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 

Secret to Joy

Yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes.

James 4:14 (ESV)

I stood gripping the edge of the counter, steadying myself, the memory of Tom washing through me like a flash flood of warm splashes, both refreshing and threatening at the same time.

Refreshing, because Tom exuded joy in his life—a twinkle in his eye and a keen sense of how to look at every moment and see the irony in it, the joy in it.

Threatening, because like Tom himself, I knew that immediacy of feeling the warmth of those moments would be lost when the cold hard reality would set in again—he’s gone.  He’s gone.

Life made a certain sense to Tom more so than it did to others, and anyone around him wanted that.

Even I.

It was his secret to joy. And most of us walking about on this earth don’t have it.

What was Tom’s secret?

Was it Christ? Yes, that was part of it—Tom sought after Christ like no one I had ever seen.

But it was more than that.  It was a wisdom—a sense that nothing on this planet is permanent, and that truth is okay. Because there is more. There is permanence in the next life.

When Tom finally chased after the Truth in the Gospels, he did so with this burning desire to understand, what’s next, God?  He had raised kids from his first marriage, and they were now grown.  He had started businesses, watched some grow, and watch some close down.  We had gone through ups and downs in our marriage.  And he would notice one thing…

It all eventually vanishes.

Children grow up and leave.  Businesses are never the same.  Friendships shift and people’s lives can change on a dime.  There’s got to be something more.

There is, and Tom found it.

When you know you are eternally safe with God, you can stop clutching on to this life, hoping the sands will stop shifting beneath your feet.  You will begin to just enjoy the ride of the shifting sands—enjoy that little toddler who is creating havoc in your home. Enjoy the brooding teen for who he is, a wonderful mixed up ball of hormonal creation whom God placed in your care because He entrusted you. Enjoy each of these dinner dates in that crazy process called dating. Laugh at the moments when you discover incompatibilities, trusting that God has a plan for the rest of your life.

Grab hold of every moment with laughter and purpose.

Because each of us as widows have learned something.  Our precious husbands left this world too soon, and since then, our lives were never the same.  We’ve learned that everything changes in the end.

But we also know that our husbands still exist somewhere.  We have a connectedness in our souls, a relational memory of someone we know is behind that curtain we might call the gates of Heaven.

Like a window into Heaven.

It makes a tragic view of this world, a view that says, it all goes away in the end, okay.

Not just okay, but encouraging.

Because we can rise above the pain and sorrow of events around us, knowing Heaven awaits.

Lord Jesus, help us find Your perspective through our window into Heaven. Help us enjoy the ride of life and see more humor in each moment.  Teach us to grasp each moment and decide to impact those around us so they see a window into Heaven like the rest of us.


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:

Fill My Days with the Living

Daddyisms

Contentment as a Single Mom

 

The Joy of the Lord!

Pursuing Joy by Lori Streller

The joy of the Lord is [my] strength. Nehemiah 8:10 {KJ21}

Do you ever feel like you are chasing joy?

As if it is elusive, always just beyond your reach?

Well, if Christ is your personal Lord and Savior, you can rest in this:

Joy is attainable because it resides inside of you already.

Joy is a fruit of the Spirit.  Galatians 5:22 lists it as evidence of the Holy Spirit within us.

Successful “pursuit” begins in the quiet stillness of being with the Source of all joy.

My life has had ups and downs; intense heartaches, burdens to bear, and obstacles to overcome.  I’m not sharing about joy from a life free of struggle.

I’ve learned my joy is not dependent on a neat and tidy life.

Joy wells up within us from the deepest part of our soul, spilling itself all over us and those near us.  It sets the tone for our attitude.  Joyful hearts alter our perspective.  They hone in on God’s goodness.

Joy should be evident in every believer’s life.  Are you tapping into your joy?  Is your mind trained on looking for the goodness of God?

“Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit” Galatians 5:25 {NIV}

Friends, with Christ’s power living in us, we have access to indescribable Joy!

Think on that truth: let it sink down into the depths of your being.  Joy is ours!

Pursue it.

Claim it.

Thrive in it.

Regardless of what life is throwing at you.  Train your heart on joy.

How?

