Monday, November 13, 2017

The Numbers of Widowhood

I hear from widows who wonder about numbers a lot. Does that surprise you?

The figures of finances, taxes, retirement and age all have to be dealt with. It’s normal to count the days, months and years of widowhood. They never forget the numbers that mark anniversaries, birthdays, funerals and other occasions on the calendar. They say things like:
  • ·         “I feel like I’ve been cut in half.”
  • ·         “Will I ever be whole again?”
  • ·         “We were two individuals but we were one couple.”

They wonder at the statistics about widowhood too. Did you know that 3 out of 4 women will be widowed? The majority of them are over the age 65, but I’ve heard that the mathematical average is age 54.

The U.S. Census Bureau recorded 975,517 widows and 414,887 widowers for the year 2009. I don’t think the number varies much from year to year. It breaks down to 7.8 widows per 1000 women over age 15. For men, there are 3.5 widowers per 1000 men over age 15.1

Those odds might not seem too bad (if you’re not one of them), but add the numbers and you get over one million three hundred thousand women and men widowed per year. That’s 3800 people per day! There are twice as many women as men, but they each grieve and struggle when the reality strikes.    

I am not a person who is usually interested in numbers. Math was never my favorite class in school. But I’m beginning to realize that numbers tell us a lot about life. Numbers express quantity and connection. For example, if a widow has a lot of family and friends she might have more comfort and support to help with her loneliness and grief.

Some numbers make us smile, like an unexpected financial bonus; others are upsetting and worrisome because they mean bad news about our health or loved ones.

Numbers also express time and age, location, value, size, distance and infinity. All these things affect our lives! Numbers are positive (+), or negative (-). They are odd like 1,3,5… or even like 2,4,6…

And speaking of odd numbers, a widow or widower will tell you that the number one is not only stated as an odd number, but it also feels like an odd number! Widowhood does not “fit” right. It feels “odd,” not normal, to live alone. One is an odd number at every event in a world of couples.

God understands, though. He is One God, but He is also the trinity—God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. In Genesis when He created the first man He said, “It is not good for man to be alone.” He created the first woman and declared the two would become “one flesh.” God is very interested in numbers!  There’s even the book of Numbers in the Old Testament. Many times in Scripture we hear talk of numbers like when Jesus tells us He has numbered the hairs on our head, or when God told Abraham to count the stars and the sand of the sea.

Have you ever tried to count the stars? There’s nothing more beautiful than a crisp, clear autumn night full of stars. Yet once we focus on a few to count it seems that more and more appear. At first we see the brightest ones, then our eyes adjust and the tiniest pinpricks of starlight show up. Counting them is impossible. The heavens truly do “declare the glory of God.”

Consider the night sky with me for a moment as we stream the following numbers. Our moon, that beautiful, glowing pearl in the sky is about 1/4th the size of our planet Earth. In your mind’s eye, picture Earth as 4 times larger than the moon. Then consider the sun. It’s 109 times larger than Earth!

Mind boggling, isn’t it?

Those twinkling little stars we see aren’t very little either. Sirius, the brightest star, is 2 times larger than the sun. Other stars are 10, 25, and 70 times bigger than the sun. A red super giant star named Betelgeuse is 600 times bigger and there are millions and zillions of stars!

When I think about how God created the earth, the moon, the sun and the stars I can’t help but wonder how big is God?  Is He hundreds of times larger than the largest star?

How small am I? What could I ever do to get God’s attention and earn His favor?

But God never describes Himself with numbers even though we need them for everything from recipes to riches. Numbers are only symbols; they are a type of language that helps us express the realities around us. But like any language or tongue, no matter how magnificent or beautiful, the language of numbers is nothing without love. Perhaps that’s why the Bible simply tells us, “God is love.” I John 4:8.

To our loving God, the most important number is that odd number—the small one—the loneliest number that never fits in or feels right. The most important number to God is you.

