God Prepared Me to be a Widow

Yesterday I listened to an interview with Tricia Lott Williford who is the author of And Life Comes Back (her widow story), Let’s Pretend We’re Normal (single parenting) and her newest book You Can Do ThisThere were several enlightening moments, but in the second part of the interview when interviewer Rabbi Eric Walker began methodically and very carefully expounding on what happened to Tricia as a 4th grade girl, he opened up a whole new way for Tricia to look back on her life and see what God has been doing.

I began to wonder if God had done anything in my own life to prepare me to be a widow. What I am seeing is really quite amazing and I decided to share those things with you.

I was brought into the world by parents who fell in love with God a few years later. He became the focus of their lives and they daily sought after Him. Their example drew me to Christ and I accepted Him as my personal Savior at the age of nine. Though my faith was shattered the moment I lost my husband, that same faith is what has kept me from giving up on life and on God even in the midst of all of my questions.

My mother loved life no matter what challenges were thrown at her. She was a strong woman who never ran from hard things. In fact, she embraced them and learned from them. My memories of her serve as an example to me now. If she could be here and say anything at all to me now, it would be, “You can do this, Candy! You can do this!”

God designed me with an introverted personality that does not need another person around to energize me. Even as a young girl, I enjoyed being alone in my bedroom. I can see how that shaped me and prepared me to live life without a husband.

I was also given a voracious love for reading that helps me feed my soul. Not a day goes by that you don’t find me reading something. That love allowed me early on to seek out books written by other widows which, in turn, affirmed what I was feeling and am experiencing, showed me I am not alone in what I am going through and encourages me to continue on. Reading also allows me to travel to other places in my mind without the need for money. Certain books are like friends who draw you in, share their lives with you, and let you know that life can go on.

Despite being an introvert, God gave me a strong will and a desire to keep going even when I am too tired to go on and so very sad that my husband is no longer here doing life with me. That will keeps me from throwing up my hands and saying, “I quit!”

When I was seventeen years old, my parents moved our family of six from the Gulf coast of South Texas to the vast prairie land of Alberta, Canada. That move opened my eyes and showed me that even when change in my life happens that is out of my control, there is life afterwards. It may not look like the life that I had imagined for myself, but it can swing wide the doors of new ways of doing things and new heights to climb that reveal more strengths than I thought that I had.

As I continue to look back at my life, I come to the place where God gave me a husband who was always faithful and true to me and who always loved me unconditionally. He was my earthly picture of the love of God.

Those thirty-six plus years with Bob taught me many things that I would not have otherwise learned. Bob could fix anything around the house. From watching him, I learned how to problem solve and how to use tools. I never knew that I could do those things, though, until I became a widow. I draw on those resources so much now. He also saved us much money on car repairs. I learned that certain noises or issues can mean certain things. That makes me very aware now of any changes in the function of my car. I can’t actually make the repairs, but I know when my car needs to be taken care of by a reputable mechanic.

God also gave me a husband who had the forethought and wisdom to make preparations to take care of me should he go first. I cannot tell you how often I thank God for that and what a tremendous blessing that is to me.

The extended family that God designed for me also prepared me for being a widow. I have two aunts and uncles that love the Lord and have never turned their backs on Him. Their stories of what God has done and continues to do for them in their troublesome times are my inspiration. Their strengths and determination are my examples to keep on keeping on. I also have a special cousin who really understands who I am as a person. That gift alone is priceless.

Wisdom is another gift God prepared for me. During those early months of my first year of grief when the pain was so bad and the widow fog was so thick, I had the wisdom to know that I needed professional help to deal with complicated grief. This was the first time in my life that I admitted that I needed help and that was no small thing. When you come to the end of yourself, you have to find a way to go on and you cannot do that alone.

My relationship with God was never more close than it was the year leading up to Bob’s death. Looking back on my life, I can see that was preparing me to know God on a much deeper level and established a oneness with Him that I would need as a widow. Yes, there were times of great darkness when I could neither see nor feel God with me. Now I can see that He was there all along carrying me. God continues even now to carry me when I can’t walk, to walk beside me when I’m able to get back up on my feet and to be faithful to me every precious moment of my life.

