All posts by Ginger

You Are Loved

Several years ago, on Good Friday, our pastor announced that our church would be open all day for anyone who would like to spend time in quiet prayer and meditation.  I had not taken advantage of this before and decided that this would be the time to do it.  I wish I could say my prayer life is characterized by strength and consistency, but in fact it is more likely to be weak and sporadic.  So I determined that I would plan to go to the church, spend time in prayer and wait.  More than talking to God I wanted to hear from God.  I planned to wait as long as necessary.

The church was dim, with music playing softly and communion was available to anyone who chose to partake.  There were only a few others there when I arrived.  I found a place by myself and sat quietly to pray.  In my mind I moved through my normal ritual of prayer.  (Do you have that too?  A customary way of beginning and moving through the things you want to say to God.)  As I made my way through this routine, I told God that I wanted to hear from Him.  I was willing to stay as long as necessary and to listen to whatever He wanted to say.  More than ever I just wanted to hear from God.  It wasn’t a matter of proving my faith, but a matter of wanting to hear and experience something from God – something fresh, something reassuring.

I confess that as I sat there — silent, waiting — the voices in my head continued to run on.  (Why are there so many voices in my head?  So many thoughts and ideas running in various directions.)  As each one spoke up I chose to quiet it, to gently sweep it aside for another time.  This was a time for listening only.  As the minutes passed the voices grew fewer and quieter, until finally — silence.  I don’t know how long I sat in the silence of my mind – the time was not important.  The being available and the being open to God is what was important.

And then it happened.  He spoke.  He spoke as clearly to me as though He was sitting in the next chair.  His voice was audible to my heart.  He said, “You are loved.”  Just that quickly.  Just that simply.  Just that beautifully.  You cannot imagine what it was like (or perhaps you can).  “You are loved” He said.  What assurance.  What comfort.  What peace and warmth flowed into my heart.  Here I was, ready to hear anything He had to say.  And He chose to say, “You are loved.”  He didn’t say, “You are a sinner”, though I am.  He didn’t list the areas of my life that need to be worked on, cleaned up or improved.  He didn’t scold me for my weak and inconsistent prayer life.  He could have said all these things and more.  But in my most available moment to hear from Him, He chose to tell me that I am loved.  Even as I write this it brings tears to my eyes and a lump in my throat.

So why do I bring this up now?  In fact, it is the Christmas season, not Easter.  We are hurrying around with all the details we require of ourselves during the holidays while trying to remember the reason for the season.  We can all recite John 3:16 – God gave His only Son that whosoever believes in Him will have eternal life.  But don’t forget how that verse begins – For God so loved the world.  Jesus came because God loves me.  I am loved.  Everything He has done is because He loves.  Everything He will do is because He loves.

You are loved.

Abundance

It seems true that the first year is the most difficult.  The first holidays and the first time you pass those special days are the hardest.  Perhaps because you’re not sure you’ll make it.  Not sure if you’ll be able to get out of bed.  Not sure if you’ll be able to breathe.  But you do.  And then comes the second set of days and milestones and you manage to live through those too.

As I move through the advent season this year – the season of waiting and hoping – I wait and hope as well.  I wait for the coming of Christ and I hope in the promises He made the first time he came.  But my waiting and hoping cannot be done in a vacuum.

John 10:10 tells me that Christ came to give me life and life more abundantly.  I know that Michael is not dead; he lives with Christ.  And so my waiting and my hope is in the coming again of Christ and that I will see Michael (and so many other loved ones) again.  I know that Michael’s life now is so much greater than anything I know and he is experiencing an abundance that I can only imagine.

But I also know that this life of abundance is available to me now.  Not only life, but abundant life.  It’s true that my heart still aches because Michael isn’t here and sometimes the tears still fall.  But I will not go through life wearing black.  I will not isolate myself from the world and spend my days in mourning.  I will not perpetuate sadness to those around me when the world provides more than enough sadness of its own.  I do not visit his grave daily to wait and have long conversations with him there.  To live this way wouldn’t honor the life Michael and I shared.  It wouldn’t be an example to my children of how to live once I am gone.  It wouldn’t be consistent with the life that Christ came and died so that I could have.

For everything there is a season.  And I will not live the rest of my life stuck in one season of sadness.  I miss Michael today and I think I will miss him every day for as long as I live here on earth.  But I will not go through life looking downcast and avoiding the celebrations.  I choose to celebrate and laugh.  I choose to be a part of my family’s milestones and  to pursue the adventures ahead.  I choose life.  I choose the life and the abundance that God has provided through the sacrifice of His Son.  May I never discount all that He came to do for me by being stuck in a season of mourning and sadness.

Good Job Michael!

I had an interesting phone call this week.  It was from a gentleman from whom we have leased a building for over 25 years.  He called about some business matters but the conversation quickly turned to Michael.

