Monday, July 9, 2018

Rainbows & Heartbeats

My friend Babs, who lives in England, calls me "the lady who stood in a rainbow," after reading the last chapter in my book Postcards from the Widows' Path.

But look what happened to her! She wrote this note to me a while back and has given me permission to share it with you. Picture her looking out her window onto the English countryside...

      Adequate words fail me but you'll know. 
     Yesterday, at 5:45 a.m. the sky was full of slate grey and dark clouds. I knew the sun was rising as it's brightness peaked over the roof of my house and lit up the farmers fence which is 3 fields away from my window. It looked silver in the light. 
     I continued doing my 'Postcards from the Widows' Path' homework. It was raining, growing darker, darker, erm...growing different. I sighed, looked out of the window and almost had a heart attack!
     Right in front of my eyes - just beyond the farmer's silver fence was a rainbow. The beginning of one. I'd never seen a rainbow head on before, so close - they are usually further away and I just see them from the side. I would have run out into my garden, rejoicing, had I not been rooted to the spot. 
     It was right in front of my eyes. Wide, wonderful. It's bow veered to the left of me as it arced. This lasted 10 minutes. The only movement, my heart racing. How unique is that...I experienced something of the wonder of your rainbow heaven. Yay. xxx

Here's an excerpt from the chapter that Bab's had just finished reading:
     As I stepped out of the boat (after a rainstorm)...I planted both feet firmly on the pier...when suddenly everything changed. I remember looking across our boat, across the bay and up at Cook Mountain. It all looked so different--clear and rain-washed, almost sparkling--yet so much bigger. Up the entire tree-covered side of the mountain, the tips of the pine needles glistened with drops of rain dancing down from one branch to another.
     If was as if all the oxygen molecules had suddenly expanded and started to shimmer. The air grew iridescent. objects took on a twinkling dimension; the posts of the pier, blades of grass along the shoreline, and two birds flitting across the water all stood out in a surreal moment. Then it hit me: I'm standing in a rainbow! More quickly than a breath, everything around me had changed character. Earthiness became ethereal, air became color, and in that twinkling of an eye, I realized heaven could be that close.
     At my last heartbeat, that is all it will take. Just one last breath and I will be there. My foot will step on heaven's shore as surely as my foot had stepped out of that wet boat and onto the pier. Earth's veil will lift like a shadow's passing moment...


What reminds you of how close heaven is today?

Monday, July 2, 2018

Failure, Fire and Fullfillment

The Refiner's Fire
Trials? Tribulations? Testing by fire?

Sound familiar? Widowhood qualifies as all of the above!

Have you ever admitted or even considered that widowhood is a time of trial and testing--that its a season of suffering? I don't know why it took me a long time to see that; maybe the over-used term "denial" applies and I couldn't wrap my head around it. Maybe I thought I was so strong and that my faith was so strong and superior that I would easily rise above it. Mostly though, I was in shock and couldn't believe my husband had died; I sure couldn't sit down with myself and explain to myself that I was actually suffering from a trial of life.

With God, though, our sorrow will one day be wiped away. Right now we're in the flames and pain; and if you're like me they're not only fueled by tragic circumstances-- my own failures threaten to consume me too.

This selection from Psalm 66:10 and 12 brought me through the fire to a future of hope.
You, O God, have tested us; You have refined us as silver is refined ... We went through fire and through water, but You brought us out to rich fulfillment. (NKJV)

Now take a look a the entire Psalm 66 either by yourself or as a Bible study or devotional with your widows group. Make 2 columns on a paper or marker board: 
1). PRAISE and 2). PAIN
  • Look at each phrase or verse and decide in which column it fits. 
  • When you've divided up all the verses ask which column is longer. 
  • What does that tell us about the bigger picture of God's plan and involvement in our lives? 
  • Which verses stand out to you most of all and speak to your experience? 
  • Which one verse provides you with the most hope and promise? 
  • Jot your favorite verse down on a 3x5 card. Keep it in your pocket, tape it to your steering wheel, post it as your status on Facebook or do anything that will serve to remind you of God's faithful fulfillment throughout the day. 
Today is the day when pain can take off it's disguise and praise can start to rise. God understands the emotional roller coaster of grief and the Bible never says that its sinful to have feelings. God is touched by our infirmities. And he touches us in our weakness with the fulfillment of the power and promises of His Word when we take it to heart (or pocket or steering wheel) :) Please try this, I think you'll be greatly encouraged when you do.  ferree

Monday, June 25, 2018

What's Surprised You Most About Widowhood?


