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.

 

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?

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)

Who Was He?

collage-of-bobs-lifeNovember 10th, 2009 – the day our lives changed forever. Bob finished his earthly course and stepped into the presence of his Lord and Savior. The 36 years, 4 months and 10 days of the book of my life as a wife abruptly closed and a new book entitled Just You and I, Lord began. For seven years the chapters have been about brokenness, questions, uncertainties and fears. Woven all throughout those chapters has been the love of God, rebirth of a different kind of relationship with Him, learning to stand up for myself, doing things that I never dreamed I could do, taking the time to process through things that hurt me instead of stuffing them down deep inside my heart……and on and on.

Every year reflecting back is a part of the days and weeks leading up to November 10th. Who was Bob Feathers? The best way to answer that question is to take out the beautiful leather Bible that I was given from the men in the Emissions Lab at Nissan North America. Bob had been the lab manager and had two shifts of men under him. Those men became like family members to him. To say that he cared for each and every one of them dearly would be an understatement. Every night as we prayed together before going to sleep, Bob would pray for them all by name — not just first name, but first and last name. Every December he asked me to bake dozens and dozens of a variety of homemade cookies for them as his love gift to them. When his diet had to change during his last few years there, he ordered bags and bags of trail mix to hand out.

Being in the managerial position was extremely stressful, but Bob did his very best to take into consideration what was going on in each man’s personal life and to encourage them not only personally but professionally. His love and care became evident after his death when those men presented me with a beautiful leather Bible. Engraved on the front bottom right corner are the words “Robert Feathers/Friend”. One of the men that Bob had worked with from the very beginning sent me a note that means more to me than anything and so greatly describes who Bob was:

Bob loved all of you very much. I can still remember the photograph Bob kept on his desk at work of his 4 daughters (Leah, Annissa, Charity & Tshanina). He was so very proud of each of you. He was always talking about his children and his loving wife. Candy – you were the perfect wife for Bob. Bob knew how blessed he was in this life, and how blessed he would be after this life. He is in peace now, and I know that is difficult. I admired, truly admired Bob for the man that he was, for the way he lived his life, for the way he loved his family, for the ethics and his morals, for so many different reasons. He was a great man.

There were four other young men that Bob greatly loved and they were his sons-in-law. After all, he knew that these men were the ones whom he had entrusted the love and care of his four most precious possessions – his daughters. These were the men that would help raise his grandchildren and be the physical and spiritual leaders of their homes. Once a year when all four men were in town together, Bob would take them aside and just talk to them about life, what it means to be a husband, what it means to be a father and, most importantly, how to have a relationship with God. How much more he could say to them now after living in heaven for these last 7 years!

At the time of his death, there were four grandsons and one granddaughter. He loved them with all of his heart. He would talk to me about how he wanted to teach the boys how to repair small engines so that they would always have the knowledge to keep their lawn mowers and weed eaters running. He loved to take them up on his lap and ride them around our country yard on the John Deere riding mower. Letting them steer was the highlight of their day. Our granddaughter Elizabeth looked so much like her mother Leah that Bob nicknamed her “Little Leah”. Those grandchildren each came up to the hospital to show him their Halloween costumes nine days before his death. Bob made sure that he had some candy to give to each one of them because food was his love language and he wanted them to know that no matter how very sick he was, he loved them. Now there are 8 grandsons. Bob would be in his element for sure!

Our four daughters were Bob’s most valuable treasures entrusted to him by God to lead, guide and direct. They meant more to him than anything else in this world. He was so proud of the grown women, wives and mothers they had become. I wish he could know what they are like now seven years later. His chest would swell with love and thankfulness for their personal relationships with God, the way that they love on and care for their husbands, how they work so hard to train their children, how they love on me, their wisdom, their understanding, and how they love others as much as he did.

Bob wasn’t perfect. Neither am I. You could say that we grew up together after marrying at ages 20 and 21. I never once worried that he would not provide for me or our daughters. Never once did the thought that he might leave me enter my mind. I trusted him implicitly. A better picture of Christ’s unconditional love I could not have had. Because I loved/love Bob so deeply, I grieve deeply. Not a day goes by that he is not on my mind. Not a day goes by that I don’t tell God how very much I miss him and how much it still hurts to live without him. What a gift it was for me to have experienced a love like that with my one and only! What a privilege it was to care for him and walk with him through those last dark days of his life.

