Wednesday, February 10, 2016

How to Deal With Valentine's Day

Do you think you'll want to mark Valentine's Day this year? Yeah, right! Of course you don't! Let's face it and admit it can be a challenge.       
But, you might be able to transform it by thinking ahead and planning to do something different. If you want to pretend the day doesn't exist and not acknowledge it at all, that's okay too. I often find that people deal with sorrow in two different ways:
  • remember/memorialize it
  • or choose to leave it alone. It's in the past, its been dealt with, and its time for the next chapter.
Depending on your background and personality, both of these methods can work. There's a third way too---have a pity party, but that won't get us anywhere.

If you'd like to memorialize the day or give yourself something to look forward to, here are a variety of things that might be meaningful for you:
  • Visit the cemetary and leave a message of candy conversation hearts to melt into the snow
  • Tie a home-made Valentine to a helium balloon and let it fly away to heaven
  • Collect old Valentines and love letters and put them together in a decorative memory box keepsake.
  • Create a collage of photos and frame it to hang on a wall or stand on your dresser.
  • Buy a package or two of school Valentine cards. Send them to your own children, nieces & nephews or other family members. Write a little love note on them.
  • Or send Valentines to various groups--nursing homes, children's hospital wards, missionary kids you pray for, your childrens' ministry leaders, your Bible study group or group leaders . . .
  • Offer to babysit for a married couple so they can enjoy a romantic evening out. Prepare a lot of fun things to do with the kids so you don't end up bored and feeling sorry for yourself.
  • Invite other widows over for tea or coffee and snacks, or a carry-in lunch or supper. Give them an opportunity to share their stories and send them home with a love verse from the Bible.
  • Plan something nice for yourself: learn something new! Sign up for Zumba lessons or Jazzercise. Take piano or guitar lessons (or take that first step and visit your local music store and ask about them); then rent a flute, violin or whatever and practice to audition for the local orchestra! Ask about singing with your church group or community choir. Volunteer at a food pantry or ask about a part-time job at something that interests you. Take a course at a community college. . .
--hey, I'm getting carried away here, but you get the idea. Plan some 
and show yourselfsome love and kindness.
I'd love to hear your ideas for the day this year and also what you've done in the past. Other widows love reading your comments and find them a big help.

P.S. Have you ordered your copy of Postcards from the Widows' Path yet for yourself or a friend? Now's the time to buybecause the sale ends next week! Save 20%! Click here to order. Thanks!

Monday, February 8, 2016

God Knows Our Losses

This week we'll continue the reasons why Ruth is for widows. Today is a severe mercy as we realize God knew Naomi's heartbreaks and He knows our own. Yet He does not spare us; He sees something more:

The Book of Ruth shows the many layers of loss a widow may experience.

Three little words sum up what happened to Naomi: "...she was left..." (Ruth 1:3) Their clinical starkness startles me with the shock, despair and helplessness she must have felt. Three little words shouldn’t be the end result of her investment of nurture and love for her husband and sons.
Worse yet, Naomi was left in a foreign country. Today Moab would be in the country of Jordan, approximately fifty miles from Bethlehem, about an hour-long drive by car. But in Naomi’s time it was a five-day journey by foot. They could not communicate by mail, telephone or e-mail with the people back home. Naomi was virtually cut off. She had left her house, her mother, her friends, neighbors and everything familiar back in Bethlehem. She submissively followed her husband to a foreign place she had probably never even seen before— and then she was left.
She lost her husband who, according to cultural norms of the day was at the very least her personal security, financial support and structure of her time. Her life circled around him like the moon around the earth.
In a sweeping and final devastation, her sons’ deaths stripped her of all hope and her personal identity for the future. The original Hebrew denotes this by deleting her name in verse three. She’s simply referred to as the woman.* Naomi’s life was blown apart.
A year after my husband died I began to realize losing my husband wasn’t a straight and easy street through mourning and then it was over and done. The street had potholes the size of elephants and I stumbled and fell into them time after time! I shattered in many places as I realized all my losses! I had lost my dear friend, my parenting partner, my spiritual leader, and my lover. I’d lost my daily routine of prioritizing around his schedule. And the church’s schedule!—I’d lost my calling as a pastor’s wife, too. I’d lost my dreams of grand-parenting and growing old with him.
I identified with Naomi. As scripture stated she was left, so, too, was I. I was left to raise our children and make important decisions alone. I was left without the comfort, security and daily routine of marriage. I was left to face a future I did not want. I understood why the original Hebrew deleted Naomi’s name, reducing her to “the woman.” I felt like half a person and secretly pondered my value and purpose.
Admitting my multiple losses was painful. But if I not listed my losses and brokenness, I never would have known that the pain was cutting deep places for joy. But God knew.
How about you, dear reader? Have you begun to understand the many layers of loss? This is something to prayerfully consider and struggle through in God's timing. May the Lord gently guide you through this painful phase of grief.
Postcards from the Widows' Path will help you walk this difficult journey of loss by spotlighting these insights from Ruth and then allowing you to journal your own. Each chapter starts with a fictional "postcard" from one of the characters in the story. Next is a short chapter which takes only a few minutes to read. Following that is a place for the reader to correlate the Scripture with her own grief and experiences, closing with a meaningful Bible verse and prayer. Women who follow through with the reading and journaling will see an actual difference and improvement in their own journey by the end of the book. God gave Ruth and Naomi faith, hope and love and He offers the same to widows today. Click the Book Sale link here or at the top of the blog. but hurry --- only 8 more days for this lowest price of the year.

