Tuesday, December 31, 2019

A Widow's Daily Bible Reading Guide

A One-Year Bible Reading Plan for Widows 2020

Dear Friends,

I can't say "Happy New Year," not when hearts are far from happy and a calendar of sorrow looms ahead.  But I do have a gift for you...

Start this new year by using a Bible reading plan. It helps us know what to do next---and in the fog of grief that's exactly what we need!. 

I first posted this plan about 2 years ago, after about 2 years of trial and error to develop it. Although other other plans will get you through the Bible in a year or two, most widows are too distracted to read 3 or 4 chapters of the Bible each day--it's too much to take in. 

So that's where my plan comes in: 
  • You'll read the entire New Testament, many Psalms, all of Proverbs, and all of Ruth  
  • You'll read the 4 gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John) one per season--winter, spring, summer, fall. 
  • You can start reading, or get back on track reading at any time without feeling like you have to "catch up" because books do not overlap into the next month. 
  • Most months start out with a section of Psalm 119 to remind us of all the excellent things God's Word does for us!  
TO PRINT: Click the small images of the plan in the column at the right. (If you are viewing this blog post on a cell phone or email, you might need to click on the title at the top this page to get to the actual website). If you need me to mail you a printed copy please send a self-addressed, stamped envelope to me at Ferree Hardy, 122 Breckenridge Place, North Augusta, SC 29841. I'll be happy to mail you one at no charge. You may reprint as many copies as you need. 

Reading the Bible anchors our day with encouragement, wisdom, hope and comfort. It gives us perspective and perseverance because it enables us to see the big picture of God's love and faithfulness. I hope you will get into God's Word this year and that this Bible-reading plan will be a helpful and tremendous blessing as you start into 2020!






Sunday, December 29, 2019

A New Year, A New Decade, A New Beginning

“Word of the Year”

It’s the beginning of a brand new year. Do you ever wonder what lies ahead? Have you ever chosen a single word that will be your goal for the new year?

Last year at this time I had an impression that Tom and I would be going into a year of transition. Offhandedly I told him that our word of the year was “transition.” I had no idea what I was in for---and I apologize for not being able to keep up with this blog. If you prayed for me I thank you---I needed it, and please don't stop!

Transition is that part of childbirth also known as “hard labor.” But I am happily past that part of my life so no hard labor for me, right? The word usually just means change. It seemed like a reasonable word for the year because we planned to switch our membership to another church. That wasn’t an easy decision; I’d leave my job at the church’s school too. I loved my job, but it was the right time to leave. The hard labor of transition seemed like an appropriate term for our change, but I didn’t give it much thought.

However, a few months later Tom reminded me of our word of the year and said it might be more than I’d thought. Within days he was without a job.

It was a perfect storm. We were between churches. Now we were both between jobs. We put our house up for sale. We decided it was time to down-size. We didn’t need extra bedrooms, playrooms or workshops. And what about my chickens--Natalie, Emily and Marti? They were the first things to go along with their sweet little chicken coop. (To a 4-H boy, not the stew pot!)

There’s much more to this story, but on top of it all my dad died. My mother had passed away sixteen months earlier but when my dad died was when the loss of them both really sunk in. I’d been wrapped up in trying to help Dad deal with his grief; and then seeing him come out of his shell and start relating to us kids on a whole new level as a sweet, godly man and a very good friend. But now my parents were both gone. Their apartment was emptied and rented to someone new; I could never return. There was no longer a phone number to dial; no more birthdays or anniversaries to celebrate with them. Their earthly lives are my memories, some tombstones in a snowy cemetery in Wisconsin and what feels like a dark weighty stone in my life.

God could have given me the words “Unemployment,” or “Death” to prepare me for what 2019 held. But have you noticed He never gives us words that don’t embody hope? Transition is the last phase of childbirth so I must ask myself, “What is God up to? What new creation is coming into my life now?”

My year of transition still cannot compare to the sorrow of widowhood--that still stands as the hardest time of my life, but God does not change. He consistently and faithfully offers hope in the very deepest of losses and darkest of days. This is a truth that I’ve been fighting very hard to understand and apply.

I can’t tell you all I’ve been going through, (I even moved 2 times!) but one day when I was at one of the lowest and loneliest points of all I cried out to the Lord to please encourage me and let me know I wasn’t alone. Eventually I dried my eyes and wiped my nose. I got up from the floor ready to get on with my day. Then I checked my email, and like a hug from above, there was a note from a stranger.

“Hello my name is Joyce Miller and I am part of a group called Broken Restoration, a support group for widows and divorced ladies. We are wondering if you would consider coming to Ohio for Valentine’s Day for a seminar?”

