It’s Okay To Be Real!

“It’s okay to be real!”

I repeated that phrase multiple times after my husband died — to my children, to myself, and later to other widows.

There is no “right” way to grieve.

We all process differently. Some people are private. Some spill every thought and emotion for all to see.

I was a new widow with five children, all trying to process our loss. It would have been great to think that together we would follow a set path of grief from one stage to the next. That is not how it worked.

I have a couple of children who analyzed each thought as we talked. Others would dump a load of thoughts at one time but did not expect to discuss them. Some wanted to rush through grief by listening to every sad song they could get their hands on. Others did not want to hear anything sad and fell apart listening to music in general.

WHEW!

I wondered how I would cope and work through my own grief while helping my children who approached it differently. Then I remembered airplane protocol during an emergency landing — I needed to take care of me FIRST, in order to help them.

Grief rolls like a rollercoaster!

Grief can be ugly. At its most raw, it can make other people feel helpless and uncomfortable. Covering up our feelings in order to please others or keep them from concern does not help anyone.

That is why I told my children, “It’s okay to be real!”.

Pretending grief is not there because you don’t want to go through the pain is not an option either. Eventually each stage hits you, ready or not. Repeatedly directing yourself back to God’s Word for your response to grief makes it easier to navigate in times of need.

“For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. 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 4:15-16 (ESV)

We each had needy days when grief felt like the gravitational pull of the earth magnified solely on us, paralyzing even normal movement. For me those days were few. When they came around I was very intentional to allow my mind and body to have much needed rest. I was watchful of my children and when I saw they were having one of those days I directed their activities to stop for necessary down time.

Other days we felt more capable of navigating life, though grief was still present. On those days we resumed normal activities. We attempted to move forward the way my husband would have encouraged us to do.

The best days included laughter again over things large and small. The blessing of uncontrollable laughter that returned was the best because we all loved to laugh.

In hindsight, our differences were a blessing from God.

One or more would encourage any who were having a bad day. After the initial shock of our loss, I don’t remember many times when everyone struggled simultaneously. Even on dreaded “first” celebration days it was amazing how we helped each other. We learned flexibility and to read each other’s distress signals well.

There is nothing abnormal about grieving openly, no matter how uncomfortable it may be for some people to observe. Jesus Christ set our example at the death of his friend, Lazarus:

“Jesus wept.” John 11:35 (ESV)

Friends told us it helped them to see how our family grieved together because we made it easy for others to grieve with us. One dear friend told me she was determined to interact differently with her own children after watching me grieve openly with mine because she had never let her children see her cry about anything. Learning to grieve with others is a blessing.

“Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.” Romans 12:15 (ESV)

It’s okay to be real!

 

Lord, please help us to allow other people to share in both our joy and in our grief. We do not know what added blessing may come from our willingness to be real in our relationships. Make us aware of the needs of those around us who might not realize that they can be real with us, too. Please help them to know that we care. 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.

Articles with a similar theme:  All Eyes are NOT on You   Get Over It 

Give it to God

The trauma my body and mind went through that day is indescribable. I still have aftershocks from that day and the moments leading up to my husband Michael’s death. These aftershocks trigger my mind, making me believe something awful is happening or about to happen. In fact, seeing an ambulance or fire truck parked outside of a home brings extreme stress that, within seconds, can build to anxiety.

The aftermath of death brings so many emotions – anxiety, fear, anger, sorrow, guilt, shock, loneliness – and these feelings can continue thoughout our grief journey. It makes sense that our emotions are so high. The Holmes and Rah Stress Scale rates the loss of a spouse as the number one most stressful life event, not only because you lose your husband, but also because of the numerous secondary losses.

Sadly, you don’t have to tell us. As widows, we know this firsthand. We lost our husband, our best friend, lover, father of our children, confidant, financial advisor, prayer warrior, spiritual leader, our supporter, trash taker outer and partner in this life.

Whether it’s anxiety over the day you lost your husband, the stress of change or having to do everything on your own – raising your children without their father, figuring out finances – or the loss of relationships that were once close, what do we do when these feelings become so overwhelming that they almost paralyze us?

