be.  And we are blessed to know each other and be in contact with each other.

We have determined goals and a mission statement for our group, and I will share these, should they be of help to any others out there:

  1. To provide fellowship:  a safe environment in which we can enjoy adult fellowship with others who have felt the loss we have.  Through monthly outings, dinners, and coffees, we strive to give opportunities to get to know others on the same journey, and to laugh or cry as needed.
  2. To provide prayer support for the concerns within the members of our group, and for new widows/widowers we come in contact with.
  3. To provide practical support in the form of lectures/classes on new areas of responsibility that we have that are outside of our comfort zone, such a finances, home repair, etc.
  4. To provide outreach to widows and widowers who come to the attention of the members of the group through friends or other organizations to which we belong.

I am so thankful to God that in His infinite wisdom and grace, He provided us with each other in order to face this journey.  The moments are hard, to be sure, but the journey is sweeter, knowing that I always have someone I can call for advice, a hug, and a prayer.

In a different way, I still have a cord of three strands to help give me strength…God Himself, me, and my fellow Travelers.  Were I without any of these pieces, this journey would be unimaginably hard.  And I pray that you, fellow traveler, have these three cords as well.

Dear Lord, 

I pray that as we journey along this path on which You have placed us, we can find the joy of community and fellowship with others who understand our journey.  I pray that we can be a support to each other for the tough days, and a cheering section for the joyous days.  Mostly, Lord, I pray that we can grow ever closer to You, to glean from this journey what You would have us glean in each moment, happy or sad.  I pray that we can see You as our Husband and our Best Friend above all others.  Thank You for giving us opportunities to be in community with fellow travelers on this journey.  Thank You even more for allowing us the privilege of having fellowship with You.

In Jesus’ Name

Amen

Thou changest not…

by Nancy Howell

“I the LORD do not change.”  Malachi 3:6 (NCV)

Life is full of changes.  Maybe that’s the understatement of the year, especially considering the audience reading this post.  Those of us who have lost loved ones, beloved spouses, know this all too well.  Life is static, constantly in flux and in motion. 

What you once thought would last a lifetime ended way too soon.

Circumstances beyond your control–accidents, sickness, cancer, heart attack, infection after surgery–changed your perfect world in an instance.  You are alone, in a daze, struggling to make sense of your situation.  You feel like there’s a piece missing from your body, an integral one that you need to keep going.

Down is up, up is down.  Chaos swirls around you.  You put yourself on automatic pilot, and get through the immediate hours and days of widowhood, numbed beyond belief.

Your home is full of food, flowers, well-intentioned family and friends, but is missing the one thing you want and cannot have–your husband.   You are on a path you didn’t choose, one you wouldn’t wish on anyone else.  But it’s what you have been given.

Family and friends have lives of their own.  They slip back into their daily routines, leaving you behind, in a house that seems way too big, too quiet, and too lonely.  The flowers wither, and you hate to throw them out.  The funeral plants?  You struggle to keep them alive, and as they die off, you feel a twinge of guilt, as something else associated with your husband dies.

Everything that you know and love has changed.

Or has it?

One of my late husband’s favorite hymns is “Great is thy Faithfulness” by Thomas Chisolm.  The beautiful words are based on the passage from Lamentations:

“The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases,
his mercies never come to an end;

they are new every morning;

great is your faithfulness.” 

Lamentations 3:22-23 (NRSV)

But my favorite phrase of that hymn?  “Thou changest not, thy compassions they fail not”

I lost the love of my life, but “Thou changest not.”

I have so much now on my plate, so many more responsibilities as a single woman, but “Thou changest not.”

My world has been turned upside down, but “Thou changest not.”

Happiness and purpose in my life seem oh-so-far away, but “Thou changest not.”

In all that flux, constant change, entropy, chaos of your world, God doesn’t change.

He is the one and only constant in your life.

I needed reminding of this simple fact just this week.  Dealing with household repairs and remodels, the sad reality set in–I was changing “our” house, remodeling “our” bathrooms, repainting “our” bedroom.  Life had moved on, and I had moved with it.

Down came the prints and portraits from the bedroom walls, holes were spackled and filled.  The blank walls were repainted a soft yellow.  It wasn’t “our” room anymore, but solely “mine.”

As I took stock of which items to re-display on the walls, the past 19 months replayed through my mind.  In all of the changes in my world, God was there.  He didn’t change.

And though I have moved on in many respects, I will never forget the quarter century of life and laughs and love I was lucky enough to have with my spouse.

In whatever phase of change you find yourself in today, remember you are never alone.  Whether you are newly widowed, struggling with chaos and loneliness, or just beginning to find a new “normal”, God has a plan.  He has a glorious plan for you, just for you, wherever you are in your journey.

Never ever forget–His mercies are new each morning, His compassion never fails, He is faithful, and He doesn’t change.

Heavenly Father,  Thank you for never changing, for being the great “I AM”, the one constant in a world full of confusion and chaos. 

I pray blessings on each sister here today, and it is my prayer that each and every one of them feel You close by.  Keep reminding us that we have purpose, and we pray that through immersing ourselves in Your word, we will discover the plans that You have for us. 

Help us to be patient for grief is such a complex difficult process.  We want to come through the grief stronger, more closely aligned with Your will,  and ready for whatever the future holds. 

Thou changest not….hallelujah!  Amen

The noise… Where’s the noise?

Four boys at summer camp for a week.

I looked forward to this all summer and this morning it’s here!  I’m supposed to LOVE this! For the first time in my five years since losing Tom, I’ve got the house to myself for a full week!  Woohoo! The prayer time I’ll have with God. All the projects I’ll get done!  The writing!  The organizing!  The…

. . . silence

Ladies, that first day after the kids flew off on their adventure, I climbed the walls, asking myself, “why is this so hard? Can I really do this alone?” And…

Is this what it will be like when they grow up and move out?

I know all about the enemy and his plans to derail me from my purpose.  I did have a purpose—I have goals to meet this week with uninterrupted time.  I won’t be tempted into calling friends and filling my time with social calls. In my early years of grieving that was appropriate. Now I move forward.

So the enemy steps up his game.  Regina calls. “Come hang out by my pool with me.”  Oh that’s tempting. She’s so godly and full of wisdom.  Maybe for just a little? No, child. This is your time to focus.

Okay, God.  I’m back to my purpose.

Then Ellen calls, “You don’t have the kids this week!  Let’s have coffee!”

Oh, Ellen is so incredible.  The mission work she does and her love for her four adopted children with special needs.  If she can carve time out of her crazy schedule for me, how can I say no? Because I’m asking you to, my child.

Okay, God. Back to my purpose.

Ladies, I just wanted to share with you this moment when I feel so inspired by the Lord to walk forward, alone, without the crowd around me, to complete a work He has for me.  To pull away from the noise, and not be deterred from His plan.

I know there were times when the Lord wanted me to hold back, mingle with the supportive crowd, and take in nourishment.  And there are times when He’s asking me to reach out to encourage others. And then there are times when He’s asking me to step forward alone, and continue on His plan for my day with Him and only Him.

Try it sometime, you might feel what I felt after even just one day of forcing myself to walk alone with only God speaking to me throughout the day–serenity!

There’s a neat poem written by a secular poet, Tanya Davis, encouraging you to learn the art of being alone.  This is what my week feels like.  I’m relearning the art of being alone.

I hope that somehow the Lord speaks to you through my experience today.

Blessings, sisters!