Calling It What It Is

Devotional thoughts:

On days like this I am reminded how much more “growing up” I need to do. Impatience, being disgruntled, general “snarliness” (is that a word?) is what I’m dealing with on this cloudy morning. I make the excuse that it is because I’m tired. The Bible calls it as it really is, flesh. The struggle is real, we all deal with it. 
I have found that the root problem, at least for me, is that I cannot control my world. I can’t control a washer that is trying to go out, inflation, the weather, and most of all, death and loss. It is my observation and experience that a lack of control makes me try to control something, anything. Then, when I can’t, flesh rears it’s ugly head. 

Paul said in Romans 7 that the he, too, fought the flesh. He said that the things he ought to do he didn’t, and the things he didn’t want to do, he did. 

Romans 7:18-19, “For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh; for the willing is present in me, but the doing of the good is not. For the good that I want, I do not do, but I practice the very evil that I do not want.

That isn’t too encouraging, is it? He then cries out, 

Romans 7:24 “Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!…”

That is the encouragement. Jesus has already secured our victory! The question is, will we continue to to allow yukky flesh to be dominant in our daily lives? Will we fight the flesh as believes? Sure. We aren’t “home” yet. But, we must diligently seek to walk in the Spirit rather than walk after the flesh. (Galatians 5) That is only done as we surrender to His control. It’s a matter of want to, a matter of choice. 

“Father, may we relinquish control of our lives and give you the reigns, daily, minute by minute. Forgive us when we don’t. Thank you for Jesus and the victory through Him that we have as your children. May our lives reflect the indwelling Christ and bring glory to You.”

Sent from my iPhone

Hills and Valleys

I haven’t blogged in several weeks because there isn’t much new to say. There is an underlying guilt (false guilt) because I’m not miles down this road of grief, topping the hill and seeing new horizons. I’m encouraged to find a new life, new friends, new purpose, but sometimes it just takes too much effort. I’m so weary. 

The grieving process is not linear, it isn’t on a time table. The second year is harder than the first, living in the third is unbelievable. My question is how does the one in grief suddenly change perspectives in two years, or four, or five, after living one way for forty-five? I could ask the same for one living in it after twenty, thirty, or fifteen. 

Death has many faces. Obviously, the loss of a spouse is devastating, but what about loss of a husband through divorce? I’ve not experienced that but I’ve talked to numerous women who have. What about the loss of a child, a parent, a sibling, a best friend? Their cycles of grief are the same, never linear, never easy. The common denominator is disbelief, emptiness, loneliness. 

For me, the losses are many. The loss of my husband, church family and community, friendships. It is my observation from experience, and from other widows expressing the same thing, that some people, “friends”, disappear once the dust from death settles. Ive had loss of a ministry, the betrayal of “one I have broken bread with…” , the loss of family dynamics, and on and on. So much, so much, and their are periods of time that it is unbearable. 

 Earthly relationships are fragile, and at the end of the day, when the door closes, the echo of an empty house is quite loud. It is easy for someone to tell the grieving how it should be but not so simple walking the dry, dusty, intensely hot road. Don’t offer words (though well meaning) of wisdom until you’ve been detoured from a set route. You’ll find the path unfamiliar and frightening. 

For me personally, God has allowed these things to be removed from my life in order to deepen my faith, to recognize that He is enough, even though it doesn’t feel like it sometimes. In my spirit I know that, in my humanness, sometimes not. There is a such a void. 

Someone once said that the greater the love, the greater the loss. I loved well and was loved greatly. Why would I expect the grief to be any less? I don’t know what tomorrow looks like, I only know that today seems bleak. Perhaps I will soon top the hill and discover brighter valleys. That is what I hope. Until then, I take two steps and breathe. It’s the only and best thing to do. 

God’s Zingers

Week-ends are the hardest times for me. As I’ve written before, the sadness and loneliness are like a thick blanket, covering  me from the top of my head to the bottom of my feet. It is heavy, hot, confining. If I gave it a name, it would be the Blanket of Grief. 

This morning, quite frankly, I had to make myself get alone with the Father. I didn’t want to. What I wanted to do was curl up in my bed with Facebook and read what husband’s and wives, families, were doing, where they were going, where they are. I can live vicariously through even strangers, doing what I can’t, at least not with the one person I want. Honestly, (I like the song, “If We’re Honest”) I guess I was miffed at God because of my circumstances and I was throwing a silent temper tantrum. You know the one, the silent treatment we give others, especially our husbands, when we don’t get our way? From experience, I knew that wasn’t going to accomplish one thing but only make it harder when I decided to get on speaking terms with God again. I had a choice to make. 

