Monday, November 30, 2015

Not Sitting Home Alone This Christmas

Here's an inspiring note from a reader about surviving the holidays. I can't think of a better outlook and * truth that transforms * than what this "honey" of a widow had to say. Thanks for letting me share this Honey Bee!
Hello Ferree,

I have found it absolutely necessary for me to have a plan for Christmas. The first Christmas after David's death, I spent alone. We had no family. Not a good idea. Neither was sharing with other families. I felt like a fifth wheel, or a charity case, although folks meant well.

The next year I went to Nashville with a tour group and had a great time. The following year I went with a tour group to New Hampshire's White Mountains. Another fabulous time. Last year all I could find was New York City, so to NYC I went and had an amazing time. This year I'm booked to go to Frankenmuth, MI, a lovely Bavarian Village.

It doesn't matter where I go, as long as I'm not sitting home alone.

The bus tours work well for me. They do all the work and the planning. I just show up. Because I have had Stage 3 Cancer and then Congestive Heart Failure after my husband died, my strength is so limited, but I can still have a wonderful life, making new friends, getting "out there", and making sure I am constantly building community in my life "one conversation at a time".

This week one of the baristas at the Starbucks I frequent almost daily said, "You have an exciting life." Yes, I do. * God is good. He opens doors, and the more doors I walk through, the more doors seem to open. It's all documented in my stack of Gratitude Journals.*

I love the encouragement you provide here, Ferree. Yours was one of the first websites I discovered as a new widow. Thank you from my heart.

God bless you and all who visit here.
Honey Bee

Thursday, November 26, 2015

A Pilgrim Widow: Elizabeth Warren

Can you imagine crossing the Atlantic in a hand-built wooden sailing schooner without bathrooms, electricity, heat or running water? Did I mention you have five daughters in tow, and you're going from England to America to meet your husband who sailed there three years previous on the Mayflower?
Did I mention the year is 1623?

This was the life of Elizabeth Warren. Kind of makes you glad you're you, doesn't it?

When Elizabeth arrived in Plymouth, her husband, Richard Warren was waiting for her. He hadn't died yet. That would happen in 1628, after the birth of their two sons. Did I mention there were no hospitals or anesthesia or Lamaze classes, and she had 7 children in all?

Hardly anything is known about the women of Plymouth, and even less about the widows among them. But Elizabeth, who lived well into her 90's, over 45 years without Richard, broke through the social conventions of the 17th century and lived out her life in goodness and victory.
"A woman of valor, who can find? Far beyond pearls is her value…
Give her the fruit of her hands, and she will be praised at the gates by her very own deeds."
Proverbs 31:10
Have a blessed Thanksgiving Day,

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

What Is There for Widows to Give Thanks for on Thanksgiving?

From a widow friend after Thanksgiving last year....


This Thanksgiving I invited another widow and her two young boys over. Her husband passed away 7 years ago and she just turned 40.

We sat at my big table...her all my children...

For a moment, emptiness swept over me as I realized none of these children had an earthly Daddy any more. No male "head" was seated in the foremost spot.

With a deep breath, I made a decision to focus on the smiles of just being together. I thought of how my friend had survived on this journey far longer than I . . . and then I simply gave in to joy.

This was not a time of sadness. We both knew we have had enough of that and it would surely come calling again. Instead, my Thanksgiving day was an amazing testimony to survival and courage and hope.

Thank you, Lord, for allowing me this respite from my grief. Thank you for helping me focus on the blessing you were giving me in the "now" and not letting me waste it. Thank you, Dear Father, for giving me a glimpse of joy. Amen


Monday, November 23, 2015

Turkey Tears of Widowhood

(Flickr photo credit: by Mac(3) )
I call it “a little grief storm.” You know. There you are standing in the grocery store meat department, looking at the turkeys because you ALWAYS have to buy a turkey for Thanksgiving. Then it hits you. You hate turkey. You always bought it for HIM. And now he’s gone. That empty chair in the kitchen will always be empty. You don’t ever have to eat turkey again if you don't want to. You'd eat a truckload of it if that would bring him back!

And there you are, tears streaming down your face as you scramble through your purse looking for a Kleenex in front of the stupid turkeys. Of course you don’t have a tissue and now your nose has started to run, too, and then there’s a nudge on your elbow. A meat department employee hands you a paper towel. “I’m sorry we just can’t keep these prices down, ma’am.”

We live in a world that doesn’t understand tears. Sometimes we don’t understand them ourselves. They just happen. And always at the worst of times. Always at the holidays.

Kelly, a widow and dear WCP and Facebook friend, shared some things with me about tears that I’d like to share with you.
”God gave us the gift of tears, and if it didn't serve any purpose He would not have given it to us.

There are three types of tears. Basal tears are the ones in our eyes that keep them moist and protected on a daily basis. Irritant tears are the ones that come when it's windy, or when something irritates your eyes, like onions!

Then there are emotional tears, the third type. It is a scientific fact that humans are the only species that shed emotional tears. Emotional tears contain much more, maybe 25% more, than basal or irritant tears of a certain important ingredient: proteins.

