Saturday, May 21, 2022

Tuesday, May 3, 2022

Life Altering Storms


They all got into a boat and began to cross over to the other side of the lake. And Jesus, exhausted, fell asleep. Suddenly a violent storm developed, with waves so high the boat was about to be swamped. Yet Jesus continued to sleep soundly. The disciples woke Him up, saying, “Save us, Lord! We’re going to die!”

But Jesus reprimanded them. “Why are you gripped with fear? Where is your faith?” Then He stood and rebuked the storm, saying, “Be still!” And instantly it became perfectly calm.

The disciples were astonished by this miracle and said to one another, “Who is this Man? Even the wind and waves obey His Word.”
Matthew 8: 23-27
The covid crisis that began in early 2020 brought chaos, confusion, and relentless change to our previous concept of normal. Like Jesus’ disciples in Matthew 8, we could compare it to being on a sea voyage in a tempest so fierce we can’t help but experience some measure of fear. First of all, we need to recognize this reaction is very normal and human. The human body is designed to pump adrenaline when it senses danger, which can be triggered by facing something unknown. This unknown threatened the entire world. Our family, friends and loved ones were all in its crosshairs. It created uncertainty in jobs, security, health, and freedom. It altered every sense of normal we knew.

Many widows feel like they are being tossed in a violent storm they have no control over. It washes away every sense of ordinary life, normal routines and wipes out the support beams of security we once trusted. The winds of grief over the loss of our husband grow overwhelming. The fog invades our minds and impacts our ability to focus or concentrate.

It's in these disturbing upheavals of life we need to remember Jesus is also in the boat. The raging storm attempts to bring fear and despair. Jesus speaks peace. The winds and the waves obey Him. I love Psalm 46 in The Passion Translation. Here are the first three verses, but it continues with even more encouragement for the saving power of the marvelous God we serve.
God, you’re such a safe and powerful place to find refuge! You’re a proven help in time of trouble—more than enough and always available whenever I need you. So I will never fear even if every structure of support were to crumble away. I will not fear even when the earth quakes and shakes, moving mountains and casting them into the sea. For the raging roar of stormy winds and crashing waves cannot erode my faith in You.
Psalm 46: 1-3
Moving forward in the midst of storms we can’t control requires us to yield to God to do what we aren’t able to do. It starts by us taking the steps we can take. It begins with refusing to yield to fear. I go before God and submit to His care and declare this prayer out loud. Our words are powerful and will blast through the spirit realm and build our faith as we hear it spoken.

I take power over every spirit of fear and condemnation. Fear is not welcome here. Fear I bind and cast you out in Jesus’ name. Nothing can touch me. I belong to the Lord God Almighty. You have no right to come near me with your scare tactics. You can’t touch me. You can’t touch my land, home, car, family or nation.
Do not be afraid, for I am with you and will bless you. Genesis 26: 24
Condemnation is powerless. I send you back to hell. Negative events of the past have no more power to harass, haunt, or take up residence in my thoughts. Divine inner peace and emotional wholeness is mine. Godly assurance, confidence, and faith replace all past brokenness. God’s great and miraculous hand is working for me in every situation. I have no reason to fear.
God stands with me. Who can be against me? Romans 8: 31
We need to remind ourselves God is with us if we want to find calm. Remember His abiding love and His desire to care for His children. We can’t pray too much. Prayer is having a conversation with our best friend and Father who loves it when we spend time talking with Him. If we ask Him to be with us in our boat He will be here.
For hasn’t He promised you, “I will never leave you, never! And I will not loosen my grip on your life!” Hebrews 13: 5
I cling to my faith God will see me through. I get frustrated sometimes because it feels like it is taking forever. There are times I’m not sure I can keep trusting. Some of the pain in my heart gets so overwhelming. Yet, here I am… living another day. His grace continues to be sufficient for the day. The anguish softens and I choose to keep putting one foot in front of the next. I confess out loud I will trust God and I believe He will see me through. Eventually my heart will hear my words and believe them.

Let’s pray.

Precious Father, thank You for everything You do for me. Thank You for Your unwavering promises and Your loving care. Help me love You back with the same measure You love me. Please heal all brokenness. I renounce all fear, and I keep my eyes on You. You are my good Father. I abide under the shadow of Your wings, I am safe and completely protected. In Jesus’ precious name, Amen.