I made a second cup of coffee (the first one wakes me up and enables me to open my eyes), then remembered as it was brewing that the recycle can needed to be taken to the street. My grandson does that job but he spent the night at a friend’s house. I went to get the can and realized he hadn’t put the last two week’s boxes and other paper/plastic items in the empty container. I began throwing things into it, muttering the entire time. “Why doesn’t he do what he is suppose to do? Why do I have to remind him over and over? He’s old enough to know better!”  

By the time I got back into the house my coffee was lukewarm. Still muttering, I reheated it in the microwave, grabbed my Bible, my book on SpiritualWarfare by Leighann McCoy (God has a sense of humor), my less-than-appetizing cup of coffee, and headed to my place. There I began to read my daily Psalms in the order I read them each month. Then God began sending to my heart what I call Zingers, truths I really, really need to remember at the moment. 

Zinger #1: I’m just like my grandson. I know in my (spiritual) maturity that I have the responsibility to meet with the Lord daily, reading His Word, communicating with Him, listening, waiting to hear what He has to say to me specifically for THAT day, not yesterday (though I need to meditate on those things revealed). I don’t try to figure out for tomorrow, just meet Him for today. 

Zinger #2: God spoke to me through Psalm 3:3, “But, You, O Lord, are a shield about me, my Glory and the One Who lifts my head.” It is very clear that no matter my feelings,  I can KNOW that He meets me where I am and lifts my head from beneath the blanket. I just have to let Him do it. 

Zinger #3: Psalm 33:20-21, I can always, always rejoice because He is trustworthy. He’s proven Himself “o’er and o’er”,  as the old hymn writer penned. So, not only can I KNOW Who He is and what He does, I REJOICE in the same. 

Zinger #4: Psalm 63:6, I can REMEMBER how He has been my help through every trial, every circumstance. As I meditated on these things, here came: 

Zinger # 5: Psalm 63:5, I can SING as I nestle in the shadow of His wings, knowing He has this. I’m not alone. 

These truths are not necessarily “felt”, usually the contrary. It’s as I’ve said before, it is choice. My choice this morning was to stiff-arm God and pout or embrace Him, knowing He is working even the lonely days for my good, so that His character will be formed in me. My relationship with Him is more intimate today because of this journey, and our relationship is far more important that any on this earth, even that of my sweet husband’s and mine 

The Psalmist declared in Psalm 119:71, 72, “My suffering was good for me, for it taught me to pay attention to Your decrees. Your instructions are more valuable to me than millions in gold and silver.” 

More valuable indeed.  Thank You, Father, for the Zingers You so faithfully send my way. 

Sovereign Over All

There are mornings it is obvious to me when I wake up that the day is going to be a difficult one emotionally. Try as I might, it oppresses me. I think I dreamed about my husband last night and those dreams bring either a sweet feeling of having been with him or they bring a deep sadness that I haven’t. So, I’m at a mini-crossroad this morning…I must choose to either wallow in this loneliness or get into the Word and find rest and deep joy only God can give. 

The Father has been teaching me a deeper understanding of His Sovereignty. I’ll never forget the time He showed me, many years ago in scripture, that He knew all about me and had always known me, from my birthmother’s womb (Psalm 139). Through the seasons of my life I became more and more aware that He was Sovereign over my past. I was no accident or result from the rape my birthmother endured. I grew to realize more and more that God orchestrated every day of my past so I would meet Bob, marry him, have children with him, minister with him. That was my testimony for years (and still is) to women in bondage to their pasts, that God was in control of their lives and knew right where they were. 

My testimony hasn’t changed regarding my past but it has taken a new turn as I am having to learn that the Lord is also sovereign over my present. Just as He orchestrated the events of my life before, He was in charge on April 9, 2014 and all the days that followed until this present day. Sometimes it’s difficult to believe that He knew what He was doing when he called Bob home “early”, not just a result of a cancer that was ravaging his body. Yet, in His Sovereign plan, it was right. 

That brings me to this beautiful morning that is ushering in summer, a new earthly season. I remember Summer’s past, carefree days together, vacations at the beach, not having to share Bob with other people but just our little family together. My mind’s eye remembers what a happy feeling I would have on early summer Saturday evenings after Bob would work in the yard, mowing and weed eating, finishing little projects around the house and yard. Everything would look so pretty and we would grill, get ready for Sunday, and simply enjoy the end of a productive day. Good, good memories. However, I can’t let past memories dictate my present. 

I’ve never been angry with God for taking Bob, never. He was gracious and merciful to protect him from suffering anymore than he had. I HAVE been disgruntled at Him for leaving me here, to be alone in this thing called life and to endure the emptiness and loneliness. Then I remember, He knows when I sit down and rise up, He has enclosed me behind and before (Psalm 139). He is here, Sovereign, and has me in the palm of His hand. I am never alone. 

