Thursday, December 18, 2014

Teresa's Tips for Widows

Here's the continuation of yesterday's interview with Teresa McWilliams. Don't forget that her radio program is live this afternoon at 2:30 Eastern Standard Time. Links are at the bottom of this post. As our interview proceeded I realized it really fell into two parts: her own story which we touched on yesterday; and then some wonderful wisdom and tips to pass along to other widows. This flows from her 13+ years on this journey and her extensive ministry experience. I feel like we've stumbled upon a treasure trove today! I hope this gives you an idea of what her radio show is like too. Well, enough of my rambling. Let's move on to what Teresa told me.
 
Teresa, Christmas is one week from today! It can be such a hard holiday with all the expected traditions and precious memories. How do you handle it? What do you do during the holidays? Although holidays were really big before my husband passed, the kids and I don’t really do much now. At Thanksgiving, none of us have ever really liked turkey but every now and then they ask me to cook one. And as far as Christmas gift-giving, we don't do much of that since the kids are grown and there are no grandkids yet. I imagine that once my eldest son’s wife has their twins (April 30th) that we will probably start doing more gift giving again. But for now, we spend time together as much as possible throughout the year so when the holidays roll around “it’s just another day”-- church as usual, football, and my famous made-from-scratch mac n' cheese.

I love that, Teresa! Your example will be a relief to many widows who are dreading Christmas this year. It's OK to take a break from tradition; what's important is to do what works for you. What else can you tell us about this path? What advice do you have for widows in general, or especially for new widows?
I'd have to say, Get connected with other widows through your church or other organization as soon as possible. There is something comforting and healing about being surrounded by those who have suffered in the same manner. Those experiencing grief need to see that others have experienced similar things and have lived through it. In fact, people go on to thrive, not just survive. The Scripture says very plainly, "There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man" (1 Cor. 10:13). In other words, any situation you find yourself in is not only experienced by others, but it is a common experience.
Teresa McWilliams
What would you tell a widow who asks “How long does this take?”
Let me gently say this: It takes a life time. You never stop loving your husband and even in his absence, he never stops being a part of your life (or who you are) whether or not you remarry. But the good news is that as time goes by the sting of death becomes less harsh and the happy memories bring peace and wash away the pain.

How did you begin to grow through your own grief, Teresa?
I used to think that it was when I finally discovered the widows before me who survived it. Not only the widows of the Bible, but rather, real life, modern day widows who were brave enough to write books about their journeys and to even start blogs and support groups on the Internet. Before then I was just making it by. But now, I see how that was just the beginning and that the real growth began when I launched The Widows’ Voice in April (just seven short months ago).

The Widows' Voice is a wonderful example of how God works. Sort of like how when we lose our life we find it; when we give of ourselves God restores us over and over again. I'm so glad you were able to begin that broadcast, and I'm so thankful for the church, your guest-hosts Elease Patterson and Cleora Fortson, and the many other people behind the scenes who make it a reality each week.

As you minister to widows through your church and through your radio show, what steps have you found are effective for a widow to begin to rebuild her life?
  • First and foremost, focus on what matters; taking care of yourself and making sure you stay healthy.
  • Don’t worry so much about who calls and who doesn’t, who visits and who doesn’t. I believe that is nothing more than a distraction engineered to keep you from healing through your grief.
  • Let go of those old relationships and create new ones (I had to do that twice; after the accident and after he died). Surround yourself with positive and supportive people.
  • Instead of waiting around for someone to invite you out, meet new people and invite them out; be assertive (even if it hurts)!
  • Every week, make it a point to try something new, something you have never tried before or something you have always wanted to do but never got around to it.
Thank you Teresa, those steps will take some courage as I know from my own experience, but God gives us that courage and strength. And we don't have to do it all in a day. It's step. by. step. Sometimes one step forward, two steps back it seems, but God truly does work it together for our good when we follow Him. Your advice is excellent!

In five years from now, if anything were possible, what would you like to be doing?
I would love to be in full-time ministry and remarried.

That's so cool! A measurable goal! :) May the Lord grant you favor and the desires of your heart Teresa! I hope you'll keep me posted with the good things He brings along your way in the next few years. God bless you for all you've shared with us today, and I hope you have a very special Christmas Day full of rest and relaxation and that famous mac n' cheese.

