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. 🙂

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)

Glimpse of Heaven

We said good-bye at the small country airport where I boarded a commuter plane bound for Pittsburgh. There I would make a connecting flight that would take me home. Nine months earlier we met or should I say collided as I slid into home base during a college work scholarship baseball game. He was determined to get me out. I was determined to score a run for the team. The results were torn ligaments in my right leg and that was the beginning of our friendship that quickly blossomed into a forever kind of love.

Four months later we were engaged. Six months after that we said our “I do’s”. Our love was strong from the beginning. Before we married, we made a pact that no matter what problems we would encounter or what disagreements we might have, we would always work through them. When you put two stubborn and imperfect people together, you are bound to have conflicts. But, that stubbornness also fueled our resolve to love each other in good times and in bad, whether we had money or not and in sickness or in health.  All of those situations came up in our marriage. We made it through the thirty six years, four months and ten days that God gifted to us to be together.

When God creates someone just for you and allows you to meet when it is just the right time, the love that comes out of that is the greatest love that a person can ever know on this earth. Yet, that love is only a glimpse of the love that God has for us. So many times I try to look deep into my mind and heart to fathom what the Father’s love for me is like and find that it is so far beyond my imagination that it can sometimes become frustrating.

Resting in Bob’s love totally and completely trusting that he loved me and me only was easy. He never gave me any reason at all to think otherwise. There was great comfort in that kind of love knowing that I was his and he was mine. I realize now that many people never truly experience a love like that. In hindsight I see what a priceless gift Bob gave me when he promised himself to me on this day forty-three years ago. When you love like that, you never dream that your lives together won’t go on forever.

The beauty of us both knowing Christ and accepting Him as our personal Savior is knowing that one day I will see Bob again. The joy and anticipation that my heart feels about that is beyond words. This is the man that was my one and only. He was the love of my life. We’ve been separated by death for a little over six and a half years now. The longest we had ever been apart was for a week. Yet, how much more will be the glorious wonder when I step over to the other side and see my Savior face to face! This is the One who formed me in my mother’s womb and created me to be just the way that I am. He is the One who has loved me from the instant of my beginning, who constructed Bob just for me, who brought us together, walked with us throughout all of our married life and who carried us both together to the end of Bob’s life.

My becoming a widow did not surprise my Savior at all. He knew it would be a part of my life. He knew how much losing that great earthly love would break my heart. He didn’t need to ask me “Candy, are you going to be alright?” like Bob did two days before he died. The struggle to “be alright” has been great and is harder some days than others. Bob’s physical presence is gone, but his love for me goes on in so many different ways. God’s physical presence has never been seen by me, but His love for me has become much more real now that it is just Him and I.

Love given is the greatest gift a person can ever experience. To be loved is to be given a glimpse of heaven. My heart is so full as I close my eyes, go back June 22nd, 1973 and re-experience all the beautiful and wonderful emotions of that day. But, it’s nothing compared to all the glories that are yet to be revealed when my faith becomes sight and I finally see the One who loves me with the greatest love of all – an everlasting love.

Face to face with Christ, my Savior,
Face to face—what will it be,
When with rapture I behold Him,
Jesus Christ who died for me?

Refrain:
Face to face I shall behold Him,
Far beyond the starry sky;
Face to face in all His glory,
I shall see Him by and by!

Only faintly now I see Him,
With the darkened veil between,
But a blessed day is coming,
When His glory shall be seen.

What rejoicing in His presence,
When are banished grief and pain;
Death is swallowed up in vict’ry,
And the dark things shall be plain.

Face to face—oh, blissful moment!
Face to face—to see and know;
Face to face with my Redeemer,
Jesus Christ who loves me so.

Don’t Waste Your Pain

When something happens in our life that we don’t understand, the first thing we do is wonder why this happened. The morning my husband went to heaven, my response was “Why, God?!!!! How could You do this to me?!” Less than two months later when my mother joined my husband, my response was “Not another one, God!!!” Two months later when my dad left this world for heaven, my response was “This is too much for me to handle, God!! How could you take from me the three people who loved me the most in this world?!!”

As the numbness of that terrible fog began to lift a bit, I realized that I could not waste my pain. I did not know how to begin to face it and deal with it alone. That is when I sought out professional help from a Christian psychologist who had worked with widows for over 30 years. I needed someone to shine a light in my fog and direct me. Your family and friends can help you some as you are walking through your pain, but for the most part it is something that you have to walk through alone.

There is nothing wrong with questioning God for a while because after all, we are human. But, there should come a time for you if you have accepted Jesus Christ as your personal Savior that you remember that whether or not you can sense God’s presence, He has promised in Hebrews 13:5b I will never [under any circumstances] desert you [nor give you up nor leave you without support, nor will I in any degree leave you helpless], nor will I forsake or let you down or relax My hold on you [assuredly not]!” Amplified Bible.

I personally do not believe that there are any accidents with God. He is always in control of what is going on in my life and whatever has happened is in His permissive will. He has a purpose for my pain and it’s up to me to face it, walk through it, and allow that purpose to work out for good in my life.