Three thousand years ago a gentleman redeemer told a young widow named Ruth, “May you be richly rewarded by the Lord, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come to take refuge.” Ruth 2:12.

Then, two thousand years ago God’s only begotten Son laid down His perfect life to eternally redeem any who will come to Him for refuge like Ruth did. One perfect Savior, one fallen world, and each one of us so overwhelmingly outnumbered by weakness, inadequacy, and missing the mark that we can do nothing but give up and give in to Him. In repentance and humility we cry out and ask for His salvation.

Widowhood is an opportunity to see God’s solution for the numbers of life and to experience the love He has for you. In God’s math for widows, 1 + God = more than we could ever imagine. So come, take refuge under the wings of the God beyond the numbers. You will find countless rewards and blessings that cannot be numbered.  

ferree

1 Elliott, Diana B. and Simmons, Tavia. “Marital Events of Americans: 2009.” American Community Survey Reports, ACS-13 , U.S. Census Bureau, Washington DC, 2011.

Monday, November 6, 2017

Not Alone!

Today I hope you can take some time to hear the joy in Miriam Neff's voice as she was interviewed on Chris Fabry Live® on Oct. 26. I've personally met with Miriam a couple of times over the years. I'm so proud of her and how she faithfully follows God with her passion through the pain of widowhood. She's a beacon for all who wonder, "What's next? How can I go on?" I'm sure she never envisioned all that the Lord would do through her, but that's what happens when we simply take the next step. He makes our joy complete. 

Go to this website and click the Listen button for  HOUR 2 "Not Alone." If the link doesn't work on your smart phone then click the title at the top of this page to get to the actual blog and you can go from there.

She has a message for all widows---They are special to God! Her latest book

Not Alone: 11 Inspiring Stories of Courageous Widows from the Bible

spotlights eleven specific widows in Scripture and God's amazing work in their lives. It can be purchased in hardcover, Kindle, or audio CD on Amazon. I haven't read it myself yet but I'm looking forward to buying a copy soon.

Visit Miriam's newly updated website too. The new layout makes it much easier to see the various resources she's created for widows. I love you Miriam and thank the Lord for you!
ferree
                                                          http://widowconnection.com/                                                         
http://widowconnection.com/

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Bible Readings for November

Do you ever wonder what it will be like when the Lord returns?
Join me in finding out as we read through Revelation along with some Psalms of praise, adoration and, of course, thanksgiving! You'll discover amazing truths, fearful consequences for evil, and God's deep love and mercy for His children.


November 2017


Sunday
Monday
Tues
Wed
Thurs
Friday
Sat


1
2

3
4



Ps. 119:
145-160
Rev. 1
Rev. 2
Rev. 3
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
Rev. 4
Rev. 5
Rev. 6
Rev. 7
Rev. 8
Rev. 9
Psalm
135
12
13
14
15
16
17
18
Rev.
10
Rev.
11
Rev.
12
Rev.
13
Rev.
14
Rev.
15
Rev.
16
19
20
21
22
23
24
25
Rev.
17
Rev.
18
Rev.
19
Rev.
20
Psalm
107
Psalm
45
Rev.
21
26
27
28
29
30
Rev.
 22
Psalm 
47-49
Psalm 
63
Psalm
84
Psalm
99-100


Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Taking the Bite Out of Bitterness


Image result for open bible

The Lord is close to the brokenhearted
and saves those who are crushed in spirit.

Psalm 34:18 New International Version (NIV)


Don't you love that verse? It's been one of my favorites ever since I found it after Bruce died. God truly is close to us in times of mourning. And when we are crushed and can't go on, the Holy Spirit comes alongside to express our pain to the Father when we don't have the words. (Romans 8). 

It's a mystery how God does this, and a miracle that we hang on. But He helps us make it through the next moment, the next minute, the next hour, night or day. Through many ups and downs, slowly, slowly we take our steps. But one day we will look back and see that He was with us. Copy the verse as a little gift to yourself and carry it in your pocket today to remind yourself He is near.