My birthday is next week and I am looking at beginning the second half of my sixth decade. I don’t feel that old, not at all. I hope I don’t look it or act it. One sobering thought is how the years behind me are much more than the ones left on this earth. I am confidant God will fulfill His plan for me, in His time. Sometimes I feel like time is running out and there won’t be enough left to get the things done I want. It is in those moments that He gently reminds me that He is Sovereign over my future as well. I will live as many years as He has ordained for me (Psalm 139) and not one day more. It isn’t up to me to figure it all out but it is my responsibility to trust Him and seek Him, and be obedient to what He shows me. 

So, today I choose to live, to put one foot forward and breathe when I’m overwhelmed with it all. God has this and He is great and He is good. In His sovereignty, He does all things well. 

Turning a Corner

As uplifting and assuring last week was, this one hasn’t been. I felt the oppression begin to blanket me Sunday night. Monday morning I determine to get out before the rains came this week and visit the local garden center I love. I had a gift card for there from my son. I knew I needed to do something besides wallow in self pity. 

Because I didn’t know exactly what I wanted, I corralled a flat-bed buggy and began to weave my way through the place. Stopping at the bird feeders and food I snagged a new feeder and a couple of socks for thistle to see if I can draw some yellow finches. From there I found the beautiful hanging baskets and chose a large wave petunia for my front yard. I quickly found a mixed-color moss rose for a planter in a newly made area in the yard, grabbed a bag of potting soil, paid for my treasures and drove home. 

Working for about two hours I sat down and viewed the results of my labor. It was satisfying to see the beauty of it all, the  vibrant colors, the birds that have found the feeders. There is such a peace enjoying this time of year, this season. As I write this today, it is a breezy and lovely morning. I have things to do in the house but I don’t want to. I want to sit right here. 

As wonderful as working in my yard has been, I am fighting a funk. Lies from satan have been whispered into my head and I’ve almost buckled under them. It gets hard, I become weary, continuing to believe Truth and combating the lies with it. Lies like, “You are totally alone in life, there is no one to help you.” Then there is the choice one, “You are old, a has-been. You have nothing to offer. Let the younger ones have it. No one cares what you have to say. Bide your time. Life is quickly passing and this is how it is.” It is in these moment I have to shout back with the Word and with the wisdom of God. He never leaves me, I am never alone. He determines my days, He is in control, He commands my destiny just as He has my past. I just have to rest in today. 

My life with Bob included ministry. Together, we served for over forty-five years. That was our life together, so how does it look now for me? I don’t know. I do know that God has told me to stop and rest, spiritually and physically, to just “be”. For the first time in forty-eight years I have no ministry agenda. I am in God’s waiting room. Waiting rooms are not my favorite places to be. I’m impatient, I want results, I want to pace the length of the room until I know what is ahead. God says, “Wait”.

Just as I’ve been obedient to do all He has asked me to do since Bob’s homegoing, I know I must be as obedient in this season. How long it will last I don’t know.  A week, a month, a year, five years?That’s up to His plan for my life. If I never teach again, never speak again, never find myself ministering again, that must be okay, just as it would be okay if He does. My responsibility is to wait with contentment. Tall order. 

Perhaps this is a part of the acceptance stage of death. Before now I couldn’t have been idle and God knew that. He orchestrated every detail. I realized a week or so ago that I’ve turned a corner in this journey…not in forgetting my Bob but embracing what is in this present time. Just for today, not for tomorrow, because it will become the present in just a few short hours. This will take grace, the Lord’s sufficient grace. 

“I wait for the LORD, my soul waits. and in His Word I hope.” (Psalm 130:5)

The Prize

It seems more and more that God is bringing across my path, women, widows, who walk a similar road on this journey. As I talk with them, I am drawn to them because of the common bond we share and they are drawn to me for the same reason. Our hearts have the same burdens and we are like thirsty souls drinking from the fountain of understanding found in the other. 

I guess the  questions most asked are, “Where do we belong, where do we fit in?”  That’s a tough one, because in all honesty, we don’t fit in anywhere, at least not as we once did. Our world’s have changed and there is very little that resembles what was. We now live in the singular, not the plural. We gather for family celebrations and there is an empty chair. We go out with old friends and there is an odd number. We sit in church and there is the ache to feel our husband’s arms around us or to hear the sound of his voice as he sings. There is the longing to go to the car and have the privilege of sitting in the passenger seat, not the driver’s. It’s the small things that can undo even the strongest. No one understands, unless it is another widow (or widower). We can’t expect anyone else to feel what we feel. I don’t know about you, fellow sojourner, but our children, nor our closest friend, can fill the empty places our loved one left. 