Sometimes we may feel trapped in an endless cycle of sorrow and self-pity.  It happens.  Don’t beat yourself up over where you are if this is you.  Instead, start pursuing joy now.  Here are a few steps to get you started:

Be still.

Set aside time each day to rest in the presence of God.  Focus on Him.  Pour out your heart to Him and then sit in silence as He fills your empty, broken places with more of Himself.

Look for the positive.

This requires asking God to make you aware of instantaneous negative thoughts that march through your mind.  With each one, stop and replace it with a positive thought.

Find the humor.

Laughter heals.  It just does.  A woman who can laugh at herself and life will radiate joy.

Focus on gratitude.

There is always the choice to be grateful.  Look for the reasons.  Praise God for them.

Meditate on Scripture. 

Here are a few to get you started:

“Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy.”  1 Peter 1:8 {NIV}             

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”  Romans 15:13 {NIV}

“Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”  Hebrews 12:2 {NIV} 

Father God, You have laid this on my heart to share, but I know full well that it is a lesson You have prepared for me as well.  Thank You for the gift of joy that came with the Holy Spirit at our salvation.  Remind us when we fail to let that joy bubble up from within.  It’s there Lord, you’ve already given it to us.  Help us to make the pursuing of it a habit in our lives.  Amen. 


To read another great article about joy, click here for I Choose Joy by Bonnie.

 

Christmas 2016

For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord. 

Luke 2:11 KJV

Christmas 2016 – six Christmases without Bill.  He loved Christmas! The lights, the family gatherings, the movies, the friends, celebrating, surprises…all of it!  Christmas with Bill brought belief and wonder into our home as early in the season as possible.  I loved Christmas with Bill and my daughter!

The first Christmas without Bill, I forced myself to do something different.  My daughter and I flew to the “happiest place on earth” in Florida.  As we checked into our beautiful hotel, I learned that my daughter didn’t really want to go on this trip. On Christmas Eve, I finally talked her into going to an Irish pub that featured clog dancing while eating. We enjoyed the dancers, my food was ok, but my daughter “liked” it – first compliment of the trip.

As we fell asleep Christmas Eve, it felt so good to not be home wandering around the sameness, yearning for what was missing.  At 4 am, I awoke to find I had food poisoning…violent food poisoning.   2011 was officially the WORST Christmas ever.  I knew it was going to be bad after my husband died, but this bad topped my most creative thoughts of what bad might look like.

Every Christmas that has followed has been better and better.  My daughter and I have charted a course through this grief journey and have managed to create a very special looking-back and living-forward Christmas tradition.

Christmas 2016 was, by far, the best since we started this journey.  It was filled with quiet moments of reflection and also wonderful moments of living and loving.  Bill’s life was honored, but wonderful new traditions were weaved around that.

We are moving forward and, instead of dragging our sorrow with us, we have lovingly tucked it into our everyday moments where memories can shine, allowing us to enjoy the moment. 

Each Christmas, I think about what Heaven is like versus the Christmas we celebrate here.  Both of us look to the Savior.  Bill is complete and gets to walk into the throne room, worshiping in the presence of the King freely.  He has seen our Savior’s beautiful face!  Perhaps he has met biblical “heroes” and reconnected with Saints gone before him. Looking forward to that, we make the best of our finite capabilities, stringing lights to represent the Heavenly host and the special star.  We look at the Baby born that night who held a beautiful promise.  We look to a Savior that our hearts know and accept His Salvation, awaiting the day we will see Him face-to-face. 

The thought that drifts through my brain so often since Bill’s death is the promise of salvation gives me hope and allows me to grieve in hope. Because of my Savior and the salvation He offers, I will see Bill again. I will someday join him and all my other loved ones who accepted that salvation.  I will get to see my Savior’s beautiful face!  I will get to talk to the Bible heroes.  There is hope and, while I am here, I have a purpose.  I am to point others to this promise of salvation.  I am to minister to others, helping them see the Hope. 

Christmas is the promise of a Savior fulfilled.  A Savior who made the perfect sacrifice so we might have eternal life.   We can deal with life’s difficulties with hope that only comes from the Savior. 

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!