I attended a Suicide Survivors group and also went to counseling for several months following my husband’s death. I truly believe the Lord places people, like counselors, in our lives to help us sort through feelings and emotions. The time I spent in a group and with my counselor also helped me find a way to cope with the anxiety and trauma and PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome) caused from it. I use these coping skills regularly, but there are times when they don’t seem to fulfill my heart or bring peace and comfort. That’s when I turn to the only ONE who can.

I find that when I try to do things on my own, I can’t seem to fully get past that moment and those feelings. But when I give those feelings to the Lord, I know He can do more than I ever thought possible.

The Lord says, “I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.” (Romans 8:18)

When I find myself in a place consumed by darkness and overwhelming circumstances, I pray and look to this verse. I have and continue to find comfort and peace here. Though I know what waits for me after this life, I have always trusted the Lord would bring goodness here on earth, too.

“I remain confident of this: I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.” (Psalm  27:13)

From day one, after my husband passed, I saw this goodness in our son and in the people who surrounded me. God had placed these people in my life, not necessarily for the time I met them, but for that time of need when my world fell apart. And, presently, I am recently remarried and have seen so much goodness that the Lord has provided through my husband Keith.

As we continue to walk this journey of grief, and trauma and anxiety attempt to creep their way back in, let’s remember to pray and give it all to the ONE who knows our heart and our circumstances. Because He is the only one who can heal what is broken.

Lord, Each of us have our own story, but we all have been impacted by the trauma from our husbands’ deaths. Comfort us and remind us of Your eternal perspective. And though, we know eternal life with You awaits, we are confident you have goodness in store for us on earth. I pray you open our hearts and minds to listen to know where You are leading so we can experience Your goodness. Amen.


Jennifer was widowed by suicide in January 2015. She is recently remarried and lives with her husband Keith in north central Texas. She is now the mom and step mom of three sons.  When she’s not running after three energetic boys, Jennifer loves running outdoors, enjoying nature. As her grief journey continues, she is sharing her story to help others know that it is only in the Lord that hopeful healing and walking forward are possible.

 

Our team at A Widow’s Might would love to send a speaker to your next event. Email us at admin@anewseason.net to get information about our speakers.

Acceptance?

In the beginning, the idea of accepting the death of my husband seemed totally impossible, mainly because I could give so many reasons why his death was unacceptable! God knows, I thrashed against acceptance, my heart broken, my life and future an alien place I never envisioned. Question marks dangled at the ends of my thoughts. If answers were the pathway to acceptance, I suspected it would forever elude me. However, the knowledge that God is good, no matter what, helped to gently usher me towards acceptance.

More deeply still I discovered that faith is anchored to the character of God in the storms of life.

GOD is ATTENTIVE

  • “Call to me and I will answer you, and will tell you great and hidden things that you have not known.” Jer. 33:3 (ESV)
  • “The LORD is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth.” Psalm 145:15 (ESV)
  • “Therefore, do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear? For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all.”- Matthew 6:31,32 (ESV)

GOD is COMPASSIONATE and FAITHFUL

  • “He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.” – Psalm 147:3 (ESV)
  • ”But you, O Lord, are a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness.” – Psalm 86:15 (ESV)
  • “If we are faithless, he remains faithful—for he cannot deny himself.” – 2 Timothy 2:13 (ESV) (We are His kids!)

The knowledge of God’s character was a comfort as I wrestled to make sense of my finances, reconciled medical bills, and relocated to a new home, all within the first year. During that time, and well beyond, I toggled back and forth within the stages of grief but did not get close to accepting my husband’s absence. Ultimately, I flirted with acceptance before I could really exhale there.

I discovered acceptance isn’t the absence of missing or loving my sweetheart. Instead it is making peace with the loss, and learning how to integrate my husband’s death into my present life.

Once the initial numbness left, for a long while I felt I was going through the motions of living. A broken heart takes time to heal, and it was impossible to gather those broken pieces. God had them though. He cherished them and cared for them, while enabling me gradually to re-engage my heart in living. It was under the wing of God’s loving care, and with the anchor of knowing His goodness, that He knit together the broken pieces and I could fully engage in my altered life. Love, longing for my husband’s presence, and moments of sorrow remain. Yet, in making peace with the tremendous loss of my beloved, I have found a new peace in the present and am invested in living until I’m called home. I believe this is called “acceptance.”

