The Widow Painting

…we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.

2 Corinthians 4:18

When you see this painting, what do you see?

A widow?

A busy mom?

A hard life with purpose?

Or, perhaps a silly woman who took on too much?

This painting hung in my home since the 1990’s when it was handed down to me from my uncle’s collection. It always seemed to bring me thoughts of my grandmother, or of life’s sometimes difficult journey.

Until I lost my husband.

Then suddenly I only saw a widow. That lonely woman among the tall trees burdened with that pile of sticks on her back. I saw her bent over, no longer upright and proud like she must have been in her marriage.

Funny how I never thought of the woman as a widow until I became one. And then the painting became “the widow painting” in my mind. I found it more beautiful than ever because I identified with her quite more robustly than ever before.

It’s been years since I lost Tom, and I still find myself seeing “widow” in the painting. It’s like the illusionist sketch of the old lady and the young woman—once you see it one way, your brain wants to return to that image.

So I got curious. What if I asked four married women what they see in this painting? Their reactions helped me to begin seeing the woman without automatically thinking loss.

Reaction 1: The Beautiful Heart of a Mother

I LOVE this picture. What clever imagery it offers! God doesn’t want us to carry our burdens alone. She looks like a Russian woman going home through the beautiful birch woods after gathering the fuel needed to make her home warm and fix the meals to provide for her family. God never promised it would be easy, but He does promise to share the load and walk beside us!

Reaction 2: The Overly Busy Mother

She’s alone. I think of all the times women are faced with so much to do—kids, carpools, teenagers gone prodigal, bills that can’t get paid, stressful jobs, husbands we love but let us down. Where are the other women in the picture? Why aren’t they stepping in to help her? Did she push them away? Did they never help? Funny thing, I don’t imagine men coming in to help her, but sisters.

Reaction 3: The Hard Life is Worth it

Oh, that is so me!!! I work grueling hours, and I’m tired all the time! After putting everything into raising kids, we have no retirement savings and even share one car! This painting reminds me­ we aren’t promised ease, but we are promised joy. I wouldn’t trade my life nor the decisions I’ve made when they honored God, for anything! Thank you, Jesus!

Reaction 4: Silly Woman Works too Hard!

I see the woman and wonder why she would take so much on by herself. I simply don’t do that. I remarried after being widowed, and maybe I just recognized I needed a partner in life. I was fortunate enough to meet a godly Christian guy who does well with me. But if I hadn’t married, I would make sure I didn’t take on more than I could. This woman is taking on too much.

Why are their responses of interest to us? Because I want readers here to remember there is a whole world beyond widowhood, and while grief is a journey we must fully experience, eventually we must see ourselves outside the lens of widowhood.

These women aren’t widows, but they have their own life challenges like job loss, marital tension, a grown child who has completely gone prodigal, waning health or physical exhaustion.

Can you begin to imagine that woman in the woods representing these burdens rather than widowhood? When I began to look around me at so many burdens that so many carry, my heart went out to others. I felt a community of fellow Christians carrying each other’s burdens. And that’s a community that grows us all stronger!

Lord God,

You ask us to see our lives through Your eyes, not through the lens of our own limitations. Help us walk this journey honorably, knowing that others walk equally difficult journeys. Encourage us to hold our heads up with our gazes upon Christ and no longer feel the shame of our widowhood.  Amen.


Kit Hinkle is an author and speaker. She was an original writer of A Widow’s Might in 2008, and after four years with that ministry, expanded it and founded A New Season Ministries, Inc. Once the ministry became established, she turned the leadership over, yet continues to contribute articles while she focuses on her finest career as a mother to two high school boys, two boys in college, and a grown son and daughter whom she helped her husband raise before he passed away. She has lived through corporate careers as a chemical engineer and a management consultant, but now enjoys walks on the beach with her chocolate lab.  She loves to sit with another who is walking through her tough road and show that woman Christ. It’s an honor to participate in His kingdom.

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

Check out more posts by this author at- Kit Hinkle.

You might also like these posts by our team:

The Widow Card

When the Shoe is on the Other Foot

Fake it Till You Make it–No!

 

How Long, Lord?

Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding.

Proverbs 3:5 (ESV)

A letter to God after years of single motherhood.

It’s been years, Lord.

My soul is tired.  

My arms and legs are tired.

My heart still yearns for what I lost.

I’m supposed to trust you, Lord.

And it’s not like I’ve never trusted You. When my kids were small, and I raised them alone, You took my hand, and led me through every turn.