Sherry Rickard is a writer/speaker with A Widow’s Might/aNew Season Ministries, Inc.  Sherry lives in the Washington DC area of Virginia.  She works in the professional community management industry and is active in her local church.  She has one daughter who is 19 years old and has just started her second year of college.  She also has a dog, Sophie, and a cat, Brandon.  Sherry lost her husband on February 14, 2011 to cancer after a bone marrow transplant did not engraft.  God has called her to this ministry to share the Hope that only comes from a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.  It is Sherry’s hope that Christ can shine through her and that Christ can minister to those who have a similar journey.  She is still here, so God has a wonderful purpose to fulfill with her life. 

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

If you are interested in having Sherry or any of our team come visit your church or group please email us: admin@anewseason.net

If you liked this article, you might like: A Christmas Butterfly by Linda Lint

Recipe for Rest

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.

Matthew 11:28-30 NIV

 

Are you tired?

Are you worn out?

Does your grief exhaust you?

Is “burn out” looming ahead of you?

Do the holidays bring anxiety?

Rest. That seems to be what I want most right now in my life. This widow-life makes me weary. Every once in a while I will text a widow sister and say, “It was fun while it lasted (not really, and she knows it). Now can I have my life back?” I am just flat-out tired. Doing all I do as the only parent is exhausting.

Let’s look carefully at these words of Jesus as they pertain to us specifically.

  • Come to Me: Have you avoided spending time in God’s Word because you are angry with God?  Avoidance of Scripture doesn’t help your weary soul. Ask me, I know… Jesus opens His arms, saying, “Come back to Me, sweet daughter.”
  • Weary and burdened: Grief wears a person out. We understand weary. Add the burdens of life, and we have the perfect recipe for exhaustion. Burdens of caring for aging parents. Burdens of our own health or the health of our children. Burdens of relationships. We have burdens, right?
  • Take My yoke upon you: We need to remove the yokes we are currently wearing. The yokes I pile on are “image”, “sin”, “expectations”, “busyness”. What are yours? I imagine myself with all these yokes on my shoulders while Jesus stands there with a yoke made for me, fitting perfectly. I am weighed down under the yokes I have placed on my back. They don’t fit my shoulders, they rub sores, and they don’t provide any kind of relief for my weary soul. I can choose to keep piling on the yokes of my own making or receive the one made by my Creator for me specifically. That probably includes giving up control–such a challenge for me. What yokes are you wearing that are not from God?
  • Learn from Me:  I need to study His life. He is “gentle and humble”. Probably the two words we need most as a widow, when you think about it. Gentle with those thoughtless comments and lost relationships. Gentle with those who don’t understand grief and loss. Humble when needing help, and we do need help more than ever before.  Where do I need to use gentleness and humility so I can be more like Christ?
  • My yoke is easy and My burden is light: Yokes are heavy by their very nature, so how can Jesus say His is “easy” and “light”? I believe it goes back to taking His yoke on our shoulders. Perhaps it isn’t as heavy as it looks. The yokes I am wearing most days are not easy or light. They are heavy and wearisome. I want to shed these heavy ones and wear the easy, light one He has for me.
  • “And you will have rest for your souls.” Isn’t that what we all want anyway? What we are longing for? Especially during the holiday season.

Let’s follow the recipe He gave us and find the rest He offers. It isn’t merely jumping on a wagon of  “positive thinking” or just faking it. He PROMISES to give rest in exchange for taking His yoke upon our shoulders. Let’s shed the yokes we put on ourselves and take His.

Lord, You are our Creator. You promise rest if we follow Your guidelines. Help me stop looking everywhere else for rest. I want to be still and turn to You for rest. I hand over the cumbersome yokes I have been wearing for far too long. I need the rest You offer. Amen


 

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Elizabeth Dyer lives in Oklahoma with her six children named after Bible characters, a large dog named after a grandfather, a noisy cat named after a German race car driver, and guinea pigs named after candy bars!  Elizabeth lost her husband in 2012 and is learning she only THOUGHT she knew what trusting God was–widowhood has taken that “faith walk” to a whole new level for her. Psalm 94:19 has become a special verse for her family – “Lord, when doubts fill my mind, when my heart is in turmoil, quiet me and give me renewed hope and cheer.”

 

 

Looking for another article on peace? Click here for an article titled Applying Peace by Lori Streller.

Looking for articles on dealing with the holidays? Click here 

 

Unexplainable Joy

Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory,

1 Peter 1:8

How do I explain unexplainable joy?