Oh my! I was so surprised! Of course I wanted to go but really, there was no way I could. Ohio? In winter? Ice? Snow? Driving all that way? I asked Joyce to give me a few weeks to see if my life might settle down a bit. After a few weeks it did not, so I told her, “I’m sorry, I can’t.” But in my journal I wrote, “It’s impossible but I really think God wants me to do it.”

Joyce graciously let me know she was disappointed but she understood. And then about two weeks later she asked me again.

So I will be in Ohio. In February. In the snow, and cold, and the winter coat that I did not let go of when we were downsizing.

I’ll share about the words I did not let go of either: words from the Bible like truth, grace, kindness, rest, honesty, love, mercy and most of all hope for when life transitions in some hard and unwanted ways. Would you like to come? I’d love to meet you.

Save the date: Saturday, February 15 at Fairlawn Mennonite Church in Apple Creek, Ohio, in the heart of Amish country. Let's begin anew and get through the year ahead together. I'll send out details asap.

Thursday, November 7, 2019

What Are You Resources?

This page is a supplement to chapter 11 in my book, Postcards from the Widows' Path.

Asking for help to find resources is a dreaded situation, I know. But don't give up, help is out there! In most cases the widow must take the initiative and reach out for help. (People cannot read your mind). And be persistent!! Luke 18. Contact people and organizations that can help you. From people you know (individuals, family members and your church) to those you don't yet know (government programs, grief groups, and financial and biblical counselors), there are a variety of helps available.

Biblically, the first line of help is your family and then your church (I Timothy 5), but not exclusively. Don't quit searching! 

Look what Proverbs says three different times:
Proverbs 11:14 Where there is no counsel, the people fall; but in the multitude of counselors there is safety.
Proverbs 15:22  Without counsel, plans go awry, but in the multitude of counselors they are established.
Proverbs 24:6  For by wise counsel you will wage your own war, and in a multitude of counselors there is safety. 

When you find many wise people telling you the same thing you can be more certain it's the better path to take. Be wary of those who will profit from your decisions but don't decline paying for expert, professional advice. Also, choose your "counselors" much like you'd choose a doctor--the first one you go to might not always be the best one. Find someone you can talk to comfortably without intimidation, but who will be honest with you and not just say what they think you want to hear. 

Family members you can talk to:

Pastors or Bible study/small group leaders you can talk to:

Counselors or chaplains that your church or denomination uses for referrals:

Financial advisers recommended by friends and relatives:

Other widows your can network with and socialize:

Grief support groups in your area:

Widowhood basics: (widowers see some resources at the bottom of this page)

Miriam Neff's "From One Widow to Another" is like a handbook for widows and full of practical and emotional helps. Also her 5 session DVD series along with workbooks. Check out her website: Widow Connection

Postcards from the Widows' Path guides you through phases of widowhood--Grieving, Changing, Working, Waiting and Blessing--and can be used individually or with a group. This book is loved by thousands and walks you hand-in-hand through the widow empowering Book of Ruth. It's a life changer!

Finances:

I'm sorry but you've got to know your finances. Here are some a good places to start. Also use Google or other searches for the most up-to-date information.

Widows Connection Finances Page  This page also has the link to Social Security and some of the basics you need to get started.

Crown Financial has a variety of online financial studies you can enroll in at very little cost. They also have financial mentors and career counselors.

Online and other support groups:

A Widow's Might  (Facebook)

Widow Might   (Minnesota)

Grief support:

Loss of a Spouse seminar. This is from GriefShare and my friends Marisol and Ronett are among the participants.

GriefShare  this link should take you straight to the page where you can type in your zip code and find a group near you for this national and international ministry.

Grief Care Fellowship  these dear people, based in Florida, veterans of Word of Life ministry, have created an entire course for churches to train people for peer ministry to those who grieve.

Journeying Through Grief booklets by Stephen Ministries. I've sent these out to special friends over the years. For approx. $10 plus shipping you receive a set of 4 wonderful booklets to give to people at various points during their first year of loss.

For Widowers:

National Widowers Organization (secular)

A Grace Disguised by Jerry Sittser

The Group (secular) video clip from The Today Show. The Group: Seven Widowed Fathers Reimagine Life by Donald L. Rosenstein and Justin M. Yopp


Monday, October 21, 2019

A Recipe for A Great Widows Group

After the telling you about the widows group in Warsaw, Indiana last week I heard from another reader about her group in the Chicago area. Plus she gave me her menu and a recipe to share.... Thank you Carole! (I've interjected some comments). 😉

"I always enjoy your posts. Confess I have not read your book. (That's OK!) I have been a widow for 9 years now. Shortly after becoming a widow, I joined a local widow and widowers group. I could not face staying home alone all the time. I have met wonderful men and women there. I have five children but did not want to make them accountable for my social life.