He was telling me how sorry he was to hear about Michael’s death and that he couldn’t believe he didn’t know about it until recently.  “I think about Michael every day”, he said.  “Really! Every day!”  I must admit I was a bit surprised.   I know that through the years Michael had befriended the man in addition to doing business with him.  But I didn’t know he would have been that affected in his daily life.  He went on to tell me this story.

“I’m Catholic,” he said.  “I was raised Catholic and go to a Catholic church.  But, like most Catholics, I never read the Bible or had my own copy.  Several years ago Michael gave me a Bible, one of the ones that’s easy to read.  I read a little of it.  Then I thought I should take a class to learn more about it.  I took a ten week class where we met each week and watched a video, then sat around and discussed it.  After that I took a class about the Old Testament and then a class about the New Testament.  For the last two-and-a-half years I’ve been studying and reading my Bible.  The more I read it the more I know that what it says is true.  That’s why I think about Michael every day.”

Now don’t take all of this man’s observations as my own.  But I have to tell you, in that moment, I was so proud.  So proud of Michael who took the initiative to give this man a Bible.  I’m sure he prayed about it, both before and after he gave it to him.  And even though Michael’s not here, that Bible is still here, still leading this man in the word of God, still moving in his heart and in his life to bring him closer to God.  We never know what impact our actions can have on others, even after we’re gone.

I must admit – after I ended my phone call with this gentleman, I looked up and said out loud,  “You did good, Michael. You did real good.”

Peace

It’s been over 18 months since Michael died.  There have been so many emotions, up and down and all over the place.  But now comes a new one.

These last weeks I’ve been preparing to speak to a local group of ladies.  Today I sat down to put all my thoughts together.  As I did I came to an unexpected realization.  I am at peace.

Now I don’t know what the different stages of grief are.  I have stubbornly refused to read up on them and have set aside all the books people have so graciously sent to me on the subject.  So I don’t know if this is “normal” or not.  I just know that as I worked through writing today on a different subject I realized that I am now at peace.  It doesn’t change my circumstances.  I still look at his grave marker and the empty side of the bed and wonder how it is possible that I am here and he isn’t.  I still think of him every day and miss him every minute.  And yet God has given me peace.  Surely, this is His peace which surpasses all understanding.

Minister to Ministers

 

Years ago, Michael and I became good friends with a young pastor and his wife at our church.  We talked, shared meals and movies, laughed and became very close.  So much so, that we were crushed when we learned they were moving on to another church.  Before they left, this young pastor’s wife told me one day that she believed Michael and I had a ministry to ministers.  At the time I brushed her off.  But as the years have passed I do believe God revealed this to her.

Over the years Michael and I have had the privilege to know so many folks whom God has called into full or part-time ministry.  Some were senior pastors, some music ministers, some youth or education, and some missionaries.  Some we knew for a short season, while others we have known and kept in touch with for decades.  October is generally designated Pastor or Clergy Appreciation month.  Well, I missed October, but I thought I might offer what I’ve learned and observed regarding how to have a relationship with  ministers.

First, contrary to what many may think, ministers are people just like you and me.  They need friends.  They need down-time and they need an ear to listen (not just during the Sunday morning sermon).  Make friends with the ministers in your church.  Though they know a lot of people, most would tell you that they have few close friends.  Perhaps it’s because of their position, but most people in the congregation never take the time or put in the effort to reach out and build a close friendship with them.  You’re missing out!  Or perhaps you don’t really want to get to know them?  Perhaps you don’t really want them to get to know you?

Second, they need a social life.  And I don’t just mean what happens in fellowship hall.  Call them.  Invite them over.  Most of us assume that pastors and their families have invitations for every night of the week –WRONG!  Many times they are sitting home alone wondering why they didn’t get invited to the same parties everyone else got invited to.  Relax around them and treat them the same as your other friends.  Most pastors will tell you that the room suddenly grows cold and silent when people learn of their vocation.

Third, they need to not be judged.  I’m not talking about serious sin issues here.  I’m talking about the trivial stuff we deal with everyday — how are their kids dressed, what is her hair like, what school do the kids attend, what kind of car do they drive.  Are these really important matters?  Be yourself and let them be themselves too.  My mom  told me years ago about a pastor’s wife who was short, overweight, her house was messy and her kids were too.  My mom always said that was her favorite pastor’s wife of all that she had known because she was just like my mom.  Forget the little stuff and accept them for who they are and appreciate that they will do the same for you.

Fourth, they need forgiveness.  They’re not perfect.  In fact, some of them have made some really dumb mistakes.  Unfortunately, when they make these bad decisions they are under the scrutiny of every body in the congregation.  We need to forgive them.  Forgive them of the little things and of the big things.  Forgive them when they misspeak, when they judge, when they overeat/drink/talk.  Forgive them like you expect them to forgive you.  I know we tend to hold ministers to a higher standard – I get that.  But they have feet of clay just like everyone else.

