As I am waking up with a cup of coffee this early Wednesday morning, I’m mindlessly reading emails, checking the weather, checking my bank balance (!), and scrolling through Facebook. Memory posts will often pop up on my page and I find them bittersweet. 

My mind will play with each memory, sometimes smiling, sometimes crying. This morning, however, my reaction has been amazement, amazement at the change that has occurred, especially in the last 2.5 years. I can see the finger of God as He traced a path in my wilderness and then took my hand and gently led me through the curves and valleys until I could see light. It hasn’t always seemed that way but He was there. So often I’ve felt like I was stumbling through a thick forest that was carpeted with briars, but He was there, strong when I was so weak.

The face of grief changes over time. In the beginning, other widows would tell me that but I couldn’t imagine it. I have found that it does. Even a memory feed on social media speaks to that. When one experiences the deep, deep loss of death it is hard to imagine life again. I suffered the death of my husband and the death of all I had known. It was as if I was blindfolded, kidnapped, and dropped on an island, with nothing familiar around me. The face of grief was devastating. I looked everywhere to find normal. 

Today I see light. Today there is life. It’s not the life I really honestly want and the light has a different glow, but there is light and life nonetheless. I miss Bob so much but I’ve come to the settled peace that he is gone, he is with Jesus. I’ve had a head knowledge but now there is a heart knowledge. I still want to tell him things, have to stop and remind myself he isn’t here when I do. But, there is peace. 

 There is joy, the kind that comes in the morning.  Happiness is a choice but I’m not speaking about that. This joy comes from a peace and a trust in the One who holds all things.  The One who has proven Himself trustworthy. The One who is full of lovingkindness, the One who is from everlasting to everlasting. 

There is purpose. It has been difficult to believe there was still purpose for me, purpose without Bob and without our ministry together. I don’t presume to know what the future holds but I do know the One who knows all things. The One who knows the plans He has for me, plans for good and not evil, plans to give me a future and a hope. 

There is healing, the kind I’ve longed for, prayed for. I still get lonely, I still some days long for “home” and the life we shared. My faith knows that beauty will come from the ashes of what was. There is comfort in the cool breeze that is blowing away the intense heat from the fire. 

There is blessing, even in the brokenness I’ve experienced. Blessing because I know Christ in a deeper way than ever before. Blessing because I know His promises are true. Blessing because I can trust Him with my present and my future. Blessing because His love has been poured out on me in this journey. 

Yes, grief wears a different face and I lift my face to the Son and wait to see what’s next. I don’t know what that will look like but I know it will be just as He planned. 

Just Up The Road 

I’m terrible with directions. If i didn’t have apps on my phone to guide me to my destination, I might never find my way. When I moved to my current city I turned around more than I didn’t! In years past, before smart phones and apps, prior to his homegoing, my husband would often try to give me directions when I would call him. I would be somewhere lost, without a clue where I was. He would tell me I needed to go west or east. Frustrated, I would respond that I didn’t know which way west or east was. One particular day, I called him from Nashville and he patiently asked me which direction I was going. He asked, “Honey, where is the sun?” He would then get me on the right road.  

I’ve thought a lot about that since he’s been gone and I’ve embarked upon this journey. I have no clue where I’m going some days. I was talking with a dear friend this morning, also on the same journey as I. We discussed the fact that everyone’s road looks completely different. Oh, there are landmarks that are the same but no two paths are the alike. The terrain is rough and the mile markers say the destinations are far off. Our navigation systems seem to be stuck.  

Two and one-half years ago next month, this nightmare began. After these thirty months without Bob, I still feel lost and it’s hard to find my way. The expectation I put on myself is that I should be farther down the road than I am. There is the fear that others think that, too, and shake their heads because I’m not. The truth is, some days are worse than they have ever been while others are tolerable. There are some things that are still so painful, like hearing a band play Rocky Top or feeling the breeze on an autumn afternoon and wishing he was beside me, enjoying the new season. Going to church without him is almost unbearable and singing the songs he loved nearly breaks my heart. With every melody I see him worshipping and hear his beautiful voice. It’s hard to stay focused. 

This isn’t an easy trip by any stretch of the imagination, even after all this time.I didn’t ask to go, I didn’t want to go. Sometimes I cry and yell and kick against it, telling God how much I hate it. I long for home and the life we shared, the friends, the ministry … the love and just being together. God knows my hurt and He understands. I don’t shock Him when I rail and fight. He knows I will ultimately bow my knee to His purpose and plan. That’s all I can do, it’s what I must do. In that there is great comfort. 

This is the journey of grief. Unfortunately, there is no roadmap and no ETA. When I feel the most lost I just look for the Son. As long as I keep my eyes on Him, the way is clear. It’s when I don’t that I take the wrong route and have to turn around and find my way back. 

Will I ever cease to feel lost? Maybe, but I rather doubt it. He was mine to love for almost forty-six years. Will there come a day I enjoy things like I once did, or perhaps make new memories? I hope so. Will there be a time I enjoy a breeze upon my face and a deep blue autumn sky without wanting to share it with my man? Probably not. But what I do know is that I must keep my foot on the gas peddle and continue on this road until the journey ends, searching out the beauty in the  scenery, ever following the Son. He keeps me from falling, He directs my path. The destination is just up the road. 

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)