“For the LORD is good; his steadfast love endures forever, and his faithfulness to all generations.” – Psalm 100:5 (ESV)

All-Present God, may our faith not be circumstantial but anchored by the eternal consistency of your character, confident in your steadfast love. Lord, please lead us to accept the healing of our hearts and lives for the future you have in your sights for each of us. Thank you that our futures are as unique for each as each is unique. We look to You and thank you that while we don’t see our path, You guide us step by step. In Christ’s Name, we pray. Amen.


 

Janene @ Myrtle Beach

Janene lives in the Dallas area, surrounded by her children, their sweethearts, two grandchildren, and a host of wonderful friends.  Janene married her beloved Frank in 1972 and enjoyed 40 precious years with him. Four months after celebrating their 40th wedding anniversary, Frank lost his rigorous battle against bladder cancer. Frank left a void so vast, it was like a black hole which threatened to swallow Janene whole. However, God’s faithfulness has been exceptional. As a retired minister at a local church, she spends her time painting, mentoring, serving in Stephen Ministry leadership, and seeks to trust Christ in this new season of life.

For more reading on the topic of God’s anchoring us throughout the stages of grief, you may enjoy these:

Applying Peace by Lori

Lead Me, Guide Me, Walk Beside Me by Karen

 

Will We Choose Misery or Ministry?

No one would willingly choose this widow path we have been assigned to walk. It is a painful, definitive part of our whole journey, no matter what the future holds. In an instant every choice we had about the direction of life with our husband was taken out of our grasp; however, we do still have at least one choice to make about the direction of our life going forward — whether we will respond to our circumstance by living a life of misery or ministry.

As a new widow, the pain is overwhelming. Understandably, we may not envision a time when we will have the ability to help others as we so badly need others to minister to our needs and those of our family members. In the early days it takes every bit of strength and focus just to process what goes on around us from minute to minute, hour to hour, and day to day; but at some point  as the fog clears and healing begins, opportunities to serve people outside of our family will present themselves. At that time, we choose to either remain focused only on self and the misery of our loss or to begin focusing on others and how we can minister to them.

It has been like medicine to my soul to meditate on passages of Scripture that encourage me to focus on something beyond the pain of my own circumstance and to recognize opportunities to practice serving others. One such passage expresses the Apostle Paul’s encouragement to the Philippians.

“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. Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me – practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.” Philippians 4:4-9 (ESV)

From this we can see at least eight things that can encourage us. We are

  1. to rejoice
  2. to let our reasonableness be known to everyone
  3. not to be anxious about anything
  4. to let our requests be known to God through prayer, with thanksgiving
  5. to know that the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus
  6. to think on the positive list of things given in this passage
  7. to practice what we learned in this passage
  8. and when we do practice these things, he says the God of peace will be with us.

It is natural and beneficial to grieve at our own pace; but it is detrimental to wallow in grief, both to us and to those around us. Just as with open wounds, we need to apply the medicine that will help us to heal, even though scars will remain. Wounds that remain open can fester, cause infection, and decay. Scars can be a beautiful testimony of God’s faithfulness to bring healing and purpose to our lives and can be instrumental in helping others to heal as well.

What will we choose? Misery or ministry?

“Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.” Ephesians 3: 20-21 (ESV)

Lord, please bring us all to a place of healing from the pain of loss, leaving only the scars that testify to Your mercy and goodness in carrying us through our trials. You have promised us Your peace that surpasses all understanding and You have promised to be with us when we practice what we have learned. Please help us choose ministry over misery so that we can be used to minister to other people for Your glory. 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.

Articles with a similar theme: Breathing In HopeNew Paint

Choosing

I Choose… do you?  By Leah Gillen-Stirewalt

I heard a comic once say that it’s not people who kill the squirrel as it scurries across the street in front of a car, only to suddenly make a faulty decision to reverse and go the other way. Suddenly, it chooses to reverse again, turning right back in the direction it was running to begin with to face the ultimate…SMACK!

No – it’s not the person or the car that killed the squirrel. It was indecision. If the squirrel would have just kept running forward, it might have evaded the coming car and its ultimate death. Or maybe if the squirrel had stopped in its tracks, the car could have straddled it or veered around it. Instead…it scampered back and forth trying to decide what to do until it was too late.