Sunday, April 24, 2022

Re Solving the Future



Widows face unique and challenging obstacles as they progress through the process of grief in search of their future. For however many years they spent building their lives with their husbands, the vision and embodiment of the future was a combination of their entwined dreams incorporating the two of them together living out that future. When death invades and removes the husband, the surviving widow is faced with resolving— that is re-solving — or solving all over from scratch, what her future will be.

Everyone wants to experience a full and healthy life. When you spend nearly all your adult life and most of your existence in the company of your husband, naturally your dreams and expectations for the future were built combining the passions and strengths of both people to fashion a vision you shared. It was stretched between you as you each clutched to hold it up. Removing one of the poles sends the canvass falling to the ground, no longer visible.
Where there is no vision, the people perish.
Proverbs 29: 18
Widows face the daunting task of finding a new future… void of the person they counted on to share the unknown. They must figure out how to describe themselves – no longer a wife, no longer a part of a couple. They have to consider the likelihood of keeping the future they always dreamed… is it even possible… will it still bring fulfillment… could it be altered—or should it be left on the heap of loss.

I still don’t know what I want my future to look like. I’m learning I need to heal enough from the trauma of loss. I needed to start slowly. In the beginning it was breath by breath. Eventually I could make it step by step—quite literally making my feet move one step forward at a time. After a while I could sometimes plan something a little into the future… though it was hesitantly. I tried some things that worked. I tried things that didn’t. I would plan something and completely forget I did. I would want to do something and find I didn’t have the courage when the time came. It was like groping around in the dark and constantly stubbing my toe.
Within your heart you can make plans for your future, but the Lord chooses the steps you take to get there.
Proverbs 16: 9
We make plans and set goals to turn dreams into action steps. The best plan I can make right now is to seek God for guidance and ask Him to direct my path. I feel like a toddler learning how to walk and keep falling down. It’s like my legs are still trying out new muscles that need to grow strong. I need to trust God to help me have the courage to keep getting back up and trying to walk again. 


Your future is bright and filled with a living hope that will never fade away. As you listen to Me, My beloved child, you will grow in wisdom and your heart will be drawn into understanding, which will empower you to make right decisions.
Proverbs 23: 18-19
Please pray with me.

Father God, please help guide and protect us as we adopt new ways of living in this world as we adapt to life without our beloved husband. Show us the future You planned for us… a future filled with hope. Please comfort and heal our hearts. Reveal the desires and gifts You created in us and make clear our dreams. Help us find the right people and resources to encourage and promote these dreams. Give us the courage and fortitude to pursue them with passion and give You all the glory and honor. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.

 




Friday, April 22, 2022

National Widow’s Day – May 3rd—Who is a Widow?


In a little over a week, on May 3rd, we have an opportunity to take part in fulfilling a lesser talked about commission in the Bible.
True devotion, the kind that is pure and faultless before God the Father, is this: to care for orphans and widows in their difficulties and to keep the world from contaminating us.
James 1: 27 CEB
God cares about the plight of widows so much He mentions them more than eighty times in His Word—both in the Old and New Testaments. This was always explained to me as necessary in the past because women were extra vulnerable due to depending on their husband for all their needs because they stayed home and did not earn an income. Many of these scripture references included orphans so it just meant to care about people who are defenseless and in need. We tend to rationalize away and water down the significance of our obligation to earnestly and thoroughly commit ourselves to obeying God’s Word. Perhaps it’s time to take the Bible more seriously and seek God for His revelation knowledge.

The loss of a spouse is the number one stressor on most stress scales and is considered one of life’s most devastating events. Most widows lose about 75% of their support base when they lose their husbands. This includes relationships with family and friends, and after just three months that number grows even higher. Their in-laws usually disconnect with most widows after just a year. The risk of death from a broken heart is at least thirty percent higher for widows after just six months of this loss. About seventy percent of widows over the age of 65 live alone.

Is it any wonder God asks us to fulfill His commandment to love one another by taking care of widows? Perhaps you’ve never thought about what it means to be a widow. Consider this description of widowhood shared by Alisha Bozarth.
“Widowhood is more than missing your spouse’s presence. It is adjusting to an alternate life. It is growing around a permanent amputation.