Finally, support them.  Of course, yes, financially, with your tithes and offerings.   But also with your encouragement.  Rally behind them any chance you get.  It doesn’t mean you have to agree with everything they say.  Question and discuss the things you don’t agree on; but do it respectfully, not antagonizing and bickering in public. (I wish this was one I could say I’ve always obeyed myself.) Encourage others to speak individually and respectfully as well.  We should be able to talk about anything to one another as Christians, if we say it respectfully.

Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honor; not lagging behind in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord;                Romans 12:10-11

 

 

 

Windows Down

This time of year, every few days we get a cool front and the air is fresh and crisp.  Michael would always say to me, “this is my dear’s kind of weather” because he knew how much I enjoyed these days after a long hot summer.  Sometimes he’d ask me to go out and get the morning paper.  When I’d come in empty-handed because I couldn’t find it, I’d see him already reading it.  He’d smile and say “don’t it feel gooood out there?”.  And so often we’d go for a ride in the car, to no place in particular, with the windows down, just to enjoy the day.

Now I know lots of folks who would never ride around with the windows down for fear of messing up their hair.  But that never bothered me.  As a matter of fact, it’s become one of my “philosophies of life” —  I’d rather arrive somewhere with my hair messed up, than miss out on feeling the wind as I drove to get there.  And when we did arrive Michael would always be the one to tell me if my hair was sticking up or out.  Not that he cared; but he knew that I appreciated the help.

That same philosophy has bled over into other areas of my life as well.  Like not minding a few dirty dishes in the sink.  Or some finger prints on the windows.  Now don’t get me wrong, I do like my house to be clean.  And I have great friends whom I so admire because their homes are always so neat and put-together, and their appearance is always to a T.  But somehow I just have never gotten myself worked up enough to fuss over these things.  I’d rather be busy doing fun stuff – like reading a book, taking a walk, watching a movie, cleaning my purse, having a root canal – most anything overrules housework for me.  ( I recently had a friend tell me she thought we would get along well because I invited her over when I had dirty dishes in the sink.)

These days the cool mornings remind me especially of Michael.  And I miss how anxious he would be to get up to the farm and work in the pastures.  How he’d love to see the hay all baled up in big rolls.  And how he’d gather the firewood and stack it as high as he could reach in anticipation of those fires he would build for me.  And I miss our drives to nowhere in particular with the windows down.

So if you see me around town, at church or out to dinner and my hair is a little mussed — just know that I’ve been riding with the windows down.

Honestly, Really

I recently was challenged to be honest with myself.  “Are you being honest with yourself   .  .  .   really?”  The question makes you think, really think.  Not just a passing minute or two, but over the hours and days that follow.

In light of my last post and this challenging question, I think I’ve had to look hard at being honest with myself.  Here’s what I’ve discovered, or concluded.  My life doesn’t look like what it once did.  It doesn’t look like what I planned for.  I was once married, but now I’m not.  And there are so many parts of being married that I miss.

I miss the romance.  I miss having someone pursue me.  I miss someone wanting me.  I miss being desired.  I miss someone bringing me flowers and telling me he loves me.  I miss his company and holding his hand.  I miss hearing he loves me.

I think much of this is what has led me to those obsessing, all-consuming thoughts.  But in looking hard at this, I feel like God is beginning to show me something I haven’t seen before.  I haven’t quite grasped it.  I get little glimpses of it.   I reach out to fully embrace all of it but can’t yet.  I get just a little taste at a time, but it keeps me pursuing.  And this time it’s not the obsessive thoughts I’m pursuing.  I’ve asked God to take all these things I miss about being married and to show me fulfillment in Him in these areas.  That I might be so satisfied in my relationship with Him, that even the beauty of my married life would be eclipsed.

God let me find all these things in you. Let me feel loved and pursued and desired. Let me find the satisfaction of all these things in You.  Let me find them in such a way and in such fulfillment that I don’t seek for their gratification anywhere else. Let me be so fulfilled that it is beyond what I had in him. Let it be even greater than I knew was possible.

Help me to be patient and persevere so that you will grow me and mature my faith. Strengthen me to pursue You, even as I desired to be pursued.  Perfect me. Complete me.

My Mind — My Enemy

I don’t now if it ‘s because I have much more time alone now than I did when Michael was alive.  Or is it just a factor of my age, my circumstance or my desires.  But I find myself easily drawn into daydreams of different things.  Ideas of what the future could be.  And perhaps because Michael isn’t here to hear the things on my mind, I just roll them over and over again.

The trouble is that, in my mind, I can become obsessed with these things.  Obsessed to the point that I know it’s not healthy and it’s not in keeping with what God would have me concentrate on.  Whether it’s an idea, a place or a person, my mind can become obsessed.