Friday, February 5, 2016

Extraordinary Courage

How was your week? Many widows face serious challenges this winter---shoveling out heavy snow only to have the snowplow rudely fill it back in, cars that need to be replaced, dangerous temperatures, worries about how they'll pay their heating bill next month, not to mention the constant ache and loneliness of grief. Widowhood is hard!
I hope we can borrow from the courage and strength of two widows in the Bible today. Their journey, like yours, required extraordinary courage and faith and spotlights reason #5 in Why The Book of Ruth is for Widows-- It shows two widows who did have extraordinary courage and faith. That's means widows today can too!

(Postcards from the Widows' Path, page 34-35)

Dr. Charles Dyer, Professor-at-Large at Moody Bible Institute and host of The Land and the Book radio program told me this about Naomi and Ruth's journey from Moab.

“The leg of the journey by the Dead Sea would have been very difficult. Between the eastern shore of the Dead Sea (as one left Moab) and the base of the Judean Wilderness at Engedi there was no drinkable water. Travelers would have needed to fill up their jars or waterskins with water and then carry all the water they would need for the next four or five hours in the heat of the desert. For two poor women traveling alone, it meant that they probably were able to carry little else with them...

My admiration for Ruth and Naomi only grows stronger as I realize how difficult this journey really was. It likely took them a day to walk from Moab down to the Dead Sea, a day to cross the Dead Sea and walk to Engedi, a day to climb from Engedi up into the wilderness of Judea, and another day to walk through the wilderness to Bethlehem. Four long, hard days having to carry food and water, four days of steep climbs over treacherous terrain, four days surviving in the area where David was forced to kill lions and bears as he watched over his sheep (I Samuel 17:34-36). These were two tough women!”

En Gedi aerial from east
Aerial view of Engedi and the terrain that Ruth and Naomi would have walked

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

How to Be A Good Friend to a Widow

Today we're on the 4th reason why the Book of Ruth is for widows -- Ruth shows the sort of friend a grieving widow needs: Available. Committed. Unafraid of emotions. Intent on following God.

Here's an excerpt from my book about the great friendship between Ruth and Naomi. You'll see Ruth's side of the friendship but please remember this was not a one-sided relationship. Naomi, too, was a wonderful friend for Ruth (most of the time).

(Postcards from the Widows' Path, pages 82-84)

"Although Naomi didn’t want to admit it, she needed Ruth. Neither woman was in an ideal circumstance, neither was there by an easy choice. Thrown together in Moab, Ruth’s example shows us what it takes to be a good friend when our friendships are in crisis.

Ruth was available. She was the sort of friend who sticks closer than a brother. When Naomi mentioned going back to Bethlehem, there was no hesitation, no second-guessing. Ruth was the sort of friend who, if you called her, would be on the next flight. She wouldn’t screen her phone calls, or be text messaging someone else while listening to you. If you needed her, she’d clear her schedule.

Ruth was committed to Naomi. In the stages of grief, committed friends are very important. They are proactive. They don’t just say, “Call me if there’s anything I can do.” They give you something to look forward to. They invite you to lunch, they go on a walk with you, they phone. They might not be able to drop everything every time you need to talk, but they do arrange intentional times with you.

