Monday, June 17, 2019

Where's Life Going for You?

Is a new day dawning,,, or is darkness descending....

A friend recently sent me this. It was so timely for me personally, and her italics helped me read it with meaning. I thought someone out there might be touched by it too...
C.H. Spurgeon was a well-known preacher of the 1800's.

"The evening and the morning were the first day."—Genesis 1:5.

Was it so even in the beginning? Did light and darkness divide the realm of time in the first day? Then little wonder is it if I have also changes in my circumstances from the sunshine of prosperity to the midnight of adversity. It will not always be the blaze of noon even in my soul concerns, I must expect at seasons to mourn the absence of my former joys, and seek my Beloved in the night. Nor am I alone in this, for all the Lord's beloved ones have had to sing the mingled song of judgment and of mercy, of trial and deliverance, of mourning and of delight. It is one of the arrangements of Divine providence that day and night shall not cease either in the spiritual or natural creation till we reach the land of which it is written, "there is no night there." What our heavenly Father ordains is wise and good.

What, then, my soul, is it best for thee to do? Learn first to be content with this divine order, and be willing, with Job, to receive evil from the hand of the Lord as well as good. Study next, to make the outgoings of the morning and the evening to rejoice. Praise the Lord for the sun of joy when it rises, and for the gloom of evening as it falls. There is beauty both in sunrise and sunset, sing of it, and glorify the Lord. Like the nightingale, pour forth thy notes at all hours. Believe that the night is as useful as the day. The dews of grace fall heavily in the night of sorrow. The stars of promise shine forth gloriously amid the darkness of grief. Continue thy service under all changes. If in the day thy watchword be labour, at night exchange it for watch. Every hour has its duty, do thou continue in thy calling as the Lord's servant until He shall suddenly appear in His glory. My soul, thine evening of old age and death is drawing near, dread it not, for it is part of the day; and the Lord has said, "I will cover him all the day long."

Monday, June 10, 2019

A Prayer for Boys Without Fathers on Father's Day

Dear Lord,

I'm not saying that daughters are easier to raise, but there's a certain heartache when I think about boys without fathers. There are way too many of them, for a variety of reasons, but today I bring the widows' sons to you, my own included, even though he's an adult now and I'm remarried.

Help me cling to you, Lord. To put my hope in you for your mercy and grace on our sons. Whether they turn to you and draw close to you as their father God, or whether they turn to the world as prodigals, help us turn our burdens for them over to you, in full faith of your love and faithfulness.

Fritz Zuber Buhler (1822-1896)
Let us know you as the one who promised, "my yoke is easy and my burden is light" (Matthew 11:30)
Let us realize that you are aware of their situation and unwilling that any should perish. Quicken the inner man of our sons to make them alive in Christ. Draw them to yourself, strengthen them to desire you and to choose to obey you.
Help us as mothers to walk in obedience to you, to model a growing love for you and a desire to serve you with delight rather than a list of demands. Help us know the difference between your commands which bring life, and Pharisee-like demands which drain life.

Lord, too often the men who would be so helpful to our boys are either too blind or too busy to see how our sons need them. It hurts to see our sons so neglected by the church and our families. We ask, we suggest, and then give up; they don't understand what a painful effort it is to ask. Nor how discouraging it is when promises and good intentions aren't kept. We do notice, we are hurt, and our sons are very wounded by the disappointment and added grief of neglect and disinterest. Strengthen us and move on our behalf. If they still don't budge, help us forgive them, and cause your Holy Spirit to fill in this gap for our sons.

Lord, you are my defender! You are a father to the fatherless! You daily bear my burdens! Give me faith to believe those promises!

I cover this in Jesus name,

A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows,
is God in his holy dwelling.
Praise be to the Lord, to God our Savior,
who daily bears our burdens
Psalm 68:5, 19 (NIV)