I am the squirrel. No, I’m not growing a fuzzy tail and eating acorns. But, I find myself very indecisive these days – or unable to make decisions at all sometimes. In studying up on this journey of grief, I realize that’s perfectly normal for us widows. I realize this particular dilemma will also fade some in time, and my ability to make decisions (or make them more quickly) will return. Until then, I need help…from friends, my pastor, family, those that have traveled Grief Road before me, counselors, books, and most importantly God and His Word.

There are many choices that are unwise for us to make right now. But, there is one choice that I have decisively chosen to make, in spite of my pain…I choose to get well!

Much like the invalid of 38 years in the book of John, when Jesus asked him, “Do you want to get well?”

And how did the invalid respond? With an excuse, “Sir…I have no one to help me into the pool when the water is stirred. While I am trying to get in, someone else goes down ahead of me.”

But, Jesus didn’t simply stop there. He didn’t say, “I’m so sorry. That’s such a shame. Maybe I can ‘stop traffic’ long enough for you to get down into the water.” Rather, Jesus the Healer said to him, “Get up! Pick up your mat and walk.” And what happened next? Scripture tells us, “At once the man was cured; he picked up his mat and walked.”

The man made a decision. He chose to do what Jesus asked him to do – without hesitation – and, he found his healing.

What does that look like for a widow in desperate need of healing from a broken heart, among other things?

In the early days…it might look like this…

When we feel like we can’t get out of bed…we CHOOSE to move locations, maybe just to the couch.

When we don’t feel like praying…we CHOOSE to utter one simple prayer, “Lord, please help me!”

When we don’t want to read the Word…we CHOOSE to open up the book of Psalms and simply read the first one.

When we don’t feel like socializing…we CHOOSE to return to church to allow God to love on us through other people. And, if we’re not loved on in that church, we CHOOSE another.

When we don’t think we can eat even a morsel…we CHOOSE to make and eat a piece of dry toast.

A few months or weeks down the road…it might look like this…

When we feel that we need more help processing our grief…we CHOOSE to seek the advice of a grief counselor or attend a program like Grief Share.

When the shock is wearing off, and the pain intensifies and we find we can’t cope at all…we CHOOSE to see a doctor about how we’re feeling.

When we can’t seem to muster up enough energy to do the basics around the house…we CHOOSE to share our struggle with a close friend or family member who can help us.

When we began to express anger towards our beloved husband…we CHOOSE to write him a letter expressing the pain, anger, and full emotion completely. That brings healing, in and of itself (I know firsthand).

When we don’t know the next step to take with all of the legal and financial decisions that must be made…we CHOOSE to make our needs known and let someone help us.

In the later months or years…it might look like this…

When our healing seems to be in full swing…we CHOOSE to open our hearts to another grieving widow that needs to know she’s not alone.

When we feel the lonely set in again…we CHOOSE to spend time with friends and not live as a hermit.

If/when we ever feel the desire to date once again…we CHOOSE to take the matter to the Lord for His decision to be made for us.

Making the decision to be well is the first step. It may takes us months or years to get there, but admitting that we want to be well, and then opening our hearts to allow God to work on us from the inside out is one of the most decisive choices we can make for ourselves as widows. Not only will we benefit from that choice, but our children, grandchildren, parents, siblings, closest friends, co-workers, neighbors, and anyone else we interact with will also reap huge blessings from that initial decision for healing.

And most importantly…when we realize all that God has done for us through this most difficult journey…we CHOOSE to give Him glory!

And so…my sweet widow friends, what choice is God asking you to make today?


Please visit our website to see more encouraging posts by our team: www.awidowsmight.org

Get Over It

Make me to know your ways, O Lord; teach me your paths.

Psalm 25:4

“Get over it!”

Yep that’s me in one of my finer parenting moments.

My son was upset about something that in the moment mattered to him, but to me it was not important.  So out came those lovely words. My son needed love and empathy, but all I gave him were harsh words with no thought for how much they might hurt him.

As a widow of over six years, I’m sure there are those who think I should “get over it” too. Because they see me in a ministry for widows, or hear me boldly claim that I will always love and miss Scott, or that he’s still a big part of who we are, they may believe I’m stuck or living in an unhealthy way.

I’ve never directly been told to get over it.  But, I’ve been sent veiled messages and received comments that certainly intended to say those words.  Things like “if you just try harder to meet someone”, or “it’s uncomfortable and hard to see you and the kids or have you say his name so much.”   Then there’s my favorite, “He’s in such a better place and that must make you happy now.”

