Monday, June 12, 2017

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, 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 to post anymore 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, June 5, 2017

3 Things Remain for Widows

The prayers and Scripture selections today were written by one of the godliest widows I've ever met. It's only been a little more than a year ago when her husband died, but she has been a fountain of encouragement and love to the widows in her group ever since. 
She sent the following prayers and Scriptures to me so I could share them with you. But in the mean time she received a very disturbing diagnosis herself. It's my hope today that her words will bring you comfort and that they'll go back and do the same for her... Please pray for this widow today (her name is Marcia). I'll pray for her too, and for you.   
And three things remain, faith, hope, and love,
The greatest of these is love.
1 Corinthians 13:13

God, you are faithful, you give me hope, and you have loved me with an everlasting love. Please help me trust in your love and faithfulness in this season of my life. Forgive me for doubting you and making an idol of my fears and anxiety.

Help me to live in a way that demonstrates that I trust your goodness and sovereignty. In my brokenness let it still be evident that I am depending on you to guide me and carry be forward.

Since the beginning of time the hiss of the serpent has whispered the lies that you do not care and that you are not a good God. Help me to dismiss the hiss and trust in you alone. Amen

Know therefore that the Lord your God is God; he is the faithful God, keeping his covenant of love to a thousand generations of those who love him and keep his commandments. Deuteronomy 7:9

God is not human, that he should lie, not a human being, that he should change his mind. Does he speak and then not act? Does he promise and not fulfill? Numbers 23:19

Look to the Lord and his strength; seek his face always. Remember the wonders he has done, his miracles, and the judgments he pronounced. Psalm 105:4-5

But now, this is what the Lord says—he who created you, Jacob, he who formed you, Israel: “Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze. For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior. Isaiah 43:1-3

Yes, my soul, find rest in God; my hope comes from him. Truly he is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will not be shaken. Psalm 62:5

…the hope of eternal life, which God, who does not lie, promised before the beginning of time. Titus 1;2

Show me your ways, Lord, teach me your paths. Guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Savior, and my hope is in you all day long. Psalm 25:4-5

Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God. Psalm 42:5

We wait in hope for the Lord; he is our help and our shield. In him our hearts rejoice, for we trust in his holy name. Psalm 33:20-21

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. Romans 15:13

Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever. Psalm 107:1

May your unfailing love be my comfort, according to your promise to your servant. Let your compassion come to me that I may live, for your law is my delight. Psalm 119:76-77

The Lord will vindicate me; your love, Lord, endures forever— do not abandon the works of your hands. Psalm 138:8

For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:38-39

And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. Ephesians 3:17-19

Abba Father, you are faithful and you have promised you will never leave us or forsake us. (Deuteronomy 31:9). You demonstrated your love when you sent Jesus to Calvary so we might have eternal life. (John 3:16). We have this hope in you and nothing we experience in this life will diminish our hope and trust in what you have promised. (1Peter 1:3-4) Amen

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

June Bible Reading Plan for Widows

Dear Friends,

June starts tomorrow and takes us through letters that Apostle Paul wrote from prison---Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians and Philemon. I find them so appropriate for when we suffer the "prison" of widowhood! 

In Ephesians we'll learn to "live a life worthy of the calling you've received," (does that "calling" include widowhood? --yes!) We'll also "put on the full armor of God" -- a daily necessity! 

Philippians gives us the secrets to joy. (I'd love for this to be my next "Postcards" book---let me know your opinions?---would you love that too?) 

Colossians enables us to "set" our hearts and minds and to fully live with all our heart. 

Philemon is a personal letter of Paul's concern for a slave. Paul gets some negative press from Christian women today but ladies, he is on our side!
Psalm 119 starts us out again as a reminder that God's Word is the foundation to all of life. Other psalms are paired and interspersed, and we finish the month with a series of every twentieth psalm. Often types of psalms like praises or laments are grouped together. But if you read them in a sequence rather than one right after the other you'll have a good variety. 

I know each day will touch your hearts and encourage you to praise and worship the Lord with gratitude. 
If you're new to this plan, I welcome you! Each month is a new beginning so there's no need to catch up. Simply copy the chart below, then paste and print to tuck in your Bible. 

No matter where you are on your journey through widowhood, do not neglect reading God's Word! It is sustenance for the soul, and we spiritually starve without it. 
♥ ferree

June 2017


Psalm 119:65-80
Eph. 1
Eph. 2
Psalm 148
Eph. 3
Eph. 4
Psalm 68
Eph. 5
Eph. 6
Psalm 27
Phil. 1
Phil. 2
Phil. 3
Psalm 49
Phil. 4
Psalm 134
Psalm 71
Col. 1
Col. 2
Col. 3
Col. 4
Psalm 56
Psalm 1
Psalm 21
Psalm 41
Psalm 61
Psalm 81
Psalm 101
Psalm 111
Psalm 121

Monday, May 29, 2017

10 Reasons Why Crying Is OK

Holidays like today can trigger grief because it might seem like the rest of the world has forgotten us or our loved one. We might not have any plans while they do, and doggone it---we just miss our husband!