Take the time to look back on your own life to see how God has prepared you for this place of widowhood. It’s am amazing exercise that will strengthen your faith. I also encourage you to listen to Tricia Lott Williford’s interview with Rabbi Walker and to read all three of her books.

 

Advertisements

Identity or Assignment?

“Being faithful to God doesn’t mean staying in one place, letting our feet get stale. It’s understanding we have different assignments during different times in our lives. Our identity doesn’t change, but our assignment does change. The moment I make my assignment my identity is the moment I get into trouble. We have to realize … Continue reading

The Good Part

In Luke 9 Jesus has just crossed the hot deserts of Samaria where he had given up hope of Israel ever receiving him as their Messiah.  He knew that his God given purpose to die on the cross for the sins of the world was going to happen soon.  He made his way to the home of Mary and Martha who were his friends hoping to share all of his emotions and find comfort.

Martha’s first thought when she saw him enter was food centered.  She immediately kicked it into high gear and began making preparations to serve him a meal.  But Mary, whom you always find mentioned as sitting at Jesus’ feet, ignores all of the flurry going on in the kitchen while she gives Jesus her full attention.

When Martha complains to Jesus, Jesus tells her that Mary has chosen “the good part”.

In the chapter titled “The Growth of the Reflective Life” of Ken Gire’s book SEEING WHAT IS SACRED, he better illustrates just what Jesus meant:

“Imagine a sumptuous Thanksgiving meal with all the trimmings.  Hillocks of mashed potatoes and dressing, sluiced with gravy, hot buttered rolls, cranberry sauce, an assortment of salads, trays of deviled eggs, olives, sweet pickles, slabs of pumpkin pie daubed with homemade whipped cream.  All those things look wonderful, smell wonderful, taste wonderful.

Now imagine that meal without a turkey.

The portion around which all the other food is centered is the butter-basted turkey, cooked golden brown and filling the entire house with its mouthwatering aroma.  That is the “good part” of the Thanksgiving meal. 

Without intimate fellowship with Christ, the Christian life is just a buffet of so many side dishes and relish trays.”

How many times since the death of my husband have I asked God, “Why am I here?  What is my purpose now if I am no longer to be a wife?  What’s the point?”  How many times have you asked those very same questions?

I now believe this is the purpose of every widow – to chose “the good part” of learning how to have that intimate fellowship with Christ.  “How do I do that?” you may ask.  I would say that first of all you have to come to the point where you can be still.  That’s hard to do when you are struggling so hard to find your identity and you want to find it in a hurry because you don’t like being out in that place of limbo where grief throws you.  I can’t tell you how long it may take you to get to that point.  For some, it may come sooner than for others.

Once you can be still, then your heart will be ready to “hear” God’s still, small voice and the communication can begin.  You may feel His stirring in your heart as you are reading your Bible.  Or perhaps you find that Christian music fills up your heart with Him.  It may be that He speaks in the rustle of the pages of a book you are reading.  God can commune with you through the beauty of nature.  Theses are just a few of the countless ways that I am finding “the good part”.

I challenge you to stop struggling so hard against what grief has brought to you.  Instead, lean into it and just be still so that you, too, can find “the good part”.

 

What Does Easter Mean to a Christian Widow?

Never before has the truth of Christ’s death, burial and resurrection meant more to me than it has in the last 7 years of being a widow. This weekend as I meditate on all of those events, my heart feels so many different emotions – sadness because of the sins of the world (including my own) that caused God to send His only Son to earth to die for my sins; gratitude that God and Jesus love me enough to do this for me; confident hope that because I have repented of my sins, belief that Christ’s death paid for my sins, and belief that He rose from the grave and is alive, one day I will be with Him in heaven where my husband and other loved ones will be waiting for me.