Empathy isn’t easy!   It’s hard to go into those deep uncomfortable places with someone.  I too, have stood in judgement and sent veiled messages to others I thought were in a place they shouldn’t be.

Even as a widow, I sometimes judge other widows.

In my first few years, I looked at those years ahead of me and thought, “I won’t be like them at that stage.” Because I had put God in a box and predetermined how I thought this journey should go. I thought grief and loss was a skin I would shed, or a place I would move away from. I thought that at some point God would just “magically” make it all go away.

The truth is, grief and loss go with us. They become a part of who we are until we move onto heaven.

And each of us have a unique journey.  A big part of who we were now resides in heaven.  I may not be in love with my husband or married to him anymore.  But I’ll always love him.  He’ll always be a part of who I am.  My relationship with him and our marriage together has certainly molded who I am now.  My kids are his legacy.  And they want to know him, remember him, and take him with them as they grow up.

So no, I won’t ever get over this.  I won’t be driven by what others think.  I’ll walk my journey.  I’ll keep my eyes on Christ.  But, I’ll remember Scott, and honor him and my Savior every single day. I’ll heal. I will change and grow. I will trust God. But, Scott will always be with us even as we choose to live life to the fullest.


2013-11-09 03.40.34-4Erika 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.

Other articles related to this: Will We Be Married in Heaven?,  Moving Forward, & Moving Toward or Away

Elizabeth’s Favorite

Please join us for our third post in “Our Favorites” series.  We hope today’s post is a blessing!

“I picked this one because I miss so much the deep spiritual conversations I had with my husband Mark. This article has been like a worm in my brain since the day I read it…I keep thinking about it, not letting it go, even years later.”  ~Elizabeth


Saloon Door Theology  by Jo King

The eyes of the Lord are in every place, keeping watch on the evil and the good.

Proverbs 15:3 ESV

Saloon Door Theology is a term I first heard from Dr. David Bishop during a theology seminar. It is a way of teaching a biblical concept which may not be perceived the same way by all who are listening. A saloon door is most welcoming to the first individual entering through the door. Yet, the person following may get slapped in the face as the door swings back.

A great example of saloon door theology is a pastor stating our loving Father is there for us all. Sounds great to most, right? But what about the individual who has suffered abuse at the hand of her own father? Can that person relate to the analogy? The entire concept may be lost on that person.

Suddenly I realized there are also Saloon Door Situations. I encountered a situation such as this recently. Let me take the long way around to explain.

Church has been difficult for me since my husband’s death nearly a year ago. You see, Bruce was instrumental in my returning to church and again trusting God. Therefore, every time I go, I am overwhelmed with reminders of him.

This morning, for the first time since his sudden death, I am in a good mood, eager to join together with God’s people in worship. An easy light banter with friends before the service has me smiling as I enter the choir loft, and as I sang through the first two songs. I was so ready to worship God joyfully!

Our adult education minister stands to welcome the congregation, congratulating a couple on their sixty-ninth wedding anniversary. Wow! Sixty-nine years married! And all I can think of is my Bruce. Why did we only get twenty-two years? Why was he taken from me so young?

I feel the saloon door slap me in the face. My joy is gone. Grief crashes into me, rushing over me yet again. I struggle through the rest of the music, hiding my feelings through the sermon as I sit facing the whole church in the choir loft.

The pastor begins to preach on Proverbs 15:3. The Lord is with us even when we try to hide from him or when we think he isn’t there. Even though we may perceive God is not present, the reality is God is with us at all times and in all places. That message drives home for me personally. God knows my situation. He knows I am hurting. He knows I miss my husband, and how those feelings cut like a knife into my chest. He knows that I’m just struggling to breathe and not cry in front of all these people.

The Lord is here to comfort me, holding my hand through this entire process. He will not forsake me. He has blessed me in a thousand small ways. I need only to concentrate on the blessings and not on the loss.

I begin to count those blessings. Wow! God is so great, so magnificent…and yet he is also in every small detail. I see His work appear in seemingly trivial times, as well.  I want to burst into song again. The song Count Your Blessings streams through my mind! The grief is pushed back, and joy slowly pushes through again. I feel a quiet, simple peace, joy fueled by God’s love and empowered through His Word.

