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.

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Widows Beware! Broken Hearts and Busted Wallets


Widow Terrie Krumal was a certified educator and a counselor at Consumer Credit Counseling Service for over ten years. Her background and training is regarding credit and housing counseling. She shares invaluable information dealing with online dating that she has given me permission to share with you in her own words.

Losing a spouse can be a debilitating event that can affect us for weeks, months or even years. Honestly, I don’t think we ever get over it or get used to it. We all react so differently to that life event, but one trait is very common. Until the “fog” clears, our minds don’t quite connect, analyze or warn us when there is imminent danger. This is such a well-known fact that the dating scammers and con men specifically target widows. The cons know just what to say and in such a caring way that it catches a person off guard. Just check with the Better Business Bureau regarding door to door sales. If we are not analyzing all information the scammer/con man has shared with us, we become easy prey.

Let me pause here for just a moment and share that I thought I would be writing these words of caution to women regarding online dating, but after talking to several people, this information needs to apply to all of the other ways of meeting men.

There are ways to meet men – at church, at exercise class, at the grocery store or at stained glass workshops – and we assume that they are harmless and are the safest way to go. This is not necessarily the case. Maybe a little safer than online meetings, but those areas noted above still have con artists, scammers and not so nice guys. We must keep in mind that scammers/con men are out there in great numbers and are getting very sophisticated in their relationships. It behooves us to educate ourselves in preparation for meeting ANY man and to steel our resolves on how we connect with them and what we share with them.

Several celebrities such as Dr. Phil have covered the topic of online dating pointing out the perils of most of the websites. When Dr. Phil presented the facts of the scam, some women refused to believe him. This was even when faced with the truth.

Many of the websites give alerts to the dangers that may lurk in their website and how to avoid them. The Federal Trade Commission devotes a large segment on their website to the scams of dating websites. This is a great indicator of how elevated this issue has become. The victims are now in the tens of thousands.

But when you watch TV and talk to others who have had a good experience with the websites (and it does happen!), it’s hard to keep in mind the dangers that may lie ahead. We may become so desperate that we ignore those dangers even when we are having something inside warning us to run the other way!!

So, with all that in mind and with my previous employment experience as a consumer credit counselor who cautioned people on many scams, I felt I was educated enough to come up against the scammers and not fall for any of their tricks. I felt I could sort the good from the bad and the ugly!!

BOY, WAS I WRONG!!

Right now I want to stop and say if you have been scammed or in a relationship that may be a scam, please STOP and talk to a friend, a pastor or a trusted counselor. Please don’t be embarrassed or hesitant to talk to someone now. You need to seek the wisdom and discernment of a trusted individual.

Why do we “go looking for love in all the wrong places” and how do these people break down our barriers and succeed in taking advantage of us?

They shower you with loving words, the desire to meet you soon and the aspiration to “lay the world at your feet”. Sorry, but when you are a widow and you haven’t heard those words or felt that way for some time, it’s very easy to fall for their approach. They build up a relationship and you trust in them. Then they ask you for money. Not for themselves (of course!), but for a “sick child” or gifts for an orphan (really!) or a struggling business.

Or, they ask for your address so they can send you gifts and flowers, but what comes are delinquent bills, money laundering scams or even bank fraud. If you start to question them, they usually get defiant and angry or try to turn it around and make you the problem.

The Federal Trade Commission has a wonderful website with information regarding scams, what to do if you have become a victim of any type of scam other than dating website scams and many more scam details. You can file a complaint and if given enough time and details, they can catch the thieves. Unfortunately most women are so embarrassed that they never step forward and file a complaint.

The very first piece of advice is NEVER EVER go offsite. Once they convince you to go off the dating website, the scamming starts. If you remain on the website, most companies track certain “buzz words”, will advise you of a problem and then block the culprit. You are safer there than offsite, but you still have to remain diligent and cautious in your contacts. Be very careful with the information that you share with others. You don’t need to share everything with them no matter what they say. I actually made up details when someone was asking too much information – another warning sign.