I am a deep-feeling and very sensitive person to the point that whenever I really think about a sad or traumatic event or even the possibility of an event such as that, I can actually feel pain and fear and all the other emotions that go along with it. It doesn’t take much for me to imagine what the women who followed Jesus were experiencing. Shock at what was happening. Fear of how the whole thing was going to unfold. Anger that God nor any of the disciples were doing anything to stop this horrible thing. Piercing, gut-wrenching anticipatory grief as they stood by watching Jesus slowly die on that cross. Complete loss of hope that moment when Jesus took his last dying breath. Questions and utter dejection as they followed closely those carrying Jesus’ body to see in what tomb it would be laid. Duty as they went back and made ready the spices and ointments that they would use to prepare Jesus’ body after they had rested on the Sabbath day. Complete and total full-blown grief.

The day after the Sabbath, those same women got up at early dawn and went to the tomb taking the spices and ointments they had prepared. But, when they went inside the tomb, Jesus’ body was gone. There in the place where His body should had been were two dazzling angels. One was seated at the end where His head should have been and the other angel sat at the opposite end where His feet should have been. Do you see that mental picture?

This is a picture of the mercy seat which was the lid placed over the Ark of the Covenant. Once a year the Old Testament High Priest would enter the Holy of Holies that contained the mercy seat. He would sprinkle the blood of animals sacrificed for the atonement of the sins of the people.

Jesus shed his blood on the cross. His body was then laid inside a tomb. His resurrection occurred. Several women came back to the tomb to prepare his body after the Sabbath. Inside they found that the place where Jesus’ body should have lain was empty. At the place where his head and feet should have been were angels. Jesus blood had become the propitiation for the sins of the whole world. That empty place with the dazzling angels at both ends was a picture of that Old Testament mercy seat. No longer would the high priest need to sacrifice the blood of animals for the atonement of our sins. Jesus paid it all with his own body on the cross. He made that sacrifice giving us the opportunity to individually repent of our sins, accept Christ as our personal Savior and have the promise of eternal life.

For the Christian widow whose husband accepted Christ, this is HUGE. This means that not only will we see Jesus and heaven at the moment of our death, but we will also see our husband again some day. This is HOPE in every possible way, shape, or form. I can’t live without this HOPE.

 

Widows of Opportunity

Recently I began following a widows organization called Widows of Opportunity. The Cola Daily News in Columbia, South Carolina wrote an article about Kim Richardson and Widows of Opportunity  from which I want to share:

When Kimberly Richardson lost her husband in 2003, it could have been the end of her life. She was isolated and depressed, and very much in denial about what had happened. The love of her life and father to her child was killed unexpectedly in a car crash on Oct. 17 when he was just 27. 

At age 24 and with a 6-year-old son, life had turned upside down. After five years of denial and anger, Richardson came through her ordeal and founded Widows of Opportunity.

The nonprofit organization was created out of her own personal experiences with dealing with life as a widow. Richardson said that while family and friends initially surrounded her in the days and weeks after the incident, she did not have the consistent support that she desired.

Richardson wanted to make sure women who had just lost their spouses could access an outlet to deal with their grief as well as be around a community of women that have shared experiences.

“I want widows to know that you’re not alone, you’re not going crazy, and we’re here to listen to you,” she said. “There’s hope after loss.”

Today Kim continues her ministry with Widows of Opportunity and offers personal videos every week on her Facebook page called “Widows of Opportunity”. She also has a website that offers grief tips, motivational videos, testimonials as well as a 6 week grief course that can be done via Skype. Kim is also a motivational speaker and grief specialist.

What I especially love about Kim is that she is REAL. Her love and care for widows comes across so strongly in her weekly videos on Facebook and they always end with her beautiful smile and wave that makes you feel that you have been in a one-on-one conversation with her. If you have never gone for grief counseling or done any kind of grief work, seriously consider signing up for Kim’s 6 week grief course. Grief work with help is a must and this is a great way to start.

Fighting Forward

One thing that I find very affirming and healing is to read books written by Christian widows and some widowers. To this date I have read over fifty and have found that there are several books that are my top three. One such book is a new one called Fighting Forward written by a remarried widow Jan Owen from Alabama. For those widows who find themselves struggling greatly with their shattered faith, people who have lost a loved one or someone who wants to understand the grief that their friend is going through, this book is a must read.