Then I realize…God has done it again. He has blessed me with this pastor and his words, with music I have sung in the past, by friends who smile and give quick hugs…God is so good!

God, I pray that You continue to make me and others who are suffering aware of the many blessings You shower on each of us continuously. Thank You for Scripture which pops into our minds as we struggle. Thank You for the music streaming unbidden through our subconscious, which is always just the right song for a particular time and situation.  Thank You for the pastors who bring the honest and truthful messages of Your word, who don’t apologize when the sermon steps on toes, and who are always there when we need a human hand. Thank You, Lord, for Your love!  Amen.


Other posts in this series: Teri’s Favorite  &  Erika’s Favorite

Serving Up Simplicity with Summer ‘Soft Serve’

Sisters, sometimes we simply need to slow down and savor the sweetness of summer. And a couple of years ago when I wrote this piece for Happily Whole, that’s exactly what I was doing: learning to slow down and savor blessings even inside the biggest burden I’d met in my life: widowhood.

You see, I’d been all caught up in the net of structure and my ‘need-to’know’. But suddenly He pricked my heart and soothed my tired soul with simplicity. For some of you, slowing down might come naturally. For me, I had to learn savoring in the slowness as a skill because He made my feet move fast from the time I touched the ground.

But, when my world stopped in the first moments of widowhood, I learned to walk more slowly. God showed up all over in the mundane and in my quest for healing! I can almost taste the simplicity from that time.

So, reading this blog from back then reminded me of my longing to linger a little more. Since then things have sped up and gotten more complicated….a LOT. I seem to have lost it to my type A tendencies once again in my new routine as a re-married widow and step mom. Relearning my own lessons is like a ‘soul-tap’, reminding me there’s always something sweet to savor.

So, sisters, will you stop and savor simple sweetness with me this summer? Come with me…read and then try the simplest soft serve recipe to remind you of His blessings in the small things.

I Got Dumped

And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.

Matthew 22:37

I didn’t go to my junior prom!

I was dumped just a few days before it. Yep.  Dumped.

Fast forward six years…

There I stood saying “I do” to the man who had dumped me.

You see, Scott wasn’t perfect.  We met very young. We sowed wild oats.  He had a few more than me to sow though, and he did!

We were high school sweethearts.  On again off again, tumultuous impulsive teenagers.  Imperfect.

It wasn’t until college, where we were captured by our love for one another; and pursued by a relentless God, that we surrendered.

God didn’t want either of us to be perfect.  He wanted us in our imperfection. Once He captured our hearts we were all His, and one another’s too.

We got married just two months after our college graduations.  I’d love to tell you we were perfectly happy.  We weren’t.  Life was messy and hard from the word go. We struggled to manage two very strong personalities and to find our groove.  Then we had infertility issues that almost broke our passion for one another.

Yet, our love and commitment for each other and God ran deep.  It saved and guided us many days.

We blended two very different extended families.  Eventually, we were extremely blessed to have three kids.

Then life took a sharp turn, and I went from being a wife to a widow.  It’s an unwelcomed journey I have been on for almost six years now.

Earlier in my journey, a valuable piece of advice I received was not to put my husband on a pedestal, by remembering our life in its entirety. You see, in the pain, I wanted to just remember the good.  I wanted to glamorize our life together.  I even wanted to make my husband an idol.  Setting standards that he didn’t actually achieve.

The “pedestal” advice came from a widower friend who had made that mistake.  Once God healed him, and opened his heart and mind to the future it was a very tough road for him to remove the “god” his late wife had become. He struggled to step forward and embrace life because he had clung so tightly for so long to the past, he created idols in his heart and mind that were hard to relinquish.

So, my internal motto became: Once God opens my heart to anything new it would be extremely hard to lug that pedestal along too!

My husband was imperfectly amazing.  Our love was deep and our commitment firm.  I wish he were here with us now, but he’s not.  He’s not here on a pedestal either.  He’s a part of who we are. He is loved and missed. He goes along with us, still, but in his proper place.  Second to our great God and our “new” life!

Sisters, be careful.  Your marriage might’ve been amazing.  Your love deep.  Memories vast. But, don’t idolize it. Don’t get stuck thinking you can’t step forward or heal, that you can’t live again, because you might dishonor something that no longer exists. Turn to God and put Him alone on the pedestal.  Embrace the new and walk this journey well, by loving God the most.