Waking up in the morning is the hardest part of the day for me. As soon as my eyes open and consciousness returns my first thought is of the losses of my sweet loved ones and how very much I miss them. In order to combat that pain I immediately turn on my iPad and go to the Daily Audio Bible app. This is my ammunition that helps me get out of bed and face my day. I purposely close my eyes as I listen so that I can give my full attention to whatever is being read in portions of the Old Testament, New Testament, Psalms, and Proverbs. I so desire to hear whatever God might have to say to me for that day…….whatever encouraging words He might speak to my heart. Rarely ever does a morning go by that I don’t cry as I listen because this is my special time with the One who loves me so much more than my husband or parents ever did. I am using my pain to grow a much closer and more intimate relationship with my Lord and Savior who has my back in this life as a widow.

After being encouraged by several people to share my grief journey, I began this blog as a way to not waste my pain. It has been and continues to be a way for me to pour out my pain and share with the readers whatever God has placed on my heart. In turn, the readers will share with me their pain as well as encouragement in the comments below my posts. Together we are not wasting our pain.

Reaching out to other widows to tell them about the many widow resources that I have found and sometimes even sending some resources to a widow is another way that I find helpful in not wasting my pain. Also, talking by phone or texting with a widow to just listen, affirm and encourage them keeps me from wasting my pain.

Remembering that God loves me and that His mercies to me are new every morning helps me not to waste my pain. Lamentations 3:22-23 RSV is a daily source of encouragement to me.

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases,
    His mercies never come to an end;
 they are new every morning;
    great is Thy faithfulness.

Losing a spouse or a parent is one of the most painful things in this world. Allow yourself whatever amount of time that you need to question God and ask all of your “why” questions. He’s big enough to handle it and will not love you any less. I would encourage you not to run from your grief and waste your pain. Running will only cause you more pain in the long run as unimaginable as that is. Use your pain to strengthen and grow your relationship with Jesus Christ. If you have never allowed Christ into your life, give it some serious thought because He understands your pain more than anyone else in this world ever could. He’s that friend that will never turn His back on you. He’s promised believers that He will never leave them nor forsake them. There is no way I could go through life without Him.

What things are you doing in order not to waste your pain? Don’t waste your pain.

Wisdom of a Grandson

Levi and his buddyI never cease to be amazed at the ways God chooses to speak deeply to my heart. Yesterday was one of those “God moments” and the best way I know how to share that with you is to let my #3 daughter Charity tell you about it in her own words.

“There is a God story behind this picture of two buddies and what Levi (her son and my grandson pictured in orange) is holding in his hand. For the past year Levi has been mowing grass and saving his money to buy an Xbox. In January he received a letter from his buddy M (pictured in black) telling about a missions trip M is taking this summer to tell people about Jesus. Well, Levi comes to me and tells me that he wants to give his buddy all the money he has been saving.

At first I was trying to suggest that he not give all of it but maybe part of it. Then God stopped me in my tracks and told me to get out of the way of what HE was trying to do. OUCH! So, Levi gives the money to his buddy and his buddy’s mom asks me if the money was all from Levi and I share with her how he was saving it, etc. She then shares Levi’s story with M and the next day M tells her that he feels like God wants him to give Levi his own personal  Xbox.

Yesterday the exchanging of the Xbox took place and these boys have both seen a huge example of how God works in beautiful, mysterious ways. My words don’t even come close to expressing how God has used these two boys and their giving hearts to speak directly to my heart.”

Charity shared this on Facebook. Now I knew part of the story, but not all of it. Tears immediately rolled down my cheeks as I remembered how much my husband Bob loved missions and missionaries. I shared with Charity how he used to delight in folding up a $50-$100 bill in his hand, walk over to a missionary and shake their hand as he transferred that money to them. None of my daughters had ever known that their dad did that and when Charity relayed that to Levi his response was, “That is why Pa got to go to heaven early”. Now this is something that could only come out of the mouth of a child. Levi is looking at his Pa’s going to heaven early as a reward for him. I would have never ever thought of that, but as I have been mulling this over in my mind since yesterday, I can see the truth of it.

Now I cannot say that the reason Bob went to heaven early was because he loved missionaries and handed out money to them. But, I can say that for whatever reason Bob’s earthly mission and plan that God had for his life was finished and part of that plan had been to love on missionaries in that way. Because he had accepted Jesus Christ as his own personal Savior and chosen to live his life for Christ, his reward at death was life eternal in heaven. Bob got to go to heaven early. What a thought for me to meditate on and chew on for awhile! He got to go to heaven early. It was a privilege and a reward for him.

That’s not the way most widows look at the death of their husband. In our agonizing grief we get so focused on all that we have lost that we cannot pull the curtains of life aside to see that our husbands got to go to heaven. I will admit that at this point I am able to spend 50% of my time focused on how much I miss my husband and 50% of my time focused on wondering about all that he is seeing and doing in heaven. That pendulum swings back and forth.

My grandson Levi has pulled my earthly curtain back for me just a little bit more now and given me a “God glimpse” that I won’t soon forget. Such wisdom out of the mouth of a twelve year old boy that has a giving heart and is listening and doing whatever the Holy Spirit urges him to do. His Pa couldn’t have asked for more in a grandson and his parents who are actively setting the example for their son. How very blessed I am for God to have used this boy to help me see something wonderful about the death of my husband.

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