God's Word has the power to purge bitterness from our hearts. It's not magic---poof!---and it's gone. But rather it's a growth process and God's Word is the spiritual food that makes us healthy. We eat food every day, right? Likewise we read and meditate on God's Word every day to make us spiritually healthy. Find a time of day that works for you to develop this habit, and then follow a reading plan. It doesn't have to be complicated or lengthy, just do it. I've set up a one-year plan of Bible-reading for widows which I post every month (watch for it this weekend), but there are many other online sources that will send daily readings straight to your email. They are a great convenience and help. If you are also interested in grief support an excellent place to start is with the emails from GriefShare. Click here for their webpage. 

Consider attending a local grief group too, perhaps one dealing specifically with grieving through the holidays. Tom and I will be leading one in November at the church we attend, GriefShare has many "Surviving The Holidays" workshops that will happen all over the country, or check with your local churches and hospice groups to see what they offer.

These steps will help take the bite out of bitterness. Bitterness is miserable but the Lord can deliver you from it. Take that first step today and begin a daily Bible reading habit.
 





Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Join In The Conversation, part 2


Hi everyone,
     Last night a reader sent the following note in and I appreciate that she addressed each of the 3
questions about bitterness in yesterday's post. She hasn't been able to write much since her husband died, but something struck a chord with her and these words flowed from her heart.
     Whether we are asking, answering, or simply telling our story, our words matter very much. It's as important that we say them as it is that someone hears them. Writing is very therapeutic, so journaling, keeping a diary, writing letters, blogging or posting on social media are good ways to help others (and help yourself)! Thank you Lisa W! 


Thank you  SJ for being honest with your feelings. We all have been there in some way, shape, or form..wondering how the unimaginable could have happened. How could something this horrific be part of a Good God's hopeful and harmless plan?  Plain and simple-widowhood is ROUGH...we have lost a part of ourselves and are left to learn to navigate life on our own. God is here for us though. We mustn't forget that.

 So for me, though I am no expert..

1. "If God made me , knew who I was ..knew how I would react...So if he knew I would react the way I am, How can He be mad or disappointed at how messed up I am?" 

      To be honest, I am not entirely positive that God is mad or disappointed. LIke you said, He already knew you would react this way. But I guess if He is, we can look at it like this- that sometimes as parents we know how our children are going to react when they are about to get some disappointing or bad news. Right? We know there is going to be some kind of melt down. Not to minimize it but for the sake of making a point, as an example let's say there was supposed to be a Chuck E. Cheese play date but suddenly it was cancelled. We know our child was looking forward to it and we know there will be some sad/upset/etc. feelings. Even though we KNOW this , and yes we may be frustrated with their way of handling their disappointment, we still, as a parent that loves our child, want to envelope them in our arms and comfort them and tell them we know they are upset and disappointed. We understand they were looking forward to it. Let's figure out what to do with those not-so-happy feelings? Calmly we can model for them how to handle their feelings because at that young age, they do not know how to. So maybe God is not really mad at all..maybe He is just wanting you to rely solely on Him to get through this. He is saying, "I'm here..I know this stinks and hurts and is painful...come here and cry to Me..it's okay..I've got you even though you can't see it..."  