Now I walk through my days with THE ONE – my Lord and Savior – and look forward to the day when I see Him and Bob face to face.

The Castle of My Heart

“Let those who love the LORD hate evil, for He guards the lives of his faithful ones and delivers them from the hand of the wicked.” Psalm 97:10 NIV

One of the most heartbreaking things in the life of a widow is no longer being special, no longer belonging especially to someone, no longer being loved by someone in human form, and no longer having her spouse to guard and protect her. You may have family and friends in your life, but really and truly it’s just you and God now.

Have you ever given any thought about how God is guarding your life as a widow? Yesterday I began reading a new book entitled Guarded by Christ: Knowing the God Who Rescues and Keeps Us that just became available during this month. Author Heather Holleman struggled with depression and anxiety, but found that using mental word pictures to daily focus on the truths of scripture began to help her break down those strongholds in her life.

I am a visual person and as I began to think about what word picture would help me to most understand that God is guarding me, the picture of HighClere Castle, whose massive stone walls stand strong and erect out in the  countryside of Newbury, England, popped into my mind. Because that particular castle was used in the filming of the PBS series Downton Abbey, I knew that I could order an inexpensive replica of it to put on the window sill over my kitchen sink to serve as my daily reminder that I am in the castle where God is standing guard over me.

The location of my castle was especially important to me. Wide open spaces bring a feeling of peace. It’s a place where I can just breathe and feel the muscles in my body begin to relax. Jesus and I are strolling the grounds outside my magnificent castle as I pour out my heart to Him and share with Him all of my fears, concerns and deepest feelings. He quietly listens and then tells me how much He loves me and that I am His own. He puts His arms around me and points back to the protection of the castle walls assuring me that He’s got my back now.

“And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with Him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus.” Ephesians 2:6 NIV

Inside the castle I imagine myself seated with Jesus at a table for two. Flowers sit in the center of the table with their sweet aroma filling our intimate space. There are floor to ceiling windows that look out onto the outdoors flooding the room with warm sunlight that never ceases to uplift my spirits. During the fall and winter months a bright, cheery fire burns in a fireplace close to our table warming us as we sit together in close fellowship. The firelight lights up the gold gilded walls and painted frescoes on the ceiling. Love radiates from the face of my Jesus warming my heart. He reaches across the table and holds my hands letting me know that He’s got this widow life and will never ever leave me alone.

Early this morning as I began to come to consciousness the words and music to a song that my four daughters used to sing as children began to play in my mind. I haven’t thought of this song in years, but how relevant it is to my new word pictures as I meditate on being in the castle  with Jesus as He now guards my heart. Perhaps you will find that word pictures are helpful to you as a widow. When you think of some that are different than the ones I have shared here, please share them with us. How thankful I am that I am not doing widow life alone and that God’s got my back.

The Tenderized Heart

The process of tenderizing involves breaking down the muscles fibers to soften. Two difference tools can be used for this process – a meat tenderizer mallet or a knife. If a meat tenderizer mallet is used, it is held in a hand and the meat is banged over and over again on first one side and then the other. If a knife is used, deep, long and thin cuts and scores are made across the muscle fibers. The final step is to subject the meat to heat in order to make it very tender.

I have found that especially in these years of being a widow, God has been tenderizing all of the pieces of my broken heart. II Kings 22 talks about Josiah who had a tender heart. During the time that he was king, his people had sunk so low that the Book of the Law had been lost. Unexpectedly, it was found and when it was read aloud to Josiah, his heart was so tender and so deeply affected that he tore his clothes. Hearing how sinful his heart and the hearts of the people were broke his heart. Josiah called all of the people together and had the Book of the Law read aloud to them. Sin was revealed, repentance was made and because of the tenderness first of Josiah’s heart and then the people’s hearts, God did not punish them.

A tender heart is not one that is cold, lifeless and unresponsive. Perhaps that is how your heart felt in the beginning stages of the loss of your husband when all you could feel was numbness. I know that I felt that way. I couldn’t concentrate enough to read my Bible. I couldn’t pray. I couldn’t sing. I couldn’t utter any words praise to my Savior.

A tender heart is one that is broken down and cut open to the point where the Holy Spirit has easy entrance. It is able to easily sense the presence of God – open to whatever He has to say or show you.