I know the cure.   The cure is found in God and His word.  I’ve asked him, earnestly pleaded and begged Him, to take these obsessive thoughts out of my mind.  He will fight the battle for me.  He knows I’m incapable of successfully fighting it myself.  Scripture tells me to put on the armor of God.  I know this.  I’ve studied this.  I pray this.  But most of all I fall down before God, confessing that I am unable and begging Him to fight for me.

And He does.  He has.  Some time ago when I felt like I was drowning in obsessive thoughts I cried out to God — actually I begged and pleaded with God to take the thoughts away and replace them with thoughts of Him and His goodness.  And He did.  It was such a relief to be free; free from what I knew was not God’s will for my life; free to concentrate on pursuing what God wanted for me.  And I’m so thankful.

But I have to tell you that I’ve recently slipped back into those thought patterns.  Just a little at first, but the slippery slope has pulled me further and further into these daydreams and fantasies.  Why does my mind default to these things?  Do I not have enough to keep me busy and occupied?

God, give me Your strength to walk away from these thoughts.  I lay them at Your feet.  Take them and don’t let me ever pick them up again.

Update:  Recently I was listening to my TV preacher again.  He was addressing the question asked of Jesus as to which was the greatest commandment.  He said Jesus couldn’t list just one; His answer was to love God and to love others as yourself.  What does this command look like?  He boiled it down to three points:  First, do nothing to hurt yourself.  Second, do nothing to hurt anyone else.  Third, let nothing master you.

I can’t seem to get away from these three instructions.  I cannot keep thinking the way I have and still have my own best interest and the best interests of others in mind.  And these thoughts do become master over me.  Clearly to follow these three means I must let go of my obsessive thoughts.

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The Biggest Lesson

A few weeks ago I was having dinner with a friend when he asked me a question: “What’s the biggest thing you’ve learned since Michael has died?”  Gee, and I thought it was just a casual dinner!  Here we are delving into deep waters.

At first I couldn’t really come up with an answer.  (I know — imagine me speechless!)  Several things floated through my mind.  The fact that I’ve learned to give blood without passing out.  The many, many legal and business dealings that I’ve taken over.  The negotiating with contractors that I never planned to do.   But none of these seemed qualified as “the biggest thing”.

In a few moments I knew what the answer was:  “I’ve learned to trust God.”

Now, I started trusting God when I was 12 years old and first prayed the sinners’ prayer in my bedroom at home.  I trusted God when when I told Michael I would marry him.  I trusted God when the doctors told me my first baby wouldn’t live.  I’ve trusted God when I’ve traveled and when I’ve had surgery.  I trusted God through raising three kids, letting them leave my sight and hearing Michael’s diagnosis.  But I don’t think I’ve ever trusted God like I have in the last 15 months.

You see, for much of my life I’ve been trusting in Michael.  I knew for years that I depended on him way too much.  In all our years together, no matter what we faced we faced it together.  Sometimes there were difficult situations that we struggled with.  But there was never anything that came between us.  It was always Michael and me against whatever came up.  But as those years passed, I also know that the scariest, worst thing I could ever imagine was to have to face life without Michael.  Just the thought of it as I would go through my day would bring me to tears.  I thought we could face anything as long as we were together.

So now, for me to look ahead and have to face each day without Michael is a nightmare come true.  And I realize like never before that I have to trust God.  Now I have to trust Him to talk me through decisions.  I have to trust Him to defend me.  I have to trust Him to ride along with me as I travel, to keep me alert as I drive long distances, to keep me company when I spend the night alone in a strange hotel room.  I have to trust Him to help me plan for my future and my finances.  I have to trust Him to help me know when to speak and what to say.  I don’t have Michael any more as a sounding board for these things.

So, yes, my biggest lesson is to learn to trust God.  To trust Him more and more each day.  I should have learned to trust Him this much earlier.  But I’m learning now.

Jesus, Jesus, how I trust Him!
How I’ve proved Him o’er and o’er;
Jesus, Jesus, precious Jesus!
Oh, for grace to trust Him more!                                                                           Hymn – Tis So Sweet To Trust In Jesus

Heart Troubles

Why is it that some mornings I wake up feeling like I can conquer the world?  I can take on any task and give myself credit for at least trying even if I can’t complete it.  I can feel good about where I am in life.  And then a simple word from someone or an interaction can change everything and make me feel defeated.

Why is it that some mornings I feel like I’m defeated before I even get out of bed?

Why do I react to some people the way I do:  judging them and being critical?

Why do I let the need of some people to feel superior make me feel inferior?  Why can’t I accept that they need to be first, be right, be “in the know” and allow them that, without feeling like I have to compete?  Or that I don’t measure up?

Why do I so easily feel left out when I clearly have so much and so many who support and encourage me?

Why do I feel pangs of jealousy and envy over others’ triumphs?  I love these folks – why can’t my love be pure and rejoice in their victories?  I am ashamed when I consider all God has done for me and blessed me with.