But it’s been nine years of raising these children without Tom, Lord.

I try not to count, and when I pick up the count again, it means I’m tired, and  I fail to trust and I fail to understand.

I fail to understand why You guided me away from marrying for all these years when I so long for companionship.

I fail to understand why no simple financial solution has made up for the sacrifices I made to stay home and homeschool my children after Tom passed away.

I can thank You for my support network, the gifts and abilities You gave me, and the opportunities I’ve had to meet potential suitors.

But really, none of that fixes the hole that keeps reopening every time I think “nine years–how much longer, Lord?” 

And when that hole reopens, it’s like I’ve stepped out into the cold on purpose. And I just stand there, shivering with my lonely thoughts and my back towards You. 

But You’re still there.  Reaching out to me and handing me a coat.

And at times, I have to be honest, Lord, I simply won’t take it. I kid myself that I’d rather freeze than take help from You. 

I know what that’s about.

I’ve trusted you before, and You never fail me. It’s just that every time I choose to trust You, it means giving something up–actually giving everything up! Trusting You means letting all else go.

I remember a time four years ago when I almost stepped away from You.  The world told me I needed a husband. They told me You would bring me one. I thought I found one. The courtship was wonderful. I thought You had found a prince for me.

Until the engagement began, and suddenly I felt a frost come in. The one that was sweet and kind while we dated grew chilling as my children and I were presented with his stringent terms of a marriage in a joyless home.

You reached out with Your coat and told me to come on in. But trust You?  Give up my fiancé? The one that would provide a home and a new identity–away from widowhood? 

I was confused and scared–what would this unbelieving man do to the hearts and faith of my boys who were so focused on You?  I shivered at the thought. Shivered, but still stood there in the cold, considering a godless future over what You had to offer.

Why would I even consider it? Thank you, Father, for allowing that situation to get colder and bleaker, until I finally reached for whatever You had to offer!

I stepped out of the cold and into Your arms.

And it’s still hard. But it’s real. You are real.

And when I’m tired and my heart hurts because I’m still without a husband and my finances are strained, I think with gratitude that it was worth it because I chose to follow You and raise my children in You and serve the widows for You instead of following a wealthy man and serving myself.

But still I’m cold, meaning I’ve taken my focus off You again. 

Let’s be gut honest–I don’t always trust You, God.  Your Word says to, but there are times I grow so weary I forget to open Your Word. I’ll instead get caught up in reading Facebook or emails when I know where Your Truth is. It’s like I’m choosing to go back out in the cold.

What’s wrong with me? I know Your Word says to trust You, but do I reach for it? Like this morning as I write this, I’m spinning in circles trying to figure my own way out of my pain while Your Word  just sits there on the shelf.

And so I will end this prayer with this: I will stop spinning and grab hold of Your Word and trust.

It’s not like I feel like trusting You, but it isn’t always about me, is it, God?

Amen.

And as I ended this prayer, I opened His Word to Proverbs 3:5.Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding.” (ESV)

A new understanding is exactly what I need, I thought, just before the phone rang.

It was my grown stepdaughter. I told her about the chill in my heart. About my questions. Could I trust God? Why this long without a husband?

“Don’t you see?” She began, her words draping over my shoulder like God’s warm coat, bringing me in from the cold. “If you had married that wealthy, difficult man, you would never have gotten that ministry going. Those four boys would never be the kind hearts that they are today.  You would never have had the time or the heart to reunite my brother and me with our four little brothers, and you may never have had the time to show me how to walk with God. I love you.”

I love  you too, God.  Would you please put a coat on my widow sisters as well? Amen.

 


Kit Hinkle is an author and speaker. She was an original writer of A Widow’s Might in 2008, and after four years with that ministry, expanded it and founded A New Season Ministries, Inc. Once the ministry became established, she turned the leadership over, yet continues to contribute articles while she focuses on her finest career as a home school mother to four teen boys–one of them launched in college. She has lived through corporate careers as a chemical engineer and a management consultant, but now enjoys walks on the beach with her chocolate lab.  She loves to sit with another who is walking through her tough road and show that woman Christ. It’s an honor to participate in His kingdom.

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

Check out more posts by this author at- Kit Hinkle.

You might also like these posts by our team:

Don’t Shop Hungry

9 Weeks; 3 Years, Forever

Solitude vs Loneliness

 

 

Grace is a Wash-Out

 

Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.  Hebrews 4:16

Grace.