Jan’s story sharing what life has felt like to her after the loss of her husband is one that is very raw. She chooses not to sugar-coat her words in order to just be real. There are those Christian widows who may not feel that they can ever take off their mask during grief thus giving others the impression that they are doing alright. Jan rips off her mask and allows herself to become openly vulnerable. As a result, she lost some friends.

Her intent in writing this book is to let others know that it is okay to share your grief in totality from the deepest parts of your heart. In fact, it’s very healing. After all, God created us and knows exactly how we are going to react when we lose our spouse. You cannot hide all that your are feeling from Him. As my Christian psychologist Dr. Dan Trathen always told me, “This is not God’s first rodeo.” God is not surprised or taken aback at our rage or anger towards Him. Our questions don’t cause Him to be disappointed in Him. Instead, He uses those questions to draw us into a much different and much closer relationship to Him if we allow it.

Choosing to live when I’d rather not is the bravest thing I’ve ever done”, says Jan. When my husband first died, I wanted to curl up in a corner with a blanket over my head and never move again. Closing down is always an option for a new widow or even one further down the road, but it is never a healthy one. It’s far harder to stand up, take that blanket off our head, put on your boxing gloves and begin to purposely take one step forward at a time. There are times when we’ll find ourselves taking a few steps backwards and that is normal. Those backward steps come when a grief trigger hits or when we just become so very tired in our journey that a rest stop is needed. The key is to never stay in that backward spot. It takes more guts to fight forward and God gives us the strength to do that.

God can and will use that deep, deep soul pain that you go through after the loss of your spouse. Whether it is to walk alongside another widow and encourage them in their journey, gathering names of new widows throughout the year and then sending each of them a special box for Christmas, sending out widow resources to new widows that you hear about or going to grad school to become a grief counseling specialist such as Jan is doing, your grief will not be without a purpose.

Have you chosen to fight forward? Or are you still lying on the mat struggling? No matter what your answer is, this book is one that will help you and allow you to know that you are not alone. Don’t be afraid to fight forward! You can find more information about Jan and her book on her Facebook page called Fighting Forward.

A Gentle Shift

Within the last seven months I have felt a gentle shift in my life. It began with the thought that maybe it’s time to think about getting a puppy as a companion. My daughters had all suggested to me many times in these last years that this might be something good for me, but I resisted that idea because I had a great fear of the possibility of loving something, or in this case one of God’s creatures, and losing it. I would not even give the idea a moment of consideration.

I suppose with this shift comes even more acceptance that this truly is my life now and I need to look forward more than backwards. There is truly no way for me to ever forget the life that I lived with my husband Bob nor the dreams that I had of us growing old together and being there for each other as we aged. But the time that God had planned for Bob on this earth was much shorter than either of us could have ever surmised. He has gone on to Glory while I remain here on this earth to live out the rest of my planned days.

Beginning in the second year of my widowhood and continuing on into my fifth year, the thought foremost in my mind was that I had to figure out what to do with the rest of my life. Why am I still here? What is God’s purpose for me now? How do I really LIVE the life that I have been given? What do I do to fill my days doing things that are purposeful and meaningful? What do I do to feel like I belong now? How do I not feel like a third wheel in every situation I am in? How do I feel like I am not that sore thumb that sticks out? What does it take to go from that woman who feels like she has a big red “W” on her forehead to that single woman whose face shines from walking and talking with God all throughout her days?

These were the questions that continuously plagued me as they swirled around and around in my head depleting me of energy and frustrating me because the answer were not forthcoming. So, I decided to let all of those questions go the best that I could and just be still and wait. I am finding out that God doesn’t seem to want to answer all of my questions at one time. He probably knows that it would be too overwhelming for me. In fact, there may be some questions that He won’t answer. Instead, slowly like the turtle who creeps from one side of the highway to the other He allows a shift in my thinking and feelings that begin to gradually guide me forward.

It has taken me these last seven months to begin to even act on that shift. I have meticulously researched breeders for the type of puppy that I would like to have (female toy schnauzer) and have narrowed it down to two possibilities – both out of state. This week I will talk by phone to the breeder that lives the closest to me in order to get a feel for how we might work together and to ask more direct questions.