Monday, June 3, 2019

For the Month of June: Father's Day Focus

When Father’s Day rolls around every June it’s a secret struggle for most widows and for me too. For years I’ve tried to avoid thinking about it too much. My own father, my two fathers-in-law, my husband (I’m remarried), and my son who’s now a father will all receive their due. I love them all dearly and rejoice they are in my life! But there’s one person whose absence is always on the landscape of my heart. I don’t grieve anymore, but I still miss my first husband Bruce, the father of my children. My husband, Tom, understands. He was widowed too, and Mother’s Day holds the same for him. 
Father’s Day and Mother’s Day are two holidays that put a painful divide between the “haves” and the “have nots.” Those who don’t have parents, or spouses or the opportunity to be mothers and fathers buckle up and endure the day. The “haves” gather together, telephone, or send cards and gifts to their loved ones, and well they should. Life is precious and love expresses itself through these holidays. But for those who have lost loved ones it’s complicated. If you’re one of the “haves” and one of the “have nots” at the same time the turmoil isn’t easy to describe, explain, express or resolve. 
Father’s Day is hard enough for adults; how hard must it be for the children? I recently heard that many people who don’t believe in God happen to have a painful experience like the death of someone they loved in their past. My own children bear that out and my heart has broken innumerable times for them. 
When I was widowed I had no guidance about my children and no widows my age to compare notes with. I didn’t know what my widow friend Myra wisely told me years later, “In saving your kids, you save yourself.” Her husband died of a massive heart attack on Christmas Eve when their two daughters were ages five and seven. Now, almost 20 years later, a close-knit family with added sons-in-law and good memories has emerged. 
If you’re more like me than Myra, though, if you’ve had some parenting failures because of grief and the pressures of widowhood, remember it’s never too late to start doing right. Let’s use Father’s Day as a time to start over. Although it's a day that can really sting, ignoring it doesn’t do any good. It'll come again next year. What our children need more than two parents is one parent who loves them enough to raise them in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. They don’t need a parent who holds back, passive, indecisive, or lets nature take its course. Consider parenting as a full time commitment to seeing that Christ is formed in our offspring.  The apostle Paul shows us how to do this in I Thessalonians 2:7 – 12. He described himself as gentle as a mother caring for young children and as encouraging as a father. He had a goal that his “children” would learn to live “worthy of God.” I never thought to have a goal for my children when I was widowed. Have you? 
Even if your children are now adults, remember it’s not too late. Everyone needs someone watching out for them, someone who’s on their side, and has tangible and worthy goals for them. We all need to be treated gently and encouraged no matter what our age. 
Looking back, I wish I had made an annual event of Father's Day. Instead of ignoring it, I could have done something with my kids. It’s a natural opportunity to get the children to talk about how they’re doing and to learn more about their father and their heritage. Acknowledging the day with a prayer will help. A small gift or a treat like their father’s favorite dessert might be good. Share some memories and funny stories. A visit with other family members or an activity that will take up the whole day, create some fresh, fun memories, and wear everyone out enough for a good night's sleep is also a good option. 
Don’t try to be blind to the day or avoid talking about the person. Don’t try to compensate and make up for their absence with money or extravagant, unusual privileges. Don’t be so absorbed in your own pity that you’re unaware of how your children are feeling. Don’t think that a new husband will solve all your problems, only God can do that. Instead, make Father’s Day a time to bless your family with what would have pleased their father.  
Watch out for signs that your children are struggling. They should cry but it probably won’t be as often as you do. Younger ones might cry one minute and run out to play the next; I’ve been told that’s normal. Later on as they age they will need to talk and think about their father. Hospice or children’s services in your area might offer a “Grief Camp” day camp for children. Find out about it and consider using it. They will meet other kids whose parent has died and they’ll do helpful activities on a child’s level. It’s good for widows to know they’re not alone, and it’s good for children to meet other children and realize they’re not the only ones either.
Older children and teens who refuse to talk or cry should meet with a wise, godly person or a professional counselor regularly. I recommend about six weeks at first, and then for a few follow-up visits every year for the next few years. Interview the counsellor before you send your child and make sure you agree with their methods. Family or group counselling might be an excellent option too.
If your child or teen’s behavior changes for the worse, if their school work slips, if they seem depressed, or if they take on an angry, rebellious, or hateful attitude (even a few years after the death) you will also need to find counsel. If they won’t cooperate, then you should seek help for yourself in how to handle them. This can be a frightening journey so make sure you are also seeking God’s help first and He will lead you to the right people. 
Cling to these truths: 1. Nothing is impossible with God, not even raising children alone. 2. In Christ we do not have to grieve as the world does; we have true hope, grief doesn’t have to last forever. 3. We will change even if we try not to, so let’s follow God and make it a change for the better. 
Let’s make Father’s Day the day we get back to mothering.*
P.S. I'll be away from the Internet and won't be able reply to comments for the next few weeks. Please be sure to subscribe to this blog so it comes straight to your inbox and you never miss a post, OK? Also, please visit the friends in my blog roll and see what God is doing in their lives on this journey called widowhood.
* also printed in Just Plain Values magazine, June, 2017. Copyright 2017 Ferree Hardy.

Monday, May 27, 2019

Some friends saw what I posted about Memorial Day and my being so far away from the cemetery. Look at what they went out and did!

Memorial weekend...

Memorial weekend...

I wish I could plant flowers at my husband Bruce's grave.

I wish I could plant them at Marilyn Hardy's too. And my mom's and grandparents. 

I wish we could visit their cemeteries often. 
But I live a 10 hour drive (at least)-- away from them all.

And I'm so grateful for the military people who are honored on this weekend. That's the right thing to do. 

Yet, if you're like me, you have your own "fallen heroes" too and you have many wishes and sighs and that tightness in your throat...

Monday, May 20, 2019

Learning the Single Life

Dear Ones, I just feel led to repost this today, maybe it's for you or someone you know...