It eases my pain.

It gives me strength to walk away every time something tries to take the place of God in my life.

Like when He gave me strength to say no to an insincere suitor. I felt a thousand angels trumpeting their horns as I chose genuine goodness over this man’s looks and prestige.

And when I closed the web browser before spending over my budget on designer clothes. At that moment I felt Him place on me a joyful royal robe. It was a peace more satisfying than any temporary buzz of the world’s acceptance.

Do know you can’t grab that joy yourself? When He decides to give it to you, He readies you for it.

It starts when you turn away from what the world has to offer and turn to Him for what He has to offer. Giving up the guy or the dress humbled my heart, making it ready to receive what the Scripture had to offer–a reminder that everything will be made right.

All of it. He’ll mend every broken heart, deal with every wrong and expose every lie.

Even my own.

Because I’m included in it all. When a friend lets me down, I forgive because He forgave me when I let Him down.

He will fix it all, heal it all, make it all whole. Knowing that brings me joy, and I need do nothing but rest in this unexplainable joy.

That joy didn’t just land in my heart. The Lord had to show it to me, and I had to accept it.

Years ago, even before I lost my husband, there was a time when I suffered a huge set back in life. My first husband was abandoning our marriage just as I was feeling pressure at work due to a corporate merger I had no control over. I felt shocked that my life had been flipped on its head.  Desperation set in as soon as the shock wore off. All I could ask was why me?

Others tried to share their stories of trusting God and feeling joy, but I wouldn’t listen. I thought, who wants to be one of those downtrodden people who had to ask for God’s comfort? I didn’t want comfort!  I wanted my old life back—the security and prestige.

I bumped and jostled through my self pity until it started to occur to me that sitting in self-pity for too long was everything but obedient to God, and wanting everything my way, the way it was before, was not accepting God’s will, and that was sin. Eventually my pride fell way, and I surrendered my self-pity, replacing it with hope. There had to be something better waiting out there than my old life.  With a new anticipation in my heart, I finally said it: “Give me what You have, Jesus—I WANT IT!”

Are you worn down by your loss?  Have you mourned for so long you don’t remember what it felt like to feel joy in your heart?  Can you reach back to that time as a child when you felt joy in your heart?

Do you want that now?

Then throw open your heart to Him.  Humble yourself.  Take what you’ve been using to replace God in your life and give it to Him. Let Him give you unexplainable joy.

Sometimes you feel like everything has been taken away from you. Maybe for you the word “everything” is reality. Maybe when you lost your husband, you also lost financial security, social networks and the leadership you needed for decision-making.

If you’ve lost what feels like everything, make HIM your everything!

In reality, He IS everything.  You can’t escape Him. You can only shrug Him off, and that hurts no one but you.

He wipes your tears. He can even find a way for your bills to be paid. He can bring you that fellowship when you need it.

And you need it. So ask for it.

That unexplainable joy.

Jesus,

If there is a sister out there stuck in her grief and has cried so many tears she doesn’t know how to get herself up, would You give her a peak at Your greatness to a point where she wants more of what she saw and begin demanding that unexplainable joy?  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:

Where’s your “brave”?

Why we Have Hope

Our Hope

I Choose Joy

These things I have spoken to you,

that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.

(John 15:11  ESV)

I find it startling at times, the number of people who make comments to me about how I have handled this walk of grief since my husband’s passing. Startling, because they seem to paint a picture I feel I am not. Inspirational. Admirable. Amazing. Polished. Refined. Whoa. Those are some mighty big shoes to fill! Descriptive words I can assure you, I feel anything but. Fearful. Weak. Confused. A hot mess. Now, you’re talking! That is how I view myself.

However, there is one word that not only calls me to self-examination, but also, calls me to embrace and seek to achieve.

Joyful.

Joyful in the sorrow?

When people ask me why I can still be joyful even in this walk of widowhood and the addition of several other trials, I know my reply can only point to my Lord Jesus Christ. Spiritual joy is a gift and it should be our desire to rejoice in the Lord at all times. Even in the trials and tribulations.