Everyone, please tune in today:
 This week on The Widows' Voice -
"Bah Humbug: Overcoming the Spirit of Christmas Past"
 
Tune in at 2:30pm EST every THURSDAY via internet at www.WMBM.com or on your smart device using the free app WMBM-AM

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

A Widow's Story: Teresa McWilliams

On Wednesdays I feature widow's stories---one of the perks of blogging is meeting my heroes!
Teresa McWilliams
Today I want to introduce you to Teresa McWilliams. We met with a phone call last spring when she was beginning a radio broadcast called The Widows' Voice. I love her program and hope you'll tune in soon. Additionally, she serves as an Associate Pastor at her church and is one of the directors in the Women’s’ Ministry, the Coordinator of the Widows’ Fellowship, and provides Congregational Care. She says, "I attend a lot of funerals, visit hospitals and nursing homes as well as sick and shut in." She is one busy lady, and you'll see why I love not only her radio program but HER, as she and I "converse" today.

Teresa, I'm so glad you agreed to this interview, and I want to thank you for sharing your life and the many things God has brought you through. I know you've paid a high price, yet you inspire me to keep on keeping on for the Lord. It's really worth it! Would you share with my readers how your story began?

Thanks for having me here today, Ferree. My husband Clyde passed away at our home in San Diego, California thirteen years ago as the result of a work-related traumatic brain injury caused from falling over 25 feet off the top of a building. However, it has been nearly twenty years in this cycle of loss. The loss of my husband is actually a two-part story. First was the night we lost him due to the accident at work; it left him severely disabled for six and a half years. The second part is when he died peacefully at home as a result of those injuries in 2001. 

I'm so sorry, Teresa, and you had seven children too, ages 10-24 at the time he passed. If I do my math correctly they were about 4 - 18 at the time of the accident. What was it like?
I was Clyde's only caregiver for the first 4 1/2 years. I had to return to work in order to pay for his meds, making due with neighbors helping him, and then part-time caregivers through grants from various charities and eventually continuous care from hospice.
Meanwhile, during those 6 1/2 years the children were growing up and launching out as young adults: the oldest moved to Arizona, the next son was away at college where he had a football scholarship. Our eldest daughter was in bootcamp for the Air Force; my middle daughters were attending school in Seattle where we'd previously lived; and the youngest boys were at home with me when Clyde passed.
If you would have asked me back then how I was doing I would have truthfully told you (in all confidence) that I was doing a lot better than expected. The sad truth revealed, in looking back at that time, I can honestly say I was a train wreck. I don’t know how I managed to keep it together and keep going except that I had all these little eyes watching me, depending on me, trusting me to ‘make everything alright’ for them. After Clyde died, the silent tears (when no one was around), afraid to go to sleep at night because of the sick feeling waking up each morning realizing (and reliving) his death and absence – but I kept going; there were no other options for me. I thank God for that because He really did get me through it.

Is it hard to believe it’s been 13--or 20--years already?
I'd have to say both Yes and No. It’s difficult to describe. On one hand, it feels like a lifetime has passed and I am still in the process of “reinventing” myself. On the other hand, there are times that it seems like just yesterday. Many of the events had been buried away in my mind but are now so clear that it can’t possibly have been so long ago. 

You describe the nature of grief so well---it's not something with a simple start and finish line. And there are at least three distinct entities that affect our grief journey:
  1. the grieving person herself
  2. the people around her
  3. faith in the Lord
Let's mention a bit of your experience with each, OK? We'll start with the people around you. 

What was the most helpful thing that the people around you did?
The most helpful thing actually occurred the night my husband died and the week or so following. I mentioned before that he died at home; he was on hospice. We already had a plan who to call, etc. My darling neighbor and her lovely mother were there; sitting with me, making the calls, caring for the children and during the next two weeks, they received the visitors, coordinated all the food and flowers and made sure the children and I were all taken care of during that initial shock. Even though he was on hospice and we knew the hour would come, there is no being “prepared” for that moment. What was the worst thing people did?
I would have to say the worst thing was being fired from my job and some of the careless things people said; such as, “get over it,” or “you have a dream house, dream car, and dream job, what do you have to be upset about?” (I hadn’t told anyone that I lost my job).
(Teresa, I wish people understood that there's a lot of silent suffering in our world. I'm so sorry you lost your job too! Maybe we can hear more of that story sometime. I know of other widows who've lost their jobs as a result of these circumstances. And then there are the widows who need to start a job for the first time in many years. The workplace can be very difficult for widows!)