If a cry catches in your throat, or tears well up unexpectedly, that's OK, it means you're perfectly normal. Let them flow. God designed the body to release its stress and toxins through the valuable mechanism of crying.

Let's look up some special verses from God's Word about crying. You can find many more, but these are a good introduction. Copy and print them so you can hold them in your hand and let them sink into your heart by thanking the Lord for understanding and loving you.

10 Truths About Crying
Psalm 30:5
For His anger is but for a moment,
His favor is for a lifetime;
Weeping may last for the night,
But a shout of joy comes in the morning.

Psalm 34:15
The eyes of the Lord are toward the righteous
And His ears are open to their cry.

Psalm 34:18
The Lord is near to the brokenhearted
And saves those who are crushed in spirit.

Psalm 40:1
I waited patiently for the Lord;
And He inclined to me and heard my cry.

Psalm 126:5
Those who sow in tears shall reap with joyful shouting.

Ecclesiastes 3:4
A time to weep and a time to laugh;
A time to mourn and a time to dance.

Isaiah 53:3a
He was despised and forsaken of men,
A man of sorrows and acquainted with grief;

Matthew 5:4
Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.

II Corinthians 4:17
For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison,

Revelation 21:4
and He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away.

These are just a few from the NASB, with my italics added. What are some of your favorite Bible verses? Feel free to comment or share some other references, too, and take today one step at a time.  ♥ ferree

Monday, May 22, 2017

Spring Planting

Plowed fields and freshly planted gardens remind me that in the midst of sorrow life goes on. All those seeds buried underground picture how overwhelmed, buried, and in the dark I felt as a widow. Now what would I do? How was I to carry on? What was next? 

Grief is different for each individual, and widowhood is a particular challenge. There's no formula or prescription cure-all, but as I’ve talked and listened to widows over the years I know there comes a point in time when they need to see some steps to take to grow out of that darkness. It’s like a
planting season. Here are five “seeds,” so to speak, that I encourage them to plant. These “seeds” will bring a harvest of better days ahead and glean hope and wisdom in the here and now.

Read one or two good resources about grief to understand the process and avoid pitfalls. Beware of misinformation! There’s a lot of it, so don’t believe everything. Just learn enough to know that this sad time does not have to last forever. My favorite book on the basics of grief is still the one I was given a few days after my husband died—Grieving: Our Path Back to Peace by James R. White. It’s short and concise, compassionate and biblical.
Talk or write
Talk about your husband, your life together, his death, and your feelings. If you have children at home it’s good to get them to talk too. Among adults, most will kindly wait for you to speak first. Others will not ever be comfortable talking about death! But speaking up will help you find friends who understand and they’re the ones you need. If you can’t find someone to talk to, write down what you'd like to say in a notebook or diary. This is helpful because when you hear yourself tell what happened, even though it’s hard to talk or write about, you begin to get over the shock.
Find role models.  
You can get to know other widows in person or through reading about them. Don’t limit yourself to just one or two. Get to know many widows. Positive widows light a spark in you to keep pressing on, even if it’s a hard day. They help you learn that you don't have to like this experience, but you can still be thankful. You can be honest about your heartaches, but you can still hope. Good role models help you see examples of good choices. 
Start to rebuild your life. 
Most people do not understand the huge adjustments a widow has forced upon her and the rebuilding that must take place. Many widows have not only lost their husband, they've lost their identity and structure to their day. Little things have fractured, like no longer having another person to share in supper or chores. Adding to that are the far more complicated threats of losing finances, home, health, and family relationships. But slowly and surely the widow can arise from this rubble one brick at a time. The “to do” list will always be longer than the “did and done,” but accomplishing one thing, one step at a time, is excellent progress. Simply start wherever you’re at and do the next thing in front of you, breaking it down to smaller duties.

Relax and rest in the Lord. 
I know this is easier said than done. I too have felt the heavy load, the burden of a broken heart, the fatigue, sleeplessness, constant adrenal drain, and utter exhaustion. I desperately wanted my garden to be done! I wanted my questions to cease! Now what would I do? How could I go on? What was next? But the secret I learned was this: to relax; to let grief and widowhood run their course, but not rule my life. Desperation didn’t accomplish anything. I had seeds to plant, but I also had to rest—to wait for and look to God for the growth.

Start planting these seeds today, dear widow, even just one or two. Water them with your tears, and just like the fields and gardens in the earth around us, in the proper time the sun will shine, life will sprout and God will grant a good harvest. “They that sow in tears shall reap in joy.” Psalm 126:5  

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Red Flags In Dating (part 2) -- What If They're Preferences Instead?