It’s like the mariner’s compass, which having been once touched by the magnet, always turns toward the north. It may indeed oscillate and tremble backwards and forwards–but still it will return to the pole, and ultimately remain fixed at that point whence it was temporarily disturbed. So when the heart has been touched by the Spirit, and has been made tender in God’s fear, it may for a time waver to the right or to the left–but it is always trembling and fluctuating until it points toward God, as the eternal center of its happiness and holiness.” (The Gospel Pulpit, 1843)

The tender heart is sensitive toward the things of God making it aware of sins and giving it the desire to run from them. It has a desire is to be more like Christ.

Tender hearts are pliant and ready to be molded into whatever God has created them to be. It does not harden itself and want its own way. Taking control is not something that a tender heart tries to do. It allows its Creator to bend it and mold it into what He designs even though it may be painful.

There are times in our lives when there is a great shift or change that was unexpected and totally unplanned such as the death of a spouse. When that happens and the numbness begins to wear off, we have a choice to make. Are we going to harden our hearts toward God or are we going to allow Him to tenderize all of our broken pieces one by one as He begins to put our hearts and lives back together?

I found that at first there were times in the stunned disbelief of what my life has become when I needed to question God. It was no surprise to God how I was going to react. After all, He made me the way that I am and He is big enough to handle anything that I needed to say to Him. In the midst of it all, though, there was never a time that I didn’t know that I still loved God and knew that He is all that I have now.

I can say anything to Him without judgement and condemnation. He is not going to take His unfailing love and faithfulness away from me just because my flesh is weak and this process is so very painful. Instead, He continues to throw His arms around me allowing me to weep and cry and tell Him how very much I miss Bob. Then we continue walking forward hand in hand.

Tears were something foreign in my life until God began tenderizing my heart. Now tears have become very familiar and I cry very easily. Some may look at that as a weakness. I look at it as allowing others to see my tender heart. Those tears that I shed many times a week are tears of sorrow, tears of thankfulness, tears of praise, tears of missing, etc.

Has God used this time of being a widow to do the work of tenderizing your heart? If not, consider it. Yes, it hurts, but the results of having a closer relationship with God makes all the difference.

“Because your heart was tender, and you have humbled yourself before the Lord, when you heard what I spoke against this place……I also have heard you, says the Lord.” II Kings 22:19

 

 

 

My Sacred Journey

In his book It’s Your Call: What Are You Doing Here, Gary Barkalow talks about the journey of life. I want to share this with you in first person.

“My life is a long journey to a sacred place (a mystery) 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 are things that only God can reveal about my life. God wants to be intimately involved in my journey 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.”

So many times you will hear a widow equate her life after loss as her journey or grief journey. That’s exactly what it is. It’s time of shifting and changing, twists and turns, moving forward and at times, falling back. But, the wonderful thing about a widow’s journey if she has accepted Christ as her own person Savior is that she is not walking her journey alone. Yes, we feel so alone so many times because we cannot see a physical image walking alongside us and that is very hard. We long for the hugs and intimate touches that we have lost. But, I have experienced those heart feelings that comfort me on my journey–those “I love you, Candy” in the form of the realization of blessings that come my way each and every day if I look hard enough for them.

My journey is sacred and like no other. It’s a holy journey that God has entrusted me to travel. And so is yours, my dear widow friend. It’s a place of overcoming all the obstacles of life without your spouse and becoming exactly the woman that God created and designed you to be. Keep going, girls! Never give in and never give up! The journey may be a winding one that goes through dark forests at times. Keep in mind that God’s Word is a lamp that is lighting your pathway. He wants you to overcome and become.

Learning from Other Widows

Grace Livingston Hill, as we know her. She was one to know and never forget.

One of my strongest beliefs is that I can always always always learn something from someone that God brings into my life. During the summers of my teenage years I spent a lot of time reading Grace Livingston Hills books and still enjoy re-reading them to this day. Recently I learned that Grace was a widow and decided to see if I could find an accurately written biography. Robert Munce, who was her youngest grandson, shared her story in his book entitled Grace Livingston Hill.

Never has it been more obvious than in the last 6 years that God has every detail in our lives orchestrated before we are born. Nothing that happens takes Him by surprise. This truth is easy to see in the way that Grace’s life began and how it unfolded until the day of her transition from earth to heaven. She was raised in a home where faith and trust in God for even the littlest things were modeled and lived out before her. Both of her parents loved God, loved to write and Grace found herself loving to pour her thoughts out in word. All of this helped her to develop a strong relationship with the Lord that prepared her for her marriage to Frank Hill.