I wish I could say I always fulfill this descriptive word. I can not. So, I often examine where I am and evaluate where God wants me. Recent events have caused me to feel the JOY in my life deflating as quickly as a balloon pricked by a pin. I have come to the realization it is the invasion of these pesky annoyances that can wreak havoc on our joy. However, I know this is the worldly way. The worldly view of joy is fickle and temporary. It is a joy that comes and goes based on our circumstances. This joy pales in comparison to the true joy only God can give us. It is not a feeling – it is our choice whether we embrace this joy God desires for us.

Whenever people truly know, love and worship God, He instills a joy that only He can put into the hearts of worshipers. It is not based on circumstances or objects. Whatever we are going through, this joy can not be taken away. Paul says in 2 Corinthians 6:10 we can be “sorrowful, yet always rejoicing”. I believe as followers of Christ, no matter how dark our season of sadness is, we are never completely without joy in God, if only a remembered taste of its goodness.

Trust me. I need to hear this reminder daily. Sometimes the heaviness of life’s challenges can bear down so intensely, it is easy to let it zap the joy out of us. Problems. Hurting hearts. Loneliness. Health concerns. Financial woes. Single parenting. These circumstances are real and they are challenging.

But, I know I must trust God is my strength and comfort no matter the situation. I will choose to rejoice always. I will remember I am a daughter of the King and apart from Him there can be no joy.

We are forgiven children of God and enjoy a personal relationship with Him. That alone is worth shouting for joy.

Father, thank You for Your promise to always be our strength and comfort in all situations. May we find our way to “rejoice always” even in the hard times. Yes, Lord, may we choose Your gift of Joy so others can see You in us. Amen


img_2753 Bonnie is a mother of two awesome daughters who bless her life every day.  When she’s not enjoying long walks along the Florida coastline, she is flying  through the skies as a flight attendant. Life took a radical change in the spring  of 2009 when her husband was diagnosed with stage IV cancer. The walk  through that journey was the hardest she had ever walked. How did she make  it through? And how is she surviving? The answer is simple. Jesus. His love.  His mercy. His grace. He carried her when she was at her lowest.  And Bonnie  carried Him in her heart even when she did not understand. He has been faithful in His promises – “A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in His holy dwelling.” (Psalm 68:5) Bonnie has been called by God to share her story through writing and speaking.

To book a speaker email us at admin@anewseason.net

For more articles by Bonnie, click here

Read more about “Joy” shared by Elizabeth and Kit.

Hopeful Healing

By our dear sister, Jennifer Stanton

Yes, my soul, find rest in God; my hope comes from him. Psalm 62:5

You will be secure, because there is hope; you will look about you and take your rest in safety. Job 11:18

We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain. Hebrews 6:19

I am nine months in and realizing this journey is full of emotions – many I’ve never felt before. There are moments I think, “I shouldn’t have to deal with this or feel this way.” But I am. These are my circumstances, and this is the journey God has called me on.

You see, being a widow doesn’t mean you lost only a husband – or one role in your life. It means losing your best friend, lover, confidant, trash taker outer, and father to your child, comforter, financial advisor, prayer warrior, partner in this life – the person you shared life with day in and day out. I could go on and on. Their absence is obvious in every moment, and the feelings that come with losing all of these roles are overwhelming.

In the beginning, a grieving mind can make you feel hopeless. I know for me, early on, I felt no reason left to live. There were times I thought there was no way I could possibly go on without him. Debilitating fear would consume my every second. I could not be anywhere alone. I couldn’t even walk into my bedroom by myself without fear overtaking me. I could not drive and, though I did every single day, I could barely put my feet on the floor each morning.

Every night I fell asleep whispering, “Jesus, help me” over and over again. Those were the only three words I could get out. I was literally gaining enough strength to make it through each second.

As I go back to those first few weeks and months after Michael’s death by suicide, thinking about that very dark place, I could never imagine being in the place I am today.

You see, there is only one way to find hope in hopeless times (through a grieving mind), and that is through the one who died for us – Jesus.

If we put all of our hope in our current circumstances, we will be sorely disappointed.

Throughout the Bible, He tells us this over and over again – to put our hope in Him, and He will give us rest. His mercy and grace are the only reason I stand strong today. Because during the moments I couldn’t stand, He was there. Sometimes His presence came through my family and friends. I know for certain He has placed people in my life over the past several months as an extension of Himself. They have been His hands and heart to comfort, guide and bring hope and healing here on earth.

