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”?

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Dating and Remarriage: From a Widow’s Heart

Through my blog and several different private widow groups that I have joined, I have met and made long distance friends with many widows. Three of them have married this year and a fourth one, whom I met via one of my cousins and an aunt, just got engaged. I love the way that Suzanne Russell has shared her thoughts throughout her widow journey. Her words so wonderfully express exactly what her heart is feeling. How very happy I was when she shared last week that God has brought another man into her life and that they are getting married! Here is her story beginning with her first love story in her own words:

Ken and I met as counselors at a YMCA Camp in the Smoky Mountains. He had just graduated from UT Knoxville and grew up in East Tennessee. We married after he enlisted in the Air Force in 1974. His career spanned public recreation, the gas pipeline industry and health care facilities management and oversight. We spend the greater part of our 40 years together raising two children in Texas. He was a man who lived his life loving God’s Word and loving people.

We had a wonderful marriage. He died suddenly from a heart attack in April 2014.

Tom and Ken are so different. It amazes me. I’ve only had two men tell me they loved me. And shortly thereafter ask me to marry them. The same love resonated in them both. I am happy. I am grateful. And I am humbled by my Father’s love toward me. Marrying at my age is not without complications. But I am so joyful to have the opportunity to love and be loved again that the complications are there, but together you find your way. And it’s good.

The Pen

I don’t really know why i bought it.

It was a beautiful thing. The wood expertly turned and polished. My friend Richard made it.

But after I came home and actually used it to write, I realized it was too heavy for my hand. It was a man’s pen. Except I no longer had a man to use it.

But, it was beautiful. So I kept it and gradually began using it to underline verses and make notes in my journal.

One day, about a year ago, I held it out in front of me on upturned palms and said, “Lord, this is a man’s pen. I have no idea if it is your will to bring another man into my life. But if you do, then this belongs to  him.”

I still used it, and sometimes I would smile and think, “Who am I keeping this for?” Seriously? It’s not a simple thing to meet someone and fall in love. But looking out on my third year of widowhood, I thought, “Why not?”

My sister Michele said, “Get online. You might meet a Tom Hanks!” Seriously? Although I did miss messing with a man’s mind…

Am I getting too long here?

I met some real characters and had dates with some very nice men. Suzanne was popular. In a word, Geezerbait! But none, I told my friend Lizzo, were “pen-worthy”. I even had a standard copy & paste response for unwanted attention. And I wanted a tall guy. The taller the better. For once in my life I wanted to feel like a shrimp.

And he had to follow the rules. I felt it honored the Lord and Ken’s memory to remain chaste while being chased. 🙂 Surprisingly it comes up pretty quick in the conversation.

Shall I go on?

My social life was definitely on an uptick. Even my granddaughter, Charly, felt compelled to give me some rules for dating. They are epic, and yes, I’ve broken a few.

I got an email one night from a guy who was pretty interesting. But a whole inch shorter than me. I began to look for my copy & paste response, but something made me write him back expressing my interest while sharing the fact I would likely tower over him if I wore my heels.

This is what he said:

“Suzanne. I know that my appreciation for you will be just as you are, all 70 fabulous inches. If you know 69 is not going to do it for you, I respect that and suggest that you put something in your blurb. If you think it might be fine depending on the man, then let’s go to the Contra Dance on Monday night where you can dance with every age and every height and call it fun.”

That was a good answer! I went dancing.

And out to dinner. And movies. And hiking. And paddle boarding. And kayaking. And festivals….

Because I was spending so much time with Thomas, all the other guys were systematically getting thrown under the bus.

You’ve go to be getting bored by now. I never write this much…

I caught glimpses…Of him concentrating on his scrabble tiles. Hosting a small dinner party. Laughing at my movie pick and watching it anyway. Staring straight into my eyes and grinning while swinging me at the dances.

I knew he was becoming serious. Was I? I tell people I love them all the time, but I couldn’t tell Thomas. It would have opened a door that had been shut since Ken died.

Not a problem for him. He came out swinging and told me flat out he loved me. I just smiled and said nothing. Poor guy. Thomas would not get off the bus. He was riding up front, grinning for all he was worth!