It wasn’t until twenty-five years after their marriage that Grace opened up to her daughters about the battle that Frank had during his lifetime. He had terrible headaches during his college years and was prescribed morphine tablets without being told that they were additive. There was little understanding of addiction in 1892 and no rehab centers even existed. He hid his struggle from Grace until after they were married. Frank was a pastor who deeply loved the Lord and the people he was shepherding. He was so ashamed of his addiction as he told Grace, “I’ve spent years thinking about this and I feel that as long as I’m able, I will preach and teach God’s Word and leave my personal problems in His hands. This horrible flaw in my life has helped me to understand the struggles and heartbreak in the lives of other people, and I’m sure I’m much more patient with people than I would have been had I not been plagued with this problem.”

Seven years after Grace and Frank were married, Frank died after surgery on an infected appendix leaving Grace as a widow in her thirties with two little girls to raise.

Grace felt her life had been shattered, yet she knew that in the bad, as well as the good, God had a purpose for each of His children. Still, life seemed very dark. It was a perplexing situation. She did not earn enough money from her writing to support the family. The home was the property of the church, so she had to find another home as soon as possible. The job market was bleak. There were few career jobs that would allow a woman to support a family, and Grace was not trained in any of them. The greatest pain was not the future with all its uncertainties, but the thought of a future without the love and support and companionship of Frank. Every time she thought of it, it seemed like a cold, black wave a hundred feet high was falling on her and crushing her soul.

Writing was what Grace knew and what God used to support not only her and her young daughters but her mother who became a widow less than eight months after Grace.

As Grace was churning out new books, she was fighting a spiritual battle with depression, but found victory and relief in prayer and Bible study. There was one point where she was told by her publisher “No more preachy Sunday school stuff in your manuscripts. It won’t sell to the wider audience that you are now reach to reach. Good moral principles, good winning over evil, all those things are find. But no gospel!” This was a hard blow and with God’s help she developed strategies that would make all of her goals a reality.

At one point in her widow life, Grace was very lonely and considered marriage again. She met a man who was fifteen years younger and he proposed marriage to her. After consulting several of her close friends, who all advised her not to marry, she felt that marriage was the right thing to do to provide a father and music teacher for her two daughters. This decision caused her, her daughters and her mother to go through ten years of verbal abuse with a man who never contributed a dime to support them. He finally left Grace and went back home to live with his parents. Their marriage ended in divorce.

While on a trip through New England’s beautiful countryside, Grace viewed a hillside covered completely with lovely blue flowers. Her friend told her that the flowers were called Blue Ruin because they take over causing nothing else to grow and ruin everything. Those flowers reminded Grace of her own life during her second marriage and gave her the title for another book.

After a time, Grace earned enough money to buy a small stone home with three bedrooms that later became her ongoing project turning into a large fourteen room house. Her home became a place where others could socialize, play music, talk about anything and everything, be discipled and spiritually mentored – a place of learning and respite.

As the only child, Grace had a strong sense of family and a strong desire to keep her family unit living together in her big house. The attachment Grace had to her two daughters continued even after they married and this caused friction between them. Her daughters and their husbands obliged her for a time and lived there with her until God directed them to leave. At first Grace strongly opposed their decision, but, in time, she realized that God had other plans for their lives that didn’t include keeping everyone together in her home.

Because Grace let go of her own plans for her children and allowed God to direct them, she became a tremendous influence not only on her daughters and their husbands but on her grandchildren.

At the earliest age I (her adopted grandson) can remember the love, reverence, and respect we all had for her was generated by her work ethic which made her so productive, while still fulfilling her responsibilities to God and her family. Her unbounded energy was infectious and made even the youngest of us want to perform at our highest levels. But far more valuable was the underlying peace that was instilled in us, because we all learned early that the Lord Jesus should be sovereign in our lives.

Grace was in high demand and continued her speaking engagements until she reached the age of 79. At the age of 81 she published her last book – #79. That book was written while she was very ill. Her memory was fading, but would come alive from time to time. She would write awhile and then lie down to rest before getting up again to continue typing out her last story.

Much might be said in praise of Grace Livingston Hill, for millions blessed her for the work which she had performed. They blessed her for her fine writing, they blessed her for her personal ministry to them, and they blessed her for being a friend and a mother. But if she could speak to us this afternoon from Glory, she would bid us lift our voices in praise of another — she would tell us about Jesus. If Grace were here to comment about her own work today, she would probably simply say, “Thank you, Lord, for using me.”