When people ask what the best thing anyone did for me, I tell them about my sister-in-law, Kathy Bowman. For the first month or two after Bruce died, she called me every weekday morning. She didn’t promise me she would, didn’t ask me if I wanted her to, she just did. Once I realized what she was doing, I looked forward to her calls. They were chatty and cheerful, just ordinary, and helped me remember what normal life was like. Committed companionship, someone you can depend on when life is undependable is a sign of a true friend.

A quick Facebook survey of widows I know showed that the sheer numbers of people attending the funeral of calling hours was very meaningful to them. Also, personal and thoughtful gifts and tangible help were very significant, like visits to the cemetery, invitations to go out to eat, and offering to stay to eat that casserole instead of just dropping it off. Attempts to maintain the friendship are very important to a widow.

Ruth was acquainted with grief. She was a survivor, too, and Naomi respected her for that. We don’t see her shocked, worried or angered about Naomi and the things she said and did. She didn’t get offended when Naomi told the village she came back empty. (Ruth 1:21) Perhaps they talked through some of the weirdness of grief, the ups and downs, the unexpected joys, the sudden cloudbursts of sorrow. It’s wonderful to have a friend who has grieved well, to whom you can freely discuss mysteries and the afterlife.

Most importantly, Ruth wanted to have the true God in her life, and she was following after Him. She had a higher priority than her own feelings. This enabled her to treat Naomi with grace, and not be easily offended when overlooked. She didn’t see herself as Naomi’s savior, aide or supporter. Only God could do that. Ruth came alongside Naomi to accompany her on the journey to God’s promised land.

Friends who are acquainted with grief, who will be available and committed to walk beside you on your journey to God, are gifts from above. And, like Ruth, young and foreign, they might be whom we would least expect."

Have you, too, found some unexpected friends in your life?
I'd love to hear about the special traits that make them a God-send to you. Please add your comment today.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Annual Book Sale Feb. 1 - 16

Don't forget to celebrate the 6th Anniversary of this blog this month! Enjoy the sale on Postcards from the Widows' Path---it's only available from this site---not on Amazon. Please tell your friends, too.  Click here or use the Annual Sale tab at the top of the blog. Thank you!

As always, if this post arrives to you by email, please click on the title line at the top of this page to get to the WCP blog itself where you'll be able to order.

The 2 Essential Needs of Every Widow

Today we continue our series on 10 Reasons Why The Book of Ruth Is for Widows
Last Monday and Wednesday we saw the first two reasons--
1. It’s all about widows! When we look at Ruth through the eyes of a widow we can learn all about grief, and God, and the journey.
2. It shows the 3 paths a widow could choose from after the funeral.

Today we'll see a third reason-- It tells the 2 essential needs of widows.

Every widow has a unique set of needs, but when I was widowed and found two particular needs mentioned in Ruth I was amazed at how Naomi brilliantly tagged the essential needs of all widows. Take a look at Ruth 1:8,9a (NIV)
Then Naomi said to her two daughters-in-law, “Go back, each of you, to your mother’s home. May the Lord show you kindness, as you have shown kindness to your dead husbands and to me. May the Lord grant that each of you will find rest in the home of another husband.
Fill in these blanks with the needs that Naomi prayed God would fulfill for her daughters-in-law.
May the Lord show you _______________
May the Lord grant that each of you will find _____________
Naomi prayed first for Kindness and then for Rest for both Ruth and Orpah. Can I get a show of hand for how many widows would like some kindness and rest in their own lives?

Whatever her circumstance---whether she's left well off, or bereft, each widow needs the kindness of her friends, family, clergy and strangers. And she needs to find the rest that the companionship and security of knowing the Lord as her husband/protector/redeemer will provide.

I'm not sure I would have embraced or even accepted that I personally had these needs in the early shock of widowhood. Do you? But as I've matured through the experience, trusted God and his Word more, and have seen and heard the situations and cries of the hundreds of widows I've come in contact with, I hold true to kindness and rest as essential helps along the widows' path.

May the Lord grant YOU kindness and rest even today!