I warned him the vetting process for me would be brutal. And span several states. He said, “Drag me wherever you want. I want Suzanne.” Another good answer.

I loved Ken. No. I love Ken. I know what comes with saying it out loud to a man. It’s foundational, taking things to another level and cutting off all escape routes.

Father, who am I looking for? One of Jesse’s tall sons? Thomas has a heart bigger and taller than many men. when he tells me I’m beautiful, when he tells me he loves me….I believe him.

I told him I love him not long after he gave another good answer to a deeply personal revelation. It was so good to finally say what I had been feeling. Nice. So very nice. A relief.

So. About a week later. After a great day trip to Chattanooga. Seeing Rock City, visiting my cousins and stopping by Ken’s grave, he says – “Marry me Suzanne.”

Jeepers.

What did I say? Thomas says I stalled.

What would people say?

Thomas: “Your friends will think what they will and tell you they are happy for you.”

At home later that night I prayed. My Father’s blessing was what I needed. I love my friends and they love me. Yet here is a man who had the courage to offer himself to me 24/7 for the rest of his life.

I told him he would have an answer.

The next time we met, he told me he heard my hesitation and knew the confidence I had in his faith and walk with Christ was of great importance. He wanted me to have it and did not want to pressure me.

I handed him the pen.

Lizzo: “Gene! Sue gave him the pen!”

Gene: “The pen? What pen? And what’s the significance?”

Lizzo: “It’s almost more significant than Thomas asking her to marry him!”

Gene: “Sue’s getting married?”

Yes. I guess I am. 🙂

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.

Introducing New Widow Lorraine

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Today I would like to introduce you to one of my blog readers Lorraine who became a widow just 6 months ago.  She and her best friend husband Mark were married for 43 years.  Lorraine first came to my blog after searching google for widow information to help her own widowed aunt.  Never ever did she dream that she would become a widow a few years later.

Lorraine has now begun her own blog called The Continuing Journey about her widow journey that continues to be a blessing to me.Last night she shared a devotional from Grace Gems that so spoke to me and I felt I had to share it with you this morning with Lorraine’s permission.

Love Photographs Them in the Heart!

(William Thoseby, “Foot-prints on the Sands of Time” 1869)

“The righteous are taken away to be spared from evil. Those who walk uprightly enter into peace; they find rest as they lie in death!” Isaiah 57:1-2

It is true there are strong consolations and compensations in Divine providence, but even the Christian consolations cannot drink up all the heart’s sorrow in the hour of separating death. We cry with truth, but yet in tears, “O death, where is your sting? O grave, where is your victory?” “Yes in all these things we are more than conquerors,” but we are conquerors with bleeding wounds and scars of the conflict upon us.

When a dear life is taken from the near presence of our own life, no antidote of reasoning, nor cordial of promise even, can make us oblivious of the loss. In the moment of most entire submission and most exultant faith–we feel the pang of separation. Our affections grope and wander uneasily in the vacancy that has been made, and we return home companionless and sorrowing. We are awed by the voiceless room, and the vacant chair affects us with sadness. Every relic and memorial of the life that is ended, tells us that it is ended indeed. The dearly departed live in the chambers of our soul. We see their lovely forms, hear their sweet voices, feel their tender touch, and almost grasp their hands. Love photographs them in the heart!

When therefore a dear life is taken, the person who is left must suffer. And since so it is, we come, through “many a winding maze” to conclude that thus it ought to be. “Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?” “Now we see through a glass darkly.”

But in our ignorance and blind unbelief, we are too apt to arraign the rectitude of the Divine procedure, exclaiming:
How bewildering is this afflictive dealing!
How baffling is this mystery!
Where is now my God?
This sickness–why prolonged?
This thorn in the flesh–why still buffeting?
This family blank–why permitted?
Why the most treasured and useful life taken–the blow aimed where it cut most severely?