Living life as a widow is not easy. In fact, it’s hard. Yet, if we keep our eyes on Jesus, our hearts in tune with His, our wills submitted to His plan, there can be a peace that passes all understanding. There can be joy mixed in with our grief and sorrow. God wants to use us if we will allow Him to do that. My mother used to tell me, “God is a gentleman and will not force His ways nor His will on us“. I want to be able to look back on my time as a widow and see that it wasn’t for naught.

The Widow’s Olympics

Watching the US Olympic trials has always been an inspiration to me, but never more than it is since becoming a widow. Every athlete has worked very hard to get to this moment in time. Parents, siblings, wives, and children have sacrificed time and money for years in order for their son, daughter, brother, sister, or spouse to get to this point. Athletes began preparing as young children perfecting their sport practicing tirelessly day in and day out to make each move so routine that it becomes a natural reaction.

These men and women have dared to put themselves first for such a time as this. Such things as what types of foods they do or do not put into their bodies and how much time they spend sleeping every night is a very important part of this process. Learning how to relax and just breathe teaches them the discipline of how to zone out all other stressers around them so that full concentration can be given to the task ahead.

Some athletes have suffered injuries from which they have been forced to battle back. Some have lost a parent or another significant loved one and are having to deal with grief. Any number of life’s problems have cropped up trying to shake their focus and deter them from their goal. Their determination is shaken but not broken.

The moment of the athlete’s event is here. Everything they have worked for is over within a few minutes and sometimes only seconds of time. You can see in their eyes how completely focused they are on finishing their course. Tiny mistakes are made. Big mistakes are made. Yet, they don’t stop their ring routine, high bar routine, pommel horse routine, floor exercise, synchronized dive, swim, race….whatever it may be…until they have completed it. I find myself cheering them on yelling, “You can do it!!” Disappointment may show on their faces when mistakes are made, but they pick themselves up and keep going despite their failure to do everything perfectly.

There are those athletes, who despite the mistakes made during the Olympic trials, will make the US Olympic team and go on to complete their journey becoming an Olympic champion and medal winner. The joy that lights up their faces when they come to the end of the road that they have traveled for years with all of the ups and downs, backwards and forwards, ins and outs is such a parallel to a widow’s journey.

Then there are some athletes who make the Olympic team, but because of an injury that happens during the Olympic games know that their chance of winning is over. Yet, in spite of their sorrow they are able to find joy and rejoice with their teammates who go on to medal.

We face so many challenges that either begin when a wife becomes the caregiver for her husband or at the moment of death for those wives who lose their husbands suddenly. Agonizing grief clouds our minds and brokenness breaks our hearts. Yet, we set our faces like a flint and determine to deal with the medical bills, life insurance paperwork, wills or lack of, our husband’s personal effects, deciding whether or not to keep our home or sell it, finding a job, caring for our children at home as they are grieving, and on and on. There is a mountain of things that a widow must deal with after the death of her husband.

A widow becomes an Olympic athlete determined to keep moving forward completely focused with great determination to finish this course that we did not choose, but one that we must travel. In the midst of our great sorrow we are able to rejoice that our husband finished his race and won his “gold medal”. We picture them shouting encouragement to us from the grandstands of our “Widow Olympics”. Our husbands know that they did not marry a quitter. They want us to win and win we must no matter how hard the race.

There is the opportunity for “Olympic widows” to be a part of a team if they so choose. That team of widows, who are all at different places in their process, becomes the ones who really “get it”. The veteran members can offer advice to help the newer widows avoid pitfalls. Everyone on the team becomes a support system and cheerleader for each other.

So, keep going, my fellow widows! You can do this! We have unfinished business here on this earth. Trials of this life will get you down, but don’t allow those trials to force you to give up and completely stop without restarting. Look at your mistakes or failures as blessings that force you to take a closer look at yourself and make any changes that need to be made. Come alongside those widows who are crawling or limping through their race and encourage them. For those who have accepted Christ as your personal Savior, there is all the glory of heaven to look forward to at the end of your “Widow Olympics”.

 So then, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us, too, put aside every impediment — that is, the sin which easily hampers our forward movement — and keep running with endurance in the contest set before us,  looking away to the Initiator and Completer of that trusting, Yeshua (Jesus) — who, in exchange for obtaining the joy set before him, endured execution on a stake as a criminal, scorning the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.  (Hebrews 12:1-2 Complete Jewish Bible)