Widowhood is going to bed for the thousandth time, and still, the loneliness doesn’t feel normal. The empty bed a constant reminder. The night no longer brings intimacy and comfort, but the loudness of silence and the void of connection.

Widowhood is walking around the same house you have lived in for years and it no longer feeling like home. Because “home” incorporated a person. And they’re not there. Homesickness fills your heart and the knowledge that it will never return haunts you.

Widowhood is seeing all your dreams and plans you shared as a couple crumble around you. The painful process of searching for new dreams that include only you amount to climbing Mount Everest. And every small victory of creating new dreams for yourself includes a new shade of grief that their death propelled you to this path.

Widowhood is second guessing everything you thought you knew about yourself. Your life had molded together with another’s and without them you have to relearn all your likes, hobbies, fears, goals. The renaissance of a new person makes you proud and heartbroken simultaneously.

Widowhood is being a stranger in your own life. The unnerving feeling of watching yourself from outside your body, going through the motions of what was your life, but being detached from all of it. You don’t recognize yourself. Your previous life feels but a vapor long gone, like a mist of a dream you begin to wonder if it happened at all.

Widowhood is the irony of knowing if that one person was here to be your support, you would have the strength to grieve that one person. The thought twists and confuses you. If only they were here to hold you and talk to you, you’d have the tenacity to tackle this unwanted life. To tackle the arduous task of moving on without them.

Widowhood is missing the one person who could truly understand what is in your heart to share. The funny joke, the embarrassing incident, the fear compelling you or the frustration tempting you. To anyone else, you would have to explain, and that is too much effort, so you keep it to yourself. And the loneliness grows inside you.

Widowhood is struggling with identity. Who are you if not their spouse? What do you want to do if not the things you planned together? What brand do you want to buy if not the one you two shared for all those years? What is your purpose if the job of investing into your marriage is taken away? Who is my closest companion when my other half isn’t here?

Widowhood is feeling restless because you lost your home, identity, partner, lover, friend, playmate, travel companion, co-parent, security, and life. And you are drifting with an unknown destination.

Widowhood is living in a constant state of missing the most intimate relationship. No hand to hold. No body next to you. No partner to share your burden.

Widowhood is being alone in a crowd of people. Feeling sad even while you’re happy. Feeling guilty while you live. It is looking back while moving forward. It is being hungry but nothing sounding good. It is every special event turning bittersweet.

Yes. It is much more than simply missing their presence. It is becoming a new person, whether you want to or not. It is fighting every emotion mankind can feel at the very same moment and trying to function in life at the same time.

Widowhood is frailty. Widowhood is strength. Widowhood is darkness. Widowhood is rebirth.

Widowhood…..

is life changing."

By: Alisha Bozarth
The widows in your life just want to be seen, acknowledged, and encouraged. Most of us have given up trying to explain how we feel and what we need. Most of us have things in our lives we need or would appreciate help with, but either don’t know how to ask or have been hurt or wounded in some way when we tried, so we decided not to try again. The longer we are widows, the less understanding most people are, so we protect ourselves by not talking about it. Hopefully we eventually find safe people who understand and let us share our hearts, but you might be surprised by how many feel very alone.

This National Widow’s Day I encourage you to choose at least one widow in your life and reach out. Maybe its your Mom, or sister, neighbor, or someone in your church. Share an encouraging card, some flowers, or a gift card. Offer to take them to lunch or go for a walk. Invite them to tell you about their husband. See if there is something they need help with, such as lifting or moving something, decorating for a holiday, finding a repair person, or help them with their computer.

Being a light on someone’s journey through grief will not only bless the widow you take time with, it will bless you right back. You’ve heard the saying, it’s better to give than receive. It is a gift that will warm your heart too, and Father God will smile from ear to ear!


Monday, April 11, 2022

Who Am I?