So, what do we do on Sunday  afternoons when the rest of the day seems to stretch forever, and the week looks daunting? We look to the Source of comfort, our Sovereign, and  find a peace beyond this world. Paul said in Philippians 3, to “…forget what lies behind…”  Forget? How? How in the world can we forget someone we loved or the life we lived? I think Paul knew he couldn’t look at his life, both the good and the bad, and truly wipe it out of his mind. I do believe he was saying to us to not let what was dwell in our minds as a place to rest or a place to “camp out”.  If we do that, we will never heal. Can we truly heal from this grief? That’s another subject for another day!

In order to establish a new normal, I believe we must first want to find a new normal. I struggled with that for months, and still do sometimes. If I yield to a new way of life, a new way of doing life, then am I leaving my old one behind? Leaving my husband behind? No! A thousand times, no! We have to want to move forward. 

Secondly, I believe we have to view life from a different lens. My old glasses took  in a wonderful world filled with love, marriage, friendships, ministry, and on and on. But the glass no longer fits in the frame. New ones must be made. The new lens will include good things, new days, new walks and that’s ok. That’s a new normal. 

Thirdly, in order to find new meaning in life we must keep straining toward what’s important. Paul continues his thought in Philippians this way, as The Living Bible translates, “…I strain to reach the end of the race to reach the prize for which God is calling us up to heaven.” Perhaps this blog seems repetitive, maybe it is. But I have to daily remind myself that this life is but a vapor and I am heading toward a goal…the prize of the call in Christ Jesus. My husband has already reached it, now I have to follow his example. That’s the only way I will ever make it in this abnormal world I find myself in. 

On afternoons like this one I struggle to keep my head above the waves and my eyes on the shore. I miss my husband and it is a lonely afternoon. But, God…He is our Needmeeter, He is our refuge, He is our strength, He is our hope…He IS, if we will let Him be. 

Like A Flint

This has been a good morning, a bittersweet morning…but still a good one. Today I went “home”, home to the familiar, home where part of my heart is. 

I worshipped today in the church Bob and I, as well as most of our family, were members for over 17 years. I’ve not been back for two years, I haven’t been able to, i have been in grief and it was still too raw. Today, I hugged the necks of people I love, felt the warmth of their smiles, saw the ones who are always in my mind and heart. How I miss them! 

The bittersweet? I “saw” my Bob in our regular pew (we are baptists, baptists have pews!) and as we sang the familiar songs, I could see his hands raised in praise and sweet abandon to His Lord. It was wrong to not see him there, but I had to remember he was with the One he worshipped here, and he is worshipping there as we cannot even begin to imagine. I went to my car after the service and sat down, acutely aware that I was driving off alone and life continued inside. I found tears running down my face as I knew I had come full circle. It was ok, it was as it should be, moving forward, not stuck in what was. 

I felt such a drawing to the cemetery, just a couple of miles from the church. I drove there, turned down the narrow road as I entered Crestlawn Memorial Gardens, and found the big magnolia tree, the one that is just above where the earthly body of my husband rests. There, I did something I haven’t done in quite awhile when there…I broke down and cried. My heart longed to see him, to hear his voice, to feel his touch. I just stood there and talked to him. I told him where I’d been, how much I missed him and asking him, once again if he saw me. I guess that’s silly but that’s part of grief. 

As I left the cemetery and drove the familiar streets, I found myself in our old subdivision. It felt so natural to turn in and round the curve. There our house was and it felt like I should turn into the driveway, perhaps seeing Bob throw up his hand and smile as he cut the grass. I should be unloading the car with groceries and starting lunch. On a beautiful day like today we would be grilling. I could see my pretty patio full of flowers and the Anna Belle hydrangeas in bloom. I could almost hear the sounds of the weed-eater and the door as it shut behind me when I went in to get the food ready for the grill. I drove around the subdivision to leave and I thought how Bob’s footprints were all over those streets he had walked so faithfully. I could see his red baseball cap, ratty t-shirt, and his lips moving in prayer as he mapped his miles. Bittersweet. 

I feel a peace. This will always be my home of homes, my lifetime friendships, my worship family, my heart, but I must leave. It’s time to go to my ‘now’ home. It’s where I belong. I’ll point my car west and see this place in my rear mirror and smile fondly. You can go home again, if only for a moment. 

The verse in Isaiah keeps running through my mind, “I’ll set my face like a flint…”  I’ll make the determined choice to press on, not looking back, but venturing into the future, step by step, as God leads, until I am called to my eternal home, with my Jesus, and with my Bob, and the saints who’ve gone before. That is a day I long for, a true homegoing, joy unspeakable, glory divine.