I still have moments of disbelief, moments of grief that come out of nowhere and knock me down. But, I get back up because of His strength.

My grief for Michael will never end. It will last a lifetime. When you see a smile on my face, it doesn’t mean every moment of my life is “happy”. When you see me filled with laughter, it doesn’t mean all is right and I am OK. When you see me doing everyday things, it doesn’t mean I have healed.

Because of the hope Jesus provides, I can look outside of my current circumstances, even when it seems impossible to understand, and find joy.

As a widow, you never move on. You move forward, and I know firsthand taking steps – small or big – to move forward requires much more effort and strength than staying in the same place, full of self-pity.

It is hard work, but I am still here for a reason. As the days and months continue to pass, I know the Lord is with me every step of the way, and I see how He is impacting the lives of others through our horrific story. From the texts and chats with friends, to the messages of those I have never met. They are reminders of His faithfulness and the good that will come from this.

Father God, thank You for Jennifer.  Thank You for protecting her in those early dark days, and for her obedience to You when You called her to share her journey with so many in the midst of her grief.  Lord, we thank You for the eternal hope You give each of us as we grieve. In Your matchless name, amen. 

 

Jennifer attended our Dallas conference in February 2015.  She was widowed by suicide in January 2015.  She lives with her two year old son, Ty, in north central Texas.  Jennifer has inspired us in her walk through this journey in those difficult first days, weeks, and months.  She has obeyed God’s calling on her life in the midst of her deep grief, and is sharing her story to help others know that it is only in the Lord that hopeful grief and walking forward is possible. 

Other articles on hopeful grief:  What is Hopeful Grief?  & Joy Comes in the Morning

 

 

Abba, Father

See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called Children of God.”                                                                                                                                                  (1 John 3:1  ESV)

Autumn days are just around the corner.  Truly, my favorite time of the year.  A break from the summer heat.  Excitement of football games.  Cool crisp mornings.  Pumpkin flavored everything!

And schools are back in session.

This fall marks the fifth year moving a daughter into her desired college living space.  Five years ago was the last college move for my oldest daughter and the first one made on “our own”.  No daddy to help.  This year marks the last college move for me as my second daughter begins her senior year.  It was particularly hard as I struggled once again with not only the physical efforts a move takes, but the emotional toll of watching another daughter achieve a big accomplishment without daddy here to cheer her on. It is so easy to hurt for the moments his absence is unequivocally felt.

As per custom, during move-in weekend, we take a drive through campus. There is always lots of hustle and bustle with incoming freshmen and returning students moving into dorms and apartments. Each excited to begin a new chapter in their lives. I share in their excitement, really, I do. But, a sadness creeps over me as I observe all the helping dads on site. I don’t mind saying, it still hurts to see daughters telling their dads where to take their items and watch them smiling and relishing this moment of independence. I can’t help but to let tears fall as I yearn for my girl’s dad to be present, not only for these moves, but for their lives. I yearn for them to have him here to share these exciting times, to hear his input from questions they have, provide protection from fears and comfort when things don’t go as planned.

Tears fall.  Heart aches.

And yet.  

In the midst of the hurt, I hear His still quiet whisper,

and I will be a father to you, and you shall be sons and daughters to me, says the Lord Almighty.”  (2 Corinthians 6:18 ESV)

“I love them.  I am their Father.  My love will never leave, nor forsake.”  His whispers assure me of their Kinship to Him. In the years of college attendance, I know that our Father God has walked closely with my girls. He has been their protector and comforter. He has been faithful in their journey to move forward.

I am now more aware of moments that reach out to cause pain from what we no longer have. I call them “joy robbers”.  Much like a thief creeping into your home to rob you of your belongings, these fears, doubts and why me’s invade our thoughts and hearts to rob us of  joyous living.  What a comfort it is to truly know the love which God has for us.  Romans 8:15 says “and by Him we cry Abba, Father.”

Abba, Father. Don’t you just love that!  It just resonates love.