Becoming a widow put my identity on a chopping block. Not only did my perception of myself change, but it seems like everyone else’s idea of who I am did too. I lost all concept of who I am. My family and friends defined me over time and placed me in a box and limited the way they recognized me. I was married for almost 37 years and that image of me was confined to seeing me as part of a couple and in relationship with and to my husband. Who I was got sifted through a filter that always took into consideration the impact of our interconnection with each other. The people around me had ideas who they thought I was… they didn’t know the half of it. It feels like they have no desire to help me, let alone let me, find "me" in my rubble of my shattered heart.

I’ve always had a tendency to bury my feelings and just put on a happy face. During my husband’s long debilitating illness, I chose to attend to his needs and ignore mine. I kept telling myself there would be plenty of time for me later… that I wanted to make the most of whatever time we had together. Could I just be too “full” of all those unanswered questions, heartbreak, and confusion? Does it spill out without restraint like the container that held it is broken? How do I safely release the pent up chaos so I can heal?

The pandemic arrived about four months after I became a widow. These last couple years added unprecedented chaos on top of what we are already carrying by adding new layers of isolation and separation, mixed with unlimited uncertainty and constantly changing rules. This was something new to everyone and we all reacted from different mindsets, circumstances and levels of security. One family member told me early on that I just needed to “buck up” because my pain was no different than anyone else’s because everyone was suffering. They told me I was just being selfish to think I deserved attention or understanding, and I just needed to “get over it.”

I learned to say “I’m fine” when someone asked how I was doing. What they didn’t know was “fine” was a safe word my husband and I used to let each other know something was not right when we were around other people and didn’t want to talk about it in front of them. It was our signal to each other to possibly find a graceful way to leave, or be a topic we would explore when we got home. When I became a widow, I was admonished, belittled or ridiculed so many times when I attempted to explore or explain how I really was, I retreated to a safe place. It made me miss him even more, but it also somehow made me feel justified and rationalize I wasn’t lying.

Widows experience so much more trauma than most people can even imagine. I wanted a simple “I’m sorry.” I wanted a shoulder to cry my heart out. I just wanted to feel like someone out there cared enough to just be there and not judge me. Someone willing to spend more than five minutes waiting for me to “get over it.” Someone who will not act like they are my judge and jury and label me selfish and irresponsible. Someone who will not pretend they understand what I’m going through.

I'm still battling with my identity two and half years after my husband went home to heaven. Why do I feel like it’s me against the world? Sometimes I almost see myself... like a shadow peaking at me. Everything I once knew is different now. No relationship is the same. I've moved twice and I still don't feel like I'm "home." I don't eat the same, dress the same, live the same. I don't feel like I'm a part of this world like I did before. I'm trying to find me... define me.

Only by leaning into and building our faith and relationship with God do we stand a chance at getting through this. I know I wouldn't even be here if God wasn't holding me and protecting me. I hold on to His promise in Jeremiah 29: 10-14. God promises,
This is God’s Word on the subject: …I know what I’m doing. I have it all planned out—plans to take care of you, not abandon you, plans to give you the future you hope for. When you call on me, when you come and pray to me, I’ll listen. When you come looking for me, you’ll find me.
I don’t have all the answers. I’m doing the best I can every day to take that next breath, or step. I’ve learned God is faithful. He is teaching me to declare His promises out loud. He encourages me to picture my future and believe it is possible.

If you’re struggling with your identity, I invite you to join me in this prayer.
So then, I must cling in faith to all I know to be true. For I have a magnificent King-Priest, Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who rose into the heavenly realm for me, and now sympathizes with me in my frailty. He understands humanity, for as a man, my magnificent King-Priest was tempted in every way just as I am, and conquered sin. So now I draw near freely and boldly where grace is enthroned, to receive mercy’s kiss and discover the grace I urgently need to strengthen me in my time of weakness.
Hebrews 4: 14-16
Father, I will decree Your promises and stand in expectant hope as You reach down and heal my broken heart. My heart is purged of apathy, defeat, failure, shame and hope deferred. The worst situations and bleakest circumstances are no match for King Jesus. The sound of YAH in my lungs is the sound of intercession and personal revival. It's the deep, pent-up cry of God’s beloved seeing Him face to face. Deep heart change is mine as stones become flesh and bones come back to life. I worship my victorious King making Himself known to His beloved. The King is here. The fresh cry is the sound of life replacing emptiness and unending sorrow. Morning is here. Mourning is done. I feel the shift. Father, You make me new. You bring new life to spring up within me and bloom with promise. My future unfolds with joy and purpose, as I fulfill the plans You place before me to use my gifts and graces to serve You and glorify You. Thank You for surrounding me with fellow widows and Spirit-filled believers I can trust and count on in good times and bad. Thank You for Your faithfulness. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