Monday, February 1, 2016

Memorial Wall for February 2016

Please make a resolution to pray for the following women and children listed here during the first days of each month. We could all pray for at least one family per day, can't we? To see other months or to learn how to add your own memorial please click the Memorial Wall tab at the top of this blog. Thank you very much and God bless you, ferree

2/03/2012 * Linda * Steve (61) Colon Cancer * Christian (29); Jonathan (27); Stephen (25); Alyse (24); Daniel (22); Elijah (21); Shalam (20); Genesis (18); Moses (17); Isaiah (15); Joshua (13); Chaniel (10) * He was a man of great faith and a tremendous expositor of the Word of God. Serving in the ministry for almost 40 years, he loved seeing God change lives. He was also a staunch protector and defender of our family. We miss his presence, his wisdom and his guidance. I will never be the same, but I know that God is not through with me. I am also comforted to know that he is with the LORD and I will see him again someday. 
2/9/2011 * Lynn * Frank-Head and neck cancer * one son, Jamie, age 31 * So glad you cherished me and I you, for 36 wonderful years. So proud of your love for your fellow man and how you ministered to them
2/10/2012 * Judy * Bill, had surgery and didn't wake up. He had been diagnosed with several serious health issues past 6 years. * Kim (49), Scott (45), Tim (43), Heather (35), Josh (26). * Bill, you will live on in our hearts forever.
2/12/2015 * Rhonda * William, heart disease (weakened heart muscle) * David, 36, Andy-35, Chris-33, LaShawn—31 * I was blessed to have him for 18 years the doctors said we would not see; A loving pastor, husband, father, best friend. Some days are better than others as we move forward in life w/o him physically with us, but holding to memories and God’s Word which assures us of a great reunion * CoMo, MO
2/13/ 2014 * Hope * Arthur went home at 83 after four years of seriously declining health. We were 26 and 31 when the Lord brought us together for almost 54 precious years. For some reason we were unable to have children, but the Lord blessed us with opportunities to help other’s kids. A month before he went to Paradise with Jesus, Arthur wondered aloud why the Lord didn’t take him. He was never pain-free and life was getting too hard. Though he could get around with his walker, he was so weary. The second time he commented about the Lord’s allowing him to still be with me, I told him that it was because I needed him. But then I added that when life simply got too hard, it was okay to go. The day I admitted him to the hospital for the last time (though I didn’t know the end was so near), I told him again that if this was time, it was okay to leave me. He smiled and said he was okay then. But I am convinced overnight he changed his mind. He had made provision for me after his passing. He knew I would be cared for, and some day we’d be together forever. I spent several hours with him the next morning. Mid-afternoon I went home to take care of our dog. While I was gone I think he looked up to heaven and asked Jesus to come for him. I was on the way back to the hospital when the doctor called to tell me he had passed. I knew he was with the Lord enjoying His presence and a body that was whole. I loved him enough to let him go. He lives in my heart and will until I am with him forever. I know the Lord’s plans for our lives were/are perfect. Together we lived for Jesus and served Him as best we could. I rejoice that Arthur’s body is whole…and I can’t wait to join him. God’s grace meets all my daily needs. UPSTATE NY
2/13/2012 * Carol * Rich. No illness, died suddenly of a pulmonary embolis just one month shy of his 48th birthday. * Two daughters - Ashley (22), and Cassidy (20) * An outgoing, lively person. He worked with troubled youth for over 27 years. I miss him more and think about him more than I thought possible. * Upstate New York
2/13/2009 * Bridgett * Kent - brain cancer * Joshua (7), Ethan (5) and Nolan (4) * 2 Cor. 1:9 & 1 Thes. 4:13-14.
2/15/2012 * Teri Ollila * Eric Ollila, Prostate Cancer, age 57 * Andrea 30, Sarah 25, Matt 19 * Our lives have changed forever, we hold your love in our hearts. We look forward to seeing you again.
2/15/2000 * Ferree * Bruce-brain anyuerism * Brooke,19; Lisa,16; Brad, 14 * We'll love you forever. (grateful God sent Tom, remarried in 2002).
2/16/2014 * Laura Anne Sullivan * Frank E. Sullivan * The day, February 16th, 2014 * The cause, Heart Attack * The Children, Jeff, Joyce, Luke, Hannah and Isaac * The Result, I have lost the one person who loved me, who was my best friend, who cared for me, who was always there... I have been lost ever since, lost in grief, lost in fear, lost in loneliness...When I lost Frank, I lost myself.
2/16/2014 * Linda * Michael - 1.75 year battle against kidney cancer * Mark 35, Greg 31, and Laura 36. * We were married for 42 years, were blessed in so many ways including our children,
their spouses, and 2 grandchildren.