In conclusion, put your life in God’s hands and He will guide you. He has a plan for your life and if there is another man for you, He will make it happen. I hope that doesn’t sound too trite, but being in your same situation as a widow, I have come to the conclusion that it will happen in God’s time. I just have to stop what I am doing and trust Him. After all, He is a good God and He loves us.

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.

Hope for an Aching Heart

Hope for an Aching Heart : Uplifting Devotions for Widows

Margaret Nyman was widowed six years ago after six weeks’ time. She is telling her widow story over the next five days on Revive Our Hearts. Here are the links to the first two programs where you can either listen to her or read the program transcript.

Day 1 – https://www.reviveourhearts.com/radio/revive-our-hearts/hope-aching-heart-day-1/

Day 2 – https://www.reviveourhearts.com/radio/revive-our-hearts/hope-aching-heart-day-2/

Here are links to Margaret’s books:

Hope for an Aching Heart

Prayers for a Widow’s Heart

Margaret’s blog can be found here:

Getting Through This: Encouragement to Keep Moving Forward

Shut In For a Time

Have you ever thought about the story of Noah and his family?  After he spent all those years building the ark, God shut he and his family in and they could not get out until He opened the door. There’s a reason for that.  They could not have weathered the storm if they were not shut in.

When a husband leaves this earth for heaven whether it is after a time of illness or a sudden death, God shuts a widow in so that she can grieve. Time ceases for her for awhile. Life around us seems to catch it’s breath in a gasp and stop. We find ourselves in this bubble where sounds are muffled and everything going on around us is happening in slow motion. Pain like we have never experienced before shatters and then breaks our heart. Thoughts may be clear at times, but for the most part they are overwhelming. There is so much thrown at us that we must do to take care of arrangements and then life itself that we literally do not know how we are going to make it.

People around think we are strong and tell us so, but the truth is, we are not strong.  We have been shut in by God so that we can weather this storm. For a time we do not have the energy to even try to bust the door down, but there may come a time that we find ourselves kicking against the door for all that we are worth because we do not like this place that we are in. It is then that we need to know that when God shuts you in, you need to trust Him enough to leave the door closed until He opens it.

There is a lot of waiting involved during that time. Noah and his family were in the ark for 12 1/2 months after the storm stopped. But there is a verse in Genesis 8:8 at the height of the storm that says, “But God remembered Noah…“.

I believe that Noah and his family learned a lot about themselves during that time of being shut in just as I have been learning unknown things about myself during these last 4 1/2 years. And as hard as it has been for me and as difficult as it is at times to even pray, I have found myself able to say, “Thank you, Lord.” What am I thanking God for exactly?  I am thanking Him for being here for me even during the times when I cannot understand why my husband is no longer here with me.  I am thanking Him for never leaving me and for being faithful to me even when I cannot sense His presence or see what He is doing in my life. I am thanking Him that even though I am alone and lonelier than a hound dog sometimes, He is always right here for me to talk to and share my innermost heart thoughts.

Out of the same elements that made up the water of the storm that shut in Noah and his family…….out of these same elements came the rainbow. Romans 5:3-4 tells us that our sufferings produce perseverance. Perseverance produces character. Character produces HOPE. Those words are hard to take because who wants to suffer in order for perseverance to produce character and character to then produce hope in our lives? Personally, if I were to have been given a choice, I would not have chosen suffering and grief. I would have chosen for God to heal Bob here on this earth instead of healing his body in heaven. But, that was not part of God’s plan for Bob or for me.

I have shared before that 53 days after Bob went to heaven my mother joined him. Two months later my dad joined them. One the afternoon of Daddy’s death my granddaughter looked out the window and exclaimed, “Look at the rainbows!”. Against the backdrop of a dark bleak stormy looking sky was the most beautiful double rainbow that I have ever seen. My first thought was that it signified that both of my parents were together again.  One rainbow shone brighter than the other and that was because Mama had been in heaven a little longer than Daddy and had absorbed more of the brightness of the glory of God. But, now as I think about that double rainbow set in that stormy sky that day, I see that it had even more meaning than that – a meaning that there was no way in my great grief and brokenness that day that I could possibly see. God was reminding me that there would be a rainbow waiting for me after the storm of grief subsides. It was a sign of HOPE.