 


 

Friday, April 8, 2022

Tumultuous Transitions

Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards. - Soren Kierkegaard
Embarking on my journey as a widow is pretty much a blur. Life upended and tossed everything I knew in a flurry of chaos. I was in a deep fog, though I wasn’t aware of it at the time. I had no idea I was at the biggest crossroad of my life.

I had head knowledge of grief before my husband went to heaven. Heart knowledge is a kick in the face with an iron boot. It left me initially unconscious. When I started to come to, at first it was like having a form of amnesia, and I found I couldn’t remember the most obvious and normal things—and I couldn’t take care of myself or follow any normal routine. I couldn’t recognize my own face in a mirror. It’s like grief maims and disfigures you. People treat you completely different. It’s especially devastating to have your closest family and friends shrink back – either abandoning you completely, or turning cold and callous –refusing to understand and choosing to attack, dismiss or belittle your feelings or actions.

Grief left me feeling like every road I tried to take was a dead end. I never felt so alone and abandoned. It felt like I was standing in the middle of the pieces of my broken heart and shattered life. The only life I knew was defined as half of a whole. My union with my husband always made room to consider his feelings, needs, and desires in relation with and combination with mine. It’s a complete paradigm shift to suddenly be alone.

Grief can derail not only our life but threaten to demolish everything we believe – including how we view our relationships. I’m talking about the important relationships… family… friends… and most important of all—our relationship with God.
Pain insists upon being attended to. God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: It is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world. ~C. S. Lewis
Conquering grief is a process we go through where we learn to surrender the life we had… to gradually discover our future. We don’t like to talk about our brokenness. When the people in our lives and the sources of support we count on fail, we feel powerless and insecure. We don’t want to feel vulnerable to fear.
We all live in moments, locations, situations, or relationships that seem to be spinning out of control, but they are not out of control. Yes, they are way beyond the scope of our control, but they are under the rule of one who is not only in complete control but is also perfectly good in every way. ~ Paul David Tripp

When we find ourselves too broken to fix on our own, we also receive a gift—the true understanding of ourselves and the God who loves us. He created us and knows us better than we know ourselves. He made us in His image. He made us strong and resilient.

So I’ve learned from my experience
God protects the vulnerable.
For I was broken and brought low,
but He answered me and came to my rescue!
Now I can say to myself and to all,
“Relax and rest, be confident and serene,
for the Lord rewards fully those
who simply trust in Him.”
God rescued my soul from death’s fear
and dried my eyes of many tears.
He’s kept my feet firmly on His path
and strengthened me so I may please Him
and walk before Yahweh in His fields of life.
Even when it seems I’m surrounded
by many liars and my own fears,
and though I’m hurting in my suffering and trauma,
I still stay faithful to God and speak words of faith.
Psalm 116: 6-11

God’s not done writing our story. God’s not done with us.

God said to me once and for all,
“All the strength and power you need flows from Me!”
And again I heard it clearly said,
“All the love you need is found in Me!”
Psalm 62: 11-12
I am His poetry, a re-created person who will fulfill the destiny He gave me, for I am joined to Jesus, the Anointed One. Even before I was born, God planned in advance my destiny and the good works I would do to fulfill it!
Ephesians 2:10
Only God has a heart deep enough and hands strong enough to meet His children in the darkest shadows of this life. Don’t be fooled by substitutes and so called wisdom of the world. God is embracing you right now and capturing every tear in His bottle. He will show Himself to be faithful because He always is.

Please pray with me.

Heavenly Father, sometimes the things we face derail us and we just don’t know what to do. Thank You for loving me and carrying me in this struggle. Please send Spirit-filled lovers of You to walk beside me and help me find the destiny You created for me. Please heal me and give me the strength and wisdom to love and care for Your beloved so You will be glorified. In Jesus’ name, Amen.


God is with you!