I’ve been pondering this word all week. I stumbled on the sixteenth verse of Hebrews chapter four, and it has captured my thoughts. I’ve been tied up in thought ever since.

The words “draw near to the throne of grace” have taken my breath away and melted my heart. His word also tells us that “As far as the east is from the west, so far does He remove our transgressions from us.” (Psalm 103:12 ESV) 

His throne of grace must be massive.

Recently I’ve been working through some difficult situations on my journey, and I’m at a loss as how to bind up the deep wounds. The fear of being hurt again shadows me, so I ponder what it looks like to move forward in this area.

It’s been five years since my husband’s passing, and I’ve come to realize that in the midst of the worst time in my life, God’s grace was overflowing like a dam broken by a wash-out. A wash-out happens as a result of too much rain in too short of time. It destroys the dam and the water has to find a different route. God’s grace can flood our circumstances and help us find another route besides bitterness and anger. His grace rushes in, submerges the wounds, and makes way for restoration. 

My husband died as a result of a motorcycle accident. God’s grace rushed in and took him immediately to heaven for complete healing. God’s grace also spared me from the heart-wrenching decisions that come with a critically injured spouse. At the time I didn’t see those moments as grace-filled, but five years later, God has restored my view of grace in life’s hardest moments.

All of this reflecting opened my eyes to the importance of allowing grace to flood the hurts and wash out the fear so my focus can be on healthy, God honoring relationships. He has given my life much grace.

Experiences have the potential to leave us wounded and overwhelmed. Our circumstances might tempt us to count the unfairness of our not so lovely fairy tale ending, but we serve a Savior who tells us to approach His throne of grace boldly. He loves us and offers so much grace from His throne. Therefore, we can’t be stingy about the grace we dole out. He doesn’t require us to be a doormat, but to extend grace and let hurts be washed away so they don’t have an opportunity to entangle us.

So ladies, if you are struggling with the whys and the hurts of  life as a widow, ask God to remind you of the grace He has given.

Dear Jesus, We are so thankful for Your throne of grace. We love You and we ask for Your help as we practice extending this grace. Help us to be bold and full of mercy in our circumstances. We know You see the wounds we carry and we ask You to flood our hearts with Your grace, so You can renew and restore. In Your Mighty Name, Amen!


Jill is a writer/contributor for A Widow’s Might and aNew Season Ministries. Jill is smitten by the northern shoreline of Lake Michigan.  It is her sanctuary. She takes every opportunity to spend time sinking her toes in the sand or swimming in its crystal clear water. In the spring of 2010 she experienced the hardest time of her life when her husband died in a motorcycle accident. She’s spent the last five years learning about the importance of walking by faith and not sight. Jill is now the torchbearer of the legacy her and her husband started twenty-five years ago.  She is mom to three strong and independent girls. Her most important goals are to honor Christ in everything she does, and to live life to the fullest in honor of her husband.

To invite Jill to speak please email her at: admin@anewseason.net

More articles by this author can be found at: https://anewseason.net/author/jillb

 

I’m worn

Do you not know?     

Have you not heard?

The Lord is the everlasting God,     

the Creator of the ends of the earth.

He will not grow tired or weary,     

and his understanding no one can fathom. 

He gives strength to the weary     

and increases the power of the weak.

Isaiah 40:28-29 (NIV)

From all outward appearances, I look like I have it all together.  A single mom of almost 3 years, I am raising two boys, now ages 12 & 11.

I am moving forward with life, embracing my future.

I am in the midst of a 2000-mile road trip with said boys, trekking from our home in Texas to family land in Kansas to my home place in Kentucky.  At some point today, I hope to roll back into my driveway in Texas, transporting boys, a Kentucky grandma, and hauling a trailer of furniture behind my Jeep.

But I awaken this morning, in the bedroom in which I grew up,  and I’m worn.

Do you ever have days like this? Days where your insides don’t match your outsides? Days you’d rather have no responsibilities, no one depending on you, no bills to pay, no major family decisions to make, and not a care in the world?

Today’s one of those for me.

When I awake, the first thing to cross my mind is that three years ago today, my late husband went in for “routine” surgery.  Five days later, I became a widow.

I roll over in the antique bed, only to spy our engagement photo, displayed proudly on a shelf by the bed.

I look at that young, fresh-faced, so-in-love pair.  We had no idea the path our lives together would take–but God did. God brought us together.  We put God in the center of our combined lives.  He blessed us with an amazing marriage, good jobs, wonderful friends, and two spectacular sons.  We shared almost a quarter century on this earth before he went on up to heaven ahead of me.