Why do I let some people get under my skin and aggravate me?  Why am I not quick to recall that God loves them just as much as HE loves me.

Will I ever master these thoughts and feelings?  Will I always struggle this way?

I have been a believer for over forty years and I know the spirit of God resides in me.  Yet I still struggle with this heart trouble.

Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit in within me.  Psalm 51:10

Give me your heart, my son, and let your eyes delight in my ways.   Proverbs 23:26

Fourteen Feet

What would you do with fourteen feet?  Would you make a room of your house that dimension?  Would you build a wall that high?  Would you plant flowers there?  If the fourteen feet were homeless, would you give them a place to stay?  Let me back up a little.

A few months ago a member of our church staff decided to plant a new church in a different part of our city.   The church planting process would include him moving to that part of the city as well.  Before he, B, and his wife, K, could get their house listed in the real estate market, someone knocked on their door and offered to purchase their home for exactly what they were going to ask for it.  (Isn’t that just like God – showing off and all!)  Well B&K accepted the offer but had not had the chance to purchase another home yet.

One day while sitting in church it occurred to me that my entire second floor – four bedrooms and two bathrooms –  was now empty.  I thought about the idea of my surplus meeting their need.  Not long after, Andrew came home and in the midst of our conversation I told him my idea.  “I’ve been thinking the same thing,” he said.  We prayed about it overnight and talked more the next day.  In my analytical brain I made a mental list of all the pros and cons.  The only negative thing I could come up with was “occasional inconvenience”.  But I’ve never thought inconvenience was a reason to tell God “no”.  So we talked to our friends and the rest is, as they say, “history”.

B&K moved in about a month ago, and the days began to look much different than before.  Oh, did I mention they have five children?  Yep, 5 kids + 2 parents = 14 feet.  OK, so technically they’re not homeless, just temporarily houseless.  But my house sure is full again.  And lively!

Somebody asked me what it was like.  I said “nothing like the pitter-patter of little feet”.  Actually I said, “NOTHING LIKE THE PITTER-PATTER OF LITTLE FEET!”  Each day brings new experiences, memories of when my kids were small, and lots of surprises.  (Never underestimate the element of surprise when you wake up to find a naked three-year-old ready to go skinny-dipping in your pool.)  And the tooth fairy has even visited our house again – it’s been so long I didn’t know if she still knew where we lived.  I’m thinking The Great Pumpkin, Santa and the Easter Bunny will make surprise appearances this year too.

Over the years Michael and I had the privilege of sharing our house with lots of folks.  Some came for a few days, some for a season, some for a year or more.  There were couples, singles, college students and teenagers.  And now a whole family.  Of course this would have never worked if Michael were here.  He’d be trying to get these four boys to play hooky from school every day to go up to the farm with him.  And he’d be constantly buying candy bars to refill the snack-basket (even though we’d tell him not to give them too much sugar).  But I think he’d be pleased to have them here and he’d love all the shenanigans they get into.   And this might just be the last time we get to share our home with someone who needs a place to stay.

As for me, I’ve found the cure for boredom, loneliness and a too-quiet house – all in 14 feet.

Looking forward to more adventures with B&K.

 

First Date

He called me on Monday.  I was really quite surprised, since I didn’t even know him.  Well, I knew who he was, but we’d never had a conversation before.  Somehow one of my girl friends let it slip that I thought he was good-looking.  You know, nobody does that anymore – calls for a date.  We’re so busy with social media and texting, but this was an old fashioned phone call from a boy to a girl.

We talked for quite a while and he asked me out for Saturday night.  First to dinner at a place I’d never been before and then to a show I’d never seen.  I admit I was nervous.  He’s different from anyone else I’d dated.  But it was an old fashioned date — the kind where he opened the door to the car and the restaurant.  The kind where he let me choose first from the menu.  The kind where he ushered me to my seat and made me feel special.

And at the end of the night I knew I had thoroughly enjoyed the evening.  I learned a lot about him and learned that he likes to laugh.  I ended the evening hoping there would be another date very soon.

It seems like yesterday and I can still remember what his car looked like and what it was like to sit next to him.  I can remember that he went to the house next-door by mistake and I watched through my bedroom curtains as he knocked and then had to walk back over to my house.  I can remember thinking that he seemed a little nervous too, but that just made him more endearing than those guys that are a little too self-confident.

I can remember how he looked proud to walk into the restaurant and sit with me.  We went to a place called The Bounty, a local seafood place out by the lake that I’d never been to.  My usual dates were more along the lines of pizza parlors or burger joints.  And the show afterward was the Ringling Bros. Circus in the new Superdome, opened just two months and my first time there.