Tomorrow someone from one of the local fence companies will come to give me an estimate for putting up a small pet fence around my back patio. I wait for a return call from another fence company so that I can schedule a 2nd estimate with them in order to make a good decision. I already have a list of necessary questions that I got online to ask each representative.

I have read much about housebreaking, crate training, vet needs, obedience training as well as listened to online videos on each subject. List making and narrowing down exactly what puppy supplies are really needed has been completed. Vet research commenced and I found a wonderful small pet veterinarian that is a little over a mile from my house. He also just happens to have the best prices in town for his services.

My youngest brother’s help has been enlisted and I have sought his advice in several areas. He has owned a toy schnauzer for years. It’s good for me to have him walk alongside me in this new venture and encourage me on the days that I get scared about it all and wonder what in the world I am doing. This is a big step, but I have a feeling that it can be a step that will be beneficial emotionally and help not only to fill my days, but provide some good companionship.

Why does this new venture frighten me? Is it because I will once again become a caregiver taking on the responsibility of the care of the life of another being? Is it the realization that in order for me to have a loving, obedient pet, I must be committed and consistent to its training for a year? Is it that perfectionism tendency that I have that I might not chose the right breeder or the puppy whose adult size will be right and whose personality will be gentle and laid-back like this introvert needs? Is it just all the fears of the unknown?

In all honesty, it’s all of those thing and if I allow my mind to dwell on those uncertainties, I can very easily draw back into my shell, shut down and decide that I am just not brave enough to move forward.

Yet, if I do that, I might just miss an asset that could improve my life as a widow. So, I am stepping forward in trepidation with much prayer for exact direction in each and every decision that will need to be made in the next few months and trusting that this shift that God began in my heart those seven months ago is going to bring something special into my life.

Have you felt a shift in your life as a widow? If so, tell me about it. How did you feel? What new direction did you go?

Journey to a Sacred Place

“My life is a long journey to a sacred place for a sacred purpose that passes through a myriad of places and seasons that will include joy and abundance as well as weeping and drought which will bring me from one level of strength to a greater level of strength as I am walking along with God.

If I am to find my calling, the intention of my life, I must become oriented — I must find my true north. I must sit still and clear from my navigational equipment (my heart) the inaccurate, invalid maps and errors and triangulate to the three universal coordinates: story, desire, and journey.

STORY: I must continually remember that more is going on than I can see (there is a Greater story), the stakes are higher than I’ve been told ( I live on a battleship, not a cruise liner), and I am far more than I believe ( I am the only one in the spiritual realm who underestimates the power of my life). The theme of my story is overcoming and becoming.

DESIRE: The good news is that what I was created to do in the Greater story is what I most want to do — it is written on my heart in the form of my desires: ‘It is God who is producing in you both the desire and the ability to do what pleases Him’ (Philippians 2:13 ISV). I must also continually be aware not only of the story I am living in, but of my desires.

JOURNEY: In addition, I must always remember that there is a process, a progression, a journey that all people must take in becoming who they truly are and in recognizing the role they are to play. And I must remember, as essential and powerful as these reference points are, beyond them there are things that only God can reveal about my life. God wants to be intimately involved in my journeys of becoming, and because of His desire for my life to become what it was destined to be, He must and will speak to me personally.”

——–Gary Barkalow/It’s Your Call: What Are You Doing Here

The Treasure Box

It never ceases to amaze me the ways that God uses to speak very profound truths into my life. This month my sweet 16 year old autistic friend Brady stood with his mom and older brother at the graveside of his father. His mother wasn’t quite sure what his concept of death would be nor how he would react to it all.

Several nights before this Brady had prayed aloud with his family and his paternal grandparents telling the Lord how very sad they all were that his dad had died. This……from a child who came from a place where he could not speak. Over time and with much help from his mom and professionals, Brady has blossomed and developed into this sweet young man who not only speaks, but is able to express his emotions. His heart is BIG for others. His smile lights up a room. He “gets” things that others don’t “get”. A precious jewel God sent into this world to teach those around him so many unexpected truths.