What a privilege it is to be called a son or daughter of God.  When we experience great pain, we must actively guard our hearts from negative invasions that cause us to question His love for us. Can you say even in the midst of a painful event that God is good? If so, you are living under the Abba love of God.  If you struggle to answer yes, I encourage you to search scripture for assurance of His love. There are many verses that speak of the Father’s love for us. My favorites include:  Deuteronomy 32:10, Psalm 68: 5-6, John 14:16, and 1 John 3:1.

My heart radiates joy as I watch my daughter’s seek the kinship of Abba, Father. I know they miss their earthly father every day, but trusting in their Heavenly Father is how they are choosing to live.

Heavenly Father, I thank You so much for the love You lavish on us so we can be Your child.  I pray You will protect our hearts from the negativities life can deliver us and  find the joyous life You desire for us.  Amen.

I Delight Myself in You

Psalm 37:4 “Delight yourself in the Lord”

I was “that” girl.

The wife and mother, who kept an immaculate home, had a homemade dinner on the table every night, volunteered at the kids’ school and taught Bible study at church.  It was truly a beautiful life.

Then my husband became terminally ill.

Two years later, he died.

My house may never have everything clean all on the same day again!  My kids eat cereal for dinner at least once a week.  I am juggling full time employment (thankfully with a flexible schedule), ministry work, solo parenting and grief management.

It’s not such a pretty thing from the outside anymore.  There is dust and there are sticky places on countertops.  There is clutter and there are unmade beds {gasp}.  Sometimes I’m not even sure if the pile of clothes on the laundry room counter just came out of the dryer or is supposed to go in the washer!

Believe it or not, this type “A” girl is laughing as I write.  (I’m also envisioning the granola crumbs in the door handle of my car and the mud from the barn in the floor mat of the passenger seat.  I should probably be vacuuming that instead of typing this!)

Oh what a crazy ride this life is.  Sometimes I am traveling so fast I don’t know whether to throw my hands up and scream in delight or grab the roller coaster handlebar tightly and yell for it all to stop.  Guess what?  Neither will slow the motion.

So I am going to choose delight!

I like clean and orderly, my house will never get “gross” to the point a full crew will be needed to scrub away the filth, but it tends to stay a bit cluttered these days.  I am letting go of my standards of perfection and am learning to accept that my best effort is good enough.

Trying to do it all and constantly failing just makes me grumpy.  My kids deserve better than a grumpy mom.  I deserve better than a grumpy self!  Grumpy doesn’t solve anything.

So I laugh and choose delight.  I give each day the best of me and I let the rest land on tomorrow’s to do list.  I spend time with God, soaking up His wisdom.

What is the more important lesson here for my children?  That we keep everything pristine or that we love this life we have been given?  Don’t get me wrong, we respect and appreciate our property, taking good care of it.  We simply no longer fret over perfection.

I delight in the Lord.  Taking delight in Him is finding my worth in Him.  My worth doesn’t come from an immaculate home that is always “show ready”.  Would I like to be able to one day keep a spotless home again?  Truthfully, yes.  Am I going to beat myself up because it isn’t possible at this phase in my life?  No.  I’m not.

What I am going to do is continue to lean heavily into my Savior for His strength and power, and I am going to throw my hands in the air and scream delight in my Lord.

Father God, I delight myself in You!  You see past my mess and see into my heart.  I know I have young eyes watching me on this journey, seeing if I will respond grumpy or with laughter to the chaos.  When I allow myself to not expect perfection from me, it frees my children to do their best and then let the rest go.  That’s the true life lesson I want them to learn.  Our best is good enough because of Your grace and mercy.  Amen.     

 

Lori Reynolds Streller

Lori Reynolds Streller is a mother of two who finds herself smack dab in the middle of widowhood.  She is choosing a life of gratitude by intentionally living this new life well.  She answers to Mom, daughter, sister, aunt and friend.  Her sanity is fueled by daily time with Jesus and a lot of coffee.  Boot camp workouts and running are her stress relievers.  As a writer/speaker for aNew Season/A Widow’s Might Ministries, Lori uses her sense of humor and her reliance on God’s faithfulness to minister to others.  She boldly claims the goodness of her Lord in the midst of chaotic suffering. 

If you are interested in having Lori speak at your church or function, email her at admin@anewseason.net.

Other articles written by this author: https://anewseason.net/author/loris/

More articles on this topic:

A Mess by Erika Graham

Who He Says I Am by Lori Reynolds Streller