And I can remember after the circus when we walked back to his car, parked on the top level of the parking garage.  You could see all the lights of New Orleans from there.  And he turned the key in the ignition of his family’s station wagon only to have it not start.  “Oh gee, how convenient” I first thought.  Until I looked over to see his face flushed from embarrassment.  But it did start.  And he got me home before curfew.  He would never keep me out passed curfew.

And even though it’s been forty years ago, I still remember that the night before I had another date with another guy (though I can’t seem to recall any of the details from that date).  But after that night I never went on a date with anyone else.  And by our third date, I knew that he would be the one I’d marry and spend my life with.  On second thought, maybe the circus was a metaphor for the exciting life we would share together – high wire acts, taming wild animals and lots of clowning around.

Happy 40th “First Date” Anniversary Michael!! LOVE YOU!!

Widowhood

In the last week, I know of two women in our community who have become widows.  (I ‘m sure there have been many more.)  I don’t know these women well – one I’ve met and the other I’ve only heard mentioned.  But through many mutual friends and social media I’ve been able to follow their stories.  And so this entry begins –

To my new fellow widows:  Welcome to widowhood.  It’s not a coveted title or one you would ever seek out.  It may feel like a cold slap in the face or something reserved for ancient women wearing long black dresses.  Today and the days ahead will be filled with many lows, and even some highs.  Tears will sneak up on you and sometimes overtake you.  Sometimes you will be amazed at how well you handle the details of your life and sometimes nothing at all will bring a watershed.

There will be forms to sign and paperwork you never expected.  Get ready to be told you’re too old for some things and too young for others.  Take your time in dealing with your husbands’ personal clothes, papers and mementos.  But as soon as you feel able, do get up to speed on the bills, mortgage and other legalities because the rest of the world is marching ahead and they still expect to get paid.  (Get ready to have to sign an affidavit for some legal processes stating that you are single – I say this because it took me totally off guard and was like a punch in the gut.)  Get good legal and financial counsel, but be careful to keep your private life private.

Rally your children around you.  They may live out of town, or have obligations elsewhere.  Try to find the balance between times together and time apart for each member of your family.  They need you as much as you need them.  And if somebody has to take a semester off or an extended leave of absence, do it – twenty years from now it won’t have mattered, except to those of you that had that time together.  Retell all the stories, good and bad.  When you see or hear something that reminds you of your husband, don’t be afraid to say, “That’s sounds just like Michael” or “Michael would have loved this”.  And laugh.  I know this sounds impossible, but the day after Michael died as we were planning his service, I remember thinking “there is way too much laughter around here for a funeral”.  But we laughed a lot in life together and he wouldn’t have wanted us to stop after he was gone.

And lastly I would say, continue to do the things that you did when your husband was alive.  I know you won’t be able to do all of them, but the things that you enjoyed as a couple and as a family.  Go to your favorite restaurants.  Eventually travel back to your favorite vacation destinations.  Yes, it will be hard to be there without him.  But I think it is harder to never go back and remember all those wonderful times you had together.  And your children need to have those times of remembrance too.  They need to see their mom both strong and weak, both happy and sad, both active and idle.  Remember, one day they will probably be here without you, and you are showing them how to live in and through the loss of someone you love.

To the friends of these new widows:  Love these precious women.  In the first few weeks there will such a flourish of activity, and your help with so many things will be appreciated and remembered.  But a month from now and three months from now, be sure to continue to call them.  And pray for them and their children.  Whether you’re close by or far away, pray for them.  God hears no matter where the prayer comes from.

Continue your relationships with these precious women.  Go to lunch, if that’s what you did together.  Play tennis or exercise together, if that’s your thing.  They need to feel like there are some things that continue normally even thought their world has been turned upside down.

Include these ladies in whatever your relationship with them looked like.  If you normally did things as a couple with her and her husband, continue to invite her.  She wants to keep up her relationships with everyone, not just other women.  Yes, your dinner reservation will be for 3 or 5 now, instead of the preferred even number.  And there may be an occasional empty seat or unused ticket at the theatre.  So what.  She still wants to feel like she’s a part of all those same associations.

And by the way – she’s going to cry.  And don’t think you caused it and don’t worry about apologizing for it.  She cries.  She cries when she’s with somebody and when she’s alone, when she’s busy and when she’s still.  You don’t have the power to make her cry nor do you have the power to make her stop.  So just go with the flow and pass the Kleenex.

As for me, I have so much to be thankful for.  Michael and I had wonderful times together and wonderful children to share our lives.  I have managed to survive 13 months without him.  It’s been hard and I’ve learned a lot.  My children have soothed my heartache and made me laugh, while I hope I’ve helped them to grow and learn how to live through the surprises life throws at us.  I have the most incredible friends that still include me, travel with me, help me, pray with and for me, and laugh with me.  And I thank God for each one of them.

To my new widow friends, if I can do anything at all, please contact me.  I won’t leave my phone number here, but you can friend me on social media and we can go from there.  I’m not an expert at this, I’m just a few steps further along this journey of life than you are.  And I welcome a fellow traveler.