Now let's consider the part you yourself played in navigating widowhood. What did you do that helped you the most?
Keeping busy, staying in prayer, being involved in church activities, trusting in God. And, I asked a lot of questions. I think I must have driven most of my friends and family nuts! Also, I wasn’t able to find a grief group for widows near my age, and there was virtually nothing on the Internet 13 years ago; but I did read a number of books on grief and on God’s promises (and the Bible of course).

And finally, how did your faith in God help you through this?
I am very deeply rooted in the Word and the Church. Without that stabilization I don’t believe I could have survived any of this. With each new experience along the road of widowhood many of the Scriptures that I've learned and taught over the years have taken on a deeper meaning – like watching a flower bloom, opening one petal at a time. A Scripture verse I've found very comforting is Psalm 28:7 -
The LORD is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in Him, and I am helped. Therefore my heart rejoices, and I praise Him with my song.
What is the hardest thing about widowhood for you?
I have to say that the hardest thing for me now is really very different than what it was in the earlier years. In the earlier years it was adjusting to solo parenting (we still had young children in elementary school when he passed). – Now it’s adjusting to living alone, learning to cook for one, and figuring out this “dating” thing.

What would you like most for others to learn from your experience?
You are stronger than you think you are and with God you can do some pretty amazing things, such as survive this widowhood journey.

Thank you, Teresa, I look forward to hearing more about your experience tomorrow and some of the good tips you have for widows. Your radio show airs tomorrow too! I hope everyone will tune in to catch either the live program at 2:30 (EST) or the rebroadcast in the evening at 7:00. It's always fascinating! Tomorrow's topic is so timely and needed: Bah Humbug: Overcoming The Spirit of Christmas Past. ferree

THE WIDOWS' VOICE * LIVE * EVERY THURSDAY AT 2:30 pm EST.
Rebroadcast at 7:00 pm EST on www.wmbm.com
For archives and events go to the website at http://www.thewidowsvoice.org/
 

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

A Fresh Beginning for Broken Lives

Yesterday we explored some Scriptures that help connect with God during grief. But what if we don't even know God? The first key is personally accepting God's salvation and love.

God wants a relationship with us. Isn't that amazing? The Creator of the universe + you. Sometimes I wonder why He doesn't make us all automatically love Him and respond to Him? He's God, He's powerful enough to do that, right?

Right, but He's also kind. And gentle. And He's given us a free-will to choose Him. Or not. God will not force Himself upon us.
We're separated from God by our humanity, by being flawed with sin. And some of us are pretty proud of that at times. We sing that song, "I Did It My Way," and think God will be proud of us. But we need to come to grips with the fact that sin separates us from God--its humbling to admit we need Him, realizing that Jesus died on the cross to cover our sin.

Look at it like this: He paid to take away the judgment of our sin. And just as if someone paid for our meal at a restaurant, we need to decide if we will accept their payment, or if we'll argue and object. We either accept Christ paying for us with His death and resurrection, or we refuse to believe. There's no middle ground.

I don't really understand why people refuse to accept Christ's offer of salvation. His purpose in dying for us wasn't to make us raving Republicans, do-gooders or even the nicest neighbor on the block. A lot of people do become a little nicer with Christ in their life, and unfortunately some morph into fanatics, but that's certainly not why Jesus chose to die. Bottom line--He died to save us from eternity in Hell. Have you ever taken Him up on His offer of salvation?

Scripture tells us over and over how to do that. Here are some examples:
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. John 3:16
If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved. Romans 10:9,10
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. I John 1:9

Why not talk to Christ about His offer of salvation right now? Let Him know if you believe --or not. Ask Him to forgive your sin and make you righteous and pure in God's sight.
Some people like to write their prayer out like a letter. That's a good idea, it's a tangible reminder of this event. Others silently form the words in their mind in the privacy of their home, or in a church or a special place in nature. (My father was in the Navy and his first prayer was while gazing upon the Pacific Ocean). Or you might like to have a friend or pastor pray with you. They can tell you some words to say and Scriptures to stand on.

Or, you might do like a woman I know. For days she'd been hesitating, vacilating between her longing for God and her fear of God. Finally, one day as she was driving around on some errands, she could stand it no longer. She pulled her car to the side of the road, looked up and cried out, "God, take away all this junk!" And you know what? He did. He'll do the same for you. A fresh beginning . . . the real gift of Christmas . . . a transforming relationship with God in the midst of grief.