02/19/2013 * Celia * Bill, 72 * After 9 years of suffering from side effects of radiation and chemo for base of tongue cancer, he had heart value replacement surgery (damaged from radiation). He survived surgery, came home and 2 days later was rushed back to the hospital unresponsive. He had had several mini strokes. He was starting to improve but on Saturday night had a bigger stroke and another on Sunday night. He lived two more days after that. * Bill, you are the love of my life. I love and miss you so much.
2/19/2011 * Cheri * Ward died of a massive heart attack after having back pains that his doctor said was muscle pain. He worked hard all that week, so it was unexpected. * Son, Paul was 40, and our daughter Keli, was 8. * Ward died in Hawaii. I have since moved to California to be near my son and his family.
2/19/2005 * Vivian * Dale, 67, died in a "one in a million accident" as stated in an article in the Golf Magazine. He loved playing golf and retired early to be a Marshall at the local golf course. Our son Scott was playing golf one day, and Dale was woking so he went to watch him. He hid behind a tree like he should, but Scott's drive hit a tree branch and then hit Dale in the back of his neck. It ruptured the large blood vessel in his neck and he was unconcious within minutes. He had told me 3 days before that when he died he wanted me to donate his organs (which I did) because he knew he would die before me. * Married 43 yrs * Lynnette (41), Philip (39), Scott (31), Deanna & Dean (29)* You were loved by everyone who know you but especially by me. You taught me what love was since I had not experienced it before. I was so privileged to have you as a husband and father for our children. I miss you more than you could have ever known. I wish I had told and showed you more than I did how much you meant to me. I am so thankful that you taught us all to love God and we all look forward to spending eternity with you.
2/20/2013 * Lucie * Ivan - his aorta burst * Tomas age 19, Michael age 16, Simon age 3, Jonah (stepson) age 17, Vaclav (stepson) age 21, Elishka (stepdaughter) age 19 * there is hope that goes behind the death, I know his existence continues * Czech Republic
2/21/2014 * Karen Jeffers * Neil Jeffers, Heart Attack * Marty (42), Amy (31), Jason(29) * The man who taught me what real love was all about died at home at age 59 from a heart attack and I was with him. I am thankful to God I was there. He was a wonderful, happy, joyful person to everyone he met and left lasting impressions of laughter. I am so grateful he came to really know Jesus before he died and that I will be with him again. Neil, I love you always and forever. * San Antonio, TX
2/21/2013 *Jean* Tom- Sudden Heart Attack * Children - Jeremy (39), Nathan (37), Jason (35), Mark (33), Paul (32), Sarah (29). * I'll always love him, remember our life here together, and the special love we shared. Although I miss him deeply, I know he is in Heaven and we will be together for eternity celebrating with Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior.
2/21/2012 * Gail * Lawrence, died of Colon cancer, aged 54 * Nat (31), TJ (29), James (26), Mandy(20) * I am so grateful to know my honey is in the Lord's hands and that we will meet again at the Resurrection. It has been a hard year and I have missed him sorely, selling the house and moving and then putting on a 21st party for my daughter last month was the hardest. I have been receiving your emails and they have been a great comfort to me! Bless all you other widows who are here for each other! - New Zealand.
2/22/2015 * Stella. * My husband Sam passed away 2/22/15. * We were married for only 72-days. He was 73-yrs old & I am 65-yrs old. The last 20-days he was hospitalized with pneumonia then went into hospice care. * I have hope that we will see each other again one day.
2/23/2015 * Paula * Don, passed away from cancer * He was my best friend and soul mate * NY
2/24/2012 * LoriAnne * Roger - a 2 year battle with Pancreatic Cancer * 3 children (adults): Anna (32, Sarai (28), Jared (22) * I never knew how horrendous this 'grief thing' was going to be, until I was thrown into it! Yes, my husband fought this dreaded cancer for 2 years; but we held fast that the Lord was going to heal him here on this earth. The final 2 mths, he was very sick and I had to watch as the cancer ravaged his body. I am thankful he is now whole once again and yes, HEALED; and with our Savior and full of joy! But I that remain here on this earth, desperately miss him & find myself torn in 2. We shared such a complete love & he was the dearest man. Will these tears ever stop flowing....I am so alone without him. I put all my faith & trustin my Lord & I know He will get me thru this one day at a time. As the Bible says; HE is my husband now & takes care of the widows! * Oregon
2/27/2012 * Karen * Frank, age 58, heart rupture * two sons, Nate 27, Brandon 26 and one grandson whom he loved, Luke 28 months. * We were married 34 years. We were talking out in the yard and he just fell forward. To be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord. I don't understand but I choose to trust the Lord. It's a daily choice.
2/28/2010 * Ramona * Jimmy – congestive heart failure * Jessica, 21 *It’s such a comfort to know you are with Jesus, but we miss you still and will love you always * FL