A few weeks ago widows from Florence and Darlington met with me at Bethea Retirement Community. Jenny Doll, the Director of Marketing and Admissions had arranged for me to give a talk about my book, Postcards from the Widows’ Path. With a delicious platter of refreshments, comfy seating in Bethea’s lovely parlor with a beautiful courtyard and fountain view, Jenny’s warm hospitality made for an afternoon of budding friendships and heart-felt connections.

Whenever I speak in public I know there will be people listening who have overcome their own sorrow and hardships. I should be listening to them! So I count it an honor and privilege to speak. I love meeting people afterwards and hearing some of their stories. Often, my talks are conversation starters for grief and widowhood topics that are essential but often silently tabooed in society. I provide respect and a “safe” place for people to tell their stories and discover the relief of knowing they are not alone.  


It’s also an honor to speak to widows because they hold a special place in the Bible. Did you know that in the geneology of Jesus four out of the five women named were widows? And who was the first woman to tell the world about Jesus? A widow! There are many other surprising things about widows in the Bible but they all point to the fact that God cherishes widows and never overlooks or forgets them.

Widowhood, too, is full of surprises. We talked about many physical challenges such as fatigue, insomnia, lower immunity, weight loss/gain, etc.; it’s also hard to concentrate and deal with unexpected grief “attacks.” Yet we have to make monumental estate, financial or medical decisions at this time!

A collective sigh went through the group as I mentioned the social surprises of widowhood, especially how some friendships change. While everyone was grateful for supportive friends and family, each had experienced some friendships that disintegrated. Some people you thought were your friends treat you like a contagious disease. They’re blind to the huge, lonely hole in your heart and no one seems to “get it.”

When I was a young pastor’s wife I didn’t know any of this. Sure, we had some widows in our little churches in Ohio but they said they were “fine,” and I happily took their word for it. The widows group nodded in agreement; they could relate to telling their pastor’s wife they were fine when they really weren’t. What else do people expect you to say?

We touched on many other things too: how long grief lasts; that it’s different for each individual; that the essence of grief is love—if we’d never loved we’d never grieve; and the courage it takes to get this far along in life.

Most surprising of all is that God chose to put a book in the Bible that’s all about widows and the choices they make—the Book of Ruth. From the older widow Naomi, full of despair, to her daughter-in-law Ruth, full of determination, we can take heart and take hope because God loves widows. Nothing surprises Him. 
What's surprised you most about widowhood? Next time you meet with your widows or grief support group ask them this question. It'll give everyone a good chance to open up. We don't need answers--God has all of those, widows just need to have a chance to tell their stories and discover that they're not alone.  

Saturday, June 23, 2018

International Widows Day 2018

Did you know that today is International Widows Day?

What's it all about?
It was originally launched at the House of Lords in London in 2005. The June 23rd date was chosen to honor an woman, Shrimati Pushpa Wati Loomba, who became a widow on June 23, 1954 at the age of 37 and single-handledly raised and educated her 7 children. In 2010 the United Nations recognised 23rd June as International Widows Day." (from the Loomba Foundation website)

The Loomba Foundation is a charity recognized by the United Kingdom and has sister charities in the US and India. It's not a Christian missionary organization, but according to their website the purpose is "Education of children of poor widows and socio-economic empowerment of their mothers is at the heart of the Loomba Foundation." They also "actively advocate to promote the fundamental freedoms and human rights of widows and their children around the world."

How can Christians be involved?
Every day is International Widows Day for many Christian missions! From the inception of Israel in the Old Testament to the beginning of the church in the New Testament, God made it clear that widows were to be cared for in their times of need. Listed below are a few Christian organizations that I personally know of who reach out to widows. Feel free to add others you know of in the comments today. Do not send or ask me for any money for widows, as I am just a private citizen and not set up to handle or distribute donations. My policy is to always refer people to their local church for aid.

