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!

 

Being authentic

Jesus: What are the people saying about Me?

Disciples: Some people think You’re John the Baptist. Others say You’re the prophet Elijah, or else one of the other ancient prophets who has come back from the dead.

Jesus:  Ah, but what about you? Who do you say that I am?

Peter: God’s Anointed, the Liberating King.

Luke 9:18-20 (the VOICE)

What are people saying about you?

In the past month, I have been called two adjectives, both of which have stuck with me.

The first?  “Selfish.”

That one came out of left field, totally without warning or explanation.  Mind you, it came via text, with incorrect grammar sprinkled in for good measure, from a person with whom I had recently ended a relationship.

Selfish? Me?

 Hmm.

I’ve been called many things in my lifetime (and many of them, deserved), but “selfish”?  The definition of selfish, “concerned excessively or exclusively with oneself :  seeking or concentrating on one’s own advantage, pleasure, or well-being without regard for others” just muddies the waters for me.

I pray, asking God to show me if, in fact, I was selfish in the two-month long decision to end that relationship.  In the end, it came because God’s still, small voice grew louder and louder, telling me I cannot change another person’s heart, intent, or fix them–that’s God’s worry, not mine.

And as I try not to let the text of an aggrieved person wound me, I get a hand-written thank you note in the mail from a pastor within the same hour.

A pastor who’d asked me to come before her congregation and tell my personal story, of true restoration in the midst of loss, grief, and new-found single parenthood.

She calls me “authentic”.

Friends, it was no coincidence that these two descriptive words were received on the very same day.  There are no coincidences with God.  I truly believe He puts these things in our paths to give us pause, to reevaluate choices made, and to give us affirmation that we are on the right path.

Authentic, “not false or copied; genuine; real; entitled to acceptance or belief because of agreement with known facts or experience; reliable; trustworthy;” is what I strive for. 

As Jesus taught God’s word in the only way He could, as an authentic hybrid of both God and man, He came across many naysayers. 

Many simply couldn’t grasp “who He was.”  He encountered jealousy, people so self-absorbed that whatever He said just went in one ear and out the other.  But no matter what was said about Him, He kept living out His Father’s plan.  And remember, He knew how the earthly part was going to end–on a cross, despised, scorn, and abandoned by all but a handful of people. 

In the scripture above, Jesus knows folks are talking about Him, speculating who He is.  

What others thought of Him didn’t concern our Lord.  As long as His disciples knew, He was getting the job done.

I like to think of Jesus as the original masterpiece, the real, genuine article.  The standard to which all who’ve come after Him must compare themselves to.

I rather like being called authentic.  No pretenses, no hidden agendas, just trying every day to do the best I can for God’s kingdom. 

I want to be an authentic Christian.  An authentic mom.  An authentic friend.  An authentic girlfriend.

But I’m human.  I stumble, I hurt feelings, yes, sometimes I am even selfish.

 If any of you want to walk My path, you’re going to have to deny yourself. You’ll have to take up your cross every day and follow Me.  

If you try to avoid danger and risk, then you’ll lose everything. If you let go of your life and risk all for My sake, then your life will be rescued, healed, made whole and full.   

Listen, what good does it do you if you gain everything—if the whole world is in your pocket—but then your own life slips through your fingers and is lost to you?

Luke 9:23-25 (the VOICE)

In the end, when our work here on earth is done, and we’re called before the holy throne of God, the only opinion or word that counts?  Is that of Jesus.

Who does He say you are?

I want Him to say I was authentic.

And that I did it all–even in the midst of hurt, anger, self-absorption, and chaos–for His glory.

Dear Father God,

Help us to be authentic.  Authentic, the “real deal,” genuine in our quest for You.  We stumble, we fall, we get back up again.  Thank You for sending fellow believers into our lives who give us the positive affirmation we need to continue doing Your work.  Thank You for convicting us and giving us the courage to make changes in our families’ lives that may cause temporary upheaval.  For we know, in our hearts, that change is a necessary part of life.

Remind us who we are.

We. Are. Yours.

Amen

Lift up your head!

2When Jesus got into a boat, his disciples followed him. 24 A huge storm arose on the lake so that waves were sloshing over the boat. But Jesus was asleep. 25 They came and woke him, saying, “Lord, rescue us! We’re going to drown!”

26 He said to them, “Why are you afraid, you people of weak faith?” Then he got up and gave orders to the winds and the lake, and there was a great calm.

27 The people were amazed and said, “What kind of person is this? Even the winds and the lake obey him!”  Matthew 8:23-27 (CEB)

Storms.

We’ve all experienced them.

In our world, depending on your geographic location, you experience first-hand severe weather ranging from a thunderstorm to a hurricane or tornado.   Winter can bring its share of baggage to the table, as well, with paralyzing snow, ice, and sub-zero temperatures.

Here in Texas, in the midst of “Tornado Alley,” we prepare, especially during this, the season for severe weather.

We follow the weather forecasts closely.  We keep the cars under-roof when there’s a possibility of hail.  Some of us have special shelters built, in case a tornado does come (my town has seen two devastating tornados’ wrath, the last coming in 1979).

Most of us, however, watch the skies.

Whenever I first moved to Texas, I wasn’t prepared for how the natives respond to a severe weather alert.  The tornado sirens blew.  I went for cover in our interior bathroom, with my two cats, treasured photos, and a weather radio in hand—but found my late husband standing at the end of our driveway, along with most of the neighbors on our cul-de-sac, surveying the sky.

Looking at the sky.

Checking out the possibilities.

Seeing what we might be coming up against.

Earlier this week, the forecast called for the possibility of severe thunderstorms.  And, as a Texan now of almost a quarter-century, I know the drill.  I pull up a lawn chair for a front-row seat to the action (from the relative safety of my garage).

The heavens did not disappoint.   The storm barreled  in from the west, about the same time as sunset.  I wished I were an artist, to capture the kaleidoscope of colors drawn before my very eyes on God’s canvas.    The threat was real, as evidenced by the dark black wall cloud in front, lowering much like a giant windowshade over the sun.

But just at the darkest moment, the sunset pierced through, lighting up pieces of the clouds like orange neon signs.  Further north, the gray columns of rain were pulsing, as some of our drought-stricken neighbors enjoyed a quench to their thirst.

It was beautiful.

And then it struck me:  there’s beauty, even in a storm.

In the storms of life, when you don’t even know if you can put one foot in front of the other.  When you think you’re through a major grief event in your life, only to have a twinge take you back to a raw and vulnerable “you.”  When you have mundane, tedious tasks pile up, making your day-to-day existence a burden instead of a joy.  When there’s nothing in sight but dark clouds, rain, and the possibility of a tornado–there’s still God.

He sent the “Son” to pierce your dark black wall cloud, illuminating the situation when you can’t even see your hand in front of your face.

No matter the storm you may find yourself in the midst of,  look up.  Look within.

As our Master says in the scripture above, “Why are you afraid, you people of weak faith?”

Let Him calm the storm.  Let Him be the light.

For the beauty in the storm is always there.

Father, help each of us deal with the storms of life.  For they come, sometimes in waves.  Whether a tornado or a heavy thunderstorm, let us have the peace of knowing You are in the midst of every circumstance.  You are the light piercing the darkness.  You are the constant in our sometimes chaotic life.  Through the study of Your word and spending time with You in prayer, words, actions, or just in our day-to-day living, train us to look for the beauty in everything–even in the midst of a storm.  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.