Ashley Madison

Ashley Madison.  I’ve seen and heard this name in the news a hundred times in the last week.  No she’s not one of my girlfriends or someone I met again at my recent reunion.  I can tell you the best of my understanding about what (not who) Ashley Madison is.  Ashley Madison is a web site where people can go to sign up to meet someone for an extramarital affair.  Money can be paid on different levels depending on what your circumstances and desires are.  I guess I knew these types of web sites existed though I never gave them much thought until recently.

You see a few weeks ago a group of computer hackers hacked into Ashley Madison’s data base of customers accessing their names, addresses and even credit card information.  The hackers then tried to blackmail the site by threatening to publicly release the names and information of all their clients.  When the site refused the blackmail threats, the hackers did just what they said they would do – they released the names of millions of customers along with their addresses and the amounts of money they spent on the web site.

Now the mainstream media, of course, picked up on the salaciousness of all this and peaked our interests.  For several days the news reports announced the names of people on the list who were involved in public offices, major corporations and others with some public notoriety.  I’m sure they’ve been met with humiliation and embarrassment, not to mention what it’s done to their families.  What the media hasn’t talked about are the millions of folks that have no public persona who now have to try to pick up the pieces after their names have been damaged all over the web.

Here’s my take on this whole situation:  I’ve seen the lists for two states.  I confess to you that I didn’t have sense enough to look away, but instead perused the list of names.  As a result I’ve seen no less than six names of people I know in two different states.  Some of these folks I know well, others only by association.   Each time I saw a name I recognized my heart dropped a little more.  My heart aches not only for the one who chose this association, but also for their husband/wives, children, parents and close friends.  I can only imagine if I had come across Michael’s name on one of those lists.  Or one of my children’s names.   And don’t be fooled into thinking it can’t happen to someone you know and love.  Don’t think there aren’t believers’ names on those lists too.  Because there are.  Because believers are people who make mistakes too – who make poor choices, even when they know what the right thing to do is.

And now I’m seeing the great fallout of more hurt and more tragedy as a result.  Families are shattering apart.  Innocents are paying a great price.  And I want to find fault.  And twenty years ago I would have – at the top of my lungs, upon my tallest soapbox.  It makes me so mad that the web site organizers would ever set up this site to ensnare people.  How dare the hackers illegally obtain the information and then choose to spew it to all the world.

But today, more than anything, I feel sorrow and compassion.  Mostly my heart aches over those individuals who made the mistake of seeking this kind of relationship, and those close to them.   I don’t know what drove them to it.  I don’t know what they were thinking at the time.  I don’t think it was right.  BUT I DON’T CONDEMN THEM.  Because mostly what I see is someone who’s had their secret sin announced publicly to the world.  And I can relate.  You see I have secret sins too.  Those things of which I am ashamed of thinking and doing.  Those things that I hope no one ever finds out about.  Those things I have carried most heavily before God for forgiveness, knowing that He is faithful to cover me with His grace and put my sins away for eternity.  Who among us could stand to have our lives spilled out for all to see?  No. There will be no judgement from me.  And along with that commitment, I tell you there will be no gossip, no snickering and no finger-pointing.  I’m sorry I even looked at those lists, because I don’t want that information to be in my head and my heart when I deal with those involved.

God, forgive me when I fail you.  Thank you for your unending grace and mercy.  Thank you for loving me, in spite of me.

Confession

I hardly know where to start in revealing this, but here goes …

For many years now I’ve not been much of a television watcher.  Michael was always in charge of the remote control and that was usually OK with me.  The occasional shows I was interested in watching were recorded and watched while I was on the treadmill.  But in the last year there’s lots more time to fill and no one to relinquish the remote to.  So I’ve been watching more TV than usual.

I’ve kept up with the few series that I’ve been watching for a while now.  And a new cable package has allowed me to see several movies that I missed in the theatres.  The kids have recommended several good series.  And services like Netflix and Hulu have allowed me to “binge watch” so I could catch up with past seasons.  Most of the things I’ve found have been pretty good, with a few exceptions.  And even the regular network shows today stretch the boundaries pretty far when it comes to acceptable family entertainment.

There’s one series I’ve heard about for a while now.  I’d never seen it and didn’t know much about it other than it was getting a lot of press and awards.  I asked one of my kids about it, who told me they had watched a few episodes but found it so objectionable that they quit.

Well, being the adult/grown-up/parent that I am I thought I’d check it out for myself.  So I started to watch.  I watched several episodes each night for about a week to get through the first season.  Before long I was several weeks into Season 2.  This particular series tells the story of its characters in all sorts of immoral situations and alternate lifestyle relationships.  So you can imagine not only the story line but the vocabulary that was being used.