My “worn” days are fewer now than they were at the beginning of my widowhood.  But I still get them.

I’m not ashamed to say I have cracks and crevices, broken places in my heart and soul from the wear and tear of everyday life.

I’m betting you do, too.

But even in the midst of a “worn” day, God never tires.  He stands at the ready, His Holy Spirit comforting and guiding, advising and carrying when necessary.

And on a particularly hard day such as this, when I feel the weight of the world before my feet even hit the floor, I rest in the assurance that my God never grows weary.

His love for me and for you is beyond mere human comprehension.  His love never gives up, never runs out, never fades away.

His grace and unfailing love oozes into those broken places.

You may be worn, but He will renew your strength.

You may feel overwhelmed as your mind races ahead of your earthly body, with all the tasks your day holds.

He’ll gently whisper, “I’ve got this, child…nothing’s too difficult for Me.  I’ll show you the best way to accomplish each one.”

You may wonder how in the world you’re going to attach, load, and transport a trailer 650 miles across three states.

But He already knows you can do it. He’s got this.

And don’t you ever forget it.

Father God, make Your presence known today in the everyday tedium and chaos of our lives.  Remind us to slow down, breathe, and allow You to seep into our cracks and crevices.  You and You alone are able to cheer us on, advise us, and equip us for the tasks of the day.  You are the balm to our souls when we are “worn.”  No matter what our “to-do” lists show, we know that You, ultimately, are in charge.  Make clear the path for us to take.  And no matter our circumstances, we give You thanks.  Amen

Loosening the apron strings…

“I prayed for this child.  The Lord has given me what I asked him for.  So now, I’m giving him to the Lord. 

As long as he lives he’ll be given to the Lord.”  And all of them worshipped the Lord there. 

1 Samuel 27-28 (NIRV)

“Give your children two things:  One is roots, the other, wings.”

A gift from friends, all part of a church choir I was privileged to lead, this counted cross stitch resides on the wall closest to my bed.  It’s lovely, done all in hues of green and blue and gold.  I hung it there a dozen years ago, when my first baby boy was just a few months old.

Little did I realize the gravity and wisdom of those eleven words then.

Two babies, both boys, turned my world upside down, inside out, and topsy-turvy–eighteen months apart back then.   Now almost 11 and 12 1/2, they are the lights of my life.

Roots?

Easy.  You give a steady dose of love, coupled with grace, discipline, and unconditional support.  Sprinkle liberally with laughter, and give lots of opportunities for making great memories.

Wings?

Not so easy, especially when thrust into an unwanted new season of single parenthood almost three years ago.

After their dad died, I just wanted to keep my boys, ages 8 & 9, as close to me as possible.  Like a mother hen with two little chicks under protective wings, I shielded them.  We’d been through so much.

Time, counseling, prayer, and the grace of God (not necessarily in that order) have all, in their own way, healed us.  It’s a continuous process.

Both boys have grown by leaps and bounds,  spiritually and physically.

The 12 year old, however, is in the midst of a momentous month.

He completed confirmation classes and was baptized on May 4th.  Proud doesn’t begin to describe how I felt, watching him publicly accept Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior (he’d privately done it years before).

But the apron strings loosened big-time for this young man last week, as he and 168 other 6th graders, accompanied by teachers and chaperones, loaded up for a three-day trip to San Antonio, Texas.

He had the time of his life.

He got to use those wings, without mama along for the first time.  Sea World and the Alamo will never be the same.

And he returned home last night, tired but happy.  His voice seems an octave lower than when he left.  His stride is more confident, his laugh more like his father.

I am a bit like Hannah, who gave her son, Samuel, to the Lord.

I prayed for God to give me my sons.

He answered my prayers.

Standing with my hands on my older son’s shoulders, as he took the vows of the church earlier this month, I silently gave him once again over to God.

Is fostering wing growth easy?  No.

But it is necessary.

So, like Hannah, I will continue to give both he and his younger brother to the Lord–again and again and again–as they grow in faith.

I’m excited to see how this all turns out.

“being confident of this that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Jesus Christ.” 

Phillipians 1:6 (NIV)

We’ll continue to worship the Lord, giving thanks for strong roots.  And mama will continue to loosen the apron strings, knowing it’s a necessary step in the process of growing flight-worthy wings.