Gospel for Asia  supports national missionaries who already live in the culture, thus cutting the costs of educating, transporting and acclimating Western workers. Your donation dollars are maximized.

Widow Connection, led by Miriam Neff nurtures widows groups here in the US and she's also able to help widows in Africa and other places too! Please visit her website and see if the Lord would have you join her.

Widows also benefit from Christian relief organizations like Samaritans Purse. Visit their website and read the stories of what your sisters around the world go through as their counties are overrun by armies or natural disasters. I'm so thankful for disaster relief organizations, and for the time I myself spent with a Southern Baptist disaster relief team. If you need to shake off your grief---you will not only be blessed by joining a disaster relief team, but you'll also be a blessing to the widows you meet!

She Is Safe ministers exclusively to women and girls, because they are the poorest of the poor throughout the world. I first met the leader of this organization in 2004 or 2005, and have followed their growth and compassion ever since. Please explore their website and get involved. "She Is Safe works to prevent, rescue and restore women and girls from abuse and exploitation in high risk places around the world, equipping them to build a life of freedom, faith and a strong future."

Thanks for checking out these groups with me today. I hope you'll be moved to look into them further and reach out to widows around the world.
ferree

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Blooms

(from a  young widow on Facebook, used with her permission)
A few weeks ago my mom came over to look at my garden. 
I asked her to help me figure out what things were weeds and what were actual plants (because sometimes weeds sure do look pretty! And I have no idea how to garden.).
I asked her about this one giant bush that I thought was dead and I thought I should get rid of it. She told me it was actually a rose bush and it should start to flower soon. Well, it has started to flower and every time I’m outside I look at the buds and smile. 
It reminds me that beautiful things can come from things that initially didn’t look so beautiful (or looked dead). 
It reminds me that tough seasons can bloom into beautiful seasons if you give it some time to grow. 
It reminds me that deciding to begin again is always the right decision.

Monday, June 18, 2018

C.A.S.T. prayer method

If you've been around church world for a while you might be familiar with the A.C.T.S. method for prayer. I've been in a couple of prayer groups that used it. It's a handy tool for keeping group prayer on point. It incorporates worship, confession and thanksgiving instead of just the usual "bless or help so and so..." God wants us to bring our requests to him, of course, but this ACTS tool reminds us of who God is, and who we really are. It can really enrich a group prayer time. You basically have everyone who wants to pray hold to this outline:
  • A - adoration: open your prayer time by giving everyone opportunity to speak a prayer of adoration and worship to God. Ideally you've got 6 - 10 people in your group and this takes 5 - 10 minutes.
  • C - confession: in a group we don't need to air all of our dirty laundry so this is best done by having the group leader say "We'll now take 2 or 3 minutes of silent prayer to privately confess our personal sins to the Lord." When the time is up the leader proceeds to the next step.
  • T - thanksgiving: Everyone's prayers are full of thankfulness and praise for various gifts and workings of God during the past and current circumstances, and/or appreciation for God's character and truth.
  • S - supplication: praying our requests (the bless or help so and so's) to God and asking for His will to be done. 
While I think it's good for group prayer, I've never been comfortable with it on my own. Psalms 66:18 says, "If I had cherished sin in my heart, the Lord would not have listened." In other words, God chooses to not listen to the prayers of Christians who harbor sin rather than confess it! I realized I needed to put CONFESSION at the top of my prayer time.

I played around with the ACTS acronym and rearranged the letters putting Confession first and ended up with: CATS. LOL, that  wasn't going to work! Just not biblical, not reverent, and not a word that would help me focus on God Almighty! A cat would probably like it though.

But what about this one? C.A.S.T.
Ah... that's good!

  • C - Confession
  • A - Adoration - something I can express so much better with a clean heart!
  • S - Supplication - the real reason I pray anyway - because I need a lot of God's help, intervention and miracles in my life!
  • T - Thanksgiving - what a wonderful way to close my prayer time - by thanking God for what he's already done, plus for what he will do in the needs  and situations I just "cast" before him.
CAST all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. I Peter 5:7

CAST your cares on the Lord
and he will sustain you;
he will never let the righteous fall.
Psalm 55:22

Let's hurry and go CAST! God cares, he will sustain, and he will never let the righteous fall!