After about a week of watching the show nightly, one morning I woke up to something strange.  Even before I got out of bed that morning, I was hearing certain words in my head.  Words from the dialogue of this show.  Words that aren’t a part of my normal vocabulary.  Words that I know none of you have ever heard me say.  I was puzzled.  Even as I went through my day, when different situations would arise, the first thing I would hear in my head were these words.  But would I be deterred?  NO!  The next night I continued to watch a few more episodes.

Again, the next morning, the same thing happened.  In my head, a barrage of words I would never speak out loud.  Well, finally, I began to get the message.  This show had to go.  I was being directly affected by what my ears were hearing and my eyes were seeing.  Throughout the day I heard the words.  That night – no more episodes of this series.  The next morning, I was still hearing the words, but not with as much strength or frequency.  Within a few days, they were gone.

Now here’s the kicker: I know better.  I know what God says in His word about keeping ourselves pure and holy; about being set apart from this world and its effects.  I know that what I put in through my eyes and ears affects my heart and mind.  I know that I’m created to reflect the image of God, not to be a part of the crowd followers in our society.  And yet still I watched hours of this “entertainment” somehow thinking I would be unaffected.  What a fool!

So, since I don’t have anyone here to keep me accountable, I’m confessing to you.  To keep me accountable.  To keep me reminded that my flesh is weak and I’m easily coaxed into believing I know better than God when it comes to what I should allow in my life.

“Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.”   Psalm 51:10

The Way We Are

RHS Reunion bag

Last week I had the privilege of attending my 40th year high school reunion.  (Yes, do the math and now you know how old I am.)  An event like this makes you look back on a lot of memories, some you cherish and some you wish you could forget.  As the day grew closer my Facebook feed was overrun with comments from classmates on all sorts of vital issues – what to wear, who would be there, and that always aggravating last minute zit that was appearing just in time.  Well, somethings really haven’t changed in forty years.

We began as 547 graduates in 1975.  There were some twenty-five of us who have passed away over the years, each one mourned and missed.  Of the remaining 500+ about 200 gathered that night.  We came from an all-girl public high school, a unique situation created when our parish government all those years ago decided to segregate the sexes after being required to desegregate the races. So many people think this odd and undesirable, but it was normal to us and afforded us opportunities to lead that we might not have otherwise had.

As I look back on our lives together I am reminded that we came of age at a exceptional time in history.  When we were in the first grade we heard announced in our classrooms that our President Kennedy had been assassinated.  In junior high we watched grainy black and white television sets to see the first man walk on the moon.  In high school we saw the Supreme Court rule on Roe v. Wade which changed the decisions women were allowed to legally make regarding child bearing.  And always in the background of our lives was the Vietnam War.  I remember well, the day in my sophomore year, when our leaders announced that our troops would be brought home. The relief we felt, expressed in both cheers and tears, was very real as my brother was just months away from his eighteenth birthday.

As we stepped out into the world in 1975, the women’s liberation movement was in full swing.  I expect more graduates from our class than any previous one, went on to college and advanced education. But I think, more important than going on to college and careers, was the fact that we had choices available to us.  No longer were we encouraged only in the direction of marriage and motherhood. We were actually told that we could become doctors and lawyers, nurses and accountants, artists and inventors, business owners and elected officials. And we did!

Who knew that typing skills, not considered a college prep course in 1975, are today the indispensable keyboarding skills?  Who could have imagined iPads and wireless internet in a world of  televisions with knobs to change the channel?  Could a cell phone be possible when our house phones were connected to the wall and used rotary dials?  The changes in technology and communication have been unprecedented in our lifetimes.  And socially we have seen such great changes in the rights of women, minorities and the disabled – I know we have a long way to go, but these things weren’t even discussed forty years ago.  (If some of my former employers made the comments today that they made to me years ago, I’m sure it would be a case for a discrimination or sexual harassment suit.)

To gather together again meant contacting people throughout the United States and in foreign countries. Some of us still live close by while others came from as far away as California. Some of us look the same and some of us look remarkably different. We laughed and hugged and tried to remember names and places. I learned that there are some folks I’ve met in the last forty years that I didn’t know I graduated with until we saw each other on reunion night.

By now this group of girls (or do I call us women or ladies?), has seen enough of life to know both the joy of love and the sorrow of loss. To look around the room, clearly life has been more difficult for some than for others. But we gathered for pictures and recounted silly stories as we promised to get together again soon. And I must say, though I’ve spent much time remembering what it was like forty years ago, I am less impressed with The Way We Were than I am with The Way We Are.

And at the end of the night, we joined arm in arm to sing the same song we sang forty years ago:
Can it be that it was all so simple then?                                                                    Or has time rewritten every line?                                                                                   If we had the chance to do it all again tell me, would we? Could we?  Memories may be beautiful and yet                                                                  What’s too painful to remember we simply choose to forget.                         So it’s the laughter we will remember                                                                Whenever we remember, the way we were.

RHS Reunion