 2. "How is it realistically possible to believe these promises now when they didn't work?" Like Ferree said, God 's promises always are true. He never promised that we would not see trouble or that we would not have hardship. He does, however, promise to be WITH US while we are IN these troubled times. Like he was in the fiery furnace with Shadrach, Meschach, and Abednego, or even Daniel in the Lion's Den. Those are bad situations to be in and they were Faithful Godly Guys but that stuff still happened. But God was WITH them through those times. And, of course, Job...he was so, so godly and look at all he suffered through. It seems horrible that we lost our husbands. I know...mine was truly my soulmate, my best buddy, the guy who completed me, the dad of my kids, my ministry partner..But I know God has not forsaken me...He has shown Himself over and over again here with me and my kids ..No-- it is not easy, yes-- I cry every single day.  EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. But I know God catches my tears and hears my laments each morning.  I'm sure I sound like a broken record-- "this is rough God..you have me confused with some Strong Christian..I"m not Joni E Tada, I'm not Elisabeth Eilliot. I'm just Lisa..."
I'm 11 months in and all I can say is I'm still standing because when I am weak, He is strong. Now more than ever, I have to trust God's promises. Ken's and my verse was Jeremiah 29: 11 "for I know the plans I have  for you says the Lord ...plans to give you a hope and a future." I have nothing left but to trust those words. Yes, this seems like a crazy way of showing me His plans are good, but what happened to those others who have suffered? Somehow, in God's way, He has taken what is bad and made it good. 

 A few years ago I had the privilege of serving at "Joni & Friends Camp." We provided companionship to kids with disabilities while their parents were able to relax without having to worry about their kids. These camps are all over the world. It is an international ministry. All I could think of was how when Joni was 16 or 17 and was told she would no longer have use of her arms or legs. How devastating that had to have been! And how never in a gazillion years could she have ever imagined herself heading up a world wide ministry to families with kids with disabilities! But that is how God rolls. So even though I don't understand the plan, I trust He has one and it's really all I can do. 

 3. God is not punishing us even though it may feel like it. He is going to use this to teach us stuff and to have a God glorifying story to share.   When my husband first went to Heaven, I was really, really struggling... I thought I should have gone first because I was not as godly as Ken. Ken was just a righteous guy . He loved the Lord with every fiber of his being. When the dr told him he had only hours, maybe days, to live he raised up his hands and said, "I am His and He is mine."
Four hours later he was in the presence of the Lord.  So I said to myself, "I should have gone first..I deserved to die first because Ken was so good." But then I thought, "Well maybe he did deserve to go first because Heaven is so wonderful and beautiful---it makes sense he would get to experience it first."
Around that time, my mother-in-law came with this verse in Isaiah 57:1-- "the righteous perish and no one takes it to heart ,the devout are taken away and on one understands that the righteous are taken away to be spared from evil." And that just kind of nailed it home for me--that Ken died at 50 to be spared from evil.. The good die  young... ( I know this is not always the case I am just sharing my thought process at this time) So, I told my daughter all of this. She was 20 at the time. She said, "Mom, don't you know you die when God is done teaching you all you have to learn?...look at Moses ---he was over 100 but Jesus did not make it to 35." I was like "Yeah I guess so...but what happened to  your dad was so crazy."
And she said this: "Mom, don't you know...the crazier the stuff, the better the testimony?"
I said "What do you mean?"
She said, "Imagine Mary sharing her testimony at a women's retreat..imagine how it might sound: "I was a virgin teenager, I had never been with a man and I was told I was going to have a baby. And I was told this by an ANGEL. But not just ANY baby- GOD'S baby! And then I gave birth in a stinky barn with animals and a king wanted to KILL my baby..and then an angel saved him and then when he was 12 he pulled a fast one on us in the Temple..then he performed a lot of miracles and then he was crucified on a cross, but He did not do anything wrong and then He came back to life!" 
I was like, "Well, now that you say it like THAT..that IS PRETTY CRAZY"
She said "See?! The crazier the stuff, the better the testimony!"

SJ, I say all this to try to help you find some peace with everything you are going through. I know that these questions are NOT the "ONLY THING" you are going through. If you are like me you have financial stuff, medical stuff, home repairs, car repairs, kids' school stuff, job stuff and more. It is a LOT!!!  Give God all your hurts and cry out. He is happy to take it.. He can handle it. Like when we carry our kicking toddler lovingly in our arms. God is here and willing to do that for us. 

 I hope this helped in some way...

 love and lots of prayers....

Lisa E. W.