Eventually I read a book by a widow from Moody Radio here in Chicago. (Carole and I figured out later it was Miriam Neff's "From One Widow to Another"--it's like a handbook for widows and I highly recommend it. Plus my own! lol) I mentioned it to my closest widow friends.  We began a Bible study from that book.  We all loved it and the comments were, “she really gets it.”  Gave us such a good way to talk about our new lives as widows.  

We meet every two weeks and I serve dinner and dessert.  I love to cook and they love to eat!  I decided early on it was more trouble to have everyone bring something than it was to just make a casserole, salad, rolls and dessert.  Works for all of us.

We are still going to the big group that we initially joined for activities but our little group of 12 has become another family to us all.  We have survived together!

We just started up again in September ... our Bible discussions seem to have picked up right where we left off and our discussions have been great!"

Tuesday night Bible Study Menu

Parmesan Chicken (breasts and thighs)
Corn pudding
Tomato salad (Have tons of tomatoes right now from my whiskey barrel gardens)
 Dessert – probably pound cake with blueberries and whip cream

 Crazy Good Corn Pudding 

Cream together:
½ cup butter
½ cup sugar

Add:
2 eggs
1 cup sour cream
1 pkg. corn muffin mix (8 & ½ oz.)
½ cup milk
1 can corn or frozen (better)
1 can creamy corn
Image result for corn pudding with jiffy mix
Pour into greased 9x13 pan and bake at 325 degrees for 50/55 minutes. (I made this for my small group at church last Wednesday night and they all loved it too!)

Carole, it's a good thing I don't have your address because that sounds like a delicious dinner and a great group to fellowship with! You'd have a crowd on your doorstep! Thanks so much for sharing with us!

I'd love to hear about more groups too. Please email me at WCplace@gmail.com  💗ferree

Monday, October 14, 2019

The Exponential Power of Widows to Widows

Two women in Warsaw Indiana became widows within 4 months of each other in 2015. Both husbands died unexpectedly--one from a heart attack, one from a plane crash, both 50 years young. Both of their wives were unknown to each other.

Then a mutual friend who was a widow hosted a support group and the two new widows, Michelle and Stephanie met.

During their second year of widowhood they came across my book, branched off from their friend's group and went through it.

Then Michelle opened up her home and they took a group of 14 widows through it.

Then their pastor heard about what they were doing and asked if they'd come do it in the church!
So they did! And now they are going through my book a THIRD TIME!

Well I just had to find out how they do this. Maybe I could do it too.

Here's how they work it:

Meet once a month for five months. Monday evenings, 6:30 - 8:00 in the church cafe′ area. They push tables together so everyone is together in one group. They've had around 10 - 14 women attend. Michelle and Stephanie are at the 4-year mark in their widow journey so they especially have a heart for newer widows although all are welcome.

Stephanie works in the church office so she calls and invites each woman who's been recently widowed in their church, and then the rest of them come by word of mouth. Some repeat the group, but "Most of them are not from our church," said Michelle. It's becoming a great community outreach!

They start casually at 6:30 asking everyone, "How was your week? Is there anything we can pray about?" And then they get into the "Postcards..." Everyone has come prepared, having read one section/five chapters of the book. They discuss the parts that stood out to them personally while reading. They ask questions like---
  • What caught your attention in the chapters this month? 
  • What did you underline or highlight? 
  • What was the best thing you learned? 
  • Which questions or scenes in the book touched your heart? etc. 
Everyone gets a chance to talk. Michelle is conscientious for everyone's time and dismisses promptly right at 8:00.

Newcomers are always welcome. When a new widow comes, they usually take a break from the book and spend the time introducing everyone to her and giving group members a chance to tell their stories so the new widow will realize she is not alone. Widows minister to widows. Isn't that good?

Thanks Michelle and Stephanie for your compassion for other widows! And thanks Pastor Denny Wilson and Warsaw Community Church for caring for widows! God bless you all!
Order your copy of "Postcards..." here at my Bookstore.
P.S. It seems to be turning into a year-round ministry. After going through "Postcards from the Widows' Path" they use a book from GriefShare.org called "Grieving With Hope." What a great balance!

Are you part of a widows' group Bible study? I'd love to hear what you do too. Please email me at WCplace@gmail.com. 
💓ferree

Monday, August 19, 2019

You Are Loved

I need this reminder today, how about you?  Keep looking up! 💗

photo courtesy of Brooke Christian