I do not know where you are in your journey of grief, but wanted to tell you not to try to bust down the door that God has closed on you. The best thing you can do is to just wait out the storm and when you are able, talk to God. He can take whatever it is that you need to yell or scream at Him. Then, when you can, begin to thank Him for what you are learning in the storm. There is nothing sweeter to His ears than our thanks and praise.

IT’S OKAY TO BE VULNERABLE

I would venture to say that most women want to be seen by others as strong women full of courage and strength. After all, God made us to be nurturers and fixers. We become the wife that is there in every way possible for her husband. If children join our family, we become mothers who spend years leading, loving, and training them.

But when our husband dies, our whole world is shaken and the dimensions of it all changes. Vulnerability enters our life like never before. We fight it pretending that we are not that woman who cannot deal with what has been throw at us. We’ve always been able to handle everything in our lives with God’s help. So what reason do we have now to allow ourselves to succumb to vulnerability?

I tried this for the first six months after Bob died. Inside I was so crushed and broken and my heart was deeply hurting every waking minute with what I call that deep, deep soul pain. Finally, I came to the point where I couldn’t pretend to be a super widow any longer. I succumbed to the wave of grief. At first it took me under and kept me under. After awhile it kicked me up to the crest of the wave where I was able to gasp and take in some air. There were times when it threw me up on the sand where I laid completely exhausted until the wave came back inland snatching me back.

I reached out to get help from a licensed Christian psychologist who helped me see that vulnerability is not a bad thing. God was not disappointed in me for being human and experiencing human emotions. It was ok to cry as often as I needed to even if I break down in front of others. It was alright for me to be insecure and afraid. It was normal for me to feel as if I were living in a strange country where no one understood my language. It was okay that my mind was in such a fog that I was easily overwhelmed and could not even concentrate to read my Bible. There was nothing wrong with me questioning God. For a long time I wasn’t even able to pray.

As this time of vulnerability has gone on, I am learning many new things about who I really am as a person – things I never knew about myself. All my life I have strived to be as perfect as I could possibly be. Do you know how much pressure and stress that put on me? I tried my best to be everything my husband and my daughters needed, but I could never be all I wanted to be. Now I realize that I don’t have the capability to reach perfection and meet the needs in my family members lives. And you know what? That’s truly okay. I can be vulnerable.

Vulnerability is helping me get to know God in a whole different way than I believe I could have ever known Him otherwise. I am much more sensitive to His voice. I am so much more aware of His blessings than ever before. My belief that I am not walking alone in the land of widowhood is stronger because somehow my belief that God is really walking with me has gone from head knowledge to heart truth.

Are you willing to allow yourself to be vulnerable? How has vulnerability made positive changes in your life?

Polishing Rare Stones and Jewels

When my husband died, it was personal and for a few days until we buried him, everything seemed focused on my needs and wants.  My grief is personal and that part is also about me.  It’s nothing that can really be shared with anyone else in my life.

I find it is hard in a way not to have my thoughts centered on me and I think that is because I have been thrown into this strange place all alone.  Even my thoughts about God seem more focused on me……much more personal like it’s only God and I.  I don’t know if that is good or bad, but it’s the way it is now.

That does not mean that I have no thoughts of others because I very much do.  God gave me a heart and a  passion for others that has not burned out since the death of my husband.  In fact, it has increased.  But, in order for me to get some healing from my heartbreak, I have had to turn inward, come away from others, and have it just be me and God.  I’m not sure how long it’s supposed to be like this, but it’s the way that it is at this time.

I no longer think in terms of “we” or “us”.  I think in terms of “me” because it IS just me living this life alone.  And I feel like God and I are tucked away on a distant island  until I get to wherever I am supposed to get in the healing of my broken heart.