Heavenly Father,  Thank you for roots.  They are strong, and they give us a solid foundation on which to build our lives.  Thank you for the gift of our children.  Help us know when to pull back and when to loosen our grip on them.  You tell us to raise them up in the way they should go, and they will not depart from it.  Remind us continually to give them to You, for the course of their lives.  For in You, they find themselves.  In Jesus’ name I ask it all, Amen.

 

 

The start of another season

Then the One seated on the throne said, “Look! I am making everything new.” He also said, “Write, because these words are faithful and true.”

Revelation 21:5 (HCSB)

 

Little League baseball.  The spring season is here!

The twelve year old, who picked up his first bat and ball at the age of 18 months, eagerly anticipates his first practice.  Like a seasoned veteran, he has the routine down—loading a bat bag with all the essentials, playing catch outside whenever possible, and lifting weights to increase his upper body strength.

He might be ready, but I’m not.  The day before scheduled tryouts, I realize his baseball cleats need to be replaced.  He’s grown a couple of shoe sizes since last spring, and I have a distinct feeling new batting gloves are also in his future.

We scurry to the local sporting goods store where we find a bunch of procrastinators just like me perusing the cleat selection.   I quickly determine my boy is no longer technically “a boy,” at least in the retail world.  I take a deep breath as we stride towards the men’s section of shoes for our maiden voyage.  Luckily we find a pair that suits us both in record time.

New shoes…

A new pair of batting gloves…

A new team…

New friends…

A new coach…

A new season…

He’s excited.  He shows no fear.  Oh how I wish I could be so bold in my life!  Like my son prepares for baseball, so must I prepare for new adventures.

I, too, am a seasoned veteran—check out the laugh lines around my eyes.  But just when I think I have it all “in the bag,” I realize I’ve outgrown something.

In my son’s case, it was cleats and batting gloves, necessary for his new baseball season.

In my case, I’m no longer who I was—I’m smack dab in a new season of hope and renewal, after a long struggle with widowhood and depression, trying to figure out who I am.

I’ve outgrown the old me.  I need to clean out my bat bag, toss out what no longer fits, readjust the contents which still work, and add new elements as necessary.

I confess, though, I still sometimes struggle with the woman I see in the mirror.

But on days I may not be sure “who” I am now, I rest on the assurance of “Whose” I am.

God knows me.  He empowers me.

I trust He’ll reveal my path and future as I walk beside Him.

Enjoy your journey, wherever you may be.  Equip your bag with necessary elements.  Strap on that new set of cleats, get in the batter’s box, and swing at the ball. Hit, miss, or strike out–it doesn’t really matter–you’re still in the game.  Make the most of every at-bat.

And remember, dear sisters:  practice makes perfect.

Reflections

I like looking back over my life.  The choices I’ve made, the places I’ve travelled.  Memories are, for the most part, sweet.  Good, bad, or somewhere on the vast scale in between, our experiences make us the person who stares back at us in the mirror.

Sometimes I like that reflection.  Other times, not so much.

As a child of God, I am called to reflect Him–not myself.

Selfish old me, a bit vain as I apply makeup, put in contacts instead of wearing glasses, straightening my increasingly-grey hair with a scalding hot flat iron.

Do you reflect God?  When folks look at you, in your everyday activities, do they see Jesus in your actions?  Glasses or contacts, makeup or no makeup, stylish clothes or pajamas, it doesn’t really matter.

God is God.  No matter the packaging.

Looking back over your life is like driving while looking in your rearview mirror.  An occasional glance is necessary, to keep you grounded in your current situation.

But God doesn’t want us to look in that rearview mirror for an extended time.  Being preoccupied with looking back steals some of the joy of the here and now.

God prefers us to look forward and up, where our eyes can see Him.  In Him we find our purpose and our future.

What reflection are you looking at today?  Are you over-scrutinizing your appearance in your mirror?  Are you over-thinking your past, and missing out on what’s right in front of you?

Now we see things imperfectly, like puzzling reflections in a mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity.All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God now knows me.  1 Corinthians 13:12 (NLT)

It’s comforting to know that God is in charge of keeping up with all our puzzle pieces.  And although we may not understand what or why we see in the reflections of our lives, we can rest in the assurance that His plan will all make sense someday.

Help us, O God, to reflect You in everything we do and say.  Give us patience and wisdom to trust Your plan in our lives.  We don’t want to be caught glancing in that rearview mirror too long, for You give us beauty in every day.  Amen.