Sound good? E-mail me or comment below if you have questions. If you'd like me to pray with you please let me know; that's what I'm here for--to help you know God is with us; to know that He cares and He wants to connect with you. He's the hope we need when life is hopeless. Just like when the shepherds in the Christmas story heard the good news, God enters our lives when the nights are cold, dark and lonely.
ferree

Monday, December 15, 2014

Hope for Broken Lives

Psalm 119:92
If your law had not been my delight,
I would have perished in my affliction.
 
This verse describes my time of widowhood so well that today I simply want to share some of the Scriptures that throw out a lifeline of hope to keep us from being overwhelmed. All quotes today are from the New International Version (NIV).
 
Isaiah 46:4
Even to your old age and gray hairs
I am he, I am he who will sustain you.
I have made you and I will carry you;
I will sustain you and I will rescue you.


Isaiah 49:13
Shout for joy, you heavens;
rejoice, you earth;
burst into song, you mountains!
For the Lord comforts his people
and will have compassion on his afflicted ones.

Isaiah 49:23, last line
  those who hope in me will not be disappointed
 
Isaiah 55:8-13
“For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways,”
declares the Lord.
“As the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts.
As the rain and the snow
come down from heaven,
and do not return to it
without watering the earth
and making it bud and flourish,
so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater,
so is my word that goes out from my mouth:
It will not return to me empty,
but will accomplish what I desire
and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.
You will go out in joy
and be led forth in peace;
the mountains and hills
will burst into song before you,
and all the trees of the field
will clap their hands.
Instead of the thornbush will grow the juniper,
and instead of briers the myrtle will grow.

Isaiah 61:1-3
...He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim freedom for the captives
and release from darkness for the prisoners,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor
and the day of vengeance of our God,
to comfort all who mourn,
and provide for those who grieve in Zion—
to bestow on them a crown of beauty
instead of ashes,
the oil of joy
instead of mourning,
and a garment of praise
instead of a spirit of despair...
 
These verses are all from just one book of the Bible, and there are a total of 66 books in the Bible! Can you imagine how many more words of hope, promise and comfort are yet to be found? Please join me tomorrow as we look at some helpful tools for digging these Scriptures out of the books and into our hearts. Until then, what verses mean the most to you? Please list them in the comments today so you can help others along the way.
ferree

Saturday, December 13, 2014

How to Feel Better In 16 Minutes

Dear Friend,

Holiday happenings got you down? I know its hard, but these steps can make your day a little easier...

1. First, put on your winter coat, scarf, hat, mittens, boots . . . whatever will keep you comfortable for 10 minutes outside. Let's start our clock with 2 minutes to find all your stuff, 1 minute to put it on. We're starting now! Hurry!
2. Ready? Good! Take a deep breath in through your nose, and blow it out slowly through your mouth. Let your shoulders and neck relax. (15 seconds) Feels good, doesn't it? Go ahead and do it 3 more times for a total of 1 minute.
3. Now you can sit down to listen to this sample video of the really pretty Christmas carol, "Still, Still, Still." Settle in and get ready to listen. (30 seconds) (As always, if this post arrives in your email inbox and the video doesn't show up simply click on the title line at the top of this page to get to my blog itself so you can view it).
4. OK, play the music. Focus, listen, relax. Repeat step 2 if you'd like. (One minute, 30 seconds).
5. Now go outside. Walk around and listen to the snow crunch under your feet for 10 minutes. Every time you see something beautiful like the sunshine sparkling, a snowflake, a child... or if you hear a bird song, a human voice, an airplane full of people just like you... when you feel a snappy breeze, smell a woodburning fireplace, or touch your soft, cool face... tell the Lord how thankful you are for that sensation. Live each moment...
He says, “Be still, and know that I am God... Psalm 46:10 (NIV)

There. 16 minutes. Feel better? May this be the start of a restful, rejuvenating weekend for you. 


Friday, December 12, 2014

Friday Fun: Lego -Tobymac- Christmas This Year

It's Friday, time for some fun. And yes, widows are allowed to smile. Or even dance a bit, play with Legos, and rejoice deep down in our heart that unto us a Saviour was born.
ferree




(As always, if this post arrives in your email inbox and the video or link isn't showing up, or you’d like to add a comment, simply click on the title line at the top of this page to get to the WCP blog itself so you can view it. Thanks!)