Psychologist Lara Honos-Webb says,

“There comes a time in the process of grief when grieving no longer means dwelling on the emptiness of loss.  After a period of grieving and honoring the stages of grief, the emptiness of loss becomes an opening into the fullness of all that was and in some mystical sense still is. 

The stages between feeling the emptiness and the fullness of loss can take months, years, or decades depending on the individual.  But the time spent grieving is not wasted. 

Grieving is like polishing rare stones and jewels.  The process of going over and over the memories creates a rare and beautiful jewel, the true beauty of which had not been previously realized.  There are lessons here for the life you are living now.

Part of grieving is reflecting on what seemed like ordinary moments and realizing how essentially meaningful those moments were.  Whether they are memories of simple meals shared or singing silly songs together, in the face of loss you realize that these were among the most significant moments of your life.

These realizations can affect your current day-to-day life.  Each encounter in your present life can now be seen as a diamond in the rough.  You no longer need to wait until the tragedy of loss occurs to see the intensity and light of the present moment.  After many rounds of intense grieving, you may see that previously mundane, unremarkable moments can become transformed into events of momentous splendor.  You may become determined not to miss such momentous events in the present unfolding of your life.  Grieving trains you to liberate the splendor possible in each moment.”

What a beautiful thought that I am polishing rare stones and jewels as I go over and over memories that will result in the creation of a rare and beautiful stone!  I believe that stone will be what God is now making of my life in this place that He has put me.

Jennifer Sands: The Faith of a 9/11 Widow

Today we remember what happened on September 11th all those years ago.  What better way to remember it than to hear widow Jennifer Sands share her story.  Jennifer has written 3 books that document her journey of grief and how God worked in her life – A TEMPERED FAITH, A TEACHABLE FAITH, and A TREASURED FAITH.

Jennifer did not have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ when her husband died, but through his death she made a public commitment to Christ.  Please click on the link below and listen to her widow story.

http://www.cbn.com/tv/1422201822001

Let Go and Trust

Isn’t it amazing what God uses to speak truths to us.  Last night I was watching the television show TIA AND TAMERA.  This is a show about 35 year old twin sisters who are very close.  They are both married and have children.  When they were younger, they were just alike in their thinking, but as they have grown older, married, and each had a child, their thinking is not just alike on some issues.  They have become their own person.

In this particular show, they were having issues with communicating with each other and realized that they needed help to figure out what the other twin was trying to say.  So, they called a communications specialist who had them meet him at a go-cart place.  He sat them down across the table from each other and had them ask each other questions such as “Did you mean to hurt me when you ________________?”, etc.  Then he had them make a statements to each other about themselves – “If you really knew me, you would know that I _____________.

The last exercise this specialist had them do involved teaching them how to really trust each other.  Tamera got into a go-cart (pictured above) and donned a helmet that had a completely darkened front shield forcing her to drive blind.  Inside the helmet was a speaker.  Tia held a walky talky so that she could communicate with Tamera verbally guiding her as she drove around the track.

Tamera was terrified to be sitting and driving in this dark, closed in place!  She felt totally afraid, unsure, and even got disoriented at times not knowing for sure if the go-cart was really moving forward or was sitting still.  As Tia began to soothe her and assure her that she was going to guide her around that oval track, Tamera began to calm down.  She quieted herself and just listened to the serene, peaceful words of her sister telling her how fast to move forward, what direction to turn the wheel or when to go straight.  In fact, she made it all the way around the track and crossed the finish line driving totally blind.

When she lifted the completely darkened face shield of her helmet, her first words were, “What I learned from this is that it is easier to let go and trust.”  As soon as she uttered those words, God said to me, “Candy, this is how you are to live your life as my daughter and now as a widow.  I love you like no one else.  Let go and just trust Me.”  This is the hardest thing in the world for me to do because I fear that His way is going to hurt me even more than I have been hurt in the last 3 1/2 years.  Yet, I know in my heart that this is something that I have to do in order to do what is right.

How about you?  Do you find that you, too, are having trust issues since the death of your husband?  If so, what steps have you taken to rebuild that trust in God?