Hush the secret atheism!–for the day is coming when every dark hieroglyphic in the Roll of Divine Providence, will be made plain and clear. When what are called . . .
“dark providences”
“harmful calamities”
“strokes of misfortune”
“unmitigated evils”
trials, sorrows, crosses, losses, adversities, sicknesses–
the emptied cup,
the withered gourd,
the lingering illness,
the early grave,
the useful lives taken,
blossoms prematurely plucked,
spiritual props removed,
benevolent schemes blown upon
–over all these, will not this grand motto be written as in characters of living light–which may be read on anguished pillows and aching hearts, yes, on the very portals of the tomb itself, “This also comes from the LORD almighty; He is wonderful in counsel and excellent in wisdom!” Isaiah 28:29

Let us “be still and know that He is God.” “We know” says the apostle, “that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose!” Romans 8:28

We do not always see the bright light in the clouds, but it “shall come to pass that at evening time, it shall be light!”

Child of sorrow! Mourning over the withdrawal of some beloved object of earthly affection–dry your tears! An early death has been an early crown! The tie sundered here, links you to the throne of God. You have a Christian parent, a brother, a sister, in Heaven! You are the relative of a redeemed saint. “He shall enter” (he has entered) “into peace”–the “rest which remains for the people of God!”

We can only see one side of a Christian’s death–the setting side, the expiring breath, the vanishing life, the cold clay corpse. We cannot see the risings on the other side–the angel convoy, Heaven’s open gate, the Savior’s welcome of the enraptured departed one. Yet it is none the less real.

Death to the Christian, is a birth into heavenly life–a life more real, more sweet, more calm, more pure than could be enjoyed on earth.

“Beloved! think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, but rejoice!” Soon you shall hear the sweet chimes wafted from the towers of the heavenly Jerusalem, “Enter into the joy of your Lord!” “The Lord God shall wipe away all tears from off all faces!”

Christian Mourner! Do not go to the grave to weep there. The devourer shall be devoured! The resurrection shall restore to you, all that death snatches away. And then, Oh! joyous hope, “death shall be swallowed up of life!” Glorious day! “Blessed and holy is he who has part in the first resurrection!”

Introducing Georgia Widow Michelle Foster

Michelle, Greg, Kate & Garrett

On April 5, 2012, Greg Foster went to heaven leaving behind his wife Michelle, their 7 year old daughter Kate and 5 year old son Garrett.  Michelle is a friend of  my #3 daughter Charity.  Approaching the 1 year anniversary of Greg’s death,  Michelle wrote something this week that I felt would be a blessing to other widows and I have her permission to share it with you today. 

Turning a corner

March 20, 2013

I think I have turned the corner in the grief journey……..whatever that corner might be. And I say me because the kids don’t know they are on a journey yet.

I know there isn’t a prescription for going through the process of grief and it’s different for everyone. My way of getting through something difficult is being super busy. In that, I have done a remarkable job. I feel like a Gerbil on a wheel lately. Actually, as I look back, it’s pretty much been since Greg passed away. And it has accelerated leading up to these last weeks before the “last of the firsts”. For some reason I keep thinking of baggage the last couple weeks. In terms of life experiences that shape us. As I was thinking about it I made an interesting connection.

When I think of baggage it’s usually a heavy load to carry around or something that restrains me. For instance, it’s fun (at first) getting to ready to travel or do something special. You pack all the goodies you might need. If you are like me, you do drive by packing on the way out the door just in case. By the time you get to your destination you are weary of dragging around all the “stuff ” even though it started out light.  Take that analogy and apply it to life or relationship baggage. It’s the same sort of situation. You are excited about learning and collecting all the new info available. You spend time and effort to get things just right!  Then if anything happens, that time and information can become heavy. For the most, having a life partner pass away from an incurable illness would be considered heavy and produce some serious emotional baggage. We didn’t have that type of situation so sometimes it’s hard for me to figure out what is going on with me!

What I have realized is that my “baggage” is trying to attach Greg or his memory to everything we have done. It has been an attempt to keep him close. To continue sweet memories that included him even though he is not here. Unfortunately, that just doesn’t translate to reality as life continues to move on. It also adds weight to a lot of potentially easy things.