I know that no one wants to admit this about being single and lonely-- I sure didn't--the word is Vulnerable.
I preferred to think I was strong and independent, and I was, but I was sort of blind-sided by how extremely vulnerable and sensitive I was when widowed and single.
What I found when I first started dating was best described as this: I was in the habit of loving a man for 22 years, so I attached myself emotionally to the first one who came along, and then the next one, and on and on.

Finally I realized this, and you maybe you're like this too:

I'd been a really good wife---
I knew how to love, help and be compatible---I'd make a great wife for just about any man.
But NOT just any man would be a good husband for me. 

Widowhood is hard.
Being single is lonely, I totally understand. 
But jumping into a bad marriage is worse than being widowed.
Guard your heart and your children! Don't rush. Don't force God's timing. If God wants you to be remarried, you'll be remarried. The right man is worth the wait.

Monday, May 6, 2019

What?'s the Difference Between Grieving and Self-Pity

I've been getting newsletters from Georgia Shaffer since I met her at A Widow's Journey Retreat in March. This article was recent and seemed so helpful I asked her if I could reprint it and she graciously agreed. If you'd like to get her newsletters too, plus many other helps she offers, please visit her website. Sign up for the "40 Questions to Clarify - What's Most Important to You" and that will put you on the email list.  
What’s the Difference Between Grieving and Self-Pity? 
by Georgia Shaffer

Someone recently asked me, “How do I know if I’m stuck in self-pity or grieving?”

It may appear as if you’re having a pity party after a devastating loss, but it’s normal to withdraw and lick your wounds. You want to curl up in a corner somewhere or go to bed and pull the covers over your head. You wrestle with God asking honest questions: “Why did this happen?” “Why now?” and “When will this end?” You might have moments of believing you’re the only one suffering.

Self-pity and grief can overlap, especially after the shock and numbness of loss wears off.

Grieving is about protesting the pain, feeling all the emotions, and slowly working through your anger, sadness, guilt, shame or frustration. It takes time to recognize, name and own your feelings. It takes time to talk and journal about what you’re experiencing. 

In contrast to grief, with self-pity you excessively dwell on yourself and your sorrows. There comes a point when you need to refocus on something or someone other than your own pain. A time when you realize other people have accidents, have lost a loved one or faced the loss of their home after a tornado or fire.   

In unhealthy self-pity you keep seeing yourself as a victim and the only person genuinely suffering. As Rich Exley wrote, “We can hug our hurts and make a shrine out of our sorrows or we can offer them to God as a sacrifice of praise. The choice is ours.”  

Self-pity is when you refuse to see the little things you can be grateful for, even in the midst of the pain. Self-pity is rejecting the idea that others face challenges and hurt deeply. Self-pity is resisting the thought that one day God can bring something good of what is terrible. 

On the other hand, self-pity is not whitewashing your misfortune with comments like “It’s all good.” Or comparing your pain to someone else’s and deciding you should not grieve. 

Your pain is your pain.  Recognize it rather than pretend it does not exist. For example, Annie was waiting at a red light when someone behind her failed to stop and pushed her car into the car in front of her.  Her car was totaled, and she ached all over. When I saw her five days later, she told me about the accident, but she also wanted me to know the blessings she’d received. She told me her husband was in town close by, which was unusual during the workweek, and he immediately came to the accident. “My friends have pampered me with their time and attention,” she said. “It’s a huge disappointment because I really liked my car. It’s also a real inconvenience, but I’m dealing with it as best I can.” Annie is honestly dealing with her feelings of loss.

In contrast, Whitney is not. Three years after Whitney’s husband walked out on her and their two children, she continues to be bitter and self-focused. When one friend mentioned that a mutual friend’s husband was dying of cancer, Whitney barely acknowledged the news. Immediately she shared all that she and the children have faced and their latest challenges. Referring to their mutual friend, Whitney finally said, “Well, at least she wasn’t rejected by her husband and left financially destitute.”

Recently I lamented to a friend about how upset I was about a difficult situation in my family. I did what I normally do. I beat myself up for feeling sad and said, “I realize I have so much to be grateful for. Besides things could be much worse.” 

"Yes, it could be worse, but remember what you told me after my husband died? I was afraid I was complaining about my circumstances too much and stuck in self-pity. You reminded me that my pain was my pain. It was okay to feel bad. Acknowledging the hurt was the only way I could get to the place of accepting what had happened." 

Don’t you love it when someone throws your words back at you? But she was right. My pain was my pain, and it was real. I wasn't to wallow in it and dwell on it. Instead, I needed to acknowledge it, grieve what happened and come to terms with it. I’m still working through the sadness and anger, but one day I will reach a place of acceptance. Some people might think I’m focused only on my sorrows, but I know I’m grieving. 

“The LORD is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.” (Psalm 34:18 ESV).