Father God, thank You for sending me someone who spoke such important truth to me early on.  Thank You for balancing my grief and love for my husband with how much more You love me.  I lift up any sister to You now that might be struggling with this right now.  Help her to see You, and know and love You deeper than she ever did anyone else.  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 Erika or any of our writing team speak, please contact us via email at: admin@anewseason.net.

Other articles by this author click here.

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I’m a Moad

“Father of the fatherless and protector of widows is God in his holy habitation.”

Psalm 68:5 ESV

In the beginning of this parenting journey, I was a rock star mom.  I cooked, I cleaned, and I partnered with my hubby to care for our daughter well. I did school trips, parties, and the class mom stuff. I did special treats for every holiday and birthday.  I planned fun elaborate parties.  I was a great hostess. I felt like the most blessed mom and wife, and appreciated motherhood deeper, especially since I had struggled with fertility issues.

Then, my twin boys were born and things took a turn.  Life became harder.  I was sleep deprived beyond anything I could’ve fathomed.  I was overwhelmed and felt in over my head every single day.

But, when my boys turned one we turned a corner.  We had made it!  We were through the fog of endless diapers, sleep deprivation, bottle making, and utter chaos.  We were in the clear!

Yet, a few shorts months after the boys turned one, my husband started complaining.  Something was wrong.  He felt pressure in his neck and chest.  He felt “weird” and he couldn’t concentrate.  He was suddenly really bothered by stressed.  He stopped sleeping.  He sought help. We prayed a lot. He went into a fog.  He let others control and dictate his care. He got worse and worse.  He took his own life.

In that split second I was left all alone, a solo mom, and a dad’s shoes to fill as well. I was now a moad, a mom and a dad.

I felt completely lost.  I had no idea how I could ever parent three kids alone. How could I ever do this parenting gig well again? I looked around at all my friends.  I remembered how much of a rock star mom I used to be. I looked at the to-do list of motherhood AND fatherhood.  I was ill-equipped.  Completely!   I would fail and my kids would be raised by a completely inept, broken shell of a person.

Fast forward over five years later, to today.  My kids are actually thriving. I’m NOT the absolute worst parent.  We have become a “reasonably” healthy and joyful family of four.  Obviously we aren’t the same, because death and grief have left their mark. I certainly don’t parent like I used to.  I say “no” and “I can’t” much more now.  I have less patience.  I am more emotional. My to-do list stays unchecked more often than not.  My parties are, well there’s a party at least.  Yet, I don’t sweat the small stuff. We have joy.  We see our blessings.  We have love and we have fun. We continue to heal and move forward.

Sisters, I laid face down on the floor many nights in those first few years and still do at times, turning to God and crying out.  I know it will be only Him who can do this.

Only He can give me the strength, the endurance, and the skills I need to be a moadto my kids.

And I knew from the very beginning He would, because He promised to. He promised ME and YOU, He would care for the fatherless and the widow. He called Scott home, so He called me to solo parent.  He called Scott home, so He called my children to grow up without an earthly father.

When He calls us, He equips us.

But it’s never on our own strength and knowledge.  It’s always through and in Him. In Him, I can raise a daughter to value herself and become a Godly woman; to seek God’s will for her life. She’ll understand what a Godly man looks like and how she should be treated by that man.  In Him, I’ll raise up two boys to be Godly men.  Gentlemen.  Men who pursue after The Lord. Who’ll crave a Proverbs wife. And cherish her!

I am doing His best to raise up three kids who will choose to live out loud for the Lord, who will love deeper, appreciate often, and value much from the life they were called to.

Through Him we’re “doing” life, walking forward each day trusting He will be there, trusting He will be all we need!  And always by His grace and goodness, He is, was, and will continue to be.

Thank you Father, for Your faithfulness and love for me and my kids.  Thank you for singling us out, identifying us in scripture, loving us, and being all we need.  In Your Matchless Name, Amen

 

295163_1927953164696_1418199297_31839733_2097799_nErika 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 speak, please contact her via email at: admin@anewseason.net.

Other articles by this author: www.anewseason.net/author/erikag

Other articles on this topic: A Single Mom’s Grace-filled Saga & Mommy Manna