I realized I was turning the corner when I didn’t have to put my wedding rings on everyday or eat ice cream every night. It’s not that we don’t think about him or talk of him almost everyday. But I can go through my day without the added pressure of that attachment. And most of all, it’s alright if I don’t! It doesn’t dishonor his memory or lessen the sweet time we had together. It gives us more freedom to branch out, explore, and thrive the way he would have wanted us to.

The cool part is I can always keep a Greg travel pack close by. I can open it and be refreshed. I can keep him close without it becoming to heavy to bear.

Feel free to send Michelle some words of encouragement or tell her what her writing meant to you by commenting at the bottom.  I’ll be sure that she gets your messages.

Loss at Valentine’s Day

Widow and author Miriam Neff speaks about loss on Valentine’s Day on Moody Radio.  Here is the link for those of you who would like to listen to it.
For those widows who are looking for a good curriculum for a widow’s group, Miriam offers One Widow to Another: The Connection That Counts with 5 informative lessons on DVDs to be used along with a journal.  For more information and to view clips of these videos, here is the link to that.

Patty’s Letter to “Alone”

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I have been very privileged to participate in 4 Widow’s Walk groups via phone.  One of the widows in my last group is Patty Kline.  As part of our work in the group we were asked to write a letter to “Alone”.  Patty’s letter was so poignant that I asked her if I could share it here on my blog.

“Dear” Alone,

I put the word “Dear” in quotes because I’m using it facetiously.  You are anything but “dear”.  Dear was my husband, my big, strong, handsome, loving, and flawed-but-lovable husband.  You are ugly, mean, and silently relentless.  You’re not the sort of alone that one might welcome, such as when a busy mom has the house to herself for a few precious hours, or when someone wants time alone with God.  You’re the totally unwelcomed, unasked for kind, the kind no one wants; the kind that tries to make me feel sad, lonely, vulnerable, helpless and insecure, and often succeeds for a while; the kind that makes me jump and feel scared and unsafe when I hear a noise I can’t identify; the kind that causes me to have to figure out how to deal with issues regarding our house, cars, yard, and finances; the kind that hits me afresh each morning when I awake and see Dwight’s empty pillow and undisturbed side of the bed, and every night when it’s only me going to bed; the kind that makes me sad every time I visit our kids and grandkids by myself, especially for holidays or special occasions, and brings on the tears on the lonely drive home and upon entering our empty house.

You often cause me to feel sluggish and unmotivated. It is an effort to make myself go places with only you as my companion.  You’re a very poor companion for this girl who likes people!  I don’t like your attitude or your tone.  You are rude to me and I know you don’t care about me.  At times I feel you mock me and taunt me.  “You’re alone! You’re alone! Don’t forget that, Patty! It’s never going to change, and you’ll always be alone now.  Hahahahaha!”  Grrr!  You make me so mad when you say that!  You don’t know me so well, do you?  You don’t know how much it makes me want to fight when someone tells me I can’t do something, or that something will never change.

You, Alone, are unkind.  I do not like you.  You may think you’ve taken up permanent residence in my house, my mind, and my heart, but I’ve got news for you, you haven’t.  Don’t get too comfortable.  I happen to know God, with a capital G.  He’s actually my Dad, and He can whup you (and your dad) any day of the week.  He tells me He’ll be with me always, even to the end of the age, and I believe Him. So, you see, I’m not ever alone, not really, not the way you try to make me feel, even though I do miss the physical presence of my husband terribly.  There’s a spiritual realm you can’t win in.

There is a kind of alone I can appreciate, though, stated so beautifully in the song, “In Christ Alone”.  We used it in Dwight’s memorial service, remember?  The first verse goes like this: In Christ alone, my hope is found, He is my light, my strength, my song.  This Cornerstone,  this solid ground,  Firm through the fiercest drought and storm.  What heights of love, what depths of peace, When fears are stilled, when strivings cease.  My Comforter, my All in All, Here in the love of Christ I stand.”

So, Alone, you and your kind can get lost in your own sinking sand, because it’s on Christ the Solid Rock I stand!

Sincerely annoyed with you,

Patty