The proteins found in emotional tears are hormones that build up to very high levels when the body withstands emotional stress. It we didn't cry or sweat, those hormones would build up to levels that would weaken our immune system and other biological processes.

See? Tears are God’s gift, and we should use that gift as often as necessary. I thank the Lord every day for providing me with so many non-material gifts.

So cry when your heart is aching, because short of allowing your husband to come down and comfort you, tears are God's way of easing you through this life.”
I’m glad Kelly shared this with me. Tears are nothing to be ashamed of, even if they're over a silly old turkey; in fact, they’re a healthy release!

She got her information off this college website of student papers:

Kelly says, “You can see by reading the whole article that the writer believes it is an "evolutionary" thing that we have this ability to shed emotional tears, and there is no mention of God whatsoever. But sometimes is it good to know there is scientific fact behind something we believe is from God, because it makes Him even more all-knowing and AWESOME.”

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Widows Groups Are In Surprising Places

Kenya, Africa
It's pretty cool to watch the idea of "Lifeboat" widow support groups set sail around the world. Pictured is a group from a few years ago among the Massai tribe in Kenya. Our type of lifeboat can go by land or by sea, in America, Africa, and now in Canada! Look at this sweet note sent to me in October:
...Starting a widows support group in Stratford, Ontario, Canada. First meeting in 2 weeks....dinner and a speaker. No idea how many will attend. Open to all widows--- Christian and non-Christian. Calling ourselves Stratford Lifeboat Widows Support Group. We swim through storming waters after we become widows, then reach for those already in the boat for support, encouragement and friendship. For those of us who believe in Jesus...He is the anchor in this journey. Asking for prayers... Thank you, and would appreciate any suggestions and ideas. Blessings, Nellie M.
In the summer of 2011 I started one private widows group on Facebook and named it Lifeboat. I added just about every widow I knew, which might have been only 30 or 40 ladies. When it got up to over 100 members I started Lifeboat 2. Now, a few years later, each "boat" has more than doubled and I've added two more "boats!" But the best thing to see is when women create their own Lifeboat (or other named) widow groups. Like my friend and co-laborer in the Lord, Miriam Neff says, "No one understands a widow like another widow." Check out Miriam's website for the groups she has started in the Chicago area, and then Africa, and now into Europe!

God blesses the little bit I do, He blesses what Miriam does, He blesses the Lifeboat groups in Kenya, in Canada, and on Facebook! It's just like the parables Jesus told---we give whatever talents we have, and God's the one who blesses the outcome. What a cool thing to be part of that big picture! Let's join together in helping widows everywhere! ferree
P.S. I'm delighted to tell you I'll have an update on the group in Ontario after Thanksgiving. I was so excited to hear what they're doing, and I know you will be too! AND I heard of another group in Kenya!


Monday, November 16, 2015

Songs of Hope, Songs of Surrender...

I've been thinking a lot lately about God's gift of music. I wonder if familiar songs and hymns affect you the same way they affected me in the early days of grief? Are you able to sing and listen to music in the same way you did before your husband died?

In my book, Postcards from the Widows' Path, I wrote about music along these lines:

"In the early weeks of widowhood, music was especially painful for me. I literally choked on the words. Songs like “Great is Thy Faithfulness” meant far more than I could physically express. But the songs of surrender and sacrifice were the hardest. As I listened to the singing in church on Sunday mornings I wondered—how could anyone turn such hard truths into pretty tunes and sing them without a care in the world?

You people have no idea what you’re singing about, I thought. They were too young, too na├»ve, and they knew little of loss or suffering. They were mouthing the words, just playing a chorus, oblivious of the day they would need to make those very words their own.

When the psalms and hymns are not our experience, the repetition, memorization, and mouthing of them in music are our primer. They prepare us for days to come, hard days when we’ll need to put them into practice. Spiritual songs suspend God’s doctrine of personal surrender like medicine in an intravenous solution. They inject healing truth into the soul and help begin to fill our emptiness." Other widows have told me similar thoughts:

There is something about praise music and hymns that have always touched my heart. This is so much more so since my husband's death. Sometimes the song's words have been difficult, but they are also such a comfort and blessing. Spiritual music has a way of connecting us with God which I think is something we all so desire. - Sharon
For me the hymns I grew up with and "mumbled" through in my younger days became salve to my wounded heart and touched my soul deeply. I so appreciate them now, more than I ever did before. I do enjoy praise songs, but the hymns bring peace and depth to my soul. - Beth
At first, after my husband "moved to heaven" I couldn't bring myself to listen to any music; however, as the weeks turned into months, I find peace, comfort and solace in listening to hymns, music he loved and songs of hope. - Carol
How about you? Has music had a healing and helpful effect upon you? Does it sometimes catch you unaware, and send a storm of emotion rushing upon you? What is it about music that affects us so much? Let's talk about it this week. Share your thoughts, mention favorite song titles and anything else you'd like to say about music's affect on you. ferree