Please be sure to read yesterday's post which started this conversation. We continue today. Each different colored font is a different person. Join in with your comments either day. It's always worthwhile to hear from more!

Reading and thinking through things here, I do think that we need to be careful about what is a red flag and what is something that you don't prefer. Some one mentioned being late all the time. My dearly departed was always running late, always. It was simply because he just didn't have that internal clock, he didn't mark the passage of time well. 29 years together and he was always late. But oh what a wonderful, kind, humble loving man he was. I hate to think what I would have missed if I dropped him because he was late for every single date.

When you're not sure, time is an amazing clarifier; as are background checks, health history, and financials!

Not all of the above are automatic deal-breakers. God's grace is deep. Time does reveal. Of course this guy did not show all of these character traits at was a gradual process, like a frog in a pot of boiling water. The phrase it took to wake me was this: "I don't know whoever told you red is your color. It's not." My response: "Ummmm...everybody's told me that for my entire life? So when you finally hear something you know to be a lie, you begin to look at things differently. And yes, I'm in counseling to make sure this never happens again!

Here's my two cents worth. One or two of these things alone do not signal run, they are only red flags if there are many of them! Let's face it, we all have red flags in our lives! So, particularly in a long distance relationship where you have never met, these are some "scammer" red flags: *His phone does not have a name on the caller ID, rather says "unknown" or something similar (not to be confused with blocked, which I ALWAYS did the first conversation or two). *Googling his number shows a city/area different from his stated residence. 
*Often questions of a personal nature are slow to be answered or he suddenly has to run and will answer them later, but never does. When pushed he asks you to be patient because he's so busy or flies off the handle and accuses you of not trusting him. 
*He pushes that you should trust him right out the gate. 
*He starts talking about his finances. Even if he doesn't mention yours at first. 
*He says he wants to meet, but something always comes up and he can't. 
*He has no one in the whole world. Parents deceased, no siblings, no children, no relatives, no one. 
*The name of the church he said he attends doesn't exist. 
*He will not give you information on anyone who can be a reference for him or he is all alone and doesn't know anyone. 
*Never provides an address where he lives and a google search of his city doesn't come up with anything. 
*He is a widower or divorced, but a public records search for his ex or deceased wife reveals nothing, no marriage, divorce, or death records. 
*He is self-employed but a public records search for his licensing through his city, county, or state comes up empty. 
*He is unavailable on week-ends for one reason or another, always! 
Just a few that I ran across. And one dude met almost every single one of these criteria. When I asked about them, he disappeared. LOL (Readers, I love how she used public records to try to verify his information. You don't need to be a detective to do this, try it! ~ferree)

Now for red flags when you have met. 
*He's resistant to you knowing where he goes to church or tells you he does not want you to go there. 
*He assures you that he would never treat you, your children, or grandchildren "like that!" but he treats others that way 
*He pushes you to more than you are comfortable with physically or emotionally. 
*He expects far more than he is willing to give. 
*He is never wrong. (This one is true with scammers too. A disagreement is always your fault, you are always unreasonable.) 
*He begins asking you to pay for dates or asks for loans or your specific financial information (Also scammers! RUN!!!!!) Remember, some scammers operate face-to-face. 
*He has multiple divorces. 
*He has only had short-term relationships. 
*You do all the pursuing. 
*He is inordinately interested in or affectionate with your children or grandchildren. 
*You are always "over-reacting" or taking something the wrong way. 
*Others in his life warn you that he can be difficult or that you should be careful. 
I guess some of these could be simply a matter of taste, but basically, if being around him makes you feel "less" during dating, remember, he's on his best behavior now!

There's no such thing as a perfect man. We all have faults. What you have to really look out for as a red flag once you are actually seeing someone is this: are you a better you around him? If not, then maybe that's a red flag.

The quote "know that God will not call you into a dysfunctional relationship while he heals someone---" I can't think of any scriptural support for it, but it makes great sense. I wonder if this is where women can get into trouble by giving too much grace and thinking God is calling them to help some man. Sure, we all have our baggage and imperfections, but if you have an overnight bag while he needs a tractor-trailer, it's time to move on.

(Reply) "...that's exactly why i stayed so long. i knew he was a wounded bear. i thought i could love him while God healed him. But then i realized he was hurting me (verbally, emotionally) and i had to get out. i do not want my daughter to grow up thinking that's how women should be treated.

You know, I think that's a good way to help determine whether these are concerns are imperfections we can live with or serious red flags: is this the person we want our children to hang out with, be influenced by, for the rest of our lives as a family? Again, it doesn't have to be all perfect, because no one is, but there should be a gut feeling that the kids are going to be blessed by this (or have potential to, as they warm up to the situation).