As the casket was being lowered into the ground, Brady looked at his mom and said, “Is that the treasure box? Are they burying the treasure box?” Mom’s answer was “Yes“. When she shared that with me, an arrow immediately struck me in the heart. I knew there was a deep truth from God here. I began to mull over what Brady asked and this morning the answer came.

“But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, so that the surpassing greatness of the power will be of God and not from ourselves.” II Corinthians 4:7

Earthen vessels were clay jars fashioned by skilled potters who would take a lump of clay, shape it, mold it, and bake it until it was hard. Those jars were then painted, glazed and decorated for whatever purpose the potter had planned for it. Many jars had sacred scrolls or valuable documents that were rolled up and hidden inside.

Our bodies are temporary housing places for the treasure of the light of the rich truth of the gospel that displays the glory of God. When our earthly body is laid inside the casket, that casket becomes the box that holds the vessel that housed that treasure. That casket becomes a Treasure Box holding our physical bodies that will one day be resurrected to become glorified bodies if we have accepted Christ as our personal Savior.

Never again will I look at a casket the same way. Hereafter I will call it a Treasure Box.

Thank you, Brady, for being exactly who God made you to be and for revealing a new truth to comfort my heart.

brady-brenda-taylor(Brady on the left looking down at his mom standing next to his big brother at the graveside of their dad)

Dangerous Waters for a Widow

ss-imageNot all widows experience online dating scams. Some are successful in finding a good husband. But, what about those widows who are introduced to someone through a mutual friend? Some matches will work. Others will not. Such is the story of a widow who wishes to remain anonymous and tells her story in her own words.

Candy has been encouraging me for some time to share my story. I have started to do that several times, but the timing just wasn’t right. I’d like to share this now.

About 18 months ago, I was introduced to someone through a mutual friend. We immediately hit it off. It wasn’t long until we were seeing each other all of the time. We seemed to have so much in common and we rarely ever had differences or cross words. I was showered with compliments continually and was really just swept off my feet. It had been about 2 years since my husband of almost 30 years had died. I missed him terribly and did not realize just how lonely I was feeling.

I have lived in my present town a little over 20 years and have really settled in quite well. My son and his family live about an hour east of me and the rest of my family (sisters, mothers, cousins) live about two hours south of me. I have great support at my church and was very involved there even before my husband died. I have numerous close friends who really care about me.

Back to my story…..about 4 months after I started dating, my new man friend was talking marriage. Every warning sign under the sun was right there, but i just didn’t want to see it. Note to self: IF your family all thinks someone you are dating is “not good for you”, if your friends express concern that you are “acting differently”, well, as Jeff Foxworthy says, “Here’s your sign!” The warning signs for me were: he had been married multiple times (not judging; just stating the facts), he was not responsible with his money, and he was a little too needy with attention from me.

Looking back now, it seems like someone else was living in my brain. I have always been the responsible one! I was looking for happiness in a person and all along I knew God loved me and had better plans for me. Honestly, I was just plain rebellious.

I had worked all of my adult life. I have been mostly frugal and conscientious with the money I have earned. God has blessed me with a tremendous gift of organization and administration. I had enough sense about me to not tie the knot. I actually even talked to an attorney about a prenup. But, I knew in my heart that he wasn’t the one.

In my case he wasn’t a scam artist or anything like that, but he was, in my opinion, probably an opportunist and very lonely himself. Yep. Lonely people don’t make a good spouse. I still think he has feelings for me. I really do, but we are strictly friends. By friends, I mean that our dating relationship ended peacefully. We don’t date or share innocuous intimacies.

If I had just gone with my emotions, I would have ended up in a terrible mess. We do have a lot in common, but we have way too many differences to ever get married. We are most definitely “unequally yoked” in every sense of the word.

My caution to other widows is to not EVER act on your emotions. If something doesn’t seem right, listen to the Holy Spirit speaking to you. Do not ignore Him. God knows the plans He has for us (Jeremiah 29:11) and He truly wants the best for us. We just need to let Him be our all. In His good time (and He’s always right on time), He will give us who/what we need and not who/what we THINK we need.

The photo of the sign pictured above was taken by me. When I saw it, God was dealing with the rebellion in me. How’s that for the “sign”?